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Jack yelled, but only at half volume so as not to wake his mother. He thrust the back of his head onto the pillow in frustration, but only at half force so as not to wake the bedbugs. He gazed at his flaccidity, lying there against his brand-new pubes like a teeny little worm who had lost its way. His scrotum had melted against his leg like Turkish taffy. The boy was twelve years old. His balls shouldn’t be this saggy, and he shouldn’t be having these erector problems. Of course, not being a worldly child, he had no clue as to the penile horrors that awaited his future when he turned old. But we won’t spoil the surprise, will we, gents?

He flicked it. Wiggled it back and forth like a loose tooth. Blew on it. He stared at it, willing it to come to life. Nothing. Not a twitch. It was about two years ago when he’d first heard about jerking off. Kids would tease each other on the playground. “You probably jerk off!” or, “I’ll bet you jerk off!” or, “I think you jerk off!” they would yell. There was no reason to yell, as the playground was only thirty-eight inches square. There wasn’t even room for a game of tetherball, never mind kickball. I don’t know why they didn’t just allow them recess in the gym, which was much larger, but that was the rule the superintendent laid down, and you didn’t want to piss him off. He was a swarthy little creature with bad gums and a mean temper.

Two years later, Jack had reached twelve years of age, and masturbating moved from being an insult to being something the cool kids do. They’d whack it at their desks, in the hallways, the principal’s office, or the superintendent’s building while staring at his gums. In a few years, they’d brag about bagging chicks, but right now, it was playing with their own equipment. They’d brag about how long they were, how stiff they were, how far they could shoot, or who had the best aim. And Jack would brag, too. But none of it was true.

It’s not that he couldn’t get an erection; he’d woken up with one every single morning for as long as he could remember. But he didn’t feel like doing anything with it when he first woke up. When he first woke up, he wanted toast. Every single morning for as long as he could remember, he’d wanted toast. And what was wrong with that? Nothing, I tell you. Nothing is wrong with toast.

No, he wanted to do it on his own terms, in his own time. And right now, he wanted to jerk it like a Jamaican barbecue.

He wasn’t sure why he wanted it so badly; he supposed he just wanted to see what all the fuss was about. He was too young to think too deeply about motives.

He stretched his little business as far as he could and tied it around his bedpost. “Come on, you little fucker!” he said a little too loudly.

“Who’s the profanity boy?” his mother’s ever-cheery voice floated in from the hall. What a dumb question. He was the profanity boy, of course, since no one else was in the house with them. It was just he and his mom that lived here. His dad left when Jack was two because the boy ate all the toast.

“I’ve had it with your sick toast habits,” were his dad’s last words as he slammed the door, suitcase in hand. At least, that’s what his mother told him.

“Jackie!  Why did you tie your little beanstalk to the bedpost?” his mom asked, then added, “And how?”

“Oops,” Jack said.

She turned away, unable to look any longer. “What are you doing?”

“You know, Mom,” he said. “What boys do.”

“Boys do that? They didn’t do that when I was your age.”

“Well, they do now. Get with the times.”

“Where did you learn that knot?”


“That’s what they’re teaching in scouts now? How to tie your pee-pees in knots?”

“Of course not, mom. We used rope. What the hell is wrong with you?”

“Well, I think this is just profane and unnatural,” she said, her voice remaining pleasant.

“I’m just trying to get it to grow.”

“Oh, honey,” she said, her gaze still fixed on the floor, “you don’t need to stretch it like that. It’ll happen and grow for you. You’re only twelve, after all. You should focus on your studies and never mind all this nonsense.”

“I already did all my homework. What do you want from me?” he said as he unknotted his schwanz from the post. “Never mind. It’s pointless. I may as well be a girl. Do we have any toast?”

“Toast,” his mother said, turning off the light and walking away. “That boy and his damned toast…”

He listened to her footsteps retreating, then approaching once again. “And don’t forget to milk the cow tomorrow so we can bring the milk to market. We’re still poor, you know.”

“I know.”

“Your father left us with nothing,” her pleasant voice chimed.

“I know.”

“I mean, he even took the toaster for the love of God. We had to use all our savings to buy a new one.”

“I know.”

“For you, Jackie. I don’t even like bread.”

“I understand.”

“South Beach Diet.”

“Good night, Mom.”

Jack couldn’t sleep. The more he thought about it, the more he worried. This was far beyond childhood curiosity. He was beginning to think something was wrong with him medically. He wasn’t dumb; he knew where babies came from. Maybe he’d never be able to have children! Right now, the thought of girls disgusted him, and babies were annoying, but what if he wanted to get married and have kids someday? He saw his future dwindling to a little dot before him, like an old television after you shut it off. Rarely did he think about the future, but now it was all he could think about, and it was looking like he would be one lonely person.

He turned on the bedside lamp and grabbed the book he’d been reading. It was a horror novel by King Stephen, K is for Klown. Now, every good horror novel has to have a steamy romantic scene or two, and this was no exception. The particular scene he’d left off at wouldn’t have aroused most adults but for a twelve-year-old boy, just reading the word tit should have sent blood rushing to the great below. And so he read it. Over and over, he read the scene. Tit. Tit. Tittittit. Titty. He licked her perky tit. Tittt. He closed his eyes and pictured someone licking a perky tit over and over. Nothing.

He threw his book across the room. It hit the wall with a CLANGGG!!!, which was a weird sound for a book to make.

“I’ll make you toast in the morning!” his mother’s sing-song June Cleaver voice came from down the hall. “Go to sleep, dear!”

“Go to sleep, dear,” he mimicked her tone, turning over in his bed, “Go to sleep. All she ever says is… AAAH!” he said, startled by a friendly face at his bedroom window.

“Hello,” the man’s voice said faintly through the glass.

Jack pulled the sheet over his head. He’d learned about Stranger Danger when he was very young. How friendly-looking men would appear at little boys’ and girls’ windows with candy offerings, adopting them in the night.

“Hey there, friend,” he heard the man say.

Jack pulled down a corner of the sheet to allow his eyeball to peek out.

“Go away,” he said. “Please don’t adopt me.”

“Adopt you? What the hell are you talking about? I don’t even like children.”

“But…but…Stranger Danger. You’re gonna adopt me. I know it.”

“Adopt? What are you… oh, you mean abduct? No, no. I’m not here for that. I’m a nice man. Come to the window.”

“Oh,” Jack said. “All right.” Well, as long as the man said he was nice, he supposed it was all right.

He threw open the window. The man stuck out his hand, and Jack shook it.

“Hap Brigam’s the name. Drug rep’s the game.”

“Drugs? Ahh, I don’t know about that. I’m not supposed to do drugs.”

“Hey, listen, kid. When they say don’t do drugs, they’re talking about heroin. Always heroin. And heroin, no, you shouldn’t do the heroins—unless it’s regulated, like oxy or morphine or methadone. Like fentanyl or a poppy seed bagel.”

“I only eat toast.”

“Anyway, this isn’t like any of those. This here won’t change your personality unless it happens from any side effects. No, this will help fix your little problem.”

“What problem?”

“What problem?” Hap asked. “What? Do you think I came from another planet? Do I look like I came from another planet?”

“I don’t know,” Jack said. “Maybe.” Jack thought all alien creatures looked like people and not like simple single-celled organisms, which is what we are pretty sure is out there if there is life at all.

“Well, I’m not. I’m a person. Just like you. Name’s Hap Brigam. Anyway, look, kid. You want a stiff cock or not?”

Oddly enough, Stranger Danger classes had never said anything specifically about strangers mentioning stiff cocks to kids.

“How do you know about my… penis?”

“Do I look like I’m from another planet?”

Then Jack remembered the documentary he’d watched about outer space the night before. He began counting Hap’s cells and stopped at two. Nope. Not an alien.


“Never mind how I know. Do you want help or not?”

He wanted more than anything to get an erection. I mean, not right that moment, with the man standing there, but later, when he had a free minute alone.

“Here,” Hap brought out a packet. “Free sample. Try some.”

Jack read the label. XXYZZYXX, it said, apparently the name of the drug. And underneath it, in parentheses, Filadoxinfolamimumab. On the back, several warnings:

Do not take while driving.

Do not take while walking.

Do not take under advice of a physician.

Do not take more than the prescribed dose.

Do not take.

Do not take if you enjoy grapefruit.

Do not take if you have parakeets in your home.

Do not take if you or your significant other are planning on conceiving.

Do not take if you’re a compulsive gambler.

Do not take if your name starts with letters B through F.

Do not take if you’re Norwegian or live in one of those other countries that’s Norway adjacent.

Do not take if you are under the age of thirteen. Unless it’s for a blood pressure thing. Then it’s okay.

“But,” Jack began, “I’m under thirteen. And I don’t have a blood pressure thing. I don’t think.”

“Ah, don’t worry about all that, kid. That’s just to cover their ass. Legal stuff.”

“How do you say the name? ZZZ..”

“No, don’t worry about that. It’s unpronounceable. Drug companies do this on purpose. Putting Xs, Ys, and Zs in a name makes it sound more medical. You can call it Filadoxinfolamimumab. But once you take it, you’ll probably call it friend.”

“Fill a what?” Jack asked.

“Filadoxinfolamimumab. It’s very easy. Just remember this song.” And, unprompted, he began blowing a pitch pipe.

“F is for fun and feelin’ just fine,

I is for a touch of iodine,

L is for love and ADOration

X is for sex and the penetration

IN is where you’ll be if you just FOLlow me

AMore, I MUst score and MAke you happy

Pop a couple in your mouth with a full glass of water before you go out to the Bar.

Put them all together, and they spell Filadoxinfolamimumarrrrrr!”

“-mab,” Jack corrected.

“Maaaaaabbb!” he finished with a flourish.

“So,” Hap said, “What do you think?”

“How am I supposed to know where the letters of the acronym fall in that song?”

“I…uh…aah, what do you know, anyway? You’re just a kid. What do you know about acronyms?”

Jack knew a lot about acronyms but was no longer paying attention. Enthralled with the idea of ending his dysfunction, he was already ripping open the packet of pills. “They look like little beans.”

“Yes. Like little magic beans. It’s by design. But don’t worry; they won’t give you gas.”

“Oh, well, I wouldn’t mind anyway,” Jack said. “I like farting.”

“Right. Right. Anyway, you’re going to want to step out in the yard before you take these.”


The salesman took a few steps back and looked up. “New roof?”

“You’re hilarious. This roof is older than I am. By a lot.”

“That’s Sarcasm, kid. With a capital “S”. I can see from here it’s falling apart. Along with everything else. Any plans for a new one?”

“Mother can’t afford it. It’s first on her home improvement list—a list that grows and grows but never shrinks.”

“Yes, well, if you don’t want to blow the top off this house, you’ll want to do this outside. Oh, look at the time. I have to run.” He handed Jack his card.





“Pig farmer?”

“Yeah, printing service messed up. Damn voice recognition software. Anyway, good luck to you.” And with that, he vanished into the ether.

“Thanks.” Jack raced to the kitchen, grabbed a big glass, filled it with lukewarm water, and ran into the front yard.

“Well, here goes nothin’,” Jack said, downing the two tablets.


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