Dog Days

He was a hard and unyielding man, my grandfather.

Like most who lived through it, he didn’t view the Great Depression as a period of time with a beginning and end. He would always be distrustful of banks. His hard-earned cash was buried in the backyard or hid in tin cans of nails in the basement. Plastic packages of starched white dress shirts in his closet remained unopened and unworn. Because if you looked closely, a nearly invisible slit appeared above the breast pocket, as if carefully sliced by a razor blade. Those pockets hid perfectly folded, crisp bills.

There was never a job that was beneath him. Construction, plumbing, garbage collection, factory work. He built the house his family lived in with his own hands; the house my grandmother lived and died in until she was 101 years old. Monday through Friday, his entire life, he left the house at 7:00 a.m. and didn’t return until 4:00 p.m for a 30-minute bath and dinner at 5:00.

At each milestone anniversary, my grandmother didn’t receive jewelry. She was handed a paper bag of cash, a commemorative marker for the years they’d been married: 25k for 25 years, 50k for 50 years, 70k for 70 years.

The day he had a stroke at 92, he had been fixing a roof. After the stroke, when we sat on folding chairs on his driveway, he’d stare up at the neighborhood roof lines with a desperate yearning. In a weak whisper, he’d say, “I’d do anything to be able to climb up and be on that roof.”

My grandfather functioned on one belief system and one only: You work. Always. You work hard. Always. Nothing else matters. Everything else falls into place as long as you always work hard.

For a while, they lived on a farm where animals weren’t pets, but food source. At 7 years old, my mother’s job was to collect the eggs and feed the chickens. One day, my grandfather found her on the ground in the process of being pecked to death. She watched him chase down the rooster and strangle its neck with his bare hands. 70 years later, her nightmares are still plagued with strangled chickens.

Animals were not family members. If they weren’t for food, they were carriers of disease and another mouth to feed when you were already struggling to put food on the table. As a little girl, my mother would enrage her father by bringing home hungry, sick animals and was scolded over and over, in no uncertain terms, that she was not allowed to keep or care for them.

So, the day my grandfather came home from work with a black-and-white cocker spaniel mix, everyone was shocked. There was only one stipulation. If the son-of-a-bitch shit on the floor, begged from the table, ever bit anyone, or caused any inconvenience whatsoever—even once—it would be gone.

My mother named the dog Cindy, and with visions of strangled chickens forever etched in her brain, secretly cleaned up accidents and kept her away from the dinner table. My grandfather, impressed with her obedience, often bragged that Cindy was obviously special and smarter than other dogs. What he didn’t know was Cindy didn’t need to beg because she knew after the dishes were cleaned and dried, she’d be given table scraps wrapped in a napkin in the bedroom.

The day after my parents were married and my mother packed her things to move out, Cindy, who was old at the time, tried to chase the car. Because the apartment didn’t allow pets, my mother contemplated not moving in with my father until Cindy passed. Weeks later, Cindy died. She never quite forgave herself for leaving her.

Since then, my mother’s never been without a dog. There was Sam, Daisy, Annie, and Minnie. All were some form of mutt with various heath and/or behavioral problems who went onto live long and healthy lives—all beloved family members, all doted on unconditionally, and all treated better than most human beings could hope for.

Last year, Minnie died shortly after my mother finished her first go at chemo. It was a time of deep grief. Not just because she was terribly missed but because my mother had decided there would be no more dogs.

We watched her become sadder, lonelier, and a bit lost. And though we all knew chances of the cancer coming back was likely, it didn’t make it any less devastating when it did.

“It would be irresponsible for you to get another dog,” her brother—like his father, never an animal lover— chastised. “It wouldn’t be fair. You’ve had enough pets for a lifetime. Now you need to focus on taking care of yourself!”

“Oh FUCK him.” I seethed to my brother when he told me.

My brother, knowing me well, had just laughed, anticipating the imminent and thorough ass chewing that was coming to my uncle.

We talked to her after that.

“But what happens when . . .” she started, then stopped. “What will happen to the dog when I . . .”

It still undoes me—this fragile version her. So sad and unsure. And yet—yet—there was a light there. Hope. And in that moment, I caught a glimpse of the little girl who had pleaded with her father so long ago to please let her have a dog to love.

“You don’t need to worry about that. It’s taken care of. Just go find your dog.”

There aren’t words that describe the look of gratitude, of happiness—pure and sweet—on her face when we assured her she should have a dog; that she would always have a dog. In fact, we explained, it would be selfish to deny a dog the love and home she could provide.

In March, she found her dog through a rescue service. She knew instantly, like she always does, that this was the one.

Scrawny, dehydrated and scared, the dog had been rescued from a drain pipe a few hours north. After it had been medically treated and cleared, the caregiver drove four hours to bring the dog home.

They took to each other instantly as if they’d always been together. The first night, the dog jumped into bed and laid its head against her back. Ever since, where my mother goes, the dog goes—at her feet or cradled in her arms. Each night, my mother makes them an ice cream cone, which the dog licks from her finger while they cuddle in front of the TV.

She will start chemo next Tuesday. Again. She will lose her hair. Again. She will become weaker and weaker. Again. She will keep doing it until it no longer works or she can’t do it anymore.

But through it, my mother will have a dog. In the hard days to come and as long as she lives, her dog will provide her a comfort and happiness that—as much as we try and wish we could—we just can’t give her. Not like a dog can. That’s just what they do.

Even a man as hard and unyielding as my grandfather knew it. He knew what his daughter needed and made sure she had it.


Subject 33

They were rows of them. Dressed in sterile white coats. Each face and pair of wire-rimmed spectacles as indiscernible and impassive as the next.

“Subject 33, disrobe please.”

As instructed, she had drank the chalky liquid an hour before, the time and amount meticulously transcribed into a row on the white board that hung on the back wall. Naked beneath the paper gown, various wires and stickers transversed her chest and pelvis.

“Subject 33, please sit on the apparatus and spread your legs.”

Fully naked now, she shivered as her bottom hit the cold seat. Opening her legs to the watching room, the smell of disinfectant cleaner from the bowl assaulted her nostrils, making them sting.

“Wider please, Subject 33.”

Hearing a snigger, she scanned the faces, but was unable to find a trace of judgment or emotion.

Averting her eyes, she waited for further instruction. The researcher next to the machine spoke to the White Coat to her left instead.

“You may begin stimulation of the subject now.”

Despite knowing what the session would entail—the paperwork was detailed, lengthy, and required many signatures and initials—she flinched.

But hard financial times called for unorthodox measures.

Latex fingers began to methodically circle her clitoris. Maybe it was the chill, but it already felt large—too large—and erect, the aching nub lurching and twitching towards each stroke. Holding back a humiliating moan, she closed her eyes.

“Subject 33, please try to keep your eyes open and fixed in front of you.”

Trying to focus on a point on the board, her eyes wandered, scanning the faces that stared back. In the background, the heart monitor beeped erratically.

Soon, she felt a familiar flutter in her abdomen, curling like a languid plume of smoke and spreading lower. Initially, she’d questioned her ability to orgasm in front of a group of researchers and even mentioned this with a nervous laugh to the study administrator. The man had nodded politely and assured her she’d be paid in full regardless.

To her ear, her breaths sounded shallow as she was manipulated and stroked. She let out a gasp as the first wave of climax hit. Instantly, it was followed by a shock of pain that sliced her genitals and spine.

Looking at the man administering the shock, she found no empathy. Just unmoved professionalism.

Soon, the finger was replaced with a wand. The vibration—while not strong under normal circumstances—was excruciatingly arousing and moving her quickly towards climax—probably due to the added pressure and sensitivity of a full bladder. Gritting her teeth, she fought it, the dueling urge to urinate and orgasm making her thighs shake. At the same moment the sound of liquid dropped and splashed the water in the bowl, she felt the shock, much stronger this time. She cried out, instinctively tightened her pelvic muscles to stop the stream. However, the clenching only helped careen her impossibly closer towards orgasm.

Soon she lost track of time. Only mildly aware of her surroundings, impassive faces swam in and out amidst a sea of lab coats. The vibration of the wand hummed in her ears as her entire being became focused on nothing more than painful discomfort and building pleasure. As another set of latex hands began caressing her breasts and pinching her nipples from behind, her teeth began to chatter. The electric shocks kept coming, stopping her on the brink 10 times? 20 times? She didn’t know anymore.

Somewhere in the room, someone began whimpering and crying when she finally gave up and gave in. Gratefully and greedily, she gave herself over to convulsions of pain and pleasure that went on and on.

Was she orgasming? Was she urinating? Convulsing in pain? She didn’t know anymore and was beyond caring.

All she knew was sterile surrounding white; arms hoisting her up and holding her torso; stern hands holding apart her legs: a piece of cunt that couldn’t stop contracting as it was slowly filled with something perfect, deliciously warm and thick. As each lab coat filled her and exited, she begged for more.

On a separate plane—one comprising reason that hadn’t yet been shattered—she comprehended this wasn’t included in the study paperwork. If it was, she wouldn’t have signed. Her body wracked and nonsense gurgling from her lips, she struggled. Struggled to remember the familiar curve of her signature. Struggled to remember the sound of her name, which seemed to be slipping further and further away.

The only name that came to mind was Subject 33.

The John

She held it in her hand, stroking the tip with her thumb.

Soft and warm, she thought. Just like a baby bird.

Above her, the old man with the faded tattoo of an anchor on his chest moaned.

Sticking out her tongue, she gave it a slow, long lick.

Though his eyes fluttered, his penis remained flaccid.

Sucking a soft penis was different, but not altogether unpleasant. There was no rush or force. Taking it at her own pace, she sucked in her cheeks, drawing him in. As minutes passed, her mind quieted and wandered. In between sucks, she swirled her tongue as if she were giving a French kiss. Though still limp, she fixated on the man’s serene face, ready to take direction.

With gritty longing, he sighed. “My balls, Song . . . lick ‘em, Baby . . . please.”

Strangely, a spasm of pleasure shot between her legs. Sure, he was old and had gotten her name wrong, but that wasn’t uncommon. She’d been called many names throughout the course of her career.

“Oooooh,” he groaned with emotion. “I missed you, Song. For so long. I never stopped missing you.”

Crouching between the old man’s legs, crisscrossed in pale blue veins, she lapped and flicked one sack and then the other. When she was rewarded with a thick groan, she slurped loudly, letting a thread of spit hang from her bottom lip.

Johns tended to prefer sloppy.

Though this one didn’t appear to be watching. His eyes had remained closed from the moment she’d dropped to her knees, and he’d wrapped her long hair into his liver-spotted fist. Stopping, she ran her tongue up the sour seam of his perineum.

Above, she heard him gasp; the hand in her hair reflexively tightening then relaxing almost as if in apology.

No-no-no.” It was half grumble, half laughter. “My girl isn’t the sort who does those sort of things.”

Withholding the impulse to giggle at the unexpected chivalry, ever mindful, she glanced at the red numbers on the clock.

“Mister,” she politely interrupted. “We only have a few more minutes. Is there something else you’d like to do?”

He had, after all, paid for more than a blowjob.

Eyelids fluttering open, his gaze sharpened on her upturned face.


Disoriented, the rheumy eyes flit across the room, so lost he was in another time, another place.

Sounding afraid, he asked, “Where is my Song?”

“I’m sorry,” she started. “I’m not . . . Song. Don’t you remember? I’m a—“

She stopped, seeing tears begin to well in his eyes.

Sinking slowly, he sat on the bed, put his head in his hands, and began to weep.

Not knowing what to do, she placed a hand gently on his shoulder. “Are you OK, Mister? Is there someone I can call for you?”

The No was so faint and muffled, she almost didn’t hear it.

Hesitantly, she got dressed. Still uncertain whether to stay or go, she reached for her bag and walked to the door. When she opened it, streams of sunlight illuminated the dank, dark motel room.

Though she was about to leave, something made her stop and turn.


When he looked up, the sun caught his eyes, turning them a clear, brilliant blue. And the only person she could see sitting on the bed was a handsome young man in a crisp white sailor’s uniform.

Though she blinked, he was still there.

“I . . . I’m sorry you lost your Song.”

Straightening, the young man flashed a sad smile and gave her a curt salute.

Shaking her head, she shut the door behind. With the LA sun—blinding and hot—on her face, she popped a stale breath mint into her mouth and went back to work.

She’d return in two hours though, unable to shake thoughts of the old man.

Blue lights flashed.

“I didn’t know he was that sick,” she cried to the paramedic lifting the gurney. “I swear if I had known, I would have called 911 this afternoon.”

The paramedic lifted an eyebrow, fixing her with an odd stare.

“Wouldn’t have helped much, Ma’am.” He wrinkled his nose. “Old dude’s been dead for at least a week.”


The bell on the door tinkles and is quickly followed by the familiar taptap of expensive high heels.

Not lifting my eyes from the piping bag, I greet her with nonchalance. “Morning, Mrs Roseberg.”

“Hello, Emily.”

The tone, as sharp as the diamonds that pierce her lobes, makes me stiffen despite being used to it.

Craning her long neck over the display case, she asks, “What’s that you’re working on? Is that buttercream?”

Mousseline buttercream,” I correct. “It’s for the Davis’s 50th anniversary.”

“What’s the difference?” she asks with an interest her surgically enhanced features can’t mimic.

“It has a richer, more luxurious texture.”

When the pink of her tongue meets the expertly drawn-on lips, the core of me involuntarily clenches.

The first time we met, she came to the shop to order a cake for her daughter, Mitzi’s, Sweet 16. Two weeks later, she was back for a baby shower. After that, it was under the guise of a bat mitzvah that she pushed me into the back cooler and mashed her tits against mine. The aggressiveness would have been offensive if I hadn’t experienced such a visceral reaction to the lost animal look in her eyes.

Haughtily, she clicks her tongue. “I don’t have all day, Emily. I have important things to do.” Though there’s an underlying hint of desperation.

With a nod, I lay the piping bag on my work table and walk to the back cooler. Behind me, the tap of her heels follows and stops when the cooler door closes behind.

“Oh, Emily.” Her eyes widen and glaze. The mask falls. “You’ve outdone yourself this time.”

I know. The patterns are intricate. The peaks crisp and high. Inside, the cake is delicate and spongy with layers of oozing apricot and fig.

It’s three feet high. Because size does matter to Mrs Roseberg.

Wasting no time, she unzips the back of the black pencil skirt and shimmies it down her narrow hips. Beneath her sex is smooth and slightly red, telling me she waxed for the occasion. Hurriedly, she unbuttons the white silk top and removes the lace camisole beneath. Her breasts are tiny and pert. Her body is toned, courtesy, I’m sure, of a personal trainer.

While my cakes aren’t sexual to me, I’m affected by how aroused they make her feel. Historically, I have no interest in sex—I find it an awkward non-event—but there’s a clenching between my legs as I watch her straddle, lower, and mash into the tower of cake. It grows with the lowering of her eyes; the way she rubs the frosting over her nipples and between her legs. It’s in the little hitches of breath and whimpers she makes as she rides.

I imagine it’s like being told you have the biggest and best dick in town.

When the cake is demolished and she’s done scooting across the floor, I hand her a towel as a courtesy. Out of breath, she wipes the frosting from between her legs, her breasts, and bottom.

I often wonder where she stops to wash it all off before she goes home?

“Did you enjoy your cake, Mrs Roseberg?”

The question is caustic. It’s meant to be. Shame is as important as presentation and texture.

“It was a bit dry,” she retorts. “Next time make it moist and use that mousseline buttercream.”

Though when she hands me the envelope of cash, she avoids my eyes.

Thoughtfully, I listen to the retreating tap of her heels and then the tinkle of the shop bell.

Later, I’ll go home and think about her lying in bed next to Mr Roseberg and wonder if he’s ever met the sad animal living inside her eyes.

I grab the mop and get to cleaning up.

67 Comments (leave comment)

If It Was History

We would hold their hands as we walked in the park. Catching sight of the swings, they would break free from our grasp and into a run. Reaching them, we would stand behind. And when they pointed to the carved stone on pedestal and asked what it was and what it meant, we would tell them about a war a long time ago.

Over the color of skin and how we won.

And when we asked Can you imagine that? they would shake their heads and say, No. I can’t. 

And we’d laugh at the nonsensical ways of long-ago people, as our thoughts turned to how close we could get them to the sky.

If you were my daughter

I would say . . .

They will tell you what you are supposed to be. How you are supposed to look. How you should feel and act.

Their expectations will overwhelm you.

But at some point—because you are going to be one of the lucky ones–you’re going to question it.

Because if all they say is true:

Why are they pushing so hard?

Why would they need to?

And why is what they expect the source of such struggle and angst?

You’ll try at first. Because, of course, you will.

You will attempt to re-mold the shape and size of your body. You will wear clothes that feel uncomfortable and tight; shoes that cause your feet to blister and swell. You will spend thousands of dollars and hours on beauty products that promise flawless skin; shiny, soft hair; smoky, mysterious eyes; and lips such a shape and color they will cause men to imagine how they would feel wrapped around their dick. You will declare war on hair in places where hair just should not be.

And that’s just the physical aspects of the job.

You will need to be naturally maternal, as a yearning will manifest itself deep inside your womb at the exact, right age telling you you were born to become someone’s mother. Someone’s wife. A sex goddess. An amazing cook. The keeper of the perfect house.

While you may find you have a natural talent for some of these things, you won’t for others. And that will make you feel guilty and like there’s something wrong with you.

But realize, it’s all a part of The Great Big Lie.

Squint your eyes. Take a closer look: the demand of you is on what; not who.

The strange dichotomy is when you stop focusing on the idea of being the right kind of woman and on being the right kind of person is when you become.

That’s the source of the magic, power, and mystique that is uniquely you.

Oh, and by the way, that’s going to piss some off.

And that is how you will know you’ve arrived.


“I got it through an arrangement,” the man told the doctor with a scowl. “But it’s defective. It just lays there, giving me dirty looks. It barely does anything at all.”

The doctor appraised it. Wearing the too-short hospital gown, it had long black hair, dark exotically shaped eyes, and big breasts.

“It’s pretty,” the doctor said with a friendly smile, lending a hand to help it onto the examination table. “Does it talk?”

“No.” The man shook his head. “It’s dumb, I think.”

“I see.”

Gently, he placed his hand on its shoulder and pushed, encouraging it to lie on its back. When it was lying flat and he reached down to place its ankles in the stir-ups, it apprehensively tried to scooch away.

“No-no-no, Dear,” he reprimanded, easily snatching a slender ankle and snapping it into the restraints. “We need you still, so we can examine you.”

In response, the dark eyes glittered at him with resentment.

When he went to push up the gown, it tried to push his hands away.

“No,” he snapped firmly. “We need to see if anything’s wrong. If you get in the way, we’ll have no choice but to restrain your arms as well. Is that necessary?”

Though its bottom lip plumped out in dissention, its arms went to its sides.

“Thank you,” he smiled.

Peering between its legs, he was greeted with a thick, yet well-groomed, black bush. The two perfectly symmetrical pubis lips jutted out from beneath the thatch of hair were a healthy purple.

As he smoothed back the hair and pulled the lips apart to get a better look, he asked the owner, “What exactly does it do when you attempt to copulate with it?”

The man groaned. “When I first got it, it was practically feral. It spit and made unpleasant noises. It even scratched me, so I had to cut its nails back. After that, I bound its hands and feet. It didn’t like that very much.” He smiled meanly. “So, over time, it settled down.” The man ran an agitated sigh over the stubble of his head. “But mostly it just lies there and doesn’t do anything at all.”

“Does it make any sounds? Any indication of how it feels? Is it possible that intercourse causes it pain?”

“Sometimes it grunts or sighs.” The man looked down, embarrassed. “Once it yawned. But mostly nothing. I don’t think it works right.”

“How does it feel inside?”

“Alright, I guess. But it doesn’t get as squishy as I like.”

“There, there,” the doctor crooned spreading the soft black pubic hair back and gently peeling the lips apart. “It’s alright. Let’s see what you have going on down there, so we can help you.”

Beneath his fingers, he could feel how tense it was. To calm it, he pushed his finger into the soft thatch of hair to find the hooded nub. Though it was tiny, he found it and began to rub in gentle circles. When he did, he felt it jump and let out a surprised gasp. When he looked up, its dark eyes were looking down in confusion.


As he continued the examination and continued to rub the little nub, it grew harder, stiffer, and larger beneath his thumb. A longing mewl even escaped its lip.

“Do you prepare the area before you penetrate it?” he asked even though he already suspected the answer.

“Um. No,” the man stuttered defensively. “That wasn’t mentioned when I got it. Nor was it in the manual. I was made to believe it was coming to me fully functional. No step up required.”

“I see,” mumbled the doctor, running a calloused finger down the thickening lips where fluid was gathering around its breeding hole. “Sometimes it just needs a little help . . . makes it more agreeable. Some of them are more fickle than others.”

Though this one didn’t appear to be difficult at all. In fact, it was lubricating faster than most and showing all the signs of arousal. Quickening breath. Dilated pupils. Erect nipples. It seemed to be on its way to orgasm.

“Come over here, Mister Dodd,” the doctor nodded his head to the man. “I want to show you something.”

When the man was standing behind him, looking over his shoulder, he said. “You see how I’m rubbing this little gland with one hand? It prepares the area. You can also use your other hand to stroke and manipulate the outer and inner lips. Look how they darken in color and get slippery? These models respond very positively to external stimulation. They are self-lubricating. A little work before penetration goes a long way to produce that squishy feeling you mentioned.”

Underneath him, the thing undulated its hips, bit its bottom lip, and moaned.

The man’s brow furrowed. “I swear, Doc. It doesn’t work this way at home! It twists its lips like it ate something rotten and stays dry as a bone.”

The doctor laughed. “Like I said, some of them can be a little fickle.”

“Can I try?”

“Sure,” the doctor said removing his hand, but admittedly with regret. He liked the way this one responded, the way it looked, and the sounds it made. His feelings were unprofessional and left him feeling uncomfortable. He had an overwhelming urge to see how fast and how much he could make it orgasm. He found himself smugly liking that while its owner could not arouse it, *he* could.

When the man got between its legs, instinctively, it flinched. And while the stirrups held its legs apart, they shook with the exertion of trying to close. The man mashed his hand between the pubic lips and pushed a meaty finger into its breeding hole, moving roughly back and forth, causing it to let out a pained cry.

“See what I mean?” the man said with an aggravated puff. “It just clamps down and doesn’t let me in. It’s so frigid. There’s something wrong with it.”

Annoyed, the doctor huffed and pushed the man away. “Here. Just watch.”

Rubbing his hands together to make them warm, he placed them first on the thighs, caressing them. When he felt it begin to relax, he slid his hands down and massaged either side of its outer lips, moving them gently, but firmly, between his thumbs. When he moved on to rub the little nub, it let out a cry and gushed a half a teaspoon of liquid.

“You see, Mister Dodd, you don’t just stick your fingers in the breeding hole right away. You have to get it ready first. You have to relax it. If you forth a little effort before penetration, they respond favorably.”

To prove his point, he reached into his pocket, and showed the man a medium-sized plug. After squirting some lubrication on it, he addressed It. “I’m going to put this inside your anus. I want you to take a deep breath in as I do. Do you understand?”

Though its eyes widened with worry, it took a deep breath. Slowly, he slide the lubricated plug into the dark of its rosebud. It was a tight fit, and he felt it stiffen.

“It’s alright,” he assured. “Just keep breathing.” As it did as it was told, he pushed the plug in further until it was completely in. “I know it’s a little uncomfortable at first. But it builds a sensation of fullness that you will grow to enjoy the more you practice.” When the plug was snug and fully inserted, slowly he began to move it in and out. The thing let out a little animal noise of pleasure and writhed its sexy hips.

“See?” he told the man. “It wants things inside it. It’s what it’s made for. You just have to prep them a little.”

The creature’s cunt lips were so swollen and wet, he couldn’t keep his eyes off them. Needing to know what it felt like inside, he looked to the man, trying to keep a professional tone though his cock was hard as a rock.

“May I demonstrate?” he asked.

The man let out an Hmph, clearly not thrilled with the idea, but in the end shrugged his shoulders and said meanly, “Be my guest, Doc. But it’s a horrible fit. They must have sent me a used model.”

Cocking a skeptical eyebrow, the doctor unzipped his trousers, pulled down his boxers, and fisted his hard cock in his hand. The thing’s mouth parted as it watched him, its gaze sliding down to the hard cock he was gripping in its hand. He couldn’t help it. He stared into its dilated eyes, knowing his own were also dark with desire. It wanted him. He wanted It. He couldn’t wait to feel it from the inside. Slowly he slid himself between those thick wet folds, working his length into its channel. Both he and It gasped at the penetration. It was so sleek and so warm—such a snug fit. Everything an animal cunt should be. It was so beyond good, he let out an unprofessional groan as he pulled back and slid back in. Underneath him, the thing accepted and gripped his girth; its breasts heaving with arousal.


Trying to keep his voice steady and his thrusts even, he rasped, “Are you watching, Mister Dodd? Do you see how its accepting me?” When he said it, its walls begin to pulse around him like it was ready to release after just a few thrusts.

OhmotherfuckingGodinHeaven. Where did he get IT? I have to get myself one!

He liked the way it squeezed his cock so much, he couldn’t stop from putting his finger on the nub and rubbing it as he steadily pumped. It mewled and its hands reached up to touch its nipples as he pounded. So responsive. Reaching down, he thrust the plug in time to the thrusts of his cock. Beneath him, the response was immediate. It shook and gushed liquid that dripped down his balls. Though ejaculation wasn’t a part of standard exams, he couldn’t help it. His balls tightened and he shot his load inside it with a growl.

Wiping a bead of sweat from his brow, he looked at it beneath him. This man’s property wasn’t defective. It was perfect.

Next to him, the man shifted uncomfortably, reminding him they weren’t alone. His face was red with anger. “Well, of course, it has to take it when you have the legs restrained! But it won’t suck your cock, Doc! It wrinkles its nose and acts like it’s going to vomit!”

Though he didn’t want to pull out—it was so tight and warm–he did. Besides, he was curious now. Moving so he was standing next to its head, he gripped and examined it’s long, slender throat against his fingers. Though the eyes widened in surprise, it didn’t fight him. Pushing its head to the side and closer to the edge of the table, he held out his softening, but not completely unaroused cock. Rubbing the head against its plump lips, he told it, “Put it in your mouth.”

It opened immediately and took him.

Staring into its eyes, he asked the man behind it, “Do you hurt it?”

“What do you mean?”

Gripping it tighter around the throat, he raised his other hand and smacked it in the face. Though it flinched, it dutifully moved its lips up and down his shaft faster. There was the swirl of a tongue. What a good wet mouth it had. When his hand print began already showing on its cheek, he felt a sudden surge of possessiveness.

“I see it likes to be hit,” he muttered.

“I suppose. But it won’t swallow,” sneered the man. “It vomits instead. It doesn’t appear to like the taste. Thinks it’s too good for it or something.”

Looking into its dark eyes which were fixed on his, the doctor asked, “Do you think you’re too good for my seed? Nod your head if you think you have a say in the matter.”

It continued to look up at him, greedily sucking. Even trying to shift on the table to take him further down its throat.

“It wants it,” he told the man, not breaking eye contact. “I have no doubt of that.” Then he paused, “I don’t think it’s the right fit model for you, Mister Dodd. I suggest you send it back and get another one that better suits your needs.”

“But I don’t want to!” whined the man. “I like the way it looks! I just want it to do what I want!”

The doctor sighed, regretfully pulling his cock from the sweet suctioning mouth. As he did, it made a popping sound.

“I don’t know what to tell you,” said the doctor. “I’ve examined it. I can’t find a thing wrong with it. And I’ve examined hundreds of these models.”

“Well,” the man huffed. “Maybe I need to take it to another doctor who knows what he’s doing! Not some quack!”

The doctor let out another sigh. “Alright, alright. I have one more test. But I’ll need you to leave the room, Mister Dodd.”

Suspiciously, the man arched an eyebrow. “What are you going to do?”

“Please,” said the doctor patiently. “You have my word. It will be fine. I need to be alone with it.”

After the man left the room, he looked down at it lying back on the table, looking up at him nervously. Removing its ankles from the stirrups, he helped it sit up.

“I suppose you know how to speak?” he asked, closing and tying the gown over its breasts.


He smiled.

Shyly, it smiled back.

“Would you like me to tell Mister Dodd you are defective?”

Without hesitation, it nodded its head.

“I’ll come get you after the exchange is complete, and it will please you.”

It nodded.

“Good. It’s decided. Now bend over the table. I’m going to hurt you.”

It appeared to glow.

And did exactly as it was told.

Only Truth Gets Spoken Over the Fence

We really only spoke over the fence. But she was more of a friend than friends were at the time.

She lived in the house behind mine. All those years ago, a carport stood where my master bedroom now sits. If you walked to the back of the carport, past the rotting wood eaves, peered through the dirty screen and over the chain link fence, you would stare into Jane’s backyard.

She was a mail carrier and worked odd hours. We met briefly over the fence line when I moved in. She was pleased I wasn’t a renter because people in the neighborhood had a tendency to come and go. She’d been a resident for 16 years.

She wasn’t an attractive woman. She bleached her hair platinum blonde, and it contrasted harshly against the pockmarked, tan leather of her skin. No nonsense and coarse talking, she lived alone. When I first moved in, my hair was long and blond. Her appraisal of me that first time over the fence immediately let me know Jane was an unapologetic lesbian.

The next time I saw her, two months later, I was bald.

When that happened, my new favorite spot became the back of the carport. I placed a rocking chair, a small plastic table, and an ashtray there. At night, I’d rock, hidden in darkness with no head covering, and chain smoke my way through nausea, night terrors, and insomnia.

It was 2:00 a.m. when she appeared over the fence.

“What happened to you?”

“I got sick.”

She let a low whistle out from under her breath. “Now, that sucks balls. Big time. You’re in for a long, hard haul, Baby.”

I smiled because I was accustomed to commentary along the lines of “Oh, you’re going to beat this” and “God has a plan,”and my favorite, “Try to see it as a gift to make you realize what’s important.”


“You’re a hot bald chick. And I hang out with a lotta bull dykes, so . . .”

Again, I smiled. A rarity those days.

“Well, you know where to find me. If you need me. We ladies have to stick together.” And she walked back into her house.


A storm was brewing out in the Gulf. Our city hadn’t taken a direct hit since the 1930’s, but the news said it was headed our way. The night before, I walked outside because I couldn’t sleep. I was thinking about the tree in Jane’s backyard.

It’s called a Costa Rican Monkey Ear Tree, and it’s got to be at least 200 feet tall. The monkey ears refer to the hard fig shells attached to the branches. They’re black and shaped like a monkey’s ear. When they fall, they’re hard enough and high enough in the air that if they pelt you in the head, they hurt.

In a neighboring city, there’s a tree that’s 200 feet tall and is listed on the register as historic; Jane’s tree is much bigger and thicker in diameter than that one, and it’s not listed on any registry. When the windows are open, I hear eerie screeches and growls, which lead me to believe there are species of animals and insects living in it that have yet to be discovered. It reminds me of the Swiss Family Robinson Tree house. If it falls, it will take out the surrounding houses. But it’s more than that: the roots are so far reaching, they break through the cement of the sidewalks down the street. If Jane’s tree goes down, it’s taking half the neighborhood with it.

It was 3:30 a.m. the morning before the storm. Giving up on sleep, I left bed and went outside. I found Jane standing underneath the tree, looking up at its colossal vastness in the darkness.

Over the fence, in my night gown, I said quietly, “I can’t sleep either. I can’t stop thinking about your tree.”

Without looking at me, she said, “There’s nothing we can do. Worrying won’t change it.”

“I’m still worried.”

“It’s been here for a hundred years, Baby. It will be here long after we’re gone. The tree will win.”

Slightly soothed, I went back to bed.

The storm would take a turn and hit the middle of the state. We would still get residual effects. The next day, when I looked out the window through the sheets of rain and wind, every tree in Jane’s yard was down.

Except her Monkey Ear Tree.

Luckily, our houses wouldn’t sustain damage. Though Jane’s wooden deck was destroyed. When the rain stopped, four of her girlfriends—burly, no-nonsense ladies–came over with a chain saw and cleared out the damage. Jane sent them over to clean up my yard as well.

She would rebuild that deck herself. While she measured and cut the wood boards on her work table with perfect precision, I watched her over the fence, wishing I could love her like I sometimes loved men.


I was in the carport getting tools out of the utility closet.

I heard that low whistle and then, “Jesus, Baby. You got FAT.”

I smirked at the familiar voice and looked up. “I’m pregnant.”

“No shit. How did that happen?”

“A pitcher of margaritas.”

She paused, “I don’t mean to intrude. But didn’t Progesterone try to kill you?”


She was quiet, as she leaned down to pick at some weeds through the fence. Throwing them behind her shoulder, she said “Well, I guess some risks are worth taking.”

“I’ll go back on treatment after she comes.”

“Sounds like a plan. A girl . . . Woot. Good for you. Well, you know where to find me if you need me. Us ladies need to stick together.”


I was pushing the stroller in front of her house. The walks were the only thing that calmed the girl down. She did nothing but scream for the first eight months. She wouldn’t sleep through the night for two years. I was back on treatment, working full time, exhausted, and sick all the time.

“Wow. She’s got some lungs. Come up here. Let me see her,” Jane yelled from the swinging bench on her front porch.

I pushed the stroller up and sat down next to her on the swing.

“She sure is a pretty thing,” she cooed, peering into the stroller.

“She has reflux. Bad.”

“You look horrible, Baby.”

“I’m exhausted.”

“He doesn’t help you.” It wasn’t a question.


We sat in silence, swinging; Jane taking occasional pulls from her can of Budweiser.

“Let me watch her for a little while. Go sleep.”

My voice broke, and tears pricked my eyes.

“I can’t, Jane,“ I said. “She screams. She turns blue sometimes. She projectile-vomits. She’s the fucking Exorcist.”

“Meh. She sounds like my mother. Go get some sleep. You’re sick.”

Three hours later, I was at her door. Guilty. But feeling better.

“Was she horrible? Did she scream the entire time?”

“Yes,” said Jane. “She’s a beast. Worst. Baby. Ever.”

But her smile was so wide, it made her face look like a puckered leather hand bag.


I was getting in my car.

“I sold the house today.”

I froze. Looked over the fence. She was standing underneath the tree with her hands on her hips, looking up.

“Oh no.”

“My mom’s sick. I’m moving her in with me. Closer to where she lives and the hospital. It will be easier to get her in and out of a condo. Less maintenance. I love this house. But it’s too old. Renovations to make it handicap accessible would cost too much.”

A lot of people have left. I’ve never asked one to stay.

“Don’t go.”

She looked down at the ground. Kicked one of the huge roots of her tree.

“I’ll miss you, you know.”

“I’ll miss you, too, Jane.”

I got in my car and cried all the way to work.


I rarely talk to the new neighbors. Though they’ve lived there for years.

Call me irrational. Silly. Pigheaded.

But I don’t like them.

Because it will never be their tree. It will never be their fence.

Day 13

“How soon will I lose my hair?”

“Between day 12 and day 15,” the chemo nurse said. Then her eyes lifted, skimming my head in assessment.

“For you,” she added. “Day 13.”

I don’t know how she knew. I didn’t ask. What I’d learn is that chemo (and hospice) nurses are a different breed. They see, feel, and know things normal people don’t. They are also the best needle stickers on the planet: deft and precise. When you know what you’re doing, the stick should never hurt. When your port moves accidentally underneath your skin and flips, those nurses can turn it around from the outside of your skin so quickly you won’t register the pain until after they’re done.

I will always hold chemo and hospice nurses in the highest esteem.

After my first treatment, I was determined not to be sick. I would NOT be a patient. I would continue to do the things I had always done. And when it was done, I would go on and live the life I had always led. Nothing would change. It would be an unfortunate blip on the radar. I’d do my time–the treatment–and when it was done, it would be over. I’d go back to my old life as if it had never happened.

Back then, obviously, I was a fucking fool.

On the night of day 13, I was sitting on a bar stool, buzzed and flirting.

This was business as usual. The object of my affection was particularly good looking, and our chemistry was off the charts. He had an amazing body and a confident sexuality that made my pulse roar in my ears.

That was my forte: Find physical attraction and engage at light speed. Suck every sigh, gasp, and orgasm out of the relationship. Fuck and fight in equal and epic proportions for maximum intensity. Provide lousy or close to no communication outside the physical. Crash and burn the relationship into the ground, and do it all in a three-months—tops–span. Then onto the next.

I was an expert. Maybe I still am.

He was leaning into me and looking down into my eyes with huge promise when I unconsciously ran my fingers through my hair. When I placed my hand back in my lap, I happened to look down.

I know it sounds stupid, but my first thought was that it was cat hair. There was just so much of it, and it stood out so starkly against the back drop of my black tights. At the time, I had three in-door cats and kept a rolling lint brush within reach at all times to “de-feline” myself before walking out the door. My first thought was, “How did you NOT notice all this before you left the house?”

Maybe it’s also because I believed it would come out in strands.

I didn’t know it fell out in clumps.

I didn’t know when it begins, it’s sudden. And rapid.

When I realized what it was, I excused myself to the bathroom. I studied myself in the low-lit mirror, unsure and afraid. Then I gently ran my fingers through, not wanting to cause more to fall out than was necessary.

Despite the light pressure, when I pulled my hand out, it held a clump.

I can’t tell you exactly how that felt. Surreal comes to mind.

I returned to my bar stool and attempted to continue flirting. I tried to pay attention to what he was saying, but soon all I could register was that his lips were moving. I didn’t want to give into the reality of what was happening. I was trying so hard to grasp onto the last vestiges of that life . . . that person I was getting closer to losing with every second.

But my hand would inevitably, despite itself, find its way to my head. When I’d see the hair, I’d quickly brush it off against my leg and let it fall to the ground underneath my chair. Hoping no one would see. I can only imagine how much was there when I left.

When I could no longer focus on what the guy was saying—in defeat–I downed my drink and told him, sadly and regretfully, I had to go.

He was shocked. Didn’t understand what had changed so quickly when it had been obvious we shared such mutual attraction mere minutes before.

I walked out the door and sat in my car, which was parked in the front. Through the large picture window adorned in the blinking neon lights of the bar, I could see him and the chair where I had sat. I watched for a few minutes, not able to start the car. Eventually, another girl sat in my chair. They began to talk. To flirt.

She had long, blonde hair.

In that moment—completely, bitterly, and irrationally—I hated her.

She stole my chair. My sex. My life.

My hair.

The next day, it was worse. I woke up to clumps all over the pillow case, in the sheets, and in the shower drain. No one tells you that it’s a somewhat physically painful process. The top of your head burns, aches, and is sensitive to the touch as the roots begin to die. And it itches like hell.

I had been in denial, thinking maybe I’d be one of the lucky small percent who would get to keep it. I had put off getting fitted for a wig, which had to be ordered.

I was running out of time.

I called my boss and told her I wouldn’t be going into work. I opened the yellow pages and scanned. I don’t know why, but for some reason, I did not want to stay in town. I treated it like some covert operation. As I looked down the list, a name of a business jumped out, and I wrote down the address on a blank envelope. Then I got in my car and drove 45 minutes three towns away.

The shop was in a strip mall sandwiched between two businesses with dingy, ugly storefronts. There was a tattoo parlor and a head shop advertising drug paraphernalia and porn videos.

The bell chimed when I walked through the door. The shop was empty except for a beast of a man who sat at the cashier counter, flipping through People magazine. He glanced up and greeted me. I acknowledged him with a small smile and walked to the far wall that was full–floor to ceiling—with wigs.

I stood there. Just staring. Letting my eyes take in the overwhelming amount of colors, styles, and lengths. I didn’t touch or pick any of them up off the stands. I felt rooted to one spot.

The beast of a man walked over. He was well over 6 feet tall. He was bald with two small, gold hoops in each ear. His shirt, a tropical print with pink flamingos, was opened to mid chest. Two heavy gold chains circled his bulging neck, and their hanging medallions nestled in his thick chest hair. The hands that fluttered when he talked were covered in chunky gold rings.

In contrast, when he spoke, his voice was soft and feminine with a slight lisp.

“Can I help you? What are you looking for, Hon?”

When I didn’t answer right away, he asked, “Do you have a party to go to? Or are you just looking for something fun for a change?”

It was mid-November, or I’m certain he would have assumed it was for Halloween.

Mutely, I shook my head; not looking at him directly, continuing to let my eyes flit over the wall of wigs.

Uncomfortably, he cleared his voice, smiled, and said, “Well, if you need any help, just let me know” and started to turn away.

I needed help. But I didn’t know how to ask.

I lifted my hand and dragged my fingers through my hair. When I pulled it out, I extended and showed him the clump in my palm.

“It’s falling out. It’s going to be gone soon,” I explained. I stopped, knowing my voice would crack if I didn’t.

His eyes widened in understanding. Then lowered and locked onto the implanted port protruding out from under the skin near my collar bone.

“Oh, Honey” was all he said.

I pulled the insurance paperwork out of my purse and handed it to him, pointing at my budget.

“This is more than enough,“ he said. “We can do a lot with this. Let me help you.”

We went through the lines of wigs and some he had in the back. There were so many to choose from. He asked if I wanted to go with something completely different and have “fun” with it. Or did I want to find something close to my current style and color.

I told him the more I could look like me, the better.

He chose some different lengths and tried to match the color the best he could. He explained the benefits and cons of synthetic versus human hair. None of them were an exact match, but he found a few that might work.

He took me in a backroom that had a hairdresser’s table with lit mirror and chair. When I sat down, he gathered up my shoulder-length hair and tucked it into a nylon cap. Then he began to place, adjust, and show me each wig.

He tried to make it fun. Really he did. With his whooshy, animated hand gestures. Even complimenting the ones that looked ridiculous. Despite my wish to keep the color close to my own blonde, he insisted on showing me what I’d look like as a red head, a brunette, and a pink-and-blue-haired punk rocker.

He was kind.

He was so very kind.

Somewhere between the fourth and fifth fitting, I noticed the top of the electric razor peeking out from one of the table’s drawers.

I stared at it for the longest time.

And realized why I’d been sent here.

“Will you shave it off for me?”

He stopped adjusting the wig on my head and stared at me in the mirror with surprise. Then hesitation.

Softly, I told him, “It’s so hard to watch it fall out. Like there’s no control. I don’t think I can do it myself.”

His eyes got glossy and started to fill and brim. He turned away to hide them.

“Of course. Hold on.”

He went to the front of the shop, and I heard the latch turn to lock. When he came back, he took the electric razor from the drawer.

He held it, posed over my head, took a deep breath, and said “Ready?”

I nodded.


He shaved my head in perfect symmetrical strips starting from the back to the front. As each new strip was revealed, he would rub his hand gently over the skin and say something encouraging. I eventually closed my eyes.

I think he cried while he did it.

I couldn’t.

I felt gratitude there was someone who did. Someone who could.

When he was done, we both stared at my reflection. He ran his hands over the stubble and said, “You have a beautiful head. Perfectly shaped. Many people don’t, you know.”

Deadpan, I said, “I’m just relieved there’s not a Gorbachev birthmark I wasn’t aware of.”

We both burst out laughing.

I paid for two wigs. They had to be ordered and styled, so it would take two weeks. He helped me pick out some scarves and a hat to hold me over. He showed me how to tie the scarves into different styles. He stapled the receipts together, so they would be easy to submit to the insurance company.

We hugged when I left, and I thanked him.

I walked out.

The strip mall was the same, but looked different somehow. Maybe it was the sunshine on the window panes. Or how the light reflected off and onto the sidewalk. It was blinding.

No. It wasn’t that.

I walked in a person.

I walked out a patient.

Dear Noel

Dear Noel,

You don’t know me. We met only briefly 45 years ago.

The day we met, it was my birthday. I was wrapped in a pink blanket when they handed me to you to hold.

I know our meeting was short lived, but from my understanding, you and I had been through a lot together.

You’re probably wondering how I know your name. Because back then, adoptions were handled with the utmost secrecy. There were no loopholes like there are today.

Let me explain.

The only thing they gave me when I left the hospital was a single sheet of paper. It had basic information about you: your age, height/weight, hair color, ethnicity, education, career, and general health information.

From it, I can see you and I have the same physical build. But whereas you have dirty blonde hair and brown eyes, I have very blond hair and blue eyes. I probably look a lot like him.

The paper told me very little about you, but said you were artistic and loved animals. I really like knowing that about you.

Since that piece of paper was the only thing I had remaining of you, you can imagine how upset I was when it got misplaced during a move. So, I sent a request to the adoption agency asking for a copy.

I was not prepared when I walked to the mail box that day to find a thick, yellow package from the agency. Inside, there was over an inch of papers containing the detailed information leading to my birth and adoption.

I was stunned. I didn’t think I was entitled to that. Though identifying information was, of course, blacked out in marker.

But whomever prepared the package was careless. They didn’t strike your name out very well on page 12. I was also able to decipher your birthday: December 25.

Noel is a beautiful name. I like it very much.

I sat on my bed and read all about you for hours that day. When I was done, I felt like I knew you. The case worker was very thorough in her notes.

You were 20 years old and working as a secretary at an army base when you met my biological father. Before that, you had done some modeling in New York City. You weren’t able to make a steady enough income to support yourself, so you took a typing class and landed a government secretarial job.

The case worker’s first impression of you when you walked into her office that first time was very complimentary. She said:

“This is an exceptionally beautiful, bright, and capable girl who has already made considerable arrangements on her own.”

When she asked, you told her my biological father was a good-looking lieutenant with an Ivy League degree. She noted the roll of your eyes when you described him as an “All-American Golden Boy” who was very concerned with his image. But you were initially impressed and flattered by his interest. When he asked you on a date, you accepted.

He took you out to dinner and bought you a lot of drinks. You don’t remember much about that night. All you know is you woke up in his apartment the next morning.

And you had a bad feeling.

When he avoided you in the days that followed, you were secretly relieved. You found him shallow and uncaring. You wanted to move on and forget you ever met him.

But then you missed your period.

When you called and asked if he had had sex with you that night, he denied it.

You, of course, knew he was lying.

There were no over-the-counter pregnancy tests back then, so you made an appointment with the family doctor. When the test came back positive, he called you a bad name because you weren’t married. He threatened to call your parents and tell them what you had done.

That enraged you because, after all, you were over 18 years old; he had no legal or moral right. You threatened him right back and told him if he did, you’d come to his office and tear it and him to pieces. You were convincing enough that he backed down.

Your family was strict Irish-Catholic. You were one of five girls. Your mother was prone to hysteria. Your father was a violent drunk. You knew you would get no support from them; only shame and blame. So, you did what you had to do.

You went to that lieutenant’s commanding officer and told him about your pregnancy. With the support and push of your female boss, a legal agreement was drawn between you and he. He was forced to provide money to cover the cost for adoption and your stay at a home for unwed mothers.

He wrote a check for $1245.00 and was relinquished from any further responsibility.

Because your boss was sympathetic to your predicament, she lent you additional money, so you could afford better care at one of the nicer homes. The cheaper ones were known for strictness and sub-par care; you were independent and didn’t want to be treated poorly. You also knew you were prone to depression and wanted to make sure you were safe and in good hands.

The commander and your boss decided the last four months of your pregnancy, you would tell your family the government was sending you to Washington for work detail. After the baby was born, you were promised your job would be waiting for you.

No one would ever have to know.

The caseworker visited you at the unwed mother’s home every two weeks. Despite your initial fear of going there, you adjusted surprisingly well. You met other women who were going through the same thing. You became close to a few. You felt a sense of family and acceptance you had never experienced before.

Mischievously, when asked, you told the case worker you knew you were having a girl. But just as quickly, your expression turned sad, leaving her with the impression you might be having second thoughts.

The biggest source of anxiety for you were the physical examinations. The first time the doctor put you in stirrups and touched you, you thrashed and screamed hysterically for him to stop. After that, they gave you tranquilizers to keep you calm during exams. You said you did not like to be touched that way and, with a self-deprecating laugh, added it wasn’t surprising you had to be intoxicated to the point of unconsciousness in order to be impregnated.

You blamed yourself for that night. You shouldn’t have had those drinks. It was all your fault.

You’re wrong, Noel. You are SO wrong. It was NOT your fault.

Your labor and delivery went well with no complications. I was healthy, and you smiled when they told you I was a girl.

Two weeks later when you signed legal surrender, you were very emotional. Even though you were assured I would be fine and go to a good home, nothing seemed to console you.

You asked, “But what will become of me?”

Then you looked away, signed the papers, and walked out the door.

The case worker was worried about you and tried to keep in touch. She was able to get you to meet her for lunch twice.

You were back at your job. By all accounts, things were back to normal and going smoothly. The lieutenant had been transferred to another base shortly before your return. But rumor had gotten around about your pregnancy.

When asked if you minded, you shrugged and said, “It will pass.”

You were more concerned that you didn’t know what you wanted to do with your life.

The last time she talked to you, you were in school to become an airline stewardess. You always wanted to travel. You always wanted to see the world.

After that, you stopped answering her calls, She never heard from you again.

I’m not writing to disrupt your life.

I’ve never had an overwhelming desire to find you. Strangely enough, since the time I can remember, I’ve always felt a quiet peace–a knowing–that you and I are on good terms.

Maybe in those precious, few moments you held me, you whispered everything you needed me to know in my ear, and I remembered every word.

I’m proud of what you did and how you handled yourself. You did it all on your own during a time when the world was a very different place for women in your situation.

You were so brave.

I hope you did travel and see the world.

I hope you found love, and it gave you a little girl you could keep.

I don’t want you to feel guilty about what you did. What you had to do.

You did well, Noel.

I’m alright.

I hope you are, too.