KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 3: Spring 2015
Flash Fiction: 929 words

Perhaps Veronica

by Eduardo Santiago

As Philip Grayson turned fifty-seven, he discovered he was growing a third testicle. How long it had been there he did not know. It certainly couldn’t have shown up overnight. Of course, it had to be cancer.

When Philip called for an appointment, the office assistant asked why he wanted to see Dr. Henry. He wanted to tell her he was growing an extra testicle because God didn’t think he was man enough.

Instead he said, “I have a lump in my testicular area.”

On the day of his appointment Philip awoke enthusiastic and energetic and found himself singing “to the lump to the lump to the lump lump lump” to the tune of Rossini’s 1812 Overture, or what most people his age think of as the Lone Ranger’s theme.

He was the Lone Ranger indeed. After the discovery, he had fervently wished to be close enough to someone so he could say, “Honey, what do you think of this?”

He imagined she would smile and say, “Is this a trick?” For the woman he chose would have a morbid sense of humor. She would be just like him. A soul mate. She would sing “to the lump lump lump” with him all the way to the doctor’s office.

Perhaps Veronica.

Veronica had not been his soul mate. Not even close. But she was nice and she’d been attractive enough at first. And she was definitely direct, a quality he admired.

On their first date, so soon that the appetizer salads hadn’t yet arrived, she laid it all out on the table, so to speak.

“Philip, I like you and I think you like me.”


“Well, then, before this goes any further, I owe you this much.”

“You don’t owe me anything.”

She smiled, “Oh, but I do.”

That smile would come to haunt him.

The salads had arrived, the Romaine lettuce dry around the edges, and he would have sent them back except Veronica hadn’t stopped talking simply because a waiter was within earshot or because food had been presented.

“I have a grown son, because I got pregnant at sixteen, and he’s in prison.”

Philip put the fork down and looked at her the way one does when prepared to pay close, not just polite, attention.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” he said, glad, yet again, that he had no children.

He had gotten used to the idea that the women he dated had grown children. And that those relationships were not always joyful. And those that were joyful were also a pain because he had to meet the children and be judged by them and he always always came up short. At least this guy, this son of hers, was in no place to judge.

“I’m so sorry.”

“It is what it is,” she said and added too much dressing to her salad.

“I’m sure you did the best you could.”

Too busy attacking the salad, she said nothing but ate the greens, flawed as they were, as if the waiter were threatening to take back the plate.

“Philip, there’s something else you should know, and this is perhaps even worse.”


He continued seeing her in spite of the double mastectomy. He’d never been much of a breast man anyway. And he wanted to be okay with it. He wanted to be, at long last, the best of his gender. At fifty-five, a grand age for anyone, the double nickels, the downslide to sixty, he had wanted to look beyond the body to the soul. Veronica would be a companion, flawed as she was. She wouldn’t be a drain on him as he’d suspected with other middle-aged women he sampled. A man in his position couldn’t be too careful. At least Veronica was successful, owned an escrow company, owned her own home. She hadn’t let a teenage pregnancy set her back. She had weathered a bad-seed of a son, who, five years ago, just as Veronica was diagnosed, at the very moment when she had to deal with a very unpleasant prognosis, had been fingered for trafficking. That’s what she said, fingered.

And the night came, as it always must. Once again, she had been unfailingly direct.

“I’m going to keep my shirt on during sex,” she said. “No point making this grim. I’ll tell you what you’d find. Scars. Who wants to look at that? No one, that’s who. My first lover after the surgery, he kissed them. Made a big show of it. But you know what? He left and he left abruptly ’cause he couldn’t handle it. You might leave, too, but if you do or when you do, I don’t want you remembering me that way. I rather you remembered my eyes, or my ears.”

In the end, Phillip did leave her, too, and he left her abruptly. He failed himself and he failed his gender. And he failed her, but she was used to that.

He thought about her on his way to the doctor that day. She might have understood. Hell, she still might. He knew where she was; he drove by her house often, saw her at her window, but never stopped.

All of a sudden, he was afraid and it was too familiar a fear. Not of the prognosis, or of castration, but of who he was, and for the seven-millionth time he told himself that starting right now he would be a better man.

The kind of man who stays no matter the scars.

To the lump, to the lump, to the lump lump lump.

Eduardo Santiago
Issue 3, Spring 2015

Author of the novels, Tomorrow They Will Kiss (2006) and Midnight Rumba (2013), and many short stories and non-fiction articles, Eduardo Santiago has won numerous awards and prizes. Among them: the Edmund White Debut Fiction Award, the Latino International Book Award, the New England Book Award, and the Beverly Hills Book Award. He is also a two-time PEN fellow (2004, 2008).

Santiago teaches creative writing at the UCLA Writer’s Program and is the founder of the Idyllwild Authors Series.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Eduardo Santiago: Author of Midnight Rumba, an interview by Sarah Rettger (18 April 2014)

Interview With Eduardo Santiago: The Idyllwild Authors Series by Natali Petricic

Site contains text, proprietary computer code,
and graphic images that are protected by:

⚡   Many thanks for taking time to report broken links to: KYSOWebmaster [at] gmail [dot] com   ⚡