A Perfect Pair
A sliver of sunlight fell from between the clouds and lit upon the truck testicles. Cody brought up his hand to shield his eyes from the glare. The clouds converged and like a spent flare the balls dimmed. Cody knelt and peered below the tailgate for a better look. The truck testicles swung slightly; not for the first time that day Cody regarded them.
Aesthetically they were impressive; he didn’t deny that. The way the flesh stretched smooth and taut in places, yet hung like wrinkled jowls in others, was proof of the exceptional craftsmanship. The fine detail, the rendering of the bulging veins, evoked the hyper-realistic sculptures of Ron Mueck; more akin to a piece of artwork than a mere truck accessory. Yet what was being conveyed by the balls? What was—to use Jean Baudrillard’s terminology—the symbolic value of the truck testicles? Of that Cody wasn’t certain.
It was a matter of proportion. Up close, they looked engorged, swollen and meaty, like they had some real bulk to them. But if he stepped back, added distance, the mass of his truck swallowed them up. Made them look puny.
Cody thought of his own father, and then the father of modern linguistics, Ferdinand de Saussure. Saussure had spoken of the relationship between the signified and the sign; the thing itself, and the often arbitrary meaning assigned to that thing. But Cody posited if people couldn’t see the thing, the nards, then the meaning was inconsequential.
When he closed his eyes and pictured the perfect set of balls—imagined the ideal form—the balls were always dangling. But his truck was jacked so high that the balls only hung down to his chin. Cody knew from Plato’s Theory of Forms, that it was impossible to recreate an ideal, to manufacture a flawless form. The nuts could only be a pale facsimile of the form, and not sadly, often tragically, the form itself. And yet he couldn’t help but think, it’d be nice if they dangled just touch more.
When he was younger, Cody had a pet hamster, Biscuit. Biscuit had massive balls. Almost painful looking. While musing over the products in the truck testicle catalog Junk, Cody compared them to Biscuit’s balls. There was much to consider. Different brands. Sizes. Various color schemes. Eventually he settled on a set of Nutz®, size XXL. He fell in love with their massive size and took comfort in the Nutz® company’s climate pledge and dedication to renewables. Yet he wasn’t convinced that the balls were big enough for the task at hand.
He also wasn’t certain the chrome plating had been a prudent decision. On the truck testicle enthusiasts forum, Alpha Testes, where users debate everything from swing rate to hypothetical seminal fluid volume, there was a consensus that the chrome plating was essential. Cody decided to spend the extra for the add-on. At the time, it did seem like a sagacious choice, even if it would tack on an extra week for delivery. He eagerly tracked the package via text notifications. When the truck testicles finally arrived, he excitedly ripped open the box. But when he freed the nuts from the packaging and cupped them in his hand he felt disappointed. Even in the half-light of his kitchen he could tell the balls were shiny to a fault. Like the more playful work of Jeff Koons they gleamed and shimmered. Cody held them aloft and wondered if the balls were too lustrous—if despite their lifelike form, they wouldn’t be taken seriously.
Worst of all he feared the balls were hazardous, that it was dangerous for others to drive behind his truck. The irregularities on the balls, the corded muscle, the protruding veins, combined with the smooth metallic surface, reflected and amplified headlights. Just two evenings ago a Honda Civic trailing behind him had suddenly swerved and came to a stop in the middle of the road. Was it the blinding balls or had a raccoon bolted out? He couldn’t be sure.
It had crossed his mind to muddy the nuts somehow. But that didn’t seem right. He winced at the thought of grinding off the chrome.
He hadn’t anticipated this. The balls should have been a fairly straightforward simple affair. What he had wanted was a big set of bull balls for his truck. Was that too much to ask? He didn’t think so. And yet, here he was. It was ridiculous.
Cody stood and smoothed out the huge Grab Your Gonads: Check for Testicular Cancer vinyl sticker that covered his tailgate. He shrugged his shoulders, and sighed. Gave the balls a playful backhanded slap. They swung back and forth as he rock-climbed up the side of the truck. Settling into the driver’s seat, he adjusted the rearview mirror and tried to smile; stop worrying, he told himself. When he turned the key the truck gave a deep throated grunt and shuttered to life. The diesel engine rumbled and he looked again at his reflection, now vibrating in the mirror. Stop being paranoid, he told himself, the size doesn’t matter, and so what if they do sparkle. If your dad were still alive he’d be proud; the advocacy campaign, the banner, the balls, were all in his memory. And maybe the balls were absurd, maybe they weren’t an ideal form, but who knows, he thought, pressing down the clutch and shifting into first, just maybe someday they’ll save someone.
“That’s just it. Guy like that,” Joe paused. They were sitting inside his ice shanty, warming up their mittened hands over the old cast iron stove; killing time until they saw a tip-up flag. “I mean, my dad was a bricklayer. Put in a lot of hours during the week. He didn’t go hiking. He didn’t have a canoe or anything like that.”
“Yeah, I couldn’t picture him in a canoe,” Sam shook his head.
“Right. Stuff like that he didn’t do. Not sure how my Mom convinced him to go. But she did. I remember it was warm for fall. We drove out to Old Creek Bluff. Ever been out there?”
“Parked out there a time or two in high school. Never went up though.”
“So you know the parking lot right? That’s where the trail starts. Now, my dad, I mean I wouldn’t say he had a temper, but you didn’t want to make him mad..”
“I hear ya. Not a guy that size.”
“Right. In the car ride there, my dad had this look on his face. Like someone had pissed in his Cheerios. You know? Then, as soon as we get there, he and my Mom start stepping on each other’s tails. I was just a little beeler back then. So I don’t know what they were going on about. But as we’re heading up the trail, they start arguing more and more. And here I am, out front, leading the pack, so to speak. Going up this steep windy path. No railing or anything. Rocks and twigs all over. Back then, these huge pine trees grew right up against the side, you could reach right out and grab a branch if you wanted.”
“Wouldn’t that hurt?”
“Grabbing a branch? With the needles?”
“I’m just trying to set the scene here. The branches were close. OK?
“It was beautiful. And there were all these other families hiking too. I remember having this thought, like maybe I had been missing out all these years.”
“If it makes you feel any better, my old man didn’t take me hiking either. He might tell me to take a hike, but that’s not the same.”
“Right. So it was weird to see all these other families out there. But it was hard to enjoy the hike. I mean here we are, plodding up this path, and my parents are howling at each other. It wasn’t exactly peaceful or anything like that. And that bluff is pretty high, right?”
“Well imagine walking up the damn thing? So it took a while. And as soon as we get to the top, my dad, he turns a few quick circles, like a dog about to plop down, and then starts hurrying back down the trail. Mom didn’t get to enjoy the view or anything. Must have been nice too. With all the leaves changing color. Anyway, we start heading down, and they’re still going at it. I’m in front, and they’re not watching. And I’m getting bored. And I was thirsty too, right? But I don’t say a peep cause their arguing. I don’t want to make things any worse.”
“You gotta know when to keep your trap shut.”
“Right. So we’re heading back down and I start throwing rocks over the ledge. I mean we’re way up high now, right? And I start chucking these rocks over. Pebbles and small sticks, or whatever. But then I start pushing these bigger rocks. You couldn’t see them land, on a count of all the trees. But you could hear them hit. Whump!” he slammed his flat hand on the wooden bench for effect. “So I started pushing over these bigger and bigger rocks. Whump! And I am like a bulldozer now, I can’t stop. But then I start hearing this noise? What do ya call that, when you hear a voice bounce off something?”
“No. That’s not it. It’s like when you shout your name. And you can hear it again and again. Christ, I can’t think of it.”
“There you go. Echo. So I can hear this noise. Funny thing is, at first I thought maybe it was wolves or something.”
“Not many wolves around back then.”
“I know, but it was almost like a howl. And I finally realized that it wasn’t, it was screaming. People screaming. But it was echoing. The screams were like, I don’t know, staggered because they were echoing.”
“That’s pretty wild.”
“Yeah, I didn’t know what to make of it. I mean what the hell is that? Then I hear a woman yell, ‘Oh my God! Stop throwing rocks!’”
“Yeah, well my parents heard it, too. That shut them up. They didn’t say anything. They didn’t have to say anything to me either. I certainly didn’t throw any more rocks.”
“Damn,” Sam said, shaking his head.
“We get down to the parking lot and it’s complete chaos. There were these guys running around, I don’t know, they weren’t cops, maybe park rangers? There were a couple ambulances with their lights flashing. It was chaos. So this park ranger, he’s wearing one of those wide brimmed hats, he runs up to my parents and asks if they saw anyone throwing rocks. They both shake their heads. Hadn’t seen a thing, they said. And we get in our car and leave. The whole ride home, no one said a word.”
“Sounds like a long car ride.”
“It was. But my dad and I’ll never forget, he sort of put his hand on my Mom’s. And they held hands on the way home.”
“Hmm. Doesn’t sound like your old man”
“That’s just it. It wasn’t like him at all.”