Melissa Seley’s nonfiction has appeared in numerous publications including H.O.W. Journal, The Spectrum Anthology, Gastronomica, Mary, Tokion and Paper Magazine, and in the exhibitions Changing Urban Seen and Underwater NYC. She holds an M.F.A. from Sarah Lawrence College.

Image credit: painting by Caroline Allen


Excerpt from “The Long Drive”


I was with my dad when I first saw a set of car testicles. This was in August. It’s always August when I go home now. We happened to be barreling down a steep slope of road in his emerald green Ford truck at the outset of a daylong trip to Al the Wop’s, a diner in the mostly deserted town of Locke on the Sacramento Delta. No one else was in the car. We’d snuck out of his house before his wife was awake. Behind us, the Sierra Nevadas cut a craggy heart-rate line across the dry blue backdrop of sky. Up to our left, on a concrete plateau loomed the Sun Splash Waterslide Park, a giant knot of twisted primary-colored tubes, matte-dull and massive, like a magnified model of the intestinal tract. Over a patch of Triscuit-gold valley in the distance two hawks flew in circles riding the surges of hot air that poured out from the yawning earth.


The way my dad drove—slowly, delicately—it was as though the terrain through which we descended was not a series of foothills laced with med-clinics, all inclusive gyms, and housing developments, but an alpine meadow. His face was puffy with sleep. He wore a business suit. At his neck, the collar of a starched white shirt was buttoned; its tips jutted out in points held by flat plastic stays. Down below the underpass, traffic was bunching up in a herd. It was then, as we pulled to a stop and idled at the light, our minds dozing out over the dash, that a curious vision caught my eye. From the trailer hitch of a black Chevy ahead of us dangled a chrome object, roughly the size and shape of a toddler’s fist. I squinted, leaning forward to get a better look, extending the seat belt’s embrace.


It was a leaden replica of a scrotum sack. Deliberately hung beneath the license plate. I checked my dad, but he appeared calm, pleased even, lost in his thoughts. From wondering where one purchases such a thing I skipped to hoping the set I was seeing had been handmade, an emblem of a neo-masculine craft along the lines of the tiny Guatemalan worry dolls girls sported as bracelets or tucked into their pillowcases during the ‘80s, the variety of phenomenon Robert Bly could get off on.


As opposed to mass-produced in a Chinese factory, I wanted to believed the ball’s had been created out of an individual’s imagination. Perhaps the driver of the black truck had caught his wife earlier that week wrapped in in the arms of her mortgage firm colleague—who could blame him if he had constructed a scrotum totem of revenge?

If wearing his balls on his sleeves so to speak buoyed him?

Or were the balls some form of anti-Bobbitt voodoo charm?

Or a proof-prayer combo, as the worry dolls had symbolized for friends, that one had plenty of balls but wanted to let the gods know it would be perfectly acceptable to have more of them?

Or maybe this wasn’t balls at all, but my mind in the gutter, and whatever was swinging from the driver’s hitch—decent, utilitarian—something to do with jet-ski trailers and proper distance?