The Procedure
By Tom Mahony, Aug 22, 2008

They sat in the backyard on a hot summer afternoon. He quaffed a tasty lager in a chilled mug. His wife drank beside him. Their two boys terrorized the yard as usual—chased a cat, threw rocks at each other, pounded on the fence with a baseball bat—but he barely noticed. Felt pleasantly content.

“God I love those kids,” he said, draining his beer. “We’re so lucky.”

“You want another?” she asked.

He handed her the mug. “Thanks. Maybe toss in an extra lime this time. I’m feeling frisky.”

“Not beer,” she said. “Kids.”

He stared at her, surprised, and shook his head. “Two is enough.”

“We could think about one more.”


“Why not?”

“We’d have to get a bigger car.”

“And overpopulation. We’d be adding to the problem.”

“Yeah, that too. But mostly the car.”

“I guess it’s settled,” she said. “We’ll stick with two.”


“Then it’s time.”

“For what?”

“The procedure.”

“What procedure?”

She nodded at his crotch. “You know.”

He felt perplexed for a moment. Then it dawned on him. “Oh.”

“Unless you want to have more kids.”

“Definitely not.”

“Then it’s time.”

“I’m not gonna let some guy slice and dice down there.”

“Slice and dice? He’s not making a veggie omelet. It’s minor surgery. Painless.”

He scoffed. “Yeah, right.”

“It’s true.” Like a crafty magician she pulled a pamphlet from her clothing and handed it over. “I found you some literature.”

He glanced at the cover. A gratuitously detailed diagram of a scrotum. “Cormac McCarthy is literature. That’s...propaganda.” He pushed it away. “You’ve got that department covered.” He hesitated, felt a flash of panic. Glanced over at the two boys, pounding chunks out of the fence with the bat. He yelled at them to stop, then turned to her. “Right?”

“Yeah, but not for long.”


“Because it’s a hassle, and there are unpleasant side effects. So if we’re through having kids....” She nodded at his crotch. “The procedure.”

He shook his head. “No way.”

“Then I guess you’ll just have to go without.”

“Without what?”

She gestured at her body.

He grunted. “Are you blackmailing me?”


“Good luck. I’ll outlast you. I’m a camel. I can go weeks, months. In college I abstained for a year. No problem.”

“Wasn’t that because of a fungal infection?”

“It wasn’t fungal,” he said defensively. “It was a vitamin deficiency. They thought it was fungal for a while. It turned out to be nothing.”

“You’ll give in eventually.”

“We’ll see about that.”

“And when you do, we’ll just have to use the natural methods. Prayer. The lunar cycle. They work about half the time.”

The boys grabbed the cat and threw it into the pool.

“Knock it off!” he called to them.

“And if they fail....” She shrugged. “I wouldn’t mind another kid. Maybe two.”

A rock sailed over his head and cracked the window behind him.

He glanced at her. At the boys. The window. His pleasant contentment evaporated. He extended his hand.

“Give me the fucking pamphlet.”

Tom Mahony is a biological consultant in central California with an M.S. degree from Humboldt State University. His fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared or is forthcoming in Flashquake, The Rose & Thorn, Pindeldyboz, In Posse Review, Boston Literary Magazine, Verbsap, 34th Parallel, Void Magazine, SFWP, The Flask Review, Foliate Oak, decomP, Long Story Short, Flash Forward, Six Sentences, Laughter Loaf, and Surfer Magazine. He is currently circulating a couple of novels for publication. Visit him at his website.