“I need the balls.”
“I’m sorry. You need the…”
“The balls, the nuts, the testicles.”
We were standing in one of Dr. Victor’s examination rooms. Metal table, sink, wood cabinets, pet-sized scale, a box of tissues for when things didn’t turn out well. The air smelled like bleach and sterilization.
“We don’t…” Dr. Victor’s eyebrows came together. “We dispose of them for you. It’s all part of the procedure.”
Ralph started whimpering and pulling on his leash. He had a white cone around his neck. He’d been here all day. He wanted to go home. “I don’t want you to dispose of them for me. I want them.”
“But… What on Earth for?”
“Not that it’s any of your business,” I said, “but someday Ralph is going to die. When that happens, I’m going to have him cremated. When I have him cremated, his balls are going with him.”
Ralph was a black and tan Miniature Pinscher, somewhere in the neighborhood of three years old. I’d found him eating garbage in an alley on the north side of town. He was a scrawny thing and he smelled bad, but I felt like we were a good match for each other. I took him home and considered letting him keep his manhood, but having his balls chopped off was the right thing to do.
And now I wanted those balls.
Dr. Victor smiled at me like I just wasn’t getting it. “We dispose of the medical waste for you.”
“You said that. But they’re mine. Or, their Ralph’s. And I want them.”
Dr. Victor put on his serious face. “I’m afraid we’re not able to do that. They need to be disposed of properly.”
I put on my serious face. It was the same one I used when I spent my twenty-seven months in prison. It was much more serious than Dr. Victor’s. “Put them into a jar of formaldehyde or something and I’ll be on my way.” Ralph started pulling harder on his leash. “Just a minute, boy.”
“Mr. Karlecki, there are rules about this type of thing, laws. We have to…”
“Did you use a scalpel?” I asked. I didn’t feel like talking about it anymore.
“For the procedure?”
“Yes. I used a scalpel. That’s the easiest way. Some advancements have been made with lasers, but…”
I took my folding knife out of my jacket pocket. It had a mother of pearl handle and a three inch blade. I pulled it open. “I’d use this,” I said.
Dr. Victor swallowed. “You’d use that for…”
“For my procedure. On you.”
“There’s no need…I’m just…”
“I’m walking out of here with a pair of balls,” I said. “They can be Ralph’s or they can be yours.”
Being inside takes something from you, something you can never get back. Time. Unmade memories. Hope. It’s important to hold onto as much of yourself as possible.
When we got to the car, I put the bag the good doctor gave me into the back and lifted Ralph up onto the front seat. He was shivering even though it wasn’t that cold. He tried to curl up, but had difficulty because of the cone. With the day, the cone and the procedure, he looked like he was miserable.
“Relax, boy,” I said, stroking him between the ears. “It happens to all of us one way or another.”