Deborah, a self-described ‘straight-shooter’, preferred to address relationship issues with her husband directly. Convincing Jeremy to have a vasectomy called for a little finesse, more of a plan. She would have to set the mood before even broaching the subject, but that was the simplest part. A Friday night out alone together, burgers at the local sports bar, and a likely Spurs victory — there would be no better time to begin.
Jeremy’s initial response was disappointing but not unexpected. “Why should anything change? Couldn’t we just continue with what we’re doing?”
Deborah counted to ten in her head before answering. “You mean what I’m doing? I’ve been on hormones for 15 years. Did you expect me to continue indefinitely?”
Jeremy frowned. He picked up the conversation again once he’d dropped off the sitter. “I hear what you’re saying, but isn’t there another option? We may regret the decision one day.”
Deborah looked up from her novel. Brow creased, he was standing by the edge of the bed undressing, absentmindedly dropping clothes at his feet.
“Jeremy, do you actually think we might have another child?“
“No,” he admitted. “But what if you died? My future wife might not want me if I couldn’t give her a baby.”
Deborah reached out to turn off the light. “Funny. I’m not even sure I still want you right now.”
Deflections and arguments continued, but Deborah pressed ahead. By February, he became more serious in his objections, goaded by her relentless pursuit of the subject.
“I’ve researched the procedure,” he said. “There can be complications.” The article he’d found warned of lifelong, painful consequences. She checked and found the source, a self-published website titled “Defending the Vas Deferens.” Deborah in turn pulled up WebMD, where the side effects included possible infection and mild pain or discomfort.
“Did you ever consider the complications of my two pregnancies? The two births?”
“Yes, but those are natural processes.”
“Jeremy, you’ve had LASIK surgery. They cut holes in your corneas!”
Deborah’s sister called for an update.
“Jeremy’s colleague referred to the procedure as ‘male sterilization’ yesterday, and it almost sent him over the edge.”
“At least he’s considering,” Angie said. “I’ve never even discussed surgery with Joel. Maybe you should talk with your doctor about other options?”
“Not yet. Matter of fact, I’m wondering if Joel would do me a little favor?”
“I’d like him to recommend a doctor.”
It was time to incentivize, so she offered Jeremy a pass from household duties during recovery. This earned little response, but a week later he suddenly announced that he was on board. He scheduled the procedure and made arrangements at work without delay. Deborah asked her sister to stay over with the kids so she could drive Jeremy to the early appointment.
The evening before surgery Jeremy arrived home laden with packages: Tony’s Deli, Heidelberg Bakery, and Total Beverages. Whistling, he unpacked the supplies and removed the sports section of the paper. The front cover featured a tournament schedule and fillable bracket. Angie looked over at Deborah, who shook her head.
“What was that about?” Angie asked as he left the room.
“Apparently, using surgery as an excuse to watch basketball. Take a look.” Deborah pulled out her tablet and googled “March Madness + Vasectomy.” A string of hits came up; a newspaper headline announced, “It’s time for Vas Madness, Gentlemen!” The article crowed about the opportunity for unlimited time to watch the tournament and was followed by links to betting websites and pizza deliveries. A pop-up ad announced a sale on frozen peas at the Giant.
“You’re not calling him out on this?”
“Right now I’m just focusing on the big event.”
On day three of recovery, Deborah was heading upstairs with the laundry when she felt the phone in her pocket vibrate. She peeked in on Johnny and Laney before checking the message. Both kids were finally asleep, dead to the world.
How are things? Angie texted.
Getting through. Can I drop by tomorrow morning?
See you then.
Jeremy called to her as she came downstairs.
“Hey… Deb? Can you get me another beer?”
She opened the fridge, where the bottom shelf was currently devoted to St. Pauli Girl, and pulled out a bottle. The blonde on the label grinned merrily as she served her overflowing steins.
The living room floor was littered with Legos and toys swept aside in a colorful, disordered pile. Jeremy’s time at home had been received with great glee by the kids, and he had spent untold hours playing and reading with them. He sat on the couch now in a faded t-shirt surrounded by newspapers and chip bags, his attention on the TV. A commercial came on and he glanced over.
“You look tired. Come watch the game with me? Wisconsin’s up!”
“No, I need to turn in. I have an early day tomorrow.”
“Well, I’m going to stay and watch the next one. Can you trash this ice pack for me before you go?” He grabbed the bag of peas lying in his lap, and tossed it to her.
Deborah caught the bag, a soggy warm mass of formerly edible vegetables, turned, and pitched it in the kitchen trash, the black plastic lid swinging back in place after it accepted its charge. She considered the sink full of dishes. Jeremy could handle those. She had a delivery to make in the morning.
Angie met her at the door. “Deb, I think Joel owes you an apology. The urologist he recommended ran those March Madness specials Jeremy used—”
Joel came up behind his wife. “Ange, who do you think gave me the doctor’s name?” Deborah squeezed her arm. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you before.” She held out a gift bag to Joel with a wide smile. “Maker’s Mark. A thank you for the referral… and for your continued discretion.”
Mary Sophie Filicetti writes flash and short fiction in the myriad coffee shops around the DC area. When she isn’t writing, she teaches students who are blind or visually impaired. This piece is her first publication.