cambridge book review

The Masturbator (cont’d)

What would she have said to Kevin if there had been some kind of closure to their marriage. No, that was impossible to imagine even now. But what if he had been a different man, not just a good provider, not just her mother’s idea of a suitable choice for Sylvia. What if he had been someone she loved. But why, if that were the case, would they have been breaking up. For the time being she couldn’t go there.

“I’m sorry,” Jerod said looking up at her, “you seem like a nice person. I didn’t mean anything. Really.”

She smiled a little.   

He sat back in the chair. She noticed her blouse from yesterday still hung over its arm.

“After our second child, my wife insisted I get a vasectomy. I didn’t want to, but she insisted. Said she wouldn’t ever have sex with me again unless I did. I understood that she didn’t want any more children and it wasn’t as if giving birth had been easy—both girls were born by Cesarean section—but she could have easily have been fixed, herself, during the second delivery. It was almost as if she wanted revenge. In fact, it was after I had the surgery, she told me she wanted a divorce.”   

Sylvia stared at him. What if closure wasn’t telling your husband anything but listening to what he had to say instead?

“I mean, if I had become impotent, that would have been all right, but to have it done to me seemed, somehow unreasonable. I felt I was giving up something. Going in, undressing, having someone apply a local anesthetic and then the doctor making cuts in my scrotum, tying off the seminal tubes …”

“Is that any worse than having a baby by a Cesarean operation?”

“No, of course not. But that wasn’t a planned thing, at least not the first time. We’d both gone through Lamaze training. Oh, I don’t know, after the vasectomy was done, it didn’t seem to matter. No, that’s not true. I want to start over. But can’t.”

“Why? Because of a vasectomy? Most women my age don’t want more children.”

“Oh, I know. I don’t mean that exactly, but …”

“So what do you want, besides what you asked for already, because that just is not going to happen.”    

“What I would like is to sit in this chair …”   


“And have you take off your clothes, as you would if you were going to shower.”

“And then …”

“And then, with you on that bed, naked, and me sitting in this chair, I want to masturbate.”    


“That’s it. I promise I won’t touch you. I won’t go near you. And afterwards I’ll get in my car and leave and you will never hear or see me again.”    



After a minute Sylvia pulled her tank top over her head, straightened her hair a bit and took off her bra. She untied her tennis shoes and after shaking them off, stood up to push her sweatpants and shorts to the floor. She kept her white socks on and hiked back up onto the bed.   

Then it was his turn. Sylvia watched as he unzipped his pants and pulled out his penis. It reminded her of a pink, blind mole coming out of its hole. There was a time when their back yard had been soft with mole tunnels just under the grass. The exterminator had shown them a picture of one. It had been taken at night with an infrared camera. The head and little mouth of the mole pointing up through a hole, like a penis. Like this penis.

The visitor began to tug on himself. He eyed the fur patch toward the bottom of Sylvia’s white torso. His right hand went faster and faster. Slowly she opened her legs.

Outside cement started to slide from the truck along a metal shaft toward the framed-off area on the ground.    

It rushed forth. Then was done.    


John (Jack) Lehman is the founder and original publisher of Rosebud Magazine, as well as the literary editor of Wisconsin People & Ideas. A nationally published writer and poet with twenty-five years experience teaching creative writing, Lehman grew up in Chicago but now lives with his wife, Talia Schorr, and their three dogs and multiple cats in Rockdale, the smallest incorporated village in Wisconsin. 

June 15, 2011 - Posted by | fiction | ,

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