My husband, Tim, came home on his lunch hour, and we had sex on the floor next to the oven. I could see our reflection in the black glass door, and when Tim turned his face toward it, I saw his flared nostrils, his neck thick with effort, and I turned my head to look at the island in the middle of the kitchen instead. Near the end, I saw an ant scuttling through a tiny hole at the baseboard. It went toward the living room. I remembered the coffee I’d left on the coffee table, and wondered if it could smell the coffee from here, and if it would drown in pursuit of the sugar I’d stirred in, but I was still able to come.
Concerned, our black Labrador, Marky, came over and started licking at the beads of sweat on my face. I pushed him away, and he trotted around the island to sniff between my legs, his wet nose flitting at the inside of my thigh. I clamped my legs together and his head got caught, and he yelped.
“Hey, hey, hey,” Tim cooed, still on his knees. He scooted over to Marky and scratched his ears. Marky never stirred from his place at the foot of the bed, though he did begin to dream, his legs jerking and his mouth quivering, a low whine coming through his nostrils. “Want me to rub your belly? Let me rub that belly, there we go.” Marky lay on his back, his paws jerking with pleasure.
Tim took his sandwich to go and called me from the car. I could hear him chewing. “I’m still hard,” he said. “I liked that. Love you.” When we hung up, I gave Marky a bacon treat.
After I cleaned myself up, I went to the fence. I went again just before Tim came home. He thought I was out there to greet him, and I let him believe it.
That night I woke up to Tim’s hand on my arm, trying to roll me over. “Hey,” he whispered, “come here.” When I turned to him I saw, over his shoulder, that it was 5:13 a.m. His breath was hot in my face, and he didn’t bother pulling my underwear all the way down — just enough so he could maneuver. He guided me onto my back, then he lay on his side and I folded my legs over his, my underwear stretching from knee to knee. He held me by the hip and pushed himself in. He was done quickly, and he fell asleep with his head on my shoulder.
When Tim left for work, his hair still wet from our shower, his fingers playing with my zipper, I turned on Animal Planet for Marky, removed his collar and went to the fence. It runs the entire length and width of our property, but I have my favorite corner, right where the gravel driveway stops and the grass starts, where I can see the road and, if I stretch, can touch our mailbox. The fence is invisible, but it’s there. I wind the vinyl part of Marky’s collar around my hand, holding the plastic receiver in my palm, then I press the cold metal stimulator against my underwear, step forward, and the jolt is delivered. Like a million ants biting. Like teeth. Like the g-spot exists. Like a tiny knife, a precise pinch. Like fireworks. I can’t help it — I cry out; my underwear is flooded with perfect warmth. I lie back in the grass and see stars.
I try and think of my husband when I go to the fence, but he becomes a distraction, and sometimes when I conjure him up I can’t go through with it, and my trip is ruined.
That night Tim barely made it through the door. He pushed me up against the doorjamb, tugging at my zipper. His was already open; I could see his bouncing penis through the glass panes at the door as he walked from the garage.
My pants fell around my ankles. We were at an awkward position — my legs couldn’t open enough — so he spun me around and bent me over the table he threw his keys on each night. Its top was intricately tiled in the shape of a large green turtle, its legs splayed and its eyes weirdly on top of its head. My front tooth caught some of the grout during one of Tim’s thrusts, and when I cried out, he said, “Yeah. There we go. Like it, don’t you.” Still, I came, shuddering until my knees buckled, nearly rocking the table onto its side, and then Tim came, heaving at my back in long dry sobs. Marky lazily watched us from his place on the couch, his eyes slowly shutting and then bursting open at every new sound.
“God, I’m starving,” Tim said, his mouth hot and wet at my neck. “Do we have any M&M’s? Peanut?”
He left soon after that, a red Dixie cup full of M&M’s in one hand while the other swatted at his crotch. “Sore. In a good way. You too, I hope,” and his eyes were so full of genuine interest that I pushed him out the door, bowing my legs in answer. He mimed stepping over the invisible fence and looked back to see if I was laughing. I wondered if my trips out there had caused the sudden urgency in our sex life — if he could sense something was different, if the fence worked on him, without him even knowing it.
I watched his car back down the driveway, then I waited for the cloud of dust it kicked up to settle. Then Animal Planet, collar, jolt, wet explosion and sleep.
The phone was ringing when I came back inside. I put Marky’s collar on and let him out, then I answered it.
“I just saw you laying in a heap in the grass,” came the female voice on the other end. “I told Fred to stop, but he said you were probably just sunning yourself. I told him if we see on the news that our neighbor was found dead in her yard and we didn’t stop, I’d never forgive him for as long as I live. So you’re fine? You’re alive?”
“I was just playing with Marky,” I said. “Playing dead.” Cradling the phone at my shoulder, I peeled off my pants and underwear. I could see the bruise under my pubic hair, a sunburst of purple and blue. It was tender, and sent a zing of pain through my groin when I touched it.
“I didn’t even see Marky. Well. You want me to come over? You want to have tea?”
“Some other time,” I told her. I’d been trying to work up the courage to hold the collar to my bare skin; the brightness of the bruise wouldn’t help.
“Kiss that husband of yours for me,” she said. “Bye-bye.”
Outside, Marky was running from edge to edge, his body bucking. Twice, he got too close. His body froze, and he screamed like his heart was broken, like he was being pulled apart.
Over spaghetti, Tim pulled me onto his lap and rubbed himself against me. He finished without even unzipping and held me there, rocking me and kissing my chest and neck. I unzipped his pants and wiped him down with a napkin, wetting a corner with my tongue.
After that we watched television on the couch, his body cupping mine, his fingers in and out of my underwear, idly exploring. Marky was on the other couch, scratching his neck with his back paw.
“Fred called me today,” Tim said. “He said the sounds Marky makes when he runs into that fence are god-awful. He could hear him this afternoon all the way down by their place.”
“He’s just getting used to it,” I said.
“I don’t know,” he said. “Look at him.” Marky was rubbing his neck on the arm of the couch. He’d scratched and rubbed the collar until it was up by his ears. “I think we should get rid of it. Marky doesn’t need it anymore. He knows where he lives.”
I reached into my pants and took his hand and brought it up to my mouth, taking in the two fingers that had been inside me.
“Oh my God,” Tim said, and grew hard. I guided him in from behind. In the middle of it all, my arm landed on the remote and the TV turned off, then flickered on, alerting Marky. I wondered if he thought it would be Animal Planet.
Tim fell asleep with his legs entwined in mine. It took me several minutes to disentangle, but I finally did, making my way in the adjusted dark, closing the door silently behind me. I made sure to remove Marky’s collar before we went to bed, and it was on the turtle table where I’d left it, coiled awkwardly. The house alarm we never seemed to turn on gave its three warning beeps — a door is opening — but they were loudest downstairs, and I knew Tim wouldn’t hear a thing.
The grass felt good under my feet; I couldn’t tell if it was wet or cold, or both. It was like walking on one of those massage pads at those gadget stores — a welcome, dull pain. At my corner I reached under my nightgown, pulled my underwear down and held the collar to the skin, just above where my pubic hair stopped. I told myself I should be afraid, that this could really hurt, but then I leaned into that invisible boundary, and it was wonderful. For a moment I was convinced I could feel it in my fillings. I moved the collar down and leaned in. The sensation was so intense that a few drops of urine escaped and clung to my thighs.
On my back in the grass, the night sky looked close enough to touch. I felt like I wasn’t lying in the grass but floating, that I was rushing up too quickly into the night and that I would break through the layers of the earth to freefall through space forever. It was the loneliest feeling. I left my place in the grass, walking back to the house and up the stairs to our bed. The room smelled like sleep —like deep breaths and sheets and the warm, bitter musk of bodies — and when I lay down, Tim turned over in sleep and molded his body to mine. Marky let out a long sigh. My underwear was wet and cold, and I wished I had taken it off.
Just before lunch the next day, a man in a white hat and overalls came to disable the fence.
“Your husband called me?” he said.
The damp strap of Marky’s collar dangled from my finger behind my back; I’d run into the house when I’d seen the man’s truck pulling into our driveway. Beneath my skirt, my underwear was around my knees. I was sure the man could smell the sharpness of the urine.
“I’m here to turn off your fence?” He said it like, “ye fayuhnts?”
It was over in fifteen minutes. The man walked to the four corners of our property and aimed a large square remote, punched at the keypad, then came inside and took Marky’s collar to be recycled. When he was outside, I’d pressed a wet cloth to it. “I washed it,” I told him. “That’s why it’s a little wet.”
Before he left, he told me that the fence was disabled, but that if we ever wanted it turned back on to call him, that it was still there. “Everything’s as it was,” he said. “The only thing missing is the electricity. The spark,” he said, patting Marky’s head, “for Sparky here.”
Tim came home, and when I was bending to take his pot pie from the oven, he pulled the sweatpants and underwear I’d changed into down to my knees and stuck his pinky in my anus. “Okay?” he whispered into my hair. I held onto the stove and watched myself in its flat surface, Tim’s face appearing suddenly, his eyes closed, mouth open, a lock of hair loose on his forehead. “Oh. Kay. Ohh. Kay,” he said. He ate the potpie with his fingers, sucking them triumphantly when he was done, even, at one point, the pinky that had been in my ass.
At the door he kissed me, the flick of his tongue at my bottom lip. “God, I love you. I really do. I’m positively joyful,” he said, “giddy.”
I watched him back down the driveway, his hand in a flat wave. I let Marky lick the potpie dish, let him push it across the floor until it bumped against the baseboard. When I took the plate away Marky went to his water bowl and drank, his big tongue making sloppy, satisfying sounds. When he was done I let him out, collarless and free.
I filled the sink with soap and hot water — as hot as it would go — and plunked the pot-pie dish into the suds. From the window above the sink, I watched Marky bounding from edge to edge. He believed the fence was still there and stopped just short of its boundaries, pausing to pee, shoulders hunched into it, a powerful yellow stream. Then he sauntered over to the edge and didn’t stop. He stepped through the fence and onto the driveway. My hands were red and swollen in the water, my fingers picking at a blob of crust on the dish. Marky continued down the driveway, turned right at the road and disappeared into the woods at the far corner of our property.
I put his water dish in the suds and cleaned that, too, and then I went upstairs, lay on the bed and wept until my ribs were sore. Then I went into our bathroom and straddled the edge of the tub. It felt good to have something hard and cold there, but not nearly good enough.
The story first appeared in NERVE in 2007.