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  • Shadowgod - Almost Home
  • Shadowgod - Almost Home
  • Shadowgod - Almost Home
    MCVT
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  • 6,284 Words
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Daddy Bears - 1. Chapter 1/1


And she would pray - for hours she prayed. Lined up her children along the side of an old plastic-covered couch. They all knelt. Every night, “Burdens to my heart, they punish my soul with their wickedness…” Earnestly, she prayed, lifting her voice to the omniscient, “They lie, they steal, they are all hell-bound – coveting, lusting. Ungrateful worms...” Then, one by one, she announced the sins of her children as she imagined them to be.

Along the row of bowed heads during this spiritually-instructive custom was a boy. Not a cute boy; a puny brown-haired boy; a boy who seldom spoke.

 

“Loving father, they have lustful thoughts, their hands touch their filthy bodies in vile ways…”

As guilt-inducing prayers continued the boy wondered why anyone needed to snitch on him, “If god knows everything already, why do this?” His young mind wandered, body holding a reverent pose. In his small brain, he saw a red AM radio – one he noticed in a catalogue. Mentally, his grimy fingers turned the dial on the radio and wonderous adventures tuned out the shaming. Adventures where he was strong, smart and delightfully handsome in worlds where he was a good boy.

 

“Minds filled with the dirt of the damned. Slothfulness…”

At first his imaginings were simple as his fingers turned on his red radio of adventures. He examined how he would feel as a kite – soaring and jumping against a brisk wind and then pop! The string broke and he flew higher, looking down on the earth, then settling in a treetop. So enjoyable.

 

“Born sin-filled. Hateful, thankless, selfish…”

Via red radio, the boy recreated himself as an ice skater, twisting and spinning, gliding smoothly in a spangled costume smiling widely. How high he could jump and he felt his muscles pull his arms close as he turned quickly until he was so turning so fast and so high, he didn’t return to the ice but flew above the rooftops. Whoosh!

 

“Take these damned souls, wash them clean in your blood…”

Weeks turned to months as the ritual continued and the boy’s mental journeys widened. From black and white photos in an old encyclopedia, the boy fancied running the world when he turned on the red radio. Coursing the streets of Hong Kong, Paris and Durbin, feet flying, thighs pumping, arms swinging, he waved to crowds and continued without thirst or hunger - bursting with joy, feet barely touching earth.

 

“Pitiful animals, these cursed beings – undeserving of your pure love…”

Around the second year of this custom that boy had a peculiar thought. In school he learned of the solar system, the stars, planets, the never-ending place beyond the clouds. Seemed he was always hungry and he wondered how it would feel to swallow the entire universe – would his stomach be full forever? Pondering on it, he wondered if he might turn inside-out. Space was a sucking vacuum, that’s what the textbook said. Of course, the image of him standing in the shabby living room with all his internal organs on the outside of his body came to mind. He was sure no one would notice. With fingers entwined, drawing a silent, deep breath he drifted toward his celestial repast. Yes, he swallowed the cosmos and felt Venus and Mars scratching inside his stomach as they orbited the sun. The Milky Way lit his brain as it swirled and suddenly the boy felt enormous. In the next few moments his spirit soared free and wide. He became the universe – he became everything; all. It was only for a few seconds, and it felt wonderful – noiseless, tranquil.

 

“I beseech you to take these soiled souls…”

The boy was glad to pray, and he disciplined himself through red radio into a universe for that expansive escape every night.

Intergalactic nourishment had a profound effect on the boy. It brought an unexpected benefit. He missed the obligatory prayers when they were replaced by theological differences between the adults of the house. A real hell visited his abode as domestic abuse began. Didn’t bother the boy, his imagined red radio tuned into the galaxy during distress.

As he grew, he became more remote and often meandered along the streets of his town. Found his way to areas where chemically-induced universes were available. He tried that, yet unlike red radio, it didn’t have an on/off knob; not the same. He turned from drugs and found a room to rent and acquired a job selling bootleg CDs near busy bus stops. Got hauled in for not collecting sales tax and submitted quite willingly. Hunger offset shame those days.

Incarcerated with other street hustlers wasn’t so bad. The young man had a full belly and sent himself back into the universe when disturbances occurred around him. Well, when the disturbance was over him, the young man was ill-prepared to deal with the ruffians’ demands.

His internal red radio did him couldn’t help as he lay unconscious after failing to fend off a personally invasive fracas, “I can’t be your wife! That’s impossible.”

How unknowing he was.

The young man served the first two weeks of his thirty days in the infirmary unable to use a chair. He often turned on his red radio to relieve the discomfort radiating from his rear. As required, a nurse came daily to record vital signs, check his healing. The nurse was a wide-chested, burly man famed for his brusque nature and professional efficiency. He became interested in the young man who didn’t seem prone to criminality and wasn’t even able to assert himself well. At first, the nurse considered the young man had mental issues and gave him several screenings to find nothing. Wisely, the nurse suggested a half-way house upon release. Pulling a few strings with a social worker, he made it happen as a gesture to reduce recidivism.

The young man thrived in the ramshackle half-way house though the rules were strict. He gained some respect for himself, his mild nature and quiet presence as he continued his education. On the campus of a community college, he excelled. His electives included the arts – drawing and painting. The arts became his major. No one could understand why he had to begin his paintings on black backgrounds instead of white, yet he produced sensitive, expectant renderings of people. When local competitions were announced, he submitted his work with the assistance from his instructors and won several awards.

Working on the campus in the evenings, the young man saved his money, bought a bike then found himself a small studio apartment over a garage. Typical starving-artist lifestyle, though it suited him. He loved painting and his canvasses became larger, life-size as his name circulated with photos of his work. A gallery owner took him under his wing to represent him. Life improved somewhat for the young man and through the struggles, he developed several strange habits along with his acclaim:

His personal rituals now included sleeping with his face covered in a very specific cloth – an old scarf he found at a flea market. He relished the feel of rayon on his face. It filtered out the light from the street lamp and acted like an antenna for his imagined red radio.

In an effort to avoid scrubbing too hard, the artist kept his hands covered in petroleum jelly – he applied it numerous times a day. The paint splatters and gauche washed off easily leaving him with the creamiest skin imaginable.

One dry August, the gallery owner scheduled an exhibit feeling the young man was ready to be introduced to the public in a formal fashion. After several failed attempts, the gallery owner personally took the painter to a local salon and had his beard trimmed and his hair styled. Afterward, unable to even glance at the sudden changes about his face, he ran out of the salon leaving the gallery owner to foot the bill. His upcoming event brought anxiety.

A number of beautiful, tender renditions of people sitting closely hung alongside portraits as the crowd began filling the gallery sipping wine and daintily nibbling from cheese platters. The gallery owner searched for the artist. People were asking to meet the man whose art was so touching, gentle to the eyes with just the right amount of tension. “Where is he?”

Frustrated, the gallery owner called the painter, “Get down here, we got to make some money!”

“My shirt. It’s my shirt, I have an extra button and button hole in the wrong places – “

From years of working with creative sorts, “Leave it unbuttoned. Get down here now!”

The artist showed up with his narrow, flat chest flashing. The gallery owner quickly tied the shirt at the artist’s waist. Keeping his grumbles to himself, the artist felt he was imitating an anemic calypso singer. The flappy ends of the knot compounded his nervousness.

The evening went well with the gallery owner keeping a crowd of over three from forming around the artist. Seems he could handle that number without perspiring profusely and stuttering. The artist mostly nodded – he wasn’t experienced with stale chit-chat.

Much later that night a group of three men came in, they’d noticed the crowd as they passed. Wandering through the gallery, they gave short critiques and were impressed. The artist saw that group and his unease increased. They looked like brutes – men in jeans, leather strapping and head gear from a foreign military, tattoos and tight shirts. These large men in leather and numerous piercings strutted through the small show. The gallery owner greeted them heartily, he sensed another sale.

Trying to disappear into a painting, the artist stood very still. He looked more closely at the men. One of them looked like the big nurse from the jail, and he looked like rough trade that night – trouble. Before the artist could vanish himself, the nurse saw him and approached.

On weak knees, the artist shook his hand and was pulled into a quick hug, “You look great!” the nurse said, “So you’re the artist?”

The artist’s mouth hung open. He nodded and for a split second, he noticed the word “Bears” tattooed on the nurse’s bicep. “I went to school while I was in a half-way house.” Was all that would peep out.

“I’d like to hear about that. How about a drink next door?” The nurse grinned, he considered an open shirt a form of invitation.

“Drink?” The artist abhorred raucous crowds and never took alcohol.

“Yeah, you pour the beer in your mouth and swallow.” One of the nurse’s companions teased, yanking the flappy tail of the knot.

Wide-eyed and tense, the artist was on the edge of a faint. The nurse saw the artist’s face pale and his breathing became shallow and rapid; incoming panic attack. “You guys go on. I’ll meet you later.” He took the soft hand of the artist in his and smiled as his eyes wandered over the artist’s half-bared chest. He licked his lips. The artist stared at his feet. After several more compliments on the artist’s work, he shook hands and rejoined his companions.

All the way home, the artist wasn’t proud of the money he made, the compliments, admiration. He was disturbed about that word “Bears.” Dismissing the names of animals and sports teams, the artist thought of “bears” as a verb. It distraught him.

Perhaps intrigued by the artist’s work, the nurse contacted the gallery owner, got the phone number of the painter and called.

The nurse began visiting the artist’s studio. Soon, he was recruited as a model. Before long there were numerous sketches, and several portraits of a heavy man in front of a window, in a chair with his legs stretched out in the afternoon sun, that big, bald man lounging on a loveseat twisting the corner of his moustache. The man in the paintings carried an air of sagacity haloing his huskiness.

During this time, the two became casual friends. The nurse carefully approached the topic of sexuality with the artist, sensing something curious about the young man. That was difficult as the artist didn’t have the words to express himself well; his responses were clipped, hushed.

After several months, the nurse finally persuaded the artist to visit his home. He was treated to a hearty dinner, music and toward the end of the evening the nurse asked if the artist wanted to watch videos. The artist was enjoying himself thoroughly; he agreed.

The nurse showed the artist porn. At first, the artist turned away, curiosity overtook him and he asked about the all-male activities on the screen. “Are you queer, is that why you’re showing me this?”

“I’m queer. Are you?”

“Never thought about it.”

“Do you get excited when you think about women?” The nurse’s eyes twinkled. “Excited in your drawers?”

“Never thought about it.”

The nurse thought these responses odd, “Where do you find pleasure – what excites you?”

“Outer space.” By this time, the artist felt his friend wouldn’t be judgmental and he told the truth, “I swallow the universe.”

After a long silence, the nurse nodded, staring at the artist. “Yeah? Is it good?”

The artist stared back, “Of course.”

The nurse dismissed that as some new fetish. “Epicurean space sex? That’s different.”

Nurses are perpetually in an instructive mode. Steering the conversation to a more down-to-earth topic, he brought wine and a condom. “Share some wine and I’ll show you a secret.” The artist sipped the tart liquid though he didn’t like it, he did like the idea of sharing with a friend.

The nurse handed him the condom and asked him to read the label. When the artist was finished reading, the nurse asked him to open it. “Now if you want to take your erect penis and put it in a woman, this will catch your sperm so she doesn’t get pregnant. If she has an infection, it’ll protect you.” He stopped and looked at the artist. “Get these at the corner store – they’re cheap.”

The artist nodded, he felt uncomfortable, but took the condom and inspected it.

“Want to try it on?” A subtle strategy.

“No. They come in sizes?”

“They’re stretchy, one size fits most.” Taking the offensive, “I’ll show you.” The nurse stood and dropped his jeans and briefs to reveal a hairy rear and thick thighs, then removed his shirt and sat. “Watch me.” Immediately the area was filled with nurse-musk and a twinge of antibacterial soap.

Stroking himself, “Gotta get hard first.” His shaft filled as the artist watched silently and noticed that the tattooed word “Bears” was preceded by the word “Daddy.” The attention of the artist was drawn away as a proud, erect penis of generous proportions soon appeared with a glistening drop of liquid on the tip. The nurse swiped it and licked his fingertip. The artist drew a quick breath seeing that.

“Don’t pull it tight over the top, leave some room…” The nurse continued his class under the novice’s wide eyes. “Unroll it down your rod. See this? That’s where the semen goes when you ejaculate.” He pinched the end of the condom and looked at his student. “Understand?”

The artist looked at the sleeved erection, he understood more than condom use by now.

Another glass of wine and another question from the artist: “The men on the video, they were having anal sex. Why make a video about that? It hurts.”

Remembering the artist’s injuries in the jail, “It can hurt, and it’s very good with the right person.” The nurse tried explaining about prostate stimulation, but the artist wasn’t so sure.

“Well, how do I know if I even have a prostate?”

Baffled, the nurse instinctively countered with a humorous response – “You can always tell if a man has a prostate. Earlobes. If he’s got earlobes, he’s got a prostate to massage.” The artist’s hand went to his ear immediately.

The nurse had a few more lessons in mind, “It’s late and you’ve had wine. Stay over?”

“No.”

“Why not? I make a great omelet.” Inducement with a coy smile.

“Need my head rag.”

“Head rag?”

“I don’t want to explain it.” The artist was becoming defensive after realizing his ignorance about so many personal things. The nurse felt it was time to call it an evening – try again later.

Through the following weeks, the nurse continued posing for the artist, and even got the artist to visit several other galleries. Still curious about the artist’s sexuality, the nurse observed his interactions with others. Didn’t garner much information; not much interaction. He decided that the artist must be asexual.

Without realizing it, the nurse came to deeply appreciate the man who spoke eloquently with lines, colors, textures and shapes. He relished seeing the artist’s new paintings, many were of him. The lines, colors, textures and shapes of the artist evolved; brighter, bolder until strong, rousing images of the nurse appeared from his brush strokes. Their friendship changed them.

The artist was so changed, he took a brave stance and asked the nurse to his studio for dinner. “Noodle soup and a pudding cup for dessert?” The nurse brought wine and a carton of apricot nectar which he found put the artist in a breezy mood.

The artist anxiously awaited his dinner companion, his studio was spiffed-up and ready for a celebration; a surprise for his one, his only, his best and most trusted friend. Soon, the artist heard a soft whistle as the nurse came up the stairs. The nurse shuffled in the room to see something he’d never seen before: The artist stood in front of him with arms stretched wide asking to be hugged. Bag of wine in one hand, nectar in the other, the nurse grabbed the artist, embracing him warmly and slapped a loud kiss on the artist’s forehead, then stepped back to see the artist was smiling. Blushing and smiling.

What a fine dinner. Warm companionship - an undefined delight lit their table as the two discussed their week. Afterward, they retired to the other side of the room to a loveseat. The artist made another bold move that he’d practiced for several days. Carefully putting his arm around his guest’s shoulder, “Show me kissing.”

Testing the waters, he gave the artist a quick smack on his cheek.

“Not that kind. Hard kisses, long kisses – real kisses.” The artist whispered; he was taking a very courageous step for a very reserved man. Didn’t take but a second for them to enjoy really long, hard kisses. Soon the men were enwrapped in each other’s arms, tongues in teasing play. Filled with elation, when his breathing slowed, “It’s late and you’ve had wine. Stay over?”

The nurse looked around the small studio cluttered with canvasses and the tools of a painter, “Where?”

The artist went to the window and moved a canvas revealing a narrow bed. The nurse looked at the width, and nodded. They would have to be extremely close to sleep or whatever else. In the dark, they undressed to their briefs; slowly, awkwardly, they embraced on the cot.

Touching hesitantly until his confidence gained momentum, the artist silently explored the foreign universe of another man’s body. The furry bulk under his fingertips intrigued him. With an expertly smooth technique, the artist was quickly rendered naked. His breath jerked again and again with sensual schooling studded with kisses, moist lips sucking and his body suddenly broke free. For only a moment, his body, his entire figure shook with pleasure to depths he never knew existed. All his life he’d left his body for pleasure, now every nerve roared with overwhelming sensations. His palms, the soles of his feet tingled, and his toes curled with the blasts of complete release.

After a long, soft moan, they settled close, the artist reached under his pillow and pulled out his face shroud, the hallowed head rag. He shook it out, and lay it over both their faces. The nurse knew that this was important to him and only kissed him lightly, taking a deep sniff of courage from that old scarf.

Daylight brought remorse. The artist had difficulty looking at the nurse. He was ashamed of his brazen, whorish behaviors the night before. Leaden clouds of guilt filled him.

“You have beautiful earlobes.” The nurse grinned over a cup of coffee, feeling the discomfort of the artist. “Need a massage?” The big man wiggled his eyebrows as the artist’s face broke into a smile.

Soon, the artist regained his calm and he glanced at the nurse, “What does that mean, ‘Daddy Bears?’” Smooth fingers stroked along the inked skin.

“It’s an informal club of big, hairy men.” Partial explanation, “Why?”

“The story goes that there was another man who bears…” The artist hesitated, “He bears our sins.” Confounded at his revelation, he looked away. He meant no proselytization – nothing like that. Never.

There was a long silence between the men. From distant voices in his past, the nurse remarked, “What some call sin, others call praise for the body and life we’re given.” Sensing a difficult moment, “Giving thanks for a universe that kept us safe till we met.” Purposefully, he lifted the artist’s hand and kissed it and rubbed the smooth skin on his lips.

The artist looked at the nurse considering the sins he committed the previous night as praise or thanks – that response turned all the concepts around on themselves. Could this radical perspective be true? He wanted it to be so; in its way, it made sense.

“Daddy bears,” the artist thought. Perhaps this hairy, older man did bear something - something he needed - another view, a completed truth, salvation from perpetual shame. The artist sighed deeply and thought further. The story of the man bearing his sins also spoke of a great love from a heavenly father. Was this kind of praise and thanks how to worship his creator?

Long moments of silence suspended between them. He kept his body still yet couldn’t stop the tears for this unexpected blessing. Praise. Thanks. Love. Peculiar way to phrase it but yes, this fatherly-looking man did bear goodness.

Before the nurse left, the artist made a few charcoal sketches of him while they remained in quiet thought. The nurse held his pose in a profoundly peaceful mood after reminding himself of praise and thanks, and being kept safe, yes, kept safe. Deeply moving thoughts from a reinterpretation of his tattoo bringing back catechism classes and several priests.

Daddy bears. The meaning of two words on his arm changed after their exchange, and now their silence. He wanted nothing more than this tender man to stay close and continue this great, hushed exchange. Exchanges in an etheric place beyond superficialities of unresponsive maladies and maddening bureaucracy; presumed prowess and prowling bars. Beyond all that filled his life.

Thanks. Praise. The essence of spiritual beliefs is naught until enacted, he recalled. His simplified explanation to the artist had come so easily from his lips without forethought. Too great to fathom, the grace with which that happened.

As though he were called, the nurse went to the artist and took the charcoal stick from his fingers, “Take me.” Holding the artist’s smooth hand in his, he held him close offering himself as thanks for this exchange. On the bed, the old bear pulled the artist’s thin body on top of his, and opened his legs, bending one knee, “Take me.”

The artist lay his head on the hairy chest. He sensed his member filling and took a deep breath. Being thrust into initiating intimate acts stopped him. Lust, sex, sin… filth, vile, soiled souls. The words screamed through him like distant alarms. He froze for a moment, then noticed the warm skin under his cheek, and heard the nurse’s heartbeat.

Quickly, the artist grabbed his head rag and pressed it to his face, clicked on red radio and began devouring the universe quickly until he imagined his belly tight. He begged all the forces that pushed and pulled molecules through the vacuum of space to propel him toward praise for life, his body and to offer thanks. Squeezing his eyes shut tightly, “divine love,” he chanted to himself, took a deep breath and knelt between the nurse’s legs.

The nurse’s hands caressed along the slender hips, and he glanced at the artist’s full shaft, dripping in anticipation. A moment of unsteadiness shook the artist again. “Divine love, thanks, praise…” He repeated as the nurse took the hesitant member of his lover and centered it on his hot anus. “Push.”

The artist took his rod in hand. His first attempt resulted in an application of his readiness, a generous swath along the nurse’s cleft. Trying several different holds, the artist wasn’t able to gain traction for entry. Frustrated and unsure, he stopped, “I can’t.”

The nurse pulled him to his chest pressing him hard against his own stimulated shaft. He’d never heard a sexual partner with an erect tool say those words. He simply rubbed the artist’s back and held him closely, not perplexed, not impatient or disappointed, he respected the humble candor.

As the nurse returned to his home and began work, he felt an aching gap open inside his chest. The gap was the shape of the artist. A gift, he felt, was in order. The artist was particular about his supplies. A book? Gift card? Too impersonal. Scouring online for the right symbol of his appreciation, he ordered and shipped it to the artist. It would arrive Friday when they would dine together. In anticipation, he bought wine, apricot nectar and sang as he worked. “This is the perfect gift. Just perfect.”

When the nurse arrived, he was greeted with a warm hug. “Did you get a package?” The nurse asked.

“It’s on the loveseat.”

“You didn’t open it?”

“I didn’t order anything. Must be a mistake.”

The nurse picked up the box, “It’s addressed to you. Could be a gift.” He winked.

A few struggles with the strapping tape, the artist sat beside the nurse on the loveseat removing the wrappings and came to the contents. With a questioning look on his face, he lifted a box-shaped package wrapped in a white foam sleeve. A wire hung from it, neatly bundled. Removing the last lining, the artist turned it around, astounded at what he was holding. A red radio! A red radio very similar to the one he imagined.

“My radio!” sneaked out in a wavering whisper. He stared at his gift as though it weren’t real.

“You like it?” The nurse asked.

“It’s perfect! How did you know?”

“Thought you might like some music while you paint. Plug it in, we’ll dance tonight.”

“Don’t plug it in.” The artist’s fingers caressed the buttons, and he kissed the radio, and immediately placed it on the windowsill near his bed. Now he had a real knob to turn and feel the click.

Over dinner, “It won’t work if you don’t plug it in – doesn’t run on batteries.”

“It works fine like it is.”

That completely confused the nurse. For the next several hours he had to gently nudge the story from the artist who was reticent about explaining how a red radio calmed him. “When I feel weak and dirty…”

The nurse hid his revulsion about the artist’s childhood yet understood much more. The situation became clearer as he recalled the strange comments from the artist. This man had suffered years of battering with the image of a red radio that allowed him to swallow the universe and slip away from pain. It’s how he coped with reconciling life with what he was taught. Strange survival strategy, very strange yet effective.

A full moon lit their bed, skin warmed, bodies heated during long, hard kisses and the artist reached over to the knob on his red radio.

The nurse took his hand away. “No.” Searching for a tactful way to explain himself he paused, “You’re not weak or dirty. No swallowing the universe, no escape. I want the whole painter just as he is – body, mind and soul – all of him in my arms all night.”

“But – “

Immediately he was stopped from speaking by a kiss as the nurse held him closely. “The radio is for music, not for separating your mind from your body and leaving. Stay. The past is over.”

They were caught in a situation where a difficult decision was nearing and they stared into each other’s eyes. Both hesitated saying anything until, “I want all of you. What do you want?” the nurse asked.

No answer.

The artist put his head rag over his face without the usual result. Long moments later, artist stood shakily, unbundled the wire on the radio and plugged it in. Soon, strains of Debussy filled the studio as the men held each other closely, rocking gently when the artist whispered softly, “Over.”

“Finished. Done. Just you and me - right here, right now.”

The artist breathed the gentle chords surrounding him. Small tendrils of relief sneaked into his mind along with the music when the nurse whispered, “C’mon.” He stood and grabbed the head rag in one hand and the artist’s hand with his other. “Let’s dance. Put your arms around my neck.”

Wrapping the scarf around their hips, he tied them close and they danced, stepping slowly in the moonlight. They looked at each other assessing what happened. Not easy exchanges; hard-edged realizations, stinging truths and clear bravery. The artist stopped and looked in the eyes of the hairy, old bear. “I love you.”

The nurse tensed, “Do you know what love is?”

“I know it’s better than red radio – better than anything.” The artist squared his shoulders, rubbed his face in the bushy chest in front of him. “Love feels greater than the universe.” Again, he didn’t have enough words to explain himself. But being a cautious man, the artist knew his love might be rejected. To be dismissed, ignored was nothing new to him, except that tonight he took a big chance revealing his ardor to perhaps have some part of it returned. He held hope.

With quick movements, the nurse untied the scarf, dressed and left. Nothing more said.

As he drove away, the nurse was dumbfounded at his behaviors. Why did he leave like that? He’d only confessed his love – asked for nothing. Nothing.

“Love.” He muttered; he’d always hated the word; love is a flaw; a vulnerability. He didn’t allow any of that in his life. Love was a threat to his independent, strong persona; his freedom. Love would soften his swagger, lessen him.

“Freedom,” he thought, “to manipulate naïve young men for a quick fuck? Momentary satisfaction as supreme alpha male, a wounding warrior?” Surely, he was bigger than that. He wasn’t though, and lost a respected friend; a valiant, tender man from his dread of that word. The precious body, mind and soul he wanted was gone in one fear-filled moment.

Finished. Done.

The nurse went to the bar where his friends often drank. Pushing aside all that happened earlier, he drank, laughed, danced and fixed his focus on another young man, a blonde with lusty eyes, tight clothes and a knowing look. Taking him home, the nurse was rough - bound and gagged him, and pounded into the slender body repeatedly, as though he were punishing the man. No satisfaction, no relief from the jagged, twisting pain in his chest.

Many months passed and the gallery owner scheduled another showing. This time, the artist was anxious yet more confident; poised. He’d learned much since his first showing – shake hands and smile often, especially to potential buyers. Hair trimmed neatly, clean shaven, a red shirt with all the buttons in the right holes, he arrived early to approve the final touches. The gallery owner was proud, serving two different kinds of wine that night. So many paintings, one was displayed along the sidewalk near the door. Large painting of a husky man in the afternoon sun, twisting the corner of his moustache, showing a bit of a smile at one corner of his lips.

Music played softly as the clientele nibbled daintily from cheese platters. Several gathered around the artist. Again, stale chit-chat and he listened as they complimented, offering them a nod and a smile, his smooth hand to shake.

As was their custom, three men were on their Friday night cruise and passed the gallery next to the bar. “Hey, the guy in that painting - he looks like you.” One of them noted. Yes, this was the pack of daddy bears who frequented the bar alongside the gallery. They went inside the gallery, again commenting and this time they were even more impressed with the large masculine form on several canvasses.

Of all the paintings, the one where of the subject was twisting his moustache drew the nurse’s interest. He stood in front of it, seemed something changed, he couldn’t figure out what it was. The gallery owner came to his side, “Only twelve-hundred. Lot of interest in this one. Unbelievably rich rendering, wouldn’t you say?”

“Twelve hundred…” The artist’s work was much more valuable now. By this time, the owner brought the artist to close the sale. The nurse and artist stood side by side, looking at the painting. “It’s different now, what did you change?”

“Been living with you – I mean this canvas over a year; I had to add a smile.” The artist turned to glance at the other canvasses. “Could say you’ve been watching me work every day. Thanks for the radio – still on the same station.”

“Mark this piece sold.” The nurse signaled to his friends to go on to the bar, “I’ll take it.” As he pulled out his wallet, “Want a ride home later?”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

The nurse concluded his transaction and left.

Instead of waiting in the bar, the nurse walked to a nearby grocery for apricot nectar and box of imported chocolates. He waited in his car until he saw the gallery darken, the owner and the artist stand outside. Wasn’t long before they were in the artist’s studio – almost empty now. The narrow cot with the head rag peeking from under the pillow, and the red radio on the window sill looked like they were awaiting his return.

“Got your nectar, chocolates. Let’s celebrate.” The nurse smiled, feeling slightly discomfited aside a more self-assured painter.

The artist brought a crate, turned it over in front of the loveseat. “Thank you for everything.” He brought glasses of ice, a few paper towels and turned on his red radio to play music. When they were seated, glasses clinked in a toast, “To queers and their magazines.” The artist said.

“What?”

“A reporter came by the gallery, took photos, did an interview. My work will be in next week’s issue.”

“People will start saying you’re gay.”

“Gay, straight – doesn’t matter.” He smiled, “Gossiping about my private life would become a discussion on astronomy. Right?” The artist only smiled.

The nurse sensed the distance across the chasm between them, a wide, yawing split. Without the humble honesty of the artist, he wouldn’t apologize, instead: “Mean of me to leave like I did.” He looked at the artist from the corner of his eyes.

“All forgiven. Done. Finished.” The artist said, inspecting the chocolates. “Model again sometime?”

“When?” He was hoping tonight.

“During the day. Better light.” The artist found a fudgy block of nuts, bit a corner off then let it melt on his tongue. “I have a camera now. You don’t have to strain to stay in position.”

As the artist picked up their glasses, took them to the sink, a clock started ticking; the nurse would be leaving soon unless he did something. Had to think quickly. He immediately rejected the idea of being forceful though he wanted to hold the hands with creamy skin, to feel them on his face, his neck.

“Hate to be short, but I have an early day.” The artist stretched.

“No. Please come sit with me.” It flew out of his mouth before he could stop it – “I missed you. Let me hold you.”

The artist didn’t sit next to him but stood near the door, “Funniest thing... When I began painting, I painted people to love me – made the portraits just to have a someone who cared for me; someone I loved and cared for. Found out a lot of people want the same. Just the semblance of love is enough. You were the first to step through the paint and off the canvas…” Hand on doorknob, “I’m going to miss your portrait.”

Still, the nurse was unable to express his love clearly, “One more dance.” The old bear stood and neared the artist, and saw the beginnings of another portrait over the shoulder of the artist. It was half-finished but it resembled the artist himself. His eyes began to burn as the realization of their exchanges came to fullness.

Not waiting for an answer, he pulled the artist against him, swaying with the music. A silent exchange ensued in an etheric place beyond superficialities, beyond all that filled their lives. Neither wanted to leave their embrace.

“Take me.”

Fin.

Comments for improvements are appreciated.

v

Copyright © 2019 MCVT; All Rights Reserved.
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Hope you enjoy this.

v

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Chapter Comments

Frankly, there is nothing that needs improving. The reader needs to open their mind and hearts and allow this in.

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I was riveted by this story.  It's a well-told, well-written, intriguing tale.  I'm looking forward to reading more of your work.  

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I was captivated from the first word to the last. Children have to find ways to survive when life deals them a cruel hand. This portrait of the artist is astonishing in it's depth. Superbly done, V. A poignant, believable journey, and an uplifting conclusion. Cheers... Gary....

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59 minutes ago, MCVT said:

Interesting comment.  I thank you for taking the time to write. 

v

Ok, I will be the first to admit my comment was not very enlightening. Sorry! I was moved by how you portrayed the dissociative experiences of the artist as a young boy that saved his life. And as regards the two men, while the artist was a creator in his own right, he also was alone in creation and Creation until he encountered this “other” and the two became engaged in the process of co-creation —where each was a “human becoming” as much as he was a “human being.”  Maybe that conveys more of what I am thinking. In any case, excellent work" Glad I came across your work. 

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