Short Story Yeet! That! Teet!
The high-tier prizes involved top-of-the-line gender-affirmation surgery—usually stuff not covered yet by health insurance.
When I first talked to Darren about the idea, I was dozing on the living room couch after work while he did a live class on the spin bike with Cheyenne, his favorite instructor. I’m not sure how much he was listening to me. He stared at the screen as though he might ride the bike through it and into Cheyenne’s arms in front of a live studio audience.
“Hey, what do you think about me cheating on the show for a contestant?” I asked him.
“Sounds good, babe,” he said.
“I was thinking of losing my job while I’m at it?”
“Whatever you want.”
Cheyenne interceded. “Raise that resistance! Rise up like dough into your new thin crust! Am I the only one thinking about pizza?”
Darren smiled in an unconscious mimic of her California-broad expression. I would never admit to being jealous of Cheyenne—being jealous of a virtual spin instructor who only wore spandex onesies would be ridiculous—but sometimes his interest in straight women made me feel a little insecure. We met on a dating app that allowed users to sort by trans status and I sometimes wondered how much my original plumbing piqued his interest.
If Cheyenne was having a bad day, she never told the class, whereas I often vented to Darren about the day’s minutiae: the silver Beemer with WLDPEAS vanity plates that nearly squished me into roadkill as I sprinted to catch the train, an uneven sidewalk that made me drop the entire production team’s hot lattes, the shaft of sunlight into the dressing room that made my nose sweat. Darren rarely exhibited sympathy; instead, he made fun of me for my clumsiness and sebaceous disposition. (He called my acne “evidence of a sebaceous disposition” like he was on the Dr. Pimple Popper channel, which he watched every morning over his post-spin smoothie).
Our living room fit only a wall-mounted television, his exercise bike, and our love seat. Sometimes it felt too small for both of us. After work, I took off my blazer and napped until dinnertime. As I fell asleep, I watched the sun refract the dried crusts of Darren’s sweat on the wall. The larger ones iridized like miniature prisms, whereas the tiny droplets created texture on the flat eggshell paint, a stippling like the background of a painting. Darren sometimes tried to get me to join in and take a turn on the bike, but I hated the classes because they never felt finished: There was always another hill to climb, another plateau to master, another flat section on which to speed faster and faster until the session was over. Even then the reprieve was temporary until the next day, the next session, the next hill.
As I drifted off, I remembered that I still needed to clean up the broken glass behind the couch from when Darren switched into third position, stumbled, and knocked the photo of us at my sister’s wedding off the wall. I pictured the shards clinging to the beige carpet fibers.
A few hours later, as we chopped veggies and basted chicken, my phone pinged with new notifications. Startled, I lost count of our METs. The new diet Darren wanted us to follow meant a lot of math.
“Is that him?” Darren asked.
“The guy you’re trying to help?”
“So you were paying attention.”
“Of course I was, Mason.”
Darren held the chef’s knife with both hands as he slapped it down into the carrots and broccoli. Uneven orange and green slivers bounced off the walls and ceiling. The grooves in my cutting board notched his previous attempts at this sloppy, exuberant technique. (I had encouraged him to watch video tutorials on basic knife skills—the mere suggestion infuriated him.)
“What do you think I should do?” I asked. A broccoli floret skittered across the stick-and-peel linoleum. It slid into a crevice below the dishwasher, where I imagined it would stay until long after our tenancy.
“Ask him what he needs. Then figure out what you need. Go from there.”
“Ugh. That sounds like something from spin class.”
“Chey makes good points.”
The show opened with a spotlight on the showrunner and host, Max LeBange.
After dinner, Darren went to take a shower, so I put on some old episodes of Yeet! That! Teet! and cuddled a pillow. The title sequence flashed on the screen in a rain of cartoon cash as the smooth jazz track played. My mind went hypno-blank in the buzz and hum. Rows of bright lights turned on in waves to follow the pan of the camera to the audience. The shot panned across the crowd as they yelled “YEET! THAT! TEET!” They cheered and hooted from the fold-down bleacher seats. Even after six months of working on the show, the yell gave me goosebumps; the ends of my arm hairs stood up against the inside of my sleeve. Enthusiastic yellers were often picked as contestants, so the savvier spectators brought cardboard signs or printed T-shirts.
Contestants aimed for a specific number as they spun a large wheel. The effort on their faces amused me because force increased the chance of a miss. Next, they answered multiple-choice trivia questions. And in the final round, they answered open-ended, recall-based questions about queer and trans history. Though the lower-tier prizes on the show were all consumer objects from our advertisers—pink Swiss knives and lumberjack kitchen aprons—the high-tier prizes involved top-of-the-line gender-affirmation surgery, usually stuff not covered yet by health insurance. Facial feminization/masculinization, chest reduction/augmentation, sucking wads of fat from one place in the body and blowing it out into another. Gossip among show staff valued the procedures more than $500k each.
The show opened with a spotlight on the showrunner and host, Max LeBange. He was one of the first trans men to earn an eight-figure acting salary. As he aged, competition for roles intensified; he washed up like the rest. When Max delivers speeches at staff functions, he tends to blabber on and on about how everyone on the show is part of one big trans family, how in our work family he not only values being a job creator but feels being one is essential to the future for trans workers. It’s his little reminder that he creates our jobs, that without him, there’s no show and no work.
One of my frequent masturbation fantasies about Max begins at a work function. As he’s talking and talking, I hood him in a gimp mask and zip the mouth up tight. Then I stash him in the break-room closet behind the boxes of flatware, tied to the plumbing.
Last week I told my therapist about how I idolize and despise Max. Having money, power, fame—having abs —seems shameful somehow, like he spends his time in self-adoration instead of helping the community. It’s not like I do much to help the community either, but I’m striving, trying to make it, trying to break in where few have gone before me. I want to be him and I know that despite my best efforts, I will probably never be. For the last four years, I’ve made a New Year’s resolution to do a single unassisted pull-up. Darren suggested one of Cheyenne’s toning-and-conditioning classes. I’m hopeful this will be my year.
Eventually, Darren sat down beside me on the couch. I dozed near him, heat-seeking in sleep. Every time I swam closer to consciousness, I reached out for him, but somehow we never quite connected. I woke in the early hours of the morning alone in the dark with a twinge down the left side of my neck, grasping in the darkness for a body that wasn’t there.
I met Carter at a coffee shop in Midtown, a few blocks away from the studio where we filmed Yeet! That! Teet! We sat on the covered patio adjoining the highway off-ramp as I sipped my iced matcha-soft-serve latte. He tossed his locs behind his shoulders and smiled. Smart and cute—I wondered why he thought he needed my help.
“See, if I win—I have this idea for a start-up,” he said.
I hoped I was arranging my features into an encouraging expression as I nodded.
“I’m big into thinking about the history of the land, including the history of specific neighborhoods, with urban farming.”
“Absolutely,” I said.
“And the trans community lacks the herbal-supplement market that is big elsewhere. Think of all the money made off bodybuilding pills and stir-ins, or the way white moms love SlimFast. An organic hydroponic herbs business would thrive.”
“Love that idea.”
“Think about people wanting to transition being able to supplement their pharmaceuticals with herbs or being able to see smaller changes over a shorter period of time by ingesting capsules rather than injecting hormones. There’s historical precedent—we’ve been creating changes in our bodies for centuries using natural materials, like the estradiol already present in horse urine.”
“This would make sense for people struggling with access.”
“Exactly! Like if you’re on the waiting list for HRT, or you’re dealing with months of insurance denials, or you simply can’t afford it and you’re running out of hope.”
“I know how that feels.” I wasn’t sure I did. When I wanted to go on T, I only waited three weeks for my first appointment.
“These are clean, tested, approved supplements. Not FDA-approved—not yet—but we’re in the process.”
“Are they homeopathic?”
“After the initial period—maybe a year or two—we could move on to mushrooms or other homeopathic options. There’s certainly untapped pharmaceutical potential in mycoproteins. No one else is doing this research, almost like no one else wants to reach this market.”
“No one else really thinks about us.”
“The only issue is the capital to get everything up and running. Get things off the ground.”
“Of course. Funding.”
“Right now, I haven’t been able to get approved for a bank loan big enough to cover what I need. I’m all for pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps, but in this case, I need a bigger strap.”
He winked and I laughed. Carter was charming, and his manner put me at ease.
“I’ll do my best to get you on,” I said.
“You mean it? Thanks, Jason. Thank you so much,” he said.
“It’s Mason,” I said. “Of course.”
His face shone with excitement. I wished I felt that way about, well, something. Anything. I wished I cared about accessibility as much as he did. His plan was better researched and more thoughtful than anything I might have put together. I surprised myself by how much I believed in him. Carter shook my hand and we parted, rejoining the streams of office workers moving from favorite lunch spots back to their desks.
I could try to convince myself that I wanted to pull this off for altruistic reasons, but the truth was that I was sick of only a few guys, Max included, hogging resources more of us might use, resources that Carter and men like him deserved. Once, very drunk at a work party, Max admitted that he was often asked to donate to trans-focused nonprofits but never did. I think he wanted me to absolve him. I refused.
It was easy enough: use a backstage laptop to copy the standard call sheet and insert Carter’s name, swap the call sheet on the line manager’s clipboard when he went to the bathroom—he was pregnant and went every ten minutes lately—and toss the real sheet in the trash. The producers were all high-strung, screamy types, so I counted on my coworkers’ desire to avoid a confrontation with them, even if something about the call sheet seemed off. Carter deserved more than the heavily taxed winnings he had a small chance of getting from the show. He, like all trans guys, deserved the world.
We pulled it off. I waited in the wings as confetti and balloons fell from the ceiling. Lights roved over the studio audience obedient to APPLAUSE signs. Max shook Carter’s hand. Carter peered past him into the backstage darkness, too dazzled to meet my gaze. He went home with the grand prize. When I congratulated him by text, he left me on read. Maybe he would have been selected anyway, without my meddling. Maybe he would’ve won. I imagined him at the center of a celebration, surrounded by trans people who loved him and whom he loved in turn. I felt hollow.
The evening after taping, I saw Max through the privacy spyhole in the front door of my apartment. His retinol-shininess was undimmed by the dingy carpet, though sweat glazed his nose and cheeks; his usually coiffed hair fell in greasy hunks. The fisheye lens distorted his features—first his eye was huge, then an ear. He looked like he had been drinking.
“I can hear you mouth-breathing,” he said. “Just let me in.”
None of my masturbation fantasies about him began like this, but I might be able to work with it. I unlatched the chain and opened the door. In our living room, he paced back and forth in his square-toed leather shoes. One of them was coming untied, and I wanted to bend over and tie it for him.
One of my fantasies did begin that way—when I came up from perfectly tying his shoelaces, he would put his hand on my head and pull me in to his hips; the heat of my breath against his genitals, the teasing and unzipping as I kneeled on the floor in front of him—
Instead, I kept a steady gaze.
“We know it was you who rigged the game today,” he said. I made an involuntary croak, then dry-coughed to cover the unattractiveness of the sound.
“Would you like a drink?” I said.
One of my fantasies involved meeting at a cigar bar over double whiskies as jazz crooned from speakers and our conversation became more intimate until our heads nearly touched; we would drain our glasses and blow smoke rings over one another’s faces—
He made a gesture of assent and I fetched glasses from the cabinet. I pulled out the bottle of good scotch that Darren’s mom had sent him for his last birthday and which he had forbidden us on our current cleanse. I poured him a double. He knocked back one and poured us both another. And a third. He pushed me back into the corner of the couch to make room.
One of my fantasies started out this way, drinking with Max, and progressed to me lying back as he pulled my clothing out of the way and his mouth opened against me—
“Can I have a glass of water?” he said.
I went to the kitchen. As the glass filled from the fridge filter, I stared at the snack cabinet. Darren plastic-wrapped it to prevent idle snacking. With a paring knife, I slit a spyhole.
One of my fantasies detailed a date night with Max where instead of romance or moving quickly to sex, we slowly ate chips together on the couch; we would suck and scrape the cheddar dust from one another’s fingers until we moaned in sensory delight—
Inside the cabinet lay a single opened bag of Cool Ranch Doritos, orange dust clinging to the shelf like spring pollen. Before the spin-class obsession, before Darren’s withdrawal and his distance, we used to drink beer and eat chips on Friday nights.
When I returned to the living room with Max’s glass, he was slumped on the love seat, his ramrod-straight stage posture gone.
“It’s not easy, you know,” he said.
“Being me. Having to host a stupid game show. I was ready to play Lear.”
I wanted to roll my eyes. I patted him on the shoulder. Max’s best-known acting role was as part of a spandex-clad superhero squad working for environmental justice. Over the course of the film, they determine the criminal enterprise responsible for dumping raw sewage into a rural river ecosystem and bring them to justice. Max battles crime, protects the planet, and looks damn good doing it. Though the rare salamander actors were brought back for a sequel, Max wasn’t. The publicity he did around the release featured a lot of incredulous cis people asking him about his workout and diet routine, especially for his pecs. He did have phenomenal pecs.
One of my fantasies began with me running my hands over the landscape of his chest; I would pay special attention to his laser-lightened top surgery scars and tattooed nipples. I would love all the parts of him I struggled to love in myself, all the tells and giveaways that made my trans status obvious—
“It’s so much easier for cis guys when they age,” he said.
“What do you mean?”
“They get the brand sponsorships, the television guest spots. My agent won’t even call me back anymore.”
In one of the press interviews for the superhero movie, the interviewer told Max that when she looked at him, she didn’t see just a trans guy. Instead of responding, Max grinned, though in his eyes was an anger I recognized.
“None of it matters,” I said.
“Cheers to that,” he said. We clinked glasses and fell deeper and deeper into the scotch. Peaty, smoky, the rest of the bottle went down smooth. We talked and we kept talking: about other trans guys we both knew, about parasocial relationships with guys we adored online, about Max’s relationships, Max’s fear of failure, Max’s relationship with his bio dad, about Max generally. I didn’t mind—being close to him was like being close to the sun. At one point I curled into his warm solidity—not that either of us were especially large or broad, but he was much bigger and broader than I was. I had never fantasized about Max simply holding me before, but it felt like an exhale. My wide hips, my keloid scars, my hungry holes—none of it was new to him.
The following morning, I woke up to the whir of the spin bike and Cheyenne’s tinny voice calling out the resistance numbers for a hill climb. My skin felt sticky and, as I shifted my body, I realized Max and I were curled up together on the love seat completely naked. Anxiety gnawed its needle teeth. I hoped we hadn’t fucked, although given how often I fantasized about him, it probably wouldn’t be the worst thing. A pair of boxers hung over the mouth of the empty scotch bottle like a limp flag. Darren was either ignoring me or hadn’t noticed I was awake.
I had never fantasized about Max simply holding me before, but it felt like an exhale. My wide hips, my keloid scars, my hungry holes—none of it was new to him.
“All right, everyone! Up to peak resistance! When you climb that hill, I want you to visualize climbing over the negativity, the carbs, every carb you can see, those pillowy-soft pretzels and Italian rolls, climbing into the valley at the center of a bagel and up to the finish line!”
Light through the blinds glowed on Darren’s skin. He panted like he did in the moments before orgasm, his breath first lengthening with long, lung-expanding intakes where he sucked up all the air in the room, then stopping as he expanded to capacity, bottoming out in his exhales, followed by the breathy groans of pushing into high resistance. Faster, faster, yes, summit, summit, yes! Breath out. Then came the steadiness of the flat road past the peak.
“Pump it up now! Shout-out there BootyJudy from the big El Vee, Las Vegas, baby! Have some desert pizza for us tonight!”
I used to fantasize about Darren sexually, though I rarely did anymore. Now, when I fantasized about him, it was about closeness. Waking up every morning to eye contact in bed, rather than waking up to his side empty. Holding each other through the nights, maybe even spooning, rather than Darren pushing me away because, he said, we got too sweaty when our bodies were close. I missed Darren even though he was right there.
Darren finished his ride and wiped his face with a hand towel. Cheyenne led the class through stretches, and as the fabric of Darren’s shorts tightened, I imagined his balls hot and soft as bread dough. Darren glanced toward the couch, where I quickly pretended to be asleep. He said I was bad at faking it, but now he didn’t seem to notice. Instead, he sighed and went into the kitchen, where he banged around as he made a smoothie.
If we broke up, I wouldn’t be able to afford an apartment by myself, let alone one this close to work, and once again I would be living with guys who wore their underwear four times before washing them (frontways, backward, inside-out frontways, inside-out backward), guys who yelled as they dropped free weights on the floor, guys who ate only raw meat, guys who ate only plain tortellini, guys who made excuses about paying their half of the utilities when only my name was on the lease, guys who were my landlord, guys whose greasy shits concerned me, guys whose delicate coughing kept me up at night, guys who got cucked while I was streaming boss battles live on Twitch, guys who never moved in until their girlfriends broke it off and then became couch invertebrates, basically every type of guy. As Max shifted in his sleep to fill the empty space against my body, a thin crust broke from the corner of his mouth and fell onto my chest. I crushed it with my finger.