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by Christopher Acker

Taryn pops her head into the bathroom.

“Can I get you anything?” she asks.

I wait for the pain in my gut to pass before replying, “Like what?”

“Maybe some Gatorade.”

The thought of all that sugar is enough to make me wrap my arms tighter around the bowl. I lean in and pitch whatever else I can spare.

Once I think I’ve turned a corner, I tell my wife, “Would you mind cleaning up Henrietta’s pen? I don’t have the strength.”

“I can do that.”

I take my head out of the toilet. I get up. I need to know where my stomach stands.

Even before I see my wife, I see the bottle next to the sink. It’s the sixth day since I started the Clomid. The doctor said my body should adjust to it by day three, and by day fifteen, my count should be restored.

But look at me! A withering skeleton. How potent can I possibly be?

“Are you sure you’re going to be all right?” Taryn asks.

“Who’s to say?”

She lingers in the doorframe. One foot in. One out. If it wasn’t for the need to rush back to the toilet, I’d ask her to spit it out all ready.

Despite my retching, I only manage to expel a thin stream of mucus. There’s nothing left to give.

“What?” I say through the spasms.

Silence and then, “Let’s take a break from all this. It’s not doing either one of us any good.”

“For how long?”

“I don’t know.” She sits with this and then goes, “Indefinitely.”

I tear off some toilet paper and wipe the rim of the bowl. “Are you sure that’s what you want?”

Taryn takes a deep sigh. She gets up air from her lungs that haven’t seen the light of day in years.

“Whatever happens, happens.”

I flush the toilet. It might be premature but I can’t stomach another look. At the sink, I wash my hands, rinse my mouth. I want to throw out the Clomid, but with Taryn still watching, I’ll wait. I’ll wait until she’s not around to see it.

The bed offers little comfort as now the feeling of hunger starts messing with me. I consider the safety of toast. Better yet, a banana. That’s what I’ll have. A banana. Things will pick up after I get some potassium in me.

I swing my feet out of bed. Doing so throws off my equilibrium, and I rush to the bathroom.

The door’s locked. A sliver of light trickles out from underneath.

I lean my forehead against the door and ask, “What are you doing in there?”

A voice — distant, angry — answers, “I’m pooping. Use the other bathroom.”

Bile reaches the back of my throat. It burns. I look down the hall. How am I ever going to make it?

Christopher Acker is a full-time husband, father, and clinical social worker living in Bridgewater, New Jersey. His work has appeared in Firefly Magazine, The Molotov Cocktail, and No Extra Words, as well as in upcoming issues of the Fictive Dream and Inkwood Indiana.