Tracy C. stepped out of the car, vaguely aware of his
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awkward appearance. He seemed more annoyed by the fact that
his car had apparently rolled to a stop in an unfamiliar
neighborhood than the fact that he was wearing a dress and a
wig—meant to perfectly disguise the fact that he was a man.
And thus, lay the root (so to speak) of his problem. His
trouble was that he was more man than he himself could
handle. It wasn’t that he was tall or muscular or even
charming in a geeky kind of way (which he had sometimes
heard had attracted the odd sort of women). In fact, there
was nothing particularly distinctive about him. Ordinary
build, ordinary hair, ordinary mannerisms. His problem was
But for now, his immediate problem was that whenever he ran
out of gas in the middle of nowhere, it inevitably led to
encounters with crowds of the bored, the lonely, the
unappreciated. More often than not, women would tell him
that all they really wanted was to talk, but he knew better.
“I just know,” he swore, “this never happens to Jack H. or
George F. or Marvin N.”
He also had an odd penchant for using single-letter
references to family names.
To make it worse, he’d always break down in front of
laundromats, sorority houses, convents... It was like fate
was leaning around and winking at him. He avoided women
whenever possible—so, it only seemed natural that cosmic
irony dictate his collision with as many women as humanly
He strolled down the narrow road, gas-can in hand—looking
about as unfeminine as an overweight plumber with loose-fitting
pants. It was nighttime, and the surrounding trees
on both sides of the road were as dark and uninviting as he
could imagine—yet, he briefly flirted with the idea of
venturing off into them.
Sure enough, a truck came by. Its occupant was an old man
wearing a cowboy hat, and contained a gun rack (currently
empty). Excited, Tracy stuck his thumb out, but the truck
rolled on by without even slowing down.
Several other cars rolled by—a convertible with a James
Dean look-alike, a nasty old clunker with a black man at the
wheel, and a Caddy with a man Tracy could have sworn was
someone out of the disco era. They also abstained to be
A couple hours later, Tracy was still in the middle of
nowhere, and now he was becoming sleepy.
“Oh, damn!” he said. He groaned in something like pain (but
These were, nonetheless, nearly the worst times for his...
condition. This was the beginning of the torture. The
absolutely worst time, of course, was early morning.
Right on cue, a small compact with three young women pulled
up and came to a stop. Tracy had had the presence of mind
to dive into the trees, but these women were the persistent
The first one, Cathy, rolled down her window. “Hey!” she
said. “What’s up with you, girl?!”
The second one, Alice, leaned next to Cathy and yelled,
“Yeah! We’re giving you a lift! Do you want to walk the
next forty miles?!”
Inside, the driver (Betty), muttered to herself and
steadfastly applied both the brake and the accelerator. The
car hopped up and down a couple times, rather suggestively.
“Stupid bitch,” she added. “I say we leave her.”
Now, Tracy had sometimes in this situation made a fuss and
had become unresponsive. But that always led to even more
uncomfortable situations popping up. Inevitably, he had
realized that these situations called for something a little
more subtle—looking inconspicuous.
Tracy strolled out of the woods, rather casually pointing.
“I dropped my gas can,” he said.
“You want a lift?” Alice asked.
“Yeah,” Tracy said, “but just to get some gas. I’ll catch a
“Damn,” Cathy remarked, “what is with your voice? What are
you? A man or something?”
Tracy casually chuckled and said, “Yeah, that’s right. Ha
“Let me guess,” Alice said. “You ran out of gas on the way
to a costume party.”
“That’s my story,” he told them.
“Good enough for me,” Betty said, reaching over to pop open
the car door. “Get in, Cowboy.”
“We’re a tennis team,” Cathy explained.
“We really kick butt, too,” Alice added. “We just got
through making Spring Valley Mountain look like wheelchair
“Oh,” Tracy said, suddenly looking at them appreciatively.
Jocks. “Wow,” he added, “I’ve never met actual tennis
players. So, you’re really good?”
“‘Are we any good?’ he says...” Betty muttered.
“Fuck, yeah, we’re good,” Alice said, earning her a
reprimanding look from Cathy. “What?” she said,
“What Alice means,” Cathy told Tracy, putting a hand on
Alice’s head—somewhat patronizingly, “is that we are indeed
skilled and renowned in our chosen area of expertise.”
“I can do the mile,” Betty said, “in under four minutes.”
Alice rolled her eyes. “Showoff.”
After a moment to contemplate that, Tracy hopefully asked,
“So, you’re all amateurs? I mean, you intend to become
professionals, some day?”
“We,” Alice replied, “are already professionals, in a manner
“But,” Cathy added, “we intend to grind it out on the pros
one day, yeah.”
Tracy took a moment to sigh inwardly and thank his lucky
stars—his rationale being that anyone so focused on
athletic obsessions would never think to take time to
enjoy... other obsessions.
With a sense of deep relief, he eventually drifted off to
sleep, dreaming a dream he hadn’t dreamed in years. Safe
and secure. He was a peaceful little cloud having a nice
warm discussion with a lovely little rainbow.
Cathy looked at the sleeping form of Tracy, and managed to
notice something that she normally would have avoided
noticing—and grunted in a barely audible voice.
Alice, curious, looked around. “What?”
“What is it?” Betty asked them, taking a moment to glance
back from the driver’s seat.
Alice suddenly noticed and started giggling uncontrollably.
“Oh my god!” she said, covering her mouth.
Cathy turned away in disgust, muttering to herself. Betty
glanced around again, and sharply gasped. “Whoa!” she
exclaimed. “Now, that’s a stiff one!”
When Tracy awoke, he was alone in the car with Cathy, parked
at a gas station.
“Hey,” he said, waking. “I fell asleep?”
“We were wondering if you were out for the night,” Cathy
said, stiffly turned away.
“Something the matter?” he asked.
“Nothing,” she choked. She cleared her throat and said,
“Oh,” he realized, sighing. Women are all the same, he
“Oh, what?” Cathy asked, a little irritated at his tone.
“Oh, you’ve probably seen my condition.”
“Oh, that...” Cathy folded her arms, and leaned on the door
for a moment, looking bored, then asked, “Condition?”
He sighed, then stated—as if rehearsed several times, “I
suffer from a rare form of priapism. Yes, I’ve seen a
doctor about it. No, I don’t have blood clots or anything
like that. Nobody can tell me what it is. They call it a
‘phantom phenomenon,’ give me a big bill and say, ‘Have a
“Oh,” Cathy said, suddenly nervous. Then she asked, “Does
Tracy laughed, and replied, “No, but it does make life
interesting. You see why I wear baggy dresses and stuff
“So,” she deduced, “you’ve done everything you can, and it
won’t go away? Ever?”
“Never,” he corrected. “Yeah, nothing seems to help. I’ve
tried everything I can think of.” Tracy berated himself
almost immediately, thinking that he knew where this
conversation was going.
“Even sex?” she boldly suggested.
He cleared his throat nervously and asked, “Why do you say
“Well,” she explained, “whenever I have sex with my
boyfriend, he goes limp almost right away. It’s really
frustrating, too, let me tell you.”
Cathy chuckled, as Tracy nervously smiled and scratched his
head. “Well,” he said, “I’ve done a lot of that, and it
never works, either.”
Betty and Alice returned from the store. Betty gestured,
saying, “Well, we’d better hit the road if we’re going to
make it back by tomorrow.”
“Wait a minute,” Alice told her, pointing at Tracy’s crotch.
Tracy hastily arranged himself, and looked back at Cathy—who
was blushing, fiercely. “I don’t believe this!” Alice
“This is too fucking good,” Betty added. “Not, that we mean
to be rude, or anything. We’re just admiring.”
“Hey!” Cathy scolded them. “Can’t you see this is upsetting
to him? He has a serious medical condition, and all you two
do is joke and make rude remarks.”
“Medical condition?” Alice asked.
“It’s a... ‘phantom’ disorder,” Cathy explained, “or
something like that.”
“Oh, yeah,” Betty said, realizing.
“We’ve seen those before,” Alice added. “I mean, in the
elbows and the knees. ‘Dead-arms’ and stuff like that. You
mean, this is like that?”
Tracy was bright red with embarrassment. He’d been molested
many times by eager women, but never by women with such a
hunger for the truth of his condition.
Another moment of pure tension filled the air, as they all
stood, hesitant to say anything. Then they all began
After having gotten that out of his system, Tracy found that
he was harder than ever. He frowned and said, “Damn! I
can’t live like this! You have no idea what it’s like!”
“So,” Alice said to Betty, curiously pondering, “what do we
normally tell people to do when they get ‘dead-arm’ or
something like that?”
“Therapy,” Betty answered, almost immediately.
“Therapy?” Cathy asked, very confused.
“Yes,” Betty said. “It takes years of serious, intense
therapy to cure phantom conditions. Only a group of
well-trained peers can possibly help you through it, too.”
“Oh, I see,” Alice said, immediately sizing up what Betty
was saying. “So,” she concluded, “only a group of highly
experienced, highly proficient and athletic individuals
could possibly stand a chance of giving him his cure.”
“What do you say, Cathy?” Betty asked, looking at her in a
Cathy looked away, not entirely comfortable with what they
Tracy was curious, not even suspecting what Betty had meant.
“What?” he asked.
“It would be the nice thing to do, you know,” Alice told
her. “And life as an athlete gets pretty lonely, most of
Tracy was still blank with confusion, but he suddenly
registered some meaning when Cathy looked at him again—her
eyes blazing with undisguised lust.
“Let’s do it,” she said.