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Short Story: The Snip

Short Story: The Snip

A horribly unqualified nurse and a doctor with the bedside manner of Kim Jong-un are the last things you want when you’re getting the lead removed from your pencil.

Short Story: The Snip

Women talk about their biological clock. For men, it’s crop circles. We seem to wake up one morning and discover a small mystery on the crown of our head, like some tiny alien has nicked off with our hair. Not long after my discovery of this, Clara proposed the idea of trying for a third child. I vetoed it initially, but in the end we came to a compromise. I said to her, “I don’t want to be one of those fathers that gets mistaken for a grandpa. I’ll give you one month. After that I’m off to see Dr Chong.”   

      Dr Chong came recommended. I figured, when it comes to your sensitive parts, no-one wants a butcher. Clara managed to stretch me out to two months and after an Olympic effort she got her litmus blue lines. I buried my face in the pillow. The sleepless madness, the tired joy, it was all happening again. I was more determined than ever to put an end to my virile empire.

      Clara was well into her second trimester by the time the operation came around. On the day I swallowed both pills, and one extra for good measure. I decided I was going to enjoy this. My last hurrah as I floated into the surgery on a wave of lorazepam. As I sat in the waiting area I had the pleasure of watching a televised rerun of Curious George and ‘The Man with The Yellow Hat’. It put my mind at ease. Nothing serious was going to happen. Men do this all the time, I thought. Get their balls messed with by professionals. Besides, they called it ‘the snip’ – it had a painless ring to it. I wondered if the Man with the Yellow Hat had had his done.   

     “Mr Taylor.” I was up, out of the trenches, walking towards the good doctor.

     “You’ve taken the lorazepam?”   

     “Yes O Captain, My Captain.” But already I’d said too much. A simple nod would have sufficed. I could only imagine what the furrow on his forehead meant: What the hell is this nutter talking about?

      I smiled, winked. “You know…that Walt Whitman line? From Dead Poets Society?”

      He stared blankly. After an awkward pause he led me into the operating room. “Right, Mr Taylor. Pull down your pants and underwear and sit on the bed.” Straight to the point. I liked that. This guy was a man of science. Pleasantries were over once you crossed into his clinical arena. I made myself comfortable on the bed. He manoeuvred the surgical lamp so that my crotch was under lights. He adjusted his spectacles. “What have we here?”

       I looked down to view my shrunken parts. Was there something wrong? Who was he, the ball police? He looked at me directly. “The instructions I gave you, you did read them?”

       I nodded, although the truth is I’d skimmed over it and then lost that piece of paper, like all little pieces of paper one accumulates and stores in the chaos of one’s life. “Well, it’s not going to matter now,” he said. “Those instructions were for your benefit. It didn’t ask you to shave the entire lot, just a small patch, here,” he pointed. All of a sudden I was acutely aware of my unnecessary effort to make myself completely prepubescent. I could already feel the grow-back itch. Not a promising start, nevertheless I had succeeded in swallowing pills – surely I deserved some credit for that? 

      After he’d fiddled around down there making sure I was anatomically correct he painted my tackle in a brown iodine solution. While he was scrubbing up, a nurse with red Janet Frame hair poked her head in, smiled in my direction and disappeared. She soon returned with her own gown set-up, albeit a considerably low-tech version compared with the doctor’s, like it was made of some cheap throwaway plastic. She smiled at me again and asked if I was comfortable. I nodded, feeling reassured by the display of competence shown in Dr Chong’s fastidious handling of equipment he was preparing on a tray. “Right,” he said, holding up a large hypodermic needle and tapping it for air bubbles. “This is the local. It’s going to hurt. Whatever you do, don’t move.”  

     Whatever happened to ‘just a little scratch?’ He was about to jab this macabre thing into my testicle. I closed my eyes. The pain started off manageable then… Jesus, son of God… Imagine being kicked in the nuts but not being allowed to move. The anesthetic worked quickly, mercifully. My thighs relaxed and I was able to unclench my teeth. Soon there was just a mild sensation as the drug’s numbing effect worked its magic.      

      After a few touch tests, the doctor made the required entry with the scalpel. I afforded only a glimpse below at the small pool of blood and wondered how he could make anything out. “Ah, here it is,” he said, like he’d just discovered the culprit of the world population. He clamped whatever he’d found and returned with gauze dipped in some kind of a solution to control the bleeding. “More adrenaline,” he ordered the nurse. It was finally action stations for the redhead. She opened a drawer, searched inside. “Not that drawer!” barked the doctor. “Third drawer down.” By now the gauze pads he was holding were soaked completely red. “I need adrenaline, now!”  The nurse morphed into a ball of stress, fumbling with a box of ampoules, a couple smashing to the floor. “I don’t need the whole lot, goddamn it. Just one will do.” She finally got it to him. He searched around. “Where’s the gauze?” The nurse was relatively expedient this time plonking a stack of gauze directly on the tray. “What the hell are you doing?” said the doctor. “You’ve contaminated the sterile zone!” The nurse’s face turned the same colour as her hair. “Sorry,” she said, defensively. “I’ve never done one of these ops before.”

      “Why didn’t you tell me?” he asked, shaking his head. “You need to tell me these things!” The doctor returned his concentration to my nuts, but there was clear residual anger in his eyes. Had my mind not been sugar-coated with lorazepam I may have had second thoughts and bolted for the door with a caliper swinging from my testicles. Instead, it seemed I was watching some hospital drama unfold in a disconnected way. Some poor patient was getting operated on by a nurse who was horribly unqualified and a doctor who had the bedside manner of Kim Jong-un. He made the snip and even thought to wave the micro piece of white tissue in front of my face. “I’ll send this off to the lab,” he said, dropping it into a specimen jar. “Just to verify for sure I’ve got the right part.” He patched me up, warned me about post-operative discomfort. “Remember, if you’re uncertain, it’s all on that information handout I gave you.” He escorted me to the door.

Swelling, bruising, pain – these were all expected for at least three to four days, according to the handout I eventually found. The recommendation of double underwear was pure genius. They had to be tight wearing of course, and the doubling up of cotton really lessened the pendulous effect of gravity. By the fourth day, I was still creeping around the house like an old man protecting his bruised plums. Clara was sympathetic mostly, offering frozen peas to reduce the swelling, but the continual whinge of discomfort only brought on comparisons to childbirth. “You have no idea what pain is,” she said. “You’ve got the easy part, remember that.” 

       By the fifth day I braved it and returned to work. Sporting double undies and armed with ibuprofen I managed the morning in the office without too much discomfort or concern for my dangling fellows. But by the afternoon the pain was creeping in and it was heating up down there like a sauna. I nipped into the men’s room to investigate and had to do a double take at what I saw. One of them had grown to the size of a tennis ball. I zipped up and pretended I’d seen nothing. There was something clearly out of all proportion. No one had warned me. All the guys I knew who’d been fixed told me it was a walk in the park. It was painstakingly obvious that I had been set up by masculine bravado – none of them had the balls to describe what it was really like.

     On the train home I tried to distract myself from the pain by staring out the window. Here I was at 40, past my biological prime, my virility stripped. It seemed not long ago I was 20 and had watched Dead Poets Society, sold on that award-winning line from Robin Williams spouting ‘Carpe diem!’ My future was all ahead of me back then, and now Robin was dead and I was sterile, riding a testicular time bomb.

     When I got home I raided our codeine supply and immediately exposed my abomination to Clara. “For Christ’s sake, ring Dr Chong!” But, by then, it was too late. He’d left the clinic and so off to the after-hours medical centre I went. The wait on a Friday night, sitting amongst all the desperately ill and having to pay an extortionate medical fee, was all as expected. An hour of avoiding eye contact with other patients forced me into reading every Woman’s Day magazine; catching up on fake news, fake boobs, facial work and fat flaps of the rich and famous – all the while sitting with my legs wide apart, leafing through the worst kind of entertainment there is. 

      “Mr Taylor.” I was up, but this time slower out of the trenches. My gait had widened considerably and I struggled to keep up with the spritely young doctor. He led me into a side room partitioned by a curtain. “So how can I be of service?” he asked. I didn’t need any further prompting. I lay on the bed, unbuckled my belt. The doctor hastily drew the curtain to give the illusion of privacy. I unveiled the eyesore. He didn’t need a close inspection to react. “Wow,” he said, adjusting his glasses. “How long has it been like this?”

      “Flared up today,” I said, then I filled him in about my recent operation. He whipped on some latex gloves and had a grope. “That’s quite the raging infection you’ve got there. It will need to be drained.”

       “Drained?” I asked, trying to disguise the alarm in my voice. 

       “Squeezing all the pus out.” After a pause, he added, “I’m going to be honest with you, it’s going to hurt. But it will be over in a minute.”  I nodded forcefully. “I guess it has to be done.” He went away and returned with a dressing pack. He lowered the lamp so that my boys were again under lights. “Okay. I’m going to begin.” 

       If you can imagine a nutcracker being slowly applied… well, you get the picture. I clenched my teeth and gripped the side rail.  Surely by now I’d paid my share in the pain of childbirth.

The next medical appointment had nothing to do with my bollocks. Antibiotics had cleared that up. It was Clara’s 18-week scan. “So,” inquired the radiologist, running the ultrasound paddle over her belly. “The kids you have now, girls or boys?” Clara smiled nervously. “Both girls.”

     “Ah, I have two girls as well. They’re teenagers now.” He shook his head. “Just you wait. Once they start getting interested in boys they become a nightmare to be around. I live in a house of slamming doors.” He continued gliding the paddle, glancing over at me. “I see a lot of teenage pregnancies passing through here. I can understand now why a father with teenage girls might need a shotgun.” He laughed, but I wasn’t sure if it was because of what he’d said or what he’d just seen on the screen. “Are you sure you want to know the sex?” 

      Clara and I looked at each other, and for one brief spell we shared an understanding, transcending all the stress and effort that had led us to this point. Now that I was firing blanks, this was our final work, our carpe diem moment. We nodded and held hands.        

      “Well,” he said, eyeing me directly. “Looks like you’re going to need a three-barrelled shotgun.”


Glenn Erik Johannessen is a mental health clinician living in Dunedin with his wife, three children and a large greyhound. In his spare time, he likes to dabble in writing fiction. He has a Bachelor of Arts from Victoria University of Wellington and has previously published short fiction in literary arts magazine, Bravado. Someday he would like to see the completion of his first novel.

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