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Testosterone Does Not Rule Here
By Val Clark

"It's not negotiable," I said. "The dog will be a female."

After all, one husband and two just-turned-teenage sons is enough testosterone to fill a football stadium. It was time to address the gender balance and, since we couldn't have any more kids, this was the only way.

Honestly, I had tried to help my boys (henceforth a term that will also include my dearly beloved husband) develop a more sensitive side. Painting, dance, theatre, art galleries, chick flicks, Cliff Richard even. Oh, and ironing, cleaning and cooking. But some things are inevitable, like dead socks under the bed.

It wasn't until I fell ill that I realized what an abysmally poor job I had done teaching my boys to care for the sick and infirm. AKA me.

The realization came as I lay in bed. After twelve hours of no food, no water and no company, while the TV blared action movies from the lounge and the computer annihilated one of my boys yet again, I suddenly understood. It smacked into me like one of those huge balls that knock down walls on demolition sites. It left me breathless with shock. I had not only failed to teach them to care about the sick and the infirm, I had failed as a mother.

Somewhere, despite my carefully laid plans, nature had won out over nurture. My strategies to raise Sensitive New Age Guys had gone terribly astray. My SNAGs were in reality CHOPs: Chauvinistic, Hopelessly Obdurate Pigs.

I buried my head in my pillow and wept.

OK, I could have understood the enforced starvation, at a pinch; a very small pinch mind, if we lived in a castle and the kitchen had been located maybe twenty floors down and at the opposite end of the house. But it wasn't. It was next to the master bedroom.

I would have got more attention on the moon! The challenge of feeding me there might at least have got their testosterone going. Plus the destination was a lot more exciting than the master bedroom.

Master bedroom. How different this story would be if the master of the house were sick. But let's not go there. For once, this is about me!

I couldn't call upon the only other female in the house for help. My ever faithful dog (albeit the correct gender and a woman's best friend) was, after all, a puppy and not yet up to mastering the finer points of making cold coffee, mishandling the ratio of breakfast cereal to milk or burning toast. I'm sure, given time, she would have.

I can't say I suffered in silence.

But however hard I tried to bring the family into the bedroom, with or without dry bread and water, I failed. Failed abysmally. Failed miserably. I was destined to shrivel up and die a lonely death of dehydration and hunger.

Alone I pondered the error of my ways. Alone I prayed to the One who created male and female. Didn't He know the inner working of the hearts of my boys? Hadn't He promised wisdom in seemingly impossible situation? Was I asking for too much?

Strains from Mission Impossible filled my brain.

That was until I hit upon a master plan of epic dastardliness. (Yes, that is a made up word but it fits so wonderfully. Dastardly: treacherously cowardly.)

In retrospect I am hard pressed proving this solution was an answer to prayer, but I knew on that day, if I had the strength to implement such a plan, it would force them to endure my presence.

While they were at school and at work I dragged my sickly self from the bed and implemented a plan that I knew would cut at the very heart of their happiness. I had struck a blow that I was sure would bring them running, not kicking and screaming but willingly, into my presence bearing nutritional gifts.

They had not been home five minutes before the cries of outrage and distress filled the house. A veritable rampage ensued. Doors slammed. Feet clattered. Accusations rang out. They were on the verge of calling the police when they burst into my bedroom full of the dreadful news.

My faithful dog barked and wagged her tail.

The windows were open, ready to suck out all traces of testosterone.

They stood, crowded at the door, their mouths hanging open, their panicked voices silenced.

I had taken possession of the TV, the VCR and the remote.
Val Clark lives in the lush tropical city of Darwin, Australia, where she and her husband, Martin, attend a Baptist church. She writes because she cannot not write. In her words: "I would burst if I couldn't write." She has several poems, stories and essays published in local anthologies. Her methodology is to let an idea pick its genre. So far she has written two and a half adult novels, two and a half Young Adult novels and two feature film scripts. None of which have been published or produced ... yet. But like an experienced marathon runner, Val keeps on keeping on, through the pain barrier to the finish line with the motto: publication and production or bust! If you would like to write to Val, and cheer her on, you can do so through the Letters page of this magazine.