Testosterone in Iroquois Falls by Mark Creedon

In 1970s rural Ontario, young Marc Perreault suffers from a hormone deficiency, and decides he's had enough; by Mark Creedon.

It was Saturday night, October 10, 1970, and Linda Perreault was tending bar alone at the Capital, while her boss and two colleagues were off at a wedding. She didn't usually mind working by herself, but tonight she was jumpy.

The band was loud and many of the men were already drunk. At the end of the bar, a small black-and-white television flashed images of Pierre Trudeau being interviewed by a reporter on the steps of Parliament Hill. Linda thought she noticed a tic in the eye of the usually unflappable prime minister.

A man wove to the bar and ordered a jug of beer. Linda handed it off, retrieved her quarter tip from a puddle, and mopped up the spill.

She stared at the crowd and wondered when things would get ugly. The trick was to spot the spark that would ignite the room. It might be a clash between French and English, or some guy who suspected every other guy of lusting after his girlfriend.

If two men came to blows and one started to lose, his friends would come to his aid, and then the friends of the other combatant would join the dance. Soon, every man between nineteen and sixty would be brawling, except for one. The whole place could be a sea of flying chairs and overturned tables and Marc Perreault - Linda's big brother - would still be sitting there under the framed picture of Frank Mahavolich, sipping his draft.

Nobody, except a stranger, would even push Marc. A few had tried. Whenever he went to the Capital, he would sit with his posse - Justin, David, François, Mario, and René - and if anyone approached him with anything but friendship, they would regret it.

The locals all knew him, but an out-of-towner could make a mistake. So, when people visited Iroquois Falls, their hosts were careful to describe Marc and warn them. No one wanted to be the one whose houseguest messed with the Perreault boy. Aside from the physical danger, no one wanted to show disrespect for the Perrault family. Marc's father, Michel, was the fairest and most respected supervisor at the Abitibi paper mill, and his mother, Suzanne, was the town's favourite kindergarten teacher.

It helped that Marc was easy to spot. At twenty-one, he was six-foot-seven and still growing. But he was a remarkably skinny giant. At 146 pounds, he was practically emaciated, and his light blue eyes, blond hair and pale skin gave him the appearance of a lanky angel.

As a child, Marc attracted his share of bullies. But he was lucky to have had a few staunch supporters who made it their mission to not let him be beaten down by the world.

One of those was Becky Hall, his close friend since junior high, and his most passionate bodyguard. Once in grade seven she rescued Marc from a mob of kids who herded him off school grounds and tried to shave off his shoulder-length hair. Becky caught up with them and threw herself into the horde, fending them off like a windmill, waving her arms and screaming until the ringleader finally spit on the ground and retreated.

Secondary school was worse. Marc had a few good friends from grade school, but his harassers got bigger and meaner. By grade ten, the other boys had bulked up and sprouted facial hair, while Marc stayed lanky, lean, and hairless as a plum, apart from his golden locks.

Being forced to shower with everyone after gym class was a torment. Reggie Harris and Bill Mitchel taunted him mercilessly, calling him "mini dick" and holding up his skinny arms to show off his lack of muscles. When Marc told his parents, Michel and Suzanne met with the principal, but the bullying continued. By the end of grade eleven, Marc quit school and his father got him a job at the mill.

A week later Michel and Suzanne were arguing about his progress at the mill. Marc was supposed to divide his time between a carpentry apprenticeship and the loading docks, but the reviews were dismal.

"He's not built like the other apprentices and he can't do half of what the other labourers do," Michel sighed.

"You know it's not his fault," Suzanne said. "Are there no other jobs?"

"None that he can do. He's just got to get stronger."

"You know he can't just 'get stronger.'"

"Well, maybe he should go back to the doctor," Michel ventured.

"What, and take the treatment?"

Michel was silent, but his eyes said, "Maybe."

"I can't believe this," Suzanne said. Her hands were shaking.

"Suzie, he can't do his job."

Suzanne lowered her voice and looked around before whispering. "Do you want him to become a Reggie or a Bill Mitchell?"

"That's not what the doctor said," Michel countered. "I remember him saying he couldn't predict what would happen. What if this is Marc's only chance for a more normal life?"

Suzanne looked down and Michel grasped her hand gently.

"I just think he deserves to know his options."

Suzanne gave the slightest of nods.

Days and weeks went by, and life got in the way. Marc stopped confiding in his parents the way he had before, and he quietly put the word out to friends at the mill that he didn't want his dad to worry, so they helped him come up with a system. Marc did what he could, while his co-workers did the rest, and he received credit.

Michel and Suzanne slipped back into their routines, and because Marc seemed to be doing well at work, they allowed themselves to believe that things were fine.

Over the next few years, Marc almost got used to the other apprentices and labourers covering his share of the work. But he never felt good about it. There was no way to feel good about having the muscles of a twelve-year-old and having to rely on other men to do his job.

On the night of October 10, a fight did erupt. Some truckers from Kirkland Lake started it, and after they began beating a few local men, Marc's friends jumped into the battle. Linda's concern turned to dread when the biggest trucker smashed a beer bottle against the bar and brandished the jagged end at Marc. Marc leaned back in his seat as the man lunged at him, going for the tallest guy in the bar. That was when Marc's best friend, Justin, jumped between the man and Marc and tried to knock the broken bottle to the ground. Within seconds, there was blood everywhere, and Justin's friends were grabbing towels from behind the bar to wrap around a deep gash on the young man's right hand. The trucker ran off and Linda called the police. They arrested some of the men, while others escaped.

Marc and his friends took Justin to the hospital and Marc got home at about 3am. Linda heard him climb the stairs to his bedroom and shut the door. Moments later, when she heard muffled sobs, she crept down the hallway and rapped on his door. Suzanne appeared next, and both women ended up in Marc's room, sitting opposite him on his bed.

When Suzanne asked what was wrong, Marc thought for a moment, but there was no point holding back. In a town as small as Iroquois Falls, his parents would hear the whole story soon enough.

"Justin got into a fight at the Capital and some guy from Kirkland Lake stabbed him in the hand. He's hurt bad. The doctor said he needs surgery and won't be able to work for three months."

Suzanne's sympathy turned to alarm. "Were you in the middle of it?"

"Mom, I'm fine. You know I stay out of fights," Marc said. "It's Justin. He only has one month of sick days."

"Oh, that is bad," Suzanne said.

Marc's voice rose to a high-pitched sob as he admitted his real concern.

"Justin was defending me. And I just sat there."

"So, you were in danger! Did someone come after you?" Suzanne asked.

"An out-of-towner. A trucker. Justin put himself between us. And he's paying a big price."

Suzanne stared. Finally, she said, "I see. How terrible. But what a good friend. We will have to bring him a casserole."

"A casserole won't get him through two months of lost wages or a layoff!"


"If he wasn't trying to save me, he wouldn't have been cut," Marc said, his voice rising again.

"You don't know that," Suzanne countered.

"Well, I know one thing. Justin and my friends are having to work hard at the mill to make up for what I can't do. I'm sick of it."

Suzanne tried to hide her surprise. "I thought things were going better at work."

"Well, they haven't been," Marc admitted. "I'm the same weakling I've always been."

Suzanne put her arm around him. They stayed that way, with Marc's bony shoulders heaving under his flannel shirt as he cried out his frustration. When he settled down, his mother kissed him and went back to bed, with a promise to talk in the morning. Linda stayed a little longer, and the brother and sister sat in silence. Marc cast her a look of thanks.

"You okay if I go?" Linda asked. Marc nodded and managed a small smile.

Back in her room, Linda couldn't sleep. She turned on the radio next to her bed, with the volume low, and listened to a CBC news report. James Cross, the visiting British diplomat, had been kidnapped by the Front de Liberation de Quebec, and Trudeau was talking about sending in the army. Right, Linda thought. That'll help. Boys and their toys. It never ended well, whether it was a bar full of yahoos or the government fighting a nationalist group. She clicked off the radio and stared into the darkness.

At 5am, Linda woke to banging and whispering. She climbed out of bed and crept to the top of the stairs. When she heard her parents' strained voices, she sat on the landing and listened. Within a minute, Marc appeared, looking bleary, and sat down next to her.

"It's time," Suzanne was saying.

"What happened?"

"His friend Justin got hurt at the Capital and he's blaming himself. Worse, he's ashamed for not being able to do his share of the work at the mill."

"What do you mean? He's doing fine."

"He says his co-workers are still having to do it all."

Michel looked confused. "Okay," he said. "I need to talk to his supervisor about that. But what's this about? I thought you wanted Marc to stay the way he is."

"I do, and I don't," Suzanne said. "I saw it tonight. He's miserable."

"We've been through this before. He'll get over it."

"I'm not sure he really got over it before, and it's different now," Suzanne said. "We need to get him back to Dr. Benoit, and we need to tell him the truth."

Marc shot a look at Linda, who looked at him but kept quiet.

"You think he should try the treatments?"

"Well, I think you're right." Suzanne said. "Marc should know his options. Last time we had him tested he was sixteen. And we never told him about the full range of treatments."

Marc furrowed his brow and stared ahead.

"Marc's an angel now. Do we want to risk making him like every other man?"

"Hon, I don't know. But I do know he's old enough to decide for himself."

Marc faced Linda and whispered. "Did you know about this?"

"I might have heard something-"

"Should I talk to them now?" Marc looked agonizingly at his sister.

"Why don't we sleep on it? You can talk to them after mass."

Everyone was slow-moving after their sleepless night. Marc brooded over his cereal bowl in silence until they all left for church. He daydreamed through mass, mulling over everything that was troubling him: his parents withholding information; his past, failed attempts to get stronger; his constant need to be rescued by others; and now Justin. I have to do something, Marc thought. I can't keep letting my friends fight my battles and do my work for me. On the edges of all this, he began to feel excited about this mystery treatment that could apparently turn him into a monster. As much as he despised the boys who had bullied him in school, being more like them was starting to seem better than continuing to be like himself.

Back at home, Michel and Suzanne asked Marc and Linda to join them for a family meeting. Suzanne made everyone black tea, and they settled onto a pair of old couches. Marc pulled a pillow onto his lap and listened while Suzanne and Michel explained that there was a medical option that they hadn't discussed before - a treatment that might help Marc.

Linda studied Marc's face. She wondered if he might be angry with their parents for hiding the truth from him for so many years. If he had been upset the night before, he didn't appear to be now. In fact, Linda could see his eyes glimmering as his lips curled in a smile. Monday morning, he made an appointment with Dr. Benoit for November 10.

Marc was excited. Even hopeful.

Marc had travelled south to Timmins many times before with his parents. Today he was going to see Dr. Benoit with Linda, who offered to tag along.

As the bus entered Timmins, Linda and Marc gazed out at the city - a busy hub for Cochrane, Iroquois Falls, Kapuskasing and other northern towns.

From the bus station, they walked to the Timmins and District Hospital and found their way to the endocrinology unit. They had just finished registering when the unit head, Dr. Benoit, recognized Marc and ushered him into his office.

Inside, Dr. Benoit settled the siblings into chairs and sat behind his large oak desk. The doctor was careful not to comment on Marc's height, even though his patient had grown a foot since his last visit.

"Marc, it's been five years. How have you been? How's the family?"

"I want to start the testosterone treatments," Marc blurted out.

Dr. Benoit smiled before responding with a note of caution. "We'll have to retest your levels before we begin any therapy, but first, we should discuss what you want from the treatment and what the risks are."

"I want to be like every other guy at the mill. I need to be strong enough to do my job."

"Fair enough," Dr. Benoit said. "So, to review your case, when I took your blood five years ago, you had almost no testosterone in your body. If I put you on a dose of testosterone it will affect your body and mind in many ways, both good and bad."

"What are the good things?" asked Marc.

"You will stop growing taller. Without testosterone, men and women can't stop growing. You'll get body hair and a beard; your penis and testicles will grow to normal size. With exercise and increased nutrition, you will be able to develop your muscles and become stronger."

"That's what I want," Marc declared.

"What are the bad things?" Linda asked.

Dr. Benoit addressed his patient. "For one thing, acne. But we can control that. Your situation is extreme. I have never had a patient before with such a severe case of hypogonadism or such low testosterone. You could see significant emotional side effects..."

"How bad?" Marc asked.

"It's impossible to predict. The testosterone could make you depressed, preoccupied with sex or prone to anger, until you can learn to control these feelings."

"I'm willing to risk it. When can I start?"

Linda searched Marc's eyes. "Are you sure?"

Marc faced her. "I'm sure!"

Marc had a follow-up meeting at the hospital the next week. His latest test results revealed that he still had almost no testosterone in his body. Dr. Benoit and the pharmacist, Ms. Marjie Calla, had developed a treatment regimen for his first month.

When Marc returned home and showed his pills to his parents, he could not stop smiling. "I feel like Jack holding a bag full of magic beans."

Within two weeks there was abundant proof that Marc's hormone treatments were having an effect. He had acne for the first time in his life. However, the medication Ms. Calla included in his package controlled it well. Within a month, he had his first body hair, and the month after that, he began to grow a beard. Most incredible of all, his penis and testicles began to grow. By the end of six months, they were of normal size.

Marc started lifting weights and eating more protein. Because of his hormone treatment, his exercise and diet and the physicality of his jobs at the mill, he bulked up quickly, gaining forty-five pounds of muscle in the first six months. In the year after that, he added another sixty-five pounds. In eighteen months, Marc went from six-foot-seven inches and 146 pounds to six-foot-seven inches and 256 pounds.

Dr. Benoit was amazed by the dramatic changes he saw in his patient. Marc was thrilled. His parents were thankful to see him so happy. His co-workers were impressed as well. Marc was now rivaling François for the title of strongest man in the mill. His boss noted that truck loading was far more efficient, and now all the carpenters wanted Marc to be their apprentice.

The patrons of the Capital noticed the difference too. Marc was no longer a bystander when his friends got into a fight. Most of the time he just had to approach the man fighting his friend and the combat would be over, but over time he joined the fray.

At first, he got hit more than he hit, but with experience and coaching from his best friend Justin, he learned to win bouts. He was proud of his fighting skills. He looked forward to the next brawl. Still, he never started a fight.

Marc had always been popular with girls and later women because he understood them and was a great listener. However, until now all the female interest in Marc had been platonic except for Becky Hall. She had fallen in love with him when they were twelve and had never stopped. By late high school, she had to concede that Marc had no romantic feelings towards her. She had given up on him and dated other guys. In community college, she became reacquainted with Reggie Harris. She didn't like Reggie, mainly because he had bullied Marc in the past, but that didn't stop Reggie from pursuing her. Over time she realized that Reggie had changed. Reggie even gave up drinking for her. He got a job at Abitibi as a purchasing agent. Soon after, he proposed, and Becky said yes.

Their marriage was even more romantic than their courtship and Becky was pregnant within six months of their wedding. Reggie was thrilled to learn that he would be a father. Still, by the end of the second trimester Reggie began to change. He complained that Becky was not spending enough time with him and accused her of having an affair with her obstetrician. When she laughed at this suggestion, Reggie slapped her across the face. She cried and threw him out of the house. Becky came to the Perreault household and told Marc and Linda everything.

Reggie stayed with his parents for the next week but then returned with two dozen pink roses and promised Becky never to harm her again. She let him return home and three months later little Jason was born. Reggie resumed being a good husband and strove to be a good father. Still, he was frustrated by his infant son who was waking frequently in the night. He felt neglected and accused Becky of spending too much time with the baby and even of having affairs with other men. Becky knew better than to laugh. Despite her efforts, the beatings started and got worse with time. When Becky came to Marc and Linda and told them her story, they took her to see Father Sullivan.

Over the next three months Becky tried to work things out with Reggie, but he refused to go for counselling. Finally, Becky bundled up Jason and went to live with her parents. She applied for an annulment of their marriage. With Father Sullivan's help she received an annulment within a year. She was free of Reggie.

Becky was grateful for the support that Marc and Linda had given her over the past year, and she confided in Linda that she wondered if Marc would ever feel towards her the way that she felt towards him. Linda was not able to offer much encouragement.

"I don't think so, Becky. He'll always think of you as a friend or a sister."

"But look at him now. He's a beautiful mountain of a man. Doesn't he find me attractive?"

"Becky, it's not you. I've seen lots of women flirt with him, but he's just not built that way."

"Do you think that he's gay?"

"What? No. He's just not interested in sex. Don't tell Marc I shared this with you, but Dr. Benoit asks Marc about his sex life from time to time. Marc always says he doesn't have one."

"How does Dr. Benoit explain this?"

"He believes that Marc went so long without testosterone that he missed that step. He was twenty-one when he started taking the treatment. The testosterone helped with the rest of his development, but it was too late for his sex drive."

"Well I'm glad that it isn't just me, but I feel sad for Marc."

Linda sighed, "So do I."

It was Thanksgiving weekend and most of Marc's buddies were either going to play for the Abitibi Hockey team or cheer for it at the Northern Ontario Tournament final in Timmins. Marc would have loved to go and see the game but when Becky asked him to help her and Jason move into their new apartment, he agreed. Linda was stuck working at the Capital on the same weekend. Becky could finally afford to move out of her parents' home because her annulment was finalized, and she got half of the equity in the house that she and Reggie sold. This meant that Reggie was forced to rent an apartment, but Becky was past worrying about her former husband. Reggie, however, was not finished thinking about Becky and his son and the man he felt spent way too much time with them: Marc.

By the time Becky and Marc got to the Capital, it was nearly full. Becky's mom had taken Jason for the night. Reggie had arrived about five beers earlier and was raging to his friend Bill about how Marc had stolen his wife. In mid-rant he spied Marc and Becky walking through the door, laughing, arm in arm. He drank two more beers and stared at his ex-wife and Marc, silently running through his plan. This is the moment, he thought. Marc's friends are in Timmins. Bill's here to help me punish that bastard.

Reggie ordered another beer and drained half of it in one gulp. He stood up and motioned to Bill, and the two of them marched over to Marc's table, where Reggie threw his beer into Marc's face before saying a word. Marc stood up and as he was rubbing his eyes Reggie sucker punched him in the stomach. Marc doubled over and Reggie kicked him in the butt so hard that he crashed into the next table and sprawled onto the floor. Marc could taste the peanut shells and the sawdust from the floor. Like a jolt of electricity, Marc could feel his muscles tighten as surges of energy pulsed in his veins. He got up and deflected Reggie's blows and decked him with a right cross. Reggie collapsed to his knees. While Marc admired his handywork, Bill hit him in the jaw, and he crashed onto the ground, giving Reggie time to get to his feet.

Linda jumped over the bar and screamed at the men to leave her brother alone, but they were already taking turns kicking Marc, who was tucked into a fetal position. They must have kicked him six times before Becky emptied her salt shaker into Reggie's eyes and Linda did the same to Bill. Reggie and Bill both staggered backwards. Each of them picked up a glass of water from the nearest table and poured the water into their eyeballs. Then Reggie raised his right arm, made a fist and advanced towards Becky. This spurred Marc to his feet. He grabbed Reggie by the shoulder, spun him around and punched him in the face repeatedly, savagely. Reggie's front teeth fell out, and blood was spurting from his mouth. Bill came to his buddy's aid and jumped onto Marc's back. He grabbed Marc's hair with one hand and hit him in the face with the other fist, until Marc yanked Bill off his body and hurled him into the stand-up bar. Everyone heard the sound: a sickening crack as Bill's back slammed into the steel rail.

The next year was hell for Marc. The police charged him. His parents hired Kelly O'Neil, the best lawyer in Iroquois Falls. Becky and Linda were her primary witnesses. Ms. O'Neil recruited a dozen Capital regulars who had been in the bar that day. They all joined as witnesses for the defense. The judge found Marc to be innocent of criminal charges. In separate proceedings, another judge dismissed the civil suit that had been launched by Reggie and Bill regarding their injuries. Ms. O'Neil successfully used self-defense for both matters.

Michel and Suzanne were ecstatic, Marc's friends were triumphant, and Becky and Linda were joyful. Marc, however, was depressed. Reggie's face was disfigured, and Bill would never walk again. Bill lost his trucking job. He and his family had to sell their home and move into an apartment. Marc could not forgive himself for what had happened.

Becky tried to talk him out of feeling guilty, but with no success. He stopped listening to her. After going through the motions at work he would sit at home in front of the TV or hide in his room. She couldn't watch him slowly disintegrate before her eyes, so she applied for work in Toronto, and was invited to interview with IBM. She took the bus to Toronto and stayed overnight with her aunt Mary. The interview went well and three weeks later IBM offered her a job as a secretary with the promise of training for work as a programmer.

Becky was caught. This was a great opportunity, but she did not want to leave Marc. Once again, she consulted with Linda, who urged her to take the job. "Marc is on a journey of guilt and self-pity. He'll only drag you down. You have to look out for yourself and your son."

Becky agonized for days. Finally, she asked Marc to meet her at the Capital. They sat in his usual booth and he stared off to the side, barely there. Becky spoke softly.

"Marc, you know I don't want to leave, but I can't watch you keep punishing yourself."

Marc shrugged and looked at his hands.

Becky was not going to let this go. "Why can't you forgive yourself?"

"Why should I?"

"Well, for one thing, they attacked you. Two judges forgave you. Why would you hold yourself to a higher standard than two judges? Isn't that like saying you're above the law?"

"That's ridiculous! There's the letter of the law, and there's the spirit. Just because they didn't convict me doesn't mean that I did the right thing." His voice trailed off. "I know."

"You know what?"

"That I went too far. Look at the damage I caused!"

"A lot of people have forgiven you. Two judges, Father Sullivan, your parents, your friends. You have to forgive yourself."

"I can't, because I'm guilty. I'm violent! I paralyzed Bill and disfigured Reggie. I could have killed them."

"But you didn't! And you were defending me."

"I could have pushed them away with a hand to their foreheads. I enjoyed hurting them!"

"That was in the heat of the fight. You're not cruel."

"Maybe I am."

"Marc, you're a good person.," Becky said, working up the courage to continue. She looked into his eyes and said, "I love you. I always have. Let's be a family. I can make you happy again."

Marc looked startled. He spoke softly. "Becky, I love you too. I've always loved you, but not in that way. I can't make love with you, or anyone."

"I can live with that! And you're great with Jason. You'll be the perfect father."

"You say that now but one day you'll get tired of living like brother and sister."

Becky reached across the table. "Marc, your love is all I need."

Marc pulled his hands away. "What you need is a normal man. You should go to Toronto."

Becky fled from the bar, crying. Three days later she and Jason boarded a bus for Toronto. Over the next six months, she wrote to Marc every week, but he never wrote back, so she started to phone him. They would talk for a few minutes and then he would say he had to go somewhere.

Marc's friend Justin tried to get through to Marc but failed. Then he had an idea. He asked Linda to bring her brother to his home for dinner on Saturday night. After the meal, Marc thanked Justin's wife Madeleine for a delicious feast. Justin turned on the TV and he and Marc watched the hockey game while Madeleine and Linda talked in the kitchen. The Leafs had won the first period and Marc was more relaxed than he had been in months. Between periods, Justin spoke. "Marc, it's good to see you smile again."

"I do feel good tonight."

"That's great," Justin said. He looked for a natural opening, but in the end, he just blurted out what was on his mind. "Think it's time to let go of that bundle of guilt on your back?"

"Justin, look, if Linda or Becky put you up to this, you can let it go..."

"Whoah, no," Justin said. "This is me. I'm worried about you."

"Worry about yourself."

"Okay, sure," Justin said, "but I'm not the one punishing myself for something that wasn't my fault."

"Here we go again," Marc said. "It was my fault. I'm guilty. End of story."

"You were defending yourself and Becky."

"Yes, but I enjoyed it. I was controlled by hate and rage."

"Okay, but Marc, think of it this way. Every boy has to learn how to deal with aggressive feelings. Most of us figure it out gradually. You had no aggression until you were twenty-one. Then you suddenly had a truck load of it."

"I did, and I failed. I can't trust myself. I could kill someone."

"That's bullshit!"

"No, it's real. You don't know how I feel."

"I know that Becky thinks you're the same guy that she's always loved. Instead of letting her love you, you drove her away."

Marc stood up and shouted to the next room. "Linda, we're leaving." He moved towards the door, but Justin got there first and held out his hands.

"You don't think I know you? I know you. You're the guy who listens to everyone's troubles. Now that you need help, you're shutting us out."

Marc tried to push past Justin. Justin stepped in front of him and tried to herd him back toward the living room, but Marc just picked him up and raised him six inches off the floor, pinning him against the wall. Justin weighed two hundred fifteen pounds, and Marc boosted him like a kitten. Justin struck at Marc's arm and freed himself from his grip but now Marc raised his fist. His eyes dilated and his nostrils flared. His breathing quickened.

Madeleine and Linda ran up to him and shouted, "Marc. Don't hit Justin!" He didn't. Instead, he fled out the door and drove home without his sister.

On Monday morning Marc called in sick and took the bus to Timmins. Politely but firmly, he told the receptionist that he had to see Dr. Benoit immediately. The doctor had a cancellation and agreed to see him at 2:30pm. Dr. Benoit was aware of the bar fight and court cases over the past year, but Marc repeated every detail. Then he added his account of the fight on Saturday night with his oldest friend.

"Take me off this damn testosterone. It's turned me into a monster."

Dr. Benoit reflected for a moment and then spoke softly. "You know that if we do that you will return to the way you were before."

"I'll stop taking those damn pills with you or without you."

"It will be dangerous for you to stop without our help. If you still want to do this, I will see you next week and we will begin the reversal."

Over the next nine months, Marc reduced his testosterone intake to zero. His beard thinned and then disappeared. His body hair vanished, and his genitalia shrunk. His precious muscles deserted him. That was the hardest loss, but he never doubted his decision.

On Friday and Saturday nights you will still see him sitting in a booth at the Capital Hotel, under the framed picture of Frank Mahavolich. He sits with Justin and his other friends. He is the lanky guy in the corner that looks like a twelve-year old boy who has been stretched. Becky used to call him every week, but he told her she was spending too much on long distance. She doesn't call much anymore. Justin and Linda are convinced that he misses her deeply, but it's hard to know because he never talks about her. Still, when someone mentions her name, his eyes get misty.


  1. Great story. I love the symmetry of the tale and the characters seem very authentic. Never heard of this medical condition before but it sounds real. I suppose the story could apply to any medical intervention where the side effects are not without costs. A compelling read

    1. I appreciate your insights into the story and yes hypogodanism is a rare but real condition.

  2. Beautiful story. Mark has a wonderful way of finding elements of beauty in darkness. I enjoyed his book "Caught Between Two Devils," which depicted a quest for hope during a dark period of human history.

    1. Thanks for the kind words about "Testosterone in Iroquois Falls" and the plug for "Caught Between Two Devils".

  3. Great read! When I was studying literature in University I was told that the 'short story' is one of the most challenging to complete because one has to collapse a great deal of information into a small space while at the same time giving the reader a complete picture that will leave him/her satisfied. Mark has achieved this in his short story. Congratulations!

    1. Your analysis of Testosterone in Iroquois Falls is both positive and informative. Thanks for you insightful analysis.

  4. Very interesting story. The culture of working class Canadians at that time is well portrayed. Marc perhaps could have been prescribed a lower testosterone dose, rather than going off it completely but indeed he was a complex character and had a very strong conscience. .. the theme of aggression is prominent and handled well, on various levels and from different characters perceptions.

    1. Kim, Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I am glad that you enjoyed Testosterone in Iroquois Falls. Mark

  5. Short stories are my favourite genre and this one I really enjoyed. I was transported to small town Ontario in the 70s. The story and characters were intriguing and very believable. Fast forward to 2021 hoping that we as a society are beginning to fully accept people for who they are.

    1. Marjie, Thanks for your positive feedback . I am glad that you enjoyed this tale. Mark

  6. Easy and entertaining read. I was fortunate to read Mark's book which I would recommend and I'm sure Mark has more stories in him. Keep them coming!!

    1. I am gratified that you enjoyed "Testosterone in Iroquois Falls" and thanks for the feedback about my novel, "Caught Between Two Devils".

  7. This is a very well crafted and engaging story.

    1. Thanks for your encouraging words.I wrote the basic story but I received a lot of help from my editor , Lee Parpart, at Iguana books and my friend David Wilmot.

  8. Thank you for your encouragement. The core of the story I wrote but I received a lot of help from Lee Parpart, my editor at Iguana Books and my friend David Wilmot. Mark

  9. My attention was held throughout wondering what was going to happen next. What a gift to write such a complete story in so few words. I felt that I knew the main characters by your excellent portrayal in both words and feeling. I felt compassion for Marc and Becky.

    1. Anne, Thanks for your feedback. You have described the emotions I was striving to evoke. Mark

  10. Very Symbolic Mark! And a very interesting psychological conflict.

  11. Interesting story. It raises the perennial question: when should the use of drugs be encouraged for the good of an individual? And additionally, if drugs are good for a certain case, how does that affect the moral outlook of when should the use of drugs be considered bad for an individual? Mark seems to take the individualist approach to drug use in this story (which I mostly agree with), but it deftly presents the unforeseen tradeoffs that come with altering one's body chemistry. A famous example of this slippery slope in real life is Lionel Messi, who took human growth hormone in order to overcome a 'deficiency', and subsequently became the greatest soccer player of his generation. Not taking away from Messi's talents and hard work, but one has to wonder how his natural hormonal makeup and HGH boosters contributed to his dominance in the sport. (The use of drugs in sport under illicit circumstances is of course well documented.) Finally, I was glad to see Marc choose the path that he did at the end, which implicitly acknowledged that all drug use has at least some tradeoffs, and that perhaps the best cocktail to consider is nature's own, even if it makes one unique.

    Kudos Mark on a story well done. The Canadian accents were a nice touch, too. (One can't read that story with a standard American accent.)

    1. Indeed, good questions. Marc's inner personality didn't seem to change despite the changes in testosterone levels... he never initiated aggression. Hormone changes often lead to personality changes, another moral dilemma. Good comment James.

    2. James, Thanks for your thoughtful and informed perspective. If I had been Marc's brother I would have encouraged him to keep taking the testosterone but a lower dose coupled with counselling but then again I'm a social worker and have a strong bias towards therapy. Next time we get together I will have to read you this story with a Canadian accent. Mark

  12. Lots of layers to peel back on this one. Interesting story. Some things interwoven to set the time period were a bit stretched. An examination of "masculinity" at two ends of the spectrum made me think how far and how not very far we have come since that time

  13. Beautiful story, Mark!! It takes place in the 70's however, is timeless. All the themes in this story remain relevant today. A pleasure to read!!

  14. Quite an emotional multi-layered tale. Marc's "all or nothing" mindset with respect to his condition and treatment drove much of the complication in this tale...of course, such stubbornness is often associated with masculinity, yet another layer to consider. Well done.

    1. Ron,

      Thanks for your feedback and you are correct; masculinity is one of the major themes. Mark

  15. An enjoyable story to read. The character development was good and the plot moved along well. Interesting take on a uncommon condition.

    1. Tom, Thanks for posting your reaction to this story. Mark

  16. This story reminds me of our insatiable quest to be more than we are. We all want more happiness, more love and more recognition of our worth. To get these things, choices have to be made. Sometimes these choices bear positive fruits and sometimes they result in loss. It is hard to predict how events will turn out. Still, we often forget that nothing is free. A price has to be paid. Marc’s desire to be more than he was, brought him satisfying physical changes but he lost his sense of dignity and self respect. In his mind, he lost more than he gained. It saddened him and the readers, like myself. Still, it was a reality that we can all appreciate. I enjoyed the story and I congratulate. Mark Creedon for his insight of our human condition.

    1. Vito, Thanks for your insights and your positive recognition. Mark

  17. Those of us who are interested in the human mind and psyche continue to be puzzled by the mysteries of the human body and brain. I find myself wondering if we could ever truly understand the complexity of the individual, and his or her behaviours and emotional reactions. Hormones and other chemical reactions in the body, along with the interventions and interference of drugs and modern medical interventions are still a puzzle. This is what makes literature so valuable, the possibility of entering the mind of another human being through his or her story. I think that Mark did a great job of giving us some insight into a complicated condition and into the character of one man who suffered from it.

    1. Merika, Thanks for your deep and valuable insights. Mark

  18. Great story! An interesting look at the concept of masculinity and how it's constructed and experienced, particularly as one or the other of of two sets of extremes - and how constraining that can be. I'm looking forward to reading Caught Between two Devils.

    1. Lesley, You are correct that masculinity is one of the most important themes of this story. I'm glad that you enjoyed it and I hope that you enjoy "Caught Between Two Devils. If my short story resembles a Twilight Zone episode, my novel is more like a Disney movie but with more biting reality.

  19. A very nice story. I thought it violent and then sad. A nice easy read with a great deal of detail. very good character development especially regarding Marc. Must be tough enough in Iroquois falls without that very difficult condition. Thanks for writing this Mark. I enjoyed it.

  20. I believe that this is a true story: Marc reminded me of more than a few gentle souls who tried to overcome their challenges, and got into new challenges in the process. Thank you Mark for portraying Marc from an empathic angle.

    1. Catherine, Thanks for your personal and important insights. Mark

  21. An excellent story, Mark. The need to be a kind, compasssionate and caring human being out weighs to the need to fit into gender roles and expectations. Excellent character development and execution of major themes. I enjoyed the story, thank you.

  22. Mark I found your story's beginning suspenseful and compelling and enjoyed the realistic setting. I wasn't sure the "Testosterone" title would interest me but the lens from which you explored this hormone was thought provoking.

    1. Rosemary, Thanks for your personal and thoughtful response, I appreciate your feedback revthe beginning; I spent a diprportionate amount of time writing the beginning and the ending. Mark