2015 Barthelme Prize Honorable Mention: Threeway

Wes Wrobel

One afternoon my brother and I decided that today was the day we watched our own conception. At twelve years old we had already burned our way through the rest of our father’s porn collection, a small filing cabinet packed with VHS tapes from the early 1980s, when he and our mothers were in the business. We’d watched all our parents’ friends getting naked and screwing as schoolteachers and students, housewives and repairmen of every stripe. It was how we unwound, the way other brothers might turn on a ballgame.

I don’t remember what made us watch this final tape, the video we’d heard stories about all our lives. One and done: their first time together, their very last shoot. Maybe we finally realized the opportunity we were squandering. But it was a porno like all the others—funnier, in fact, with our mothers’ giant hair, our father’s patchy mustache, their polo shirts and tiny khaki shorts.

Counselors at a summer camp … the children asleep in their bunks ….

We’d seen all the pornographic gymnastics before, but it was different—sweeter—watching our parents going at it. They took their time with each other, and truly kissed each other’s mouths. There was an obvious chemistry between them even then, a connection and a satisfaction impossible to simply pretend. Though maybe, knowing them as I did, I was only seeing how good they were to each other in the present—their patience, and their care.

Finally, my father shook and pulled himself out and the scene was over, but my brother and I were just beginning. “Look, there you go,” I told him, as the semen dripped out of my mother’s vagina, down into the vagina of his mother.

Somebody ran the numbers on hormonal contraception failing for both women in the same threesome; for both of them to be ovulating; for both of them, within moments of one another, conceiving a child by the same man. The odds must be astronomically against, fractions of fractions of a percent, and yet there is video evidence of its occurrence.

Afterwards, when it became clear what had happened, they laughed about it, disbelieving their collective luck. My parents knew what was expected of them; they were professionals. My mother was still a newcomer, but my brother’s mother was one of the most sought-after actresses in the Valley. Don’t think I don’t know I should have been a scrape, and my brother should have been a scrape and our mothers should have been stars beyond stars, but the miracle of pornography as I understand it is: there is no circumstance or degradation that does not include the possibility of love. Perhaps this is the miracle of love. Sitting around the table in my father’s kitchen, they each saw in the others the first family they had ever wanted to be a part of. We were the something better they always knew would come along.