Lance Larsen

A Few Estrogen Stories to Help Balance the Scales | Beasts of Burden
October 19, 2015 Larsen Lance

A Few Estrogen Stories to Help Balance the Scales


Imagine half a million Vietnamese up to their heinies slogging rice paddies for a year, and you have the salary of the Lakers’ starting five. Imagine France in 1681: half of all GNP devoted to building that new monstrosity, Versailles. Most greatness built on obscenity. History admires the honeyed voice of a castrato soprano, for instance, but should we emasculate 3000 boys and train them nine hours a day for eight years to discover one Farinelli? Certainly arias can cause swooning, but most women still prefer a tone-deaf man possessing the tools to woo her. Why not celebrate estrogen stories instead, especially the ones in our own backyards? Take my daughter’s pet rat, Shasta, bleeding from her hinder parts. When the veterinarian diagnosed excess estrogen levels and suggested a hysterectomy at $67.50, I laughed. The vet didn’t laugh back. As rats go: an expensive solution. As hysterectomies go: a bargain, so I said yes. As stories go: a recovery narrative on little rodent feet I’ve been repeating for eleven years. Besides, who can put a price on a cheery call from the vet saying your Shasta girl pulled through surgery nicely and is ready for visitors? Or consider the tale of my beloved, who gave up art temporarily, fearing her power tools would deafen our unborn child. One night I found her in the basement. She had swiped the pillowed pad from our bed, folded it three times, and strapped it to her belly with bungee cords—sonic protection. She looked like a sumo in training. All this so she could sand a failed painting down to its nothings and throw new colors at the Void. All this so she could start from scratch.




Beasts of Burden


Men like me say, Fine I’ll carry you, but just this once. Men like me adjust their shoulders to the new heft and mass of the cosmos and stride on. Men like me want to be wanted, wish they were taller, always wear boots with plenty of tread. Men like me do not do French braids or paint finger nails mauve. At the scenic overlook, men like me say, Snap the picture, dammit. Who cares that she’s pulled the turtleneck over her face? Let posterity guess who she is—this sphinx, this faceless garden. Men like me hide behind beards or sunglasses. Men like me know we will not be here long. Men like me have lost their fathers decades ago, even if we speak with them weekly. Men like me filled with burning cities can quote Nietzsche, though it may sound like we’re talking about Fenway Park again or certain complicated stock options. Men like me know the question will change but not the taste of blood in our mouth. Men like me wish there was a bonus story problem involving the convergence of a blue vehicle and a pink vehicle moving serenely in a landscape filled with palm trees. Men like me aim our faces at the future, but lack ammunition. Men like me are waiting for someone who needs us to pull their ears and say, “Turn, Horsie, turn.” And we’ll turn.

Lance Larsen’s most recent book is Backyard Alchemy: Poems. His work has appeared in New York Review of Books, Paris Review, Kenyon Review, The New Republic, Threepenny Review, Southern Review, The Times Literary Supplement, and elsewhere.