'I think therefore I am.'  Descartes            'I AM THAT I AM.'  Exodus.3.        'I am what I am.'  La Cage aux Folles

28 December 2010

Short Story - 'A Puppy With Style'


An Appendix to

found in full on a page listed to the right.

August/September 1995.

Of course the perfect little Aryan was not a Nazi. He wasn't born so blond and handsome until a few years after the war. The young German wasn't even tall enough. Some, if they bothered, would have thought him more of a pacifist or a socialist when he was a teenager, but his father and mother had certainly been registered members of the Nazi Party, but as they claimed, 'Wasn't everyone in those days?' Max, his father, didn't like Jews very much, but as far as Hans could figure out, he didn't like anyone very much. Max didn't even like himself. He may have been a cruel man during those horrid days, but the son suspected that his 'old man' was probably very ordinary, no doubt obeyed his superiors, thought little beyond what he was told, and behaved no better or worse than anyone else whose country had called them to fight. That is how it could have been, but what did Hans know of his father? Something had eaten him away, so presumably it was being on the side that lost, that had affected him bitterly. He blamed everyone for his failures, their failures, life's failures. He never praised his children or his wife, showed no affection to anyone and withdrew into the guilt of being a part of those days, that had appeared so bright in the early thirties, but had so subtly grown sour over the next decade. He was a loser.
Max was forty five when Hans was born. He had married late and bore two daughters before he had a son. As the boy grew, he saw this man as old. He was always old. It was a mystery as to why he had any children at all. He certainly gave no appearance of loving them, and he hardly ever spoke to his wife. Perhaps he felt either a duty or merely an urge to have sex with her at the appropriate procreative time.
Eva, the boy's mother, seemed to have none of that guilt submerged beneath her stern exterior, only a growing dislike of her husband, and subsequently all men. She had been treated with indifference for so many years after the war that she found it hard to conceive of men as being anything but inherently cold and brutal, so they, including her son, became the enemy. She and the daughters, whom she had grasped to her bosom, had one life, the father, his internal exile, and Hans had no life at all.
Fortunately the boy was bright, and studied well, but alone. He dreamed of escape and adventure, so as soon as the legal age arrived, he got out and began to travel as much as he could. Many hours absorbed over the foreign books in his cell, gave him fluent Italian and French, as well as his native German, and at the time he first saw Sunny he was on his way to London to brush up on his English, which was already more than passible. Like any boy except the very favoured, he had little money, and did a lot of hitch-hiking, but when ever he could save from part time work, he dressed himself in the most carefully selected elegant clothing, gleaned from the fashion pages of the papers and magazines that were a constant adjunct to his entertainment. Usually the good slacks and jacket he wore were almost all he owned. Looking well bred, in his costume, and he could mingle and fit into any crowd, because he had the intelligence, grace and handsome features to match. He was, however a little too anxious to please. He loved to have people like him, and he would submerge any misgivings he might have, to gain the acceptance he had so long craved all his life. Never a word out of place, always a smile, always subservient. He had learnt long ago that standing up for himself had achieved nothing. Best keep out of the way, don't antagonise anyone, and do what you're told.
Passing back and forth from Munich over those years after he left school, Hans sometimes stayed with his parents, but when he met Astrid and Otto he spent more time living with them. Astrid was a plump medical student and her brother Otto was a porter in a hotel.
Hans had first bumped into Astrid at a film festival at the university. She was enrolled, but he had only come along with a friend from school to see a few old Eisenstein films. They had a love of film in common, and met over coffee a few times. She had her brother with her on one occasion, and that night Hans ended up in bed with the very vibrant but hardly intellectual Otto. They were the same age and although they had little in common, Astrid seemed to encourage them to be together, and as a consequence of her enveloping maternal instincts and the constant sex the boys had, a relationship of sorts developed that managed to bring Hans back to their flat whenever he was home.
Neither of the boys was particularly faithful, which was understandable, since Hans was constantly setting off somewhere, always in search of a life. Several times he returned to Venice, occasionally Paris, even as far as Madrid, but seldom did he travel much in Germany. If more Germans were like his father he wanted none of it.
Hans had returned from one of his indulgent trips to Venice where the old glassmaker had introduced him to another series of perversions, that were becoming an increasing part of his quest for excitement. Otto was becoming less of an option, particularly when they both ended up bed ridden with the mumps. Introversion in his youth had kept him away from other children and their diseases, so it was possible that his fair share of the normal outbreaks had not affected him until this more dangerous age. This was a sorry stage that locked them both away together for some time. It became obvious that neither of them could continue the relationship, however intermittent. Their differences became painfully obvious during this confinement, and after a couple of months of disappointment, but little anguish, he set off for the south of France where he spent three miserable months working in a cafe in Marseille. Occasionally he would spend his days off in Niece, where he loved to laze away his days on the beach. Poverty could neither afford him any plastic sandals to protect his feet from the pebbled shore, nor could it provide a swimming costume. He would tip-toe tenderly across the stones, spread out his towel and remove his shirt and jeans. Most of the women were topless, and even old men had a habit of pushing their trunks down over their buttocks to catch the sun, so he felt no embarrassment in sliding his underpants down as far as he could to expose as much of his slowly tanning body as he dared, without totally exposing himself. The sun gave back a lot of strength, that illness had sapped from his thin body.
He grew brown and his legs and arms returned to their previous health. Often, in his loneliness, he hoped someone would notice his nakedness and approach him but this never happened on the beach. His hair had always got overly long and untidy between expensive visits to a hairdresser, and his casual clothes were worn and dirty. As a catch, he hardly looked suitable to the elite crowd that frequented the resorts, bars and beaches stretching along the Mediterranean. Only when dressed in the one stylish outfit he owned, did he look the part. Eventually the failure was enough, and as the weather cooled he decided to head for London. He had been invited to stay for Christmas with some friends that had been thrown together in Venice. Originally he had no intention of taking up their offer, but there had been little progress in his life to date, so determined that he should be on the move again, the horizon beckoned him to greener pastures, and apart from anything else, it would also be a great opportunity to improve his English.
He quit his job, had his hair trimmed and boarded a train that had come from Rome. His meagre life was uprooted, to start yet again. Somewhere, someone must give a chance to a boy always on the look out for opportunities. It had never occurred to him that his major problem was his constant lack of self esteem that shone so powerful before him, like a placard warning off any prospective angel of mercy before they got within range of his otherwise gentle sincerity. He hated his father and swore that he would never be like him, but how similar was this blindness that blamed everyone else for his own failures. He couldn't see it. Like a genetic flaw he had adopted only the weaknesses and none of his father's strengths, if there were any. He could hardly be trained by and imitate what he did not see.
In the compartment next to him was a boy, a sad boy, a beautiful boy. He was fascinated by this vision and all the way to Paris he could not take his eyes from the pretty face enveloped with long hair. He felt sorry for the boy. Unable to attract the boy's attention during the rumbling trip through the darkness of the French countryside, he tried to speak to him as they got off the train, but the sorrowful creature, wrapped in his own world, ignored his unwelcome intrusion. On the ship crossing the channel to Dover later the following night, he once again saw the same small figure standing alone on the deck with his face staring out into the spray and the wind. By now his shyness prevented another, probably futile, approach. At Victoria Station he once again caught a glimpse of his obsession just before it disappeared into the crowd. What a waste were these sudden little episodes. An anxiety in the pit of his stomach, and nothing else to show for such a longing. Clutching at straws. Always searching for someone, something, to make his life special, but never having the guts to grasp it. Like a face staring forlornly from the window, he always hoped a passer by would recognise the need displayed so reverently. Surely one pilgrim would approach the Icon and initiate his redemption. If it was meant to be, that is how it should, how it must happen. Fate would take care of him. He would just have to wait for its hand to notice he was alive. The young German was not very happy, he hardly ever was, but as he stepped out onto the footpath to find his way through the freezing streets, he put this abandonment aside, and tried to set out with more optimism than he felt he deserved.
The small group of friends were pleased to see him, and when he arrived they were just greeting guests for a pre-Christmas party. No matter how tired he felt from the long and sleepless trip he soon found himself rejoicing under the affect of the champagne. It was nothing like the evenings in Venice where they had met. This Yuletide was hardly a time for the wickedness of those fun-filled nights of debauchery. The English knew their traditions and how to conduct themselves. He thought the staid behaviour, gathered around the plum-pudding, was suitably straight out of memories of a Dickens novel. Was there a smiling cripple in the house? Where was the Ghost of Christmas Past and his threatening companions?
"I'm a witch."
He had been talking to Sandra for only a few moments before she enlightened him with this bit of information.
"Black or white?"
"Oh, I'm definitely a nice witch. I think my grandmother had a few nasty spells up her sleeve, but I don't believe you should ever get into things like that."
"Well I'm a faggot. Its a new word I learnt today. I think I like it. We could burn together."
"You don't look like one, but if you insist, you can be what ever you want."
"What do you do? I mean how are you are witch?"
"We have ceremonies Dummy. Earth Mother and all that, make potions, see into the future, all sorts of things."
"Can men be witches? I'd love to find out what you really do."
"It's not a joke. It's a very religious experience."
"Please, I'd really like to understand. "
"We'll see. Anyway tell me more about your Gestapo relations."
Gossip had already spread. He made up a few stories that made his abandoned relatives sound more exciting than the bland reality of his background, drank more and passed out on a chair in the toilet.
Waking with some confusion the following day he apologised to his hosts, who didn't care, downed a cup of coffee and went in search of Sandra. A crumpled, somewhat soggy scrap of napkin shoved into his pocket showed him the way to her flat, a couple of miles away. She lived in a small townhouse overlooking a leafless park, and outside her back door through the kitchen she had the tiniest courtyard with a dead pot-plant, a couple of saucers with dried up rancid milk for the cat, a little moss between the bricks, and the remains of a broken pine bookcase. The small living room was scattered with books, half burnt candles, overflowing ashtrays and a couple of pieces of underwear gathering dust under the sofa. The shower grew mould, the toilet was stained, the mattress on the floor had not been made in a thousand years and generally she was rather untidy. She did however have three vases with beautiful fresh flowers wedged down between the accumulated rubbish on the table and side board.
"Oh, I don't have time to worry about the mess. It really isn't important. Coffee or Gin?"
"Got any witch's brew?"
"Your not going to give up are you? I'll take that to mean coffee. No, on second thoughts Gin."
Hans enjoyed her company. He didn't know why, but she was fascinating. Unlike many strangers he met, she would talk to him, and there were secrets that intrigued him. To a mind so neglected the occult became an interest, a tangent, a veil of self worth. Otto had become so dull, Astrid had been fun but neglected him because she studied too much, Munich had abandoned him, France had been lonely and the boy on the train had ignored him, but then again, Venice was always good. This was the opening to something new and he wasn't going to be denied. The tourist had been in London for less than twenty four hours and already he was drunk for the second time. Since leaving his mothers breast he had never had the slightest interest in girls, so what was he doing naked in bed with a witch. Not very much, but there was a lot of touching which he didn't mind. Venice had at least opened him up to options previously not considered.
"See my powers. You haven't got a chance. I can make you do anything I want."
"I think it was the Gin, and you haven't made me do much yet. It gets stiffer than that."
"I will. Just you wait and see."
"I'm waiting. Turn me into a goat."
"Don't be silly. I will take you somewhere tomorrow night if you like. Do you want to meet some others who practice the ancient arts?"
The next day he finally got some rest, visited the V&A in the afternoon, and as arranged he met up with Sandra outside the underground at South Kensington. It was late afternoon and the sun had already disappeared behind the clouds, or the roof-tops. In the greyness it was difficult to tell. The unlikely pair had a quick drink at the first pub they came across, then braving the cold again, they walked a short distance past the museums around the Albert Hall and alongside the park, where she eventually led him into an old abandoned hotel. The front had been boarded up to prevent squatters moving in before demolition started, but this, as usual, deterred no one. Sandra was a rare species for the members of the coven. She was employed and could afford a flat, however meagre. She moved around a lot, but could always pay her way. Many of the others were unemployed squatters, and this was the latest find that not only gave them somewhere to sleep, but was an excellent space for holding their gatherings and whatever rituals seemed appropriate. Ideally a clearing in the forest would have been more romantic, but it was the middle of winter, and after all they were city kids generally without funds.
There were only about twelve people there when they arrived. Hans wasn't introduced, but told he could sit on a cushion by the wall while the others met in secret in an unseen room. He froze as he waited to see if he would be allowed to join them. Sandra returned and took him into what was probably once the large dining room of the derelict hotel. There was a great stone fire place ablaze with old furniture. At last he thought he would not die of the cold. In the centre of the room was a table laid out with food, dried herds, bowls and an old dinted handmade chalice. One of the girls was stirring a large bowl in which she continued to sprinkle pinches of crushed herbs and what looked like wine from several jars. There was nothing particularly ceremonious about the way things were going so far. She could have been making soup for all he knew. Hans felt a little disappointed. Not a severed rams head in sight, no billowing smoke or ethereal lights casting shadows on the walls. The candles did flicker occasionally and make the room look cosy, but it reminded him more of his grandmothers house than a scene of demonic possession. White witches weren't all that much fun after all. They seemed like a nice bunch of kids having a party.
Two of the boys carried the bowl over to the fire and placed it in front of the flames to warm the mixture. Someone got out a guitar and started strumming while a girl sang some folk songs. It was pleasant company, so what if it wasn't going to be the spiritual highlight of his life. Soon the mixture was judged to be ready and the chalice was filled and passed around. When it was Hans turn to drink he thought it tasted of hot red wine with nutmeg and perhaps a touch of aniseed. There were hints of something bitter but it was quite pleasant. The chalice was refilled several times as it went around the room, and by the time it had come his way for the fourth time he was feeling very warm inside. He was also feeling very happy on the outside as well. A couple of kids rose and started dancing, and still the chalice went round the room. It was getting very hot now so some of them had taken off their tops. Sandra came to him and lifted him from the floor and dragged him to the fire place where she took hold of his shirt and removed it, threw off her dress and peeled him out of his trousers. By now the whole group were naked and dancing around the table. The drink was more potent than he anticipated. Wine and that unidentified bitterness were weaving their influence. Hans' head spun uncontrollably as he tried in vain to focus on the dancing bodies as they flashed past him. He found it impossible to see their faces, but when he looked into the fire he at once saw a smile bursting out of the flames. It was the boy from the train. His hair floated in the dancing light as he smiled, then grinned and then cried. Sandra whispered in his ear.
"Can you see the future?"
Hans could hardly stand, but the last remnants of clarity in his mind hoped it was truly what was to come.
He awoke several hours later. The fire had gone out and the room was cold. There was a boy on one side of him and a girl on the other. No one else remained. As he wrestled to free his spent body from their grasp they stirred, opened their eyes, held him more tightly, and prevented his escape.
"You have been blessed by the Goddess, you beautiful boy."
"I don't remember being so honoured. I feel like shit."
"You are destined for wonderful things. We have seen it. We have helped you."
He had no idea what they were talking about. To him the evening had been a failure. He had sought friends and he had sought to learn, but he knew no-one and he still knew nothing. As warm and as close as their bodies were, he felt the chill of the mid-winters day. He shivered and with a sudden touch of anger he made them release him so that he could find his clothes and leave. He searched around the room amongst the discarded rubble of the previous evening but his clothes were gone. There was nothing he could find with which to cover himself.
"You burnt them, when you became aware."
"I've got to leave. I can't go like this."
"You will stay until the others return. There is more to do."
"I want to go. I've got things to do. I want some clothes."
"Come back here to us or we will have to tie you up again."
When he shot a startled look at them, they realised he had not remembered trying to leave last night. They had to restrain him until he had gone to sleep. Last night was only the beginning and he had been chosen. He could not leave. They were responsible for minding him until the time was ready. Both the boy and the girl were a little taller than he was and both were considerably stronger. They soon held him down while he was tied to a chair, with a rope around his wrists, waist and ankles. A blanket was thrown over him and he was offered a glass of wine. Hans was hung-over but he was turning blue with the cold so he sipped the wine when it was put to his lips.
"That should help you warm up. We are not being cruel. You just have to stay here. You can't leave. You've been chosen."
"For fucking what?"
"You know what."
"No I don't. Tell me you creeps."
Neither of them appeared to suffer from the cold as they turned their back on him and walked out of the room. He sat alone, still shivering and looked about the empty, now menacing space. No symbols, no grand alters, nothing that did not appear to be the normal garbage of a slightly wild party. He wondered if these kids were actually into the occult, or was it just a stoned ruse for self indulgence. Something to break the monotony; a childish adventure. Were they playing games? Was he any better? What had he been doing for the last few years. Where was his maturity? Wasn't he just running away? Look where it had lead. This game was going too far. Everyone running around in a daze, pretending to be involved in the intense and the meaningful, but so far the evidence was only of drunkenness, drugs and sex. Hardly a religious experience. Who were they fooling, apart from themselves. The void of his existence had been cluttered with crap. He had only looked at his own disappointments and if he felt no love, he had done little except cover it with love of himself. What was he contributing,? What was he giving? Who were these people? Obviously not all of the English were the same.
Yes, he felt it had got out of control and now he was trapped and it could only get worse. He was a prisoner. He had walked willingly into it. It was the only path he had allowed himself. When he ran, he searched for the spectacular, the interesting, the different, the pleasure. Why had he not accepted the reality? The mundane reality. His impatience had blinded him. When he got away from this he would change. He would get a job. He would settle down. Perhaps he would study again. It was time to grow up. Frightened by his own predicament he felt solace in these noble ideas, these decisions, these excuses.
Sincere? Perhaps. No, he probably felt genuine in these meandering thoughts. But for how long? How much strength did his determination have? Would he resist the temptations for long? It was always easier not to. The stand, fighting a temptation, initially imbues one with much more anxiety than giving in to it. Who cares? He was trapped.
He spun his head around at the sound of the door flying open, and saw Sandra standing behind him with a large red cloak held out in front of her. Two boys untied him from the chair and the cloak was thrown over his shoulders. Like a prince, a fallen prince, he was taken firmly by the arms and led out through a broken window into a side alley, where they were hidden from the traffic roaring past the busy street outside. Gently the honoured captive was lifted into the back of a van where the remainder of last evenings revellers surrounded him. The air was choked with the smoke of a joint they were passing around, and the odour of unwashed alcohol soaked bodies. The wet tipped weed was offered to him but his new resolutions stopped him from taking it. They insisted, he again rejected, but not a third time. Convinced that he had better cooperate, at least this once, the firmness of his resolve dissipated into the air along with the smoke from his lungs. What harm could it really do him?
No one spoke again, but by the time they arrived at the old farm-house the captive was totally stoned. He had no idea where they were, but the ancient stone building with the decayed thatched roof, looked like it had been deserted for many years. Shrubs grew over the gate, and vines, now dead, had crept up the walls and intermingled with the grey, rotting straw. Inside, dust lay thick over everything that didn't move, but no attempt was made to clean it away before he was once again tied to the remains of a smashed wooden chair. He began to believe their was no solid furniture left this side of the Channel. The fire place was disturbed a little and fence palings and fallen wood were gathered to start some heat within the unsealed, abandoned living room. Most were well wrapped in jumpers and long coats, but he, the victim, was still barefoot and allowed nothing but the cape clasped around his neck. Clouds of coughing first filled the room as bird nests in the chimney caught fire, so while the smoke cleared and the room began to warm, the others went outside to gather more scattered wood for a bonfire. The winter weather was drizzling as usual, but not heavily enough to extinguish the large yellow tongues that soared into the air when the six foot pile of twigs and logs burst into flame with the assistance of a cup of petrol siphoned from the van. As it roared and crumbled more wood was thrown into the glow. The heat shrivelled, dried and scorched every living plant nearby.
The light had left the sky, so the embers could cast an orange light and heat in a wide enclosing circle in front of the house. Hans still restrained inside his latest prison, was given more wine to drink, more to smoke. The rest of the party, already drunk and stoned, were laughing hysterically as they tripped amongst the bushes, never too far from the warmth of the blaze. From what he could see through the open, actually broken, doorway, there was a lot of kissing and grabbing going on, and occasionally someone would rush in and smother him with kisses, not always on his face. Sheaves of barley appeared, fruit from the tree and roots from the earth. Capes and medieval skirts, tunics and shawls, and somewhere from the overcrowded van a blanket had been found and it now lay spread upon the brittle grass. At last they came to him and released his ropes. He was taken outside and told to lay himself out on the woollen bed. Too stoned to object he allowed them to stretch his arms and legs while they tied his wrists and ankles to stakes hammered into the earth. He wanted to be afraid, but the dizziness in his brain made him feel outside his body, and he merely watched as if such bizarre unexplained events were happening to someone else. The cloak was pulled back from covering him. Now he lay quite naked and exposed to the sky and the caresses of the group kneeling beside him. He could not help but get aroused as each boy and girl stroked his stomach, inside his legs and licked wine from his body as they poured cup after cup onto every smooth inch from his hair to his toes. Excitement grew in him as he began to writhe on the ground, humping his groin into the air under the seduction of the anonymous hands and tongues. There had been more than mere wine in the cup he had been given and he began to hallucinate. He could hear voices that spoke of his dreams and his future. The boy who was once ignored was now the centre of attention. Like a superstar from the super race he was being worshipped. No one could now ignore him. He could have anything he wished and before him he once again saw the face of the boy who had so obsessed him on the train. This was his fulfilment, his goal. It was all his now. The boy came close, danced around and over his body, until slowly the vision mounted its own nakedness on to his erection. Hans thrust and heaved at the climax of his dreams. His eyes closed and his feet stiffened. His muscles went into spasms, and he ejaculated into the apparition filling his mind. With a great sigh of release he opened his eyes and saw Sandra straddled across his body. He smiled and passed out.
"Shit I feel bad. Hi guys. How did I get back here?"
"We found you curled up asleep on the doorstep, with nothing on except some old wino's coat. It's a wonder your still alive it was freezing last night."
"I think Sandra took me to some orgy. There were witches and all sorts of things. I'm not sure but I may have even fucked her. I remember, I was tied up."
"You've been done kiddo. Witches I doubt. That bitch is just a frustrated old lesbian who wants a kid. She'll pull any stunt to get pregnant."
"You probably met that bunch of junkies she hangs around with. We wouldn't let them near this place. Sandy's not really bad, but she's a bit of a control freak when she's straight, and completely loopy when she's off her tree. She has had so many tries at getting a baby, but cant stand the thought of having a man, or even a boy, no matter how cute. It's always some elaborate plan so that she can deny it's real. The exotic destiny of a true earth-mother. Probably as close to a virgin birth as she can get. Looks like you were the latest challenge. The good Aryan, breeder of her super brat. Daddy."
"That's gross. How could anyone do that. I should go and punch her out. Bitch witch."
"She would have disappeared by now. Gone to nest."
"What for? I'm sterile."
So London was already turning out to be a failure. It had looked so good, so promising. Why could he never get on top of things. Less than a week and humiliation was heaped on him with the usual determination. Christmas gone, the new year faced him with no better prospects, but he still thought of his fate, his vision, his phantom boy. It was a goal as pleasurable as any to aim at, but where was it. His touch with the occult was a sham but he did see the boy's face in and around the fires. There may have been no magic in the others but he had some tucked away struggling to get out. He had visions, even if they did not. While they hallucinated he could see what was ahead of him, or at least he hoped so. He would get help.
The multicoloured sign beside the green door read-
    He understands your Past
    He can interpret your Present
    He will reveal your Future.
    (Tuesday to Saturday from 10am.)'
Why not give it a try. Couldn't hurt. Master Ambrose looked harmless enough in the picture framed above the notice. It was the unemotional and slightly trancelike image of an old fashioned young man in his early twenties with a monocle and a Fez tilted slightly on his blond curls. Hans thought it must have faded from the sunlight, but the other pictures hung from the walls in the waiting room were just as faded. Master Ambrose certainly liked to dress up. Not quite a gipsy, not quite a sultan, but whatever impression he meant to create it was certainly exotic. It was only when the boy noticed that in one old frame, the person standing beside Master Ambrose was a movie star, a silent screen star whose name he could not recall, did he realise that the young man in the photos must be a little more advanced in years than the advertisement promoted him to be. He had sat alone for ten minutes after letting himself in and so far there was no sign of life. Wondering if this was not yet another mistake he was about to leave when from behind the beaded curtain a small puppet of a creature shuffled towards him and took hold of his hand. Without a word, Hans was led into another room shrouded in a red glow from candles burning inside several tinted glass flute shaped holders mounted on the wall behind the couch where Master Ambrose sat and pulled Hans down to join him. No other chair was visible, only an eighteen inch high table with an ashtray stood in front of them. Before Hans could ask where was the crystal ball, the tea leaves, or the pack of cards, he almost jumped with fright when the old man, still holding him by the hand, spoke to him in the voice of a young boy.
"Forget your family. You will have a new family soon. We will have such times together that you can scarce believe. There is nothing for you here."
The old man, who must have been eighty years old, let the boy's hand down gently onto the couch, stood wearily and shuffled out of the room. Hans sat there wondering what was going on. He seldom felt he understood much that happened to him theses days. The old man did not return so he placed some money into the ashtray and left. It was impossible that the wrinkled fossil could have had a voice so young and sweet. What was the 'we' he spoke of? What 'family'? What 'here'? Did it have something to do with the boy on the train? How could Master Ambrose know? None of it made sense. The only piece that eventually seemed to say something to him was that the 'here' was London, and here there was certainly nothing for him, that he could find anyway. He left.
'Forget his family'? That was easy to do. They had forgotten him a long time ago. Munich was off the list of possibilities, so where could he go? The first van that picked him up at the side of the road in Calais took him north to Amsterdam. It wasn't right. He bummed another lift to Frankfurt, but didn't want to remain too long in Germany so in short bursts he headed for Vienna. A beautiful and stylish city. No longer could he feel comfortable in his jeans. In that cradle of the old Empire, the source and inspiration of the great composers, the centre of past power, thought and creativity, he could only appear in his one set of elegant clothes. Vienna is kind but it demands respect, and he felt honoured to be able to give it. This is where his personality belonged. This is where he could live. It made him feel good, for the world looks worthwhile in Vienna. Faces are beautiful and calm. Sweets, pubs, clothes, the streets, they all sit comfortably. The palaces, museums, churches, and parks make music. He would be somebody in a place like this. For a few phennigs he tied his white handkerchief on the brass rails in the Opera gods. He could not afford the beer but sat in a leaf covered chair while orchestras played Strauss in the open. He window-shopped for jackets he could not afford, and he ate sausages in the railway station where food was hot and cheap. He was content. He was puzzled. He was broke. He was lonely. He was ignored, and in a week he left.
The Glassmaker had advanced him the train fare, so overnight he found himself back in Venice once again. The familiar smell of the lagoon and the happy smile of his host was a welcome reprieve from the isolation he had felt so much of late. The old Glassmaker and his friend had always showered him with affection as they introduced him into their world of constant indulgence. It was genuine enough, and he had returned often enough to accept that he was welcome. They entertained many boys and had done so for many years but he was one of their favourites.
Hans recalled the day he stepped off the train looking lost a couple of years ago. It was the beginning of his travels and not yet familiar with knowing how to get around he would often hide for hours in a cafe working on the courage to set out and explore the streets. The Glassmaker and his accomplice understood this fear in the lone traveller and the cafes were the main source of their conquests. After watching a boy sit staring into his empty coffee glass for longer than was normal they would approach them and ask if this was their first visit. They were so easy to pick. The locals rushed in, and standing at the counter, quickly downed a small expresso and just as quickly after a few greetings they were out and on their way. It was only the tourist who sat in the chairs or booths. They had nowhere else to go between sightseeing and it was the only opportunity to rest their feet after so much walking in a city where everything is done on foot. If it was necessary to venture onto a vaporetto to get more quickly to another place without getting lost amongst the bricked in alleys, you would most likely not get to sit on the crowded water-bus. Even the churches had no pews into which you could slide softly to relax your aching back and feet. Hence like some water born vulture, Venice thrives on the worn bodies of tourist, laden with souvenirs, sitting, eating and drinking, until their wallets are empty.
Hans had been approached in just such a way. He was glad of the unannounced company and readily accepted the sudden but intriguing invitation to a party where as promised, he would meet other boys in a similar predicament. The freedom and lavishness of these gatherings had him gripped, and like many others he was often drawn back to the temptations of a good time where no questions were asked and pleasure was so generously given and expected. The boys were always welcome, but no guest must ever outstay his welcome. No one was ever invited to stay. For the duration of the entertainment they belonged but outside the strict limits of the party, they must find their own means of comfort and support.
That first exciting day he ventured into that sinking city of history he wandered around the canals, glad to admire the decay, now that he was secure for something to do that evening. He decided not to take a room because the party was expected to take the entire evening. There was no point in wasting money. He left his bag in a locker at the station and after filling in as much time as he could allow he arrived at the front stone stairs of his host's mansion and walked through the iron gates into a sight that he had never even dreamed of. This was not exactly true. The grandeur of the house he had imagined, but the way it was filled, certainly took his breath away. Boys in costumes of sheer silk, boys with vine leaves in their hair and a boy in blue were the initial sights that grabbed his attention. The boy in blue was particularly striking. Not blue clothes, but his body was blue. Long black hair fell over his naked shoulders, and nothing else covered his skin that must have been bathed in dye. Hans felt dreadful in his jeans and denim jacket. No one asked who he was, as he was immediately taken in hand by the nude blue boy and an equally pretty red-haired youth in make-up and silver satin wrapped round his waist. They dragged him up the stairs into a large change room where he was first given a drink while they sorted through wardrobes full of cloth and costumes. The as yet unidentified boys didn't bother to ask as they stripped him out of his jeans and handed him a collection of gold chains to hang around his neck, and a red pleated skirt to wear. He looked at himself in the mirror and was amazed at how good he looked with cold cascading down his chest and how the eight inches of pleats just covered his genitals in the front but the three inches at the back covered nothing . No underwear made him feel very exposed indeed. He thought he couldn't possibly go back down stairs like that, but was given no choice as he was once again dragged out the door before he had time to think.
This was the beginning of a friendship with the Glassmaker that drew him back there on many occasions over the next couple of years. Like everyone, he was made to feel special and welcome. He felt beautiful and admired. Since childhood the young German had always been attractive but his shy and insecure nature had obstructed any attention too often and would continue to do so. Looking like a well behaved puppy waiting patiently to have its tummy scratched created distance between his isolation and any real friendships. He never jumped up and down to gain attention, never interrupted, just sat waiting for the world to look after him. Occasionally someone could get close enough to pat him gently, but he was too afraid to respond. His family had failed to notice his existence so why should anyone else. He could never give enough to hold anyone's interest, no matter how decorative he might be. That suited the evenings in Venice, but no relationship outside that permissive environment would prosper on such fear of exposure. Here it was easy to bear his body, but that was the ultimate cover-up to hide his inhibitions about the worth of his personality. It was like stopping the enemy at the gate before they got inside. Distract them before they could find the treasury empty.
As in the past when all else failed he was back, broke and nowhere to stay. The party would be first and whatever might follow was in the lap of Fate. He was drunk as usual, and barefoot he wandered through the crowd while men and boys felt his exposed bottom peeking out from under a short white toga. This had always been a diversion in the past but tonight he felt that this would be the last time he would come. Nothing ever progressed from these evenings. They were fun but shallow. He had a yearning for some meaning in his life. This distraction was too easy to fall back on but it didn't satisfy him. It was really a waste of time. If he spent his life running back to the relief of pleasures, they became an end in themselves and hid any further goal from sight. He would have to break away from it when the day was done. He had made a mistake in coming. He continued to wander just out of reach and thought of leaving but he had nowhere to stay and it was too late to find a room, that he couldn't afford anyway.
Each time some new arrivals entered the door a cheer went up from whomever was in sight of the newest prospective conquests. He glanced up at the latest eruption as he was passing the entrance and there in the midst of a small group was the boy of his dreams. His vision from the train, no longer looking sad, stood stunningly within reach with ribbons woven in his hair and a jewel in his belly button. Unable to resist his urges be bent down and picked up a flower from the floor to offer to the boy. This time he was not ignored. Sunny smiled at him. His world was complete. This is where he would follow. Sunny, without realising it, and with a single smile, had just adopted the first of his disciples.
It would be difficult and it would be wondrous but the young puppy had at last found a master. A young, beautiful but strange master. A boy who would lead him into a future where he would thrive at last. He would be joyful, there would be sadness, but it was about to be his life. No more Venice, or Munich. No family. The world would now belong to him, his Sunny and his new family.     ©1995

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