Joy in the Sense of Place
Ken Poyner

I can’t remember when they first became separated. My earliest remembrances are of selecting cases, different characters of cases, each for a specific purpose. One case would be fur lined for winter; one would have just a thin mesh so it could be waved in the wind, not too violently, to allow the air to flow through on thoughtless summers and whisk away sweat. I had to have the hard case, protection against workday hazards; and the soft case for lounging, elementally relaxed, yet certain of protection.

Of course, when I am home and unlikely to be disturbed, I set them loose on the table. I have a slightly curved decorative dish that lets them roll to the center, uses gravity to ensure that they are not by a careless bump or tilt accidentally set free on the floor, to roll under the furniture, or unseen into the walkway. If you have ever had to move a dresser just to find one that has rolled under its edge, you will then soon master some method like that helpful dish to keep track of them.

I’ve not really missed the attachment. At times, not having them in their usual spot is a comfort. I don’t get anything caught on the cutting ridge of my pants legs’ divide. I don’t sit awkwardly and then find myself squirming for a better geometry. Loose shorts are not an issue.

But then again, you have the problem of how to carry them with you. You certainly do not want to put them in a back pocket. I tend to put them in a good, firm case in my shirt top pocket. Briefly, I used to carry them in a sack tied around my neck; but all the jostling, the banging about my torso, the sudden shifts side to side, made them some days sore in that dull, distant sort of way, as though they were sleeping and drearily unable consciously to wake.

The main problem with this detached circumstance is sex. Not the accomplishment of it. No, my main engine still works. I can point direction without hands, make a place to hang my underwear, do all the things any fully developed man can do. I am willing to say I am even more gifted than the average male who is surely out there looking to drive his species imperative into some crisp and lovely female garage. But women react to the absence. They look right past my steel straight primary motor, and see the neat V where my legs unencumbered join – and their mouths drop open, and they let out a whoosh of air, and their eyes look to lean out of their lids, and the whole focus of my intended evening changes.

Even before they drop into wonder at my omission, I will already have the case on the night stand, ready. Closed of course, warmer than usual, but still secret, buzzing with thoughts of what hopefully is to come. They each shudder when the night’s partner starts to point at the place the happy two were expected to wait, fully loaded and counting on release. And if I take them out of the case, thinking to try to hand them to a woman: half the time she will shriek one of those cartoon mouse shrieks, both hands drawn up and back as if in surrender during a robbery, as though she has never before seen a pair liberated. The other half of these attempted affairs she will barely poke them with the flat of a finger, mumble something about communication. Too often, far too often, it all ends with the prospective mate becoming dressed too soon, entirely pre-coitus, apologizing, backing towards the door while I stand there offering the two of them, the rest of me already beginning to go limp with rejection.

The key, I found, was to pay for sex. Most of the working women I encountered had seen a great variety of need, and were practiced and willing at an hourly rate to adapt to the situation at hand. I would contract someone through a mutual acquaintance, or an Internet add, using round-about language to say in five hundred words precisely what we needed to say directly in perhaps a hundred. Cash in hand, I would meet my business partner at a mid-range motel, then just inside the door settle all the particulars, and, as casually as the gravity might allow, explain my circumstance.

In such a setting, given the pure mechanics of the transaction, there would naturally be more curiosity than concern, more method than misapprehension, more reason than rejection. Cutting out the emotional – and, on the hired woman’s side, the passion – I found made for a pleasing difference, and that sensation in itself became a bit of a sexual edge: sort of the sharpness of an axe considered before the cleaving. More than one paid companion asked me to see them before they thought to undress, and it heartened me a little to find my situation something of interest to someone whose interests should have been purely cash and carry.

I would sit on the edge of the rented bed, my still connected instrument of wonder rising just above the skin of my leg; and the rented woman would sit in whatever chair the room provided, with the case I had just handed her still closed. Slowly, I would tell each woman, open it slowly. And they would move in tiny gestures, unclasping the catch, and slowly opening the ornate case. Both of the severed wonders would be inside, aquiver, filled with lightning and ready to strike. Cautiously, one woman might blow lightly across them, what little hair that might be left on the scrotum standing eagerly up. Or another might draw small circles across them with the flat of her pinky, or let them roll gracefully into the warmed palm of her hand where they would swing about until settling in the gravity sink just behind the commencement of her fingers.

I would sit there, stiff as a rock jutting into the ocean of the room, contemplating not so much this naked woman that I had contracted to meet my most elemental of needs, but imagining what next she might do with what she regarded in the case, or already had slipped yearning to burst into her palm. To press a bit of lipstick to the pair, or drag the tip of a tongue slowly across, would have me writhing on the bed, purely without thought or being, without plan or soul, my wonderful devices in her control wonderful yet again, no longer so distant, no longer separated.

And one night, not so long ago, there was a new woman, one who had perhaps seen this before, who seemed to know the currency and calamity of my condition. The case emptied into her hand and the contents regarded, straight away she squeezed. Fingers curling around and the bottom of her palm acting as the backboard, she squeezed and she held while increasing the pressure. Her smile laid out into a straight line and she watched as I slid back in the bed. I grasped the vacant lot where the two of them once had lived and I rocked, the purity of fire licking me loveless; I rocked as I felt myself go full throttle and the little flecks of gray pain I had long known must exist began to gather at the well of my eyes.

My back then bent in terror and my skin sung and my skull grew porous with a multitude of different little winking horrors. Her hand, with my omissions within, was becoming a fist. Her forearm was twisting with the effort and her teeth contested one another as ever more of her flowered into the one closing hand: that hand, that fist by the penultimate moment held out at arm’s length in the direction of my semicolon body senseless in its blue writhing.

Harder, I was thinking, harder.


Ken Poyner is looking for a new gym. No one seems to be able to run a gym in Virginia. Having a power lifter wife, and himself having lifted since the age of 14, he needs a good iron place. His 2013 e-book, Constant Animals, 42 unruly fictions, is available at the usual e-book vendor web sites. He has probably published far too much for good manners, but is out or will soon be out in Analog, Gone Lawn, Cream City Review, and Spittoon.