My little brother and his new girlfriend came to town to visit me the same night as this month's Ballfights.
They showed up at my apartment ready for me to be charming and hospitable, but I was already late, and so I stood in the hallway while they set their bags down. I furiously texted people at the lab, trying to explain why I wasn't there yet.
My brother's new girlfriend went to hug me, but I dodged her and shook her hand instead.
She had a smooth face and trusting eyes. She said her name was Sasha, and I told her something strange, like: "It is always good to have happiness."
My brother frowned, crossing his arms. He had been writing me emails all year about how he was in love with this girl and how he really wanted me to like her. I got the feeling he was going to propose to her soon.
"Hey sis...good to see you..." he started.
"There's no time to explain," I said. "We have to go to the middle of nowhere right now where there are no restaurants, no museums, and no attractive people such as those that you might see on television. My rent is due, you see, and gambling is legal there."
I walked past him to the stairs, heading for the door to my apartment building. My little brother and his new girlfriend had no choice but to follow me.
We ran to the subway station and caught the train just as it was leaving. I jammed my foot in the closing subway doors and screamed that I was pregnant until they let us on.
The train car was empty. I made sure we were headed the right way, and then I relaxed.
"Welcome to the city," I told my little brother Paul. "Life is very expensive here and practically everyone has to do something on the side in order to afford the vices that keep them from perceiving their place in the superorganism and going insane. I know I haven't said anything in any of my emails, but I am a promoter for this event called "Ballfights" out by the aqueduct racetrack. I am totally crooked. I take a percentage from every fight, and the lab also pays me to run the show."
"You are into sports now?" asked my gentle little brother. He was a foot taller than me. He was lanky, but he played defensive end in high school (third string), and his bullet-head was shaved into a hair-shelf that made him look like he was wearing a loaf of rust-colored bread for a hat. He was more enthusiastic than athletic. Coaches always said he had "heart."
"Oh Christ no, I am not into sports," I said. "Sports? Gross. There is nothing at all athletic about Ballfights. How do I explain? It is the ultimate test of manhood."
I looked at Sasha.
"Men need ultimate tests of manhood or they will spend all of their time crying and wandering the streets, trying to get hit by cars," I said. "You see this sometimes in low neighborhoods."
"Women also need ultimate tests of manhood," said Sasha.
"Oh, so you are an English major?" I said, squinting at her. "This is about money, Sasha. One earns money at a rate equivalent to one's ability to grasp and accept horrible facts about one's fellow human beings."
She held my gaze, though my brother blushed.
"This is not an ultimate test in the sense of a challenge," I said. "It is more a test in the sense of a pregnancy test or a test for herpes. We scientifically pit manhoods against other manhoods and bet on the outcomes."
"Isn't that what sports is?" asked my little brother, insistent for some reason that I was now into sports.
"No," I said. "Sports is some kind of emergent epiphenomenon of the real biological struggle. Sports is a sign that a society has too much to eat. I am talking about science. I am talking about the kind of raw, real manhood that is only revealed one way or another after years of knowing someone. I am talking about potency."
I sighed, checking my phone. I wasn't getting any service.
"Down by the racetrack is a place called Liberty Labs," I said. "I used to work there. They hired me as a secretary and then I slowly took over my whole floor. They were about to go bankrupt because the government cut all the subsidies for genetic research during this whole financial crisis. We were all about to lose our jobs, and that was when I realized that, out by the racetrack and the new casino, we were in a place where gambling was legal. There was a way we could make money after all. We could create a new market, and keep ourselves in business."
The train stopped and a crowd of heavy metal Mexicans got on, all wearing leather jackets and boots with chains wrapped around their ankles. One of them pointed at me and they all cheered.
"Ballfights!" they shouted.
I waved, embarrassed.
"Hector is gonna win today," one of them said, presenting the scrawniest of them to me, a serious-looking guy with a neckbeard and wild yellow eyes. "Hector has five kids from five different ladies. Almost everyone knows a lady who hates Hector."
Hector stared at me malevolently.
"Good luck, Hector," I said quietly.
"What are Ballfights?" asked Sasha.
I was busy sizing Hector up, trying to handicap him. I turned to Sasha.
"I hate to be the one to tell you this, but sex is awful and insane, and it runs the world."
Sasha looked at my brother. Was I always this way, she was asking him in her mind.
"Okay," I said. "So let's consider some of the many ways that sex is a horrible artifact of millennia of evolution where the goal is to murder as much life as you can in a short amount of time, put some genetic information inside you from an equal or better murderer, and then pass on your murder skills to a new generation. First of all, do you know what would happen if you were to fuck two different guys on the same lazy afternoon?"
She looked at my little brother. My little brother shrugged.
"I would do some yoga and eat a sandwich?" she suggested.
"Probably," I said. "But that's not what I am talking about. I am talking about what would happen inside you. The sperm would fight each other, you see. They would try to kill each other in order to be the first to fertilize your egg. There would be a war in your lower lady parts, and then a race to your creamy nougat center. This is an interesting move if you are trying to get impregnated by the most ruthless sperm you can find. Sperm from just one dude already must survive the Batman-style death-trap of the female reproductive system in order to be the first to punch your timeclock. But among sperm who all grew up together, it is a friendly race, like a fun run. They even help each other out. However, if you fuck two guys at the same time, the sperm still have to go through the death-maze, but this time they are fighting a war the whole time."
"Ballfights," she said.
"I don't know anything about psychology, but biology is constantly conspiring to put dudes who would otherwise be pals into conflict with each other. For instance, sex itself, with all of its aimless thrusting in order to build up froth like an espresso machine, is really an exercise in fluid dynamics. The biological goal during all of this thrusting is to create suction. This sucks the sperm from another dude right out of your tubes. Additionally, the very presence of the sperm of another man raises the motility and sperm count of of the second dude you intend to fuck. This is like a wartime draft before an invasion, where even the cripples and degenerates are put into uniform and tossed out of planes."
The train stopped and I ran to the door. My little brother and his new girlfriend followed me. I had the sudden need to beat Hector and his friends to the lab.
"Duck vaginas are the most interesting!" I yelled over my shoulder, looking around at the subway system by the airport, which suddenly reminded me of duck vaginas. "Do you know about duck vaginas?"
"No," my little brother and Sasha said at the same time.
"Ducks have penises that are five feet long," I said. "They are corkscrewed and flexible, and they unfurl from underneath their feathers like measuring tape. When ducks do it, these penises reach into vaginas like a person trying to reach into a vending machine and grab a candy bar without paying for it. But duck vaginas are too crazy for these crazy duck penises. Duck vaginas are like this subway system, with all kinds of false tunnels and corridors leading to oblivion. The lady ducks can decide which chambers to open, or whether or not the train will suddenly go express and make the male ducks miss their stop at Pregnancy Street. If the female ducks want, they can deposit passengers on the penis train in some godforsaken ghetto where they will be mugged and killed by strange acids."
The lab was very close to the subway stop. The crowd here was a mixture of swarthy Queens part-time criminals and manic young professionals with too much money. There were people loitering in the streets, going from the racetrack to the subway, stopping to eat at bodegas or at one of the many Chinese restaurants in the neighborhood. We zipped down the street and walked into a nondescript building where a large crowd of men and women were milling around smoking cigarettes, looking like they were waiting for something.
When they saw me, they cheered. I pushed through them and opened the door to the building. The crowd followed me inside.
I ran to the elevator, got inside, and hit the "door close" button.
I had never seen anybody ever actually hit that button before I moved to NYC, but those few extra seconds mattered here. They were worth about fourteen dollars.
"Everything we are doing here is completely legal," I said uncertainly to my little brother.
We rode the elevator to the top floor, racing the crowds below us.
"Once upon a time in this city, the favorite pass-time for urban gentleman was to find the tiniest, most hateful little dog, perhaps the stolen pet of some wealthy society maven, and then put this tiny over-bred dog into a pit full of giant rats. These gentlemen would bet on how many rats the miniature, terrified dog could kill before it was bitten to death or its eyeballs were gouged out. This was what you called video games back then. These rat pits eventually turned into circuses because it was where the freaks hung out anyway. And we all love circuses."
People were already crowding the Liberty Labs office all the way to the elevator. We pushed through the crowd, working our way through the suite of offices to the cafeteria where the action was.
The massive Liberty Labs cafeteria was decorated with lurid red tablecloths and flashing Christmas lights. This was as far as we were willing to go for decorations.
I was always shocked at how many women actually came to the Ballfights, considering there wasn't much for them to do but gamble. A true spectacle will always draw a diverse crowd. Also, it was possible that there were a fair amount of groupies, but I didn't like to think about that.
Right now, since the betting hadn't started yet on the main events, there were people milling around our sideshow, where we recruited our talent and found our Ballfighters for the next month.
During the Ballfights, we made jack-off booths out of old office cubicles and we handed out free receptacles for sperm samples to anybody who wanted one. These receptacles were old coffee cans with rubber hoses stretched over them. There were various places you could take your sperm sample, like a kid with tokens at an arcade.
There were normal machines where you could get your sperm count tested, but there were also more exotic midway games and diversions.
My friend Danny was a DJ who had spent so long using neural-activated music software that he was now able to actually control his sperm from a distance with his mind.
He had an exhibit with house music playing where he would make his sperm dance to his beats in a petri dish, controlling them from afar with bass and drugs.
He said that smoking weed didn't make your sperm less agile or retarded, it just made them more receptive to your thoughts. He said controlling his sperm with drugs, beats, and his homemade neuroencephalograph was like trying to make a speck of dust swim across your contact lens by rolling your eyeball around. It took total concentration, but you could do it. He ran a seminar at the Ballfights, trying to teach men to get more in touch with their reproductive armies.
Danny's wife Patricia was the real scientist. She was one of my closest friends at Liberty Labs from back in the old days. She had created an artificial female reproductive system, complete with microscopic squirt guns full of acid to simulate the real pockets of natural spermicide you would find on the journey to the egg. She hooked up controllers from an old PlayStation to the artificial womb and broadcast images from inside the womb with a digital projector.
If you had twenty dollars and a sperm sample, you could play a version of tower defense against your own seed, using the acid squirt guns to defend the invaders from impregnating an artificial egg made out of a breath mint. It was thrilling and some people were uncannily good at it.
I saw my friend Alana over in the corner. She was smoking cigarettes and painting her fingernails in preparation for the night's contest.
Alana was transgendered, but she hadn't started her transition yet. She hadn't started taking the hormones that would shut down her accidental testicles forever. Her sperm were eerily fast and strong, and she was one of our best natural Ballfighters.
She worked in a restaurant kitchen, and the Ballfights were a way for her to make extra cash. She liked the idea of all these men getting beaten by a woman at the sport of impregnation, and there was usually a big crowd of people from the trans community along with her to cheer her on.
She never took advantage of our jack-off booths. She always provided her sperm sample in a crystal goblet that she brought from home.
"Lots of newcomers tonight," I said.
She blew on her fingernails and ignored me.
"I like your scarf," she said. "I am going to steal your scarf."
I got on top of one of the tables and started making brackets on a piece of paper, looking around the room to see who else was here to fight besides Alana. Someone tugged on my ankle and I looked down to see who it was.
This man didn't look like he belonged here at all. He had horn-rimmed glasses and a business suit. His hair was sculpted like mashed potatoes, and the salt-and-pepper in his grey hair perfectly faded to his temples like geologic stratification.
"Can I help you?" I asked.
The man was extraordinarily tall. Even though I was standing on a table and he was not, he came up to my shoulders. I squatted down to talk to him.
"I'm here for the contest?" he said. "I am here on business? This seems very diverting before I get onto a plane and leave this country forever? I read about this contest on a culture blog meant for European bon vivants?"
He had a Scandinavian accent. I hated him immediately.
"Where are you from?" I asked.
"Denmark?" he said. "I am in derivatives? I am also champion sperm donor?"
I whistled. It was a well-known fact in the sperm community that most sperm exported around the world was from Denmark. America had a ban on imported Danish sperm, but everywhere else in the world was addicted to Danish jazz, paying double for it on account of its supposed magical properties. Danish sperm was the black caviar of dick fondue.
"We already have all our fighters," I said. "I already made my brackets."
I showed him the piece of paper. He pointed at a name.
"You are missing one?" said the Dane. "This man isn't here anymore? He came and then left? Something scared him away?"
The Danish guy grinned strangely. I shrugged, scratching the other man's name off my list.
"I'm going to put you down as "Prince Hamlet," I said. "You will make a great villain for the night's contest."
"There's something strange about me that you should know?" he said. His eyes glinted.
"What's that?" I asked.
"I'm going to win?" he said. "I know I am going to win? I just thought you should know? Perhaps it will help you with your betting?"
"I will make a little note here next to your name," I said, sniffing. "Make sure to have your sample ready when I call for you."
I stood back up and put my hands over my head.
"Ladies and gentlemen," I shouted. "Gather round, gather round. We are ready for tonight's main event. I know you all came here to gawk on the sidelines, but don't forget that there is money to be made here tonight in the pit. Our first Ballfight will be between Alana the Lady, and Hector the Erect who has evidently been responsible for more abortions in this town than taxi cab whiskey sex. Hector, where are you?"
Hector emerged from his group of cheering fans, sitting down next to Alana, who didn't even look up from her fingernails. Danny and Patricia came over to take their samples.
"You are so crass," said Sasha when I got down off the table to watch the fight for myself. "How do you really feel about abortions?"
"Life begins at forty," I said.
"Haven't you ever wanted to have a baby?" she asked. She was trying to be my sister.
"Listen, if I had a baby back when everybody else was having babies, back when I was your age, then by now there would be some precocious, big-eyed, skinny kid delivering a heartwarming poem to her second-grade class about how mommy gave up all of her dreams in order to raise a family and there would be tears in everybody's eyes," I said. "Fuck that poem."
I handicapped Alana and Hector on a white board, collecting money with the help of several of the interns at the lab, who gave everyone bet tickets and ran all the information through spreadsheets on their laptops.
Patricia and Danny took the sperm samples to the petri dish that we called the pit. They stained one set of sperm green and the other set purple. There was a camera connected to the pit and the camera was connected to a high definition television that showed what was happening.
Patricia measured out equal portions of semen from each sample, and then squirted the semen into the dish. Patricia pressed a button on the side of the pit and the dish spun around with a quiet hum, mixing the sperm together like paint.
Names went up on the screen next to each sperm count.
Hector had almost ten thousand more sperm than Alana, but this was not always an advantage. A computer tracked each sperm, locating them by color and keeping a running tally.
The war had begun. An intern panned and scanned the petri dish, showing the battle, while another intern provided color commentary.
I went around selling beers and collecting bets as Hector and Alana's sperm eviscerated each other in the pit, hunting each other down and bashing each other apart wherever they could. They hunted in packs of thousands, clashing and diving, swimming through seminal fluid like comets, like rockets, like fireworks.
Hector was no match for Alana. His crew slunk away one by one as his numbers dwindled, and the transgendered lesbians who came to cheer for Alana mocked them mercilessly as they fled back to the train.
Alana kept painting her fingernails and smoking cigarettes, never looking up at the screen, a ghost of a smile plastered on her painted lips.
My little brother joined me, tapping me on my shoulder.
"I just saw something horrible in the bathroom," said my little brother.
"What was it?" I asked.
"This tall foreign white guy beat the shit out of this skinny black kid for trying to grab his wang," said my brother. "He wouldn't let him get up. He kept hitting him over and over again, cold and deliberate, like he was poking him with a stick. He kept casually wiping blood off his glasses, and then putting them back on so he could keep hurting the kid."
"Is the kid still alive?" I asked.
"Yeah, he's alive," said my brother. "He ran off. All the blood made the floor slippery and he was able to scramble away."
"It was that Danish guy," I said. "I think he's some kind of sociopath."
I looked for him. I saw him come out of the bathroom. He had taken off his collared shirt and was lounging in a t-shirt. There was a dark spot on the cuff of his pants, but no blood anywhere else.
The room filled with cheering. Danny had declared Alana the winner.
"Alright, alright, alright," I said, standing up on the table. "Our next fight will be between two very different competitors. First of all, we've got a newcomer. He's a millionaire. He's a psychopath. He's Danish and he will destroy your currency market while he shames you into socialized medicine. Please welcome Prince Hamlet to Ballfights!"
The Danish man walked stiffly over to me and gave me his semen sample. I handed it to Danny.
"Prince Hamlet will be fighting against one of our regulars here in the first round. I'm pitting Prince Hamlet against Fat James Bond. The winner of this contest will go on to face Alana in the finals."
Fat James Bond was in his sixties, which was rare for someone who weighed over 500 pounds. I was always shocked that he could still get hard and get off. He was licking his fingers, finishing a plate of human-flavored tofu, a dish that he said always increased his sperm count before a fight. It was something about the flavor. Something primal.
He didn't fit into one of our jack-off booths, so he took the whole handicapped stall of our employee bathroom to provide a specimen. Fat James had once been a spy in Europe, but his cover was blown in a scandal thirty years ago and he had been forced to become an analyst here in the city. Depressed, over-medicated, and trapped behind a desk, he had swelled over the years, completely giving up on everything in his life but global politics and fried cheese sticks.
Though the man himself was a mess, his sperm were incredibly good at their job. His jazz was orderly, cunning, and vicious. He was one of the best Ballfighters in the city.
Fat James Bond, however, was no match for Prince Hamlet.
Watching Prince Hamlet's sperm massacre Fat James Bond's sperm was exhilarating.
I had never seen sperm so focused or so without remorse. Prince Hamlet's sperm were able to do something in great numbers that other people's sperm were only able to do occasionally: they were self-sacrificing. They would tenaciously lock on to opposing sperm, waiting to die, slowing them down so that bigger numbers could move in for the kill.
"This is our future, isn't it?" said my little brother. "This dude probably has hundreds of kids all over the globe, doesn't he? Someday everyone will be a cold-hearted psycho who likes ambient music and furniture design catalogs. It's depressing, isn't it, what gets you ahead in life?"
I looked around at all of us weirdos and assholes watching this giant Danish man's sperm destroy the sperm of a morbidly obese ex-spy. We were nothing compared to this Danish giant.
Maybe our genes didn't deserve to pass on to the next generation. I rubbed my face, feeling ugly and awkward.
I found myself strangely attracted to the Danish man. I looked at Sasha and I could tell that she too found something intriguing about the man. Was it his money? His good looks? His rugged swagger?
My little brother looked at us both, furrowing his brow, crossing his arms.
"He's a psycho," said my little brother. "He's totally crazy."
Danny declared Prince Hamlet to be the winner and Fat James Bond consoled himself with a bucket of fried wontons, muttering about how he hadn't been sleeping right lately.
I called for the final championship round. Alana looked up from her nail-painting to coolly regard the Danish executive, pursing her lips and cocking her head to the side.
"Here's the championship match," I yelled to the crowd. "The final round! Alana the Lady versus the Danish psychopath! Place your bets!"
My little brother dug into his wallet and put a twenty on Alana. I realized that my scarf was gone and I saw that Alana was wearing it.
My little brother was like me. He wanted Alana to win, but he knew she was going to lose. He was skinny, clumsy, Irish, red-haired, freckled, blind. Totally romantic. Like Alana, he was totally doomed.
Red hair was a red flag when it came to sperm donation. Most sperm banks in America would not accept any sperm from anyone under six feet tall or with red hair.
I tried to imagine my brother's sperm. Goofy, good-natured, well-meaning, decent, loyal. Strolling around whistling, talking about what a great day it was today. Getting smashed and falling off the couch, singing TV theme songs in a false soprano. I wondered how my little brother's sperm would stand up in a war with the giant Dane?
They would be slaughtered, obviously.
Sasha kept staring at the giant Danish man and sighing. My little brother was getting more and more irritated with the whole situation. With his lot in life. I regretted bringing him here.
Suddenly I was struck with an overwhelming fury at the Danish man and his genetic material. There was no such thing as perfection. Real predators shouldn't stand out so much.
I slunk away and headed for the elevators while the rest of the crowd was riveted by the systematic evisceration of Alana's seed.
I had a secret. I knew something that other people didn't know. I had an ace in the hole. I had a magic spell.
In the alley closest to the train station, there were a bunch of homeless people all passed out in sleeping bags. They stared at me as I passed them, elbowing each other and stirring to their hands and knees.
"Hello," I said, taking a twenty dollar bill out of my pocket. "I need to know who here is the craziest of all of you."
The homeless people stared at each other, wondering if I was a murderer or a cop or a social worker or what.
"I have twenty dollars for the the craziest person here who isn't faking it," I said. "I am looking for the kind of person who starts fires for no reason and tries to bathe in the flames, or who always seems to be on drugs even when they are not on drugs. Voices are also good."
"Bone Dog hears voices," said a woman with a skull tattooed above her left eye. "He says the voices tell him what the president is doing, like a radio station."
"Perfect," I said. "Where is Bone Dog?"
The woman pointed to the alley across from her encampment, where a man was bouncing on the balls of his feet, barefoot, looking both ways down the street with wild eyes.
I walked toward his alley. Many of the homeless people followed me, pleading their own case for crazy. I trusted the woman with the skull tattoo, however, and also Bone Dog had not been tainted by the promise of cash.
"You are Bone Dog?"
He stared at me.
"I need your semen, Bone Dog," I said. "I need it quickly."
I waved the twenty dollar bill in front of him. He flinched at me.
"I'm willing to pay," I said.
I realized that I had forgotten to bring a receptacle. I looked around for something suitable. I found an empty potato chip bag made of mylar. I held it open.
"In here," I said.
"The president is eating a slice of pizza and they are telling him all about Iran," said Bone Dog. "They are telling him Iran's secrets. I can hear them all in my head. Did you know that about me?"
I realized this was going to be difficult. I didn't have much time.
"What gets you hard, Bone Dog?" I asked. "What gets you off? I need your sperm."
"The President likes Iran's secrets," said Bone Dog. "I like the President's secrets."
He closed his eyes and began to hum. He put his face down to the concrete as if he were smelling the street.
"What if you were the President?" I suggested. "What would you do to me? Would you fuck me just as hard as you could?"
"I am not the President," he said. "I am NOT the president."
"Would you please jack off into this chip bag?" I said. "There isn't much time. The Danish are about to conquer the world. We have to break their spirits!"
He growled at me.
"Do you have a girlfriend, Bone Dog?" I asked. "Do you have a sweetheart?"
"I like the way that India looks at me today," he said.
"India the country?" I asked.
"India is also a country," he explained.
I looked across the alley at the homeless woman with the skull tattoo. The crowd around us laughed and made lewd comments. I checked my phone. The Ballfight between Alana and Prince Hamlet wouldn't last much longer.
"Is her name India?" I asked a homeless man that I considered "homeless standard." He had a beard and a liquor bottle in his hand. I noted that his hair was also red.
"Sure," he said, taking a swig.
"Bone Dog, I want you to do something for me. I want you to imagine having the dirtiest, meanest sex with your friend -- or enemy -- over there named India. Do whatever you want to her in your difficult mind. Take all kinds of licenses. But be quick about it and make sure you come into this chip bag."
Bone Dog looked down at his crotch. He rubbed himself.
"Help me, guys," I pleaded to the other homeless dudes. "There is twenty dollars for all of you to share if you can get Bone Dog off."
The other homeless men cheered him on.
The guy with the liquor and beard was positively poetic. He described all of India's best qualities in such lurid detail that I had to scold him a few times to keep him on track.
"Talk about her breasts more," I suggested. "That seems to be working."
India grinned at us from the opposite alley. There was a skinny black kid by her with a puffy face and a bleeding lip and I realized that he was probably the kid that Prince Hamlet had beat up in the Liberty Labs bathroom.
With a mighty howl, Bone Dog finally came into the chip bag, squealing like a car taking a sharp turn. His jazz was as thick as pancake batter. I took the chip bag from him, carefully rolling it up into a tube. I gave him the twenty dollars and he stared at it, confused, until he was mobbed by the other homeless men.
All the homeless men now crowded around me, first talking up their skills at jacking off and then trying to undercut Bone Dog by fifty percent, then ninety-nine percent, then 110%, offering me beers if I would let them jack off in front of me.
I fought through them into the Liberty Labs building and escaped to the elevator.
I gave the chip bag to Danny and told him to prepare a sample from the goo inside. He was not happy about it, but he did what I said.
Prince Hamlet was counting his money, surrounded by a mob of people asking him questions and offering him congratulations, which he was also ignoring.
I got up on the table.
"Double or nothing," I said. "Prince Hamlet vs. my kid brother Paul."
I pointed at Paul.
Everyone in the room laughed.
"He's visiting me from Texas," I said. "His jazz is so strong it used to strip the paint from our walls."
I gestured to the jack-off booths.
"Go on, Paul," I said. "Make Mom proud."
My little brother frowned at me. I beckoned Sasha over and whispered in her ear.
"Help him out, sister," I said. "You'll have a story for later."
When they returned, flushed and giggling, I switched his sperm out with Bone Dog's. Danny saw what I was doing, but he didn't say anything.
Prince Hamlet almost caught me. He could sense something was wrong. He grabbed my hand and inspected the sperm that supposedly belonged to my kid brother.
"This sperm smells like salt and vinegar," he said.
"It is the smell of the sea," I said. "Paul is a vigorous man with a strong relationship to the open water, like all Celts."
Prince Hamlet's sperm was injected into the pit with Bone Dog's sperm, and the fight began.
At first the stats seemed extremely promising. The number next to my little brother's name was astronomically high. He had almost twice as much sperm as the great Dane.
Then the number started dropping as the computer monitored the sperm and corrected the count for sperm motility. The numbers dropped until Prince Hamlet once again had the overwhelming advantage. Three-fourths of Bone Dog's sperm were dead on arrival.
"Bone Dog, you have a drug problem," I said through gritted teeth.
My kid brother frowned at the television that was showing he had balls full of death. People started to boo him.
It seemed as though the great Dane was going to win despite my subterfuge.
Then! A miracle!
Though Bone Dog didn't have much to work with, his sperm were even crazier than I thought they were. They were guerilla sperm. They wandered in lazy circles. They led the Great Dane's sperm into blind ambushes.
Some of the sperm were so fast and powerful that they were like falcons, swooping in over and over again to feast on Prince Hamlet's mice. They were razor blades slashing through fat veins, carving up whole swathes of the Prince's mighty army. Some of Bone Dog's sperm were twice the size of normal sperm and crushed the opposition like fists cracking walnuts.
Bone Dog's sperm were a rag-tag bunch of furious samurai. His sperm were a baseball team full of outcasts, putting it all together for one unexpected underdog victory. Bets flew around the room and the great Dane's numbers kept falling, falling, falling.
The Prince's forces were decimated. Then centimated. Then millimated. They were smashed. Thrashed. Sperm tails were severed from sperm heads and turned into sperm jewelry. Bone Dog's sperm painted their faces with DNA, howling for more microscopic justice.
Dan declared my kid brother the winner. The crowd went wild. I knew my take was going to be enormous tonight.
Money changed hands and Prince Hamlet sat at one of the cafeteria tables, falling on his ass like a toppled statue. I watched him. He simply sat there staring at his own fingerprints. When I passed him, I put my hand on his shoulder and then ruffled his hair. He did not find this amusing. He searched my eyes, wondering what happened.
"Tough luck," I told him. "I guess you really can't have everything in the world."
He said something to me in Danish, but I don't speak Danish.
Out on the street, we passed the alley where I had recruited my champion and I tried to keep a low profile. I saw the skinny black kid still waiting, only now there was a glint of metal in his hand and he had some friends. I knew he was waiting for the Dane.
I didn't manage to make it to the train without being spotted.
"Miss, miss," said a Gulf War vet with no teeth. "You need more come? I'm even crazier than Bone Dog. I've KILLED people, miss. I've KILLED people with my MIND."
I walked faster. We got underground.
Sasha fell asleep on my little brother's shoulder as we rode into Manhattan to celebrate. She was smiling and cooing, nuzzling him like a pony at a feedbag. He was her hero.
"I heard what that vet said," my little brother whispered in my ear. "You cheated for me. That wasn't my sperm."
I didn't deny it.
"Schizophrenia beats everything," I said. "It's evolutionary science. There's no good reason for it, but there it is. You look around at all the schizophrenics in the world, and you have to wonder, how the fuck did they get here? They certainly didn't do much smooth charming of willing ladies. They are not effective men. The answer is that they are super fertile. This is one of nature's secrets. Usually, we don't even let them compete. It is not fair to everyone else."
"I don't understand why you went to the trouble," he said.
"Hey," I said. "I'm not explaining anything. Just roll with it. My mind is like a duck vagina. Just remember that family pride is a powerful force in this fucked-up world. Remember, little brother: rebels beat normals, psychos beat rebels, crazies beat psychos, and crazies are crazies because of love, or something else equally nightmarish and impossible to cure."
I counted my money, holding up my coat to hide what I was doing. I wondered if Sasha knew what hell she was going to have, raising my red-headed nieces and nephews.