by Jack Wittels
My right testicle rests on the rim of the desk. My left forefinger and thumb hold it in place. The Class Ohlson hammer lies a few inches to the right. I’m still debating how hard to hit myself.
Two things led up to this moment. The first is the lock in we had last night after work. I had a good time, but when I staggered out at 7:00 A.M. and tried to open my bike’s D-lock I couldn’t make the key turn. I forced it – the key snapped inside. I ended up getting a taxi home. This morning I went to Class Ohlson and bought a hammer. Ten minutes later I was back on my bike, one good smack and the D-lock had broken. I cycled home with my new hammer in my backpack. That’s how the hammer got here.
The second thing was a conversation my housemates were having earlier this afternoon. Sitting in the lounge smoking a joint, Geordie Sam had been telling a story about how some guy from his school once pulled out another kid’s teeth with a pair of pliers he’d robbed from the D&T lab. I’d taken out my new hammer and started tapping things with it as he talked; sofa cushions, the coffee table, floorboards, my thigh. Listening to Sam and tapping my leg, I suddenly wondered if people had ever been tortured by having their testicle smashed by a hammer. I disappeared into my room.
And that brings everything up to speed. I’m pinching my testicle in my left hand. My right’s closing round the hammer’s rubber handle. The desk lamp is lighting up an inscription on its steel head; ‘Wear Safety Goggles, Users and Bystanders’. Underneath is the weight: ‘2oz’. I lift the hammer and have a few swings at the air. Its top-heavy weight feels good. Only a tiny flick of the wrist, and its own momentum carries it down.
I line it up a couple of inches above my testicle and give the wrinkly skin a cursory tap. I’m careful not to let the hammer freefall. All I feel at first is the cold of the metal. I pinch my sack tighter. The testicle moves up to just under the surface of the skin. I can see it bulging against it. I tap again, harder this time. I only feel a momentary ache.
The desk lamp is casting a silhouette on the wall. The lines of the hammer’s head and claws look much sharper in it than the soft blur of my genitals. This is absolutely mad. All that can come of this is pain. I look back down and give my testicle another tap. I flinch. That one hurt for a few seconds after the blow. But I could definitely take more.
I switch my grip from my right to my left testicle. I go through the same series of taps, getting harder and harder each time. The cold steel hammer crushing the membrane against the solid wood beneath. The harder I hit, the louder the noise. I imagine my testicle looks like a brain inside. Maybe it’s starting to bruise already. I let the pain escalate until it lasts for a few seconds after each blow. Nothing extreme. I take a harder swipe and purposefully miss, banging into the wooden desk instead. The noise is too loud. I don’t want my housemates to hear. I relax my hammer arm for a second and picture a dimly lit room full of dark faces. One man is under a spotlight, tied to a chair. The dark faced men surround him. Two kneel down and unzip his fly, then reach in and stretch his testicles over the edge of the chair between his shaking thighs. Another dark faced man stands over him. The tied up man has his eyes shut, he can’t bring himself to face the horror. I look down at my own testicle, vulnerable under the bright light of my lamp. I can’t imagine what it would feel like. But I’m curious. I want to know. I raise the hammer higher this time.
Jack Wittels is studying creative writing as an MA student at the University of Manchester.