“Okay But Will You Anyway”

He’d thought back to growing up and raising sheep. How he’d had to help his old man yank testicles from a fresh batch of baby rams every spring. Each bleat right up until the little slimy thing down below would finally rip free into his bloody hands.

How his father’d reassure him it didn’t hurt them the way it did a man, like say, zipping yourself in your fly or catching a knee out on the basketball court.

The boy should just thank his lucky stars, his father’d remind him. The way Grandpa used to yank them with his mouth—clenched teeth and the bitter, salty squirt of blood that always came with the tearing of tendon and fatty tissue.

But then there’d be that moment the bleating’d stop—choked off as if the boy’d crushed its windpipe. The way its little trembling body’d go limp in his arms. And the boy’d get to thinking—no matter how many times he’d done it or how old he’d grown—that he’d killed it.

His father only shaking his head and dusting the bloody little sack with that special powder to help heal the wound before flies could get to’em come summer.

It had to be done, his father’d remind him. Or they’d have nothing to butcher.

In the weeks after, he’d watch each lamb sprawled out around the barn, its eyes and mouth gaping, tongue lolling out, dead to all the world except for the slow rising and falling of its lungs beneath its little bloated belly.

He’d been thinking of that now, naked, and wheezing. Grinding his teeth to muffle his own pathetic groaning. Curled up at the foot of the couch and coffee table, both hands grasping down between his legs.

She hadn’t been kicking him anymore. All it’d taken was one swift shot delivered at the most tender of moments, all his secrets laid bare.

She hadn’t been helping him up either.

Most of the room had gone blurry by then. He’d thought again about the lambs. If his father had been lying to shelter him, or maybe out of a simple ignorance for the plight of the castrated.

He’d wondered if she’d ever forgive him for what he’d said. If he’d ever forgive her for what she’d done.

He’d heard now a sniffling that wasn’t coming from inside him. A soft snotty humming somewhere between a whimper and the whistle the rim of a wine glass makes you blow on it.

She hadn’t been playing fair the way she never did.

“I just… I just… I just thought…”

He was going to have to say or do something, of that he was certain. She’d want some sort of atonement this time.

Then she’d gotten to the muttering, the slapping herself across the face, the slow dull thwap-thwap of palm against cheek bone with each one-two combination.

“Fuck me, fuck me, fuck me,” she’d been saying in time to it all. Her f’s, all lips and teeth, her k’s all tongue and throat.

The dog’d started in on the whimpering now, too. And the licking, licking, licking. The blood from his chin, the sweat off his chest, and downhill from there.

“All I was saying was I thought you’d make a good father,” she’d said.

She’d been storming off toward the bedroom. Not bothering to pick up her clothes or cover up her bouncing titties along the way.

“Just look at what we’ve done to this dog,” he’d wanted to shout back. “It ain’t normal.”

He might’ve said these things and worse if he hadn’t been busy trying to keep the dog’s licking civil, if his own big mouth hadn’t started all this nastiness in the first place.

“Baby,” he’d finally called out. He’d managed to wrestle the dog into a rear-naked chokehold. “Can you even imagine what we’d do to an actual—?”

She’d storming back before he could finish. The ground literally quaking with each step.

“Smile, you bastard,” she’d shouted.

He’d heard overhead light get flipped on, the click of her phone.

“I want the whole goddamned world to see.”

He’d gotten back up to one knee by then. There’d been the glaring light now to contend with, but he’d been beyond using the dog as a body shield, beyond jumping behind the couch, beyond running to hide.

They’d been through enough together, which is to say, he’d probably put her through more of all this than he’d deserved putting up with. Only a couple options left for long-termers like them anyway and what else was he going to do—get down on all fours and grovel some more to her uterus?

He hadn’t had a proper ring to speak of, let alone a fuzzy little black box to pull it out of. He may’ve stood at full attention still, those pills she’d been feeding him, but then there were those little dog tags jingle-jangling as it’d nosed its way closer and closer to his swollen privates.

Later, in the retelling of all this, he’d explain that he hadn’t really understood what he was doing until he’d heard it—like Pavlov’s dog!—that key ring hanging right in front of him from that little furry pervert’s collar. It’d been all there laid out for him, even the little one to play ring-bearer.

Better than him trying to make ring out of two fingers, sticking his other finger in and out the way his father’d once explained sex—as sheep did it, as people did too.

Fuck it, he’d thought, as he’d kneeled before her and her camera.

“Okay, okay, okay, Baby. But still, whaddya say?”

The dog’d even stopped licking its privates long enough to cock its head and listen.

This big junky ring on display under all that blinding light, the two of them still naked and beautiful as the day they were born.

About Benjamin Drevlow

Benjamin Drevlow was the winner of the 2006 Many Voices Project and the author of a collection of short stories, Bend With the Knees and Other Love Advice From My Father (New Rivers Press, 2008). His fiction has also appeared in Passages North, Split Lip, NEAT, and Hot House Magazine. He is the fiction editor at BULL: Men’s Fiction, teaches writing at Georgia Southern University, and lives both in Georgia and online at .