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Dean marched into the waiting room, the young woman at reception nodding with a phone pressed to her ear. She holds up a spare hand, indicating with a smile for him to wait. He rolls his eyes impatiently and snorts his blocked nose, swallowing the contents – Fucking NHS! – If his rude demeanour offended the lady, then she does a good job of disguising it.

“Okay sir, just make sure to follow the directions and we will see on the twenty first at nine thirty AM… No problem sir, have a good day.” She rests the phone in the receiver and makes some notes before turning her attention to him.

“Hello, do you have an appointment?” She asks cheerfully.

Yes, he has a bloody appointment! Like she doesn’t know. He was practically on first name bases, so frequently had he visited the sperm clinic in the last few months. The polite discretion the receptionist was allowing him at this moment and all the previous visits was purely professional. This was lost on him, however. Such was his trumped-up self-entitlement. There was never a truer representation as to where society had faltered. This fully extended to his suspicion of the futility of fertility tests. He didn’t blame the life choices he made – it was something the government put in the water. It wasn’t that Dean particularly wanted kids, not that he was against it. The sex had been fantastic at first – when he could get it up – plus it gave him more bragging rights to the lads at work. But if Dean was honest – he missed the blowjobs. Despite her meticulous fertile schedule, holding her legs in the air and copious amounts of folic acid, Ella still found herself failing Dean every cycle of the moon. The poor girl had taken every test there was and still they couldn’t find anything wrong. Of course, she blamed herself.

He cleared his mucus filled throat and mumbled, “Dean Somerville.”

“Okay Mr Somerville, we have you on the system. Do you know where to go when you’re called?” She asked, out of common curtesy, keeping her voice low so not to embarrass the patient. Is she fucking kidding? He failed to see the kindness the lady was offering to save his pride.

“Er, Yeah.”

“Okay sir, if you could take a seat and I’ll call you when the room is ready,” she pointed to the unbusy waiting room. He turned his back on her and chose a seat as far away from anyone else. Dean sat down catching the eye of another patient who returned an embarrassed nod and looked back to the newspaper in his hands. Pervert! Thought Dean. Dirty bastard was probably getting an image of me for his wank bank.

The door to the familiar and private room opened, an overweight man in his late thirties came through it with a shameful look across his face. Dean stared with disgust, adding to the man’s already nervous disposition. It made Dean sick knowing he would be using the same room. He imagined with revulsion the large bloke’s sweating arse cheeks on the laminated chair. Even if they do change the paper coverings, Dean wouldn’t like to see the room under ultraviolet lighting. A pretty lady in scrubs – she can give me hand if she likes – entered the room after the previous inhabitant – the clean-up-crew. He had to laugh that someone on predictably shit NHS wages would be spending her day collecting the samples and mopping up stray spunk. Even if it was defunct, the picture revolted him. The lady came back out after a few minutes and Dean was ushered in. The newspaper reader glanced up with obvious disappointment that his name hadn’t been called first. Probably wants to come in and tug it for me.

Inside the room Dean claimed his usual spot – preferring to perch on the chair than trust it entirely. He ignored the plastic covered TV remote. Dean had no intention of watching the soft-core pornography available. He’d tried it the first time intrigued to view the contents. A work colleague had told him that it was pretty good, letting him know that it really helped him fill the sample cup. Dean had made sure to berate the co-worker in front of as many people as possible for the man’s obvious innocence. It was all workplace banter, Dean told himself. Unfortunately for the man named Lee, Dean’s idea of banter consisted of publicly and relentlessly mentioning it every day for the next few weeks. The abuse had only stopped after Lee privately asked their boss for a transfer. Dean took out his mobile and searched for his usual brand of porn. Finding a thumbnail of a girl visibly in discomfort he clicked the image and waited for the video to load. The little circle on the screen took a painful amount of time to spin. He knew that once it started, he wouldn’t take long to fill the specimen jar. It never did when he pleasured himself. He recalled the way he’d shamed Lee whilst he waited. He missed Lee, to him they had been friends and was disappointed when the man had been reassigned. It had never occurred to him that he’d asked for the transfer. Dean had seen Lee a week later at the local builder’s merchants picking up materials for work. He’d been distant and Dean hoping to break the ice brought up the porn story to a packed trade counter. Lee had turned a deep shade of red as the other tradesmen laughed at the retelling of the story and made a quick exit. Dean filled the little cup, unaware of the throbbing erection that had grown in his hand. The video still buffering. He mopped himself up and put the lid back on the cup, then checked the time. Dean was shocked to see it had only been two and a half minutes. It wouldn’t do, he told himself. There was no way he would be leaving the room yet – the remaining patients would have to wait their turn. He wanted to make them squirm for a bit longer, he couldn’t lose face. It was another twenty minutes until he left. The waiting area was now so full that other patients had to stand. He walked past the newspaper reader silently mouthing “wanker” whilst failing to see the irony of the situation.


Dean located his car amongst the sea of vehicles. His phone was ringing by the time he let himself into the driver’s seat – Ella. He contemplated letting it ring out but relented. Might as well get it out the way, he wasn’t planning on coming home early tonight. A few drinks with the boys awaited him and a trip to the knocking shop. He deserved a treat after today and for an extra twenty Sandra would let him do it without a rubber.

“Hi babe. How did you get on?” Dean pretended to care.

“The doctor said they can’t find anything wrong Dean. I’m so confused. Maybe I’m just not meant to be a mother?” Ella broke off into muffled tears on the other side of the phone. “I just keep failing you Dean.”

“No, you don’t, Ella. They’ll find out, probably just missed something. You know what it’s like with these NHS doctors. We’ll go private, babe.” Dean almost felt guilty. Almost.

“How did your test go? Did you ask the doctor about your last results?”

“Yeah I brimmed the cup babe. Nothing wrong with my little lads, doctor said they were swimming fine,” Dean lied.

“Oh… that’s good. It must be me then,” Ella descended into a tidal wave of tears.

“Come on Ella don’t blame yourself. We’ll look into seeing a private doctor. You get yourself home, luv. I’ve got an extra shift tonight, see you in the morning.” Dean hung up before the audible breakdown ruined his mood. He pulled out a small plastic bag from his dash and began to shake out the white powder inside. Carefully cutting out a fat line, oblivious to the watchful eyes from the carpark. Struggling to find a banknote, he instead finds the letter tucked away in his pocket. Ripping away a suitable piece to roll into a straw. The printed writing sits inches away from his eye as he inhales – 68% Sluggish – pleasure spread throughout his body suddenly Dean feels anything but sluggish.


James Jenkins is a Suffolk based writer of gritty noir fiction. In-between writing novels and short stories, he is usually playing guitar. Follow James @JamesCJenkins4.

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