The Husband Machine

         This is how you do it. You become a single mother. Maybe youíre divorced or maybe youíve always been a single mother but it doesnít matter.

Amedeo Modigliani
Your kid has to be a small boy, a boy who is seven right about now and he is looking for a father. You try to explain that his father is gone, that his father wonít ever be coming back and you have to try to do it gently and in a way that wonít make him feel abandoned but he canít help but feel that way. So you spoil him a little bit. You let him watch TV all the time and you let him eat and drink whatever he wants and he gets a little chubby and youíre a little chubby too, even though youíre on your feet all day long waiting on tables at places like Dennyís or Bob Evans as you follow opportunity around like bigger tips sticky with syrup and ketchup or a manager that letís you make your own schedule, a manager who you flirt with just enough to let you leave early enough to pick up your son from school and take days off whenever you need them.

         And your son, your fatherless son, wants to do all the boy things. He wants to play baseball and soccer and join the scouts so you sign him up. Youíre the only single mother at practice and scout meetings and you have to rely on someone elseís father and husband to teach your son how to catch a ball and tie a knot.

         Things a man and father should do.

         And thatís where you start the search. You start at baseball or soccer practice. You find a father who is there without his wife or if he is with his wife he all but ignores her. You know that kind of couple; the husband and wife that may be standing shoulder to shoulder but the chronic space of frozen continents and oceans stands between them.

         So you ask a father who is at practice or a game without his wife and you know heís married because there is band on his left hand which means heís good enough to keep around. You want to find one who looks athletic but not physically perfect because the perfectly fit father wonít work with your plans. You ask a father with a little bit of a gut because that means craving and desire. You ask a father who has a little bit of muscle and maybe used to have more and that means vanity and you can play to his vanity.

         You ask him if he can come to your house one evening or maybe on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. You ask him if he can bring his own kid over and maybe he can teach your hopeless son how to hit kick or throw.

         And forget it if he has to think about it or check with his wife. You donít stand a chance if he has to check with his wife.

         And it takes a while. It takes lots of games and practices and you make your move. And this season there is a father who never smiles when his wife is standing next to him cheering from the sidelines but he is easy going and pleasant when heís by himself. He helps with the practices and likes to give the kids pointers about choking up on the bat and standing sideways when they throw. You approach him. You smile and try to hide your teeth that are stained with coffee and cigarettes and you invite him over, any day will do, the weekend or maybe an evening if it wouldnít be too much trouble.

         No problem, he says, flattered that you think he appears athletic enough to help and coach your son.

         Sunday, he says, next Sunday would be good. The wife goes to her momís after church and itís just me and the kid and we just kind of slum around.

         Great, you say. Sunday, just after lunch?

         And Sunday is tomorrow and you give him directions to your house and your house is another problem altogether though you know you should be grateful because itís yours and you live in it rent and mortgage free. Your parents gave it to you when they retired and abandoned you and Michigan for a condo along the Carolina coast. Itís the same house you grew up in, a decaying suburban bungalow built in the fifties and you like the neighborhood and the schools but you canít afford to keep it up let alone pay property taxes. The windows are still made of wood and the paint is peeling and they let in so much cold air in the winter. The roof is sagging and the shingles are curling and you have two leaks in the basement that are getting so bad that you cry every time it rains.

         And Sunday comes and the sun is shining as it beautifully bends its light through and around the ancient maples and oaks that line your concrete street. You are anxious and optimistic as you spend the morning cleaning the house and ignoring your son. You give him cereal for breakfast and lunch and park him in front of the TV and tell him so- and-so is coming over to play with him today and he isnít excited about it as he doesnít like the other boy because he says he is bossy and mean. You tell him to cheer up and get over it because you are doing this for him and you really are.

         There is a knock on the door at one oíclock and you are wearing a denim mini-skirt and high-heeled sandals even though itís still early in May and not quite warm. You are wearing a sweater that is pink and sleeveless and tight with a plunging neckline and it doesnít matter that youíre overweight. You know your tits stick out past your stomach and that men are suckers for legs and thighs bare and white and you are relieved that your skin is still smooth and that the cellulite hasnít traveled south of your ass cheeks.

         You start the machine by looking him in the eyes and limply shaking his hand while saying thanks for coming, we are so excited to have you and you let your voice rise with the word excited. You tell your son to take the other boy in the narrow backyard and play for a while so the grown-ups can talk.

         The man follows you into the house without saying a word and you ask him if he wants something to drink, a soda or maybe a beer?

         And you know your plan is shot if he refuses a beer. A man who drinks a beer on a Sunday afternoon is a man with appetites healthy and otherwise.

         He says yeah, a beer would be great.

         So you go into the kitchen and lock the side door, the door that leads to the driveway and the backyard and that means the kids canít come back in unless you let them.

         You grab two beers, beer that you bought just for the occasion as you donít normally keep beer in the house. Itís not that you donít like beer itís just that you canít afford it.

         You go back to the living room and he is sitting in what used to be your fatherís favorite chair and it is a worn and manly brown recliner that has been sagging for decades and you think your guest looks good enough in that chair, the clean picture window framing his shaved and sunburned leathery head, the kind of leather that is forged from working outside. He must do construction or road work, you tell yourself as you study his hands big and cracked and probably callused.

         You sit on the couch and cross your legs but you do it in a way to give him a glimpse of your panties. You are wearing thongs for the occasion. You drink the beer and take a long sip and you make sure your lips are wrapped around the bottle in a suggestive way and he is watching you and he is nervous and this you know because he drinks the whole beer in almost an instant.

         You stand up without saying a word and take the empty bottle out of his hand. You lean over him and you make sure he can see down your sweater and youíre wearing your best push-up bra and your favorite perfume.

         You hope you smell musky and sweet.

         You go to the kitchen and take a glance out the window to check on the kids. They are playing football with a Frisbee and your son is getting tackled but heís not complaining and you think this is good for him. It will toughen him up and teach him that the world is cold and cruel and hard even when itís supposed to be fun.

         You grab another bottle of beer and wonder if maybe you should have bought some weed from one of the dishwashers at work. Weed might have been more relaxing but then it might have scared him away. He might be a law abiding citizen and turn you into social services for having drugs in the house.

         You give him the beer and sit back down and take another swallow and tell him that his wife is a lucky woman.

         What do you mean? he asks.

         Well look at you, you say. Youíre the whole package. You are muscles and good looks and a good father and you donít know if heís a good father or not but heís better than the one your son has which is no father at all. And he really isnít good looking but heís good enough and thatís all that matters.

         Thanks, he says and the second beer is gone. Youíre not so bad yourself.

         You rise off the couch again and walk back to the kitchen and this you do slowly and let your enormous ass sway as it stretches the back of your skirt. You know heís watching and the machine is starting to hum.

         You bring him another bottle of beer and squeeze his bicep underneath a Michigan State sweatshirt. There is both a firmness and a flabbiness there but you still say wow and sit back down and wrap your lips around your own bottle of beer that is already turning lukewarm.

         If I was your wife, you say, there would be no chance in hell I would let you out of my sight and I sure as hell wouldnít let you come over and visit a single mom so horny and alone.

         He has no answer for that and you see his face turn red in spite of the leather.

         You drink your beer and drain it in one long swallow and you let a little bit of it run down your chin and you tell yourself itís now or never and you stand up and walk across the living room. You take him by the hand and lead him up the narrow staircase to your bedroom which is basically an attic with a window. You lead him to the bed which was also your parentís bed but that doesnít stop you from tearing off your sweater and unzipping his jeans and dropping his pants. You take off your bra and let yourself hang out and you can see he isnít disgusted and you use this to your advantage.

         If I had a husband with a cock as big as yours, you say, I would never get out of bed and you have seen cocks greater than this before and it is nothing more than an average cock and you really arenít that excited but youíre excited enough because you havenít been with another man since soccer season which was back in the fall.

         You drop your panties over your heels and you wrap them over your hand and wrist like a fingerless glove. You go down on all fours on top of your hastily made bed. You hike up your skirt and leave it on just for the torridness and without a word he enters you and you make yourself moan.

         And this you do for him.

         He thrusts and thrusts and you say oh god over and over and you fake an orgasm or two and heís done in the space of two minutes.

         He gets dressed and you say that was the best lay you ever had.

         He says nothing and you see tears in the corner of his eyes and this is so typical. Youíve seen this before and youíve tried to fine tune your machine to handle this, to handle the guilt that comes after the lust and there is really nothing you can do. The lust is like a drug and then the high is gone leaving nothing but drying semen and a hard hard crash.

         He cries and says he has to go and that he loves his wife and he doesnít know how this happened.

         You purse your lips and say nothing because this is a battle you just arenít equipped to fight. You get dressed yourself and lead him downstairs. You open the back door and holler at your son and tell him so-and-so has to go home now. You know your son will spend the rest of the day in front of the TV because you will be sitting alone in the kitchen staring at calendars and clocks while smoking at least a pack of cigarettes until dinnertime comes when you will heat a can of something on top of the stove.

         The father and son leave and you turn off the machine. You put on your cleanest pair of dirty jeans and an oversized sweatshirt. You know how it will be at the next practice or game. The father will either avoid you completely and drop his face each time your eyes meet or he will approach you stealthily and plead with you in whispers to not say anything to anybody and you will laugh at him because he is already old news and dead to you.

         You sit at the kitchen table and light the first cigarette. You tell yourself there is always next season.

David LaBounty lives in suburban Detroit with his wife and two young sons. His poems have appeared in several print and online journals and he is the author of two barely read novels, The Trinity and The Perfect Revolution.

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