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I Can Only Say That It Dented Me

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When I eventually went to a real shrink and she asked me why I did the things I’ve done, this is the story I told her. Only, I never get around to the ending. I can only say that it dented me.

Thriller / Drama
4.7 3 reviews
Age Rating:

Chapter 1

It started first with all the jerking off.

I don’t remember ever choosing to do it, or planning it ahead of time or even looking forward to it. All I think of when I look back to this time was doing it. A lot. When other kids might’ve been playing or watching cartoons or doing homework or sleeping, I was locking myself up in my little room and jerking off until my muscles ached. It was like a nervous tick or something, as natural to me as breathing. I’d only seen porn once and that was when Bobby got too drunk and left it running on his laptop after he’d passed out, but I didn’t need it. Didn’t want it, either, to be honest with you. The sight of them all naked and humping each other had made me feel sick. That’s what I know now but couldn’t put into words back then: there wasn’t anything sexual about it. I think more than anything, I just needed something to do.

My mama didn’t see it that way. She noticed how much time I was spending in my room with the door closed and when she couldn’t get any answers by method of interrogation, she put down all the allowance Bobby gave her that week on one of those nanny cameras people get to make sure their babysitters aren’t stealing from them. She must’ve set it up while I was at school one day, because the next day I came home and found her crying, clutching Bobby’s hand at the dining room table as he aimed his eyes at the floor, shuffling his feet occasionally against the tile. Bobby was a man of few words. Most I ever heard him say was at Lacie’s funeral, and after that I was glad he didn’t talk much.

“What is this, Teddy?” She asked, and I knew I was in deep shit because she didn’t call me Bear. Mama only called me Teddy when I messed up real bad.

She’d hooked the camera all up to Bobby’s laptop and was playing me the video she’d got, hitting the fast-forward button to show how many hours it’d went on for. I felt so embarrassed I could’ve puked all over the ground, but when I asked her to stop she just locked her jaw and kept going, kept on going to the very end. I hadn’t got to sleep till late the night before, I’d been jerking off so much. The video had gotten all of it.

“Now don’t try to tell me this is normal,” she said once the me onscreen finally laid motionless in bed, asleep. “Because I asked Bobby, and he said when he was your age he didn’t even know how to…” She cleared her throat before saying the word nobody ever want to hear their mama say, carefully, as though it was spiky on her tongue: “Masturbate.” Bobby grunted his agreement, though he still wouldn’t look at me.

This is when I started to cry. I didn’t cry too much as a kid, but once I got started I could never quite get myself to stop. It was in these great, huge, gasping wails, so hard I couldn’t catch my breath, until my momma finally pulled me into her lap and rubbed her fingernails against my back.

“Oh, Bear, I’m not mad at you, baby. I just can’t believe what a terrible mama I’ve been to have let this go on… You can understand that, can’t you? How this makes me feel?” She wiped a tear from my eye. “Now, I just want you to tell me how you learned to do this, okay? I know me and Bobby haven’t breathed a word about it, so was it one of your friends at school?”

“I – don’t – havefriendsatschool!” I choked out, my voice getting high and piercing.

“Baby, that’s not true. What about Anthony? Remember how we had him over for dinner and he said how my meatloaf was even better than his mama’s?”

Anthony Mathers had made friends with other kids. We hadn’t talked for months. I was too embarrassed to tell this to Mama and Bobby, though, so instead I just said that I hadn’t learned it from anybody. Mama didn’t believe me. She told me that it was okay, but I has to be honest with her. I thought I was being honest. Finally, she gave in and turned to Bobby, still holding onto his hand so hard his fingertips were going white.

“We should find him other help,” she said. “You know Ray’s got that therapy degree. Why don’t we bring him by Ray’s? I bet he could sort this out, don’t you?”


“Yeah, I’ll give Ray a call.”

Ray Garrity was Mama’s friend from the program. She said he fell off the wagon a time or two, but that only proved that he was a real alcoholic and not one of those skinny bitches who didn’t know the difference between having a drinking problem and not being able to handle their sweet red wine. Mama couldn’t afford a real therapist after spending so much on the nanny camera, so she cashed in a favor with Ray and had me sitting in his living room by the next afternoon.

The Garrity’s were a family like mine, I thought to myself. They had the exact same chunky box TV with the haywire antenna as we did, and the same scuffs in their plaster walls and stains on their shag carpeting. Their house even smelled like mine – cigarettes, old wood and the lingering scent of whatever food had been cooked last in their little kitchen, which was attached to their living room like a tumor. I stared at their sink piled high with dishes, their dripping faucet as Ray got himself settled into the armchair across from me, stretching out his back and groaning the way Bobby sometimes did after work. He had a friendly face, Ray, with lots of smile lines and eyes as blue as the sky. He talked to me like I was his buddy, which I wasn’t used to from Mama or Bobby, so I decided pretty quickly to like him.

“Now, Ted, I’m could be real honest with you,” he started. His voice was warm and crinkly, like nice starch bedsheets right out of the dryer. “Is that okay, son? If I’m honest with you?”


“Well, when your mama first called me it took everything I had not to laugh. You want to know why that is?” I nodded him yes. “Well, what she was describing sounded to me like what any normal, healthy boy does. I mean, hell, I can remember being a kid. ’Specially around here, where there’s not jack shit to do otherwise. How old are you, son?”


“Well, shit. That’s plenty old enough to start becoming a man, wouldn’t you say?”

I puffed out my chest, hoping Ray wouldn’t see the flush of pride warming my cheeks. “I’d say so, sir.” Memories of the day before, when Mama had called me Bear and held me to her chest, suddenly felt so horribly shameful that I wished I could erase my mind and start new as a man, to make new manly memories and fill my brain with nothing but them.

“Right on. But, you know, Evelyn’s a good woman, and I promised her I’d do my best to get to the root of this whole issue, so we’re gonna do the right thing and humor her. Sound okay? Good. Then, I’m gonna ask you…” He chuckled at the ridiculousness of it all, and it felt good to laugh with him. “About how many times a day would you say that you, you know, behave in this way?”

I considered this. “I don’t ever count. A lot, I guess.”

“If you had to give a number?”

“I dunno. Maybe twenty?”

I know this is the number I gave Ray, but looking back I’m almost positive I was blowing smoke to try to impress him. It seemed to work. He clapped his hand down on his armchair and whistled.

“God damn! Do you ever plan on having kids, Ted?”

“I guess so.”

“Well, you’ll be lucky if you have anything left in you by then! You know, kids these days have gone so soft, so girly… You’ve met my boy, haven’t you?”

“Once or twice.”

Phil Garrity had come along with Ray to Mama and Bobby’s cookouts a handful of times, but he’d never spoken much to me. He’d stuck to his dad, looking down at his hands and kicking down at the grass.

“Yeah, then you know what I’m talking about. The bitch has got him most days, and she’s got him so mixed up I have trouble believing he came from me – which, I do have other reasons to think so, but anyway, Ted, this is about you… So tell me, Hugh Hefner, do you think you’ve got a problem?”

“No sir.”

“Good. Then, just one more thing to be sure, and we can tell your mama you’re all clear. Sound good?”

“Sounds good.”

I tell you this story for a reason. I tell you this story because I think we all have things that dent us, that put punctures in us for the rest of our lives. When I eventually went to a real shrink and she asked me why I did the things I’ve done, this is the story I told her.

Only, I never get around to the ending. I can only say that it dented me.

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