FICTION: “Our Christophers” by Sharma Shields

FICTION: “Our Christophers” by Sharma Shields

I had always hated my friend Rhonda (she was needlessly beautiful and generous and successful and kind), but I’d never hated her so much as when she told me that her bright, athletic, handsome, well-adjusted son would attend community college here in Spokane rather than matriculate at Harvard, where he had applied and — of course — had been accepted.

“He wants to save the money,” she said. “He wants to stay near us for a bit and then attend a state university. He’s not sure what he wants to focus on and believes he can figure it out in a more modest setting. ‘Harvard will still be there in a couple of years,’ he says. My Christopher. I know it sounds silly to say this, but I’ve never been prouder of him.”

“Pragmatic,” I muttered. “Good head on his shoulders.”

We were sharing a beer at my kitchen table. It was always a mistake to invite Rhonda over. I could hear my son in the basement, also named Christopher, moaning and banging around as he humped our dog.

My Christopher was the same age as Rhonda’s Christopher. My Christopher didn’t do much, grade-wise or sport-wise or anything else-wise, but what he did do, play video games and hump our dog, he did passionately, and for hours. I hated the video games, but the dog thing was beyond me. It really grossed me out.

I’d caught him in the act only the week before. I was depositing fresh laundry around the house. “Laundry deposits!” I called them. I thought I was pretty funny back then.

I opened the door to Christopher’s room. It didn’t have a lock. The dog was just standing on all fours, looking sort of bored, and Christopher — my Christopher — was kneeling behind the dog, humping away at her. I was dumbstruck. All I could think of to say was, “Use protection,” and then I just went about like normal, putting the folded laundry into his drawers, trying not to breath in the scent of his sex.

Wasn’t it right, to advise him? Because don’t dogs carry diseases, just like humans do? It seemed like sensible advice at the time, but Christopher — my Christopher — just blinked at me and continued humping the dog. He asked me to close the door when I left.

That’s how our conversations went those days.

Rhonda took up our beer and sipped it. She took too big of a sip. I would be left with nothing but backwash. Goddamn you, Rhonda.

She asked me then, generously, affectionately, “Is your Christopher still thinking of becoming a veterinarian?”

This was wildly funny to me. “A veterinarian!” I hooted. “Yes! Yes! What an idea!”

Beneath us, in the basement, my Christopher began to yodel his climax.

“What’s Christopher doing down there?” Rhonda asked, pushing the glass of backwash toward me.

I peered into the glass. There were the flakes of Rhonda’s last meal floating around in it: Tofutti or vegan hot dogs or something healthy like that. Rhonda ate like a champ.

“He’s fucking our dog,” I told her. “He fucks the dog all the time. I don’t know.” I shrugged, as if to say, parenting is such a shitstorm! Parenting is a trainwreck! “One of those things,” I said. “What can you do?”

Rhonda leaned toward me, dropping her warm palms over my hands. She gushed, sincerely, “Oh, sweetie. Just so long as he’s happy. That’s all we want, right? For our Christophers to be happy?”

“I guess,” I said, although what I really wanted was for my Christopher to stop fucking the dog, and for her Christopher to get hit by a bus.

From downstairs came a loud and satisfied YES!

“See?” Rhonda said. “Hallelujah.”

I nodded. I drank her backwash.

Rhonda was a fucking saint.

God, I hated her guts.

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