The Kennel Club
I should know better than to pick up calls from the Moon. But even though the wall was flashing “Mare Tranquillitatis,” I waved open the connection anyway.
“Have you found a man yet?”
She glared at me, anticipating my response even before the three-second transmission delay carried my words to her. “I suppose that means no. You’re not getting any younger, Selene! You’re rapidly approaching ‘now or never’ territory. What are you, thirty-eight? You’ll be out of eggs soon!”
And here I’d hoped that dealing with Mom would be easier once she shipped off to one of the retirement communities on the Moon a couple of years back. The first few months, all she’d been able to talk about was how great her boobs looked in the lower gravity. Then she waxed poetic about how much better her knees felt. Then it was back to boobs for a while. And then she remembered that I was still childless. “You were thirty-nine when you had me, Mom.”
Three seconds later, she said, “Which means I got pregnant at thirty-eight. If you don’t bag a man soon, you’ll be sorry! Aren’t you ovulating in a day or two? No time like the present!”
“You’re keeping track of my cycles?”
“I’m your mother, dear. I worry about you.”
The thing is, she was probably right. I hate it when she’s right. “I’ll look for one today, Mom.”
“Wait until dark. They’re a lot easier to snare then.”
“It’ll be sunset soon, so I’d better start getting ready. I’ll talk to you later.”
“Good luck, dear.”
I waved off the connection, went into the hall closet, and hauled out my tranquilizer gun. I hadn’t touched the thing in nearly a decade — not since my first and only attempt to find Mister Right. The darts had probably passed their expiration date, so I’d have to hit the store on my way out and buy some new ones. I’d also need fresh bait.
I tapped my earbug, sent a message to my friends to let them know what I was doing, set the earbug to privacy mode, and headed out.
An hour and a half later, the sun was setting and I was hiding under camouflage netting near the edge of the city park. I’d set out a lure of beer and chips, scattering both to make it look like they’d been accidentally abandoned by a group of picnickers. And to make the trap a little less blatantly obvious, I made sure to scatter some chocolate kisses and a couple of wine coolers as well.
Finding a man must have been a lot easier back before they all went native in 2021. You know, back when they were still a domesticated species.
I strapped on my night vision goggles and settled in to wait.
Nearly half an hour later, a large buck male dressed in tattered flannel and ratty tighty whiteys came out of the woods and sniffed at the potato chips. Nah, too big. I’d never be able to haul him back to my Toyota. He opened one of beers with his teeth and began to guzzle.
Maybe I shouldn’t have put out the entire lure at once. Well, if he ate it all, I’d just have to restock and try again tomorrow night.
Another pair of males tentatively peeked out from the trees. The more well-muscled of the two attempted to snatch an unopened beer for himself and got cuffed for his troubles by the large buck. The other man, a much slighter specimen, gathered up the chocolates and one of the wine coolers and sat down on a nearby tree stump. He unwrapped one of the kisses, put the wrapper in the pocket of his worn oxford dress shirt, and popped the chocolate in his mouth.
Yep, he was the one.
I hit him square in the neck with my first shot, and as he toppled over, the other two males scooped up all the beers they could find and dashed into the woods.
I threw off my netting and walked over to examine my quarry under a wristlight beam. Slim, blond, fairly clean, good teeth (if currently chocolate-stained). I slapped a medtab on his neck to make sure he wasn’t teeming with diseases — venereal or other — and it registered clean. He’d do. I made sure to snap a picture of me kneeling behind him, gun on my knee (Mom would kill me if I didn’t), then trussed him up, tossed him over my shoulder, and deposited him in the trunk of my car.
I’d finally bagged myself a man.
My friends were waiting for me back at the apartment. A champagne cork flew past my ear as I gaped up at the “Congratulations! Now You’re a Woman!” banner hanging from my living room ceiling.
Mitzi handed me the bottle of champagne and said, “It’s about time!”
I dumped my drugged man on the sofa and took a swig straight from the bottle. “Yeah, yeah. I know.” I was the last among my circle of friends to bag my own man, and they’d been teasing me about it for years.
Rashell draped an arm around me and led me into the kitchen. “We’ve got the kennel all set up for you.”
My eyes misted up at the unmistakable sight of “our kennel.” We’d pooled our money together and bought it as a group back when Anika decided to land herself a man at the tender age of twenty-two. She was the first in our group to get sperminated, so we threw her a shower, bought a kennel big enough for an average-sized man to stand in, and promised to pass it from friend to friend as we each got our own men. At some point, a plush little man-bed got added to the kennel. There it was, right next to the bowls of water and kibble. “Thank you so much. This is great.”
“There’s a full bag of StudChow by the cabinet,” Rashell added. “And we got you some piddle pads for when he has to do his business.”
Anika and Lindsay helped me lay him down on the little bed and affix his obedience collar, then I untied him and locked the kennel tight with my thumbprint before going back to the living room to join my friends.
Rashell leaned forward on her elbows and said, “Now, prepare yourself to be underwhelmed. He probably won’t have much staying power, and he sure as hell isn’t going to vibrate.”
“I tried to get my man to vibrate by giving him a lot of coffee,” Mitzi said. “It didn’t work. He was done in three seconds and then he needed to pee.”
Anika rolled her eyes. “You women have no idea how to handle a man. A little flattery, some strategically-placed cold-cuts, and you won’t even want to look at a vibrator for a week.”
“I don’t really care,” I said. “I’m mostly doing this to get my mother to shut up.” I looked over their shoulders to the drugged man lying in a carefully-arranged pile of limbs in the kennel. Nah, I couldn’t really see the appeal.
Mitzi handed me the bottle. “Here, here!”
I took a deep swig. I needed all the liquid courage I could get.
He woke up a little while after my friends left. I heard groaning from the kitchen and wandered in so I could see what my man looked like conscious and well-lit.
He sat up, rubbing his eyes, and then dropped his hands and his jaw simultaneously. “Oh god. It’s finally happened.”
I gestured at the piddle pads and said, “If you need to go, go on those.”
“Oh god. Oh crap.”
“Let me know if you crap so I can change the pads immediately.”
He fixed me with a wide, blue-eyed stare and asked, “Why me? What, was your aim off or something?”
“No, you were the one I wanted.”
“And to what do I owe that honor?”
“When you unwrapped the chocolate, you didn’t litter. I figured you were the man least likely to destroy my apartment.”
He scowled. “Damn my ecological sensibilities.”
I pointed at the bowls near his head and said, “You’ve got water and kibble. I’m going to bed now. Be good.”
He sighed, lay down on the man-bed, and stared off into space. I switched off the kitchen lights, sent a text message to my mother letting her know that I’d finally done it (and attached the picture as proof), and headed for bed.
I really hoped he was good about using the piddle pads.
When I stumbled into the kitchen the next morning in search of caffeine, my man was already awake and grumpy. “This kibble is awfully dry. Do you have any more of that chocolate?”
“Sorry, I only bought enough to bait the trap.”
I dug a cube of tea out from the cabinets, plunked it in a cup, added water, and waited for it to finish self-heating. “Have you used the piddle pads yet?”
“I’m really not interested in being penned in with a stinking puddle of my own filth.”
“Well, pissing on the linoleum will only make things worse.”
He pressed against the bars. “Come on! Can’t you see that we’re two intelligent beings here? Just let me use your toilet.”
“Intelligent beings wouldn’t run away from civilization to live in the woods like animals.”
“Oh, I beg to differ. Intelligent beings recognize when they’re being stifled by towering artifices of…well…artifice.”
“Creative,” I quipped. I took a sip of tea and sat down at the kitchen table.
“You women are too dependent on technology and manufacturing and thesauruses. You’ve lost all sense of what it means to be a human animal. Men haven’t.”
“And that’s why you’re wearing a button-down shirt and a pair of khakis.”
He looked down and shrugged. “I have sensitive skin. Come on, just let me use the toilet. I swear, I know how it works. They still tell stories about them around the campfire.”
“Show me you can get everything into a bucket and I’ll consider it.” I pulled a bucket out from under the sink, and waved him back away from the door to his kennel. “Move.”
He gripped the bars with a glint in his eye. “Make me.”
At my verbal command, the obedience collar jolted him with a surge of electricity, and he collapsed to his knees, clawing at his neck.
The corrective shock ceased, and he crept back from the door. I unlocked it and put the bucket in with him.
He looked down at the stain on the front of his khakis and said, “Too late.”
I sighed and turned away to see if I had any instant croissants left. It was a good thing the groomer would be here soon.
“He looks great! Thank you so much.”
My man stared at me sullenly from inside his kennel. The groomer had bathed him from head to toe, shaved off his beard, combed the knots out of his hair, and pulled it back with a pretty bow. She’d offered to dress him in leather shorts and a tiny vest, but I kind of liked how he looked in khakis, so she’d had a new pair delivered, along with some brown loafers, and a multihued blue-striped button-down shirt.
“I hate this,” he groused.
The groomer tut-tutted him. “They like being filthy, but don’t worry, once he realizes he’s no longer itchy, he’ll change his tune.”
I snapped a quick picture. I didn’t think the bow would last for long.
After she left, I pulled up a chair and regarded him through the bars. “I’ll be ovulating tomorrow, so we should be able to get this over with tonight.”
“Good for you.”
“Look, the sooner you fulfill your biological destiny— ”
“Maybe I don’t want to fulfill my biological destiny.”
“I’m not so hot on it either, but that’s what we have to do. You know, if your people hadn’t run off into the woods to reclaim your masculinity or whatever, this would be a lot easier.”
“This isn’t exactly what we had in mind when we signed the treaty.”
Ah yes, the Breeding Rights Treaty of 2024. When it became clear that the men wouldn’t be coming back any time soon and that the sperm banks were running dry, a treaty was negotiated between both sides to ensure the continuation of the species. Men would make themselves available as studs to any woman who wanted their services, and women in turn would hand over their boy children to the men as soon as they were weaned. The men insisted that conception take place the old-fashioned way — no sperm banks, no artificial insemination — so as to keep their role in the process from becoming as artificial as the world that they’d escaped. It had worked well at first, but when the same volunteers kept stepping forward time and time again, women decided to take the matter of choice into their own hands. “It is what it is,” I said. “There’s no use complaining about it.”
He tugged the bow out of his hair and threw it to the floor. “So, what, are you going to force me to have sex with you or something?”
“No! I’d never…” I waved my hands in a vague way, fishing for words. “I mean, you’re not gay, are you?”
“No. I don’t think so. I mean, I have sex with men, of course, but I enjoy looking at pictures of naked women.”
“Well, then, you’ll have a real, three-dimensional naked woman all to yourself tonight.”
He screwed his face up in thought. “Yeah, I suppose I might like that. I mean, I’ve never touched one before, so I couldn’t tell you for sure.”
“I’ve never had sex with a guy either, so it’ll be new for both of us.”
“But surely you’ve practiced on mechanical simulations of men, haven’t you?”
It was my turn to shoot the funny look. “Is that what you guys think we do all day? Hump sex robots?”
He gestured around him. “You’ve mechanized everything else. It makes sense you would have mechanized us as well.”
“You know, a lot of this was invented by men.” And that was a sticking point with a many of us women. We weren’t exactly happy with the thought that the men had set up a nice cozy world for us before opting out of it.
He shrugged. “Sorry about that. If it’s any consolation, we don’t want any of it back.”
Before I could formulate a response, the wall started flashing “Mare Tranquillitatis.” “It’s my mother. I have to take this.” I held up a stern finger. “Behave.”
As my mother’s face filled the kitchen wall, I pointed to the kennel and said, “See? You can stop nagging me now.”
Mom dabbed tears from her eyes. “I’m so proud of you, dear. Now, has he had his shots?”
“The groomer took care of that this morning,” I said. “He’s even de-wormed. Don’t worry, you’ll be a grandmother soon.”
“You’ve taken your meds, yes?”
I picked the empty box of Fertility up from the counter and said, “First thing this morning. I’m guaranteed at least two viable fetuses or my money back.”
“So, what’s your man’s name?”
“Uh…I haven’t asked.”
“It’s John,” he said.
“Your father was named John, dear. It’s one of their favorite names. Oh, speaking of men and their traditions, do you still have that man-drum I bought you for your thirtieth birthday? They do love drumming.”
“Yeah. I think so.” It was probably in a closet somewhere.
“That’s not true!” John said. “Saying that all men love drumming is just as bad as saying that all women love shoes.”
“I certainly love shoes,” I said.
“As do I,” my mother added after the three-second transmission delay.
John grumbled and sat down on his little man-bed. “All right. You’ve got me. I like a good drumming circle as much as the next guy. It’s just not the same alone…in a cage…in an apartment.”
“So,” my mother said, “be sure to do it a few times, just to be safe.”
John and I made identical noises of disgust.
“Oh, please. Men and women enjoyed having sex with each other for millennia, barring all the issues around troublesome historical gender politics, of course. Don’t squander the time you have together. Oops! Gotta go. My basketball league has its big game tomorrow, and I need to go practice my slam-dunks. I love Lunar gravity! You know, I think my breasts are getting even perkier. Ta!”
The wall winked off, and I turned to look at John.
“You know, maybe I’m a lesbian.”
“Why couldn’t you have realized that before you tranqed me?”
I eventually gave in to John’s entreaties to try my toilet. “I thought you were against modern creature comforts.”
He stepped out of the kennel, tugging nervously at his obedience collar.
“Shitting in the woods isn’t quite as natural for men as it is for bears.”
I gestured to the bathroom. “Have at it.”
“Hey, that’s the tub!”
“What? Oh, it’s…” He lifted the toilet seat and peered into the bowl. “Why keep it covered?”
“From what I hear, there was speculation back in 2021 that the toilet seat issue was why you all left in the first place.”
“Uh…sure.” He pulled down his pants and settled his butt on the seat.
“Aren’t you going to close the door?”
I closed it for him. Right now, I was having a difficult time understanding men’s historical appeal.
My earbug chirped. It was Mitzi. “Hey, are you busy?”
“No, just toilet-training my man.”
“Great, we’re coming by.”
And then the doorbell rang.
I opened the front door to find my four friends standing there, their arms filled with shopping bags.
“You called from the hallway?”
“If you hadn’t answered, we would have just broken in,” Mitzi said as she pushed past me and into the apartment. “I’m off to take care of the bedroom. Rashell, a little help?”
“What? Oh, goddess, no.” I knew what that meant. We’d been doing it for each other ever since Anika’s first man. I would soon find my bed covered in red satin sheets, festooned with sex toys and pornography, and with shackles on the head- and foot-boards in case my man didn’t cooperate. The thought of using any of those things made me alternately want to laugh or puke.
Lindsay took her bag into the kitchen. “Men are very picky about what they like to eat,” she said as she started loading Hungry Wench frozen dinners and bottles of Bud into my fresher. “You used Bud to bait the trap, right?”
“Yeah, I found some at a specialty store. But John’s actually into chocolate and wine coolers.”
“Ooh, you’re lucky then. He’s gay.”
Anika plunked down on the sofa and pulled me down next to her. “The gay ones are the best. They don’t come into mating with any preconceived notions about what a woman should look and feel like. I had the best sex with my gay one. The worst was the one who actually volunteered to come home with me.”
“He was your second one, right?”
“Oh, he was a nightmare! ‘I didn’t realize you’d be so hairy! I thought boobs were firmer! What do you mean you’re all wet down there?!?’ Ugh. I had to ball-gag him just to get it over with.”
“Yeah, but he ended up liking that.”
Anika smiled. “Oh yes, yes he did.” She took my hands and said, “Now, look, I want you to do your best to make this enjoyable for the both of you. Sex with a man can be an awful lot of fun if you’re willing to be patient and playful. Did you know that if you stick your finger up their bum, they get an instant erection?”
Lindsay came back in from the kitchen and plunked down in an armchair. “Lies, all of them! I tried your finger up the butt technique, and all I got for my troubles was a piece of shit on my fingertip.”
“I told you to wear a latex glove.”
Lindsay ignored her. “Look, I don’t know how Anika finds her studs, but I’m telling you, the best thing to do is chain him to the bed, slap a blindfold on him, squeeze his penis until it’s stiff, and then climb on and get it over with.”
“Maybe that’s why we don’t volunteer for breeding duty anymore,” John said.
Anika gestured at the bathroom door and said, “Exactly. We didn’t used to have to tranquilize them. They’d just come when called. And come, and come — ”
Lindsay whacked her on the arm. “Ew! That reminds me, be sure to have some tissues by the bed, because you will not believe how messy it’s going to be.”
“I can hardly wait.”
“The bedroom is set,” Mitzi said as she and Rashell strode from the bedroom. “I even left you some crotchless panties in case he doesn’t want to look at what’s going on down there.”
There was a scream from the bathroom, followed by a thud.
“I think he must have tried to get out the bathroom window,” I said. The obedience collar was set to keep him from leaving the apartment. Yes, there he was, curled up in a fetal ball in the tub, clawing at his neck.
“Aw, would it have killed you to flush first!”
My friends eventually left the two of us alone so, as Anika put it, “the magic could happen.” John and I sat on opposite sides of the kitchen table, staring down at its faux-wood surface.
I slapped my hands on the tabletop and said, “Let’s just get it over with.”
“We only have to do it once, right?”
“Once should be enough. The drugs should see to that.”
“Your friends didn’t bring any other drugs over, did they? Maybe something that would let us hump like bunnies without realizing what we were doing?”
“Let me see.” I peered into the sole shopping bag they’d left behind. “Nope, just some tequila.”
“Let’s try that.”
It didn’t work. We got blind drunk, then grabbed the pornography from the bedroom and proceeded to go to separate corners and take care of ourselves. So much for natural instincts.
So I crawled into the bathroom, the world spinning around me, and took a tab of Sobriety. My head now clear, I snatched the porn from John’s hands and used it to lure him to the bed, where I proceeded to shackle him to it by his hands and feet.
Alas, he’d had too much tequila. Even the finger up the butt trick didn’t stir him.
I read the back of the package of Sobriety to see if it had been tested on males. It didn’t say, so I called their hotline to ask if it was safe.
“We can’t guarantee anything,” they said. “But if you’re not particularly attached to him, give it a try and then call us back to let us know if it worked.”
I unshackled him and let him sleep it off instead.
The next morning, he stumbled to my bathroom and urinated for an impractically long time. I gave him a mug of tea and said, “Drink up. The sooner we get this over with, the sooner I’ll release you back into the wild.”
“Just chain me up and get it over with,” he moaned, clutching his head as if he feared it would fall off.
“You’re not at all curious?”
“I think last night pretty much answered that.”
“Yeah. For both of us.”
He moaned again and took a sip of tea. “This stuff isn’t bad.”
“Maybe you could just give me some sperm in a cup. I won’t tell if you don’t.”
John looked up at me, bleary-eyed, and said, “No. We have to do it the right way.”
“Why? Because of some stupid treaty?”
“No. Because, as much as I hate to say it, it’s the natural thing to do.”
“Tranquilizing a man and dragging him back to your apartment is natural?”
“You know what I mean.”
So we finished our tea, girded our metaphorical loins, and did it the old-fashioned way.
It was pretty awful.
And then we did it again with him chained to the bed, just as a precaution.
It was a little less awful.
And then we tried it again, both of us wearing fancy lingerie.
It was slightly less awful.
Then we thought maybe we should try it in the living room to see if the recliner was more ergonomic than the bed.
It could have been worse.
Then he asked if he could be chained to the bed again, this time with a ball-gag and a blindfold, just to be extra precautious.
It wasn’t a total waste of an hour.
Then I decided to see if all those years of yoga had made me flexible enough to put my feet behind my head.
It wasn’t a half-bad way to stretch out.
Then he asked if I could spank him with a spatula while he was hog-tied in his kennel, just to be extra-extra cautious.
It presented a certain degree of difficulty.
“I think I’m chafed,” I said as I untied him.
“Need…water…” He crawled over to his bowl and started lapping.
“Well, it’s been an…interesting afternoon. I guess I should drive you back to the forest and let you go free. An apartment’s no place for a man.”
He leaned back against the bars of his kennel and said, “Yeah, I suppose you’re right. But, if you decide to have another kid…” He trailed off, eyebrows raised.
“I’ll leave out some wine coolers.”
I let him dress, snapped a leash onto his obedience collar, and took him out to my car to drive him back to the park. When we got there, he turned his blue eyes on me and asked, “Are you positive that you’re pregnant? Really positive?”
A few minutes later, we pulled up our pants and climbed out of the back seat. I unsealed the collar, handed him a bag of wine coolers and chocolates, and said, “Be free, little man.”
I drove off before he could try to follow me home.
It was for the best, really.
Back at the apartment, there was a message waiting for me on the wall. Mom, of course. “Are you sure it’s a good idea to bring children into this world? I’m not sure you’re ready to be a mother, especially since I won’t be around to help. Society puts a lot of pressure on women to have babies, but if you’re not—”
I deleted the rest of the message without listening to it.
I pulled a Bud from the fresher and wistfully took in the ruin that was my apartment.
A big family suddenly seemed like a good idea.
You know, just to piss off Mom.