Family Planning

James Sclater

© Copyright 2011 by  James Sclater


Photo of a surgical razor.

This story is an embellishment on a visit to a doctor's office.  One of the ladies in the waiting room was telling all who would listen about the troubles she was having with her dog.  Her breathless, bewildered stream-of -consciousness approach to the story was indeed unique.

Beth and Buddy Durant lived close to the downtown area of Modelle, just a block or so from the old post office. Their house was tidy and well kept, considering the fact that they have three children, ages 9, 5, and 3. Those children were always into something. Buddy thought it would be a miracle if they all made it through adolescence with their bodies in one piece. Beth managed to make them tow the line right well, though; she was just born with the natural instincts about raising children. She knew when to crack down on them and when to let things slide. She knew which battles were important and which ones weren’t.

Their house was rather small for five people - three smallish bedrooms, one and a half baths. Things could get cramped, especially when the extended family members came for a visit. Both Beth and Buddy felt that they had maxed out with the space available. They were lucky that two of the children could sleep in the bunk beds in the same room.

This being the case, it was no big surprise when Beth brought up the family planning issue with Buddy. One Saturday while the kids were playing in the park, she brought Buddy a glass of iced tea and said, “We need to talk.” Buddy, having heard this opening line many times before, knew this meant he was going to have to do something. If the past were any indication, it was something he didn’t especially want to do. Beth’s “We need to talk” usually meant “You need to do this.”

She started off by saying how much she loved him and the children and her life at this moment in time. “So far, so good,” thought Buddy.

She talked about how they hoped the children could go to college and someday be out on their own with their own spouses and children. Buddy was beginning to feel like he was going to sail through this conversation without being assigned a job.

Then she said, “Buddy, I just don’t see how we can provide adequately for more children. I think it’s time we talk about something permanent in the area of birth control.”

Buddy thought about this for a few seconds and said,” Well Beth, honey, if you want to have that operation where they tie off those female things, I’ll support you in this one hundred percent. I’ve been sort of worried about this, too, and three children sounds like a mighty good number to me. I think our family is just the right size.”

Then Beth dropped the bomb. “Well, Buddy, honey, I was sort of thinking that you could have the operation where they tie off those male things. You know how I am with anesthesia; it just make me so sick, and that male version of the operation is just such a relatively simple thing that’s done as an outpatient procedure.”

Buddy thought, “Just how would you know how simple it is?” The idea of someone snipping away down there in the midst of the male nether regions didn’t have much appeal for him at all. “I’ll have to give this some thought, Beth, honey,” he said. He knew without a doubt that she had opened the door and he had stepped right into this one. His one hundred percent support had come back to bite him in the butt.

Maybe we ought to talk about some alternatives,” he said. This is a pretty big step, you know. You might change your mind about more children later on.”

I know, Buddy, I’ve thought about this a lot, believe me. At least this way, if we changed our minds, there might be a chance we could get yours reversed. It has happened, you know. If I have the surgery, there is really no chance of having it rewired. Once I’m done, that’s it, I’m done.”

As much as he hated to admit it she was right about that, but still, the thought of the whole snippy-snip thing didn’t rate very high on his list of favorite things to do. “What about just being real, real careful?” he said.

Buddy, we were real, real careful right before Buddy, Jr. and Alice came along. I’m afraid that dog won’t hunt,” she replied.

Zinged again,” he thought. “Good Lord, the woman’s got an answer for everything.”

OK, dear,” he said, “let me think about this for awhile and I’ll go talk to the Doc about it,“ hoping Dr. James would be able to find a reason as to why it wasn't such a good idea after all.

Thanks, honey, you’re my sweet baby,” said Beth. “Not every husband would care about his wife enough to have this done.”

Don’t mention it, dear,” said Buddy.

The following Monday Buddy dropped by Dr. James Fortenberry’s office late in the afternoon when most of the patients had cleared out for the day. Buddy listed the reason for the visit on the desk pad as “anxiety.” When the doc came in to see him, Buddy told him the whole story and hoped that he would discourage the plan. To his dismay, the good doctor thought it was a fine idea, but only if both partners understood all the ramifications of the decision.

It’s not something to do spur of the moment,” he said. “You’ve got to be certain you don’t want any more children.”

We have all we can handle right now and we love ‘em dearly, but three is a gracious plenty, “ said Buddy. “We’ve already had two little surprises and the wife just has so much trouble with the surgery stuff. That’s why she asked me to do this. I really can’t blame her.”

Buddy told him about the horror stories he had heard from Dave, a coworker, stories about being all swollen up and ice packs, the whole nasty business. The doctor said that some people do have a certain amount of discomfort but that generally, the procedure was a relatively simple one and that he would ne as good as new in no time at all. His kind words were somewhat of a balm to Buddy’s sense of unease about the whole matter, and in the end, he and the doc agreed to that the procedure should be done and set up a time for him to come in.

On the way out of the office he thought “Now I’ve done it. I’ve just given consent to be changed from a bull to a steer. What in the world am I doing?”

Going home he started having all manner of second thoughts about his decision that seemed so reasonable about ten minutes ago. He wondered if his voice would change and he would start singing way up high. He had read in school about those fellows over in Italy that had their male equipment cut on just so they could keep singing high and that was definitely not Buddy Durant’s idea of a good time. There’s music appreciation and then there’s music appreciation. Buddy had been singing in the Modelle Baptist Church choir for several years now and wondered if his place as baritone in the men’s quartet was about to be traded for something like a place with the Andrews sisters. It was not his desire to start sounding like Andy Gibb, either. He also worried about his ability to do his husbandly duties, even though the doc had assured him that was not an issue. He tried to shake all these feelings off, but it was not an easy thing for him to do.

When the day of the procedure arrived, Buddy was up earlier than usual. He even took two showers so as to be really clean and all. It was bad enough having to do this in the first place; he at least wanted to smell good. The doctor said they’d have to shave him, but he went ahead and shaved himself just like he did every morning; no whiskers for him today. His face would be as smooth as a baby’s rear end.

After he arrived at Dr. Fortenberry’s office, he was fidgeting nervously with a few old magazines in the waiting room when he happened to overhear this lady taking about her dogs. She looked like she was talking to this other patient, but the fellow was politely trying to ignore her. She pulled out her wallet and started trying to show him pictures of her dogs and going on about how they were digging up her yard so badly she just had to do something and her sister suggested having the dogs neutered so she tried that and it really worked well so now she was building a fence which went three feet underground so the dogs couldn’t dig under it even if they were neutered and still had the urge to dig. Buddy thought she stopped to breathe about every minute or so. She then continued this story which got more and more convoluted as she worked in details about her son and her husband who was by the way a patient here this morning but he was really not all that sick he just hadn’t had much sleep in the past few days because of all the noise from the dogs and his hemorrhoids had been acting up too so she suggested he come on in to see Dr. James and see if Dr. James could give him something to help him sleep. Neutering those dogs sure did the trick though and they’ve been acting right good since their operations and she wished her sister had told her about it sooner but her sister has had a lot on her mind due to the divorce and all but at least that worthless husband of hers is out of the picture for good now thank goodness.

Buddy felt his eyes crossing and his ears becoming numb; her chatter was making him so nervous that he was seriously considering bolting from the procedure and leaving the office as quickly as possible. All that woman’s talk about neutering wasn’t exactly the topic he wished to hear this morning, but at least, he figured, after his procedure he at least wouldn’t be digging holes in his yard around the fence. That was one plus to come from this whole situation.

Then the door opened and the receptionist called him in to the examination room for the procedure. After removing his clothes he got under the sheet and waited for Dr. James to come in. Much to his dismay the door opened and in walks Betty Jean Perkins, a member of his church and a nurse for Dr. Fortenberry. She warbled a bright “Good morning, Mr. Durant. It’s so good to see you. How are we doing this morning?” and began looking over his chart. Buddy thought to himself “Pretty good for a guy who’s about to get his manhood whittled on” and nodded a faint-hearted greeting. She said, “Well, let’s get started. First thing we’ll do is to shave you.”

Buddy ran his hand over his chin a couple of times and said, “I’ve already shaved this morning, thank you. Did it to save a little time.”

Betty Jean smiled just a bit and said, “Yes, it looks so good too, but we have to shave you where you’re going to have the procedure done, too. It won’t take but just a few seconds.”

Buddy went blank and just closed his eyes and thought “You are such a big dummy.” He was about to have the family jewels cleaned and polished by Betty Jean Perkins and he had just made a bigger fool of himself. To her credit, Betty Jean noticed his embarrassed demeanor and said, “ It’s OK, Mr. Durant, “’I’ve done this procedure a lot of times before and we’re both adults. I’m a nurse and I’ve seen a lot of men’s private parts.”

Buddy said, “Well, you ain’t never seen mine before, but I guess you’re about to, huh?”

She laughed and said, “Well, I guess I am at that.”

She got her razor and began the process that, for Buddy, seemed like it took about two hours. He thought about this situation he was in; here he was stretched out an a table with his male things being handled and shaved by a woman he had seen slicing carrots a few times in the kitchen of the Modelle Baptist Church. When she was about through prepping him, she heard him say to himself, “Lordy, Lordy, Lordy!”

Soon Dr. Fortenberry came in and after the usual greetings and small talk, Betty Jean handed him the needle with the local anesthetic and he started to work. Buddy was trying to keep things light and upbeat, so he told them about the lady in the waiting room telling whoever would listen all about her having her dogs neutered to stop them from digging up her yard and who knows what all.

Dr. Fortenberry laughed and said, “Buddy, not only will this keep you from digging up your yard, it’ll keep you from chasing cars down the street.” All three of them got a good laugh out of that.

He continued, “Fact is, I hear that having this little operation done will cure your flea problem and stop you from raising your hind leg on fire hydrants; the one thing it won’t help is heart worms. That’s another cure altogether.” Betty Jean thought that was particularly funny. After they had settled down a bit, the doctor said they were about through and told Buddy a few do’s and don’ts for the next few days. Told him to make an appointment to come see him in about a week. When he left the room, Betty Jean cleaned up the area a bit and put a band-aid on his incision site.

You’re as good as new,” she said brightly. She gave him some pills in case he had some pain and reminded him of the ice pack and restrictions about driving and such. Buddy dressed and walked gingerly out into the waiting room to make a follow-up appointment.

The dog lady was still holding forth with a new person who had come in the office.

...and we got our first two dogs from a man over in Mobile when we were down for the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo but they didn’t work out real well so we gave them to my sister and brother-in-law who live up the road from us out past the Sims’s place you know where that is don’t you it’s out by the railroad crossing near the old general store which is now a Quik Stop. You know a neutered dog really is a happier dog, no two ways about it; neutering is definitely the way to go...”

As Buddy stepped outside, he wondered if he would be a happier dog now that this was over. One thing for sure was that Beth was very grateful that he had it done. She had been especially kind to him during the past few days; she knew he was nervous about the whole thing and had tried to mix compassion with a large dose of humor. She had given him a T-shirt that read ”It May Shoot Blanks, But It’s Still A Smith & Wesson!” He had to admit to himself that he felt pretty good about doing it, now that it was over, and he was anxious to make sure he could still be a proper lover for her.

Buddy didn’t go back to choir at the Baptist Church for a week or so but didn’t really tell anyone the real reason for his absence. He just told ‘em he went fishing. In time he went back to the rehearsal and found to his pleasure that his voice was still that lovely baritone that it always was. He was definitely not in the running to be a substitute for any of the Lennon Sisters. The next Sunday he put on his robe and filed into the sanctuary and sat down with all the other members of the choir. He was looking around the congregation when he spotted Betty Jean Perkins, who caught his eye. She smiled this sweet smile at him; Buddy would have sworn she winked at him. He tried to put the image of her slicing raw carrots out of his mind. Tom Finch, a friend who sat next to him in the choir, heard him say under his breath “Lordy, Lordy, Lordy!”

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