Brent and Sheila have a perfect marriage and also a dinner party. Our wives make us go so we can see how a perfect husband acts. A perfect husband shaves daily, quits at two beers, does not adjust his privates at back-to-school night, not that any of us have done that. Our wives ring the doorbell and tell us, Tuck in your shirt.
Brent is not here! Brent has left Sheila. We say we are sorry. Sheila says, totally okay, don’t be weird, which is a weird thing to say. One of us whispers, perfect husband, and his wife flicks his ear. Our wives get miserably drunk. They’d better count their silly stars they have us instead of pining over a wife-leaver. We get happy drunk, untuck our shirts, lick bruschetta off our fingers.
Right when we sit down the doorbell rings. Sheila excuses herself. One of us jokes, maybe it’s Brent!, and his wife says, that’s strike two, buddy. Sheila returns with Brent. Sheila says, everyone, this is Bill. But Bill is Brent. Or a version. Brent crossed with a hot mechanic from a commercial. Rugged, unkempt, etc. Leather jacket. What does this mean? What is happening? We don’t know but our wives straighten and glow. Bill/Brent flirts with Sheila. He is so skillful. Sheila is liking this. Our wives are liking this. We try to flirt with them, but we have forgotten how. Did we ever know? One of us footsies. His wife winces. One of us whispers, How bout some dessert later, if you know what I mean. His wife says she doesn’t know what he means.
Sheila has abandoned hostess duties. Sheila is eating out of Bill/Brent’s hand. He asks for a tour and they go upstairs. When they return the telltale signs are there: rumpled hair, disheveled blouse, torn hosiery. Bill/Brent yawns beautifully. Our wives’ expressions make us uncomfortable. We don’t even want pie, though our wives take more than usual.
In the kitchen we corner Bill/Brent. We know you are Brent, we say. He says, Who? We look closely and it’s definitely Brent. We ask, Was it like screwing a stranger? We have always dreamed of that. He says, well, she is a stranger. We say, Brent, stop kidding us! Teach us what to do. He says, I will, but I am not Brent. First, dirty hands. One of us asks, Are you being literal or is that a metaphor? Bill/Brent sighs and holds out his hands for us to see. Two, scruff. Touch my face. Now touch your own. This is deflating. Three, women have a secret spot inside their ribcage. Here. Let me show you. We are taking notes! We will throw away our razors, our soap. We will become versions of ourselves our wives will love, even though now, they’re out on the deck, asking Sheila, was it like screwing a stranger? We have always dreamed of that.
BEN HOFFMAN is the author of the forthcoming chapbook Together, Apart, winner of the 2013 Origami Zoo Press Chapbook Contest. His work appears in Fugue, REAL: Regarding Arts & Letters, River Styx, and other journals. Originally from Pennsylvania, he lives in Ann Arbor, MI.