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

My Novel Dance with the Sun


First below is a synopsis that a friend kindly wrote of my novel.
This book is about dreams, expectations and passions - an erotic tale of lusts and love and the frustrations of creativity and the misconstructions placed on its intent or meaning. A beautiful boy grows up in a family which encourages freedom of expression and opinion, which is unusual for the place (Brisbane) and the time (1950's and early1960's). His father is a painter and his mother an opera singer, and, as is common with an only child of such a union, the boy is allowed a relatively undisciplined life which is untouched by the moral restrictions of the time. These are encountered at school and cause some minor frictions which serve to reinforce the strength of the family and its liberal ideals. Sunny and his parents move to London when he is seventeen and the momentum of the boy's life begins to accelerate. Although Sunny has studied music, painting and dance, it is with this last that he chooses to express himself, possibly as an alternative to the careers of his parents. As is often the case with the undisciplined life of the child of artists, the coherent form of Sunny's creativity is often destructive and difficult to contain. The fantasy and subsequent reality of flight allows him the ultimate freedom, but at a cost to both him and a growing group of admirers. The story moves to Europe and develops a strongly religious tone as the theme of freedom and self-expression finds conflicts in the strictures of the church and society. A core of seven young men form around Sunny to allow this theme to develop and to provide a framework within which ideas of love, purity, decay and art are interwoven until finally an apocalyptic finale closes the drama and the dream. This book is a complex one dealing with many ideas in a style which is baroque and very musical. The recurring [paradox is that of the striving for perfect freedom in self-expression, but which ultimately ends in frustration. The fetters of discipline and self-control are shown to be a necessary part of the creative human spirit, and without these constraints the artistic soul screams in anguish and undirected rage. Perfect freedom and individual expression - are such things possible on this earth? It seems not, unless art and love are abandoned in flight. All this is expressed in musical or operatic tableaux in which recurring patterns of ritual, nudity, sex and dance group the players in various structures and patterns. Duets are harmonious or strident, passionate or tender and choruses and arias alternate in either crystal clarity or opulent confusion. It is a daring book, and one which reveals much of the author's own passions and desires. The flight of Sunny parallels the soaring spirit of mankind and contrasts in its elegant simplicity with the skills shown in writing a book of this magnitude. Freedom of spirit and imagination vie with the rigours of creative reality and thankfully we, the readers, are the ultimate winners.

1 Act One, Scene One.                        A HANDFUL OF CLAY
2 Appendix to the Beginning.                 NOTES FROM A BOYS DIARY
3  Act One, Scene Two.                       THE PILGRIM SETS FORTH
4  Act One, Scene Three.                     IN THE FURNACE
5  Act Two, Scene One.                            DROWNING IN THE DESERT
6  Interlude.                                           THE MOTHER
7  Act Two, Scene Two.                           SIGNPOSTS IN THE WATER
8  Act Two, Scene Three.                         GATHERING THE FLOCK
9  Act Two, Scene Four.                           EARTH WIND AND FIRE
10  Act Three, Scene One.                            COLOURS OF SAND
11  Act Three, Scene Two.                 THE CIRCUS ARRIVES
12  Act Four, Scene One.                            ONLY A BOY
13  Act Four, Scene Two.                           THE DREAM MUST GO ON


Coincidence - Luck - Fate ...... I doubt I believe in any of them. Touched by the accidental passing of the spheres? I think not. Often I wish it was true, but having no faith in divine intervention either, I feel the need to accept that we are merely the products of our own accidents. For the mysteries of life, inevitably there appears to be no solid, logical explanation, or none that I have been able to fathom. Reasoned alternatives appear to come and go, but through this confusion I pray that my options will forever remain optimistically open, and if all is perhaps possible, then all surely will be possible. Like a turn of the dice we are tossed into the game and whether we are winners or losers is no more than a subjective interpretation of the outcome. It is possible that God may intervene on a whim, the pantheon of gods, both old or new, may bicker over their control, the magician may conjure his tricks, and the madness in us all will haphazardly create what it will. Internally and externally we may be pushed and cajoled into action by our passions and guilt, the phantom forces within. More pathetically we may be manipulated, puppet-like, by the sweep of circumstances outside our control, but then again, is all of this no more than an uncontrolled, unconscious, reaction to what we perceive. Is chaos taking control? Can the beat of a butterfly wing cause the mountains to crumble on the far side of the earth? Can a simple careless human act cause unintended pain, or spark unrelated, unjustified joy in those close by, or even those far removed from us? Is our life changed, redirected, perhaps willingly dominated by the insignificant? So insignificant, that it is beyond or beneath definition. Whether great or small each man's story (destiny?) is most certainly complex. Do we ever really understand the workings of our mind? Can any of us confirm the certainties of a single existence other than our own? Should we bother?
I know, because the newspapers trumpeted so, that John Wayne, a most unconvincing actor, changed his religion, no doubt impulsively, but somewhat spectacularly, on his deathbed. Also, according to what we can understand from stories in the Bible, Judas seemed more than a trifle confused as to which way he would turn. In fairness, I too, should be allowed a little wavering indecision in such matters, all matters. Often it is so obvious to us, what are definite intentions and unavoidable influences, and then suddenly, without warning, and just as clearly, the reverse overwhelms us. Black unfolds to white; right becomes wrong; lead changes to gold; truth turns out to be a lie and our forever-fragile confidence is undermined again.
Often we stubbornly acknowledge only what we want to see, but I believe we must also attempt openness to the suggestion that some visions are real, and like it or not, the inspiration is meant to be. Simply and obviously, fact. Confusing, but it does make life interesting to have an open mind. What a stimulus it is, to draw on what may be only fantasy, when all is dark or unclear, and the need arises to lift ourselves out of the shadowy fear of uncertainty. Most certainly it would be dull if we did not allow ourselves to sometimes imagine life to be a fairy tale; extraordinary, beautiful, and surprisingly wonderful. From our childhood, we can all of us recall that fairy tales and pantomimes, although simplistic, and apparently preordained, do often have a dark, unsettling or tragic side. What cruel, but necessary training for our future this is. Our experiences are wide, and perfection elusive. It is such a grand game we play, if imagination is given the freedom to bend the rules.
What stories we can all tell. None of us have been totally isolated from the glories of life around us. It is just that some of us see them differently, or unfortunately, often fail to notice them at all. Adventures are being created at every moment. Some are true and some could have, or should have been true. Even history can become jumbled in the collective memory of us all, and from this the imagination can define us. An old, French philosopher once said "I think, therefore I am." Not bad! A storyteller could just as easily say "I thought, therefore it is." Much depends on our ability to believe, or our thirst for unknown adventures. Do we have a willingness to take the courageous leap into a reality of our own or someone else's making. A lie or a fiction can be a truth if we believe it to be so. Just as readily the truth can sometimes not seem possible. Perhaps all is true, if it appears true enough in the mind. Our life, or what we make of it, is governed by its own reality, informed or otherwise, hence I am not only prepared, but I am anxious to accept the fantasy, and the reality. Sometimes though, I am not clear as to which is which. Madness or sanity, strength or stupidity, or is it perhaps balanced precariously, if not ominously, in between.
Whatever the reality is, the one thing that has become clear to me is that there does appear to be a balance and a harmony in all that is thought and all that happens. For all that is good there is almost always an alternative, slashing away at us that can be harsh and bruising. In just the same way for all that is confused and agonising, if we are capable of taking a sideways step, often a small step, we have the possibility of finding another avenue to relieve us of the pain of the mire within which we find ourselves. Each and every action can be balanced with the choice of an alternate path. The only danger of such freedom of choice is that if we become obsessed with trying every alternative for the sake of it, we can in confusion, lose sight of that which can give us the most benefit. An event, which may initially confound us, is better examined and savoured before we shy away, but experience alone is not necessarily progress. By all means, I still believe we should try everything we wish to, but we must choose to accept, as well as choose to change. Confidence in one's judgement is essential. We may only be given one chance. Like a faithful guard of our own future we must take the responsibility and be vigilant in recognising the right when it appears over the horizon. Separate and accept. Make a choice. We have no other way. Take chances, but be careful. Above all be careful. Once again this sounds contradictory, but I have found the complexity acceptable.
A fantasy can enter your life at any time. As I suggested, we are capable of making it a part of us, we can reject it, or the other possibility is to use it as an inspiration to seek and create a further dream. I have a story that confounded me, surprised me and has changed me. Please do not pass judgement for I too have never been certain, but I have tried to be a good player.
Anyway, I first saw him in Paris.
I had come out of the sublime darkness, and stone, still echoes of Notre Dame. Before me and beyond the square, spotted with bird droppings and anonymous tourists, was another grey and misty December day. I had travelled for three months alone, wandering the Continent looking for myself. In between the relics of history I thought I might be hiding. Soon, I knew that I must return home, but a voice, always a voice said, 'not just yet'. My mind was in a continual turmoil as I travelled from city to city, but, at that juncture I was momentarily inspired, compelled, even frightened into continuing the search that had so far proved fruitless. My desires had been unfulfilled, but yet they still possessed me with a force I could not deny. I wanted to be part of it, but which part, which role? What was the 'it' I longed to be part of? I was not even sure of that. The search was not new, for it had unhappily occupied most of my life in one place or another. I had searched through books, both fact and fiction, looked into religions, sought enlightenment in the passions of music, indulged in the breadth of creative arts, trekked across Asia, the Americas, and Europe. Now, three days before Christmas, I stood alone in a crowd, and still beautifully confused, at the centre of yet another foreign civilisation. I had become accustomed to the comfort of my excuse, my seeming failure; my life. At least I was looking, and I knew I would not give up. Convinced that this was good, I had actually grown fond of myself. A certain egotistical pride assured me that I was better off for looking. The mysteries were not solved, but I was alive. It would be fine. I would make it so. I wavered.
A cathedral, Gothic or otherwise, is the perfect place for being in close contact with the very deepest and most treasured, of human imaginings. Many of the ancient churches of Europe are unfortunately lit, promoted and displayed like toy palaces in Disneyland. They are full of bright lights and godless, but the French have more style, and the awesome darkness and cold shadows of Notre Dame created a profound personal experience that gave intimate privacy to my most hidden thoughts and desires. Contemplation of my past pleasures and my future fantasies had, for a few brief moments, stilled my mind as I ambled through the colonnades, and sat in silent corners staring at the flickering yellow candles dancing like an acrobat in front of the distant Virgin. The peace did not last, fear returned, the miracle did not come. I felt that my brain would explode if this self-obsession did not abate. Where am I? Who am I? I needed to breathe in the open and expel the ghosts from my head, but the air was so cold that my lungs hurt. I took a photograph, glanced up at the blue green neglect of Charlemagne straddling a horse's bronze arse, and I too turned my back on yet another place where I could not be found. My tired, heavy feet dragged me away despondent and angry, thinking that I could be doomed to wander this forsaken earth forever.
Was it hunger, tiredness or depression that made me feel ill? A pitiful, self indulgent, self-induced sickness had become my greatest security, my closest friend. I knew I was a great tragedy. I had begun to act out the life that gave me importance. How meaningful it had become to aspire to great mystery. The shambles of my life had been elevated to the performing platform where I knew it should be observed, even admired. Where was the chorus to chant my refrain? Would roses be dropped at my feet? 'Please Tragedy, can I have your autograph?'
Rugged up against the almost insufferable cold, I walked to the bridge intending to eat in some cosy, narrow, poster covered cafe on the Left Bank. I would visit the bookshops first and then from behind the childish safety of a glass window, I would settle in with some hot toasted cheese to read, drink and observe Paris passing before me. Who knows, I mused, perhaps I might one day see myself in the crowd. I wore no mask, but I, the great tragedian, could be recognised by the thorny crown and the tree thrown across my shoulders.
It was the period of self awareness; the dawning of the Age of Aquarius. Men and women began to change their costumes. No more could there be satisfaction with selfishly gathering possessions in the cultural sterility of the suburbs. What good would it do? Any living Westerner had to find himself, because we were convinced that generations before us had all lost their way, altered the plot, and the world was being destroyed because of it. Most were of the age of the new generation, but some, like myself, had claimed a role, by choice and guilt alone. More properly I should have been one of the wretched self-flagellators, cast out and left trembling in the wings, but I wanted and needed to be part of the youthful renewal, the deafening chorus of change. I insisted that my life be lived in the present, denying my age to myself, if to no one else. The revolution of youth was, I decided, open to the young in spirit as well, and if anyone had failed to progress far beyond childhood, it was certainly I.
There was a barge floating along the Seine, so having never been down close to the river, I decided to take a look under the old stone crossing as the ancient, black, floating pile of rotting wood and iron pushed its way through. It was far from warm and, after huddling unsteadily against the damp of the grey stone wall for no more than a few short minutes, arms crossed in my long duffle coat, the comforting thought of a hot, and unfortunately expensive coffee was too much to resist. I decided to proceed to the Boulevard St. Michel before I froze, and my gloveless fingers turned blue or red with frostbite. Not knowing which, I made a mental note to find out the effects of severe cold. More trivia.
For no particular reason I felt an urge to glance up at the railing above. Overcome by this sudden compulsion to look for something as yet unknown, my eyes scanned the horizon to be soon confronted with a vision of such overwhelming, spontaneous beauty. My stare was met with a look so penetrating that I had an urge to call out and make contact. Not knowing how to react, I failed to do anything other than be entranced by this enigmatic face drifting above me. Our eyes locked and as each of us ambled quickly/slowly in opposite directions we remained united in a look that I will never forget; sad, searching and so full of every desire that I had known. My breath stopped as I fixed my gaze at my future. The face was not mine, but the world cried out that my search had ended. Apparently I did possess a mask. I suddenly saw it, as it fell away. Like the arrogant Paul being knocked from his horse on the way to Damascus by the force of inspiration, I was excited by the sudden revelation that I knew would change my life. From this moment I would look upon the world differently and the world would see another manifestation of myself. The actor had changed roles.
In an instant the apparition disappeared and I forgot what to do, or where I was. Had I seen that face? Who was he? Would I see the boy again? In a rush, thoughts flooded my mind. His life already mingled with mine as I felt his blood surge through my veins. My head began to spin. It was as if the blinding brightness of my miracle, had turned all to darkness. Stage fright. I had forgotten my lines.
For the remainder of my life those few brief seconds will be treasured as one of the truly romantic moments of my existence. My soul rejoiced in the knowledge that some major event had taken place, but I was unable to comprehend the impact of this transformation, this transfusion. Now there was something new to haunt me. Would life's composure be better or worse because of it? Already by instinct I began to worry. Habit told me that failure was possibly around the corner, but I, at the same time, felt the lightning had struck. Fear was suddenly irrelevant, because I knew I must take the chance. I would move forward. Inevitable was the future; unread but scripted.
Life obviously continued. Fifteen months later I opened the front door to some friends and standing there on the landing, looking somewhat ill at ease, was the Paris apparition. It was a face never far from my thoughts. The coincidence was hardly possible, but there before me stood my angel. Memories returned and within an hour, a few drinks, and a proud displaying of my photography, discussion led to Europe and Paris and our lives were eternally intertwined. His skin was darker than I remembered, and his hair a little sun-bleached, but the boy was every bit as beautiful.
At last we had come face to face. It is he, this passing phantom, who is the subject of this book. It is his life and interaction with the world that is the story. It is a boy's story, and his tale of beauty, sadness, confusion, surprises, and ugliness. It is a search for a place of meaning. You can not anticipate the stories that I will tell you. Some you may have read of and not believed, and others are known only to me, but I feel that they must be told. Perhaps we have all searched, but of you and your life I know not a single thing. He, I feel I know as well as myself, and that familiarity I treasure above all things.
I love this boy, this creation, this part of me. Please think of him as a friend, a lover, a father, or a son. Whatever you need, think of him that way, although I can not say for sure that you and I have the same definition of love. What love means has a subtlety, unique to each of us, but perhaps there is enough in common that we can agree on an understanding that suits us all. No two of us ever see exactly identical images, however if you can accept this boy into your dreams, I hope as the performance unfolds, that you will grow to know, and understand what is very dear to me
Adjust the mirror, open the curtains, and soon you may recognise his reflection, for are we not each reflected in the lives of those we contemplate? This said, I do still wonder is anything as it appears?


Archie met Sophie on a tram. He thought she was beautiful, and she thought he was a nuisance. She tried to ignore him as he followed her off the old, grey, rattling steel contraption, but nothing would deter his smiling enthusiasm. Hoping to avoid her father's protective questions, and the neighbours’ assumptions, it was necessary to think quickly, so irritably she agreed to tell this pushy and persistent young man where she would be on Saturday night. Feeling trapped, she had no other choice, but the fleeting, unexpected incident did have its moments of teasing flirtation. The young girl had played his little game.
Having finally got him out of the way before he followed her to the front steps of her parents house, Sofia became unexpectedly flushed at the thought of a man, any man apart from her brothers, possibly entering her life at the age of sixteen. Although her interest fluctuated, she spent the following days and sleepless nights worrying that he just might turn up at the local dance hall. Should or would she be mortified or was she secretly thrilled? Would he be nice to her? Would they fall in love? Would he be as attractive when he took off his trousers? Would he do that? He was a man so of course he would. Did she want to know? Of course she did. The only conclusion she arrived at was that she was confused, but what fun it was.
Sophie, after much practiced anguish, made up her mind. She would go with her elder brothers and friends as planned, and ignore him, and that would be that. Wartime was not the appropriate time for a boyfriend. There were too many other responsibilities, and apart from that, she had always thought herself too independent. She had her own dreams and plans, and they needed to be fulfilled. It was 1944 and she was not ready. Apart from anything else, he was so lacking in basic decorum and had no right to behave as if she would even want him to be attractive. A perfect stranger, especially on public transport of all things would not pick up a respectable girl. What impudence! What down right cheek!
Saturday he was there, tall and handsome in uniform. For the first time, the slightly intrigued girl noticed his wavy, slicked back, light brown hair, straight nose and slightly large ears. She spoke to him. They danced the Fox Trot and he embarrassed her by doing the Jitter Bug. The silly young man wouldn't take his eyes from her, and as she drank punch he courageously abstained from both smoking and drinking. He had made his first life decision, and nothing would stand in his way. Excited and determined, he would have stood on his head or swung from the rafters, if he thought it would have made the right impression. She on the other hand was more reluctant, but with the encouragement of her best friend, the boy-happy Agnes, and the unavoidable presence of this young man's charm, Sophie eventually allowed the crack in the already unsteady defences to be widened. 'Joshua' could see the opening. He strutted and danced around her, blew his trumpet, beat his drum, and by the evening's end his chosen was conquered. She crumbled. He fell. They kissed. The walls of indifference were in ruins.
If she had only noticed the sweat on his brow, they may not have come together. He too had confusions. Not about his intentions, but his ability to follow them through. He was far from as confident as he appeared. Being a soldier he had grown accustomed to taking physical chances, but when it came to the fragile yearnings of the heart, Archie was but a child. He could put on a front, he could show off, but the man was still a boy. He was scared. Both of them were not what they seemed. The trembling bravado pitted against the cooperative aloofness. It was the tough challenge that excited them both, but their passionate insecurity was what bound them and allowed them to grow together.
Soon Archie returned to the War in the Pacific, and with little in the way of an enemy for him to shoot at, there was plenty of lazy, secure time to write a book full of letters. He had seen more active sectors but his current posting was at a time when the Japanese had been driven back. His mates became fair game to the sharp wit of his nib and chalk, as he satirised each of their idiosyncrasies in the long tropical months spent away from the girl he hoped to return to. Locked away in an old rusting biscuit tin, Sophie still has the envelopes that are small treasured works of art. Drawings, humorous cartoons, and love poems adorn every available space on the military-censored brown paper. Micro film printed copies of letters with little black erasures still retain their shiny tinted freshness in a sealed envelope. Exactly what did the prying eyes of the censors think of the intimacies that flew across the oceans from the scared and lonely to the impatient and worried? War gave nobody much privacy. In those days all was exposed, all was shared, and in this way the load was lightened.
Archie returned uninjured, without outstanding glory, and a year after the fighting ended he proposed, she rejected, he asked again, and within two months, and with her parents blessing, they married.
Sophie was an elegant bride. She had strong almost handsome features that evidenced her German, Norwegian, Irish background. She had large hands, was of average height with beautiful long auburn hair that shone beneath her lace veil. Her new husband loved his young bride, even if his parents were not so certain of the match. After all, she was a Roman Catholic, and from a much less prestigious family. A slight antagonism that Archie's mother would maintain, mostly suppressed however, for the remainder of her life. Sophie never did get close to her mother-in-law, which did not worry either of them in the least. She had married a husband not a family. When the mood took her, she would bait the old woman to keep her at a distance.
The two families and assorted friends created quite a large raucous crowd, and the St. Ann's wedding and accompanying reception in the local hall, went relatively smoothly. Apart, that is from a short hiccup with the grumpy, ageing, Irish priest who became agitated in the middle of the ceremony when he discovered that no one had bothered to think about, let alone mention that the groom was not a Catholic. It was far too late to do anything about this religious faux pas so with a look of consternation, fidgeting hands and red faced the man behind the incense and holy costume soldiered on. None of the guests particularly cared what he thought because he was suspected of being a cloying, 'dirty old man'. He was expected to do a job, not preach. The girl's father, John, always insisted that the 'old bastard' had the gout.
The poor priest had always been a problem. John had come to the church under sufferance. He had refused to pass his face through its doors since his aborted confession some six years before. The reluctant penitent could not recall what possessed him to attend Easter confession all that time ago, but once his knees hit the worn wooden plank inside the curtained cubicle, he was in the process of reciting the formula that no Catholic boy could ever forget.
"Bless me Father, for I have sinned. It has been ten years since my last Confession."
Through the grill could be heard the raised, disbelieving vibration of the Priest's accusation.
"Ten weeks?"
Followed by the excruciatingly embarrassing outburst that could be heard thundering throughout the entire church. Like the mighty word of God sentencing the wicked on the last day, the priest sat upright in his chair and proclaimed to the entire parish.
John burst out of the no longer secret sanctum in such a rage that he knocked over several votive candles as he stormed red faced from the church. In shame, Sophie and the whole family quickly left their pews. None of them felt particularly drawn to the church after that experience except one brother. They did however go to Mass reasonably regularly, but not Sophie's Dad.
The newlyweds were both strong willed and confident. Sophie had inherited the stubborn backbone of her father, and Archie's family status had inevitably given him what appeared to be independence of will. They had a determination to create lives for themselves that would be part of a new world free from oppression. The future was their’s, and being part of it, they would make a child that would fulfil the potential, of which every human being was capable. From the very beginning they determined that their child would be nurtured in all that was good about the earth. Protection from pain, and socially imposed restrictions would allow their offspring to achieve full realisation of his or her own personality. In between the panting and sweat of their bed at night they discussed their duty to give not only life, but unrestricted freedom to another human being, however their plan was not that easy to bring to fruition. Through the delays, ideals and goals continued to be set for themselves and their family, when it eventually grew. In recent times they had both known death in the injustice of the war. The special souls, annihilated too soon, had to be remembered, replaced, and reborn. Now was the time to rejoice in life, creation and the beauty of it all, so long neglected by an insane world. They were probably not unlike other families in their hopes and optimism, but unlike those who soon got distracted by the harsh realities of their daily lives, Archie and Sophie did prove to be faithful to their goals. From the outset they were intensely devoted to one another, and the creation of something special from their bond took on the aura of a divine inevitability. The gods were patient and the family had to wait some years before their dreams would become reality.
Their first child was still born. Sophie had an early miscarriage next, but on the third attempt their precious son came forth. To them he was a miracle, and they would treat him that way throughout his wonderful if somewhat troubled life.
As they always liked to imagine, he was probably conceived on a grass covered tartan rug beside a river on a bright, sunny, spectacular Spring day. Eight months and three weeks later a child was eventually dragged painfully from Sophie's womb on a somewhat less auspicious, cold, rainy June morning in 1950. The day of his arrival eventually broke into a fierce storm blacking out half the city. Even the back up lines and generators to the hospital failed for a short period causing pandemonium on what was a special day to many couples giving birth in that particular ward. When she recovered from her sedation a son was presented to this woman and she and Archie were in tears with the pride of their making. He was such a small child. A pixie from a cabbage patch could not have been more delicate. Pink and moist the tiny face lay wrapped in the blue cloth, more a toy than a person. It was far too early to see his beauty, except that his parents like most mothers and fathers, knew it by instinct. They would always see it. Their jewel. Their creation.
The boy child came out brilliantly bloodied and blond. When in later years he grew, his long hair faded to dark, and his life pulsed through his veins, steaming and turbulent, like a river in a storm. The lightening of that day had put him in the spotlight and marked him for life. He entered the world and instantly things soon began to explode. This would happen wherever he went. Sophie was stitched and never had another child. At last they had created their life, their challenge. They had made magic, and been sanctified into the world of the gods. The fantasy had become reality. What they had believed possible was now truly possible. They would make it so. Messianic was hardly enough to describe the faith they had already placed in their boy. He was pampered, petted, and constantly flattered, but even as  he was moulded on his pedestal, they remained strict. Their love for him was far too great, they thought, to allow them to spoil him. So much faith did they have in their perfect child that they gave much, expected much, even demanded much. Never could it be contemplated that he would be anything, but a shining star shedding light over everything he touched. He would be spectacular and they would feed the flame until he ignited with the glory of their optimism.
When the child began to walk, he did so naked. Never dressed in traditional clothes, he had no one style. No colour was totally his. He learnt to clean, to cook, to garden and to look after animals, and thus he grew independent and free, but most of all he remained naked. No shame was put on him. He was praised for his work and he was praised for his beauty. Unlike boys of that time he grew his hair long, as that was his choice. He was taught to make his own decisions and encouraged to try all that life could offer a small child, so that under the constant gaze of his creators, he ran joyously through his early years. Adored as the child was, his parents were quick to admonish him for the slightest hint of cruelty, or temper, or for anything from which he could not learn or better himself. As soon as he could understand he was swept away totally in stories his parents would read or create for him, and because of this engendered thirst for fantasy, the young player could read before he began school.
It did take some years after the War to establish themselves, but in time the three of them moved from Sophie’s parents home to a new house in what was then, the far edge of the city. The yard was bare, because in those days it was the habit to tear down every native tree, and plant small European flowerbeds. They soon tired of this precision, and the garden flourished into a sub- tropical jungle much to the disgust of the neighbours who took pride in the clean manicured lawns edged by pruned rose bushes and short unimaginative flowering annuals, that to them appeared the height of suburban good taste. The overgrown town was the epitome of modern sterility. Looking over the many hills of Brisbane in those days provided a neat, stiflingly hot vista of acres of red oxide tin, greying fibro or orange clay tiled roofs, purposely unhindered by the slightest sign of any tall green vegetation. Little could be gained from venturing out into the pastel plastic of 1950's suburbia, and hence the oasis of their home life sheltered the boy from the stagnant reality of what surrounded him. It was within the privacy of the secret garden that the boy played. From the window or the back veranda the boy's little white feet and bottom could be seen darting through the trees and bushes. Every branch, every insect, every breeze became his plaything. Keenly he explored what was about him and just as intensely did he explore his body. Nipples, belly button, testicles were fascinating things that he initially found no explanation for. He would sit on the grass and as his attention was redirected from a hopping sparrow to his hands, and then to probing the parts of himself that were nice to touch he pondered the mysteries of his flesh. At night while sitting on the carpet he would clasp his genitals excitedly and ask ' What's this for? What do they do? Have you got some?' Eventually he became aware of society’s inhibitions, and the subsequent contradiction of this with his parents’ encouragement of freedom. This muddled his thoughts, but he could hardly accept what to him was irrational.
The unpaved, dirt street on which they built their home wound itself up into the bush on the side of a small mountain. There was much to explore on that mountainside where the child could lose himself and act out his imaginative adventures. This second oasis was where he could refresh himself, contemplate and experiment in isolation with the fantasies he developed. Explorers, hunters, Tarzan, ballet dancers, orators and heroes of every description roamed or skipped through the bushes on his wild, private playground. The only place that scared him was the remains of a long gone farm. The rusty old tin sign warning that 'Trespassers will be prosecuted', somehow always looked like 'executed' to him. He stared at this sign and knew what it said, but his mind continued to think that he had somehow misinterpreted it, and even though it was clear, he might one-day see that it really meant death to those whom entered. There was probably a deranged and hideous old man with a shotgun, or perhaps a ghost in the collapsed wooden vine-covered building hidden in the shadows behind the trees. It was frightening, but stimulating to imagine that such danger was close by. His fantasies did not always make for security in his life, but they exercised and stretched his emotions, in that his protective parents were unwilling and unable to offer.
Every other house in the recently developed suburb was neat, new and small. Families were young, and the streets resounded with the screams and calls of children playing and chasing each other around and unhindered from yard to yard. Neighbours chatted over fences, exchanged gossip at the local store, and praised each other for their fortunate life.
In the 1950's home-grown culture was almost non-existent, or at most embryonic. Crime was low, people left their doors open at night, and pets were allowed to leave their droppings on the footpath. Being so close to the bush, snakes were often seen in those days. Wild horses, kangaroos and once, even two confused elephants were found wandering down the stony, ungrassed footpath. The huge grey beasts had escaped from a travelling circus, and immediately headed off in search of freedom, away from the screams of children and traffic. The huge blue and white tent, with all its accompanying smells of sawdust and manure hitched itself annually in a vacant lot at the end of the street. The boy loved the wild and special beasts, and the story of the elephants was one he loved to tell and wait for people's look of disbelief. It gave an air of primitive frontier adventure to the exterior blandness of those early years. All was not without meaning though. There was a spirit that did give simple sincerity to this evolutionary stage in Australia's development.
It was all part of the beginning of the post war recovery, full of hope and optimism, because the earth was being repopulated with the children of the future. Having not been ravaged like Europe and Asia by the full impact of explosive destruction, and nature having blessed the land with a wealth of resources, this country was well placed to leap ahead into what would become a boom period. A security that removed the constraints of general poverty from the daily lives of a very unadventurous, unchallenged and stable people.
Somewhere amongst this spirit of regeneration was hidden a sadness at what the world had become. Two great wars, the collapse of Empires and the knowledge that the Atomic Bomb hung dangerously over the heads of us all, gave an undertone to the abandonment with which people committed themselves to the pursuit, and accumulation, of twentieth century advances. As fashions became more industrial and functional the germ of opposition was taking shape in the minds of those who longed for the comfort, stimulation and rewards of beauty. The age of the common man was taking hold. An egalitarian greyness gripped the western world like a tightened spring that would strain on the minds of the rebels until it burst forth in a shower of reactive creativity that would eventually destroy the concept of discipline for decades to come.
Archie, Sophie and their son were just such a family. Opposed to the rigid path laid before them, they were stubbornly independent enough to develop small ways of conquering the restrictions that constantly attempted to shackle their lives to the expected and approved. They isolated themselves to a fair extent from the families living contentedly around them. Together they created the props of their own world, full of selected influences that satisfied and protected their desires for fulfilment. Almost as an occupation they devoted their insatiability to each other, and the boy's training was paramount. He would be an example of kindness, beauty and the power of a free, educated mind. Perfection was possible. The inspiration and sweat of the artist could reinstate the naive pristine state of God’s world.
In those early years the young child spent several holidays with relatives on Archie's side of the family. There were a group of families still scattered throughout the western side of the Great Dividing Range. Edging onto one sprawling country town a favourite Great Aunt, that he continued to visit over the years, lived with her less likeable and deaf spinster sister, in a large family house passed down from several generations. It sat high on the edge of a valley overlooking what was once part of a large property the family owned. Now the land had been subdivided and the rambling house had lost some of its spectacular view to the appearance of scattered tin roofed wooden houses. However the boy did like the area where he could still run for considerable distances amongst the few sheep that remained on the reduced acres that gave a buffer between the homestead and the encroaching neighbours. His Aunts, from a distance, could see him doing handstands and cartwheels across the paddocks. If the wind was favourable the ageing favourite, could just hear as he laughed loudly to himself while he spun around and around with his arms flying in the breeze until in giddiness, he fell. Rolling to the ground, the blurred rainbow streaks of the earth and sky continued to spin uncontrollably before his eyes. Sensations such as these would give more impulse to his destiny as he sought the fulfilment of his body and the harmony of his soul.
Away from their gaze he would strip off and play. The Aunts knew he liked to run naked across the grass, and to them he was like a visiting elf, ever playful, ever happy. When he was very young he often skipped undressed across the threadbare rugs and hall runners scattered around the slippery, dark waxed wooden floors in the once stylish house, but as he grew his freedom became sacred, private and hence more distant. They did not worry. The change, they put down to bashfulness of a growing boy. Dressed or not, he often performed for his aged audience. It was such a struggle to be lip-read by the deaf Aunt with the funny voice that he found it easier to act out what he wanted to say. She always sounded stern when she shouted at him, but he did try to entertain her and make her laugh. They were fascinating, always full of strange stories, and dressed themselves in clothes that to him, looked straight out of the last century. Their wardrobe had been updated, but the way they stood or sat had a stately superiority that harked back to their teenage years when they lived in much greater wealth than they currently enjoyed. They had memories, many memories, but the peace of those long gone days was happily shattered when their special boy came to visit. Home cooked biscuits from the wood stove, constant petting, and the strange but regular Christmas gift of a ten-shilling note wrapped around a biro, were fond memories he treasured, of these lonely women. When he was very young he was surprised that someone so old could be still living. It amazed him, but always looking for explanations, he decided it must be the country air that did it. He was glad, because there was something wonderful to him about being with eccentric old ladies in the bush.
From his first trip he got to know a young black haired girl around his age, who would always arrive with her white horse each time he visited. It was an enormous beast, and he always looked so small on the animal, even when he got older. He soon learnt to ride it bareback, flesh against flesh. Images of young warriors swept threw his head as he mounted the animal and felt the sweat-covered hair and muscles between his legs. Annie thought he was so cute. He was her secret. No way would she spoil the magic times she spent with this strange and pretty boy, by telling anyone of their friendship and their escapades. On occasions she too would mount the giant horse behind him, and with her arms encircling his gentle white body, the two of them would be held together tightly as they rode through the trees re-creating fairytale adventures, high up on the back of their legendary steed. They were free to touch each others bodies where ever they wished to, and he loved the gentle feeling of her hands on his tingling skin, particularly on the parts where they were fascinatingly different. The boy always thought it was so nice that nearly everyone wanted to touch him. He liked being admired.
He was fourteen on his last visit to the property and Annie was growing up. She brought along her boyfriend, Colin. The three of them tried to get on the horse, but this was not very successful, so the city-boy rode it alone for a while until Colin, an unattractive red head, covered in pimples, suggested they should all stretch out on a rug together. Annie pleaded, but at the sight of her boyfriend's small and ugly erection jutting out beneath an expectant grin, the boy suddenly remembered the time, got dressed and fled. He never saw them again. He wondered in bed that night why he had run away. He had always felt secure and pleased with the innocent familiarity he had with the young girl but was it that he wanted to touch Col, or was he frightened of what might happen. Was it the silliness of the unattractive boy, or was it the sight of a bent, red and dirty penis that put him off. He really didn't know. His own and the few other penises he had seen were soft, straight and pink. Quite beautiful he thought. He had already sketched out what he believed to be beautiful, and he found it difficult to accept that which did not fit his definitions. He did feel uncomfortable with ugly things, ugly faces, ugly buildings, and ugly bodies. He knew he shouldn't, but he did. Ugliness to him was imperfection, and had no excuse for existing.
The animals on the farm were more pets than an investment, although occasionally the women called in a butcher from the nearby town to slaughter and prepare one of the sheep that would provide meat for the sisters and their friends. It was at one of these slaughterings that the young boy first saw the agonies of blood letting. The sacrificial image of life draining from the throat of a convulsing animal at first shocked him, but would he decide that it was cruelty or was the innocent sacrifice a necessary ceremony in the chain of life. Both alternatives appeared valid to him. He would have to ponder this at leisure, and with other experiences gathered along the way, it was committed to the growing catalogue of questions so far without answer.
He was left to his own devices on these trips to the country, but they were rare and the only periods that the boy was separated from his parents until after he had finished his schooling. In their totally dependent independence, the unit grew in strength. Alternating between families continued, and he gathered so much from the understanding these people had of life that had, in some way, been generous and eventful to them all. The grandparents, second cousins and great aunts and uncles found the boy so attentive that they never tired of telling him stories of their youth, or that of their even older and distant relatives. From the fertile interest in which these wonders were implanted grew dreams of how necessary and special was the past. They too were helping to lay the foundations of imagination that would ever build on the boy’s fantasies, the bricks of his creativity, the link between himself and the world.
Life was not merely a holiday. From the very beginning the boy studied hard in the classroom because he had to know things, and for many hours alone at night at his huge wooden desk he worked even harder. Under the shadow of the lamp, evenings were spent staring at French, Latin, Mathematics and History text books, but just as many hours were passed daydreaming of what hidden secrets he might find locked beneath the obvious surface of those pages. In the sciences and arts he excelled, but languages had no staying power in his mind. At the age of six his too small hands struggled with weekly piano lessons, and eventually his father bought him a guitar, as well as a mouth organ and a jew's harp. What ever he wished for was given to him.
School days were not happy, and tended to submerge his independence for seven hours a day under a layer of fear and loneliness. The uncut hair had suddenly grown short when he came face to face with the black veiled discipline of Catholic nuns, and the hooded terror of priestly authority. Withdrawing into his fantasies, the free spirit performed badly in public. Everything that was natural to him became private to him now. Fitting into such formality was against his basic nature, but he knew he had no choice. Stoically he would have to submit, for a time, but the boy believed firmly that his day would come. Patience was good for his soul because it allowed him to think. The development of his personality, he knew was under his control, and although he had no plan as yet, there was a confidence that it would spew forth like an erupting volcano, at just the moment it should. Nature preordained; or like a book already written, but yet to be read. From birth he had been told that his existence would be wonderful and the arrogance of his confidence eluded him, just as it grew unseen by his increasingly blinded parents.
The parental fan club were oblivious to his growing introversion because in his own domain the boy remained the star, ever sensitive to their wishes, praise and unfettered love for him. They saw nothing but brilliance from their child, their presumed happy child. Within the home he laughed and smiled. To his parents his intelligence and talents blossomed everywhere. To the rest of the family he appeared to give of himself generously. In the privacy of picnics he would dive and swim in the rivers and ponds that surrounded the city and freely even as a teenager he continued to run naked through the bush. He would roll in the grass and shout at the sky, the birds and just about anything he thought might hear him. At the beach he did the same but was often requested to dress by the life-savers and inspectors who roamed authoritatively along the shores in search of juvenile misbehaviour.
He loved his parents, and often found the company of adults easier than that of children. Strange as it may now appear he suffered greatly when he had to perform on the piano for his Great Aunts or Grandparents. If he had confidence in what he was doing, there was no trouble, but in these formative years he was still learning. As a perfectionist he wished to make a great impact, but he had to choose his own timing. 'Do nothing until it is ready.' He developed an escape, a protection, a mask. For survival he knew how to use his better attributes to manipulate. Shyness, sensitivity and stubbornness could easily be hidden beneath innocent sweetness and that, he certainly mastered.
Between the ages of ten and twelve, what would normally be described as a series of somewhat dramatic events happened. An older red headed girl he had gone to primary school with, convinced him to show her and a friend his private parts and to kiss hers. Under her house, which was in retrospect fraught with the danger of discovery they entered into the game, secret, at the insistence of the girls, to all but themselves. Although he had seen Annie undressed plenty of times he was intrigued by the little fleshy mound with a tiny cut in it, that with excitement the adventurer was able to taste and smell for the first time. Guiltlessly he saw nothing terribly wrong with this. It turned out to be quite a lot of fun, but when she and her entire family were killed by a car some time later he often dreamed that, because of their 'sin', her scalped and bloodied body might be burning in Hell. It seemed unreasonable, but that is what middle class Australia was attempting to brainwash him into thinking. Teachers and priests insisted that the flesh he found so natural and beautiful was in fact wicked, and instead of celebrating the human body as he had always done, he must find it shameful. The temptation to touch or admire one another was worse than the destruction of the body, it was the destruction of the soul. He resisted the implication that it was better to kill than to love, but was that not what they were saying?
A short time after this the family and grandparents were driving to the sea shore, when in a moment of sudden horror the car in front of them was smashed in the side by another vehicle speeding from a side street. What must have taken but a few moments became a distant slow motion picture of a woman and her baby flying through the window of the car. As she lay on the road with her child cushioned under her body the vehicle rolled once, twice and on the third impact its bonnet smashed heavily onto the woman and continued to bounce to the side of the bitumen where it finally came to rest. The boy looked at the woman who lay still where she had landed. The shock of the vision erased much of what happened but he recalls his Grandfather jumping from the car and running to the accident. He would never forget the report the old man gave of the bones that protruded from the young woman's limbs as she lay on the road subject to the indignity of the stares of the crowd gathered to see her in the most private moment of her life; her death. At first the boy thought how suddenly without warning, and when least expected, life can be stilled. Do we see it happening? Is there a moment when we realise that it has finished, or is it simply as if someone has turned off the switch and in an instant we cease to be? For those who do not believe in a future life, this must be the conclusion, or is it possible to see our death as it happens, and then look back on it? How can it be comprehended? Surely the spirit, if strong, will continue to roam.
Having seen death extinguish another soul before his eyes, he tried to contemplate just what had happened to the girl with whom he had played those secret explorations, but the sights his mind gathered up became too horrific for him to capture and hold, and it fled from his thoughts. He found he could not, would not, see the ugliness of the world, and this the greatest of imperfections, was the ugliest of all. To him all things were, or could be, and in the end must be beautiful. Running from the ugly was something that remained with him and something with which he could never come to terms. It was not for him. Life to be worth living, had to be wonderful. There was no room for the evil side. It had to be avoided. It did not exist.
Another event, was his first real sexual experience. He had met a friendly boy of about fifteen at the pictures one Saturday and flattery induced him to try a new game. This hurried little experiment occurred, bent over a wooden tea box under a house not far from where he lived. It hurt a little, but he did not object, as he became aware that his body had more pleasures available to it that previously, had never occurred to him. He was soon to hear that this too was another cause for eternal damnation. Constantly being told by the outside world that certain seemingly innocent games were evil, was quite confronting to a boy who was otherwise adored and perfect.
Not realising that such things were not spoken of, because to him it was new and exciting, he told Sophie of his adventure as soon as he came home. She was at a loss to know what to do about such news. Her immediate reaction was to postpone any comment until she had discussed it with Archie, so that night after the boy had gone to bed the two of them sat late into the evening agonising over what the perfect parents of the perfect boy should say. In the end, not wishing to make it seem inordinately important, they merely advised the boy that he should not do it again, and hoped that he would forget about it. What he chose to do later would be his own decision, but at his age they realised that it was no more than a game. They must not make it more than it was.
He remembered these events, and his parents’ avoidance well, and being aware of his own limitations, he felt he had no regrets. Probably much to the annoyance of many a modern day social worker, he was convinced that he was in fact not scarred for life by these experiences. He loved his body and saw no reason not to have it petted and admired by anyone who showed interest and affection. As for life itself, in his youth he could not contemplate death too seriously. What child does? Death could be feared, but not often.
Grand escapades, grand uncertainties, it was so much fun, a game, but he knew he could fly. He had a dream that repeated itself often. Standing still and naked on the damp grass in his back yard at night he would concentrate on the power in his brain, hold his breath and tense his body and as he did so he would rise slowly into the air. A little more tightening of the muscles and he would soar straight up higher and higher. Suspended in the sky, way above his house he would look down on the lights of the city, and he could feel the satisfying coolness of the breeze caressing his body, particularly between his thighs. While he towered daringly exposed over the entire world he was at peace. The dream was always so real that when he chose to, he could almost feel the sensations, and had a conviction that if we could capture the essence of that youthful faith we could fly, all of us.
The boy had few friends except the small group he gathered around him from the immediate surrounding houses. It was easy for them to mix as they could just hop over the wood and wire back fence. He was a little older then the neighbouring girls and he had his father build a small proscenium stage where he would entertain his friends with home made puppets. In front of brightly painted sets that he and Archie had designed and constructed together, the first public performances of an artist took shape. The stories were made up on the spot and an old portable 78 rpm. Record player provided the final professional touch, as he took hold of their imagination with his tales of spectacular boys. Magic shows were another high point of the local entertainment. Mostly this featured disappearing scarves and chemicals that would ignite with a blinding flash that usually melted the container they exploded from. Molten metal and glass fascinated the boy. The power of light was enormous. He wished he could appear from a puff of smoke, but he was not so confident that he would not scar his perfect skin. The perfect boy was proud, not stupid.
When Saturday afternoon serials were a favourite at the movies, Sophie was coerced into giving them some old dress material, from which they cut out capes that allowed the super hero and his band of followers to fly as they jumped from the fence or the roof of the garage. Superman, Batman and Flash Gordon saved many a local girl from danger in those suburban back yards.
But still, he spent more time alone, and on the rocks and private spaces of his magic mountain, hidden from the rest of humanity he would dance and sing as he imagined the boys of ancient Greece did amongst the olive groves of that mystical past. How perfect life back then seemed to him. Often the veil of his own created reality hung before his eyes and he knew he could be in another place. If he felt it strongly enough he was there. Mount Olympus, his true home.
Apart from the institution he attended he did enjoy his childhood and his home life forever remained stimulating. The house was always full of music, art, literature, and discussions on topics always fascinating to a young boy included in everything. It was a period of learning. School inevitably taught him many things and he taught himself more. Relatives were born, some died, Presidents were assassinated, wars and rumours came and went and the world went on as usual. He was reawakened and reborn in the late sixties. Up until then the precious jewel was kept hidden in a snug velvet box. Caressed by comfort, sometimes on display, treated with gentleness, always admired but not yet put to use.
He lived mostly in his vivid imagination. Movies, books, and the infrequent visits to the theatre to see a play or an opera were his only escape in Brisbane of the Fifties and early Sixties. However fantasy was not solely in his domain. His parents loved to play-act as well. Whole evenings would be spent at home pretending to be someone else. There was a particular set of characters that they returned to over and over again. It evolved as a running story that continued for several years. Those evenings would see them dressing up and running throughout the house and back yard, being very serious, and inevitably ending in laughter as they rolled around stunned by the silly stories they had invented. Even in the presence of visitors they would sometimes slip into the characters and carry on conversations that left their guests bewildered, and totally entertained.
Hakim the camel trader, who insisted on parking his very large dribbling camel, 'George', outside the front door, Sheherezard the sensuous court entertainer and Alfonse the pretty young, English, orphan street thief. They had adventures that saw them on magic carpets, dying in the desert, discovering lost palaces and on occasions they were at the 'Very British' club or a fabulous oasis where their guests were encouraged to join them as retired generals, ladies of noble birth or young foreign princes and princesses. The boy loved these games and would practice his role when he played alone in the privacy of his mountain or his room. They were all actors and it was not just for their son's benefit that Sophie and Archie put so much effort into this. They enjoyed it.
Reality became confused with dreams in his memory. If anyone were to ask him in later years about his childhood, he would give a jumble of stories that meshed life and fantasy in one vague sweep of life that only related to his present. So obvious a product of his own mind and past, it is strange to equate his life with such a dismissal of what foundations were laid in those days. Often he would say that the road was less important than the destination. Others might disagree, and insist that the way you get there is all important, but he suspected this may be the excuse used by those who have failed to arrive, or possibly not even have their sights on the goal. Aimlessness was abhorrent to him. Failure to progress denied the joy of life, the reason for existence. If life were a journey it must be going somewhere. Each step, no matter how slight, would take you to a place where you have never been. Admittedly his destination was hazy, but he knew that he had one, and perhaps he was too flippant about the effort he put into heading along certain paths to get there. Respect for achievement can be so difficult for the perfectionist. It is just that when he arrived he saw no importance in recording the route because no one else could follow the same path. We each must find our own way, follow our own signs.
If the end is the answer, we have to somehow ensure that we ask the right question, but it is unclear if we develop the search or is it something we are born with? Do each of us have an innate seed in our brain that leads to the constant quest if we feed and nurture it with care, or is it purely created from a thoughtful insecurity also common to many of us? The search seems to be so universal that it may just be with us all from birth, if we care to examine our soul, our nature. There is just one other possibility, I fear, and it is that it is imposed on us from controls outside ourselves. Sometimes forced on us with threats or even more unjustly, with love.
One story told to me by his grandmother is worth repeating. The boy has no recollection of this, and perhaps it was embellished by the exaggerated imaginings of an old woman, but it rings true. Was he always aware of his future, his goals, his self-meaning, or at least the desire to find the truth about himself and his potential place in the world? Had the lightning of his birth unleashed future memories that would continue to guide and disturb this boy? Hindsight is a dangerous pleasure to indulge in, but I feel we should take the chance occasionally.
Just after the child's third birthday, the whole family was gathered together one clear crisp winter Sunday for a picnic by the mudflats of the beach close to town. Most of the day they lazed around on tartan blankets eating cheese and corned beef sandwiches and sipping tea and pineapple cordial. The boys played cricket in the sunshine and the girls rolled their skirts up over their knees to get some colour on their pale winter legs. Grandfather did some fishing from a decrepit wooden jetty and as usual he contentedly caught nothing. To him the art of throwing in the line had little to do with the hunter and gatherer. It grew more to be an act of peaceful meditation, where he could contemplate the successes of his life's journey. Grandmother told simple stories to, and played with her first grandchild. He ran, she chased. She tickled, he laughed. At moments like these the family is at it's pinnacle. Each has adopted the role chosen in perfection for the masterpiece of what is good.
The family always had fun together. After lunch everybody slowed down and drowsily some slept in the warm mid-year sun, while the others walked along the seashore quietly exchanging snippets of gossip and reminiscences. The wind was still and the palm trees lining the edge of the water hardly moved except for when a bird landed shakily on the fronds, and picked at the bunches of seeds maturing in the dry weather. The day remained peaceful like so many they spent at this, one of their favourite spots.
"Sophie, where's your boy?"
"He was asleep here a minute ago, I just dozed off for a while. Maybe he's with Archie. I'll go and see."
She ran along the beach and panic set in when she came across the others, to see the child was not with them. They all ran back towards the picnic area and from a distance they saw, to their horror, Granny wading out into the water, screaming at the floating body of their baby. She clutched him into her arms and struggled back to the water’s edge where Archie had run to meet her and take the child into his trembling grasp. Exhausted from her efforts the older woman fell to her knees in the lapping water and mud, partly from shock and partly as a subconscious recourse to the intervention of the Divine.
The boy had taken off his clothes and gone into the sea. He could not have been there long and there was no tide in the shallow water, so no one could understand how he had managed to get out so far. Archie was white with fear when he jumped onto the grass from the small stretch of sand above the line of mud. Sophie screamed when she saw him lay the small still white naked body of her son on the blankets. They huddled over him, too scared to speak to one another, and for several moments their life had suddenly ceased to be. Their dream was at an end.
The others had run to get a car, and just as it pulled up, the boy opened his eyes, coughed a little water out of his mouth and smiled at his parents. Pointing into the air he laughed.
Sophie burst into tears of relief, but was shaking too much to hold her child. The boy jumped up and once again began to run towards the water. His grandmother followed him and whisked him up into her arms again and kissed his cheek just before he could jump down onto the sand.
"Baby, what are you doing? It's dangerous out there. Naughty!"
"Seagull! "
As he said this, she saw two white and grey birds plunge from the sky into the water to fight over the floating carcass of a dead fish. From nowhere they appeared and screamed at each other while in the heavens they swooped, circled and soared. The boy giggled, squirmed and flapped his arms.


I discovered that the boy kept a lengthy record of his evolution. I obtained these detailed fragments after much digging, when I began this story. Almost daily in the intimate privacy of his room he transcribed notes of life’s events and the thoughts that stirred his mind. At first glance, so much of life appears to be repetition, but events are never exactly the same and each time we return to them our understanding increases just a little for we do so from a slightly different direction, and we bring different knowledge and baggage with us. Just as when I began school we were made to repeat our tables and spelling over and over again until hopefully we gained something from the experience. Today even mistakes repeated can teach us something. Explore all avenues, travel similar paths and contemplate ourselves again and again until the logic is irrefutable. Maybe.
From his very earliest years he wrote copiously and in the end he sealed everything in black ribbons and locked them in a case. Stored away under his Grandmothers old house, these insightful treasures remained unopened for many years.

24th January 1955. Mummy took me to school today. I got into trouble for running away. A boy wet his pants on the floor. A puddle of piddle. Sister Agnes is really old and ugly. Not nice like Gran.
16th May 1955. Daddy and Mummy took me to The Mikado. I sat on the aisle. I liked it very much.
1st June 1955. If I hold my neck stiff and try really hard I can sing like a tenor. I will be a singer when I grow up. Mummy said I would be the best singer in the world.
18th April 1956. Pappa Drayton died today. He had a heart attack. Everyone is upset. I have been sent to bed early. I climbed out the window and looked at the sky where Pappa Drayton is now. I wonder if it is nice being dead. I don't feel sad. Should I? I don't have to go to school tomorrow. Good.
21st April 1956. I was not allowed to go to the funeral. Everyone said I would get upset. I don't think I am upset at all yet. I wanted to go. It would have been nice.
30th April 1956. We went to see Grandma tonight. I think she was crying but I couldn't really tell.
20th May 1956. Still can't get anyone to tell me much about dying. Why? Dead people can't just fly away.
9th August 1958. Last night I had a dream about being an actor. I thought I was very good but no one clapped. Mummy said I was too good for them. Daddy helped me make some puppets today, out of paper and toilet rolls and glue. He is going to paint one to look like me. I hope it is pretty. Daddy said he will be the hero in my plays.
1st January 1959. I have made a resolution to watch myself grow. I have a new mirror. I want to see the changes. Measure the pleasure.
8th January 1959. You need two mirrors to get a good look all over yourself. I nearly twisted my ankle trying to see my back. It is impossible to see the back of your head. I want to see me without staring at my eyes. It would be like how other people look at you. Like looking at another person.
1st January 1960. Last year I decided to look in the mirror. I like what I see. I don't grow much but I am changing. It is funny how many different things you see if you look long enough. You can almost peer right through yourself. I could be the invisible man.
15th December 1960. I told Father about my dream of flying and he has started a painting of me in the stars. I had no clothes on in my dream but he is painting me in a big bubble with light all around me except for my head. I like to be painted. Grandma gave me some books today. They were old books that my aunt and uncles used to read. Lots of old Greek writers and some art books, and stories. I will have to ask for a bigger bookcase soon.
27th December 1960. I cut my finger this morning. Blood went all over my clothes. It is a beautiful colour. I wonder why I am so white on the outside and so red inside. If I hold my hand up to a light I can see through it and it looks red. A fire inside.
9th January 1961. If I was Alexander the Great I would have lived for ever. I bet he could fly as well. At night he would have looked down over his armies and see the world that he conquered. I just see our street. I want to look like a white Greek statue. My bottom feels like cold white marble. A boy told me so today. He was nice.
30th November 1961. I wonder if I believe in God, a god, anyone? I am doing well in my exams. Thought of trying out for the Junior Players theatre group but everything is so amateurish that it would probably be silly. Should think more about it.
1st December 1961. Mother agreed that the players wouldn't be right for me. She will tell me about acting. She said I should only do the best, and never be satisfied with anything else.
20th February 1962. I was dancing up in the mountain today and I had a feeling someone was watching. Felt very game so I took off my clothes. Couldn't see anyone but it felt good that they might be spying on me from somewhere. I tried to dance very beautifully for them with my penis hard so that it would look good. I hope they appreciated it. I always feel like I should have an audience if I do something well. Tomorrow I will make a costume so that I can wear something exotic next time. Who knows, someone might want to watch me again.
27th February 1962. I did it. Today I took one of Mother's silk scarves and her pearls up to the mountain and dressed myself up. You could see through the costume and the pearls looked good against my chest. I sang a song and danced for hours hoping someone would discover me. I waited for ages and eventually I saw two boys trying to hide behind some bushes. I was right. They were there last week. I kept dancing until they yelled at me. I called them out and took off my costume so they could watch me dance in the nude. They asked if they could touch me so I let them. They took off their clothes and wanted to know if I would touch them but I didn't want to, so they played with each other, which was kind of fun to watch. I said I would dance for them next week if they wanted me to.
28th February 1962. I found a big lizard in the back yard this afternoon. It was a prehistoric monster, so I am calling him Demon. He lives in the ferns. Lucky. I could take him up the mountain but he obviously came down here to be with me, and the parrots in the trees.
8th April 1962. The boys I see occasionally on the mountain brought a dozen friends with them today and I had my biggest audience while I danced. I really enjoy performing in front of people. Everyone tells me I am pretty, and wants to touch me. It is a bit vain but I think they like it so it can't be wrong. One of the older boys had an orgasm, which everyone else seemed very proud of. I don't think I will see them again though.
23rd May 1962. Still flying. I like the world. I like my parents. I like music. I like to dance. I like my hands. I like my room. I hate school. I hate our street. I hate football. I wish I could live naked in the jungle like Tarzan’s boy, or be a boy in ancient Greece. Boys are so much prettier than girls. It would be nice to have a younger brother to look after.
22nd. August 1963. Sitting here looking at myself. I have just had my first orgasm. I was thinking of statues of boys and when I touched myself it exploded. It was as if I had been lifted from the earth and passed from my body. I guess it was like the one the boy I met at the pictures had that day. He was very keen on having orgasms and said I would enjoy it one day. I did.
21st October 1963. Father had to see Father O'Grady today because I got into trouble for doing a drawing of Michael from my class. They had an argument about me. Father said it was a good drawing but Michael's mother told the priests that I was a dirty little boy who should be banned from the school, and my parents should be ashamed of themselves. We did the drawing in my room last weekend and Michael posed as a statue for me. He looked really nice. Michael wanted me to do a drawing of him and his girlfriend but his mother won't let him come to my house any more. I don't understand why my father can do paintings of me but I can't do drawings of anyone. My art books are full of pretty boys, even the books in the library at school. I hate school. My parents like art, but Michael's mother wouldn't know a piece of art if she fell over it. I will never show anyone at school my things again. It just isn't fair. One day I will show them how wrong they are.
17th March 1964. What is happiness? Dancing? Doing what you like best and having other people enjoy it? Doing what other people like best and you enjoying it?
18th July 1965. Dear Diary, I have to talk to someone. My parents are wonderful but they think I am so good that they never think I have any worries. They love me I know but sometimes I wish they would let me be ordinary. I make mistakes but they never let me feel guilty. They keep telling me that I am special, and the problem is that I believe them and then I feel silly for thinking so. I have something inside of me that says that I will do something important one day. I don't know what it is but it is scary. When I try to tell them that I feel different they just agree and smile at me. I need an answer. I have so many dreams that are real to me. Am I going crazy at fifteen. I always see me in the future and I am famous but I can't see what for. People are following me and trying to touch me, but I don't want to be touched. I have even dreamed of the night I was born. How could I know anything about that. I don't remember Mother telling me about it. Who am I?
10th August 1965. I have just spent an hour looking at myself in the mirror. I felt my body all over and I enjoyed it Narcissus. I am beautiful. Must stop.
11th August 1965. Felt funny all day. Yelled at Mother and had to apologise. Last night I was the Colossus of Rhodes. I started in the back yard and as I got bigger and bigger I became this huge statue that straddled the world. I wore no costume and I was beautiful. I looked down at the small people below and I saw the girl next door who got killed. The statue, which was me, exploded and marble tumbled from the sky and killed everyone. Vanity can be destructive.
15th August 1965. Alexander the Great, Pappa Drayton, Uncle Frederick and Father O'Grady appeared to me last night and told me to be extraordinary. They said I would one day find out who I am. I can't handle these dreams. I want to know now. I must be perfect. I am me. Who? ME! Just me.
27th October 1965. I have read so many books lately. History is fabulous. Just finished 'Memoirs of Hadrian'. I think I'm in love. One day I want to find out what happened to that boy Antinous. I want to be as beautiful.
28th October 1965. Shit I am in the wrong time. When will I know it all. Look at me!
4th November 1965. What is history. It may have mattered to people back then but it's all one big story to me. The further away from it you get, the same it all looks. People don't really change much, so the stories might as well be mixed up. I get confused. In my mind they could all be in the same place at the same time- the past. Should I learn more or is it a waste of time. If I get too precise, I will lose track of the stories. It's like the Bible. When everyone tries to map out places and dates and become an authority they forget that it is only there to tell them how to live. The archaeologist finds a carbon dated bowl and loses the face of God. Shit, I am beginning to sound religious.
5th January 1966. I think my favourite colours are gold and red. Sounds very regal. No. --- Sun and blood. Life from the outer and inner space, both warm, both liquid and flowing. Explosive.
20th February 1966. Beauty is beautiful. Love is lovely. This is crap. Just playing with words tonight. Ivory, silk, porcelain, blond, smooth, diamond stars on fingertips. Street fighter in lace. Ballet/Battle. Androgynous. Fantasy. Love. Glorious but dangerous.
Dancing with the sun.
When? How? Why?
Last Entry
1st June 1966. Realised today that life is yet to begin. The past is gone, and I have tried to find the answer before I knew the question. The dreams have stopped lately and I am studying hard. I wonder what I discovered in the mirror. Did it reveal anything or has it blinded me to the remainder of the world. Perhaps I am the world.
Know thyself. (First?)
We should be going overseas next year, so I must be patient. My life will take its course. Don't push too hard. You, my secret diary will be locked in my heart, I do not need to look at you again.
It is finished.


It took only a few months after his schooling finished, to at last regrow his hair towards the length he preferred. Although now, he was not the only boy to allow the beauty of his hair to fall joyously free around his shoulders. Following the ex-military inspired regimentation of the years after the War, and accompanying the birth of the long awaited emancipation of women, was the returned realisation and acceptance of the recently considered inappropriate feminine side of the male, his beauty. Once again the male of the species took on the plumage of the Peacock. Often suppressed, particularly in Australia, and the USA, whose influence some considered far outweighed its worth, was the idea that a boy could possibly be anything but determined and strong, if not downright aggressive.
The pendulum continued to swing, and a reaction against this arrogant, outdated concept of masculinity, as well as all conservatism, was beginning to spread throughout the adventurous and frustrated of the world. Inevitably this rediscovery exhibited itself in many over reactions to accepted norms. Some untested ideas would eventually be reigned in, but the gates had been unlocked, the youth of the day were released, and life could be humanisticly indulged for a short playful period this century. When flappers danced their way into the depression earlier this century, such abandon was limited to those with funds, however this intoxicating revolution required no money at all. The less you had the richer you were, and the more could you party. Even fashion accommodated the lack of need. The more contradictory and used one's clothing was, the more acceptable one became. Like Ghandi taking on the uniform of the lower cast, the inspiration of the poverty of India, and along with this, its mysticism, were adopted proudly throughout the West. The world was shrinking. The global village of science fiction had at last been founded.
It was no coincidence that the first really unpopular war was being waged at the same time. For once we realised that God was not on our side, and the smug superiority of the old powers at last began to crumble. A generation wanted to turn the world around and upside down, shake some sense into it and live. On all fronts a revolution had begun. Initially a peaceful battle was being waged, but that was not always to be the case. Like most causes it would one day get out of hand, but at least, people began to think of each other as neighbours, not aliens. Not all, but many, and more each day.
Australia may not have been that different from other countries, but as a nation it was young, Brisbane was young and had remained but a child as far as cities can have a personality. It had not grown up. By far the majority of the population were newcomers, immigrants who longed for images of what they thought they had been separated from, and as much as they tried to identify themselves with this most ancient of all lands, the confidence in their belonging was still a long way off.
Mother, father, and son were all free at last and they set forth for Europe, or more precisely, the mother country, England. A new life, a new beginning, and the real education of the boy was about to be resumed. Just as Martin Luther King had a dream, a powerful dream, so did the family. They yearned for much, as did so many other children throughout the new world. Dreams could become a reality. Confidence in the dream was appropriate and all seemed possible.
Archibald Francis Drayton was once an accountant immediately after leaving the Royal Australian Air Force, but as a man still in his twenties he soon became dissatisfied with this regimented office life. He had spent too much recent time being ordered around. His childhood and adolescence, not the war, had given form to his manhood. The times had moulded him and he evolved from being a spoilt, pampered, but interested child to become a man who relished and wallowed in his own concept of independence. He gathered courage, quit his job and took up his youthful passion, painting, as a means of support.
Great-Great Grandfather Drayton set up a property in the west of Queensland and the family grew wealthy from cattle and prospecting in the late nineteenth century. Over time the bulk of the offspring moved to the cities where they prospered well enough to have periods on and off, where they employed servants. Talent was not something the Draytons were ever short of, and the indulged young Archibald was encouraged to study the emerging interest in Australian painting. The home library bulged with the fruits of an insatiable family urge to collect books of every topic. Nothing appeared to be missing from the shelves. No reference, no novel, no information was omitted. Education and knowledge was an obsession. The young man and his sister experimented in all kinds of self-expression, sometimes with mutual support and other times in sibling competition. She, in particular, appeared to turn her hand to any creative output with success, but she never rose above the amateur status. The talent was hers and the ambition was there, but her marriage and subsequent children put an unexpected stop to that.
Archie had at last realised that his life must be his own, and to be any form of honourable human being, and reasonable husband, he would have to follow his wishes, his dreams. Initially he got caught up in the post war rebuilding fervour and the sudden responsibility that he felt as a newly married man, but in spite of the obligations thrust upon him, he soon realised that this was not the life he wished to follow, and felt compelled to make the break. Dissatisfaction with, if not a fear of the mundane forced Archie's decision, and just as readily it encouraged Sophie's eager acceptance of the inevitable change.
In the early days Sophie Maria Drayton worked as a music teacher by day, struggling with the embryonic talents of children, and in her spare time she sang. In halls and churches, at eisteddfods, and competitions, more and more did the passion grow within her. The initial years of Archie's fledgling career made it necessary that she be able to support the family until he gained some reasonable acknowledgment, and the money would hopefully begin to be returned from his painting. When he was established, she began singing lessons in earnest, and as the voice grew stronger, so did her longing to travel, and explore her possible success on the wider operatic stage. She wanted to sing, and she must leave this country if she was to have a chance. Amateur theatricals and the valued and dedicated Music Clubs were scant exposure for the talents bursting to be realised in the hidden backwaters of Australian towns. Archie was also keen to return to Europe where he had not been since he travelled with his Grandparents when he was fourteen. He needed to expand his understanding of twentieth century art from the inside, from where it was happening. Where but in greener pastures could they sustain and build their talents.
In retrospect the government through the fifties and sixties was perhaps the most consistently bland leadership the country had ever experienced. Life, the economy and progress plodded along happily under its own steam. There were no bold ventures. Little emphasis was placed on the value of education, let alone the arts, and if it were not for the unavoidable need the world had, at that time, for Australia's abundant resources, the country might have gone to sleep. Luckily it was the nagging of those few waking dreamers, hidden in the suburbs, that managed to keep the place ticking over.
The young couple's ambitions however were put on hold until the time was right for their boy to venture out into the world. Opportunities in Australia were extremely limited in those days, so the lure and the inevitability, for so many artists, of the journey to the north was akin to the migration of the Tribes of Israel to the promised land. 1967 was the right time. They packed their bags, sold everything, farewelled their family and friends, and moved to London. Sophie had managed to get financial support to enable her to intensify her singing tuition, and by pulling a few strings and dropping as many names as he could manage, Archie immediately got a position as a part time curator at a small central London gallery. As part of his deal he was given a large studio space two floors up from the show room, that he could use as a studio. They were by no means poor, due to the happy arrival of a reasonably hefty sum of family money several years before, so life was comfortable and afforded them the many opportunities to live as they pleased.
For two years they were based in Marble Arch. Sophie studied, and after numerous auditions, she began small roles at Covent Garden, the home of so many Australian singers. Archie worked and painted. Through the gallery he managed to meet and impress some influential artists in London and with their assistance, his talent was celebrated in a remarkably short time. Their boy set about the longed for task of learning to live. Self-discovery was at last on the horizon. Fortune continually smiled on his endeavours and his beauty seemed to precede him everywhere he went. Initially he explored London alone. Trudging along every street and alley, he unearthed wonders gathered together in this fabulous city over the centuries. At last he felt his feet stood on a pavement that cried out to him that he was home. Certainly it was a place to live, like so many millions had done before. Was it possible that the vibrations of those since passed on, still echoed in the stones and spaces that now surrounded him? He certainly sensed the force of civilisation from every direction.
At first he could feel the presence of place. The strength of this revelation, in time, led to meeting the people. At Piccadilly Circus he introduced himself to the youth of the city, while during that same period he was also becoming the darling of artists, whom his father had met. Shyness had fallen from him like an unshackled weight, so the long awaited extroversion, once unleashed, consumed him totally. For his entire life he had been accustomed to sitting for his father’s paintings and having no modesty, and now certainly no inhibitions, he was proud to sit for all who asked. His white, slim, hairless body became a favourite of every painter both male and female, interested in beauty. When those demands were not taking up his time he spent hours submerged in the splendours of every museum, gallery and exhibition in London. The vastness of collections bought, commissioned and plundered from all the peoples and times of the world overwhelmed his excitable and growing inspiration.
Befriending some students he managed to sit in on lectures at London University and without official accreditation the boy managed to be exposed to topics that stretched his ever-hungry imagination in a multitude of directions. This facet of his part time education came to an abrupt halt after he loudly challenged a professor of the English Department when he disagreed with some statements about W H Auden's war prose and sex life. The conservative pot, boiling beneath the respectable surface of the professor revealed his true colours when he berated Auden's and Britten's socialist, anti war sentiments from the late thirties. The boy rose to the defence of two of his heroes with more force than some considered polite, or necessary. He was banned from the university. Quietly sitting in on lectures was okay, but visitors disturbing classes was not looked upon kindly by the old man. It was enough that he was having trouble coping with the new political revolution already brewing within the student population. The boy was part of the changing times, but not everyone felt comfortable with what they saw merely as a loss of respect and discipline. Freedom of expression was a nice concept, however heaven help those who wished to put such a radical idea into practice.
No one considered the absence of extended formal education had any effect on his growth. Largely, although still under the guidance of his parents, he became self taught and as his interests were being encouraged in the fields of self-expression, he was hardly likely to suffer from the freedom he had to absorb under his own will. To dabble in all was more important to him than to become an expert in any narrow field. As knowledge increased in the late twentieth century, the trend was becoming to specialise in great detail, to the exclusion of a once gentler and broader concept of learning. It appeared that in the romanticised past a person went to a university to get an 'education', but the Draytons thought that too often these days it was becoming a place of no more than career training. It was easy to learn a trade and make money, but too few were getting training to live in, understand, and contribute to the society the earth has produced in all its centuries of wonder. To many, science and commerce had alienated mankind from itself, and the return to a time of not so subtle love, flowers and uninhibited personal expression swept throughout the disenchanted. Among other things, to reject authority was 'hip', and so the Hippies were born. The Beat movement, and subsequent Beatniks of the fifties, was a germ that impregnated a select few but by the late sixties it truly flourished under a new guise. If you could grasp this moment you were considered lucky. The boy had been nurtured for this very time and he had every intention of taking full advantage of what this new life offered.
Perhaps unrecognised, but another factor influencing the times was that it was the last half of the last century of the second millennia. Calendar landmarks appeared to have always affected the behaviour of people if the understanding of historians is to be relied on. The subconscious urge to reflect or prepare, produces change and art that bends the minds of the masses at large. Plans, celebrations, prophesies, expectations and conclusions abound in such times, and unabashed indulgence is a normal forerunner of any hopefully mature, contemplated leap into a new phase. The search for newness, for change becomes frenzied, so like a sponge the boy absorbed the times.
Almost nightly he cruised the box offices for cheap tickets to the theatre and his mother managed to convince the Covent Garden ushers to admit him to just about any performance that he chose. So often he received strange looks from the more elite members of the audience. No one was offended, but they all noticed this small unkempt, but striking boy sitting by himself in an empty box or alone at the end of a row. What they initially took to be such a sad looking boy, surprised them when they realised the passion that he was undergoing while watching, participating in and being thoroughly engulfed in his stage fantasies. They noticed him when he cried. They noticed when he rose cheering to his feet. He was noticeable no matter what he did. People smiled.
It was around this time that he was named. He was given a much used family name when born, but even in Australia he was often referred to more often then not, as Sophie's or Archie's 'son'. To the ones left behind they were generally considered surprising and imaginative people and their child was such a brilliant reflection of their commitment to life that he became known mostly as their 'son', as if it were carrying on some tradition of extraordinary individuality. Some in his new home called him a piece of Australian sunshine. Eventually this led to Son or Sunshine and he settled himself on, and henceforth adopted the name 'Sunny'. Not inappropriate in the late sixties.
There were no rules now, and he rediscovered the freedom of his early childhood. Urged on by Sophie and Archie, his confidence in himself returned to the fore, and he moved throughout the world with an air of self-absorbed delicacy, that was willing to be seen and admired but seldom needed to interact on a purely superficial social level. He knew he looked good and if that pleased people he would do nothing to stop them getting joy from their observation or contemplation of his appearance. Initially he suffered no damaging pride in his presentation and behaviour. He was neither selfish nor smug, just self sufficient and snug in that security and acceptance of his own beauty. Never could he take advantage of it. It was just a reality that he was aware of, and he was healthy enough to realise what gifts had been given to him. His face and body were happy accidents of nature that he took care to be grateful for, and over which he would be a faithful custodian.
His parents, who were no strangers to it themselves, had no objection when he told them he had begun to smoke pot. They had faith in him and if he chose to try things available to him, they accepted him for his natural exploration. To many in those days, it appeared that drugs were part of the search for meaning, unlike later times when it became an escape from an inability to cope with the disappointments and failures of life's expectations. Experimentation was natural to him, but he preferred to achieve his sense of heightened awareness through his own force of will and a determination to control his mind himself. If he had power over himself he could do anything when he chose. The ultimate freedom to him was the ability to turn himself on, unlock the hidden parts of his brain himself, and to practice and refine his fantasies without the unpredictability of stimuli external to his own awareness. On the whole he had little use for drugs. This of course was apart from allowing himself to indulge at the occasional celebration. He decided his mind and body had to be relatively protected from poisons, both spiritual and chemical. He was a temple, and the gods within must not be disturbed. Beauty was purity, the price was vigilance, and the rewards were no doubt special but yet to be determined.
Sunny had by now become accustomed to meeting up with some friends at Piccadilly Circus after his dancing lessons. Together they sat and discussed existence beneath the centrepiece of Christian Charity. The naked youth raised high on his pedestal amongst the rubbish and poverty of one of the great centres of western civilisation is a glorification of Charity and often mistakenly referred to as the pagan love god Eros. To him the sentiment was the same, and the boy took it as an omen for establishing his new life. The bronze boy was his own personal talisman, his secret friend and brother. Some of this motley city tribe were slightly older, from the University and others, unfortunately he thought, were just stoned. The 'just stoned' ones had little else to recommend them, as that was their reason for existence, which kept them too occupied to participate in many other activities. Disillusioned, without confidence in the future, they sometimes sought escape in personal relief that further relieved them of the need to achieve anything. To him this was a sadness that he could not accept. He liked them but what could he absorb from those whose actions offered little. Selfishly he realised that if he could change them they would have more to give, to return to his life, but he now belonged to that group and he had to survive. The only way he knew was to open himself up to the world. He had no secrets. He had no need of them. He wanted to be accepted, but it had to be in truth. How could people form a judgement of him if he did not expose everything within himself? He was no longer the innocent introvert shying away from strangers. That time, drawn out of necessity had passed. Now he was developing a mission, his light must come out from under the bushel. Without seeing all that was there to know of him, they would be accepting a half image, a lie. Gradually and with rising confidence he began to speak of his longings, his fantasies, his hopes and his dreams. If he set this example, perhaps they would in turn open up to him and from there the inspiration would gather. His stories fascinated them and his participation in life excited them. In those grey days in the dirty city he began to shine. He stood apart.
At night, in his shambled, clothes cluttered bed; Sunny would lay on his back with his feet stretched above him, resting on the cold smeared plaster wall, and think over with impatience the direction his life was taking. So much was being fed into his mind that the need to explore what he could do with it, festered like a swollen boil requiring urgent lancing. New friends were gathering all around him, but the newfound, and now constant fear of stagnation pushed his dreams into a smorgasbord of wildly wonderful images of creativity. He hungered for the spectacular, the extraordinary, and the fulfilment of his existence, just as he had done when a child. In those days though, he knew the constraints that must be obeyed. Today this was no longer relevant, and an inner urgency told him that time and life should not be wasted. He must make a start.
Michelangelo Buonarroti always saw his creations hidden secretively inside a lifeless block of marble needing only his guiding hammer and chisel to release them. The potential was there. It only required the eye of understanding and the faith of love to be fulfilled. Almost certainly it took courage to strike a blow for beauty. Something so delicate could be shattered easily if care, appreciation, and skill were absent. The boy struggled to free himself just as the unfinished Captives of that great sculptor twist and turn in an attempt to wrench free of the mass of stone that imprisons them. The fight for the spirit of life, or art's creation pitted against the restraints of that which is wretched and physical, swirled throughout the boys existence. A blow must be struck. Negligence can be destructive. People had expectations. Yes, the need was urgent, his time was short.
Surprises were common in the late sixties. Change was everywhere and ironically, like the eye of the storm, that busy crossroad of London tourism and commerce grew to be one of the most publicised magnets to the disciples of the anti-establishment. One particular grey and dismal day he ran to meet his friends who had gathered directionless together on the polluted, black, trodden steps at the foot of his bronze hero. He looked at them, and in a moment of delirious, spontaneous inspiration he placed his bag on the cemented ground, and began to step rhythmically back and forth in front of his pensive comrades. At the foot of the statue of Eros, Sunny threw off his shoes, quickly peeled himself out of his shirt and trousers and began to dance. A crowd naturally gathered in awe and surprise at the sight of this unexpected, brazen but beautiful boy. His buttocks were white and shimmery and his dew drop covered pubic hair and penis swayed like a small flower as he moved around the island in the centre of this crowded and hurrying city. His friends expected cheers or cries of derision, but the boy showed such confidence and joy that he was soon surrounded by the silence of a colourful, sheltering crowd blessed to be part of this occasion. Like a young faun the vision pranced from one side to the other, his hair became damp as it flew in the air and two small delicate feet stamped in the puddles, as they kicked the rubbish aside to create his stage. It became impossible to distinguish the sweat from the rain gently falling on this offering to Eros. His nostrils flickered, his mouth panted and his heart beat visibly in his chest, as he spun around and around, with arms outstretched, faster and faster, until at the height of his excitement, he screamed just before collapsing in exhaustion, from the adrenalin that pumped furiously through his body.
When Sophie collected him from the Police Station, she was overjoyed by her son's happiness. In the clinical greyness of the silent corridors, every authoritarian step echoed threateningly like an ominous presence dredged up in a Kafka novel. This frail and beautiful sacrifice, subjected to the taunts of the fascist establishment, must hide his heroic pearls from the swine who could not understand what he had just done. Such was the imagination that added to the thrill. Inspired by himself, the boy was still in a fantasy. It was the most life-giving oasis he had ever experienced.
"Oh mother, I did it! It just came to me and I had to do it. It was so quick. It was wonderful. Everyone watched, and I even stopped the traffic, especially when they dragged me away. I nearly started a riot. People were screaming ' Beauty and the Beasts’. At last I was actually out there."
"Your father will be thrilled. Archie was always an exhibitionist himself. You remind me so much of him, when he was younger. That's how we met. He danced me into submission. You look like you enjoyed yourself. I am so proud of you. You are just what we always hoped you would be."
"Mother, I am beautiful, aren't I?"
"Yes darling, you are very special and beautiful."
No charges were laid, and they managed to not listen to the stern reprimand the police had given him. He was on such a high all that night that Archie called a friend Julia to photograph him because his face shone with a light that reflected the hyperventilation that fired his whole excited being.
"I'm sure I could do these photos in the dark. Darling, you are glowing. "
His eyes were pushed open like a sunflower in flame, and the breath shunting in and out of his half open mouth gave redness to his lips that accentuated the heat of his cheeks. Oxygen had ignited his soul like a match struck in the dark. He had made his first statement, his first piece of art, his first blow had been struck. He had performed and he himself was now not just something admired, a canvas, but a living piece of interactive art. He could fulfil their desires. He could stir the souls of a crowd. He was transformed. A great step had at last been taken. Life and education were now taking form. The opportunities were limitless. There was now definitely a direction. Up! That night, in the company of gods, he flew again.
Their son was a star, a sun burning brightly; internally combusting with happiness that radiated its effect on all who might stand within range of his influence. He would shed the light. The photograph in the newspaper the following morning did justice to Eros even if the accompanying article said nothing that should be recalled. He developed some notoriety amongst his admirers, however Sunny refused to speak of it. There was certainly no shame, but a simple, clear awareness that his first creation must not be sullied by explanation and over exposure. Let the world think what it may. Interpret, dissect even criticise if they would, but perhaps he could provoke at least interest.
They had only been in London for eight months, when Sunny was invited to go to Paris with one of his student friends for a week in Spring. Anthony was four years older and studied Literature. The boys had met around Christmas time at a party held to celebrate Marlene Dietrich's birthday. She was not there of course, but some fanatical film buffs put on quite a show in honour of the goddess of the screen. There were several girls and boys dressed as some of Marlene's greater screen roles. Lola-Lola, Frenchy, Shanghai Lily, they were all there in everything from top hats to suspenders. Ostrich feathers abounded. German accents lit up the atmosphere, thick with the smoke of cigarettes and candles dripping wax over bottles in true cabaret style, and everyone posed extravagantly. Amy, the daughter of one of his father’s new friends, had invited Sunny. She was a ballet student and he had sat once with her for a painting that had some vague reference to youth and spring. When the attractive pair arrived people mistook them for a couple. Amy however soon moved off to join some friends, and Sunny wandered, wine glass in hand, around the room by himself.
"Hello, my name’s Anthony. This is Gerard and Phoebe. We're doing a little piece for the party, and we were wondering if you and Amy would like to be in it with us. You're both very beautiful, and we hoped you might help us out. Have you ever seen 'Blond Venus'? We're doing 'Hot Voodoo'."
"Great song. Yes I'd love to, if you can find a part for us. I’m Sunny."
Phoebe had the gorilla suit and blond wig and the boys were to carry on as the natives, in their black tights. So far the idea was embryonic. Full of potential but as was usual for them, they had not planned very well.
"Sorry to mention it but don't you think we could be a bit more daring, and give everyone some real entertainment to think about. If you would like some suggestions, I'm sure it wouldn't take us long to think up a few more exotic ideas."
"Now I know you. I heard about your dance at Piccadilly Circus a while ago. You’re that Sunny aren't you? Sunny with a 'u'. We're not quite as game as you are."
After an hour or so of hilarious renditions of songs such as 'Falling In Love Again' and 'Black Magic', a blazing, three foot birthday cake, and a few mimed drag numbers, the hosts agreed that the entertainment could be brought to a close by the now excited and anxious group of jungle players. Into the performance space came Anthony and Gerard in their black tights, dishevelled hair and darkened faces dragging the Gorilla by silver chains tied to its waist. The boys had gathered enough confidence to at least be bare chested, but for any further exposure than that, they had deferred to Sunny. Phoebe appeared like Dietrich, in the blond Afro wig. However she climbed from behind, instead of out of the suit. As she began to sing, the sacrificial Amy, wrapped in a silk sarong threw herself on the floor in front of 'King Kong'. The chains were released and as the self-conscious pair of boys stood aside, out of the monkey skin emerged Sunny in a white g-string. With his smooth and soft skin of the purest pink and his glowing red lips, both boys and girls could hardly refrain from falling in love with the sight of this confident youth. With grunts and screams he danced around, over and with the writhing virgin laid before him. Tearing at her hair he stripped the cloth from her body and lowered his pulsating groin to her face and rubbed the silk sheath to and fro across her lips and tightly closed eyes. Anthony and Gerard stepped into the ring and dragged him by the feet across the floor on his stomach. The two dancers withdrew in a foetal position, kissed and as they rose the song finished to applause and shouts of-
"More! Keep going! Get into it! Get your gear off! "
Sunny jumped back into the centre, grabbed a couple of slim pretty young boys who had been yelling the loudest, and dragged their shirts off over their head. He wrapped another girls shawl around himself and removed his g-string from under it. The other boys looked like they were having enormous fun, so carried away by the moment, they removed their shoes and trousers and in their tight paisley underwear, that could hardly contain their excitement, they lifted Sunny aloft. First it was a struggle but he soon felt weightless in their arms. Managing to stand up, balancing precariously on their shoulders Sunny became exhilarated as the room filled with cheers. With a twist of the hips he managed to loosen the shawl which slid like some reptilian cast-off to the floor. The paisley boys stared up at him to see his arms reach to the ceiling and his arousal stand before him as he froze for several seconds to allow the onlookers to determine their reaction. In moments the party moved back and he closed his eyes, lowered his arms, while from his lungs burst a long high cry that Tarzan would have envied. As if he had not already done so, this certainly captured everyone's attention in an instant, and as he threw himself to the carpet he did some handstands, somersaulted across the floor, stood upright, bowed and got dressed.
That night he made new friends, who soon joined together as the core of a small street performance group. Over the next few months they carried art and politics to the rushing crowds in the underground, shoppers in Oxford and Regent streets in the hub of London and as far afield as the whim took them. Sunny led them like a gentle hit and run terrorist group.
A Greek chorus reciting anti-war chants might burst unannounced from a lane way, to disappear just as quickly into a Tube station, where they would part commuters with a circular dance of thanksgiving. Pedestrians were accosted by painted faces in mime, or begged for alms which were suddenly returned to them with recited poems of praise. Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park saw them giving lectures on the political importance of the sunflower, and generally their actions became more and more extravagant. Never did their imagination falter and Sunny pushed them to the limit of their courage. Nothing were they asked to do that he would not do willingly himself. Often he would prefer to carry out events himself, but as an act of generosity he allowed them all to not only participate but on occasions take the central role in acts of his or their devising. The only activity he attempted to reserve for himself exclusively was anything requiring the naked body, such as the time during a demonstration against the imprisonment of anti-war activists, he strode in the freezing cold, covered in nothing except goose flesh, from the bank of the Thames to take his place amongst the horrid nobility and power of Rodin's Burghers of Calais, frozen on their pedestal beside the Palace of Westminster. Just as their agonised expressions sanctified the persecution and sacrifice of political prisoners, he became one of them, exposed and vulnerable to the pain and taunts of the world that restricted their right to freedom of speech and action. Through the courage of his gathering friends he remained the focus. He knew what he wanted to say at all times. The only restriction he suffered was the time to do it all. Leadership in those days came by his choice and the total and willing acceptance of others. The little one stood out and over them with ease.
Anthony was a founding member of the poetic storm troopers and in time he fell in love with this boy but knew no way of broaching the subject. They met frequently and their relationship grew fast to at last establish Sunny's first real friendship. Not even at school had the boy had a long term or close friend. He had known people, but this at last had some depth, some significance. Following some daring exploit on the streets they spent occasional nights together at the Drayton house, and some at the small, run down flat Anthony lived in. There they could go over the success or otherwise of the performance and a few drinks always saw them in the same bed, but back to back. Sunny slept contentedly, but his friend often lay uncomfortably awake all night wondering. Wondering about himself, wondering about the beauty of his friend, or wondering about the lack of beauty of the world. Anthony's frustration persecuted him increasingly as the days grew into weeks and still he knew no way of announcing his deepening feelings.
As far as anyone knew Anthony had no relatives. He had lived alone since enrolling as a student in London. Nothing was known about where he came from, and if asked he would insist it was not relevant. After a while no one really cared. It seemed that his history did not matter to him. It was an act though, because he did care, and it was this consequent aloneness and separation that haunted him and at the same time made him deny his past to himself and his friends. There is hardly a soul who does not have secrets buried beneath the sociable exterior that they present to the world, but he perfected the art of deception so that his past no longer became a question. He wished to be taken at face value and without difficulty he managed to achieve this.
Supporting himself with part time work in a cafe, and occasionally in the local student's pub, he succeeded in creating a lifestyle that was frugal, intense and had revolved loosely around a small circle of anarchists with confused delusions of the power of their own thought. He had himself, strong socialist beliefs that were an inspiration that compelled him to work hard. He chose to have no past so it was his uncertain life to come that he studied for. There were days when his future was mapped out clearly, and at other times, he doubted he could achieve anything. Like all martyrs he would need to sweat, suffer, and deny himself if he was to understand and find the courage to help change the future. Fear of his own genuineness often released pessimism in him of the true state of civilisation. His projected insecurities obsessed him, and drew out a melancholy that often soon alienated him from groups and associations that initially attracted him. He was not often happy, but Sunny and his parents saw little of this because Anthony's spirits were lifted when in the presence of his new secret love. The boy was a welcome diversion from the sadness that usually permeated the student’s life and writing.
The proud parents liked their son's friend, and although a little concerned about Anthony's influence replacing their own, they happily sent them off to France together.
The train dragging itself from Victoria Station was the first really independent venture the boy had embarked on. He and his friend roamed the decks of the ferry as it splashed its way from Dover across the Channel, and arriving at Calais they were soon sitting in a compartment aboard another train looking through the red curtains at the fields once saturated in the wasted blood of the youth of many nations. A spark coursed through Sunny’s brain as he contemplated how he must stride across the sacrifice of so many boys to find the adventure of his future. This country had been liberated by such sacrifice, and it was accepted that the lives of us all owed much to their dead and mutilated bodies over which the train now trampled. He didn't want to feel this obligation. He had not asked them to sacrifice for him, or had he? How much do we let others do for us, and then blame them for being wrong? He still could not help feeling that although things looked bad back then, surely there must have been another way. War could not be the only avenue, the only way of coping with the evil of someone else's creation. But who is to blame, that is, if there is such a thing as blame. The past, and the present they were entering, were interwoven in their opposing ideas. All was challenged.
He was now in France and the ever-increasing distance from the remainder of his scattered family and his past grew as they sped optimistically forward across the world. Independence had always been handed to him, but now he felt it so strongly that his veins tingled with the anticipation of his own future, his progress. Freedom!
Arriving at Gare de L Est and a quick crowded trip on the Metro, juggling their suitcases between their feet, found them emerging from the steel stairs out onto the Boulevard St. Michel. They had booked a room just a couple of blocks away, opposite the Sorbonne. Neither of them spoke French well, so the subsequent difficulty in being understood at the hotel desk was annoying, but eventually they were shown to the small top room with it's slanted ceiling, and sky light looking over the next roof at the Paris sky. A double bed, a stained hand basin, a three foot long chrome bar from which they could hang their clothes and a small brown table and two chairs were crammed into the tiny space, but it looked wonderful to them. They were in their home, their hut, their castle of adventure for the next week.
That day in May when they arrived, 160,000 students had demonstrated as part of the uprising and euphoria of the newly formed 'student soviet'. The same day Paris was chosen as the venue of the Vietnam peace talks. They had stepped into the midst of the new French Revolution of 1968. Partly this was Anthony's reason for coming to Paris; to be with friends who had been preparing for this for several months. Students throughout the world had suddenly become one single force united against the greed of capitalism and the West's involvement in the destruction of the Vietnamese people. War was no longer acceptable to the youth of the world. It was time for idealism and change. If they thought as brothers and sisters they could change the world. Socialism once again looked like utopia. ‘All you need is love.’
Anthony was an idealist and Sunny was in love with the world. They could not have been better matched to their time, and they found themselves in the thick of it. Paris was covered in posters, the streets were awash with red flags and the excitement of the world changing course was a tangible cloth thrown over anyone with a conscience. They thought they might have time to see the sights of the great city, but all direction altered when they arrived. They could not avoid the rallies, the demonstrations, and the buzz in the bars and coffee shops. Everything was electric and the boys got high on it. The revolution was truly beginning to erupt with more force than anyone had imagined. Back in Australia, students had taken to the streets in numbers greater than had ever been seen since the English invaded that country. The governments were wrong. The students knew it. They could not be restricted. They must have their say. Around those turbulent years, in the land of the free, The United States Of America, the National Guard were called out to shoot and kill students who demonstrated at Kent State University. The West could really be proud of itself, as its children became more and more alienated from the authority that no longer held sway over them. For several years this worldwide movement grew out of control until in the early seventies it eventually imploded. The passion would one day fade, but the world would no longer be the same; never again would it be the same. Voices united in chorus could be heard.
On their third day Anthony had arranged to see some friends and Sunny went to the Sorbonne by himself. He met up with people who welcomed him as a comrade, and he helped in printing pamphlets, drinking with his new friends and got carried away with the new spirit. Listening to screamed orations from the dedicated, he saw the power that could be held over the masses if sincerity could be eloquently expressed. Passion was very persuasive, and total blind commitment to a cause allowed one to leap over any barrier. Once the momentum of a movement got going it would take something catastrophic to halt it, before it must find it's own natural conclusion or destination. But that time was far away. This was the flowering, the declaration of independence.
The day sparkled with excitement and Sunny absorbed the atmosphere like a starving man gulps anything and everything at a banquet. It was not necessarily the politics of the day that excited the boy but the potential for human interaction. He had no commitment to either socialism or anarchy as movements. What he saw was the joy in people's soul at the dedication of individuals or groups to change, to progress, to fulfilment. This was the true revolution. Equality and self worth. The realisation that all had a role to play, and the time had come when people demanded their right to act it out in their own way. It was ethics that began to interest him. The formal rules of logic and ethics had much to say to him. They were guides under whose supervision, this freedom could be maintained and perfected. Without a path and some discipline he felt that unrestrained commitment to impulse could blind and destroy. He must always know what he was doing and why. Ramifications had to be examined, and this consideration of the impact he might have on his fellows was paramount.
He was happy. They were involved in a part of history and this was important. Remembering where he was he realised he should collect his friend. So much to share, so much to live. Together they could inject new vitality into their spirits. Dodging his way through the congested halls and across the honking street back to the hotel, he ran up the stairs two at a time, burst into the room to find in a lone shaft of light from the window above, Anthony sitting on the side of the unmade bed with a needle in his arm.
For several moments Sunny stood shocked and saddened watching the poisoned blood being pushed back into his friend's body, as a thousand thoughts and images shot through his mind. He burst into tears and fell to his knees in front of his beloved friend. He had tried or would try everything, but not this. Why this? This was dangerous. It was destructive. They had always been creative. How could he approach this? What was best for Anthony? How much could he do for his friend? There were no answers. It was a fact, nothing more. They did not return to the student hub that day.
For the first time Sunny put his arms around his friend and through his tears he kissed him. They lay back and held each other for hours. They did not talk, only cry. The boy wiped the sweat from his friend’s face and ran his hands over his unbuttoned chest. Anthony held his love to himself tightly and they again kissed. Night eventually came and as the effects of the chemical wore off they moved from on top of the bed to under the sheets. Undressed they again clasped their arms around each other and their hands began slowly and tentatively to explore each other’s bodies. Flesh pressed hard against flesh, in tenderness and passion. Their tongues mingled and the fluid of one became the life of the other. In the night, the Sun did shine and the boy found love for the first time. Magic had again been made in the world. As Anthony entered him for the first time he burst into flame and he flew for the first time while not in a dream.
By the next mid afternoon hunger forced them to leave their bed and join the lower world again. The atmosphere was becoming more agitated and the euphoria of the revolution combined with love's awakening made this day special like nothing that had ever gone before. The boy was continually re-birthing himself, and out of the pain of the previous evening came forth a new phase in his life. Like a flower that blooms over and over again, the boy was becoming more brilliant with each reincarnation. The Sun was about to become a Super Nova. The light of his being would blind all.
It was time to make another statement. From the depths of his soul came forth what he knew he would do. They needed food, but first he had to nourish the creative spirit. An offering to the gods. Taking his lover by the hand, he rushed past the Gendarmes and student crowds milling around in anticipation, down the Boulevard and at the intersection he placed his world firmly at the corner, climbed the statue of Saint Michael tore off his shirt pulled out a pocket knife and slashed down the centre of his chest. With all the force he could muster he cried out his love. He was exposing his heart to the world. In the midst of turmoil his was a voice of sacrifice and love.
The wound was not deep and after two days in hospital, being interrogated by both psychiatrists and police, he was let out and told to return to England. They were due to leave the following day anyway. When the taxi left their hotel, the boys hardly noticed the barricades and up turned cobblestones that littered the streets as their driver searched for a way out of the battle zone.

Sunny would be eighteen soon, and the three significant people in his life would celebrate it with him. Never before had he enjoyed a birthday party with anyone other than his immediate family, but now that he had released himself from the suppressed atmosphere of those dormant school years he could surround himself with his chosen friends, the free spirited, exciting. Experiments with life began when he moved to London, but his birthday would be an official recognition and declaration of his arrival. In Paris he had consummated his entry into adulthood, which he could now stamp with the public acknowledgment of his peers and family. Ceremoniously he would become perhaps not yet a man, but at least a man-child of his day. He was aware that he would not shake off the spontaneity and thrill of youthful discovery, but it was time to contribute as an adult, a fellow member of the tribe whose day had come. The rights of initiation must be sanctified with witnesses and with celebration.
Archie turned over his studio for the occasion. The room was stripped bare and the walls were recovered with portraits of the boy. At Archie's insistence the artistic fan club brought along their paintings. Wherever you looked, there he was. A penetrating look from a portrait, gloriously naked in every imaginable pose, dressed as an urchin, distorted by loud clashing colours, unrecognisable in some, truly exposed in others. Singers entertained and Sophie beamed as she sang for her son. Anthony was proud, and a dozen or so other students encouraged the boy to enjoy himself and perform for them. He was slightly stoned and a little drunk but the artist had prepared himself for this day. He had not required the urging of his audience, because in anticipation of this joyful and significant occasion he had already designed a special piece of self revealing theatre.
For the party he had his hair tied up in a knot and wore black tights, bare feet and a short red cape around his silk shoulders. His upper body was bare except for the three inch pink scar in the centre of his otherwise unblemished chest. He had thought of tonight's appearance. It was his gift of beauty to his admirers. His toenails were painted gold and he wore gold lipstick. Sophie, dressed in a long white dress that had become her uniform, danced with some of the students, while Archie in a beret stumbled around drunk and happy. About midnight the guests were in fine form and there was a merry anticipation as to what Sunny would do. Already he was respected as an extraordinary boy, who would surprise and delight with his ever expanding and overflowing imagination. As the boy let his hair down, he and Anthony disappeared into the small toilet for about half an hour to begin the creation. Anthony emerged and handed everyone black and red candles to light and place on the floor or hold as they saw fit. He threw a large black cloth on the bare wooden paint splattered floor and emptied a small cane basket of white flowers over it. The lights were turned off and the candles blazed. From the back emerged the boy with a full length black cape wrapped around him and a black cloth over his head. Nothing could be seen but a column of black from beneath which two delicate white feet peeked, standing lightly on the soft petals. The light flickered in the darkened room, dense with smoke, the guests were silent, and the incense burned. Formally, he began to speak.
"I have had such a wonderful evening. Thank you all so much for doing this for me. I would like to now do something to show my appreciation. You have all inspired me to live and love. I need to dance for you and I have a song that I have written. It is my first, but I want my friends to hear it, if you will. Coming to this country I have been reborn thanks to my parents, my friends, and the person beside me that I love. I come to you this way now so that I can begin my life in earnest. It is my birthday. The pilgrim is born."
From beneath the cape emerged a slender white arm that removed the cloth from his head to reveal him totally shaved of hair and lips now black. A boy from his street theatre terrorists, dressed in green velvet trousers and black vest, began to strike a small drum with the palm of his hand. As the slow rhythmic beat echoed in the room Sunny gently lowered himself to the floor and undid the clasp around his throat to allow the cape to slip from his shoulders and to drape around his waist. The white torso emerging from the folds of black cloth began to sway. He danced his past fears, his loneliness, his longings and as his reawakening began, the beat of the drum intensified and he rose from the floor to dance his coming to life. He emerged from the cloth in fine tight red satin shorts his legs covered in dried animal blood. His body contorted, withdrew and exploded over and over as he moved faster around the room. Faces circling him moved back slightly as his arms flailed and shot in every direction. As if possessed, his eyelids widened misted over and he smiled. He stared into his guests’ eyes and challenged them to see him, and think of their part in his creation. He danced like a savage. The tension in his body became spasms as the energy built and sweat splashed to the floor like holy water. He danced like a spirit. Electric sparks crackled until panting; he came furiously to a climax of sobs, screams, and laughter as he smeared the lipstick across his face. As calm descended, his friends remained silent, and from the darkness behind, his partner stepped forward to wipe him clean. Catching his breath in the stillness of the evening, Sunny moved again to the centre of the room.
"We can do nothing without the love of each other. Thank you Sophie. Thank you Archie. Thank you Anthony."
He walked around the room and kissed his parents, who threw their arms around him. Their pride and joy had made them thankful of their life. Releasing them, he returned to Anthony and kissed him in public for the first time. Long and sensitively he held his lover, before, with a last caress, he stepped back into the centre of the black cloth and momentarily lowered his head. Anthony moved away to stand alone at the back of the room, while Archie reached for his wife's hand to squeeze.
As tears streamed down his cheeks the boy bent forward, removed his shorts and straightening himself up, he stood there bare of all clothing, minus not only the hair on his head but his pubic hair as well. Standing perfectly still and without the accompaniment of music he sang his song. His voice came from his soul with anguish as he, at first softly, cried out his love of life and beauty, and his need to release his passion for the world and his part in it. Feeling the pain of his search, he sang totally of himself as if creation revealed itself to him in all its majesty and he felt aroused by the muse. Unplanned he withdrew into his own world and as the room clouded over, the faces disappeared before his gaze. Like wave after wave his voice grew inaudibly soft only to scream to fever pitch as his breath once again became halting and gasping. No one remembered the words that poured like a torrent from his quivering mouth, tumbling over each other as they burst through his smeared black lips, but the feeling stunned them. His words were so personal that not only his flesh stood exposed before them but also every hidden part of his soul. No part of his body had moved, but the emotions that lit and darkened his face erupted like a spectacle. As he drew near to the end of his song the tension in his muscles began to tremble, his voice screeched, his body grew ever more rigid, his arms reached to the heavens, his stomach stretched, his feet rose until he stood on his toes, he filled his lungs until his chest was about to burst, and as the last word left his mouth, in a silent shudder he orgasmed his own white petals that showered across the flowers at his feet. The offering
In the frozen moment, his eyes slowly opened to the stone-like faces staring out of the darkness. Covering himself again as he surveyed a million watchful eyes, he walked over to get a drink. He was both drained and exhilarated and could be seen to be still shaking from fingertips to golden toes. The mood once again remained still and hushed for a while, until he broke it by screaming "Let's dance!" It was only gradually that people approached him to thank him or kiss him. Sideways glances wondered where this boy would lead. He did surprise, even shock them again. Not with his nakedness but his honesty in constantly revealing himself, or more intensely what appeared to be his essential self to the unprotected gaze of the world. This was no ordinary eighteen-year-old.
Sophie squeezed Archie's sweating palm into her own. Had they planned this?
After the party finished around three in the morning, the two boys went for a walk to the nearby park. It was a warm summer evening, so the odd person they passed in the street was puzzled at the sight of this bald boy, wearing a full-length cape and no shoes. Being free and unclothed under his cape he had to be careful as they climbed over the fence. No damage done, he hugged Anthony, kissed him and ran across the grass waving his cape in the breeze.
"I may never sleep again. I feel so good. Hey? Do you know I will have to register for National Service now? What a joke. Could you imagine me shooting anyone?"
They lay under the stars for a while and thought of the future. The older boy planned to be a writer one day, but he doubted if he could ever keep up with his companion who revelled in all things. The boy wondered where he would settle, because so much interested him. He wanted to do it all. The excitement he felt so often convinced him that he must do it all. Life had become his drug, gripping him like an addiction he willingly gave himself over to. In the dark privacy of the deserted park Sunny leaned over and undid the cord that held Anthony's trousers together and slipping his hands inside he held his lover until beneath his touch he could feel the tightening of his passion. The older boy tried to object as Sunny threw off his cape and dragged the clothes from his lover's sweating body. Scared that they would be seen, the lover attempted to get up, but lips quickly applied to his face soon stilled the embarrassment, and he gave himself up willingly to the roving tongue of the boy as it slipped down his stomach and danced around and between his legs. The light of the moon caught glimpses of their straining beauty visible otherwise only to the squirrels, foraging for food beneath the trees and bushes. The night absorbed their dreams just as the boy fed on the fluid soon offered from Anthony's uncontrollable desires. They released each other and lay back in silence for a while, breathing in the contentment of their love expressed.
"You don't see stars very often here. I used to see so many at home."
"You were certainly a shooting star tonight. All night!"
"I didn't originally intend to. At the party I mean. It just happened, but it felt so good with everyone watching. Do you think they handled it? I mean did they really like me."
"You really don't get embarrassed, do you?"
"Why should I? Everyone has them and practically everyone there's seen my body before. It was sort of like a public act of love."
"Yes darling, but not too many of them express their love so dramatically in public. I'd die if I ever got an erection with anyone around, except you of course. It's sort of in public here I guess."
"I used to fly with those stars."
Anthony dressed again, lay his head back on the grass and looked at the sky. He could see his boy floating up there, just out of reach. Could he ever touch those heights? The damp in his eyes, was it love or pain? With a mixture of pride and sorrow he could feel the tension growing within him. Confusion! Fatality? Fear.
"I wish I could fly with you."
Sunny sat up and looked into the face of the source of his joy, lying stretched out before him. A question ran through his mind that had always bothered him. Is the body a physical manifestation of the soul, or is one's mind somehow influenced by the shell it finds itself locked within? Anthony always had a tension and a secretiveness that caused a frail insecurity and a tight locking within himself of the joy and confidence of self-expression. Looking at him, Sunny noticed the knotted brow, not creased, but rounded folds formed from a life of permanent almost unconscious worry. His lips were small and drawn together in a pout. Even the cleft in his chin gave the image, if exaggerated, of his whole face squeezed together, as if two hands had been permanently pressed against the sides of his head. He could not see under his clothes, but his legs, stretched out from within his trousers, were tightly together with the feet locked over each other in a secure embrace. Something frightened Anthony and his body was its response. It had grown to express his subconscious. It spoke when he could not.
"What came first do you think? The physical or the spiritual. You look so much in harmony. Perhaps not with the world, but with yourself............. I love you."
The following evening when Sunny arrived at the flat his friend was out of it. He stayed with him for the night and said nothing. Sitting side by side at the broken breakfast table, they enthused again over organising joint adventures. Dependence on having a plan, something on the horizon to aim at, was a need that reassured them of the future, their future. The younger boy had much more faith in life then did the other. He had always had love, whereas Anthony was in love but had not always had it. He had not had the security of never having been abandoned. He knew reality better than the boy, whose charmed life had drifted along with the reassurance of its own internal and external beauty.
Sunny loved him and they became a couple, but only as a couple did they both move among their friends with optimism and happiness. The two of them sat for some joint portraits by the painters who found them increasingly hard to separate. They worked on some street theatre projects together, and Anthony helped his lover to improve his writing skills. The boy lacked no imagination, but some refinement in his construction was needed, and like the sponge he was, he absorbed everything quickly, especially when given by an admirer with tender kindness. Nothing fed the boy more than did affection and appreciation. He blossomed under love's guidance.
Each week he continued to study dance, Sophie arranged singing lessons, Archie coached him in painting, and the boy although mastering none totally showed an insatiable hunger to find new ways of expression. Everything was a carefully fitted stone that was building a personality. Incorporating the fruits of his searching into his image of himself and that which surrounded him, all became more thrilling, each moment he was alive. The days were becoming so full of activity that the boy lived on the sensations that creativity had given him. He had no employment but studied the arts, all arts, with a passion, and in a disciplined way that was rare in the politically aware generation to which he belonged. It was certainly a generation that was concerned with refining and freeing life, but in those years the mood was to look outwards. Indulge yourself but with the greatest intentions of doing it for the betterment of mankind. He on the other hand saw a discipline that was needed to expand himself. He relished his freedom, but it was different. Freedom could be destructive, as it proved to be when the bubble burst for many of the sixties. They loved everyone, but beneath this 'love' there evolved little lasting consideration for anyone. Indulgence became the norm, the goal. Sunny indulged, but he indulged his creativity, not his senses. The joy he had was a by-product of his attachment to the world, not an aim in itself. He was a true embryonic artist, with a passion to communicate with all around him. He needed to expose himself so that he would be known. He felt no desire for fame, but a need for truth in his existence. Deep inside himself the search for ultimate truth or something equally powerful, was becoming clearer. Clearer but not clear enough. There is a question to decipher first before you can find an answer. The quest had been created within him, but someone had as yet forgotten to show him the full path, let alone the solution.
So involved had he become in his own development, that he became less aware of the trials of those around him. The perfect parents of the perfect son began new relationships that he was unaware of. Sophie had begun to receive some singing engagements in Europe, and her nights away at the theatre gave her husband the previously unlooked for occasion to seek the company of others, and in so doing he began an affair with a young student he had met through his son. She had visited the boys at the Drayton house, and joined them and Archie for drinks on more then one occasion. Nothing was hidden from his son, but the boy became so involved in his own life and that of Anthony, that he failed to take any notice of his father's and Josie's growing friendship. Sophie was hurt but soon accepted it as a new development in their relationship, which was bonded still because of their love for their son. She on the other hand had been lunching with a fellow singer who admired her. This too was eventually consummated soon after the discovery of her husband’s infidelities and increasing distance from her.
Anthony loved him so much that he hid from him his fears of eventual failure. Apart from, or because of his own lack of esteem, he feared Sunny would so outstrip him that he would eventually leave. He became completely undermined but would share none of this with his beloved. Singed by the heat of the Sun, his wings of love might soon melt, but he could not avoid the flame. The temptation of perfection boosted him at the same instant that competition was destroying his worth.
The young artist's hair grew as fast as his talents. He managed to get a small decorative part in a production of The Satyricon. This was through a friend of his mother, who was having a respite from rather bad opera direction and dabbling in some ancient Roman obscenity, he said, to re-energise his feel for the theatre. The boy’s natural theatricality and stunning appearance tended to dominate the stage somewhat in the scenes that he appeared in. With his hair curled and sprayed with gold flecks, and a light covering of oil on his body, he emerged from a giant rose coloured clam shell draped in no more than a napkin sized sheer gold cloth around his hips. He sprang from the aquatic womb to the applause of the players, and with a song he imparted the blessings of the sea on the whores and freaks of a Rome, fatally beset by moral decay. He lounged through various other tableaus with both masculine and feminine appeal. Later he appeared chained atop a pyramid shaped structure from which he was hurled to the floor to dance and die after being ravished by guests at a banquet. If nothing else his scenes were erotic to both the boy and the audience. The director's desire to make the boy's looks and body so prominent was perhaps not an entirely successful move for such a small non-pivotal role. He was a distraction from the main players, but excessive flamboyance is probably not that out of place in a crude piece of sexual exploitation like The Satyricon, where the tale is secondary to the telling. Such glorification of the human body and the excesses of a world obsessed by its own gratification were themes common to the times of Nero, and the sixties. Neither age was satisfied, and the spirit eventually passed, but perhaps mankind has to indulge in these periods from time to time to give it a chance to reassure itself that pleasure truly is not the goal. The fan club however loved it. On opening night Sunny received a huge cheer from his friends, which surprised those not in the circle of the blessed admirers. So once again he was noticed.
"Who is this boy?"
The play was not the outlet he was looking for, and thankfully it ran only three weeks. Being a public decoration was a good experience but he was not destined to play second fiddle to anyone. The aroused admiration he drew from his audience fed his ego, but although he created much of the part himself he felt he was still at the ultimate direction of a lesser talent who restricted his own artistic fulfilment.
During the play's short run Anthony spent more nights alone than he had become accustomed to, and his mood deteriorated in the early evening to be relieved only on those nights when Sunny would burst happily into his flat after the performance. The constant ups and downs were beginning to affect the student's habit, and he was contemplating abandoning his studies for a while. All was back to normal though after his boy ceased being a stage star. There were two months of bliss for the pair until Sunny was again taken from him.
So many things happened in this period. Sunny managed to get into the papers twice again. The first was for climbing to the top of the National Gallery one night and standing for an hour in a rain drenched painter’s smock screaming up at Horatio Nelson the war hero. Above the constant roar of the traffic below he chanted a litany of names of hundreds of artists, across the street into Trafalgar Square. People huddled under umbrellas in the square and on the footpath opposite, until the sirens signalled the end of this battle between war and peace. He managed to escape down the back of the building and avoid the police but happily not the attentions of the newspapers, which his fellow terrorists had alerted in advance. Publicity for their actions, not themselves, was always welcome. Messages from the herald must be proclaimed with trumpets and heard. They were artists not vandals.
The following week, with Anthony's assistance, he painted himself totally green, and while his friends handed out branches they had stripped from the trees, he wrote a poem in large lettering of green paint on the paths of Regents Park. His poem mirrored the grass around him, and as always, if he thought onlookers could not see the beauty of nature around them, then he would try to force them to see his imitation of it. Being not so lucky, this second event managed to get him taken to court where he pleaded guilty and was fined a hundred Pounds for indecent exposure and had to pay for cleaning the bitumen. Sophie was less pleased with him being fined, but this brushing with accepted authority was obviously part of his development that no one could stop.
"You're not going too far, are you darling?"
"What do you mean? I thought this is what you wanted."
The boys also spent several weekends alone, locked inside Anthony's flat where they spent most of the time in bed, and began plans to eventually move together to Australia. They appeared totally involved in each other. In those hours they talked about so many subjects. They loved to agree about everything and they even managed to have some divergent thoughts without appearing to disagree. Friends were planning a first anniversary party for them after Christmas, where Sunny would for once not be allowed to perform. Their companions were determined to work out something special to surprise them. It was their turn. However before this the boy was to go abroad.
This time he was to accompany his mother to Rome for a fortnight. She was to sing the off-stage role of the High Priestess in 'Aida' and understudy Leonora in 'The Force of Destiny'. She may never be seen on stage there, but she would receive some invaluable rehearsal and training in another great theatre. He would only remain there for the lead up to her opening night in Aida, and between rehearsals they would explore the ancient sights together. They flew into Rome and were booked into a small hotel only a block from the ugly Teatro del Opera. From here he thought he would be able to set out in any direction, to take in the history of this fantastic pile of rubble that still vibrated with the intensity of life sustained over many centuries. No matter what direction he might take he was sure to be greeted by discovery. If all roads lead to Rome then surely the pathways would resound with the tramp of the feet of pilgrims, who had sought enlightenment and pleasure where he now stood. He was filled with anticipation of events to come.
The first night while Sophie studied her score, he sat with a bottle of wine and began a long letter to Anthony.
" My love, my support,
Do you miss me already? I know I will be missing you for the next two weeks. I have no travel tales to tell you because we have only arrived today, but I am looking forward to tomorrow so much. I will be able to live out some wonderful stories here. The weather is warmer than back in London but it is still cold. I will not have you to hold me and keep me warm. I know you didn't want me to go but I must see more of Europe. I have been here for a year and a half now and apart from our glorious trip to Paris I have not left England. Please try to understand. Remember you could have come with me, but I am glad you decided to study. You worry me when you talk of giving up. Where would I be without you pushing me along? I know you love me and I need you to be with me, encouraging and accepting me when I leap into something. There are so many things that I want to do and you must help me.
You promised me that you would talk to father while I was away. He understands your need for support and he has friends who have kicked away dependencies worse than yours. Please darling, we can do so much together if you stop what you are doing. It could destroy you and me both.
Mother and I are going to the theatre tomorrow and if you get this letter before the weekend I will be ringing Father at 5pm. Saturday. I hope you can be there so I can speak to you. I told you, you should get a phone. etc. "
The letter continued for several pages, but Anthony never read it.
When Sunny spoke to his father on Saturday his friend was not there. He was worried and in sudden desperation he begged Archie to track Anthony down for him. He loved him, but feared the insecurity and growing dependence that was eating away at his soul. The weekend was agonising and the boy would not budge from the hotel. Monday morning a telegram arrived at the theatre, for Sophie.
"Urgent sad news. Ring immediately. Archie."
The boy already looked frail and lonely when Sophie arrived home unexpectedly at their rooms early that morning. She knew he would not go out that day because he was already on the verge of panic about his companion. She sat on his bed and with a single glance at her eyes he burst into tears before she could begin to talk. She didn't know what to say. It made it easier when he cried because she could comfort him without having to say too much. He immediately knew that he was now alone. He did not need the details until he summoned up and released some of his anguish. Feverishly he shook as he sobbed uncontrollably for two hours, and his mother sat beside him and buried his head in her own breaking heart. Between the two of them no words were exchanged for what seemed like a black eternity.
After asking around and finding nothing, Archie eventually got the landlord to let him into the boy’s flat. Anthony had been dead on the bathroom floor for several days. It was a sight that he swore he would never describe to his son. Such devastating ugliness should not be part of our life. The grim face of death is impossible to look upon when it stares back at you from the unfulfilled potential of youth. Archie felt a loss of future and wept for his beloved son more than he cried for Anthony whom he had grown to love as well.
It was not thought to be suicide, just a simple case of accidental overdose. Such a common and disgustingly ordinary way to end a habit. But to play so dangerous a game, is this not suicide, even premeditated?
A new period had begun in the boy’s life. Shatteringly the impact of death hit him in a way that he had no resources to deal with. Up until that day sadness had not truly touched him. Grandparents are expected to die because they are old. The newspapers are full of dying people whom we do not know. The death of a childhood friend and that of a woman he had seen killed many years before had not impacted upon him because the simplicity and innocence of youth had protected him. He was incapable of examining death fully in those days and was determined, always, to avoid the gross and ugly side of life. But to lose your lover in the midst of reality has impact that is unavoidable and is an experience that there is no preparation for. He was certain that it was love. He hurt so much it had to be.
There would be an autopsy and relatives had to be found so the funeral would not be for more than a week. Sophie would not let her son return to London until then. There was nothing he could do there and she decided he most needed the comfort of her love.
Sunny loved Anthony. Sophie loved Sunny. Sunny loved Sophie. Everyone loved everyone, but did it help? Did Sunny love himself? Did Sophie love herself? How many mirrors got in the way? The boy wallowed in his own wretchedness, but he thought, was it not Anthony who had suffered death? Sophie fretted and felt sad, but she thought, was it not Sunny who had lost his friend. No one knew for whom their feelings existed. Perhaps pity was only centred on themselves, for after all, they had no existence except their own. Death resounds with more than the mere disappearance of one from life. It is capable of better confusion than that as it stalks like a practical joker throughout our lives, causing as much unexpected confusion as is inhumanly possible.
Sophie was distraught that she could not travel with her son. She needed to be with him even more than the boy needed anyone, but she had committed her career to using her talents, and the pain of this decision could, in the future, be remembered by her son and as an example and give him strength when he may seek a straw to clasp. Practiced self discipline can sometimes be used as a prop, when decisions are impossible, and alternatives confusing. .
The several days he remained in Rome were spent wandering aimlessly around the back streets avoiding the main sights, because he had no desire to see them any more. Sitting for hours in the Borghese Gardens he watched children play and couples on motor scooters weave dangerously in and out of the crowds constantly being approached by Gipsies. Life was continuing around him. Boys walked with their arms around each others shoulders, boys and girls kissed and felt each other, oblivious to any onlooker, old men yelled at other old men, and priests were as common as clerks. The Eternal City did not stop for him. At night he sat in cafes or in their hotel rooms. He attempted to write but all was in vain. Having nothing to do and no desire to attempt anything made the pain worse. He had to leave before the unbearable confusion in his brain exploded.
Saturday he dragged his luggage around the corner and caught the night train to Paris. It was impossible to sleep in the rocking carriage and he spent much of the evening walking up and down the passageway outside his empty compartment. In the adjoining cubicle sat an elegant blond German youth who looked up from a novel he was reading, and stole glances in his direction every time he passed the open door. When Sunny returned to his seat the youth stood smoking in the passage, just in view. Continually he looked over his shoulder in Sunny's direction. He was beautifully dressed in black woollen trousers, Tweed jacket, a knee length coat thrown over his shoulders and in his hand he inexplicably carried a green umbrella. The smile on the boy’s face at first comforted Sunny's breaking heart, but the distraction did not last and in annoyance at the repeated intrusion; he soon drew the curtains shut, to give privacy to his sorrow. The youth smiled insignificantly and said a sheepish, accented hello as they got down from the train in Paris, but Sunny did not respond.
In some act of penance, he spent the day retracing the steps that he and Anthony had followed only six months earlier. Past the churches, palaces and cafes he wandered, constantly seeing the remembrance of the two of them in images of excitement that filled those radical days just a few months ago. He walked in a daze around the freezing streets of this city of their first love. The cobblestones were hard, wet and noisy under his feet. He visited the Sorbonne and remembered the top floor of the hotel across the street, where the picture of love was suddenly overcome by the image of a needle that caused them to open up their bodies to each other, and then destroyed Anthony's body and their life together. He sat staring out at the back streets in a dark corner cafe, hiding the tears as he sipped, but did not taste, some strong black coffee. He was unable to eat. The hunger for things lost far outweighed the desire to sustain a body that was drained of life.
Turning his face from the other customers as they laughed and chatted oblivious to his turmoil, he thought of what might have been. How had he not been able to help his friend? Self centred and selfish were the images of himself that plagued his every thought. He should have done better. He must do better; but what and how. Obviously his education had failed. He had failed.
Having to get out of the claustrophobia he left the cafe and went hurriedly and without a glance, past the statue of St. Michael, to walk alone in the fresh air by the Seine, where they had once held hands. Looking down towards the river, he saw a man stare back at him. He looked into the man's eyes as if to say, 'Do you only think I am beautiful? Can you not see the hurt inside of me? If you care, why can you not help me? If I scream will you come to me?' His plea was not answered. I felt he was special but I was unable to move. Momentarily he held my gaze as if in recognition of my thoughts, then looked away, ran, and hid around the corner of a building, sobbing bitterly. He had exposed his heart with a pocketknife in this place, and now that same heart had been torn asunder. Today there would be no performance, no public statement. What he felt, was deep and privately within him and he could not share his pain with anyone. He pulled himself together and later that evening he caught the next train and ferry back to England for the following day's funeral.
As the train approached London the clarity of the bright light that was his future grew dull and went out. Fear overcame him. He knew he was the same person but the shock of his first adult loss made this all irrelevant. Why?
The pilgrim had stumbled for the first time. The path to Calvary was indeed steep and rocky.

The boy now assumed the role of victim. His being was no more than a barren patch of insignificance. All he once knew with self-assured certainty was now incomprehensible. His worth and his existence meant nothing. He failed to understand the point of being, of being alive, of being special, if all about could react so cruelly? Why had he ever bothered with his statement? Who cared? Did any of his striving make the slightest difference? He thought he had loved, but what had happened to the future? What did people want? What was he supposed to do? In London, an eighteen-year-old felt the isolation of meaninglessness in the chaotic midst of millions of individuals he could not see. His light had dispersed in the void, scattered to the edge of nothingness, where time stood still.
For days, he did not move. He did not eat. Blinding tears blackened all before his thoughts. He could no longer observe the world about him. He had feared and then lost the image of himself, but his sorrows he could feel through every pore of his body. Each moment was an eternity, a vast wasteland of blame and hatred. Only sadness ticked on as if stricken in the same unrelenting moment. Over and over the stagnation beat, until it bruised his soul. He struggled, but lost. Time however has never been totally stopped and in it's own persistent way it can be cranked up to begin to move, no matter how slowly and falteringly at first. When the hands once more began to click forward, and his distorted vision returned, he chose to see only the changed and altered state of a being made ugly by pain.
"What right did he have to take my love? Did I kill him? I didn't mean to. It's just not fair. He loved me. I didn't make him."
"No Sunny. He just couldn't understand. He had no idea who he was. There was nothing you could do if he decided to let himself be so trapped by his past. You told me you saw his relatives at the funeral. They didn't sound very nice. No wonder he never spoke about them. He must have come from such a different family. You've seen very little of that sort of reality. It's the world we tried to hide from you. Perhaps your father and I protected you too much. You've always been lucky. He wasn't."
"But I did what I could. I did care. What's the point?"
"It was his life. He knew the chances he took. But I guess he was too confused to realise the decisions he should have made. Darling, no one has control over the life of someone else. We can all do what we think is right, but we have no way of making others agree with us."
"You don't understand. I cared. I'm sure I did."
Many such misdirected conversations with his mother followed that pathetic December. Desperately he tried to understand, but so little was actually known of his friend that it was not possible to put logic into place. There were no answers. Satisfaction did not come this way. As lovers they did not know each other long enough for either of them to understand. Sunny had occupied the centre of the universe, and suddenly he was aware of that hideous void he had created by the self-absorption he had revelled in. If he did not look into the secret places of others sufficiently he would never know, never feel them, be left empty by their selfish absence, and for that, he had not prepared himself. There was no peace, and as Christmas passed it simply reminded him that they had met only one short year ago. Christ's birth would always be tarnished with the memory of Anthony's death. Joy to the world? Humbug.
For exactly two weeks the boy did nothing outside the confines of his self-imposed cell. Mostly he sat in his darkened room alone, and by candlelight he read through pieces that he and Anthony had worked on so earnestly together. He stared at the kitsch portrait of the two of them posed somewhat histrionically as Apollo and the young, dead Hyacinthus. An old fashioned painting with not much merit but well executed and he loved it. As it turned out, it was not the beloved and gentle Hyacinthus who was struck down in the middle of the game, but the not so brave Apollo who fell from immortality. Not only would he not live forever, his life failed to even be complete. Wasted. No longer would innocent beauty dance with he whose chariot was the sun.
Archie knowing no other means of support had remained, often drunk, but ever vigilant beside his only boy, locked within the house until Sophie had returned. She eventually made the difficult decision to abandon her Rome debut and once replacements were found she had hurried to be with her son. He would not be consoled, and spoke to no one except his parents, but they were helpless in curing his ills. From deep within his isolation he had to wrench out the pain alone. For days he had felt himself sinking in the cloying swamp that grew wretchedly within his room and his soul. Torments crept from the darkness as they attacked him from all sides. He ran from all, especially his imagination. In contradiction to the parting of the boy's stability, his mother and father grew temporarily close again.
On the evening of the fourteenth day he lay shivering and naked in his sealed room with only the unstable light of a single candle revealing the unwanted existence of the world about him. Foetal-like he sought security, wrapped in his moist bedclothes. He lay on his back. He lay on his stomach. He ground his groin into a pillow. He stretched his thigh along a mattress not quite covered by a torn sheet. Tears flowed through his lashes and droplets of fluid seeped pearl-like from the tip of his untouched, exploding and alien erection. The blood drained from the enemy and in the mirror of a half open cupboard door, he set his eyes upon that part of him that had no where to go; his friendless friend. The cyclops stared back uncaring. The eye would not shift its gaze as the shrivelled armour shrunk and expanded over and over again oblivious to the face contemplating its unfolding ugliness. Folds shrivelled and moved as it roamed through the forbidden forest, foraging for satisfaction like a mucous covered snail in search of a shell within which to hide. Thoughts of long past satisfaction strengthened its resolve to seek, but realisation of futility stilled the glistening point of its observation. Hatred for the monster sullied his brain. Yearning for renewed friendship pained his muscles. The arrogance of the challenge before him frightened the boy, as beyond his powers the foreign assault stood to confront the pathetic state of his securities. In an attempt to stare it into submission he summoned up visions of wasted potential to throw in its face, but still it faced him with determined vengeance. Against his will, the untouchable spectacle stood it's ground in challenge to the weakness exposed. Primordial reserves were brought into play as his pores opened in a final attempt to pour control over the situation and sweat oozed into the field of battle. Monster faced monster; demons all, until with a primal cry he clasped it with his hands and throttled the enemy until from the crimson eye burst the white shreds of submission. Falling asleep with the lifeblood of the monster setting like flaked serpent’s skin across his stomach, the boy dreamed of hell. From the inferno he sought an escape for himself and his friend the monster.
On the morning of the fifteenth day of his isolation Sunny came down from his room looking calm and dressed totally in white. White slacks, white sandshoes, a white vest and clarity in the whites of his eyes. He kissed his parents and calmly poured a cup of tea.
"Can I go to Venice for a month?"
"Can you what?"
Archie, who had been tormented with the guilt of his son's lost sanity, during his days locked away, now felt a sudden anger at this surprise announcement. The boy had hardly spoken a word to him and now he glibly asked if he could take a holiday. They were both surprised at the sudden unannounced change, but Sophie was more understanding. She could see what he was doing. She was pleased that he had chosen to act at last. There was little they could do. Their admiration and hopes were gradually being replaced with the realisation that their role, their control, had diminished. Through the blindfolds, they saw their special boy was now beyond their reach and influence. Their life had been organised around this moment. He was their creation and he was moving on. The guides had been dismissed, but the pilgrim, although appearing lost, was choosing to go on alone. No one knew, nor could they prevent, into which circle, heaven or hell, the comedy might wander.
Andreas had taken a spacious apartment in the city of canals the previous October intending to paint for six months, perhaps longer. The artist had obligations to neither man nor beast. He was an eccentric, loud, unstable, but close and very talented friend of Archie's. Sunny fully realised the situation of his destination. His unexpected arrival would be more than welcomed.
It took a week to make arrangements and pack, choosing his wardrobe carefully, from the collection of capes, wraps and clothes of every conceivable variety in style, colour and material, with a heavy leaning towards the theatrical. Andreas would revel in his appearance, and he chose to indulge his host's every fantasy. He needed to break from the instability that had tumbled him into the abyss and he would let, if not will, this man to place him back on the pedestal to which he had become accustomed. They were not close, but if he remembered anything about Andreas he could be assured that his stay would be eventful and rewarding. He would certainly be indulged, and that is what he desired most of all. Had not his parents brought him up to believe that he deserved such pampering at the right time? In this adjustment he sought comfort, and the appreciative distance of strangers could be the most comforting of all. Without the demands, that had become restraints, of family and friends, he would achieve the freedom to plunge headlong into the future. At least the immediate future.
Never had he seen such architecture, so already he was excited before he struck the amputated lions paw hung like a grotesque warning on the door of his unprepared benefactor's retreat. As the hinges creaked and the door from the narrow street opened to reveal what lay behind the crumbling facade, Sunny was met by the welcome smile that he expected. The entrance was warm and full of smells as he escaped the cold damp of the alleys and canals. The air behind the closed shutters was pungent with the aroma of linseed, turpentine, coffee, stale wine and cigarettes. Warm and inviting. Andreas stood wrapped in a long deep green velvet dressing gown untied over his early morning nakedness. As he threw his arms around the boy, Sunny was relieved to see that he at least wore some underwear, dirty as they may be. It wasn't too long before he realised that the painter had not just risen, but had not yet gone to bed from a night of painting drinking and talking to the two models still sitting on the green sofa in the larger room to the left of the entrance.
Andreas' pleasure grew as his guest brought two large suitcases into the hall. While his face was still beaming he offered the boy the choice of coffee or wine. Nine in the morning seemed an appropriate time to have a glass of wine, so one of the youths on the sofa was sent to the kitchen to fetch yet another bottle and a fresh tumbler. Sunnu was a little taken aback when the youth rose brazenly from beside the other and let the blanket that had covered him fall to the floor as he skipped out of the room with a semi erection. Familiar as he was with the exhibition of his own body, he was uncertain of such lack of inhibitions in anyone else. He had always been the centre of beauty, and consciously he did not welcome other boys who were willing to detract from his position so readily.
Francesco and Georgio were twins. They were alike but not identical. Both had worked as prostitutes in Rome before meeting the painter and coming to Venice to live with him for six months. They were to act as houseboys and models in return for free accommodation, wine and food. The sixteen year olds were free to earn money as they would, when they required, but life with Andreas turned out to be such fun that they seldom went out, preferring to be part of the constant party that was the painter's life.
Frank returned with the wine and a smile. He gave the boy his drink, a wink and leapt back on the cushions beside his brother, diving under the blanket as he did so. They giggled as they grabbed at each other under the cover, seldom large enough to stay on top of them.
"Do you like my boys? Their English is better than my Italian and as Heaven would have it, they seem to have a complete aversion to clothes. As usual we were painting until five this morning and they've been lounging like that for hours telling me unbelievable stories of their exploits in Rome. The blanket was for your benefit. The hormone ridden little buggers were actually fucking just as you arrived. Weren't you boys? The one with the short hair is Frank and the red faced longhaired ruffian is Georgie. Boys, this is the famous Sunny that I have told you about. Don't be bashful. I'm sure he would appreciate you much better the way you were."
"Sorry I interrupted."
The two needed no more encouragement to leap out of their cocoon and greet the new arrival with a kiss. They were certainly cute boys and looked so full of life that from the start, this appeared to be the right decision to get away from the nightmares of the past weeks. The four of them were certain to have a lively diversion together.
Andreas was born in Birmingham of Greek Italian parents, who managed to remain in England at the outbreak of the Second World War. He was ten years older then Sunny, tall and very dark. His hairy chest lay exposed from beneath his dressing gown, and his coarse black hair was tied back with a piece of shoe lace. Constantly he ran his overly long fingernails through his knotted greasy hair. He probably shaved no more then once a week and bathed somewhat less often. His clothes often smelt if he bothered to wear any, because he mostly wore his gown or a sarong around the apartment. But the man was certainly handsome, interesting, constantly drunk, and no matter what his assets or faults might be, this artist painted like no one else that the boy knew.
Three years ago he had attempted suicide, presumably over lost confidence when an exhibition and love failed, and spent six months in a rest home. Since his release his paintings have been growing stronger, leaving no doubt as to the passion struggling for revelation and recognition. Some of his work was quite frightening in its bold sexual aggression. The Venice apartment was piled high with canvases showing the screams and fluids of naked tortured or aroused youths reaching out of predominantly dark red, green and black cells of some unexplained inner turmoil and outer controls. When he partied he indulged his joys and desires fully, but when he painted there was a dark side that crawled out of some secret part of him that he had buried under sedation in his hospital bed.
Back in England, Andreas had haunted Archie's studio where the two of them often spent days on a drinking binge. Sophie spent more time at the theatre and hardly noticed her husband’s absence. The boy however would often be at the studio and he loved to listen to the stories of indulgence that the dark Greek, Italian Englishman would never tire of bragging about. They became sort of friends, and the boy knew that behind the bloodshot eyes there was more then just artistic appreciation for his looks. Sunny did not mind the leer, because Andreas made no moves on anyone any more. The combination of his breakdown and the quantity of alcohol he drank had left him purely as an observer whose only involvement with sex was now memory and imagination. Alcoholic impotence may have saved many a boy from the diseases that surely had begun to rot his brain many years ago. He looked dangerous, but he was safe.
By the time two bottles had been disposed of, and immediate gossip of London was also dealt with, it was midday and the boy was shown his room to rest in until the new adventure would begin in earnest later that evening. Andreas slept seldom in his room at the top of the stairs, preferring to pass out, as he had already done, on a filthy bare mattress on the floor of his studio. The twins helped prepare Sunny's room at the back of the apartment where floor to ceiling glass doors looked out onto the enclosed courtyard. Two damp rough stone benches and a grey wooden table sat leaf covered under the leafless trees growing out of the paving stones, and two statues stood frozen and blackened against the orange, red bricks of the far wall. It was a framed picture of cold isolation that made Sunny feel comforted to be within the warmth of the decaying walls he had now entered. The boy had a sense of belonging and oneness with his surroundings that he could not as yet explain. With a smile the twin temptations left to sleep together in the heavily draped room across the invitingly small distance of the hallway. Sunny lay on his back and stared through the glass at the sterile and lifeless scene before him. Alone, he was conscious of the barren waste within himself, so fittingly reflected outside his room, and it was this that he was determined to leave behind.
Strange noises disturbed his sleep, and as he tossed around he climbed from the high ornate bed and pulled the curtains aside. Anthony was sitting on the table his head in his hands and his bare feet dirty, and resting on the stone bench. Why was he out there in the cold? How did he find his way to Venice? He threw a blanket around his shoulders, knocked open the doors and rushed to his friend. Shaking, he wrapped his arms about his beloved's shivering neck and at once screamed, when the dried, black and shrivelled eyes of Anthony turned and stared past him as the grotesque lifted it's strangers face to nowhere. Next it was the smooth white belly of the quiet and tender Georgie that he saw as the youth leant over him holding his head in his lap, mopping up the sweat with his roaming hand.
"Why did you scream? Did you dream something horrible? Too much wine and you looked at too many of the paintings. Do you want me to stay with you? I’ll keep you warm if you like."
Sunny shook his head and with a smile of disappointment the rejected youth took one last squeeze of the wounded monster and left their visitor once again alone, to face the terrors roaming his subconscious. The gods no longer assembled in his brain to carry him to imaginings of wonder. They had abandoned him, and in their place the spirits of evil intention snapped at his heels and blood now covered his steps. He left an unmistakable trail that made it easy for the enemy to follow.
He slept again until six in the evening when from a less threatening dream he was awoken by the howls of laughter coming from the boys, as Andreas chased them down the hall threatening to do something exciting with a very large salami if they did not cook breakfast/dinner. A loud voice from the other side of the door welcomed him to a new day. At the sound of this friendly encounter he pushed the shadows aside. It would take effort but somewhere the strength had to be found.
"These brats have probably woken you up. Stay in bed and we’ll bring in bounteous nourishment fit for the gods as soon as these devils are tamed."
More laughter, screams and the bashing of cups and pans eventually quietened to a knock on the door as the breakfast procession arrived. For this special occasion the painter had showered and draped himself in what appeared to be a clean sarong made from a heavy piece of tapestry fabric, somewhat frayed around the edges. On his head, looking very out of place, was a brilliant blue turban. He carried the tray of coffee, four cups and a large jug of very strong black day starter. Following the master came the serving wenches laden with rolls, butter, meats, cheese and fruit. Did these boys own any clothes at all, because they were yet to be seen in any? Perhaps this was why they seldom went out. Had their captor stolen their clothes to hold them prisoner? Impossible, there was far too much giggling for prisoners.
All three boys ended up under the sheets and the older admirer lay himself across the end of the bed, with the feast spread precariously between them. Bread crumbs fell over their most uncomfortable parts, hot coffee narrowly avoided scalding their perfection, and everyone crawled yelling and screaming around the bed as they stuffed food into each others mouths in a raucous feeding frenzy that if it were not for the stone walls, would surely have brought the polizia to the door. No one mentioned the disturbance of a few hours ago, as if it had never happened, and the decision was made to postpone seeing the city until later the following night. This day would be a select and private welcome to Venice. They would remain within the private confines of the world they had created for themselves. Andreas first thought that this was an occasion to take time off from painting for a few days, for once again there was reason to do what they most enjoyed; indulge the senses. The party was about to begin. Sunny anticipated he would have to talk about death sooner or later but not yet, and his host was in no mood to spoil the joy of seeing him.
Having eventually fallen from the bed the scraps were abandoned and all four ran to the large do-all room where a fire was blazing already. Wineglasses and a few joints were put within arm's length on a table and Andreas grabbed a flute, which was his private joy. For inspiration he often played to himself, and as an omen or a crutch it had become a security talisman that could either still or excite his soul. Tonight was no time to calm the savage.
"Did I ever tell you about the time your father and I argued about you? I presume Archie wouldn't have mentioned it. I wanted to paint your portrait and he was a bit suspect, well more than a bit, because he saw the direction I was heading and pompously informed me that you were into 'beauty', or some such crap, not my sort of perverse ideas and he insisted I stay right away. I told him that if he thought my painting was unfit for his delicate consideration he had no right to make up your mind for you. We were both pretty drunk or stoned and after I told him his painting looked like juvenile cartoons he almost hit me. I don't think either of us meant what we said but the dope or whatever we were taking sure made for an interesting night. I think it started out as a joke, but you know how it goes.
"Anyway we got into a ferocious argument and I bet him that he couldn't do anything real and gritty if his fucking life depended on it. He threw a drink at me and in true arrogant spirit, agreed to take up the challenge, so I got on the phone and within half an hour a couple of naked prostitutes I knew were prancing around the studio shoving dicks in any and every direction. We got them stoned and they were so persuasive that they even got him undressed. I don't think he had ever done anything like this before but I guess it was my challenge, and to prove what a man he really was, he let one of them try to suck him off. Now that was perverse. I couldn't stop laughing as he struggled to prove he could be such a man he could have sex with anyone if he wanted to. That little experiment was a dismal failure, but undeterred and the bet still on, your father ended up painting these two kids while they fucked on the floor. It was hurried but I had to admit it turned out to be pretty good work for a man under stress. A week later he destroyed the painting, probably because it wasn't his style really. He did it though and he realised that the inspiration was there, if he let it surface. He was just as excited and inspired by voyeurism as the rest of us. He never hassled me again after that. He would kill me if I told anyone, but there you go, I just did. He still wouldn't let me paint you though."
"I didn't know that. I don't think I mind but I never did see the painting. He must have kept it well hidden. I think I would have liked to see it, because I’ve always loved your stuff and I think Dad would have been good at it if he wanted to. But I guess his art is more political and avant-garde than earthy...........So he let a boy play with him - shit! What a spin out."
"Do you think we might work together while your here? I would still like to paint you."
"Sir, I'll be happy and overjoyed to be at your disposal anytime you wish."
"How are your fantasies going? You always had good stories to tell about your dreams. I only have imagination when I'm awake and working. I'm probably too doped up when I sleep to remember much at all."
"I still dream all the time, although they haven't all been pleasant lately. It seems silly but I used to get the strangest feeling when I awoke from a night spent with the ancient gods. I really feel I know them, and somewhere out there I can feel the approach of a Guru or some sort of Wise Guy. Sometimes my head is so full of characters that it gets a bit crowded. You wouldn't believe how tired I get when dozens of people are talking to me at once from inside my brain. I once thought I had a touch of Schizophrenia, but I decided they were just dreams. I think. I certainly don't need drugs to get my brain fired up. Why do you do it all the time? It’s something I really can't understand. I lost someone recently and I can't figure out why. I feel I want to or must come to grips with it."
"It's simple. It makes me feel good. I'm not sure there is any more to understand. It's my life, and this is the way I manage it, or not, depending on your perspective. Whether I go up or down is my decision. Anything, even suicide, is my prerogative. If you or anyone else gets hurt, I'm sorry but it's just bad luck."
"Probably I should ask when I’m not pissed. Hypocrisy is not a thing I feel proud of myself. But I do feel there is more to it than pure bloody-minded self-indulgence. Then again sometimes I think - so fucking what. Is it worth worrying about? I really don't know. Sorry! Anyway what the fuck, you win. Let's have another bloody drink."
It was a good night. Sunny laughed often, as the storytellers amused each other into the hours. Periodically Frank was despatched to the kitchen to bring food or more wine or both. To Georgie this was fine but in the end he knew that his duty to clean was less rewarding than his brother’s culinary tasks. Being the meek one of the pair he did not see any evidence of inheriting the Earth, only the washing up.
"I think I might stay drunk for a very long time. It certainly has some merit. I suddenly understand you my aged friend. Perhaps you will be kind enough to teach me to be an alcoholic. With an experienced guide and a willing pupil, we will make an awesome couple. Deranged deviates, dangerously drunk."
Andreas smiled through a cloud of smoke, downed another glass and slid to the floor, to let the twins rub his back as he gazed trancelike at his most recent portrait of them that leaned against the wall beside the fireplace. Sunny too ceased to speak as the room heaved and swayed around him and for a while he contemplated through unfocused eyes the same canvas. In harmony with his altered surroundings he could just see crawling out of the dark swirling slime of the gutter, the bleeding bodies of the boys joined like Siamese twins at the waist. They clawed at each other in terrified hatred, which was far from the sensuous image they created as they stroked and petted each other while carrying out their duty to look after and entertain their benefactor.
Before the sun rose, when Andreas as usual had passed out, the twins asked Sunny to join them in their bedroom. The rugs, deep red drapes and dozens of cushions gave the room the appearance of an Eastern bordello. It was disappointingly obvious that the visitor would not join them, but they thought perhaps he might like to sit with them and watch as they made love. They knew he thought they were pretty and if they put on a good enough show he might one day be tempted to take them as they hoped he would. Like Sunny, they revelled in being seen and admired. Their profession had depended on their appearance and cooperation. It was all they knew.
By candlelight they sweated and thrust in a jumble of twisting cloth and falling pillows. Light sparkled off their young skin as they unashamedly took pleasure in every inch of each other’s bodies. Sunny had never seen sex from the point of view of an observer, and it pleased him to watch and be an inactive partner in their embraces. He smiled at the pretty sight before him and it aroused him greatly, but Anthony remained his only love. Although the temptation grew, he had to depart unable to give into the urges that remained submerged beneath an ever more fragile shell of memory, that was his last hope of protection.
"That was truly beautiful boys. I mean it, but I must go to bed. I wish I could stay but I can't. Perhaps some other time."
As Sunny drifted off to sleep he had thoughts of the boys’ slim smooth bodies ejaculating into and over each other, but the vision was soon replaced by the image of himself and Anthony grappling with each others limbs. But he was dead and he must be decaying. Unlike Alexander who had built a noble funeral pyre of huge proportions for his love Hephastion, he could give no glory to death. He saw only the terrifying image of the body of his lover being consumed in the crematorium flames as the flesh blackened and the bones burned. The dream horrified him as the remembrance of the life of his friend was annihilated in grotesque ugliness as it was destroyed. He awoke wondering why we do have funerals. If you really think of or dwell on the real image of what is entailed you can succumb to madness. All he could do was once again suppress the pain and throw himself into the diversion of the Venetian evenings.
Up again that night they ate, drank, washed and spent a period talking about the unusual closeness the twins shared. Frank and Georgie were happy to be discussed, because although cute to look at they were seldom the centre of attention. They had developed the role of decorative background pleasure things, that at their age seemed as much as they could hope for, or so their lack of self-esteem allowed them to imagine. They, like anyone, had secret dreams and plans to be successful, rich and in charge one day, but at this stage they were happy to leave their immediate future in the hands of anyone who offered to look after them. They willingly allowed themselves to be used by so many men, and imagined they were getting as much as they desired, or at least deserved, out of life. Like bookends they supported each other against the insecurity of the love they felt they lacked.
Tonight their spirits were lifting because Sunny talked to and about them. He was young and beautiful as well, and even though they wished to be had by him, they were flattered that he did not need to touch them to notice their existence, at least for a while. Flattery would only satisfy their pride so much, for lust held a greater sway.
After about two hours they agreed that it was time to venture out. It was not Carnival time but by the clothes they wore it could have been mistaken for it. As leader of the pack, Andreas put on an old set of tails, red turtleneck sweater, silver painted shoes and his hair was tied back in a knot wrapped in a black ribbon. He even shaved which made him look like a vaudeville Mediterranean god. The twins were stunning in embroidered vests over white pirate shirts, with huge flowing sleeves, skin tight gold and black striped trousers and as many chains as they could rake up around the apartment. The three of them were but a background for Sunny who was determined to outshine any visitor to the ancient floating city. He laced green threads through his free flowing hair, covered his legs in extremely low fitting black tights, with his feet squeezed into knee length green suede boots. On his upper body he wore or almost painted a red star covered black top around which he threw a waist length multicoloured cape. The top he wore did not reach to his waist and quite provocatively he displayed about six or eight inches of pure white flesh from beneath his ribs to his pubic hairline. From the back could be seen a reasonable portion of his buttocks glistening above the black cloth suspended precariously from his hips without any visible means of support. In the centre of his belly he glued a green imitation jewel to his navel. Often when he went out he wore torn clothes and old jeans but when he dressed in his exhibitionist, theatrical, fantasy costumes he took on an androgynous appeal that he was quite aware affected and seduced every man, woman, and child.
They drank a bottle of Polish Cherry Vodka between them while they composed their costumes and soon fell laughing out of the door, running through the dim streets to begin the night of exploration if not exploitation and indulgent indecency. Late night strollers had to jump out of the way as they ran over bridges, down alleys and through tables, where drinkers almost lost their balance when the boys crashed into chairs as they stole kisses from strangers. After aimlessly disturbing the streets of the city they eventually ended up as very late arrivals at a party in the home of a local glassmaker who had a fondness for foreign boys. He managed to have regular gatherings based on a selection of attractive tourists that he and his partner had induced into spending the otherwise quite Venetian evenings at what always promised to be a memorable occasion.
He was extravagantly rich and his large palatial house was notorious for the lavish food, endless supply of alcohol, and drugs of choice. It was not uncommon to be greeted at the door by a very happy, semi naked and stoned young tourist enjoying the hospitality of a fantasy visit to Venice. Word had spread through the hostels of Europe that this was to be a place on any boy's itinerary. It would always guarantee to give a story that would be a highlight of the travel tales.
Like any new arrivals they were greeted with cheers from the assembled crowd, and drinks were put in their hands by a smiling, barefoot young German boy in a toga, who displayed a soft white bottom when he turned around to pick up a white rose to present to Sunny. As most of the travelling guests were backpackers the host provided an assortment of more appropriate, revealing costumes that they were encouraged to try on as they succumbed to the spirit of the party. Andreas was a regular, and often managed to entice many a prospective model to join him at his studio, particularly with the assistance of the twins. Frank and Georgie knew how to behave and immediately got out of their clothes and hugged their host who ran his sweaty hands over whatever flesh he could grasp. Turning immediately to Sunny with a drunken grin he offered a cheek that the boy respectfully kissed.
"I see you are already in costume my sweet. Do make yourself at home and partake of what ever, or whom ever you desire. I believe you have already made an impression on our young Hans. Please be nice to him. He is such a sweet boy. It is his third trip here and I am delighted to say he always looks us up. A true treasure."
"Are you English?"
"No darling, I'm Australian with a pretentious accent. I believe I note the sound of the old home country in your voice though. I came here twenty years ago to study glass and I never left. Would you leave this? Enjoy yourself and I intend to catch up with you very, very soon."
"May I remove my boots?"
"If you don't remove something soon I will be highly offended. Hans, my sweet, do come and help our guest to be more comfortable."
The German boy was at Sunny's feet undoing the zip on his boots and helping him out of them and with a pleading look he offered to take his cape.
"I guess I am a little overdressed. It’s very hot in here."
"It always is, so that no one stays covered for very long. Can I get you another drink?"
They stepped over a couple of blond boys, probably Swedes, lying playfully drunk and aroused in the hallway to the kitchen. With a bemused grin Sunny pushed past a black youth whose nipples were being stroked by a large bearded Italian gentleman while a tough looking American with tattoos was attempting to tie a blue ribbon around the dark one's penis. By the time they reached the kitchen the boy had been groped over, flirted with, and stared at, by a seeming plague of unwanted strangers.
"Some party! Yes a beer thanks. I only arrived here yesterday and I guess I stumbled into something of a happening already. Is it always like this?"
"Why don't you take some more off? You’re the most beautiful boy I’ve ever seen. Everyone here likes to look at cute bodies like yours."
Sunny was very drunk and tempted, but had only bared himself when it was for his own or someone else's art. He had never displayed himself just for the lustful gaze of men or boys. In turmoil he argued within his mind and kept arriving at the thought that this was a time to purge and wash away his stuffy past. Should he loosen up and wallow in pleasure for its own sake. Was it a betrayal of his love for Anthony? No, he had been betrayed and what did it matter? Where had it got him? Be special; be a piece of art; be adored; be nothing. It was now or never. He needed to take a leap and see where he landed. Unleash the monster within. Was it not his true self? The arrogance of his suppositions about himself must finally be put to rest.
"Fuck it!"
Within seconds the boy was naked. His cloths were thrown to a corner, and as he shook his hair, it flared out to look wild and as untamed as he began to feel. Eyes and hands were at last free to caress his body and soon he moved around the party uncaring of his neglected monster that rose and fell with the affects of constant attention and increasing amounts of alcohol. Lounging and stretching on purple cushions scattered across a red Persian carpet, Sunny became the perfect image of a tempting ripe fruit waiting to be plucked and consumed, with a hiss. The struggle in his brain raged as he fought between his desire to flaunt and give pleasure to his body, and the guilty memory of pure beauty that this certainly was not. Boys and men made various approaches, which after some initial encouragement were eventually pushed aside. The boy moved from his erotically displayed comfort and explored the rooms of the party to find individuals, couples or groups engaged in various activities from sex to drugs, that he was too often invited to join.
A very young boy splashed amongst the bubbles in the round marble bathtub while several youths sat on the edge trying to entice him out. Two others, who had taken some tablets obviously too strong for them were dancing precariously up and down the staircase, wearing sheets stripped from the bedroom from which they had just emerged. Cupfuls of olive oil and crushed tomatoes were being poured over another as he slid around the marble floor tempting those who prepared him, to partake of him like very edible pasta.
Hans had attached himself to Sunny and followed him throughout the house as strangers constantly suggested that they put on a show. Sunny's head began to swim at the sight of so great a saturation of sensual gratification. He had not ever been prepared for such an abandoned orgy. The thoughtful controlled beauty of his past life had restricted his imagination, and the possibility of evenings spent dedicated to such pleasure seeking had never entered his head. Anger, guilt and lust fired and melted within his brain. When monotonously the host made perhaps the fourth insistant request that he treat his guide well, Sunny exploded, grabbed his German companion, kissed him on the mouth, tore off his toga, knelt down and wrapped his mouth around the youth's eager penis. The ever-watchful twins stepped into the room to lay beside the pair. He was aware that a dozen people had entered the space and were watching as he lay Hans on the floor and eased himself down on the erection that he had brought into being. His own stood before him as he threw back his head to allow his green threaded hair to cascade down his slim white back and slowly he raised and lowered himself on the boy he had pinned to the floor. There was a thrill he felt, as he knew he had aroused not only the youth beneath him but the onlookers were certain to be excited by his perfect pretence at ecstasy. Beside them the twins were engaged in an act of intimate brotherly affection. Georgie squirmed and wriggled as Frank drove into him repeatedly with familiar and savage gentleness. Sunny's face shone angelically as he closed his eyes parted his lips and thrust his soft sweat covered chest foreword. He held the young tourist’s head between his hands; his round bottom swaying a hypnotic rhythm on the boy’s lap, as suddenly he cried out, his arms shooting into the air. The twins smeared in their own bruised saliva, disengaged and attached themselves to Sunny's hands and feet to cover him with kisses. The four became a confused jumble of flesh that knotted and flowed across the floor at the feet of their audience. After one final tight clasp, Hans whimpered and shook as he came inside the boy who instantly showered him with fluid from his own spasms, closely followed by the twins who had brought themselves finally to a long held back climax.
"Is that what you all wanted to see?"
Fury, lust, pleasure, drunkenness. He knew not which had made him participate in this exhibition. Staring into the German's eyes he leaned forward as if to kiss the wet and waiting mouth. He laughed angrily and spat in his face. Sunny stood slowly in complete relaxed control and looked at his host with contempt in his bloodshot eyes. He gathered up his clothes, dressed and left.
Hans lay stunned and immobile where he had been left. It was both pleasure and shame that brought crimson to his tear stained face. He felt like a prisoner who had attached himself absolutely and meekly to the power of his guard, on whose whims his life now depended. As everyone turned away from his private embarrassment, he slowly edged himself up on to an elbow, and looked around him at the party that would now soon end. He had always sought such imprisonment, such security, such humiliation. To have aroused such passion, he believed, had to be from the strength of a connection instantly formed. By Sunny's actions he had taken ownership of this slave. Public sex and anger must be commitment.
When he slammed the door behind him, Sunny took a long swig of the bottle he stole as he left. It did not matter what it was, for he could hardly taste it through his stale mouth. He ran as far as he could and lost in the alleys he eventually stumbled out into a piazza where he screamed at the top of his lungs. Several windows soon opened and voices shouted at him. He shouted back. More lights came on, but he continued to provoke them. As he swaggered around the piazza he was determined that he would awaken everyone. Out of a doorway a man appeared and with clenched fists headed straight for the swaying half clad figure of the boy. Sunny raised the bottle to throw at the man or smash it through a shop front window, but the sight of the protective metal grill, slapped his face with the childish futility of his actions, just as the fist of the man slammed against the side of his head. The boy struggled up from the paving stones as the man tore the shirt from his back and kicked at him. He thought he should plead with his attacker but he felt an overwhelming desire to be punished. He had carried his shoes and cape in his other hand, so that he now stood there oblivious to the cold, in nothing but his torn tights. His vulnerability added glory to his predicament. Once again he lay on the ground and he began to laugh. The man turned away and disappeared. Standing in the shreds of his exotic costume, he raised his hands above his head and screamed.
"I've won. I always do."
His arm dropped to his side as he lurched triumphantly away from his disturbance, to disappear into another cold narrow street.
Andreas and the boys were already at the apartment by the time Sunny arrived back from his wanderings. His bruised face was streaked with a little blood, dried tears and once again white with rage, as he came stumbling through the door at sunrise. The twins fled the room when the boy threw a bottle at them, ripped off the rags he was wearing and collapsed in tears on the carpet in front of Andreas.
"What a shit I was tonight. As you can see I've been having fun. I'm sorry for ruining the party. I guess I’m more disgusted at myself, and I took it out on everyone else. How can I apologise to that boy and your friend? I am so angry."
"It's safe boys, you can come back in now."
Andreas only wanted fun. He was stoned. He didn't require explanations. They would only create attachments, which he avoided. Frank, Georgie and Hans came down the hall and stood hesitantly in the doorway awaiting Sunny's reaction.
"I explained to our young German friend here that you have not been yourself lately and he asked if he could come back with us. He has no where to stay anyway, so I suggested he might remain here and be painted."
"I’m so sorry Hans. I didn't mean to - I’m sorry."
"I think coffee all round. Georgie honey, will you? I think you should get some antiseptic and a cloth as well."
Frank pushed the German boy to sit on the floor next to Sunny and he settled in next to him. Andreas stroked the hair that was laid in his lap until the coffee arrived. Hans took the cloth away from Georgie and gently wiped the boy's face. They smoked a joint or two and little was said. The boy was less like an angel tonight and his eyes were full of questions that he could not answer. Desperately he wanted to ask for help, but knew no words to express. If he thought sorrow it became hatred, if he thought peace it became death. Wine became heroin, a knife a needle and sex was rape. Beauty was blasphemous in his mouth. His pride was like shit to him. He shook and cried but soon he sat up and stared at the wall with eyes that could penetrate human flesh. For some time he stared without motion and appeared to be in a trance. All eyes were on the boy who eventually fell asleep. The twins helped carry the unconscious beauty to his bed and left Hans to stay with him, as everyone retired for the day.
Hans drew the curtains so that a softer light seeped through into the room and across the bed. He undressed and then lay the unconscious bruised boy out on his back on top of the covers and sat vigil beside his sleeping god. Sunny tossed around a little and often soft murmurings were heard to come from the hissing breaths of his parted lips. Hans stroked his brow and gently ran his hands over the boy’s stomach, sometimes stealing a kiss to his lips, nipples, belly button, penis or feet. Hans had once had a lover at home but now within reach was one who had moved, humiliated and taken power over him in a short moment of frenzied public display. If allowed he would do anything to stay here for as long as possible. To be near the new crown of his desires was paramount. All else just had to be put aside.
Unaware that he was being watched over by a disciple, Sunny dreamed. As so often in his youth he was in his back yard in Australia and as a boy he began to fly into the night sky, but suddenly as a man he drifted away to come down into an open clam shell filled with blood. Twelve followers, male and female, lifted him from the pool and wiped him clean with their hair. He was placed on a gold chair and lifted above their shoulders to be carried to the top of a mountain. Standing in red robes he could see eyes coming from the earth and he was eventually surrounded by thousands of people. He was in control.
This is what he recalled when he awoke but he had another dreadful dream as well that was frighteningly detailed. Sitting at the foot of Eros he was being sketched by his father, and his face was gold. As the drawing went on, he had now become a naked pink boy in his father’s studio when Archie said he shouldn't have an erection while being painted as Alexander.
"What right do you have to tell me what to do. You didn't bother to save Anthony. You killed him. It's your fault. I didn't do it."
He leapt from the pedestal and punched his father to the ground, and as they grappled on the floor his father became naked and Sunny shoved his large protruding penis into his pleading father, who looked like Anthony. Looking at his mother who was crying on the bed beside them he grabbed at her pubic hair, dragged her towards his raped father and pushed his hand inside of her screaming body. He spat on both of them. They were covered in blood and spittle as their torn bodies writhed and black smeared eyes stared through their tears and smiled at him. He screamed "Hate me!" left the room and wandered the streets until he arrived at the opera house where on stage six white horses galloped through a haze across the black set and his mother entered in a huge golden gown and sang enormously powerful high notes that eventually became a shout to the audience that her despicable son whom she was pointing at had just raped her and his father. As the twins beside him hurried him out of the theatre, she screamed and all the audience screamed, "It is all your fault" They caught a vaporetta home.
Hans saw distress in his breathing, as his body convulsed and sweat broke out on his chest. Grabbing him by the shoulders he shook him out of his dream.
"Get me a joint quickly." Were the first conscious words he said. They shared the small rolled escape and made love.
"Sunny do you remember seeing me on a train just before Christmas. You were in the compartment next to mine and I couldn't take my eyes off you. You looked in a daze. All I could see was a boy staring into the void, and I wanted to put my arms around you then, just as I have now. I recognised you straight away tonight but I said nothing."
"So last night was not the first time I was rude to you. I am so ashamed of the way I treated you. I don't know what is happening to me and I’m terrified of what I’m becoming. For some reason I find very little satisfying at the moment, and frankly I think I don't give a shit."
Hans bent over and brushed his cheek against the boy's fevered brow and with a scared expression on his somehow now less perfect face, Sunny slept again and they did not emerge until late that night. He awoke dripping perspiration and his mind was still tormented by the visions of his sleep. Sunny stumbled from the room covered in dry semen and his hair was knotted around his bloodshot face. He had staggered into hell and Hans had been to heaven. Grabbing some dry bread from the table and a glass of wine from the bottle on the floor he slumped on the couch with the others who were preparing for a new canvas. His mind was in terror of the thoughts that he had become capable of. To where had he sunk? What was the vileness that his imagination was spewing out? His soul was lost in a desert and he was drowning in his own excrement. Sunny drank several glasses of wine before he lifted his aching, tormented head. He surveyed the room, while in drunkenness he tried out several ideas in his mind. To himself he debated the possibilities. Back and forth, the options slammed unsteadily within, while the others looked on without a word. He gulped down another glass and took hold of Andreas with a sweaty hand.
"Do you want to paint me? You’re an artist and just itching to go the whole way. I could do any disgusting thing you like. I'm sick to fucking death of sweet little me. Let's do something real for God's sake. You sluts could be in it too, and the Nazi puppy dog here."
Laughing and crying at the same time once again, he raised his glass to his audience.
"Who wants to fuck me for Arts sake?"
"Don't challenge me boy, or I'll do it."
"I'm deadly serious you old drunk bastard. I want to do it - NOW! For Christ’s sake someone shove it up me and we'll make history. I want you to hurt me, and I want everyone to watch you do it. You want art. You’re going to get it. Get them over here. Get everyone. I don't care who, just get them. NOW! "
"You’re on, I accept. If you want to be degraded, I'll immortalise you. Let’s destroy false beauty and god help us to be strong. Hans, clean away that space, Georgie get on the telephone and get the Glassmaker to arrange an audience for His Drunkenness here, and Frankie I need some acid. We five are about to create my masterpiece."
Sunny began to smile at himself and when tears returned to his eyes, hysterical laughter burst forth from his wet mouth. In a fever he ran to his room where he took the photograph of Anthony from beside the bed and threw it to the floor, as he screamed at it to "Leave me alone" He took another swig from a bottle and grabbed hold of his penis stretched it in front of himself and was about to urinate across the broken glass at his feet, but he stopped and fell to the floor. Hans lifted the boy by the shoulders, away from the shattered past that the victim had washed in tears.
That night began a series of paintings that should never have seen the light of day. For three weeks Sunny accepted every humiliation that the group could think of. Drugs of any description allowed him to suffer any torturous indignity heaped upon him night after night. The Glassmaker cancelled his gatherings to be a gross and willing participant in the orgy of degradation that Sunny took on. He provided a string of subjects who were only too willing to partake of the boy’s body. Boy prostitutes buggered him, fat men with hairy stomachs wrapped his nakedness around themselves while they masturbated, women applied implements into any and all orifices they could invade on the boy's failing figure. Andreas painted feverishly without much sleep. Images were being produced where the boy became unrecognisable beneath the dark haunting layers of screams, flesh, urine, blood, faeces, ropes, chains. His appearance deteriorated as he was tortured physically, sexually and most of all mentally by the demons he had released from his own mind. That which was done to him came through others, but it was from himself that the inspiration had been drawn.
The black and evil side of human nature was exposed. Images that could excite both unadmitted lust and humiliating guilt. The viewer could allow himself to see and wallow in the most horrid corner of his or her own soul and confront it with an awareness of just what we are capable of if we allow ourselves to indulge without restraint. When there is no conscience or self-discipline we are surely to foul the earth. The strength of the horror was a height that Andreas had sought, and it was Sunny who allowed him to achieve such goals or plunge to the depths of pain in a lost world. What he did contrasted more dramatically with the period of Love and Peace than does a fired gun with a flower just bloomed.
Although they began to feel some concern, the twins were cooperative background subjects and Hans blindly obeyed any command, always being there to clean up the mess and take Sunny to bed where every evening the boy cried into his chest. Self-hatred ate away at his soul but no one could dissuade him from continuing. Andreas offered to stop but was not about to pass up such an opportunity that the victim insisted must find it's own climax. To the painter, the artist, this was truly the climax of his fetishes, the free release of his suppressed desires, the ultimate unrestrained indulgence in the passionate filth that can lurk beneath the surface of any mind, confused, sane or indifferent. It is not impossible for any of us to imagine.
One night at the end of the third week Sunny collapsed. He awoke four hours later in convulsions and a fever that immediately required a doctor. Rushed to hospital he had his stomach pumped and because of his delirium he was placed in the psychiatric ward. For a week all visitors were barred and he underwent the most severe testing. When not being counselled he slept. There were no dreams when he was unconscious and he hardly recognised anything when he was awake. Constant bouts of sobbing and vomiting purged him of almost all that was life itself. After seven days, calm descended upon the sacrifice, and he awoke the next morning to the sight of Sophie's drawn face beside his bed. Andreas had called her and insisted she come immediately and without question. She knew only that her boy had collapsed and there was a hint of drugs in the vague explanation she had been given. For three days she had sat at the hospital without being able to see her son. Today they could meet and she demanded that he be allowed to return to London with her immediately.
Sophie's presence was more than the boy could bear. He had separated himself from them and they were no longer his protectors. Had all of this not grown partly out of the horror of his visions of his parents? Whenever she looked at him he turned his head in shame. Would things ever be the same between them? It was only a dream but created from a subconscious part of him that could not be ignored. It must be rooted out and destroyed before it grew to destroy him. It was destroying him.
The scratches and burns that covered his body and the black sunken look under his eyes frightened his mother, but this was not the time to question him. Although rejected, her love, she thought, was what he needed most. The doctors were reluctant to release him but as he was a foreigner they had to give in to her demands, and he left the hospital with Sophie that day. They went immediately to the hotel where she had stayed alone since her arrival. Sophie fully intended to pack and get the first train out.
"I don't want to go home with you. I've got things to sort out."
"You're in no state to sort anything out. You're a mess. You look terrible and we have to look after you. Your Father and I - "
"I don't want to go. You and Father can't do anything for me. You don't understand."
"Understand what? If you won't talk to me, how can I understand? You're not making any sense at all. What's happened to you?"
"Is it Anthony? You must get over it. He's gone and we're all very sad about it, but you have to go on. Please Sunny, come home with me."
"It's not him, it's me. I'm so mixed up. If you make me come with you I'll have to, because I haven't got any money, but I really want to go away somewhere by myself. I have to. You have to believe me. I can't be with you or Father. I must get away. I have to have my freedom. Please?"
"But you have always been free to do what you wanted. Archie and I have insisted on it."
"That's exactly it. You insist on it. You have always given me lots of freedom but what I need to do, is take it. Only if I do it, will it mean anything. You always expect me to do things. I can't handle that any more. If I can be me it must be because I'm able to, not just to satisfy your dreams. I’m sorry to sound so selfish but that’s how I feel."
"Darling, what can I say? Where could you go?"
"I don't know yet. I have to find somewhere."
"If you like, we can stay here a few days and think about it and after you calm down we can decide what’s best."
"I will not calm down, but if you want to stay I have to have my own room. Please Mother I love you but I - "
"That's enough. I'll get you a room and ring your Father and let him know what is happening, and I'll send for your things from Andreas."
As soon as he closed the door in his own room he was aware that he had not only shut out his mother, but had locked out all that had gone before. Like the prophets, mystics, hermits and Christs of old he would need a time to regenerate, and reform his own existence. The day had come for meditation on the temptations of his own physical and spiritual image. Eros had tumbled from the stage. His immortality had at last been challenged, and he had lost his way. He threw himself on the bed and like the silent sands of the desert, sleep washed over him, burying his self disgust away from the expectant gaze of the audience who, like vampires had begun to haunt his ambitions.

Sophie knew little of her Great Grandparents. At the adventurous age of nineteen, Great Grandfather Gustav got assisted passage on the ship Hirchell, emigrated alone from Norway, and by the time he was twenty two he had married the sixteen year old Sofia from Western Queensland. Their son Charles, married a German Woman, Phyllis, and they in turn had three children of whom the surviving daughter Margaret converted to Catholicism when she married John O'Neill and bore him six children, one of whom was Sophie. John's ancestors were exiles from the Irish potato famine, who in the early days were miners and then branched out into journalism in Australia. For a short period they were the proprietors of a country newspaper.
John and Margaret used their share of an inheritance passed down from Gustav and Sofia's prospecting, to give their four boys and two girls a good education. Some money did come later from the sale of the newspaper but that was a long drawn out court battle, revolving around a second wife, that eventually produced very little after the costs of the law had been paid. When they settled in Brisbane they established a small grocery shop, 'O'Neill's Corner Store'. The kids served customers and packed shelves after school as the family settled into the not too grand style of middle class Brisbane of the thirties and forties. It was rare, but not too unusual in those days, for city daughters to be properly educated, so John insisted that all his children would be well equipped for modern life, and be given every opportunity his devotion and bank account could afford. They would be true twentieth century, independent men and women.
The eldest, Frederick, like Sophie was musical, but what ever sort of career he may have had became irrelevant when yet another future was destroyed by a land mine in 1943. Peter, survived the war and became a builder, and created himself quite a large business. Following too many prying questions he distanced himself from the remainder of the family, living a life, suspect to his brothers and sisters. The third child Roland joined the priesthood. He spent many years in Rome before taking up a parish in Northern Queensland and eventually progressing to a bishop’s chair. Always the noisiest of the children, he seemed to be using this assertiveness to gradually climb through the church hierarchy. He had no musical talent, but picked up a passion for opera while in Rome, and managed to manipulate church funds to travel to and from the Vatican via many great opera performances throughout the world. Sophie's younger brother William was the ratbag of the litter, and the youngest of the family, Elizabeth, took up nursing.
Sophie and Freddy performed together from the youngest age. Duets on the piano, and when they found that the girl had a voice, he would accompany her while she entertained the family with songs the nuns had taught her. The eldest brother had a particular fondness for his first sister, and she in turn adored her handsome, talented, and gentle brother. He became more of a father to her than John did, which left her particularly devastated when he went away and was eventually killed on the battlefields of Asia.
Frederick died before he could have children, and he had shown no interest in any girl apart from his sister, so to the naivety of the family it appeared possibly unlikely that he would have married at all. Peter was always too busy to have a wife, let alone children, but because money and rumoured mistresses appeared to be his preoccupations, no one could ever be sure that there may not be the occasional bastard out there that he was looking after. Roland took a vow of chastity and presuming he kept to it, it was left to Sophie to produce the first grandchild. The two younger kids, Bill and Beth would eventually have large families but not for many years.
Sophie once went through a stage where she contemplated being a nun, however that soon passed when she discovered the joys of singing. A naive passion for the church was eclipsed by a more genuine love of performing. The family bought a piano when they first settled in the house that most of the children grew up in. Margaret played a little, but it was Frederick who took it over until Sophie began lessons at the age of six. The O'Neills were a close happy family and even though John drank more than his wife liked, they seldom had any disagreements. Until her marriage Sophie remained a virgin, as did William and Elizabeth. Peter, whom no one was really sure about was assumed to have played up, and Roland was accepted as having decided on celibacy when he made up his mind to be a priest at the age of fourteen. Frederick had a very close friend David but it was not until Sophie became a little distanced from the family after her marriage, did she ever think back freely to what her elder brother's life was really like. Things like that were certainly not discussed in those days, and now there is no way of knowing if Freddy would have moved on to lifelong, full and happy relationships. In her maturity Sophie now often hopes and imagines that his life, although brief, had been special.
The other favourite member of her family was little Billy. He thought Big Sis was smashing. The kids at school got sick of him bragging about his sister and how beautiful she was. At home he would tease her to get attention. He was such a cute imp that she fussed over him with so much protection that he escaped many a belting, because the ever indulgent sister covered for him when he constantly misbehaved. Good intentions could not prevent him from letting his high spirits lead to disaster on such a regular basis, but Sis managed to get him out of most scrapes.
Billy, or William as he is known again now, left school at an earlier age than the others, but he moved into a Public Service office, and became one of the best fathers you could imagine, to his three natural and two adopted children. His wife Judy grew plump, fat actually, and although they struggled, they appeared to be perhaps the most average and contented of all the O'Neill offspring. He always played practical jokes on everyone and life remained fun and a joy to him, just as it was when he was a child.
Uncle Bill was always fond of his Nephew but never understood him. He wrote to his sister when she was over-seas, but he and Judy constantly wondered why the boy was so unlike the rest of the family. He certainly did some strange things, but he was such a nice kid. They presumed he would grow out of his peculiarities eventually. Probably a bit too young to be taken to Europe by a singer and an artist of all things. Anyway good luck to them.
The home they all lived in was decorated with family photographs on the mantle piece, and around the high picture rail in the twelve foot ceilinged rooms. Soon beneath them appeared portraits of the family that Archie produced, when painting was still a hobby. A wonderfully humorous 'American Gothic' portrait of Margaret and John hung in the centre of the lounge room, flanked by the fourteen year old Billy looking like a scantly dressed, and very dirty mischievous Puck, which captured his personality so accurately he was known by that name for several years after he sat, or more accurately, crouched for the painting. Sophie made a great Pre-Raphaelite Ophelia with flowers wound gracefully through her hair. The exaggerated beauty of the over large image was embarrassingly obvious as a far from subtle homage to her, by a man who was deeply in love. Archie was not exactly original at that point in his artistic development, but he was refining his technique through experimentation. To copy various styles, was to him a successful tool, from which he learnt much, and it certainly entertained the family.
Sophie and Elizabeth shared a room right up until the elder sister's marriage, when it became the newlyweds bedroom. Billy and Beth by this time were relegated to the front verandah, which had been enclosed and divided in two. Peter was still at home, and Roland had entered the seminary. Not realising, or fully accepting Roland’s dedication, John insisted his bedroom be still left in place for his hopeful return, or at least for when he came to stay, and in the interim it also doubled as a spare room for the constant flow of visiting relatives, and friends of the children.
Although hard to maintain, Sophie had many secrets that she kept from the family. Living so closely it became a challenge, and often an adventure. Some of the secrets the girl had were in no way special, and it appeared that the fact that she hid them from everyone was more an act of independence, and no more than to defiantly see if she could. It was this discipline she developed that enabled her to maintain one of the greatest secrets she did have locked away.
Just before Freddy and David left for the war she was home alone, writing in her diary that she kept hidden in an old wooden cigar box under her bed. No one was aware that she even kept such personal thoughts written in secret. The family had gone for a picnic but not feeling well she remained in bed, and had settled into transcribing her daydreams and passions to paper. She heard the door open and Freddy and David talking in the hallway. They knew everyone had gone out, and not realising Sophie had remained behind, they laughed and sang their way through the house as if alone. Sophie continued with her notes while the boys poured some drinks and put on some gramophone records. They had not come to her door so she thought she would say hello later, when she had finished her musings and locked her book away.
The noise continued for some time but with the music also screeching its way down the hall she could not hear, and paid no attention to, what was being said. Eventually the muffled voices died down and Sophie decided to get a snack and say hello to them. To be polite she might ask how their day had gone. She would have preferred to have had the place to herself, a rare enough occasion in this overcrowded household. The boys, whom she knew she would miss, would soon however be boarding a transport carrier to take them both into the Pacific to join the forces battling the Japanese in the north. Slipping on a dressing gown she walked down the hall and stumbled across Frederick laying naked on top of the enfolded body of David. They were kissing in a way that she had never seen two people kiss before, certainly not two men.
"Oh, I'm sorry!" she exclaimed.
"My God! Sophie. I didn't know you were home."
A short time after she and Archie married, Sophie visited David, to find out exactly what had happened to her brother. The official Telegram had given them the news of his death, and on his return David had come to tell the O'Neills that their son had stepped on a mine. The platoon were on a march to set up a new camp further into the jungle after the enemy's retreat from a mountain they had occupied until heavy bombing had moved them on. He died instantly. There would have been no pain. For several years this was all that Sophie and the family knew, but she was not satisfied, and the idea that David knew more had haunted her for a long time.
David lived with his Mother. He was embarrassed by the arrival of his friend's sister. Following that afternoon when he had been discovered in the arms of Freddy, he had never returned to that house until the once when he felt obligated to pass on some of the details of the death he had witnessed.
"Come in my dear. My son has just popped down to the shop for me. He won't be long, and it will give me a bit of time to have a chat with you before he returns. Actually I sent him away so that I could speak to you. Come into the kitchen and I'll put on the kettle."
Sophie was afraid the sharp point of her stilettos would dint the linoleum, so she tried to walk gently, as she moved to sit uncomfortably on the hard wooden cream painted chair. She placed her purse on the serviceable bright yellow plastic table-cloth, brushing away the grains of sugar, spilt from the many cups of tea the older woman consumed throughout the day. The house was old but well worn from years of scrubbing, and the odour of ammonia cleaning agents mingled with the smell of gas and grease from the stove. Their home was not dirty, but reeked the warm loving feel of the people who lived within it's walls.
"I was hoping to speak privately with your son. I don't mean to be rude, but I have to find out some things about my brother, that I believe, only David can tell me."
"Sit down darling, I know everything there is to know. It’s my son that I want to talk about. You may not realise it, but they were very much in love. Since his return my poor son has been a very different boy. He lives with me still. He thinks, to look after me, but in fact he can't face the world alone any more. He's not very settled in his mind, and I just want you to be careful with what you say to him. I know you have to find things out, but I can tell you, it will be very difficult for him. He still hurts so much. I worry that he will never get over it. I can hear his car. Please be very understanding. He doesn't need to be hurt any more."
"The baker was out of buns, so I got some vanilla slices. Oh, Hello Sophie, I didn't know you were here already."
"Just put them on the table. I'll make the tea and leave you two to have a chat."
She made a pot of tea, laid out the unmatched cups, and arranged the slices on a hand painted plate. The older woman picked up her own special cup, and with a quick look of pleading at Sophie, as she planted a kiss on the cheek to her only son, she left the room.
"David, I hope this is not inconvenient. Your mother spoke to me just now. She's a lovely lady, but she's worried that you’ve taken Freddy's death rather badly. That’s why I've been thinking for years now, that there's something I should know. He and I were so close. Life's just not the same without him."
"I guess you know why I couldn't look at you when I visited your family after the war. I guess you'd never said anything to them about Freddy and me. Thanks for that."
"David, I'm glad that he had someone. Your mother has already told me you loved each other very much. It would have been sad if he had died without ever having loved anyone. I didn't realise it at the time, and I guess I was shocked. I didn't know anything about boys like that, but I always trusted him so much and I knew that he couldn’t do anything that was wrong. I tried to talk to him before you went away, but he wouldn't tell me. Please, I know it may be difficult but I must know."
"Why must you?"
"I'm not exactly sure, but I feel that to understand my life, or life in general, I have to not only accept what he did, but how it turned out for him. All I know is that I have the question. It may sound selfish. I'm sorry, but you are the only one who can tell me.?"
"Okay, if you insist. It’s always been private, and I’m not sure you should have to deal with it but I'll try and tell you everything."
They poured another cup of tea, David lit a cigarette and offered one to Sophie. She did not smoke but felt she should have one. In her anxiety, she was trying to relax the man who at that moment looked so much like a little boy before her. Also it may have made it easier for her to control her own nervous fidgeting. It had taken a lot of courage to come here, and now that she had taken the step she would not let it pass until she felt satisfied, and killed the demons that were haunting her brain. From where they came, she did not know , but never the less they were there. He puffed away at the cigarette and lay it on the chipped ashtray, drawing lines in the ash that covered the face of The King; an old souvenir of the coronation.
"We were lovers from the day we met at school when we were fifteen. I'd arrived at the school from Townsville, and on the first day of term, we met and after we finished classes early that day we came here, and had sex. My mother was at work and we used to come here regularly. She found out eventually, but was happy for both of us. Since my father died when I was only seven she’s looked after me alone. She loves me and has always understood everything I do. That day you stumbled upon us in your lounge room was my fault. It was a dare, I guess, and we wanted to do it at his place at least once before we went away. It is funny how you have to do things just in case you never have the opportunity again, and as it turned out we didn't."
David bowed his head a little to hide the dampness in his eyes. He lit another cigarette to cover his embarrassment and continued.
"We joined the army together and made sure that we ended up in the same detachment. Neither of us wanted to fight, but we knew our obligations, and felt we could face them if we were together. Sometimes it was okay, but mostly it was pretty horrid. So many boys died, but when we could, we had the companionship of each other to get our strength back. The most we could ever do was steal an occasional kiss, because life in the army is not at all private and we knew that if we were discovered we could be jailed, so it wasn't only the guns that were after us, it would have been our side as well. We weren't bitter about it, but nights were very lonely when you knew you were scared, and the love that could give you comfort was close by, but out of reach. I'm not sure whether it made it easier or more difficult. Anyway we managed."
"I’m so glad you’re telling me this. Excuse my tears but he was so special to me and I’m partly so happy that you and he were so close, but why couldn't he have told me, shared it with me. It would have made all the difference. Sorry, please go on."
"Well, one night we shouldn't have, but we managed to disappear into the darkness outside the camp together. It was stupid and dangerous but that day two of our mates had been shot, and both of us were upset and needed each other. We weren't doing anything except hugging but we got caught by the Sergeant. He threatened to report us, but as we were in a fix at the time he said he’d wait until things settled down. The Japanese were on the move and we had to follow them at daybreak. The two of us were more terrified of the Sergeant than the bloody Nips. Great isn't it. That you should have to fight the army your in as well as the one you joined up to fight against. We avoided each other all night after that, and the next day we marched far apart. Usually we were close by each other, and somehow managed to convince them that we worked well as a team. But now that they recognised what sort of team we were they, well the Sergeant really, had to separate us. We had slogged cautiously through the jungle all day and I was about fifty yards ahead of Freddy when a sniper opened fire. A bullet just missed me but as I dived towards a tree a second bullet grazed my shoulder. I remember I screamed out to Freddy as he must have seen me fall to the ground. He left his position and ran as fast as he could in my direction. He shouldn't have done it. I heard an explosion and he was dead. There were only a few of us and it was impossible to carry him out of the jungle. I wasn't hurt badly, but when I rushed to him the Sergeant screamed at me to get back to my post. I told him to get fucked and leave me alone. I was sobbing over Freddy's body and the mongrel was still yelling at me when the sniper got him in the back. The rest of them moved on and I stayed behind and buried both of them. There was nothing else I could do."
"Was he, well.... badly hurt by the mine?"
"He died instantly. I don't know whether you want to hear it but you said you needed to know everything. I couldn’t mention anything of this to your family. His legs were completely gone, his arms were shreds but his face was miraculously untouched.................. It was my fault."
Sophie stood up from the table and as she wiped the tears flooding down her cheeks she took several deep breaths. Unable to control herself she rushed to the sink and vomited.
This is the story that she had locked away from her family, her husband, and her son. She only agreed to tell me when she felt confident that I would do justice in telling the story and the truth of her family. Perhaps it may be important for someone to know the facts. She is a mother and aware of her need to share, to nurture, to help. Love existed within her and required expression though so often love seemed to lead to tragedy in the ones she loved. Why? Who knows? But she would never give up.
With the determination she revelled in, and with the discipline involved in holding such stories locked inside her, Sophie grew to be quite a formidable woman. It became apparent that strengths that were hers were lacking in her husband. As she developed an ability to cope with supporting the family at first financially, and in later years emotionally, Archie grew to be more temperamental and indulgent. His weaknesses unearthed an evolving companionship with alcohol. His creative urges and imagination did not suffer, but interaction with his wife and friends did. However for his son he would continue to do anything. Sophie realised this change in her husband when Sunny first met Anthony. She was aware that with both she and her son spending time away from the house for the first time since they became a family, her husband's independence diminished and like the spoilt development of his childhood he sought attention that could not be given him. She chose to ignore the signs of separation, and not until they had parted had she bothered to look back and realise the dependence of the possession that he had placed on her part in his life. It was true that they had always been devoted, but they had appeared self sufficient, and it was this that she thought gave strength and durability to their relationship. There was nothing unusual in the fact that she had, since the boy began to reach out for independence, devoted more of her energies into the life of her son, than that of her chosen spouse. Many marriages have found this a cause for splitting, but is it not in the nature of the parental instinct that devotion to the offspring becomes an overriding force in the quest for survival of the species, particularly in the makeup of the one from whom the child's flesh has grown. Sophie had become a guardian. She stretched her hand over the life of her son, she was the keeper of secrets that were entrusted to her, and she alone must set the path of her own progress. Once the family, both old and new had been the source from which each member could be propped up, the refuge of security, but the growing realisation that she no longer had a place to lean, brought no disappointment. This woman had the resources, and strengthened as life made her, she stood her ground.
From the day she had decided to accept the veil at her wedding she knew there were compromises that she would make of her own will. Progress slowly. It was not necessary for her to barge headlong into confrontation. She would achieve what she wanted by gentler means. To accept this symbol of the patriarchal society did not diminish her independence, for she chose to do it. She was not coerced. Sophie did not want to be the gift to, or the possession of her husband. She felt her own personality, but the tradition could still be honoured in deference to the mothers and aunts who saw no such demeaning connection in the western symbol of virginity. The historical roots, if that is what they were, of any act, could be manipulated to one's own advantage if the choice was made to do so. So often can we innocently look at something which is pretty and appears inoffensive, although the underlying message, which is lost to many, can work in subtle ways to continue the battle from which it emerged.
This woman had been born to do battle. She would battle for her son, and her awareness of this role gave joy to her spirit. She would succeed with her son, she would succeed with her husband, but most of all she would succeed with herself. She knew it. She must. This was the century in which the free flowering of humanity could be given another chance. The power of mass communication was beginning to cause havoc with the constraints of patriarchal dictatorship. Sophie believed that democracy for all would be inevitable one day. For all it's faults, the struggle to have one's say should lead to equality for those who wished to grasp it, and grasp it she did. However she was still human, and prone to mistakes and the awareness of that possibility. In Venice more than ever, had the pitiful sight of her son made that frailty, hers, Archie's and the boy's, become painfully obvious.

Archie looked from Sophie to Andreas and shook his head.
"How could you do this to him?"
"Listen man, your son is one strange kid. I don't know what goes on in his brain. He wanted to do it. Your a fucking artist, and would you - could you stop and give up if someone handed you on a platter what you had to do?"
"But look at them. Why? How did he come to this? You’ve always been our friend. Why did you let him? This stuff is filth. It's grotesque, and foul in every possible way. How could you call it art? I don't understand you."
"Your so perfect. The perfect parents of the perfect son. Come on now. Don't let your own guilt throw shit on me. You brought him up. As far as I can see you did a pretty fucked up job at that. Did you ever really think of him as a person or just some boost to your precious pride. You fucked the kid up. He was a mess when he arrived, as you well know. It's not my responsibility. I’ve never pretended to know how to run someone else's life. The boy knew what he was doing. That's his business, so you're not going to blame me. They're only reflections of what I see. I observe. I only did what any artist is capable of and should do if he’s worth anything, even you. Think back you bastard."
Sophie stood up from the filthy sofa and averting her eyes from the painful and tragic images of her son scattered haphazardly around the room, strewn with bottles and discarded food and rags, she went to the window and searched the street for guidance and sanity. Her son, always happy, had his heart broken in December, and now so easily he had almost destroyed himself. It was incomprehensible how he could have changed this much. It was too dramatic, too sudden to have come only from a single unfortunate death. The root of this must have festered out of more long term difficulties that they had been blind to. Andreas was talking rubbish as far as she was concerned, but they had all failed, and now, to exonerate themselves they could do no more than cast blame at each other. She at least knew better than to think this bitterness was a solution. She remembered her brothers shattered body and his friends guilt. It had provided no resolution, no peace. Guilt and blame produce nothing. All that is born of accusation is self centred, continuing, unmerciful pain. What would the boy profit from this?
"Stop being so pathetic. It's useless for you two to be arguing like this. Does it help Sunny? Stop it! Andreas, if you ever try show these paintings, I will find some way of stopping you, so that you’ll never paint again. My brother Roland has arranged for the boy to stay at a monastery just outside of Rome for a while, since he absolutely refuses to come home with us. So, I’m warning you. You’re to keep away from him. As far as I can fathom, he wants to see no one; you, me, or anyone. Archie and I will be leaving tomorrow and we'll have to sort out our own problems. We certainly have plenty of them."
When after a period of bewildered silence, they stormed from the apartment, Andreas sat for hours staring forlornly at the greatest work he had ever done. At what price did he achieve what his darker side urged him to create. Yes it was powerful, it was good, but was there an excuse for it? What had once appeared to possess artistic strength, the pinnacle of his talents, screamed back at him now as only personal weakness. Weakness of spirit. Without any moral backing. Destructive! Where was the honour? Just like a War photographer he pondered the objectivity of the artist. Does he innocently record images with detachment or does he help to manipulate, encourage, and create a scene of desolation and pain for his own glory? Is he the blameless witness, does he stand outside, or is he the vicious cause, somehow the callous instigator of the evil he wants to see around him, the reflection of his own depraved imaginings? This fundamental question would plague his instability for what remained of his life. To achieve the strength of his images he nearly destroyed a boy he adored. He thought he was an artist, but now he felt like a murderer, a manipulator, a failure.
Unable to leave his rooms he drank constantly. The other boys could not make him stir from his growing desolation. They went out to the streets or the cafes, or remained in their rooms because he would not tolerate their presence. Archie's words, although he wished to think them unfair, would not stop haunting him. Whatever it was that led him to hospital years before once again took hold of the chemically enhanced instabilities still lurking beneath the shattered shell he was again becoming. After several days he carefully wrapped the paintings and placed them under a cloth in a darkened corner of the upstairs room. With confusion and sadness he swore that he would never look at them again. No one would know of his brilliant ugly creations. The face of his Dorian could no longer be exposed to the sensitive examination of the faint hearted; neither his nor anyone's.
Within a month, the twins were sent away. They argued and pleaded but the painter no longer had time or desire for their company. Andreas moved with his hidden and carefully wrapped terrors to Greece where his painting dramatically changed direction. He had lost his challenge, and soon his art descended to commercialism. No longer had he the will to be profound, nor confront. The dark side was buried so deep that inspiration went headlong to Hades with it. He painted bright Greek scenes, fair and photographic. Soulless as they were, they sold in sufficient numbers to the indifferent tourists to allow support for himself and his not so attractive Turkish house boy. They had simple tastes, plenty of wine, a comfortable bed and most importantly no one knew him.
Hans had immediately followed Sunny to Rome. The glass maker had given him some cash, with the understanding that he would return to Venice again one day. The parties would continue. Boys from foreign lands would come and go until one day, six months later, the glass maker was found dead in the Grand Canal. No one knew how or why, but he drowned, and the parties stopped. All evidence and witnesses were at last removed from the sinking streets. It was as if it had never happened.
Hans knew he might not be able to see the boy, but he must be in the same city, just in case. He had not been told to where Sunny had vanished but he was unable to let go. He disappeared into the alleys and gutters of Rome. Perhaps he went back to Germany. Perhaps he was dead. No one knew and perhaps no one even thought of him. The Nazi Puppy Dog loved the Victim of Venice, but however significant this was to him, in the scheme of things, he was hardly noticed in those days of recrimination and loss. To many he was nothing but a bit player, unimportant, and he felt it.
Sunny was to eat in the long, bright, uncluttered dining hall with the members of the community but had no obligation to participate in any other activities. He could sleep in his cell, wander the hillsides, write, paint or talk to the monks if he chose. The head of the Abbey, a small overweight man, knew only that he had collapsed from self inflicted exhaustion, and the pain of his confused mind. If any more was to be revealed it would be at the boy’s discretion. Uncle Roland, or more correctly His Grace Bishop O'Neill requested that this favour of privacy be granted him. The country retreat was his first idea when Sophie, in desperation, pleaded for his help. The suggestion was immediately agreeable to the boy, and he found his own way there after arrangements had been hastily made in the first three days of his release from hospital. Archie had arrived just in time to say an anxious goodbye to his son. At Santa Lucia Station, in the midst of the loud, rushing crowd of travellers, without emotion, the boy hugged his parents, said he was sorry, and climbed aboard the train.
"Well boy, you are a mystery guest, and we are happy to have you here for as long as you require. Meals are at 6.30 am. 12.30 pm and 6.00 pm. Your room, the showers and where you will eat, I will show you soon. My office is through that door, and I, or the other men here are available to talk to you when ever you can find us. You may come and go as you please, but I gather you wish some peace and quiet for a time. We will ask no questions but in your own time feel free to approach us if you decide you wish to talk. It is our vow to respect your privacy and your secrets. Do you have any questions?"
"Thank you, no Father."
The building containing the office, library and other common rooms appeared to be much older than the Chapel and the two remaining structures. The sleeping quarters and the farming annex had been built in the eighteenth century when the remains of a mostly destroyed estate from the middle ages was turned over to the church to establish the monastery. The first Abbot had been a member of the family who once ruled, violently at times, the district surrounding the present property. Like all of Italy there was a story beneath the modern, but so much history could be ignored by all but the casual visitor. The monks, and in particular the current Abbot, a simple generous man with a great sense of charity and no sense of, to him, irrelevant history, had no interest in what preceded their arrival and it was in this house with an untold past, that Sunny could lose his own.
When he arrived at the dining hall, ten minutes late for his first breakfast, a place was ready for him and after he had eaten he was introduced to the gathered friars before they set about their day’s duties.
"Brothers, this is Sunny, and he is here for some peace. Please respect his privacy. Boy I will not attempt to introduce you to all twenty of us at once but as you move around you’ll get to know who is who. I’ll put you in the temporary care of Joseph here. He’s a novice and our star singer from Ireland so he should be able to speak to you without the difficulty of some of our Italian brothers. If you care to meet him outside the chapel in an hour he’ll join you after prayers and show you around our estate. It’s very beautiful country here and you may feel free to roam where you will."
He had left most of his clothes in Venice for his parents to take back to London with them. At the monastery he wore mostly jeans and some sweaters and sandshoes. In the first week, he received from London, a parcel containing some pads, pens, charcoal, paint brushes, paints and art paper. The monastery had a large library so he had plenty to read if he wished. Joseph was a pleasant lad only two years older than he, and after he had given the boy the grand tour and explained some of their daily schedule, Sunny chose to return to his room. Weakened by his recent trials he needed rest above all else. He spent most of the first week alone except for meals, and as promised no one approached him unless he first made contact. Even at lunch and dinner where it was custom to allow any visitor, fascinated by the hideous architecture of the older construction, to remain and dine with them, the boy kept to himself, avoiding the conversation of passing back-packers. Some days he strolled to the top of the surrounding hills and in the cool breeze he sat for hours to stare into the distance. Surprisingly his mind was relatively blank for most of the first week or two. The troubles of the past were cut from his memory, and he had only simple thoughts of the haze hidden ruins in the distance, or green hills and trees before him. The white bark of the tall trees with their clumps of green spreading at the top reminded him of the gum trees at home, but the green of the grass was so different to the dry Queensland bush. The orderliness of a country reworked by civilisation for tens of centuries, could not have been more different to his native Australian landscape. The mystery and majesty of that rough continent had been sacred to, and unaltered by the respect of the Aboriginal People for forty thousand years. Now that he was wanting to see again, the contrast of the echo of generations before him, to the spirit of the untouched nature he had left behind, would have a profound effect on the boy.
At night in the Library, stacked high with ancient texts gathered over the last two hundred years, Sunny calculated that it was 2,722 years since the suckling Romulus founded the eternal city. Always more at home with his fantasies of the time of legends, he was disappointed that the number came out to be insignificant. He had hoped to find some mystic connection in the time of his arrival. It was a puzzle to him why we put so much emphasis on those seven hills close by, and why so many of us, including myself, have searched for meaning in that small land. He came from a vast land where a people had a collective memory of living in harmony with, and gaining meaning from the earth for twenty times the generations recorded around Rome. Perhaps, he thought, that this was the significance of recording memories. Others will put them in order and the reality of the evidence will convince them of it's significance, especially if it is written so powerfully in stone. Aware of the contrasts between the ancient, where his mind often wandered, and the present within which he struggled for identity, anticipation occupied his thoughts as he drifted off to sleep that evening.
"Joseph, do you ever wonder what people thought before Jesus Christ, or even the Old Testament. I mean, you're a Catholic and the church has existed for two thousand years, the Buddists a bit longer, and Jews really only go back to two thousand BC. or so. Everyone has a bit of legend but no religion really has existed for very long. Where are the answers to the questions that people asked before that. Back home the Aborigines think that they probably have been around for forty or fifty thousand years. No one else has lasted that long and still thinks about it. They look like the simplest people on earth but have the longest history, and they survived the longest. All the so called sophisticated races like the Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, they all finished."
"I guess I haven't. I'm studying to be a priest and the church as it now stands is enough for me. It's much simpler to accept what is. I don't want more questions until I've been given today's answers. I'm not sure it's necessary."
"But there’s nothing simple about religion any more. Nothing is simple. Look at that afternoon sun. It's so beautiful. It's there. We can feel it. That is simple, but once we start to analyse the physics of the universe and dissect everything we complicate it and get confused. We stop seeing reality. That is today's answer. Sorry, I must stop raving on or I’ll bore you. I just think too much."
"No. You must feel free to talk to me if you want to. I'm glad to listen. I like to listen to you. I'm not sure I can always follow you though. Would you like me to walk with you, unless you'd prefer to be by yourself. The Abbot excused me from chores except prayers if you want company."
Two beautiful but different boys, one barefoot in jeans and one in sandals and a habit, walked in silence the two miles to the far edge of the community's vast property. Rows of cypress trees ran along the border between it and the sheep grazing the short green pastures of the adjoining farm. A small stone fence just past the trees separated the sacred from the secular. Sunny was beginning to feel secure. No one questioned him so he had so far escaped the need to confront himself. Inside was quiet contemplation, but the boy still feared what lay beyond that barrier.
"I’d like to return now if that's fine with you? I guess dinner will be laid out by the time we get back. Do you think we could go for another walk tomorrow, maybe after breakfast?"
"I’d like that."
Following dinner that evening, Sunny sat rugged up outside the chapel and watched the stars as he listened to the chants softly filtering through the old stone, stained glass windows. Slightly above the others he could hear the beautiful sound of what he guessed, must have been Joseph's pure and gentle voice. Candles inside danced on the coloured lead and glass images along the side of this house of prayer. Unexpectedly the sight of the spear piercing Christ's side brought back memories of his bleeding heart as he was dragged from the top of a statue in Paris. Quickly he shut the image out of his mind, and thought of the stars again. They were his only constant friends, his escape in his childhood, when decisions were based on simple trust and faith.
There was a small pond a few hundred yards from the quarters. Before going to bed he strolled down to look at the reflection of the moon in the water. As he stood beside the ripples of light scattering across the surface, thoughts of resurrection filled his mind. Yes, one of the windows at the back of the chapel showed Christ in the doorway of the sepulchre surrounded by beams of light, but it was the scattered reflection of the moon that he saw as himself. If the sparkling, dancing flecks of white fire could be gathered back together he could recreate the exact image of the blue white rock above him that sheds a gentle light on us all, to brighten the darkness and chase away the irrational fears of the night. He tried to see his own reflection, to see if it was also dispersed, but it was too dark. No matter; the boy knew he too was scattered. That was why he was here, waiting for the stillness that would draw the shattered soul back together and he may see what it looked like now. What, who, where, why was he? Where were the signposts in that water?
The night was restless, and he missed breakfast. Around eight, Joseph knocked on the door of his cell. Sunny awoke from a deep dream filled sleep, and called for the novice to come in. The door opened but the young man remained outside the threshold of the boy’s sanctuary.
"We were a little worried that you didn’t join us this morning. I know I shouldn’t ask, but are you okay? You asked me to see you this morning."
"I'm sorry. I just overslept. If it's fine with you I’d still love to go for a walk as soon as I get dressed. I'm not hungry. Please let's get out into the fields straight away. The sunshine might warm our spirits."
"Great, I’ll see you outside in fifteen or twenty minutes."
Sunny thought Joseph looked rather funny in his habit with a knapsack strapped to his back, and a long stick in his hand.
"Ah Saint Francis! What on earth have you got in there. You look like you are running away from home, or are you setting out on a pilgrimage to the Holy Lands."
"I went to the kitchen and got some bread and cheese and water, in case you changed your mind about fasting. I don't think you’re really the monastic type. Oh, and ye staff is to knock down some apples with if we get to the orchard today. Everyone picks the easy ones at the bottom and the top of the trees are still full."
"Aren't you afraid of serpents. There are lots of temptations for a young boy under an apple tree."
Joseph looked at him strangely, but said nothing. The boy noticed, and realised that he had said something that could, and probably had been taken the wrong way. Best ignore it and not further embarrass his guardian. The sun was warm and they set out in the opposite direction from the previous day and settled near the orchard as had been suggested. Sunny removed his shirt and Joseph noticing some scars, but saying nothing, took off his sandals. It was such a hot day in the steaming sunshine and as he had done once or twice before, Joseph threw off his habit and sat on the grass in his underwear. It was always so hot working on the farm that sometimes he wore nothing under the long brown habit that they were forced to wear in whatever weather. However in expectation of being able to relax in private he had put on a pair of grey shorts. Seldom had he ever exposed himself to the rays of the sun but he felt an arising freedom that forced his hidden innocent whiteness out into the open.
"One day I want to search out Hadrian's Villa. I think there’s something there that I must see. When Antinous was made a god, the Emperor built statues to his lover right across the known world. There is a lot of love of the most grand style in that place. I’m sure there’s a feeling that I can find at the Villa. I've always believed that Antinous is buried, covered in gold somewhere there. It's a hazy dream that I have had over and over recently. I guess it’s only a fantasy, but it’s the only beautiful thing I can think about at the moment. We all have a sense of mysticism. God, or gods. Maybe it's how we cope with ourselves."
"I don't know much about pagan gods. We’re only allowed one. It's a bit sheltered in the Roman church you know."
"Joseph, do you ever dream? I’ve always had the most amazing dreams all my life. I dream of gods. Surely you dream of God or all those levitating saints. Sometimes I think I’m living another life. I always thought I belong to a different world or a different time, a different understanding. Do you think you should take any notice of dreams? I mean, are we so stupid that half our life goes on in our subconscious?"
"You’re very serious for so early in the morning. I guess I do have dreams, but nothing terribly exciting. I usually come up with memories of home in Ireland. Probably because we are supposed to forget about our past life and concentrate on Christ. Always forward young Christian soldiers. I’m not sure that they’re correct in cutting us off though."
"I think it would kill me to be stifled like that. How can you make sense of what is real if you can’t have an imagination. My ego needs to try things out before I decide what to do. I had another weird one last night. If you promise not to tell the others I could tell you about it. I don’t want them to think I’m any stranger than they already do."
"Of course I won't. They wouldn’t be so cruel anyway. The Abbot said you’re to take things at your own pace, and we’ve been instructed, not to be inquisitive. You are intense though and do get overheated. No wonder they call you Sunny, with a very bright 'u' naturally."
"I guess it’s because of what we were talking about yesterday and some of the things I’ve been reading lately. Last night I was in Egypt. I was a Pharaoh. The worshipper of the Sun Disk; Akhenaton, I think."
"You are lucky, go on."
"Well thousands thronged through the Royal City. The stone gods still surveyed the multitude from every temple and square. I was dressed in sandals, a long white and red skirt and a heavy gold chain over my brown chest. I think I had some sort of beaded head-piece on as well. I had my personal household with me as we walked along the stone corridors of a palace. We entered a huge bare room where everyone bowed before an urn from which smoke billowed up into the ceiling just below which hung a great golden disk on which was emblazoned the face of the Sun. While we were deep in prayer, the high priest of the old religion burst into the room with leather clad bare footed guards who surrounded me with long golden spears. ‘Akhenaton. You can not worship what the people can not see.’ The guards took a rope and pulled the Sun from its secret alter. Standing behind the High Priest was a small boy with a golden mask, and as I was knocked to the floor, the child, my son, was raised up on a platform and the guards and priests all cried out. ‘Hail Tutenkhamen follower of the true gods.’ I don’t know where I got a son from."
"It’s your dream. Who knows but it’s fascinating so far."
"Anyway I was thrown out of the city. As I left I could see many of my followers enslaved and persecuted by the priests. The new rulers didn’t want the return of some god who wouldn’t need them. This is where the vengeful bit begins. A sickness ravaged the city, the child king also died, and in fear of Akhenaton’s return they closed the city gates to imprison my followers. I was distraught at the death of my child so I returned to the city via the river full of bull-rushes, and no longer known as the law giver of the Egyptians, in secret I was called Moses by my beaten subjects who had remained faithful to the one god of the heavens."
"You don’t think much of priests do you?"
"I don’t know, but you said it’s only a dream so you’re not supposed to take it personally. Back to my story. Well the blame for the catastrophes was immediately cast upon the god of the Sun and those believed. There was a new Pharaoh and soon there was an uprising and in the confusion the people of Moses were chased from the city to the edge of the wasteland where the Sun hid its face behind great clouds and those who couldn’t understand the truth were drowned in a great swirling sea. Do you think the Bible is true? No don’t answer that. It was a silly question to ask."
"I agree, there's not much love in the old testament or any history for that matter. It's like saying we have the answers but if you don't believe, we'll kill you. Sometimes I wonder, but there’s still a message under there I like."
"Yes, but what if there was no such person as Moses. The Israelites might have made it all up to justify their existence. I always find all the legends and what is supposed to be history are so much the same. How do you know what’s true. Sometimes I think it’s all fantasy, even me."
"You’re real, I can assure you of that."
"It's really strange, but true or not I have grand dreams that soon seem to fuck people up. Sorry. Once I just thought they were spectacular but there’s always some cruelty, and that’s real. I seem to be constantly upsetting everyone. I think I’m being nice, but it always backfires. Try and be faithful to something and all havoc breaks loose. How can you ever know what to believe?".
"It’s okay. Don't dwell on it too much. It was only a dream. There’s forgiveness there as well you know. God forgives, but you must start with yourself. I don't know what your particular problem is but if it is relevant, start by forgiving you."
"Thanks, but I can’t see the difference between myself and my dreams. I feel that they really mean something. It’s like visions of the future, which is scary, because the subconscious is supposed to be reflections of the past."
"As I said you haven't told me about why you’re here so I can't really comment. Would you like to tell me, what happened. I do care for you, but--"
"Not yet. I want to , but I don't think you’d understand, and I'm not sure I fully comprehend things myself. It's just that everything seems special. My parents always pushed me to be special. I even see old men staring at me some times as if they’re telling me to be special. It's such a pressure, but maybe it does help. I think I'm just too self centred. There was this guy in Paris......"
His voice trailed off into silence while he thought about himself and those who tried to encourage him. He needed their approval, so why was he blaming them for the pressure. They were only fulfilling his demands. Joseph too, could see his dilemma. All he could do was hold back his questions and distance himself from the boy and his anguish. It was so difficult to give a boy space, who cried out for closeness, but was unable to comfortably accept either.
"Let's change the subject. Tell me why you wanted to be a priest, or what it was like back in Ireland."
"I’ve always felt like this. Since I was a kid I loved the ceremony and mystic qualities of the church. I used to sing in the choir when I was a little soprano, and the sound of my voice echoing around the cathedral in Dublin made me feel I was in Heaven.?"
"I heard you singing in the chapel. It was really fantastic. Will you sing me a song?"
"What, now? I suppose I could. What should I sing?"
"Something beautiful. How about an Irish song, or a hymn if you like."
Joseph thought to himself, and after realising that he should not be embarrassed, and he did want to sing for Sunny, he walked over to a nearby tree and with his back turned he, softly at first, began to sing.
"On a wagon, bound for market,
There's a cat with a mournful eye,
High above him there's a swallow
Winging swiftly through the sky.......
Donna Donna Donna.........
Calves are easily bound and slaughtered,
Never knowing the reason why,
Why can't you have wings to fly with.....
Donna Donna Donna Donna............."
The song finished and Sunny who had heard every word, sat silently on the grass as Joseph contemplated his companion. Thoughts of tenderness filled the novice's mind as he watched the boy inexplicably go from serenity to pain. Into the corner of his mind, memory of Anthony, slaughtered without reason, bloodied the boy's calm. Hatred and loathing, fear and revenge - confusion. Overwhelmed by the sudden urge to lash out, he screamed.
"What’s the matter? Sunny, please?"
"I can't help it. I want to hit something. I have to do something."
"Calm down. It’ll be fine."
"It will not be fine. You don't know anything about me. I’ve had a shit of a time, and I thought I was over it, but you're so nice that it's brought it all back to me. You’re a priest or something and I like you and it fucks me up. I don't know what I want. I don't know who I am. Sometimes I think I'm crazy."
"You shouldn't say that. "
Sunny burst into tears and ran to the top of the hill where he could be seen sobbing against the frailty of the breeze. Joseph watched him slap himself across the face, and the boy ran out of sight to the farther side of the hill. The boy ripped off his shorts and threw his arms around a tree, hitting his head against its bark. In a rage he humped his body against the woody surface until scratches appeared across his stomach and legs. Taking hold of himself he began to masturbate. Some pressure needed to be released but this was all he could think to do. Joseph became worried and began to search for the child in pain. He strolled through the trees until in shock he stumbled upon the boy in the midst of his act of release. Sunny swung around to find himself observed. Immediately he flung himself at his friend, and punched him on the chest, then threw his arms around the novice as he pressed his groin against the young man’s leg, and cried as he tried to manoeuvre his hand inside the flimsy remnants of priestly protection. Not until Sunny had clasped the other’s penis in his hand was he pushed away. He fell crumpled to the ground and howled. Joseph knelt beside him and held the boy's head in the cradle of his lap. Bending over he kissed him on the forehead. For an hour they sat motionless and without speech, as Sunny lay curled up on the grass with the pondering gaze of Joseph sweeping across every soft and beautiful fold of the boy's body.
What was Joseph doing? He failed to grasp the impact of what had just happened. The touch of the boy’s cheek on his leg mingled with the stinging memory of the fleeting touch of his hand against his penis. Never before, as far as he could recall, had another human being come into contact with that part of him that had been a secret comfort to him alone, even these days, in the privacy of his cell. He knew that although his training taught him to abstain from such personal intimacy he felt that what happened in front of God alone could really have no impact on his future role in the church. But this did not confuse him at the moment because his eyes were transfixed on the gentle rise and fall of the chest and stomach resting safely within his grasp. He did not touch, but each crevice, each hair, each change in texture of the boys body seared unforgettably into his brain. He felt the loneliness of a hermit surveying the unreachable desert. It could be seen but not altered, admired but not partaken of, satisfied without satisfaction.
The stillness of existence enveloped the pair. One thought of what he could give and the other could do no more than at last reach out to receive.
"Hey, the bell is ringing, what time is it? We’d better hurry back. It doesn't usually ring at this time in the morning."
Gathering up their apples, they dressed and the boys ran across the fields pushing each other occasionally, falling onto the grass, the past forgotten and laughing in the brilliant sunshine.
When they arrived, there was no one to be seen around the grounds. The boys brushed themselves down, caught their breath, and went to find everyone in the chapel where Bishop O'Neill and the Abbot were leading prayers. Joseph rushed to the front alarmed, while Sunny sat in the back pew trying to judge what the obvious serious situation was.
Leaning to the priest kneeling next to him Joseph whispered in his ear.
"What’s happened? Why has the bishop arrived?
"Cardinal Minton has just died."
There was relief on Sunny's face when prayers were over and he was told of the death. Uncle Roland was on his way to see Sunny, when they got the news. They were just offering up some prayers for him, while they awaited the boys' return. The bell was rung to call them back, no real emergency.
"Sorry if you got a shock but I can't stay long. I had to call you in so I could invite you to the opera tonight. I had your mother send out one of your suits. It's in your room. We're going to see Attila if you'd like to get out for the evening."
"Wow, Yes please. I thought something terrible had happened."
"The death of a Prince of the church is not exactly a happy occasion but he was eighty two, so not unexpected. Anyway I have to get back to the Vatican in a hurry, so if you can get some long trousers and shoes on we can leave straight away."
Sunny was overwhelmed when the limousine drove through the arches into the private quarters through the Papal gardens. Past the unlikely red, blue and yellow of Michelangelo's Swiss guards and into the Papal apartments, he was ushered into a disappointingly simple room, where he could leave his clothes. There were more costumes to be seen than in an opera production, and outside his room, which had no more decoration than his cell at the monastery, every hallway and wall was emblazoned with art, whose richness and history had witnessed more corruption, scandal and power than perhaps any other construction on earth.
"If you follow those steps down at the end of the hall you will come out into the square. Take this pass with you and if you return by 5 o'clock you can wash and change here before we go out. I have arrangements to make for visiting Australian representatives at the funeral. Don't get lost."
On his last unhappy visit to Rome the boy had gone nowhere near the Vatican. Nothing previously experienced had prepared him for the sight when he first stepped through the enormous bronze doors of the largest church in Christendom. The brilliant glow from the Window of the Holy Spirit at the far end of the nave struck him like a sun burst. Holy water fonts as big as bathtubs, and from the dome and transepts shafts of afternoon light pierced the haze of candle smoke and incense. The constant din of pilgrims and tourists, and the flash of cameras did nothing to upset the atmosphere in so vast a space. Confessions were being heard in boxes, Mass was celebrated in a side chapel and the soft drone of the organ could be heard like a distant rumble from the far end of the circus. He was amused by the tacky display of one up-manship, with the brass plaques on the floor, mapping out the comparative length of the naves of other churches in the world, including St Paul's in London. What were they trying to prove. He chuckled at the insecurity of the church.
When he was drawn close to Bernini's golden glass window of the white dove in the beams of light, he saw the wings of Icarus too close to the sun. Be careful he thought. Do not drown in your own conceit. The Holy Spirit of Love burns brightly, but it can destroy you to ash if you get too close, but then again, the wings of the Phoenix could arise again, just as Christ did from his mortal wounds. Golden Cherubs surrounding the encased Chair of St. Peter beneath the window may catch the fallen, to save them for the resurrection, but then again they could just as easily clutch the unweary with their soft and tiny hands while they drag you down into the abyss. He turned and faced the papal alter canopied by the heavy Byzantine bronze cloth of the Baldachino, whose spiralling columns swarmed with bees. How easily he thought, these beautiful images could sting. From every angle there was triumphant glory, but so much of it had been constructed from pain. Mummified bodies of fathers of the church, faces covered in gold, tombs, memorials, crucifixes and images of suffering everywhere. He wanted beauty from goodness, not the voyeurism of suffering and mortality. There was triumph though, so perhaps it was hope that he saw.
Sunny had not so much rejected the church when he was young, but had paid it little attention. He could not deny that the images surrounding him stirred his brain. Nowhere in this space could he find God, but as a monument to the struggle of humanity, and the mighty force of power, he saw no other place on earth could have reached such grandeur. Symbols attacked him from every direction, caressing the senses and igniting the imagination. He wanted to dance. If he ever flew again he would certainly soar to the skyblue dome floating magically in the light above.
The crowd milling on the footpath and being noticed around the sunken square in front of the Opera House that night were surprised to see a delicately beautiful boy dressed stunningly in a deep green velvet suit, with hair flowing down his shoulders, step out of a black limousine with a Bishop in full regalia. As they strode along the red carpet, the eyebrows raised at a sight once thought indecently common in the days of holy indulgence. The whispering crowd in the theatre parted for His Grace, while the boy smiled to himself, in full realisation of the thoughts confounding the small minded. He felt the thrill of being escorted by a patron. Yes, that was part of the beauty of an artist's life. At last he remembered what he was. The young Carravagio. The young beautiful Raphael. He deserved to be flattered. He was once again on his pedestal.
All consciousness of those around him was washed away with the sweep of the curtain as it rose to reveal yet another fantasy as Atilla made his triumphal entry to paint colours in the boy’s dreams. The music of Verdi never failed to stir his soul. The love plots, seductions and assassinations were carried passionately by the soaring arias that lifted the characters above history, to drape the actors in the majesty of gods. Sunny felt a cold chill when Attila was confronted by the white and ghostly appearance of the first Pope Leo, who with a gesture turns the Pagan scourge back from sacking Rome. Just as in Atilla's dream the Pope floats across the mist and water, and this haunting vision throws fear into the Hun's soul. Was it not fugitives from Atilla's violent onslaught who founded Venice, the city that had seen the boy's moral destruction. Playfully he decided he could blame Atilla. Without him none of this would be. He knew dreams were powerful flashes of the subconscious but here yet again appeared the question - did they foretell the future? The Hun thought so. The spectacular visions of the mystic future. Was he Atilla or was he the Pope?
Roland was pleased to see the boy get so involved in the evening, and would be able to write glad news to Sophie, about her son's apparent, improving state of mind. The Bishop spoke only of the opera and Saint Peter's. Neither of them mentioned his breakdown. After the exhilaration of the performance they had coffee, while the boy's mind wandered in fantasy.
"Uncle, do you think it strange that we should be stirred by Verdi's music so much? After all he grew up on church music and military marches. His music sounds like both. They should be contradictory, but really they are the same. It's so manipulative."
"Yes, I guess you nailed it on the head."
His uncle smiled, but his thoughts also wandered to the work he had to do. Funeral plans and promotions. Who would get the job? The scramble for the cardinal's cap would now begin. Yes the organ and the march, the church and politics, youth and age. Contradictions all.
"Resurrection, the ascension, reincarnation, rebirth; They're all sort of the same aren't they?"
"What boy?"
"Nothing, it doesn't matter"
He wasn't heard, and it didn't really bother him. He was only thinking out loud. He could feel it coming. What? Private? Clearing away the cobwebs. Start afresh. Who could notice the surroundings on such a night, such a momentous night. A night where the signposts had at last been revealed. The boy was sent back to the monastery with the driver after the Bishop was dropped at his lodgings just outside the walls of the city-state.
The drive through the moonlit countryside was not long as Sunny stared from the window in silence, wrapped in thoughts of Popes, and Bishops and Novices. The basilica, the opera, the grandeur. Yes, there were still things to inspire and admire. Not all was bleak. Perhaps there was no substance to them. He was far from positive of anything anymore, but he relished the fact that we are human, and such symbols and beauty and grand statements can always help us move our thoughts to greater heights. He wanted the inspiration, from anywhere, and it should not be demeaned. At last he again felt he could learn from everything. Legend was truth. He was finding it by himself. Little by little his pride returned.
The community was in bed when he arrived, so the boy sat on the stone steps of the chapel for an hour or so, thinking of all that had recently happened. His mind was too alive to sleep. Stirred by the events of the day he looked back over his dreams, his thoughts, his past and saw that soon it must fall into place. Soon he would be nineteen, but he felt the history of the world was his. The experience was his alone. Thousands of years of human experience began to weigh him down, but at the same time, just like the cherubs, they uplifted him. He was being pushed and tugged in many directions. When he went to his cell that night he cried for his future. He thought of Anthony. He dreamed of Joseph.
"Good morning son. Did you enjoy the opera last night?"
The old man, always observant of the feelings of others, beamed through his taught ruddy cheeks. He had come from a peasant farming background and the church was the natural home for a man who saw life as straight forward and joy as the right of every man. The complications of fitting in and the confusion of direction were unknown to him. Self assurance had led to his position. Guidance and concern were as natural to him as breathing.
"Yes, very very much. Thank you Father. I was wondering, would it be possible to speak to you later this morning. I have a request that occurred to me last evening."
When morning prayers were over Sunny knocked on the door of the Abbot's office.
"Come in my boy. Please sit down. Now what is it you want. Remember I have given my word to His Grace that you are completely free here to sort yourself out."
"Father, I've been here for almost a month and I'm so grateful for that. You've all been so kind and understanding. I know I don't fit in well with the lifestyle here, but I've thought that if you'll allow, I'd like to stay for a few more months. If you agree I'll write to my parents, for their permission and ask them to send some money to pay for my board. It's not fair or necessary to accept your charity. I've also kept Joseph away from his chores for too long. I've enjoyed talking to him but I'd like to be given some work to do to make up for the disturbance that I've been. As you probably know I'm not exactly a Christian, but I respect the kindness you've shown me, and this is such a peaceful place to be."
"Sunny, you are certainly welcome to stay, but I would ask one thing. What do you hope to get out of it? As you say, you don't seek the religious life, and we are not an escape from the world that you are part of. What do you want?"
"I want to know who I am. You've been so patient with me, and asked nothing. I'd like to explain to you why I'm here. You may not like what you hear. If you want me to leave I'll go."
"We're all worthy in the sight of God. I’d be honoured to share your thoughts and pain. Please tell me."
"Father, first I would like to show you something and then I'll explain. It might help you understand."
The boy rose from his chair and in front of the Abbot, he quickly took off his clothes. Dropping them on the worn stone floor, he averted his eyes and looked around the ancient carving of the austere chamber, to allow the Abbot to look at him unhindered and unashamed. He felt comfortable displaying his torments in such a room. The priest was first alarmed, but then he realised it was not the body he was meant to see, but the scars of burns and skin splitting whip marks that had, as yet, not completely faded. When the boy was certain the older man was suitably shocked and prepared, he dressed and resumed his place in the chair facing the silent, caring stare that had settled upon him.
For the next two hours Sunny spoke almost non stop about his dreams, his parents, Anthony, his life in London and eventually his disgrace in Venice. It pained him to recall in such detail the events that had shattered his peace but if he was to be understood he had to be honest to the Abbot and also to himself. By attempting total truth he had to find it first, and although he had decided the previous evening that this was what he must do, it was on the spot that he thought, examined and poured forth this confusion into a clear light, where he felt he could now cope with and release everything to the shared acceptance of another person. Without love he could not exist, and to him the love of the church, as expressed by the priest, was good enough for the time being.
"Feel free to cry boy. Give me your hand. I understand you, and I certainly agree that you should remain with us. We’ll help you as much as we can. You’ve been honest with me and I thank you for what must have been difficult. Have you discussed this with Joseph? I’m not sure he’s experienced enough to understand."
"I enjoy his company but we've only spoken of a couple of dreams. Apart from that I've told him little else about myself. He is a friend though. I know he’s truly a friend."
"Might I suggest that you refrain from involving him in too much. I’ll be here to support you when ever you need. He can still be your friend, but I agree that he should return to his duties. He’s a student in our way of life and he’s still struggling to learn and comprehend."
That afternoon the visitor was put in charge of looking after the chickens. He would feed them, clean out their night pen, and collect the eggs from around the gardens. Pleased that he now in some way was useful, his spirits lifted further, and that night he wrote to his parents for the first time since he arrived.
Sophie and Archie were even more distressed when they received his letter. Why did their son not want to return to them? He had already been away for two months. They had always adored him, but had they suddenly lost him without explanation. Archie had gradually begun to drink more than he had previously, and their interrupted marriage that was previously sustained by the presence of their child now suffered a lack of chance of any direction or cohesion. Each in his or her own way had for so long focussed more on their son than upon each other. Arguments became regular as more and more periods were spent apart. Formal separation appeared to be a possibility, but they would wait and see. For now they could do no more than give in to their son's wishes. He had at least turned to them, even if it was only for money.
For the next several weeks, the chickens were tended, the Abbot listened, and Joseph watched. The young novice had not understood the sudden distance that appeared to develop between them and at night he hid in the shadows as Sunny strolled alone around the pond, or sat gazing at the stars for hours. The boy seemed to be speaking to himself. After a lengthy stillness he would suddenly run to another place and look out into the void. As the nights passed he became more animated. His arms would stretch to the heavens, his head would be thrown back, and Joseph sometimes thought he heard him cry out from the distance. He was unable to understand the metamorphosis taking place within the boy, but the novice was now a complete captive of the ceremony being acted out within his secretive sight.
In their respective cells, confusion was taking different courses. Joseph could not stop thinking of the boy. He prayed that he would be able to help and understand this strange visitor. Just what was taking place at the monastery? A new spirituality had descended on the surrounding hills, and the atmosphere took on an isolation from the rest of the world. The temptation to question the boy about what happened sent him into the confessional to seek guidance, but no matter what the Abbot advised, he continued to be haunted by the boy more and more. His devotion to Sunny began to undermine his allegiance to his Christ. The youth’s long nights became restless with an obsession to know this stranger. To see, to touch, to be.
He had always wanted to be a priest, but it was the mystical qualities of what was evolving that now gripped him. Truly the church was a spiritual experience , but was it the only one. Were we not all involved in the inexplicable. Superstition was such in ingrained part of humanity. Even the atheist or agnostic would glance, however sceptically at his horoscope. Do we all not dislike being told of impending illness or tragedy, and feel that our fellow travellers are placing a death wish upon us for the mere mention of future doom? Do we sometimes believe in luck, good or bad? Black cats, ladders, dark rooms, they all frighten us sometimes, or at least disturb our serenity. The question can always be there. Is it possible? Perhaps we are wrong. Mysticism is a part of life. For all our current sophistication the fears of our primitive past are still with us. Joseph did fear, because he could not understand.
While the novice became more confused, the boy's thoughts were clearing. Renewed by the realisation that he could once again love, he reawakened. The monster had set off for other pastures. To him the dark universe was falling into the background of his own self awareness. Night after night his brain burned more brightly, like a fever without sickness. By day he worked solidly and alone. He contemplated the simplicity of the life he now lived, but in the privacy of the evening darkness he grew to understand the power of the potential that had excited and confused most of his life. On the surface, a calm descended over him while internally he came to life like never before. He arrived in this world with the herald of lightening and the sun and stars were his special friends. The gods were also his friends, he knew it. The mysteries were the reality. Fantasy was life. It is the mind which lives. The body is but the shell that interacts. The senses only awaken and feed the soul. Imagination is all and the lack of it is death.
On the night of the sixth of May, exactly one year since he discovered Anthony playing with a needle that would eventually kill him, and at the same time finding love in his arms, Sunny left his cell and alone he entered the chapel. He lit a candle and removed his shoes. In the dim light of the single flame he began to dance. Up and down the isle he skipped and as he gained more confidence he stepped to the alter and before what ever god may be lurking there he raised his hands, closed his eyes and without stumbling he brought up visions of paradise and danced further until the sparkling in his brain washed over him like a blessing. Through the window, the novice watched, not scandalised, but in tears. The boy extinguished the flame, left the chapel and walked confidently and barefoot across the damp and tingling grass, to the far side of the pond unaware that at a distance he was being observed. The evening was warm and the full moon threw a soft blue glow over the fields. Joseph was halted and mesmerised when he watched as the boy removed his clothes, and walked further into the distance, where for a while he could be seen kneeling and then laying on the cool earth. He rolled across the dew like a young calf unaware of the blow of a club which would one day strike him down. He rose suddenly and returned to look deep into the black water of the pond, where he eventually raised his head, and stood white and naked, arms outstretched staring at the deep purple-blue country sky sprinkled with bright clear stars. Knowing he should look away, Joseph felt shame and anxiety that he was unable to turn his eyes from the innocent and beautiful vision before him. He could see from where he stood that the boy with gentle strokes had aroused himself and this particularly made the young novice uncomfortable, but still he could not look away. He slid further back into the dark shadows of a clump of trees and clutched at the security of the heavy wooden crucifix hung from the end of his rosary beads.
Sunny had come out into the open with tear stained eyes and fire in his brain. Memory had affected him, but he felt an urge like no other to realise his life. Images fell like pieces in a puzzle. His lover had devoted himself to him and sacrificed his life because of him. The beautiful Hephastion had been sent to heaven in a cloud of smoke in the greatest funeral in history because of the love the Macedonian King bore for him. The worship of the Sun had destroyed a Pharaoh in the name of the love of God, and Hyacinthus in death, grew to be a beautiful flower because of the love of the gods. Love was real, beauty was real and the sensational impact they had on life knew no bounds. In a whisper to himself and the unseen beyond, he formed his inspiration.
"Alexander! Anthony! Akhenaton! Apollo! Antinous! I can hear you all. Throughout my life you have befriended me and taught me. I know at last. I’m alive. Yes, I’m born over again. Take my unadorned body and empty thoughts. Make me over as you will. I’m willing to be an extraordinary tool of the gods of life. Fill my soul with knowledge. Let me fly with the spirits of the dead so that I may live. I know that I can do it with the faith we can all possess. I will fulfil your destiny. I will rise up in beauty. Let me fly. "
Joseph fell to his knees. It could not be true. He closed his eyes and prayed to God that he did not see, but it was true. He was there. What would happen now. Where would the future be. Everything has changed as of that moment. He looked up in a still fear at the soft white, glowing, body of Sunny hovering in the sky above the treetops. The boy's hair floated in the breeze and his toes hung suspended in the light of the moon, almost eclipsed by the radiant glow of his face. Light shone from the inside as his mouth opened to breathe in willingly the spirit of his transformation.
The sky became a deeper blue as the planets and infinite suns lit up more intensely and all clouds parted as the perfection of this vision matched the silence and sparkling clarity of the night. For almost half an hour the boy floated and his body danced and pranced gently in the stillness of time that appeared frozen around them all. His toes pointed gently as his knees bent and twisted in a rhythm that flowed gracefully from his fingertips through every part of his pure slim body. The muscles of his arms, legs and waist stretched and swayed in every direction with an almost elastic fluidity capable only of an individual who had been removed from the earth and over who's contours, no gravitational or physical laws any longer held control. As the celebration drew slowly to a conclusion and the boy drifted with the stars, Joseph could see from beneath the trees that the sensuous vision began a slow rhythmic pulsating of his groin and as his hands lovingly caressed his chest and stomach the distant body started to whip back and forth. His head flew back and he was soon overtaken by uncontrollable spasms. His legs spread wide apart, his back and toes curved, and his hips jutted forward as in the sky he ejaculated, cried out, and small fertile droplets fell gently to the ground at the trembling naked feet of the observer. Sunny had danced a supreme song of praise and love, and total intimate innocence, but to what, with whom and most of all, the novice thought, why?
There was no other word except serene, to describe the pure calmness that descended like a newborns swaddling cloth on the boy as he settled back with his feet softly resting on the damp grass. From out of the darkness he saw the advancing figure of his friend the novice. He smiled broadly as they came face to face.
"Sunny, I don't understand."
"I do."
From a distance they suddenly heard men's voices singing the Salve Regina. The windows of the chapel were ablaze with light from dozens of candles lit by the Abbot. He had roused the community to give praise to God for what he had just witnessed through the window of his cell. Unable to sleep the Abbot had risen from his bed at midnight to pray before the crucifix on the wall beside his window, and from there he saw the boy as had Joseph. From the distance he had been unable to observe the more intimate details that had so affected the novice, but he too would never be the same. He knew not what it meant. The simplicity of his expectations had been destroyed, but acceptance of all that God created gave joy to his heart so in faith he immediately woke everyone and called them to prayer to seek guidance for the miracle he had seen with his own eyes.
In silence the two boys faced each other with searching eyes locked on one another. Sunny stretched out his hand which was taken tentatively by the trembling Irish lad. Slowly they moved closer to each other and in a sudden uncontrolled reflex the two threw their arms around each other. Tears streamed down Joseph’s cheeks as he held the boy close to him. He felt the nakedness and hardness of the boy pressed against his night shirt as his hands moved over the back and buttocks of the supreme beauty within his grasp. Confused at his response and once again fearing the pleasure he was experiencing Joseph did not know what to do. His breath grew short and his heart came close to exploding as his mind swung from admiration to fear and finally to the realisation of love. At peace he drew back and looked once more at the sweet naked flesh and childlike smiling face before him. The novice himself reborn this evening, praised God for his good fortune, removed his cape and with a hug he threw it around the bare shoulders of the small, soft and very special boy in front of him.
"Please go and join your brothers. I'd like to remain here a while. Things to think about as you might guess. There’ll be things to do."
"Will you return to us soon?"
"Shortly my friend. My very dear friend. Do you love me Joseph?"
"Very much."
Sunny leapt forward and kissed the startled lad on the lips, turned and ran back towards the pond.
The men, rosary beads in hand, stood silently in front of the chapel as the bare footed boy in the cape walked from behind the trees, slowly up the hill in their direction. Only the Abbot and the novice witnessed Sunny's 'miracle', but the others had been told the little each of them knew. Like the long days in the desert expecting and fearing the return of Moses from the mountain the faithful few awaited news of what revelations might change their lives. The boy carried no tablets, no answers. He just smiled at them all.
"Good evening gentlemen. I didn’t mean to awaken you all this evening. I think we should all return to our beds. I’ve disturbed you enough by my presence. I don't think this is the occasion for explanation. With your permission Father Abbot I’d like to say good night"
With this the boy removed the cape, and with an impish smile, handed it to Joseph, bowed to the audience, turned his bare back, and walked serenely and confidently away from them. Going immediately to his cell, he closed the door on the bewildered faces left dumbstruck, shocked and not knowing what to do or say.
"Brothers I implore you not to mention what has happened here tonight. I suggest we pray for Sunny this evening in the quiet contemplation of our cells. Joseph our youngest brother, you too should do the same and after we have prayed we can discuss this privately in the clarity of the sun's light in God's new day."
The air of spirituality now had a touch of fear. All rose early after a night of restless personal soul searching. It was safest and best to carry on as normal. The fires were lit, the simple breakfast was prepared, and each man avoided the glance of the other, so that they would not yet have to understand. The Abbot would guide them. In time he would explain. It was their unavoidable vow of obedience that would excuse and save them from the uncertain terror within their soul. Thank God that they had that security. This was too big.
"Father Abbot, he’s gone!"
Between tears and prayers, Joseph had been unable to sleep all night and early in the morning he had to go to the boy’s room to speak with him before they went in to breakfast. Receiving no response to his knocking he opened the door to find the bed untouched . The boy and his belongings had vanished. He felt the presence of the Magdelain beside him. The dream or the nightmare had begun.

Bishop O'Neill arrived in a flurry, just prior to the noon Angelus.
"You said almost nothing on the phone this morning. What’s happened to my nephew? What’s all this rubbish about a miracle? Is he okay."
"First, I think we should pray Your Grace. The community has spent all morning in the chapel. Young Joseph has taken over leading a petition to our Blessed Lord for enlightenment in this shocking day."
"In the name of God, tell me what’s going on."
"I’m unsure of how to tell you. Please come with me. Something extraordinary has happened."
When they entered the chapel the novice was still on his knees chanting the Rosary in tears, as his brothers repeated the responses, heads bowed with a nervousness drawn from being confronted face to face with the tangible spirit of God’s miraculous power. Roland knelt with them and begged for patience.
Later that day he called Sophie to see if she had heard from her son. Once again the parents were on the receiving end of a telephoned cry of distress about their boy. Several months ago he was simply a beautiful and expanding talent; granted he was beginning to shock people but now he lurched constantly and tragically from crisis to crisis. What had he done wrong? What had they done wrong? The well planned and constructed perfection of their world had disintegrated within half a year.
The Bishop could not mention the 'miracle' because he did not believe it. Things like that did not really happen, certainly not to his family, and impossible in the modern Post-Vatican II church. The Brothers must be hysterical. There had to be another explanation, but what? The Abbot himself was certainly not prone to excesses, even if some of the younger monks may not yet have succumbed to the scepticism of age. When no word was received by the following day they realised that the boy had disappeared. Was he on his way back to London? Could he be in hiding? Was he hurt? No one knew what move to make, and confusion put a stay on any sudden plans. He could look after himself. But then again......
Frank and Georgie were no longer prostituting themselves. Well, not regularly, but they could not return to their unhappy family, so life had to find it's means somehow. They had broken finally with their parents and three older brothers when they fled to Venice with Andreas. It was only the destitution of their life at home that pushed them on to the streets in the first place. Their father worked only occasionally as a hospital cleaner and the brothers were generally lay-abouts. The eldest had made use of the twins bodies since they were twelve, and it was from him that they had learned how to provide passive satisfaction to the lust and desires of anyone who would protect them. They loved their brother but the family was too poor to provide for their ever increasing interest in the other pleasures of life. Amongst the shadows and alleyways of Rome they had hoped to find thrills, love, and of course untold wealth that would one day see them retire to the sea side, which they had never seen. There was no alternative for just two more of life's castaways.
On the streets they had friends. When not in competition for the attentions or benefits of a generous stranger, the street boys all bonded together more closely than any family they had known. Everyone from Shakespeare to Dickens knew this to be true. The outcasts and urchins of the earth are a fraternity of select brothers; a species unto themselves. Like unnoticed visitors from another planet they wander amongst us. They trust no one, share their fears, brag about their successes, steal what they can, but if any of them ever need anything they will stick together and support each other to the death; after they have extracted their share.
The last two months they had slept in parks or under abandoned buildings. When Andreas cast them aside, Frank took his brother back to the only other city they knew. Georgie was frightened and confused by the intensity of the short period they had spent with Sunny and the effect those unusual days had, not only on the boy, but on everyone. He had shown them in some strange way that their own life could be controlled. He himself had failed, but they felt he knew what he was doing. They had developed the seed of self respect but were ill equipped to take advantage of such newfound wisdom. Strange that it should have come from one who had lost that control. They listened to his stories when he arrived and helped him in his destruction because he wanted them to. It was not love, the way Hans had loved the boy but devotion to his participation in life however painful it appeared to be at the time.
Often to prevent starvation they spent an evening in a hostel run by the Brotherhood of Saint Lawrence. It was there at the end of April, that they ran into Hans. He too had fallen, and remained in Rome still obsessed with finding Sunny. He had learned to beg and steal, but only through desperation. On occasions he thought of returning to Germany, but what was there for him. His father lived in angry guilt from the war and his mother had grown to despise men and devoted herself totally to her two daughters. There he was superfluous. Here he at least had a goal. He had travelled much, but what really had it given him. He desired most of all to settle on something, and he knew what that must be, if he could only find some way of finding the boy on whom he wished to base his future. He grew excited at the prospect of a lead when he awoke one morning to find the twins asleep in bunks in the same destitute dormitory.
For several days they hung out together and it became apparent that none of them had found or thought up any plan of a future for themselves. There was no direction, no escape and almost no hope. Venice had done something to each of them, and it was Sunny who became the possible ray of sunshine that could just be the beacon, however unstable, that would guide them to salvation. Together they decided to seek him out. The twins had overheard Andreas talking about a monastery. They were fascinated by the boy, but were too unsure of themselves to attempt to track him down. Why would he want them? When he heard this glimmer of hope, Hans had no such fears. He was possessed, and so at his urging they decided to hitch to the country in search of the beautiful boy they had all been affected by. Together they might manage what alone they were incapable of. Fearful that he was probably no longer there, they at prayed that it might at least be the beginning of a road along which they could search.
The first monastery they found hidden behind it's high stone wall, revealed nothing, as did the second and once again the boys returned to Rome still destitute and despondent. Hopelessness overcame the trio and in desperation one night the three of them took up an offer by a slow passing car to go to a villa where they would be fed and paid in exchange for certain favours. Hesitantly they decided that they had little option, but to take up the offer.
When they entered the front door of the unknown house they were faced by a woman and her two young male companions. The man who was only the messenger left the room and locked the door.
"Get your fucking clothes off and show us what we've got here."
In the situation the boys realised they had no other choice. They had thought they knew what was expected of them, so they did as the woman said, and within a second or two they each stood there naked but a little scared. The woman around forty stood tall with long flowing red hair half masking her incredibly drawn white face. Clothed in a full length heavy silk burgundy gown, she was flanked by the equally strange looking boys of about eighteen and twenty, who wore leather pants, fishnet tops, and heavy makeup outlining their callous features. All three had the eyes of those haunted and tortured over a long period of time, by an unknown quantity of drugs. Strait out of a B grade movie the villa was decorated as if it were the inside of a medieval warrior's castle. The severity of the furnishings and walls would have done De Sade proud.
"Very pretty but you had better harden up. I'm not paying you to stand around like drooping wilted flowers. I don't have all night."
Faced by the expectant stare of their hosts, it was Hans who worked up the courage to speak first.
"We're not sure what you want us to do."
"Me of course and the sons here."
"I'm sorry but we haven't had a bath for a few days."
"Good, I love the odour of the streets. Now get it up."
The boys began to stroke themselves and in time the three of them stood erect and now totally embarrassed. This was not what they expected. The woman beckoned them to follow and they were led through a door where an enormous wood and iron bed stood in the middle of a candle-lit room. She lay in the middle of a mountain of cushions. Her sons crawled across the covering and undid the buttons of her dress that descended from her throat to her ankles. With a smile at their captives they pulled the material aside to display the full bony nakedness of their mother. Taking each wrist and ankle they then tied her with ropes to the black carved posts at each corner of the bed. As her breasts began to heave she watched as they undressed each other, fondling their bodies until they too were fully naked and aroused. Welts and bruises stood out on their buttocks, and by the smell that came from their unclothed bodies it was apparent that they too had not bathed for several days. The hosts were either oblivious to, or excited by the stench of the windowless room that was beginning to make the boys feel ill.
"Come my beauties, But I warn you if you take advantage of this vulnerable woman her sons will take severe revenge. They will have no qualms of buggering you."
The boys stood where they were, too frightened to move. They were to be paid and it was not the first time, but this whole arrangement had the odour of a depravity that they had no desire to experience. They thought that sleeping with a lonely man for money, was one thing but being the captive entertainment for a very strange woman and her children was something else. The whole atmosphere reared up like a horrid reminder of the last days of Sunny's fall. Surely they too were not victims.
The woman pulled at her ties and stared at her would be attackers, while the sons placed their lips to her breasts, sucking like savage children. Their hands roamed over her body and fingers scratched and disappeared between her legs.
"I bet you are going to rape me, you filthy little bastards. Just try and shove those ugly things inside me and I’ll scream. These sons will protect me. Go on just try! Are you too chicken to do it, you gutter snipes? Come on. No balls boys? Let's see how rough you really are. I want to scream."
Was this no more than what Andreas had allowed to happen to Sunny? But that, they initially thought was art. It wasn't and neither was this. Look what it did to the boy. Yes, it did exist in the world, but no longer in their's.
"I'm sorry I won't; I can't."
"You what? You little fucker. What’s your prick for. Can't do it without your mummy holding your hand? The sons always hold Mummy's hand. Now fucking get your arses over here. Drag them here lovelies. Get them!"
She screeched at them, and as she strained in anger at the ties, blood began to seep from her wrists which appeared to be no strangers to this punishment inflicted upon herself.
Hans looked at the twins in terror, Georgie was already in tears, and before the wretched sons could scramble off the bed, all three fled the room. They grabbed their clothes and ran through the house looking for a way out. The woman could be heard screaming in the distance as her sons ran after the boys who had found a door out through the rotting kitchen. On the grass all five tumbled to the ground as the sons of the house kicked and clawed at their runaway captives. Hans and the twins managed to beat them off, leaving two bloodied faces and bruised genitals doubled up on the grass. They were then confronted by a mass of stone enclosing the garden, but with the energy of sheer fright they summoned up the strength and speed to clamber up a tree and jump over the prison wall, scraping their shaking legs in their escape. Once they were down on the other side, forgetting the pain in their shins, they ran as fast as they could through the trees, down the pebbled road until after about half a mile, in the darkness, they felt they were far enough away to stop and dress.
They were miles from the city and it took them most of the evening to walk back to Rome where they found a lovers' park to sleep in; huddled against each other in protection from the cold world that continued to abuse and always abandon them.
Chastened by the experience they thanked God that they came to no harm. With shame they determined that no amount of desperation would tempt them to give into such perversity again. It had been a moment of failure that had no possibility of ever being repeated. Some events can turn around one's desires in an instant. They apparently still grasped hold of some pride. Life must be better. If they had faith it must get better. Surely their sacrifice owed them that. They begged for some food and money and again resumed their search.
It was purely by chance that when they arrived at the correct monastery, the third they had tried, it was Joseph who answered the clanging bell by the front gate.
"Sorry to disturb you Father, but we're looking for a friend of ours. We don't know where he is, and no one's seen him for a long time. His name is Sunny, and he's got long brown hair. We really have to find him and we thought someone might have seen him."
Joseph turned pale, and immediately ushered the boys into the sitting room just off the library. The severity of the austere comfort of this room reminded the boys of the villa they had suffered so recently. Dark and sombre furnishings and giant crucifixes held a certain similarity to the sadistic decorations gathered by that woman and her sons.
"Have a seat. By the way I'm not a 'Father' yet. You can call me Joseph. Is this boy you’re looking for about eighteen with a little scar on his chest?
"You've seen him? Where is he?"
Hans was ecstatic at the discovery. For months he had searched, and now he knew he was close to being reunited with the lost part of his being. He had not left after all.
"I'm sorry. He was here, but a week ago he disappeared and no one knows where he is. Something strange happened and he just left. I miss him as well, and would very much like to find him."
"I'm not surprised something strange happened here. It's creepy. We met some people who get their kicks from ugliness like this. It's a bit like living with sack cloth and ashes. Is it supposed to give you a spiritual turn on to suffer a place like this?"
Joseph laughed at Hans, and showed them out to a less formidable bench on the grass where for some hours they discussed the small boy who seemed to affect everyone he touched. For fear of disbelief the novice did not mention the events of the last evening Sunny spent with them, but each was happy to tell stories of how wonderful he was. Gradually, inhibitions dropped between them and a closeness grew out of what was becoming apparent as a common goal. They each needed Sunny. They began to feel united in a quest that loomed like the Holy Grail. No one was sure what was there, but they knew they must find it.
The Abbot had noticed Joseph's absence and eventually found the group huddled under a tree deep in discussion. As the hour was getting late and it was obvious that these pilgrims had nowhere to sleep, they were invited to eat and stay the night. After enjoying the hospitality of the community the four young boys continued their conversation by moonlight, down by the pond. The Abbot had informed them that neither the Bishop, nor the boy's parents had heard from him. Everyone was worried, but the boys developed a determination to seek him out. Under the stars they made a pact. Nothing would stop them. He must be found. He would be found. They would find him. They cared.
As the boys departed the following morning Joseph sought assurances from them that if they found or heard anything of the lost Sunny he would be contacted immediately. He would pray and he would hope, but most of all he would wonder.
"I can't explain, but like you I have a need to see him. I must."
The German boy and the twins set about searching the city from hill to hill, but still no trace of him could be found. In between enquires at hostels and among the street boys, they had to beg for money and food. Nights were a constant adventure of finding a new place to sleep where the police would not move them on. Often they went hungry, but determination warmed their spirits.
For Joseph the nights were not so entertaining. He had been unsettled since Sunny's arrival and following that night by the pond, his evenings were understandably becoming more restless. Sleep eluded him as his mind strained to comprehend the boy and the significance of their meeting. His faith and the security he felt in his future had been challenged. Even before the 'miracle' that boy had grown to become the central focus of his life. Although he knelt day and night with his brothers he, unlike them, believed that somehow what had taken place had nothing to do with his faith, his Catholic upbringing, his God. What he had seen belonged to Sunny, and had been created from something within the boy himself, not a miracle of the church of the Son of the Most High. The direction of Joseph's once sure faith had been turned upside down. He wept at his mounting confusion and longed to see, to hold, to understand 'his' boy.
It was a week later, when the Irish lad’s desperation had just about overcome him, that he received a call from Hans. Excitement turned to disappointment when he learned they had made no progress in their search. The boys had apparently looked everywhere including in their words 'every bloody ruin in Rome'. Joseph was about to hang up when he was suddenly reminded of something the boy had once mentioned while on one of their walks.
"Hans, where can I meet you? I must come in to the city. I think I know where he may be. I'll see you at twelve thirty. I feel suddenly overjoyed. I'm sure we can find him. You just said it."
The Abbot tried to stop his young novice, but realised that if he did, Joseph might be lost to them forever. He was disturbed and he must find his own way of stepping through the strain of his anxiety. There was nothing to do except let him go and hope that God would sort it out in His own good time. He had been counselled on several occasions during the past week when it became apparent that something that had been brewing in the youth's mind for the last month or so had grown to a crisis since the arrival of Sunny's friends. The Abbot spent many hours before the crucifix in his cell praying for the lad's vocation, but it became obvious that Joseph could not reconcile the "miracle" and his devotion to the strange little visitor, with the life he had chosen in the enclosed arms of the church.
The novice packed a change of clothes into his knap-sack, and set out hurriedly on his mission. He ran to the gate of the monastery and within a while an old bus picked him up and his life, unknown to him, was setting out on a different road.
"Hans! Over here."
The three boys ran through the buses, across the street in front of the train station, eagerly awaiting news and instructions from the young man. Initially they did not recognise him, because he had changed out of his habit into a pair of jeans, sandals and plain white shirt. They felt some hesitation, but being united in their attachment to Sunny they threw their arms around each other. A natural reaction for Georgie, Frank and Hans, but now an inevitable response for Joseph also.
Without much discussion one Irish lad followed by one German and two Italian boys boarded a bus and found their way out of Rome to Hadrian's Villa. Somewhere in this beautiful garden of fountains, white marble images from many lands, mosaics, and lush trees they felt sure they would find a sign of their lost boy. Joseph recalled Sunny's desire and faith in finding something in the gardens where one of history's great love stories was created. The passion of an ageing Roman for a young man had climaxed into the metamorphosis of the beautiful Greek into the last of the gods. Death came to the perfect Antinous far away in the Nile, but love in all its adoration and despair, had been played out here. For hours they searched, sat, contemplated, and hoped, but he was not there. Convinced that he must surely have been to the villa, frustration grew with the realisation that they could not find any sign of his presence. Disheartened, they dragged themselves away as the sun was dropping to the horizon. Tired, penniless, and hungry, they hitched a ride to return to the city. They would find a way to eat, but hardly expected to sleep that night. Huddled together in the back of an old mechanic's truck they silently wondered what, if anything, they could do next.
Joseph thought he should shuffle his rosary, but would it help? Georgie was falling asleep. Frank cleaned his toes because he had managed to fall half into a water channel and had mud in his shoes. Hans stared at the trees flashing past them at the side of the road, deep in remembrance of the boy who took control of his affection, many months past in Venice. They bounced along the back roads unaware of what lay ahead for each of them.
"There he is! Look! We just passed him. Driver please stop. Driver! Stop!"
Hans had been daydreaming when slap into his consciousness came the sight of Sunny walking in the gravel along the side of the road. He had on only a pair of torn shorts, was bare foot, dirty and he carried nothing except an apple in one hand and a small paper bag in the other.
The boys leapt from the truck as it slid to a stop in a cloud of dust as it pulled off the road. They ran two hundred yards back to where the boy was now standing still, with a smile on his grubby face. He threw open his arms and they all hugged him, laughing and crying at the same time.
"I'm glad you found me. "
Joseph had been correct. The boy had been at the villa all week. He climbed fences, slept under trees, picked fruit to eat and had the rest of his clothes and baggage stolen. Luckily he had kept his Passport a comb and a few thousand Lira on him, so his entire worldly possessions were now in a simple paper bag. Yet he smiled now. Previously none of the others ever knew him to appear so contented and happy. He was positive. He was changed, and he was returning.
From the distance the stumpy, unshaven old truck driver yelled. He was puzzled, but knew better than to try to understand the youth of today. Don't ask questions if you don't want to know, was always a good policy that had seen him through life. Keep it simple, and keep it happy.
"Do you guys still want a lift? Hurry up."
Frank shouted at him to wait, as five newly uplifted boys ran back and scrambled into the truck to resume a bumpy, but happier trip into the centre of this now glorious eternal city. They got off near the Pantheon. From here it was only a short walk past the Trevi, where Sunny washed his face in the fountain, and on to the Spanish Steps, where they would be certain to find someone who would give them shelter for the night. Joseph suggested that they could approach the Franciscans, but the boy did not want any word to get back to his uncle. For a time he must remain lost. He wanted no contact with his uncle or his parents. One day he would contact them, but he was prepared to leave them upset for a short while longer. There were things yet to evolve and he felt, no, he knew, that the boys with him would soon understand. They would at least give him the time and the support he needed to attain a new awareness of himself. However, as always, he felt time was precious and short.
Everything must soon fall naturally into place and life would take its course. It was inevitable. Coincidence? Why not? Luck? Of course he was protected. Fate? Yes, the gods were steering his course. He felt no insecurity in their lack of means, so it was no surprise to him when after a short while they were approached by an unusual young woman of around thirty. You could not say she was well dressed. Her clothes were obviously expensive, but everything clashed in the most eccentric fashion. Red cashmere beret, Indian silk scarf, spotted blouse, pearls, jeans, alligator boots and socks.
"Hi, my name is Priscilla. Are you little lost sheep?"
"Actually we know perfectly well where we are, but we aren't exactly sure where we're going, at least for now. Life can be like that. My name is Sunny."
"You look like you’ve been sleeping in the gutter. Is it comfortable."
"The best place I've ever been."
"My brother and I are having a party tonight. Would you like to come. It’s around midnight if you can stay lost for a while longer. There will be lots of gorgeous people there. You never know someone might give you some shoes. You look so sweet you would make a fortune begging. I'm not so sure about your friends. Tarts and clerks at a guess."
"Actually reformed tarts and a slightly runaway almost priest. So you’re partially a great judge of character. You, I would imagine are a spoilt rich bitch."
"Oh darling, how right you are. Daddy had the decency to die last year and my brother and I have been frittering away his fortune as indulgently and as quickly as we can. I do like you. Please do come."
The three younger boys were revelling in this, but Joseph, although entertained felt a little ill at ease.
"Why do you say I'm a runaway?"
"Because I know you'll never return. Joseph, you're with me now."
The young man suddenly realised that he was no longer a student in the Catholic Priesthood. As simple as that, his future had been changed. He lowered his head and agreed. Nothing was simpler. No discussion, no more anguish, no questions, only an acceptance of the reality and truth of what had been accomplished in a matter of seconds.
Hans cast an inquiring, almost pleading look at Sunny, and clasped his hands.
"Yes, I do value your love as well, my ever faithful friend. You'll stay also. I know what you've done. Perhaps you've waited for something before we realised what it was."
"All I know is that I love you."
"What a mystical little bunch you are. Are you on something? My brother will get a buzz out of you lot. What would you say if I offered to buy you all some dinner and you can come back with me a little earlier than planned?"
"We accept."
The twins were not sure they had been included in all of this until Sunny put his arms around their shoulders, as they all moved off.
"Got any better plans for the rest of your life? Come with us and join the adventure. I know you'd like that."
The two sixteen year olds giggled and happily became part of a group heading who knows where. At least they would get fed tonight.
Priscilla opened the door to a very large and grand old Roman apartment that she and her brother had rented for their stay in Italy. She did nothing, but her brother was a photographer, partly by profession, but as he was not in need of funds it was more a casual pastime. He was good though. Some of his works could be seen on the walls.
"Darling look what I picked up. The little grubby one is Sunny, Hans, a rather timid young German at a guess, Joseph, an escaped Papist, and Frank and Georgie, two pretty little street urchins who have climbed back on the straight and narrow. Have I done well? Boys this is James Frederick Arthur Baxter the Third. "
"Jimmy will do. You are most welcome. I presume you realise that you are a little early for the party. Please have a drink though, while I make just one or two more phone calls. It has been such a hectic evening. You could have been here to help."
Priscilla ignored the reprimand and disappeared into her room, Jimmy made some last minute invitations and the boys sat on the tiled kitchen floor with a bottle of wine. They were not about to dirty the fine furniture in the more comfortable living room. The night had been taken care of and they were pleased.
"Would you like to freshen up. Sunny, I think you need more then a slight wash, come with me."
A bath was run for the bare foot Sunny, while the others took showers. Jimmy checked with the caterers and returned to the bathroom while Priscilla, still missing, was presumably changing for the evening.
"You are an exceptionally beautiful boy. I think we should dress you in something wonderful for tonight."
"Yes I am beautiful. Thank you. I'd be happy to appear in anything you wish, but I'd like my friends to be given the same courtesy. We'll behave however you wish but we do require something in return."
"You're very straight foreword. What is it you want?"
"You may look at me while I bathe, if you want, and we'll entertain your guests, but we need help at the moment."
"I will not be blackmailed boy, and I do not come at prostitution. If that’s your game you can leave now."
"No, you misunderstand. I only mean we'll have a good time tonight, but although the others don't know it, I have wonderful plans. Unfortunately none of us have any money to take us away where we must go. Help will come, I firmly believe it. It's just that I must be honest with you. I know we need assistance and I think you'll provide it. We wouldn't have been brought here if it wasn't meant to be. Jimmy, my life is being set somehow, and I’m sure that you have a role to play in it. Don't laugh. Look at me. I'm being serious. "
"What strange prophesies are coming from your beautiful mouth. Why is someone as pretty as you so very serious just before a party. Do you always enter a strangers house and lay this on them?"
"No I don't. I've been really only talking to myself for a long time now, but there's so much to explain and I'm not sure I can put it into words that you'll understand. Perhaps I need another way of enlightening you. Can we talk tomorrow? That is if you let us stay tonight. We’ve nowhere else to go. "
"I gather I've been forbidden to say no. What would you like to wear? Your clothes, what there are of them are filthy, I could give you something, but I’m much bigger than you."
"Everyone is. I don’t know what sort of guests you’re having, but if it'd be okay I'd like my friends and I to get dressed in something very simple, but we'll make it special. Perhaps Priscilla could help us out? I want to get things started right away."
"So your secret plans are being unleashed on my poor guests. Actually most of them are a bit staid, they could do with some excitement in their jaded lives. Apart from some of Priscilla's pick ups, they’ll be mainly writers and journalists and a few has-been singers."
"My mother’s an opera singer. We were here about six months ago for her Italian debut, but I managed to wreck that for her. Please don't mention that to anyone. Also would you not mention our names to any of the guests. I’ll explain later. We've done nothing illegal, so don't start imagining that. We're in your hands now, and I trust you with our freedom."
As Sunny rose from the bath, Jimmy took a deep breath at the uninhibited vision dripping water within arms length of his admiration. The boy had the most unblemished body he had ever seen, except of course for the little pink stripe perfectly placed in the centre of his white chest. A small tuft of dark blond hair above his ivory genitals was the only distraction from the smoothness of his body that could be seen. He grew no hair under his arms, nor was there any on his legs or face. His head however grew the softest brown hair that just touched in waves and curls the back of his shoulders. Although small and soft, his proportions were in perfect balance, and the film of water covering him gave him a translucency that could conjure up the image of an angel. The boy stepped lightly from the overflowing bubbles, smiled at his host and lowered his head to admire the look of himself as the froth of the scented soap slid over and down his stomach, legs and feet, to the shiny black marble floor that reflected his beauty back at him.
"Do you like my body?"
In silence they stood there while the boy let the water evaporate from every inch of his skin. Sunny looked into Jimmy's eyes, reached for his hand and confidently placed it over his own erection, where it remained motionless while his host's other hand moved hesitantly around the boy to caress his back. The light appeared to soften as the seraphim tilted his head, leaned back into the arm that held him, then stretched and rose on his toes, to gently kiss his new patron on the lips.
While the older man's arms encircled his body, the boy undid the buttons that came between them and reached down to unclasp the belt that held his new captive at bay. As both shirt and trousers fell to the floor Sunny slid up and sat on the hand basin, raised his legs to rest his feet on Jimmy's shoulders and taking hold of the man, they made love, slowly and gently, without concern for either the time or the place. As Jimmy slid into the boy, the smell of the soap mixed with the sweetness of his breath intoxicated him. The taste of the boy's mouth tingled against his tongue and the soft murmuring of his voice gave pleasure to all the senses.
Here was a boy whom he could see, feel, taste, smell, and hear and all experiences were unbelievably satisfying. So much in one small package. The boy came over his chest as Jimmy implanted his own seed, deep within the secret confines of the beauty held within his arms. It was with resignation that they both returned to the bath.
"Thank you James."
Around eleven thirty or so, the guests began to arrive. Jimmy had organised the hired staff and, with Priscilla, welcomed each arrival as drinks flowed freely along with the monotonous stories of every ego in the room.
"Sister, where are those boys? They have been playing around in your dressing room for the last hour. They should be out meeting our guests."
Sunny and the boys had no trouble assembling their outfits, but Joseph needed some convincing to enter the party clothed only in a piece of red cloth. Priscilla at Sunny's prompting had agreed to set-to a blood red taffeta skirt with a pair of scissors. The ex-novice was embarrassed, but the thrill of embarking on a completely new life gave him the confidence to cast aside not only his clothes, but his past and his inhibitions. If he was to make a clean break, and he knew he must, he would give himself totally in trust to his new passion.
The guests turned, Jimmy's mouth dropped and Priscilla laughed loudly as five boys entered the room almost naked except for a small piece of fringed cloth discretely wrapped low on their hips. Their changed faces had a light touch of make up softly highlighting their eyes and lips, and they had anointed themselves with perfumed oils that permeated the room as soon as they set foot amongst the crowd gathered to greet them. After a moments adjustment everyone applauded the charming, obvious entertainment provided by their hosts.
"What gorgeous boys. Aren't they sweet. Where did you hire these sexy little ones from?"
James gulped down his red wine, rushed to the boys and drew Sunny aside.
"What are you up to?"
"I thought you would appreciate it. You're about to be very generous to us. I felt we should create a special night for you, and give your guests something to remember. If we can please, it will be your generosity that they will recall when they speak of you. Have I mistaken your vision?"
"For God's sake, no. I am just amazed at what treasures my sister stumbled across this time. You look so stunning I’m embarrassed to share you with such a group, but you sound as if I’m going to die. I don't exactly need a memorial just yet. How many more surprises do you have for me tonight?"
"You never know. I promise, you’ll enjoy yourself. As I said you've been chosen."
Jimmy looked strangely at the boy. What was happening? Who was this boy? Not only their host but all the guests had their attention focussed on this small group of semi naked youths for most of the evening. The gathering continued more or less like any other party, and the boys mixed freely with everyone, not exactly oblivious to the impact their scant attire had created. Even Joseph had become relaxed with the exposure of his slim white body, that had been hidden beneath a thick woollen clerical habit for several years now. He did it, but could not understand the sudden change in his life. It was happening though, happily, but completely beyond his control.
Sunny made a point of chatting frequently to the journalists, leaving them with a tantalising interest in the spontaneous and unexpected. Young and refreshingly exposed as he most daringly was, he managed with intelligence and sincerity to maintain a respect not often offered by the cynical and pompous Roman press. Truly he knew how to direct. All was going to plan.
"Joseph, you know something about me that no one else here does. I have something special that I now know must be shared in time. If you'll be with me, we have something to do and we must begin to find out exactly what. The seeds must be sown."
"I'm not sure I understand you. I've never said this before but I love you. What can I do. I have to be with you but I don't know why."
"One day soon I hope you will. You’re very special to me. I don't think you realise how much you helped me at the monastery. If I hadn’t had you to talk to ......... Can you dance? "
"I've never learnt, and we didn't dance much at the seminary, as you might expect. I went there straight from school."
"You're about to learn. Take my hand and we'll show them just how pretty you can be. You are, you know."
Joseph's face grew red at the touch of Sunny's hands as they clamped on to his bare hips and forced them to move and sway with the music coming from the radio he had just turned on. His head began to sway, his groin stirred and soon his feet found the freedom to move, as he drew on the confidence and energy that was being transmitted through Sunny's firm guiding touch. When the novice took over control of his own body, Sunny stepped back and began to dance possessively around him with the spontaneity, agility and the grace of a bird in flight. The mood of the gathering escalated and soon others joined in, and in time the boys left the floor. The atmosphere had been created, inhibitions were tumbling, and it was time to move on.
Joseph was very pleased with himself and went for a drink. With a smile Sunny moved close to his host and taking him by the hand, whispered secretively in his ear.
"Jimmy, in fairness I want to give you some explanation as to why I know you'll help us. Even the boys, except for Joseph, don't know anything yet. Today they found me. I had hoped they would, but so far I've said nothing. Soon you’ll know why we have to get away, and you will help. I'm confident of that."
"What are you going on about?"
"You'll see. I'm afraid I'm depending on you. "
Much to James's embarrassment Sunny rose on his toes and kissed him. Some guests smiled, some were surprised, but most were jealous of their host's lucky attachment to such a ravishingly beautiful creature, whether he be male or female.
Jimmy’s and Priscilla's apartment backed on to a small dark and deserted piazza. The only illumination came from the half moon and the light spilling out of the windows. Joseph gathered the other boys quietly together on to the balcony. Sunny joined them and spoke softly about some revelations from his week at the villa, and asked for their support. He told them that soon life would change and they would have a part to play. In secret he begged their understanding and assured them of his affection for them. Jimmy, the perfect host, and the others continued their drinking and interminable inane conversation. Everyone spoke, but no one listened.
Just as they noticed the absence of the boys they heard a scream and Georgie rushed completely naked into the room in tears, closely followed by Hans and Frank. The guests parted and Jimmy ran to the balcony to find Joseph setting fire to five pieces of red cloth stained with blood. The novice had a look of exhilaration as he watched the token outfits burning on the blood smeared over the stone ledge of the balcony.
"What are you doing? Where's Sunny?"
"We've renounced our past."
"He asked us to."
Joseph pointed to the sky. Jimmy's veins ran cold as he gazed dumbfounded at the sight of Sunny floating high above the piazza, face turned to the heavens, arms outstretched, with blood running from his head in streams across his torso down his legs to drip from his suspended feet. In the silence he could hear the gentle splash as it hit the stone pavement below.
"My God, what’s going on? Priscilla come quickly!"
The guests by this time were crowding on to the balcony, in stunned amazement. Some crossed themselves, some burst into tears, while others shook their heads trying to clear their brains and come to grips with whether or not this was real or a dream. For no more than five minutes they watched dumbfounded and transfixed, as the figure above them soared higher and higher into the night. The blood that appeared to come from above him stopped, and inexplicably from the clear cloudless sky a shower of gentle rain washed away any trace of it, both above and on the earth below. His body returned to it's pure state and rising gradually into the darkness he disappeared.
Within two days, articles would appear in most newspapers around the world. As expected the more sensational papers would play it to the hilt, whilst the respectable end of the market treated it with scepticism and buried a small mention in the unread and inaccessible back pages.
Sunny anticipated it all. He met up with the other boys in a side lane where they gathered with his belongings. While the guests remained mesmerised on the balcony the boys had dressed and slipped out the door. Jimmy tried to hold back his journalist friends, but they were off in a flash as soon as the boy vanished from the sky. About an hour later the party was over and Priscilla answered a gentle knock at the door. The sun was coming up and the little troop of players were back.
Sunny stood clean and eyes downcast on the doorstep. Lifting his head with a sheepish grin and raised eyebrows he held out his hand to the wide- eyed woman standing before him.
"I think Jimmy may wish to help us."
"Do I call a doctor or an exorcist?"
"Neither, I'm fine. There's no blood, but we must have your assistance to get away before this breaks out."
Jimmy still shaking, carefully and with concentration, took as long as he could to make some toast and a large pot of tea. He had already resigned himself to the fact that he would most probably do anything the boy asked.
"We'll need somewhere private to stay while Frank and Georgie get passports, which may be difficult, but I'm sure you’ll be able to sort that out. Luckily Joseph and Hans are foreigners and carry their ID with them. The four boys will then probably need visas. When everything is arranged we’ll require plane tickets. I expect we should be able to leave in about two months. Of course this must be kept secret."
Realising that within hours, people would be knocking on the door demanding pictures and stories, Jimmy agreed and immediately arranged to have the boys booked into a low hotel close by, where no one would ask questions. There they could stay for a few days until proper plans were made. He and his sister would just have to weather the storm, and deny everything until they too could disappear. Whether they liked it or not they were now involved in something beyond their control. Sunny had trapped them, but perhaps they did not really object. It was no more than a game to the usually spoilt pair. Their wealth bored them at times, so this diversion like many others could be fun. It had not yet hit home that they were part of a unique situation. Too much too soon. How could they possibly comprehend? They had only just met the boy and knew nothing of his past nor of his ultimate plans. Even to Sunny the power of inspiration was only now taking form.
In case any inquisitive reporters or photographers had already begun to arrive the boys were smuggled out the back, through a private lane into a car that Priscilla was sent to borrow from a friend, who at this stage knew nothing of last nights events. They did not trust a taxi driver who would certainly remember the escape when they read about it in the papers, where the story was bound to appear within a few hours. Another lucky situation was that since the boys were basically naked and painted at the party no one could well describe their present appearance to the press or anyone else who might find it necessary or desirable to track them down.
Two rooms with an adjoining door were booked under a false name. The twins and Hans would share one, while Sunny and Joseph settled into the other. There was nothing to unpack because apart from Joseph's knap-sack, no one had any possessions any more. The boys had abandoned what meagre belongings they were left with, at a hostel when they set out on their search. They knew they would never return to collect them. It was difficult to explain what excitement and optimism they felt, in spite of the fact that between them they had nothing except what they stood in, plus one brown habit stuffed into a canvas bag.
"Priscilla and I will try to avoid everyone and should be back tonight with what ever we can sort out today. If you stay in your rooms, it should be safe."
"We have much to discuss. Don't worry. We'll be here."
The boys stripped off their clothes, showered, and wrapped themselves in towels. They called the desk to have their laundry done, and ordered some bread, sausage and coffee sent to Sunny's room. No one had slept, but at this stage, no one was tired either. The night had been more extraordinary than any of them could ever have imagined. In all the world they felt unique.
"Sunny, I'm scared. What are you doing? You were strange before - but now?"
"Listen Georgie, I’ll try to explain whatever I can in the next few days. I'm pretty sure you want to stay, so if you'll be a little patient just a bit longer I'll tell you everything there is to know. Come here."
Georgie jumped up from the floor and sat on the bed beside Sunny, who put his arm around him and squeezed his shoulder. The young boy was trembling, so he kissed him on the forehead.
"Let's not complicate this. We must remain calm and you’ll see just how natural it all is. We're going to have a good time. What you saw last night is pretty ordinary really. It is just something I found I could do."
"Yeah, everyone flies around dripping blood. See it all the time."
"Okay Frankie, you're right. I was just showing off. I had to do it so we could get away. I can't go back to my parents, because they'll try to stop me. They think they love me, but the freedom they give has got to reflect on them. If I leave them alone they might just remember that they married each other not me. They were losing their independence by giving it all to me. It's for the best. Apart from that, none of us can return now to where we came from. We would all be hounded, but none of us are ready yet."
The old man who delivered the coffee bowed and gave a sly grin when he entered the room. Placing the tray on a little side table the withered man looked from under his eyelids at Sunny leaning against the dark wooden bed-head with Georgie resting his cheek on his shoulder, running his finger over the little scar on the boys chest. Georgie was oblivious to his appearance as his towel had slipped from around his waist and the servile intruder was in no hurry to avoid the sight that pleased his eye. Hans and Frank were leaning against each others backs with their feet up on the sofa and Joseph, doodling with a piece of paper, was stretched out like a stalking pensive Lion on the red carpet. All five were beautiful in or out of their white towels with their freshly washed bodies.
"Sirs, I am terribly sorry but the maid will not have your washing ready until this evening. She does it at home. I hope you'll not be inconvenienced. Is there anything else I can help you with, to make you more comfortable. I am here to please."
With that, he put down the tray, smiled at his own subtle comment and left the room. They all burst out laughing as soon as he closed the door.
"Silly old fool. I bet he hopes we order some more room service, so he can come back and perv at us. He looks just like my dog back in Munich, always on heat."
"If it makes him happy. You're all pretty so why not let people admire you. It’s something you should get used to."
After a few hours the boys settled in their own adjoining rooms and eventually fell asleep until they were awoken by Jimmy knocking on the door at about six that evening. He and Priscilla had suffered the most gruelling day. Whenever they went near their apartment they came across hordes of reporters milling around the footpath, jostling for a position to pounce. Unable and unwilling to divulge their secret, they had no alternative but to immediately flee the area. They had searched all day for a secluded spot for the boys, and after much arguing, they rented a house for three months, paying in advance so that they would not need to contact the undesirable owner again during that period. It had been empty for the last year, so it would take a couple of days to clean up and they could settle in after that.
"I have some new clothes for you, and if you can handle staying here for a day or two we’ll all retire to our new home by Friday. Priscilla and I will be joining you there for a while because you've made it impossible for us to stay at our apartment."
"I'm not sure that you should be with us. I don't want to be rude, and I'm very grateful for your generosity but........
"Don't worry we'll only be there for a day or two. After we get things rolling with the passports, we'll be flying to Spain for a while and then return to England when things have died down a bit. You'll be able to contact us there when you need us."
Priscilla, pragmatic as always, hired a removalist to collect all their belongings from the apartment and had them put in storage where they could collect them anonymously later. What an adventure it was for her. However she saw it as her due, to be part of something extraordinary. She had the time and money to devote to whatever the latest diversion may be. Such a detached woman would never be a follower of anything, for life was her personal plaything. Her brother was the only person who had meant anything to her since childhood and although she had picked the boys up it was for Jimmy that she had done it. Her brother, who was four years younger, did nothing by himself and depended on her for stimulation and amusement.
Growing up on a country estate, Priscilla, at the age of seventeen had taken charge of Jimmy when their mother died in a car accident. Their father spent most of his time in London, and between boarding school and holidays on the Continent with his sister, Jimmy managed to have very little contact with his father. Neither of them shed a tear when he too passed away. Dining at his Club one evening, Port in hand, he suffered a heart attack and died instantly. They had a life without him before, so there was little change except that they now controlled the considerable inheritance he had expanded over the years.
The boys had fun in their hotel rooms, especially when the old man visited them on the pretext of offering more pillows, bath towels, soap or when they teasingly sent for coffee and rolls. They made sure that one of them was in the shower with the door open or they were just in the process of dressing so that he probably had more fun than he had ever done in what was probably his forty odd years at this run down hovel. The third day of their confinement had its own adventure when somehow a reporter thought she had tracked them down. She enquired at the desk and the old man, who luckily was on duty at the time, realised whom she was after. He had already figured out who they were, but they had in their own cheeky way, been nice to him and he would protect their privacy. He realised that they were displaying themselves for his benefit as a sort of joke, but they had done it with such good grace that he continued to play the game as they saw it. Knowing that the journalist would not be discouraged he sent her to the third floor while he rushed to the second floor where the boys were, and smuggled them out of their rooms hurriedly down into the storeroom in the basement.
He had discovered them undressed as usual and not giving them time to adjust he ushered them out the fire escape and seen only by the stray cats, they ran down the steps to hide amongst the linen and broken chairs stacked against the walls of the dingy underground room.
The old man quickly returned to the searching reporter on the third floor as she continued to knock on the door of a room just vacated by other guests. He let her in and declared to his surprise that they must have skipped out during the night. She seemed hardly convinced, but there was little else she could do. Suspiciously she eventually left after grilling the man with questions that he managed to reply to in such confusion that the poor woman probably regretted ever entering the building. Convinced that she would probably keep the place under surveillance, the boys crept back to their room, surprising one old intoxicated lady who tittered when she was confronted on the stairs by a group of flirtatious exhibitionists. They gave her a quick peck on the cheek and left her smiling as they scampered back up to their rooms. Drawing the shades they had to find a way of alerting Jimmy before he returned.
They called the old man and he offered to stand at the intersection to stop Jimmy before he arrived at the hotel. Their benefactor was expected soon so he hopefully should not have to wait long. Their look-out was successful and Jimmy then made his way into the hotel through a back lane. It was decided that the boys had better leave that night, but not before inviting the man to their rooms for one last perv. They all kissed him and thanked him for his help. The old man flattered at the sudden attention smiled to himself at the return of adventure to his life. To them he was no more than a simple man doing his simple job. He no longer told stories of his days as a partisan hiding out in a cave in the hills while he planned his next bombing attack on the Fascists. No one listened to an old man any more. He often laughed at the way he was treated more like a child the older he got. He had come full circle. They may not know his story, but he did, and he no longer sought approval, acceptance, or compliments, but they were nice boys.
"When we are out of the way you can tell your tale. I'm sure the reporter will pay you something if you make it good. We don't mind."
By the morning following the spectacular display Sunny had produced, along with a fair percentage of the planet's population, the Draytons in London, the Abbot and the Bishop had heard of the 'Boy in the Stars'. The papers, the television and the radio went wild with the story.
By the time the monastery heard, of the now public re-enactment of what they had already experienced, but about which they had maintained silence, the Brothers could no longer hold their tongues and within a day -
The circus had begun, but the clowns and acrobats had left the ring. The full performance was yet to be scripted and the players had not been rehearsed.
Roland found himself in the middle of not only a family upheaval, but a full blown Church row as well. He felt he would curse the unfortunate day he became involved with his over dramatic nephew. Why hadn't he seen the signs when the boy was a child. Looking back, he could now recognise the potential for trouble, which was a side of the boy the family had merely brushed aside as youthful precociousness. However the havoc he now unleashed was more than any of them could ever have anticipated. Contemplating the distraction heaped upon him he saw the blindness in us all. The church offered him faith but there was certainly no guarantee of wisdom. The nobles and clerics of old had used the rewards and security of the after life to control the unfulfilled ambitions and bellies of the poor for centuries, just as the faith in the Third World gave hope to the homeless today. It was the same for the middle class today as well. Surely believing in God gave some guarantees of security. No matter what your circumstances were, the church said, don't worry, have faith and all would be well, at least in the next life. Perhaps so, but it did occasionally seem like a bloody good excuse for having to put up with all the stresses of this out of control existence. Being a martyr to the jaws of a lion aroused noble heroic visions of saintliness, but being prey to the prying aggression of a band of excited journalists was much more difficult to suffer. The Bishop did appear to be over reacting to the situation but his annoyance at the amount of trouble the boy caused had tried his patience. His life should be devoted to the church not limited to the constant rescue of his nephew. It was possible that he also subconsciously saw this as an embarrassing challenge to his political ambitions within the hierarchy. Just like a presidential candidate he could not afford to have any hint of family scandal tarnish the adept reputation he had sought to promote. He would not make cardinal that way.
When the Monastery came into the picture the Draytons began to realise that their Sunshine was the remarkable boy in the news, and although it was becoming painfully obvious that the separation of the last few months was now probably irreversible, Sophie was soon on the phone to her brother.
"Is it Sunny we've been reading about. What's going on over there? Why haven't you rung?"
"I knew about the Monastery thing a couple of weeks ago, but I didn't believe them. How could I have rung you and said your son’s grown wings? All I could say is that he had run away. I didn't know any more until I read the papers this week. Assuming that all boys aren't taking up flying I guess we have a very unusual child on our hands. I've denied it to everyone but they can smell a story. You haven't spoken about it have you?"
"Of course fucking not. What do you think I am. We’re flying straight out there today. I want to speak to that Abbot."
Before they arrived later that evening, the Bishop had to tend with the Vatican and International press as well. Should they mention it? Was it true? Why had it happened? Will the monks give an interview? Thankfully no one knew it was a relative but when one of the brothers passed on their part in the story he had mentioned that the Australian Bishop, Roland O'Neill had been there the day after the boy's 'miracle'. At least he had enough discretion to not reveal the boys name. Of course he was known only to them as Sunny so there was no chance of tracing him through any records. The Bishop unavoidably found himself the Church spokesman on the wild story sweeping the world.
"There is no time to waste. Can we get to that monastery tonight? I don't care if it is late, my son has disappeared and obviously that priest has known for some time, something about him that I must understand."
"I'll get a car Sis and call ahead so that the Abbot stays up."
Around eleven thirty they were sitting in the old priest's office. He related the story of the boy's conversations, his friendship with the young novice who had not returned for three days now, the visit by three young street kids, and of most concern was the event that he had witnessed with his own eyes about two weeks ago.
"But I should have been told. He's my child."
"Forgive me Sophie but I had hoped to find and speak to the boy first. I guess it was ill conceived, but I didn't want to alarm you any more than was necessary. I believe that the young Joseph must be with him because he too has disappeared since the night of that party in Rome. However I’ve been unable to track the hosts down. They moved out the following day, and haven't been seen since."
"What’s happening Roland? We have to find him."
Archie who had remained silent while his estranged wife grew more and more emotional, suddenly remembered Venice.
"Those boys who came here a week ago sound like the twins and that German lad who were staying with Andreas when Sunny was there. Perhaps if we can contact him, he might know where we can track them down. It’s our only hope, unless your novice comes back. I think we should hire a private detective. We don't know our way around here and we would only be wasting our time."
"There's no more I can tell you, I'm afraid. If I hear from Joseph I'll contact His Grace and he can pass on any information to you. Will you be staying in Rome?......"
They remained for the next three weeks. Andreas, the detective, and the resources of the church came to naught. All they discovered, was that he was alive. The Abbot received a note in the mail one day to say that his charge had abandoned his vocation for a greater love that he must now follow.
"Archie, what do you think our boy is? He's gone way beyond our dreams for him, and I don't understand. Are we responsible? I think it's because of him that we've drifted apart. We lost sight of each other a long time ago, and I fear that we lost sight of him also. We loved him but did we ignore the child by seeing him only as something so special. We treated him like one of your paintings or one of my songs, our jewel. He needs us. He must"
"I think he stopped needing us a long time ago. We’re blind Sophie, blind."
"Say what you like but I will never accept that he’s gone, never."

"Well, my little urchins, what do you think of our country cottage? The life of gentlemen hidden in the hills should be fine. There's food and a phone, and I've left you ten thousand pounds. It should be sufficient but if you need any help, you only need to ring. Priscilla and I will not be staying after all. Good luck. We'll call in about a month. We should be home in England by then. Be careful and stay away from strangers. I wouldn't like the vultures to find you. It's been a fun few days. I'll miss you very much, my sweets."
"Jimmy, I’m sure we'll see you again soon. Time will tell. We all thank you so much. It must have been a shock the way we sprung ourselves on you, hardly very gentlemanly. I hope you realise what you've done for us, because you're very special and we're terribly indebted to you. "
Sunny kissed him on the lips, shook hands with Priscilla and as the two drove away the boys turned to each other and burst into laughter at their good fortune. The cottage had three large bedrooms, a white washed kitchen and an enormous room that had, at one end, a rough wooden table with eight chairs, and several comfortable, but slightly worn Genoa lounge chairs gathered around a stone fireplace at the opposite end, away from the kitchen. The relatively modern bath and toilet were new additions in a separate annex off the back The secluded cottage and it's overgrown garden sat two kilometres from the road, in the middle of a forest. Nestled on the side of a small mountain, they stood, settled at last, and faced the sunset which was now in full blazing colour, as the fading light filtered through the evening haze across the valley, black in the shadow of early evening.
The weather was warm but when dinner was finished they could not resist lighting the fire so they could watch the flames leap and dance before them as they sipped some wine and planned the days ahead. Hans opened the windows and doors so the cool evening breeze freshened the overheating room.
Sunny, anxious to generate the excitement of the revelations of Hadrian's Villa, was compelled to patience. He could soon sketch out brief details as he spent the next few weeks stretched out on the grass in their peaceful retreat in the Italian hillside, but for tonight he wished to discuss immediate ground rules. What he overwhelmingly felt to be their future had to be nurtured carefully or none would be able to grasp the splendour easily. An instant of courage can be splashed out through instinct and adrenalin, but a consistent program of courageous adventure certainly required more than that. It needed understanding, training, and foundations that came from the heart, but as part of the foundation, certain things needed to be sorted out. There was no time to waste in getting their new life off to a productive and harmonious beginning. The boys' minds were obviously fired up by the expectation and frustration of the small hints he had so far given them, particularly because of the constant smile of Sunny’s bright eyes fixed on them since they had been reunited on that dirt road but a few days previously.
"I know we had some hesitation with our sleeping arrangements in the hotel, but from now on we’re going to be always together, and as one. No jealousy, no favourites. There must never be any secrets or problems between us or we wont survive. Trust is so important, and we must help each other in everything. We have to. I’ll be spending some time with every one of you alone, and I want you to get to know each other like brothers. It's a special time for us all."
"Are we really going to do something wonderful? Why can’t you tell us?"
"I don't mean to be secretive Georgie. It is just that....... well we'll see soon."
This failed to help any of them understand. The sun had set and the night was dark and isolated. Fear began to descend on the little group. For Sunny, fear of success or failure, for the boys it was still the fear of what was unknown. Hans lifted his head to stare into the eyes of his obsession.
"Sunny , can I spend the night with you?"
"Don't be so timid. Of course you can. You looked after me when I needed someone before. I’ll always remember how you stuck by me in Venice, even when I did some terrible things to you, but we’re going to share in everything? No personal space. Nothing is ours, and all is ours. Spontaneity will make it happen."
Joseph, still unsettled after his separation from the security of the Abbey, was unsure of what this meant. The boy probably had more in his mind but it was the uncertainty of sex that loomed large in Joseph's brain. He had slept in a bed with Sunny at the hotel, but still his virginity remained intact. Did the sharing mean what he thought he meant? The idea was no longer unnatural to him, he looked happily towards the day when he could please his body, but he had no experience in these matters, and he hoped that it would happen almost accidentally, not with public premeditation.
"I think I’d like a room to myself tonight, I need to have some space. It's less tan a week since I left the brothers. I'm sorry but it’ll take me a while to sort this out. Don't worry, I'm just a little scared. Does anyone mind?"
"Of course not. How about you decide what we do tomorrow. It'll be your day, and we’ll be completely in your brilliant hands, or at your mercy. We must make every day extraordinary."
That first night the twins as usual bounced around their bed as they had always done. Since they were children they had been forced to share a bed and more often than not a room with one or other of their brothers. Often, their eldest brother took them together, and being the youngest and least wanted, they had learnt to do everything as if they were alone and the same person. They had supported and defended each other through beatings, starvation, loneliness and love. Life appeared to have ensured that it would be the same for them both for the rest of their days. Siamese twins could not have been more closely united, and in their nightly grappling one could imagine the subconscious desire to reunite to the closeness they had experienced in the womb.
In the room beside them, Joseph stretched out on the large bed as thoughts of the last several days swirled in his head. These were the first moments he had spent alone since he stood down from the train, with his little canvas bag. He decided to write to his brothers left far behind in the monastery and he would also write to his mother back home. How could he explain? No doubt the words would come. So many changes, and an uncertain future. Apparently he would soon be experiencing sex for the first time in his life, and the thought now excited him. How easily had he moved from a dedication to the chaste life of a priest, to an acceptance that he would most likely be sharing a sexual relationship with not one, but four boys. He realised that he was about to become a man. Not from sexual initiation, but out of the freedom he now had to choose. Master of his own destiny. Self sufficient. Independent. From school to the seminary was a move from parental supervision, and obedience to his teachers, to willing subjection to the commands of the church. Only now for the first time in his life could he do as he pleased. He had now to decide what pleased him, and what were his own guidelines. As he drifted off to sleep he was smiling at how natural and nice freedom seemed to be. Optimism filled his brain and he did feel good.
Two windows and a set of doors opened out onto the porch from the room that remained. Within those walls Hans made love to Sunny, with the full force of a longing bottled up for several months. His relationship with the boy had drifted from peak to trough so easily and regularly, but the renewal of his master's touch erased the memory of all anxiety. The eternity that stretched from Venice to now, exploded and unleashed a tremendous passion that echoed long across the valley.
"Praise the sunrise,
Praise the day,
With fun and peace,
We'll find our way.
There's boys in beds
No more said"
Everyone awoke to the sound of Joseph singing little rhymes in the kitchen as he prepared coffee and eggs for the first of their mornings together. The sweet sound of his voice and the smell of breakfast drew the boys to the table, laid out with fresh wild flowers and bunches of berries.
"I got up just before the sun. It’s really lovely out there. I found all sorts of wondrous things. Who's hungry? Don't eat the berries though, I'm not sure - they may be poisonous. They're only for show."
The boys laughed their way over the early meal, and when they were finished eating, Joseph brought in more fresh coffee and said he wanted to tell them a story. This was his day, and he had made up his mind that it would be full of things he loved. He wanted to see if his new friends could participate in and share what he enjoyed. He was a relative newcomer to all but Sunny, and he accepted that they needed to understand each other better if they intended to spend the future united around the little one. While he had sat in front of his difficult letter to his mother his thoughts wandered back to childhood and tales that meant so much to him in those increasingly distant days. It was then that he felt the urge to call up the past, partly for himself and this newfound opportunity. He could share, he would share, so that for the first time his life could be an experience held in common with his friends. Leaning his elbows on the table, he grinned at those crumb covered faces sipping their coffee, toyed with the petals of a flower, coughed and began.
Joseph’s Story: When I was a lad, I used to spend school holidays with my Grandmother. Grandpop had died, and she lived with her sister and husband in a little farm outside Dublin. At night I used to hop into bed with her and she told me stories. I had some favourites and she would have to repeat them every time I visited. Gran always smelt nice and while she told her stories I used to play with the saggy skin under her arm. I was fascinated by the loose wrinkled flesh, and flipped it back and forth for hours.
Anyway, when she was very little, her parents owned that farm. There were a lot more trees in those days and like Hansel and Gretel she often went for walks, by herself though, to pick wild strawberries and flowers for her mother. She knew the area really well, but there was one spot that she didn't like, and tried to avoid. It was a very thick part of the uncleared farm, full of gullies with old dead, moss covered trees fallen everywhere. Some days if it was cloudy it grew quite dark there, and she always thought it was creepy, just like some of the haunted forests in fairy tales.
There was a pet lamb Paddy, that she had brought up. Well one day Paddy disappeared and everyone was out planting whatever it was that they grew, so pint sized little Jane set off to find him. For hours she wandered around calling out to her pet who obstinately remained hidden. By late afternoon she got up the courage to go looking in that scary part she tried to avoid, because she had been just about everywhere else so it was the only bit that remained. By this time she was becoming frightened and she still couldn't find her lamb. She sat down on a rock and started to cry. Just as she was about to stand up again she heard a sound, and swung around expecting to see Paddy, but no, there was nothing there.
'Hey lassie. What's your problem. Someone bite you.'
She kept looking around but still couldn't see anyone. Now she really began to cry.
'Down here you silly girl, I'm on the stump. Are you blind or something. You babies are all the same.'
'My goodness you're so small. You're a........'
'Yes I'm a Leprechaun. What do you think I am? Never seen one before? I've seen you stomping around here lots of times. You should be more careful, I was having a nice peaceful rest one day and you nearly stood on me, and now today you wake me up again with your blubbering and snorting. No one teach you manners?'
In front of her was a little man in green trousers and jacket. I guess he looked cute just like you did the night you went to the Opera with the Bishop.
With a smile at Sunny he continued.
‘Have you seen my lamb? I've lost him.'
'Of course not. They know better than to come near me when I'm sleeping. Better consideration than you obviously.'
'What's your name?'
'Mind your own business lassie. Do I ask you personal questions. No, I mind my peace. Not you. You come barging in and think you own the place. So irritating. Little girls are such a nuisance.'
'I'm very sorry sir.'
'Oh yes, I bet you are. Always sorry. Why don't you go away now and leave me be.'
'But I haven't found my Paddy.'
'Your Paddy? Who is that, and what do I care anyway? Oh for goodness sake stop that noise. We don't like crying here.'
He was being so rude that she got more upset than she already was, and no way could she now stop crying.
'All right, all right, I'll tell you how to find your sheep.'
'Thank you, but he is only a lamb sir, and he will be frightened if I don't find him before it gets dark.'
'Okay! Now listen to me. If you really want something, all you have to do is believe that you can get it, and if you make a wish with your whole heart it will come true, but your heart must be pure. Remember, you have to be very good for wishes to come true.'
'But I don't know if I’m good enough. You said I haven't got any manners.'
'Well true, that is a problem. I wonder if there’s another way out. Let me think.......... I know. If you do me a favour, something really nice, that might just cancel out your bad points. What could you do?'
'Anything sir, I must get my pet lamb back. I'll do anything you like.'
'Well lets make a bargain. I get lonely here and I think there should be more little people like me to look after the forests at night. This isn't much, but how about you promise to give me the first little boy who is a descendant of yours, and he can come and live with me in the rocks and trees and help look after me when I get really , really old.'
'But sir I couldn't do that.'
'Well you will never see your Paddy again.'
'Oh no. What can I do?'
'I know. I’ll stick to our bargain but listen I’ll only take the boy if he misbehaves. If he’s never naughty he can stay with you.'
Poor little Jane didn't know what to do. If she promised she would get her lamb back, but she might lose her baby when she got married. She decided to make the promise but secretly she also decided she would never get married, so that would fool him.
'I promise.'
'I will remember this day. Make your wish.'
She closed her eyes tightly and with all her heart she wished that she could find her pet. Almost instantly she heard the tinkle of the bell she had tied around Paddy's neck. She opened her eyes and the little man was gone, and the other side of a gully she saw her beloved animal.
Granny had no sons, and I was quite aware that I was her first and only grandson. If I was ever naughty, the Leprechaun was probably outside somewhere just waiting to steal me. I had to be a good boy. I think that had something to do with preparing me for the decision to be a priest. I was terrified into being good.
You know, perhaps I have been bad after all, and the cute little man in green has got me at last.
Joseph grinned at Sunny, who reached over the table and kissed him.
"I hope so. That was a wonderful tale. Your quite an actor as well. You sing, act, now we only have to teach you to dance and you’ll outshine us all. "
"Never. We are as one remember. I'll clean up and I want to take you all for a walk to somewhere I found earlier this morning. No little people but I think you'll like it."
The boys had a hard time keeping up with Joseph as he ran through the grass, up a small rise and around an outcrop of rock on the side of the mountain. Puffing and exhausted they arrived where he had finally stopped to greet them. Pushing aside some branches he revealed an opening in the side of the rock face.
"A cave!"
"Wow, have you been in yet?"
"No it was too dark this morning but I have something to see with now. Who's first into the unknown?"
Sunny took the torch offered to him and bent down to enter the small opening. In single file the others followed closely behind him for about fifteen feet until they could stand in a large cavernous enclosure with several pathways leading off in different directions on the other side. The beam of light swung around the walls, and it was soon apparent that they were not the first to enter the cave.
"I think someone's had a party here. Look at all the wine bottles and old blankets. There's a broken lamp over on that rock."
Just as Hans said this he tripped over a large metal rod, half buried in the dust. Sunny flashed the torch in his direction to reveal an ash filled hole dug into the floor of the cave just feet away from where the German stood. Joseph suggested that they go back and get some better light, before one of them had an accident.
They did not return until late afternoon, because when they arrived back at the cottage after a leisurely stroll through the yellow and purple flowers bursting out in clumps all over the mountain side, Priscilla, haphazardly dressed as always, greeted them on the front porch.
"Surprise! I'm back. Didn't expect to see me so soon, I bet? My brother left on a plane this morning, and I just had to see you before I join him tomorrow."
Georgie put the kettle on while Joseph and Hans carried a table outside so they could have tea and then lunch in the open. Frank went to look for a lamp and a few things that they could take back to the cave later, and Priscilla and Sunny wandered off to talk privately.
"Do you know my brother likes you a lot? Even though he didn't show it, he was very hurt when you said you didn't want him to remain here ."
"It's not that he isn't welcome. None of us here have to return to anything or anybody. Jimmy has you, an estate to look after and responsibilities. I want to work with my friends on a lifestyle. How could he fit in with that? I like him but it just wouldn't work."
"I would normally say he’s allowing you to use him, but I understand things a little better than that."
"But we are. Only because we have to. He’s really helping us. I hope it’s taking advantage of an ordained opportunity which is not the same as callously using someone for your own advantage without consideration or gratitude. We each have a role and I believe Jimmy is happy that he can assist us. If I thought of it in any other way I would feel guilty, but I don't."
"I do understand, but who will help him? He needs friends, and a life of his own. I can't run it for him forever. Please be nice to him. You obviously have a lot to share, and I know he could find it enormously important if he could play a part. He needs a role."
Sunny thought over what she had said as they climbed back up the track, but he still failed to see how Jimmy could fit in to the future he was mapping out for his little band. How could he pass through the eye of the needle. Like 'George' the camel, he would remain outside the door, but perhaps he could find another entrance. He would have to find it himself.
Over lunch the boys shouted and laughed their way through the reports of their escapade which was still front page news. Priscilla had brought along every local and international newspaper and magazine that carried their story. Sightings had been made all over the world, and every town seemed to have someone who knew them and the bizarre antics they had supposedly got up to for years. They had certainly created a stir. Sunny was reassured and even happy that imagination was not dead, even if it involved a considerable stretching of the truth about themselves. Mostly it was rubbish, but did it matter? He only wanted to be a spark, not the whole light.
"We’ve hired a reliable man who will arrange the papers for the boys to leave the country. He’ll ring when he needs signatures or what ever. We promised to pay him so well when he is finished that I’m confident we’ve bought his silence."
She left after the meal and the boys finally got back to their secret cave. Not to be outdone by the previous visitors they brought a couple of bottles of wine, a clean blanket and a primus lamp they found in the cupboard.
With sufficient light they could now see the graffiti that had been etched into the rock. Obviously the debris was left over from a small group of partisans hidden up here during the War. It had been gathering dust, undisturbed for almost twenty five years. Frank translated some snippets of anti Fascist slogans, and a few crude jokes that must have amused the inhabitants in the long periods of isolation. Some of the scratchings were foreign to everyone, and probably came from a time long in the past. They talked about the possibility of it being a robbers hide away, a hermit's retreat, or a shelter for escaped slaves in the days of the Roman Empire. What a history this place must have had. Sunny thought the whole idea had the thrill and potential excitement of a boy's own story book, they were the incredible five, or what ever they had been called, but somewhere so special, that now belonged to them alone, had to be treated with respect.
They poured the wine and toasted the outcasts of long ago days, who had sought security within this space. As a mark of reverence to the ghosts of the past they vowed to disturb nothing. They would make a small space for themselves and the evidence of those who had gone before would be left untouched to inspire anyone else who may enter this shelter in decades or centuries to come. The afternoon had all the solemnity of boys playing make believe. They were children left to their own devices, acting out games of heroes, just like the boy and his parents used to do, when they became possessed by the characters that enlivened many an evening, in what seemed decades ago.
Over supper the bunch of kids, as they had become that day, yelled, giggled and shouted each other down with more and more fantastic theories of what the cave had once been. How easy it was to forget the pains of the recent months. Like puppies who soon forget a scolding within minutes and return to play, the boys' innocence was obvious. After dinner that evening, Sunny retired early to sleep alone. The night was quiet and Hans went off to bed with the Twins. They realised, that for Joseph, as a new experience it would be special if he learnt the art of love from the one who brought them, and held them together.
For hours Sunny dreamed visions of soldiers and slaves, and soon his thoughts flew back to golden gods and lost burial places. He tossed and turned on his sheets, perspiration soaking the pillow he clutched between his legs. He dreamed of a storm in the hills and he saw lightening, and rain, and thunder, until with a start he sat bolt upright in a panic. He felt as if something had been lost, something necessary, something special, something he must find, and in confusion he went out to the porch to cool off and clear his mind. He could not relax. A void grew in his mind that cried out to be filled. Things lost, something treasured must now be found. At first he crouched on the unpainted wooden boards, clutching his feet as he rocked back and forth as tension rose within his small frame. With a burst he grabbed the lamp that was left on the steps, jumped to the ground and walked, at first hesitantly and then more urgently across the chilled grass, off into the dark, lighting the flame as he went. Unsteadily he returned immediately to the cave and once inside, his breath shortening, he picked up the iron rod, forced air into his lungs and with his hands trembling and muscles about to tear he went straight to a section of the wall and struck with great force into the rock.
A gust of sweet air enveloped him and from behind the centuries caked dirt, a wall of bricks and mortar tumbled to the ground with a thunderous crash that echoed deafeningly around the cave, as a swirl of dust washed over the intruder. Through the opening was another chamber, much larger than the cave they had thought so wondrous and special. Climbing over the rubble he held the lamp over his head and saw before him in the centre of the room a six foot slab of white marble, balanced on four, three foot high black marble horses. On the far side of the chamber, high above, stood a statue of a boy in a niche in the rock. The white marble of the statue was of the purest quality and glistened in the reflection of the light shining on it for the first time in generations. Dust covered everything but not the alter and the god to whom it was dedicated. As the boy with hesitant and expectant steps, approached the figure on the wall he recognised the curled hair, the gentle smile of the full rounded lips, the soft jaw and perfect physique of the beloved Antinous. Suspended from the roof of the cave he could just make out a round golden image of the sun that he instantly knew, by faith alone, must have been brought from Egypt, where the young Greek god had died, a lost trophy of Akhenaton, servant of the Sun disk.
With overwhelming joy, and numbness in his hand Sunny placed the lamp on a small round flat rock jutting out of the ground in front of the god, and as he did so, like a rocket a beam of light shot a reflection up to and from the golden disk raised like the Sun now radiating in the heavens , and shone directly on to the surface of the alter. The spectacular sight raised the hair on his neck, shivers ran the length of his spine, his eyes glazed over and in rush of blood to his brain the boy fell to the floor unconscious.
Launched by a blast of lightening the boy felt himself plummeting through a channel of black silk that caressed and stimulated every nerve ending on his body. As he tumbled uncontrollably from silk through water, over petals he felt the warmth of sunshine and coolness of a soft breeze. He smelt incense, and perfumes. Falling through space and history the boy finally rested on a large bed covered in gold threaded soft white cushions. From beyond a soft mist parted by a slice of yellow light appeared the naked form of a man. Gently the haze cleared and the man was but a boy, Antinous. His hair was garlanded with golden leaves and ribbons of purple, his finger nails, toe nails and lips shone with gold and his body had been dusted with fine powder ground from the same precious metal. The beloved god smiled as he walked slowly towards the boy laid out for the sacrifice. Reaching out his glittering hands in a welcoming tender touch, he lay beside the trembling figure of the gentle youth he had come to embrace. Placing a hand behind Sunny's neck he lifted the boy's head as he bent over to kiss the lips that parted so willingly to breathe in the pure odour of the whispered blessings of a god. With the other hand he traced a line from the boy's throat across his chest and stomach until he came to rest on the offering between Sunny's opening thighs. Antinous lay the boy back onto the cushions and reached through his legs to caress and part the soft white cheeks . With his golden touch he loosened the muscles that would soon feel the force of that which would unite and bind them together. When the boy's delirium had transported him to the heavens of the gods the divine lover lifted the pure and hairless limbs and while covering his face with kisses he slipped himself with welcomed ease into the dazed body of the young mortal aflame beneath his touch. The perfect gold and white bodies, one strong and sculpted and one soft and tender, rose and fell in undulations as wave after wave of pleasure washed over them, from a sea of tranquillity building to the uncontrolled lash of a raging storm and just as soon they would again pass through the gentle eye of their passion .
Joseph had been awoken by a bright flash exploding in the clear night sky. He stepped outside and through the open door he saw that Sunny was not in his bed, and the lamp was missing. At first he thought of the boy's privacy but then again there were to be no secrets and at times he worried about the boy. He was so prone to leap without looking. He picked up the torch from the kitchen and headed to the cave.
Standing in the opening to the second chamber he was met with the sight of Sunny writhing ecstatically in a shaft of golden light on top of the white marble. In the darkness of this sacred place particles of dust danced and spun like stars in the reflection of light. When this hallowed space lived with the worship of the new god, no doubt the flames of offering were placed in that very spot where the lamp now stood, so that the disc's reflection would illuminate the alter for whatever bounteous and sacred offerings were made upon it.
He had little time to be startled by the discovery of the chamber for the sight of his chosen love grew more overwhelming than anything else laid before his view. As he approached the centre of the room he saw that the boy's eyes were open, but Joseph knew his presence was invisible to the passionate sweating body that he gazed upon. Tears flowed freely from the golden hued face as his slender hips lifted high off the cold surface arching his back in suspension above the pools of perspiration he had left behind. Sunny's small toes pointed, stretched and became rigid, his arms caressed and held something unseen. His mouth once again fell open and droplets of blood could be seen on his tongue as it licked the air through pants and cries. He shook violently, openly, and in what could be described as the death throes of a slain beast of offering, he sprayed his orgasm into the incensed space, covering himself and the receptive and grateful Joseph.
The disciple stood speechless and mesmerised by the sight of the boy gripped in the act of pleasure. When the spasms had subsided Sunny was still and unconscious and remained that way for several hours while Joseph held vigil beside him. The lamp grew low and went out with a flicker. The beam of light vanished but suddenly the walls lit up with a phosphorescent glow that cast a soft silver light throughout the secret cavernous temple, alive again with the worship of beauty. Once again all was still.
Joseph watched as the boys breathing gradually returned to normal and he could just see as Sunny opened his eyes.
"Where is he?"
"I've been sitting with you for hours and I assure you, to my eyes no one was here."
Pointing at the statue above them the boy sat up, beamed at his friend and said-
"Antinous! He made love to me. "
"Why always Antinous? What is this story? I do want to know Sunny. Please? "
"Did you lift me onto the alter?"
While he spoke Joseph took hold of his hands that felt like ice to the touch, but although the boy's body had absorbed the cold of the stone, inside he was still on fire. As they spoke their voices resonated just as a whisper in a cathedral takes on the hum of sacred speech. As heavily as the bronze of the Bernini bees, dust and legends buzzed and swarmed around the centre of the sacred temple.
"When I was a kid I read about Antinous and the Emperor. History was more to me than old tales. There is something locked up there that is an exciting part of us. I used to dream about all of them and other legends, or myths or facts. I can't distinguish one from the other any more. I remember telling you once that from our time it’s impossible to tell what’s true and what’s imagination. I really believe that everything we presume to be fiction, probably grew from something that has actually happened. My whole life has been forcing me to be different and special. I don't know what I’m supposed to be. In the monastery I realised that I had to search for Antinous, I know he existed and I always felt he would understand. I spent a week wandering around Hadrian's Villa, thinking and dreaming. Every night I felt him coming closer and closer to me. Surely you must realise that it’s no accident that we’re all here. I’m sure he came to tell me we’re on the right track, and perhaps to say goodbye. Leave the ghosts of the past to themselves. Make new legends. Be extraordinary. We’re with you. Love greatly. Love passionately. Do something. Am I making any sense?"
Joseph simply nodded, sat next to the boy on the alter and asked if he could put his arms around him. Sunny snuggled against his shoulder and sighed as Joseph brushed his hands lightly over the boys body. At last he was touching voluntarily the flesh that had haunted his nights since the days when Sunny walked barefoot and shirtless across the fields beside him. Then they were away from the watchful gaze of the monks, who had kept his unrealised desires suppressed, and now there was no one at all. Was this growing up? Was this self realisation? He didn't know. Contradiction.
They spoke for a while longer, kissed and left the cave. Outside the sun was high in the sky when they stepped into the glare of so bright and glorious a day.
The others were laying stretched out in the sunshine when they returned . The twins who did things more and more alike each day were asleep on their stomachs, attempting to tan their white flesh. Hans on the other hand rested on his back with a cloth placed protectively over his mid-section. The three of them had survived a lengthy and torrid evening together, and none had enough energy to embark on much more than what they were currently doing. Nothing.
Sunny would not speak of what had happened. Although the adrenalin of embarking on his journey swept fears from his attention in all but the rarest moments just prior to sleep, the offering he had made of himself had been only the beginning. Time now ,as it was in his imagination, was irrelevant and preparations to come were no more than a space between one breath and another to him. To the others time had its strains and limitations, but the boy's mind was elsewhere. He perhaps noticed their questioning eyes, but in light of his overwhelming needs, distractions hardly registered. If he was to master self discipline, so must they. Such indulgence as his pleasures and experiences had become may not have revealed any discipline to the onlooker but the uniqueness of his dreams required altered rules, different concepts, a new perspective. Only occasionally through a crack would he pray that it was not madness or a mere delusion.
"The end of the week will be special. Don't ask yet."
He walked off and the others lay back in the sun, with faith that he would no doubt tell them soon. They were too tired to think anything else. The remainder of the day went peacefully slow, and in the evening as they sat around the unlit fireplace, Sunny after hours of silence, suddenly looked up from his contemplation, at Joseph who had been staring through the doors at the night stars.
"Will you sleep with me tonight? "
Sunny stretched out on the bed as he watched Joseph remove his cloths and neatly fold and place them on the chair. The candle flickered across the fine contours of his back and buttocks as he swung around and walked over to the reclining boy who awaited him. The virginal novice wanted to be with Sunny, but his inexperience made him tentative as he first looked and then touched the body that was at last his to adore. They held each other closely and as their arousal grew between them Joseph drew back to see in detail every inch of the boy with whom he was about to have his first sexual experience. He loved the boy and although he had seen him naked on many occasions he had never experienced the freedom of being so close that he could freely and with fulfilment inevitable, smell and feel the body, all of the flesh, that had secretly excited him.
He moved to the end of the bed and gently kissed the small toes and feet that turned so slightly inwards. Sucking each toe into his mouth he felt he was taking possession of the lamb at its moment of sacrifice. He ran his hands up and over the smooth white legs, who's slender and honed shape developed from the dancer Sunny liked to be. His face buried itself in the short golden pubic hair to smell the sweet fresh odour of the genitals he longed to know, and with his tongue he moistened the protruding tip quivering at the touch of his mouth. With dedication his lips traced the curves of the boy's soft firm abdomen, across his tiny navel, hesitating at each pink nipple and then he dragged his cheek along the muscles of each smooth hairless arm to finally kiss the boy's hands. Tears fell from his eyes to the fingers beneath his touch. Gently he rolled the boy over onto his stomach so that he could rub the palm of his hands over the glasslike perfection of Sunny's buttocks. At the touch of Joseph's lips at the base of his spine the boy raised his hips and spread his knees apart so that he could be caressed where he awaited Josephs entry. Unable to hold back, Joseph applied his lips and tongue to Sunny's offering, tasted down the back and inside of his legs to rest at the soles of his feet. Sitting up at the foot of the bed he stared long at the perfection reaching out before him. The tilt of Sunny's slim hips and the rounded muscles of his thighs and bottom flowed across the sheets and pillows in such beauty that Joseph could hardly breathe. For more than an hour Sunny allowed his admirer to stroke, kiss, and gaze at every bend and crevice of his body. The soft touches aroused his passions more than any experience he had ever had, so long, tentative and lingering, that finally he rolled to his side, grabbed Joseph, and pleaded that they fulfil what had begun. The agony of expectation burst on both of them. Limbs opened and within seconds they had both climaxed and fallen apart in exhausted delirium. The novice was no longer, and sleep came contentedly that night.
The following days were different, long and difficult. Unaware of the discovery, Hans, Frank and Georgie watched as Sunny made phone calls, took deliveries of parcels, and went back and forth to the cave all week, carrying things large and small, wrapped and hidden from their inquisitive gaze. He had banned all of them including Joseph from the cave which made their exclusion almost unbearable. Each day Sunny returned tired and dirty from the secret he was preparing, but he refused to calm their entreaties. Impatience grew amongst the twins and Hans. They were here to be with Sunny, but the days were becoming a disappointment and at night, although he ate with them and was in the highest of spirits, he spent most of his time contemplating the stars alone or asleep, with the door closed to their affection. Joseph, more tolerant because he had seen and experienced the ecstasy, did what he could to hold them together.
After breakfast on the morning of the following Sunday, Sunny announced that he would be at the cave all day, but at sunset he would like them all to bathe and come to join him. Mysteriously he asked them not to eat or drink for the remainder of the day, suggesting it would be better if they spent the hours as quietly as possible. He immediately rose from the table, leaving behind him both bewilderment at what he intended, and relief that at last the time of some development had almost arrived.
On this same day, Jimmy had gone to church to sit in quiet meditation on what his role with the boy might be. Priscilla was developing an idea to turn her life in a different direction. Close by in Rome, the Bishop offered Mass for his nephew, Sophie and Archie argued over whose fault it was that their son had abandoned them, and people in cafes puzzled still, over the story of the flying boy. Elsewhere in the world, people ate, slept, drank, were born, died, took drugs, had sex, worked, played, committed crimes, and generally carried on as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening. The village was smaller but each home in the village was still fenced off. Everyone has their own world. Who cares what the neighbours are doing?
Sunny was standing at the entrance to the cave when they arrived. He showed them into the original chamber and by torch light he asked them to undress on a cloth that covered the dirt floor. Coverings had been laid out on the dust so that their feet would remain clean. Nothing would detract from their perfection. As an offering they must be spotless and unblemished. Only the most worthy gift is fit for the gods, and in Sunny's mind they were certainly worthy lambs.
Taking each in turn he clasped gold bracelets around their ankles and wrists, laid a chain of gold about each neck, and tied a large flowing piece of sheer gold silk around each waist. When they were suitably adorned he covered himself in similar pieces, took each of them by the hand and led them to the entrance of the second chamber that had been hidden from them by a heavy black velvet curtain. Pulling it aside he ushered the startled group into the temple ablaze with the light of a hundred candles arranged on earthen holders in a wide circle around the alter. The floor had been cleaned and beneath their feet was an erotic mosaic revealing the many pleasures of beautiful youths in the days of the Roman Emperors. Sunny had discovered bronze bolts in the walls and from these he had suspended great lengths of pure white soft fabric. The statue of Antinous had been draped in wild flowers, and the alter had been covered with a large cloth embroidered with silver stars on a background of red and purple.
First Sunny opened a brass jar of aromatic oil, dipped his hand into it and spread a little on each of them. He anointed their chest, arms, and forehead, and then from another brass jug he poured a little rose water over their feet. As he knelt before them he lightly dried and then bent to kiss each of their feet.
"Please sit on the rug and we can share some small amount of food and wine. You must be hungry by now"
Already prepared were platters of cheese, figs and grapes and several jugs of wine were ready for them, as they sat in a circle around the simple feast. Everyone wanted to ask, but no one dared interrupt the boy who obviously knew what he wished to do. Through the week he had planned every detail of this evening, and they were anxious and willing to follow his every desire. Perhaps the array of symbols and gestures had meaning to no one but himself. Perhaps they were borrowed. Perhaps they were unnecessary, but devices of the church or the theatre work powerfully on the mind of believers and empower them to take even greater leaps of faith.
"I believe that this cave was the final refuge of the followers of the god Antinous. It was here that he was last worshipped before the onslaught of Christianity banished the old gods from the earth. Some say he sacrificed himself for the Emperor. Some say he was sacrificed by the priests and drowned in the Nile for the sake of the Emperor, and others say he was murdered. What ever the truth, just look at the statue. That boy was so beautiful and so loved that he died because of it. I know that he wasn’t divine, but I believe some of the spirit of Antinous still inhabits this space. We have all been blessed with features that delight the world, and we’ll use that as one of the many gifts we have, to raise the spirits of those around us. Tonight in the presence of Antinous and under the one golden god of the Pharaoh Akhenaton the great poet and patron of Egyptian art, we’ll bond together so that as one we’re going to awaken mankind to the glories within us all."
The wine was having an immediate effect on the fasted bodies and minds of the five of them. Relaxation spread through their anxious limbs and acceptance grew more easy by the glassful. Sunny got the boys to sit on the alter with him while he at last attempted to explain what it was that he intended.
"Do you know the story of the Hyacinth. Apollo used to play sports with a beautiful boy, Hyacinthus. The West Wind was jealous of the youths love for the tall, handsome, beardless sun god, the son of Zeus, and when they were playing quoits the wind lifted the plaything in the breeze and it struck the young boy on the head. The blood dropping to the earth stained a plant that blooms in spring as a remembrance of the beloved boy.
"Especially for you two, there were also the beautiful twins Castor and Pollux, the sons of Jove, who were so inseparable that they eventually alternated in the one life when one of them was slain. The Trojan boy Ganymede whom Jupiter carried off from the midst of his friends was described by Tennyson as the boy with the 'rosy thigh' and 'the flying star shot through the sky'. Another was the overconfident boy Icarus who flew too close to the sun , melted his wings and plunged into the sea.
"So many stories of the beauty of boys and the sacrifice they made, and here we sit tonight in the temple of the last great beauty of the ancient world. So many on this earth have lived on stories of youth and beauty. You are blessed to have both, and I want you to use these gifts. Art, music and beauty are what it’s all about. Everyone celebrates with dancing and singing. Ceremonies anywhere are full of spectacle. Somehow we are going to tap into these. What better thing to do in the world than help spread the word of love, beauty and fantasy. Get people's imagination working. Free up their spirits. Shock them if necessary, but help everybody to use their potential. If everyone spent more time being creative they wouldn't have time to kill or hate. Think how wonderful it could be if everyone added something new or thoughtful or stunning to the world. If we stop taking and start giving, things must get better.
"I’m not about to ask if you will, because I’m sure you can do nothing else. We can give what we can create, but with all special achievements there is sacrifice, a token, a dedication. Tonight I want us to make a symbolic offering of something personal. I’ll be the first if you’ll help me Joseph."
They all nodded their agreement and Sunny jumped off the alter to fetch a basin of warm oil that had been sitting by a group of candles, a pair of scissors, a razor and a cloth. The others followed him down and Joseph took up the scissors and began to snip away at the long hair that cascaded to the floor. He rubbed oil into the boys scalp and with strokes of the razor he removed all that was left, until the boys head shone smoothly. Sunny removed the golden cloth from his waist and with gentle application of the knife edge his pubic hair once again disappeared. Without any conversation Sunny then set about shaving each of them in turn until all five stood oiled and hairless from head to foot. All that remained were the gold bracelets and chains that adorned their pure white skin. Sunny removed the cloth from the alter, gathered up the hair from the floor and placed it in a basin on the marble surface. Sprinkling some incense into the offering he set it alight, and as the smoke rose into the air he took them by the hand and pulled them close to him.
"Most of us don’t realise that we are each of us to blame if we fail to achieve perfection. We have an obligation to try. Jealousy, hatred and the craving for possessions must be driven from our minds. I know that we’re not the only ones who want this, but there are special gifts that we have that we’ll be compelled to use. Each must use the talents he’s been given."
"What special talents?"
"Close your eyes for a moment and hold one another."
The boys put their arms about each other and the excitement they felt as their oil smeared bodies moved against each other gave them a feeling of light headedness.
"We are one and can do all things together, Look to the ceiling and believe that you can do what ever you will. Come up with me."
Up into the column of smoke the united youths slowly rose, combined in both breath and body. As their toes lifted from the floor the exhilaration of this magic moment aroused the mind, the spirit, and the flesh. In the centre of the room they held each other as one interdependent body, with Sunny as its core but with a gentle push he released them and in turn they drifted free and independent, up and apart until the Temple filled with the floating bodies of weightless beauty dancing, spinning, turning, flying from side to side, stopping occasionally to touch or kiss as they moved around the haze filled space glowing from the light of the candles shedding a flickering hue from the stone beneath. The joy of laughter began to echo around the walls and with confidence assured, soon they began to sing and shout the exhilaration of the experience.
Excited by a feeling like no other they had ever experienced, they were not frightened nor did it confound. The preparation received through the little one’s example and confidence gave a reassurance that this was no more than was possible to those with faith in themselves. Obviously it was not impossible. They were doing it and it was a fact. He had told them they were special, they were beautiful, they were talented. Potential had been realised. They believed.
Georgie was the last to awake to the silence of the boys sitting against the wall, deep in thought.
"How long have I been asleep. I don't remember coming down."
He suddenly thought and looked searchingly at the others.
"We did fly, didn't we?"
Their eyes averted the brightness of the midday sun as they left the cave and headed back to the cottage to breakfast, where the silence would soon effervesce over to the thousand questions that would explode into their life from now on.
For the next two months they talked about the world and what they could do. They were part of it. They now felt a responsibility to make it a better place. The Temple became a place of meditation and lovemaking. Each spent time in there alone in quiet contemplation of the momentous events that were overtaking their lives. None of them had been blessed by an extraordinary background but there was certainly a fear that they may not be capable of fulfilling the future that Sunny was mapping out for them. They certainly needed courage. The boys talked together when their guide was out of range and questioned each other as to what they imagined or feared life would now bring. However not all was sombre and pensive because the boys also played as children do when ever the occasion arose that they could let off steam, and as they grew closer every day they felt the need to express this bond by the outlet of sex which became one of the games most often practiced. All their efforts were focused on making everything that they did beautiful, beyond the ordinary. They knew that the material they had to work with was a head start but perfection in all that was possible was their goal, and with determination they sought it out.
In the sunshine they exercised their bodies, they danced until their limbs became graceful, they sang until their voices gained strength and the earth that surrounded them grew more precious by the day.
The props that Sunny had decorated the chamber with were removed and destroyed in a great bon-fire one evening. The sacred place was returned to its original untouched and hallowed state. It had served it's purpose and soon it would be resealed to lock away it's secrets until Antinous would perhaps reveal himself and inspire another lucky and blessed boy some time in the future, if there was one. Only a few of the more expensive trinkets were packed away, as reminders of their vows and commitments. The bracelets would be as wedding rings. Circles of gold that chained them together.
Jimmy rang several times to say how much he missed them and to check that there was nothing else he could or should do. Eventually he contacted them with the news that the papers had been arranged and he would book flights for them as soon as they were ready. He said little else of himself except that Priscilla had moved out and gone to London. The boys were prepared for the next phase, and were anxious to move on, so within a fortnight they were in a taxi on their way back to Rome for the evening before boarding a morning flight that would carry them to the last phase of their preparation.
Sitting in a side street Trattoria it was good to be back amongst people after months alone in the country. Was it not for people that they were working? They could not remain isolated always. Italians barked at each other across the tables as tourists eyed them in awe at the animation of their speech. Every discussion appeared so intense, but Frank explained the overheard simplicity of what seemed so profound and serious. Some red wine and a belly full of cheap pasta made them merry and they set off into the streets. The night became a bustle through a fair ground as lights and people jostled in a rush to nowhere in particular. Even to get to the other side of the street was an act of determination, a goal, a quest. Men and women knew exactly where they should be next and hurried to get there. Once there, they could then stop and stare, absorbing the farcical race of those not at their destination.
It was a joy to the boys to be back with the crowds. For all of them life had been intense and isolated for so long now, even from the days in Venice. To be freely rubbing shoulders with others who seemed simply to be having a good time, was like cool relaxing water to their brain. Life on the streets of Rome did seem simple. If you were not in hiding, or if you did not have to worry about where food or a bed would come from, it was a wonderful city. That night they could afford to indulge themselves lightly, for a time. On the streets, no one recognised them. They had been gone so long that the episode had just about passed into history.
Sunny however, did not want the world to forget them too soon, and as a final gesture he went late that night with the others to the Colosseum. From the side they climbed over the fence and entered the ancient theatre by darkened arches. As they stood in between the vast walls of crumbling stone ahead of them, outlined in the ghostly blue light stood a huge wooden cross. They stood in awe of the feeling of the pain and splendour that rumbled through these passages two thousand years before. In the silence they could almost hear the roar of the animals and the clash of swords drowned by the cheers of the crowd. The spiritual tension that exuded from the stone by moonlight was a fitting farewell to the past. Several couples strolled arm in arm along the street beside the edifice, some rough boys lurked nearby with tough intentions of accosting unwary tourists, and the traffic sped past on the wide road with unwary rumblings that shook the foundations of the crumbling relic.
There were not many witnesses that evening, but enough to report the flying boy who had been seen again in the city. By the time reports of the new appearance and three consequent multi-car pile-ups in front of the Vittorio Emanuele Wedding Cake, spread throughout the city, they were high over the ocean sitting in a capsule that sped them far away. Inducted by faith, and practiced in beauty, the mystery of wisdom and knowledge awaited them.

Blistering was hardly accurate and impressive enough to describe the harshness of the Australian desert. The fair skin of the boys reddened and dried under the searing heat of the sun. Indicative of the new life to be embarked on was a shedding of burnt skin to begin anew with a fresh exterior, while the inner man grew, refined and developed. Naked romps in the seclusion of their Italian hideaway during the mild northern summer did little to prepare their bodies for rebirth under the intensity of the sun's rays in the central expanse of the southern continent.
On their arrival, they had become six. Jimmy had abandoned his no longer satisfying existence with his sister, and when the others disembarked from their flight in Sydney, he was waiting at the airport to welcome them with the news that he not only wished but begged to join their group. Long hours he had spent comparing his life with the possibilities of greater adventures with the boy. He knew he could learn to take chances. The extraordinary circumstances that revolved around him now must be his to carry to fruition. They had made him part of it. He could not be denied. Sunny had trapped him into the circle, and surely he could be of value. If the camel could not enter he would follow in by donkey or on foot if necessary. He could squeeze in some way.
Sunny was not surprised, and without hesitation, welcomed his Jimmy with a hug that immediately put his English disciple’s mind at rest. At the terminal, under the watchful eye of the immigration and customs officials, and some astounded passengers, the boys skipped and shouted with joy at the commencement of the next adventure. The circle was expanding.
In the several weeks that they were apart, Priscilla underwent quite a change as a result of what happened in Rome. She had suggested that she and James sell the estate and investments, and divide the money equally. The self awareness brought on by sorting out the relationship she and her brother had developed, made up her mind to extend her maternal instincts away from him and expand into what she now felt had some greater meaning. As a result of this awakened joy in the lives of others, she would find interests, and a future, working with the street children of London, and it was time, she thought, that her brother began to create and follow his own dreams. Several million dollars were settled in an Australian bank, under the guidance of a local solicitor. Jimmy was sure the boy would find some way of utilising it, in what ever lay ahead. He had not exactly sold all his possessions and given them to the poor, but he had turned them over to a cause, or at least a dream.
While in Italy, Sunny had explained that they needed to settle somewhere more trying and isolated to plan and train. As the ideas came to him every move was contemplated slowly, and piece by piece the picture took shape. However it was a shock to them all, and now especially to the previously pampered Jimmy, when it was revealed that they were to live in the desert. They were prepared to come to Australia for reasons that were still unclear, but why the unrelenting rough isolation of the outback. They had heard, but were not able to really imagine just how unkind the glaring dry sands could be. The loneliness of a cottage in the forest had not challenged their comforts, but as hermits in the desert? Shit!
Constantly he had tested their determination, courage, and faith in him, and as expected, they often succumbed to fears, but as the boy was so loved by each of them, none ever had the desire to voice their lack of understanding. He had such faith in them and they in him, that they would rather lose a limb than let him down. They felt the strain of keeping up with him. It was this very boy who had plunged so far when he was under strain, but now he had moved on, or had he merely moved the strain onto others, so that he no longer had to worry about it. However they would accept and follow, not like simple, mindless, dumb sheep, but ever faithful students of the master that he had become to them.
As the boys strolled around the streets of Sydney they had none of the appearance of a master and his disciples. He was the smallest and by far the prettiest of what was on the whole, a group of unusually attractive youths. As always he was noticed but they kept a reasonably low profile while they mapped out the excursion to solitude. It took a week however before they met the seventh member of their little band. The boys were booked into a short term rental house in the inner city suburb of Redfern, thinking that they had only to plan their camping equipment, not realising that Sunny had to find one particular new addition before they left for the unknown wonders awaiting them. Full of symbols and mystic dreams the boy’s life subconsciously picked over every mixed legend, sign or prophetic wish to fulfil or strengthen his resolve, so consequently he had to have a sacred number. They must be seven.
It was a mild breezy Saturday afternoon in early August and they had arrived at a park a few blocks from where the six of them were staying. An Aboriginal exhibition of crafts and dancing was being held for the local community. Soon after they strolled into the park, Sunny was drawn to a Dance troupe from North Queensland, whose turn it was to display their tribal heritage. In the centre of a dirt ring a boy of about seventeen with face and chest painted, legs bent, hands pouting, head upright and alert, hopped and skipped in a performance of what was presumably a Kangaroo Dance. A crowd of around two hundred mainly Aboriginal people stood silently bemused at the sight of the ancient ritual. In those days many of the urban natives were largely unfamiliar with the history of their race. Decades of white mistreatment had destroyed families and humiliated them into assimilation, and many adopted a seething denial of their culture and worth. It was only the 'lucky' ones who grew up on country reserves that although badly oppressed still had some connection with their ancestral values. The churches and successive governments had tried to destroy any memory and pride in their past, but while they remained together the elders could still pass on their sacred traditions of the Dreamtime that had seen them through tens of thousands of years.
Sunny tried to talk to the boy when he and the others had finished their dancing, but the Aboriginal lad was suspicious and walked off to his friends, wishing not to be made fun of by a group of foreign boys. Too often he had been subjected to insults by the careless gawking white public. The boys turned away and after looking at the bark painting and some other craft work, left the park, and stopped for coffee at a run down Italian cafe nearby. Soon after they had been served, they noticed several people running along the footpath. One black youth had blood on his face, and a black woman running behind him was crying as she stumbled past with dust covering her torn dress. The boys left their table immediately and led by Sunny, ran as fast as they could back towards the park. The scene was enough to sicken anyone. What had begun as a day of culture had been ruined by the arrival of a band of thugs, who sought to prove their 'manhood' by constantly trying to drive blacks out of the city. As the preplanned fight erupted, the police arrived, and to all appearances appeared to side with the white scum who had invaded the celebration. They saw many Aborigines, men and women being beaten and kicked by white men both in and out of uniform. Dozens including some of the dancers were tumbled into paddy wagons. The boys rushed towards the fray, but suddenly stopped as Joseph saw the boy they had discussed being set upon by a group of three 'heroes' intent on bashing sense into the 'little black bastard'.
"STOP! Leave him alone!"
For some inexplicable reason the three who were all at least six to eight inches taller than Sunny suddenly let the dancer go at the loud scream of the small pretty boy's voice. They looked at Sunny whose eyes, filled with disgust, stared directly into their face.
"Okay man. He's yours, you fucker."
"I know. Now fuck off!" he once again screamed.
Sunny offered his hand to the dancer who this time accepted the offer of friendship. Under the circumstances it would have been churlish and stupid for the beaten youth to refuse.
"Are you able to stand. Let's get out of here."
Frank and Georgie helped him to his feet and holding his arms they quickly got away from the sad battle still erupting about them. They took him immediately back to the house where his wounds were cleaned and after washing the white and ochre pigments from his body a bath was run for him to soak the bruises in his sore, stiffening limbs. He removed his red nappy-like costume and the twins helped him into the hot soothing water. They were sent from the bathroom by Sunny who remained to talk to the boy. This was surely the one he needed to complete his entourage. While he sat soaking beneath the bubbles Sunny scrubbed his back and eventually the shock wore off and the young boy burst into tears. Sunny leaned over and kissed him on the brow. The boy shot a passing startled look at his benefactor but gratefully reached out to grab hold of a white hand extended this time to comfort not offend.
"Thanks. I can't handle fighting. I didn't want to come here. I much prefer the animals in the bush to the animals in the city. There’s too much shit in this place. Sorry I ignored you before. Why did you come back?"
"You don't have to talk now. Just lay back there and rest as long as you like. Would you like a drink? You probably need one after your ordeal."
"I'd love a beer. "
"I'll get you one and then leave you to relax for a while."
A few minutes later Sunny returned naked with a beer in hand. He only smiled and again left the room to allow the young man to gather his thoughts in private. The dancer was a little worried but then again this boy had saved him from being bashed senseless only a half hour ago, so he said nothing. Also worried about the whereabouts of his companions, and the outcome of the clash, he felt he should get going but where would he go. He had been driven to the park, and if his friends were in jail, and he had no money or clothes, he had little chance of finding them at the moment. These boys looked as if they would help him out when the pain subsided. He finished his drink and the water eventually cooled, so he stepped out, wrapped a towel around himself and after wiping the fog from the mirror he glanced at the cuts on his face. Saddened that his face might be scarred he wiped a tear from his swollen eye. For a while he sat on the toilet seat and cried. Even though the boys in the other rooms had been nice to him he felt abysmally alone, scared and after so much, he was tired. He could not remain there all day so he tried to brighten up his face and went out to find the others. He located them in the lounge where to his further astonishment they were all undressed.
"How do you feel? Hans, will you get him another drink? I'm sure you could do with another one. Sit down and the twins will rub some liniment into your muscles. They’re very good at massaging."
"That would be nice. By the way my name is Henry. Should I take my towel off."
"You have a rather nice if somewhat sore looking body, but it is up to you."
"Back home we hardly ever wore clothes, except when the white overseer and ministers hung around, but it's funny to see white blokes like that in the city. I have to thank you all for helping me. I don't know why you are. Today was so ugly and I hate things like that. It ends up making you feel so foolish when you attract such a response from people. It's really not that unusual and I often wonder if I do something to provoke it. I don't think so, but maybe I do. It's no use blaming everyone else for my problems I guess."
Joseph felt much sympathy for the lad, and went to sit on the floor beside where he lay.
"I understand that it seems that we should always be able to influence what’s around us but it's hardly your fault if some bastards have confused their values to such an extent that they become animals. It happens so often throughout the world, not just here. It might not seem like it at the moment but it does happen to a lot of people, your not alone. It would be wonderful if we could all do something about it."
While Henry lay on the floor, Frank began to gently rub some oil into his body, avoiding the bruised areas on his firm light brown body. Within the next hour they found out that the boy's father was a Dutch- English shearer who had long since left his Aboriginal mother and family, still living in central Queensland. He had been encouraged by the tribal elders to carry on the dance traditions that they had taught him and had studied as much about his race as he could extract from the older men and women that he met as he moved around the country. Leaving home when he was sixteen he joined a troupe on the far north coast. His formal European education had been limited and he had begun to be involved in race politics, but mainly he loved to dance and wanted to study modern western dancing as well as that of his people. This new victim had a spirit of gentle patience and consideration that impressed them all. The way he spoke of his family, his home and his history overflowed with love and pride. This boy was genuine.
Within five days, a large tent and provisions were loaded into a charter flight, Henry had quit the dance troupe, and they set out for Alice Springs where they bought a four wheel drive and a trailer and drove hundreds of miles into the desert, as far from any human contact as they could. In an isolated ravine they pitched their tent close to a small river closely surrounded by trees but within a larger area of dry sand and rock. Henry had located the spot after discussions with some of the local Aborigines. They told him of this place that once was a regular stopping point for one of the old nomadic tribes that were moved to a distant reserve, where western medication and all the benefits of civilisation were to be showered upon them. In that twenty years since they left their land, the expectations and promises turned to the most abysmal break down in their life style and many of those who were left suffered from disease, drunkenness, and loss of hope. They had been sacrificed, but their spirit still invaded the soil where the latest nomads now set foot. In the weeks to come this extinguished nobility would be part of the understanding absorbed by the disciples as they sat at the sandal strap of learning.
"This is glorious. We’re here at last. It's just us now. Free to do what we like, and there’s no one around to stop us. Lets have a celebration."
The sun was low in the sky, as they built a huge roaring fire. They unwrapped some of the fresh bread and cheese that they had brought with them and a bottle of whisky was passed around. The fresh food would only last a few days. They would then live off the dried and tinned food until the day would arrive when inevitably they would have to live off the land and the reserve sacks of rice, that would get them through any hard times. By the time they could only see each other by the light of the fire and the moon the temperature was still comfortable and the excitement of the adventure had gripped them. For once ,Joseph was the first to throw off his shirt and suggest that they dance. Soon they were all prancing around the fire and Henry was trying to show them how to dance as only he knew how. Laughter and loud hooting shattered the peace of the night as they stomped, swayed, and fell about clutching each other in comforting hugs, sharing the joy of their absolute privacy and freedom. It had been such a long day and the alcohol soon exhausted them. The bats and other flying night birds must have been surprised at the sight of seven boys collapsed on rugs as they spent their first evening asleep in perfect isolation under the stars.
At sunrise the small band of adventurers awoke to the unfamiliar sounds of nature rejoicing in the golden glow of another day, lost in the timeless eternity of the desert. Birds sang and called to each other, and as the boys went down to the edge of the river to bathe, they found to their delight several kangaroos grazing the nearby grass, and a large goanna weaving it's way through the bushes took fright and scurried up an old lightning struck gum tree. The youngest, Frankie and Georgie got quite a shock at the first sight of a four foot long lizard. This would be fun. The surrounding landscape and its inhabitants had the mystique of pre-history.
They swam, dived, splashed and dunked each other under the refreshing, crystal clear, unpolluted water. Happiness spread from heart to heart as they played without any thought to the future. The experience was here and now. They could scarcely forget why they were here because they still didn't know.
"I’ve never swum in a river before. I always thought it was too cold in Ireland. It feels wonderful."
"If you went near the Tiber you’d probably catch some terrible disease or get covered in garbage. The only other water we’ve ever seen was Venice and no one goes in the water there except over on the Lido."
Henry smiled at the lack of experience these boys had. They would certainly need some guidance out here. They were all city boys through and through. Hans wanted to go exploring as soon as possible and was about to get out.
"What do you think there is around here? Can we go for a look after breakfast?"
Sunny disappeared under the water, and they could see him swimming deeper out into the centre of the stream. Just as Joseph was about to call out, like a rocket launched from the depths of the sea, Sunny shot out of the water, straight up into the sky. Water cascaded from his body, as he soared several hundred feet above them. The morning light cast a sparkling glow across his face and chest as he threw out his arms in greeting to the morning sun.
"What the fuck! "
Henry's eyes darted from the sky to the others and back again. He grabbed Joseph by the shoulders so tightly that the boy had to shake himself loose before he bruised.
"Hey man what's going on? Where you guys from?"
"Everywhere. He's very special. Now you know too. That's why we're here. Henry you're not just a guide. He selected you to join us. Everything that happens lately has a reason, and Sunny picks just what he wants. He knows who’ll stay. I doubt you'll ever see your family again. I think that's the way it's going to be for each of us. We're a family of brothers now."
"Doing what?"
"I don't know. He hasn't worked it out yet, but I think that's why we came to the dessert. So that he could. We trust him. We're involved in something exciting and daring."
"I hardly even know the guy, and you tell me he's bloody well taken over my life. Don't I get any say in it. You must be fucking crazy."
"You've already given up your dancing and come thousands of miles with a bunch of strangers. What do you think made you give in to that so easily? He’s already got a power over you just as he has over the rest of us. It's pretty good though. When you get to really know him I'm sure you'll be as convinced as we are. He really is the most incredible boy."
Henry was silent as he thought over what Joseph had said. All the while they had their eyes transfixed on Sunny who floated up there scanning the beauty of the land around them. He glanced down at his little band of friends, waved and descended slowly and gently into the water between them. From there he reached out to take each in turn by the hand and kiss them on the lips. Lastly he came to Henry who held back. His mind was full of questions. His body was rigid with the shock of his unknown future, and he really didn’t know what to do. Sunny approached him and putting his arms around him tightly, he hugged him closely to his breast. So intimate and close in fact, that the gesture aroused them both, but after some indecisive moments of timid embarrassment the young Aboriginal boy relaxed, tilted his head and kissed Sunny on the lips with such tenderness that they remained locked in their embrace as they stepped sideways from the water and lay still bound on the grass. The contrast of the whiteness of one body slowly writhing against the deep golden colour of the other, was a vision of unity as they became one on the bank of their river. Hans, Joseph, Jimmy, Franchesco, and Georgio held hands and sat on the grass beside the boys. This was not a moment for privacy. It was something that belonged to them all. No experience, no feeling, no fear could be kept from each other now. They had learnt that they were as one. Each one's joy would be shared and felt by the others, just as each one's pain would be lessened by their combined effort to overcome it. To Henry this was a new experience. He had never loved a man before, but the sheer release and joyful passion he was feeling made him realise that, yes, he had joined them. Sunny guided him into himself and as the boys' bodies began to tremble with pleasure they could feel the welcome touch of the others as they joined in gently caressing their skin. As Henry thrust and climaxed, Hans and Joseph threw their arms around him and lifted him off the boy and held his exhausted limbs in their arms. Frank and Georgie moved closer and buried their faces between Sunny's outstretched legs and with sweet devotion they were for the first time allowed to give him pleasure. The last of the rights of initiation were complete.
They all lay silently on the grass for some time until Jimmy suggested, he would light the fire and put on some tea, while the others rinsed themselves in the river once again.
"About four miles away I could see a waterfall where the river drops into this ravine. One day we'll go there, but I think we should save it for a special treat. Over to the west I saw some huge rocks that caught the rays of the sun with colours you wouldn't believe. This afternoon we could go there and spend the night, so that we can all see how beautiful it is at sunset and sunrise."
"How far is it? You pretty white fellas should be careful of the sun. Until your skin gets used to it you should spend a lot of time in the shade or you'll cook."
"It's only about a mile, so I guess we could leave quite late this afternoon. Henry do you think you'll be able to teach us how to hunt. We're going to have to sooner or later."
"But we bought heaps of food. How long are we going to be here? I can always buy more, we're not short of cash."
"I know. But I don't want us to go back until we should. We're going to stay here for as long as it takes."
"Yuk! Am I going to have to eat an animal?"
"Yes Georgie, but only if you can catch one first. You can be in charge of hunting big Goannas."
"No way. It’d probably eat me instead."
"Too much garlic. These are Australian animals. No taste for little Italian salamis."
"Thanks a lot. I’ll probably dream about giant lizards biting my dick off while I sleep."
"It would only need a baby lizard to munch on you."
"Get stuffed Hans. I'll put mustard on your German sausage if you aren't careful."
Georgie jumped on Hans and wrestled him over the blanket, knocking over the billy in the process. They both giggled loudly as they rolled around clutching and biting at each other, until they collapsed puffing and exhausted on their backs.
"Come on you pair of wieners. Neither of you are an impressive sight at the moment. Lets clean up and finish unloading the trailer."
"Yes Father."
"I'll bless you in Gaelic if you don't watch out, and there’s nothing worse than an Irish curse."
"Forgive us our sins oh wise one, we were born this way. Weren't we Frankie. Small but very tasty."
"Yeah and we Lutherans used to eat Papists you know, so careful with your spells."
When the silly banter died down, they rinsed the cups and set up camp as if it would be home for ever. They gathered rocks and defined the fire space, gathered and piled logs to give some protection from the wind and made sure the tent was stabilised. It was far too hot to stay under the canvas during the day, but if rain should come, which they thought unlikely, it would keep them dry, and anyway it would provide a shelter to sleep in if the nights were windy or cold. It also gave them a place to store the food, to keep it from the prying scavengers that would surely steal their provisions if they sniffed them out. Dingos and large birds and lizards were certain to be drawn to the water's edge.
The walk was further than they anticipated, but when they climbed the rocks just in time for the setting of the sun the burning colours, spread across the earth and the sky, were an inspiration that reassured them of the correctness of the place they had come to for their final preparation. Here in the desert they hoped to reclaim the basics upon which existence depended. The seeds of inspiration would be lovingly nurtured until the full flowering that was expected to come when they next entered society.
As they lay on the sand and watched the stars spread from horizon to horizon Sunny told them of his days in London when he created the germ of what they were about to develop. The poetic terrorists who burst upon the streets and tunnels of that city would be the basis upon which they would build. None of them were aware of the boy's past. So much had happened since the day each of them had met him that it had never crossed their mind to inquire as to what had happened before. There had simply been little time for it.
He spoke of Anthony and the days of pleasure, followed by the days of guilt and disappointment. He told them of the paintings he had sat for and the stories behind the artists who struggled to capture from him something that had aroused their curiosity. The dances, the arrests and the dreams of his youth. For the first time he summoned up the past that even to him seemed strange and unconnected to his current life. It had been done, the past had been lived, and the time was now, however he thought that for just this once he might owe them an explanation, relevant or not, as to where he came from. They deserved to understand him in all his haphazard detail because these boys had dedicated themselves to being with him, and although he hoped for the fulfilment of each of their futures, at this time he undoubtedly was their leader, and that he must deal with justly, truthfully and compassionately.
Sunny spent a lot of time alone with Henry as he endeavoured to learn more of his ancestry. The aboriginal youth knew much that interested and stimulated the boy, but the dancer too, was only a student in life. They both were so aware of each other's deficiencies. Henry had been sensitive for far too long. The adolescent burden of racial awareness often set his temper off. Sunny too had fears of ugliness and compromise, and he also had not secured his own self image as much as he desired. Inexperience softened and lowered the barriers and made it easy to explore ideas together. The bond of each pairing of the boys' was unique. Each of the varied relationships possessed elements that others did not. The variety of human responses was not denied them now, and as maturity grew within each boy those differences would become even more noticeable.
"Sunny, you don't have much hair do you? You look so young."
"I know. It used to embarrass me that I look like such a baby face. I always liked being pretty but I sometimes thought that there was something wrong with my hormones. I never grew like other boys. Perhaps I’m too feminine in some respects, which is not really bad I guess, but I always wondered why I don't grow any hair on my body."
"Well that is the most bloody stupid thing I’ve ever heard. With looks like your’s you still want to find something to complain about. You are you, most definitely a boy, and you mean so much to us all, you should be satisfied. Does being pretty and hairless stop you from doing one single thing. No! It’s part of your appeal. It’s part of what you are, so just accept it. Each of us is an individual and isn’t that one of the great wonders of the world. Stop comparing ourselves and each other with anyone else and we’ll have a better grasp on happiness. In our tribal life we’re part of a group but each man is also a separate person, it’s bad manners to compare one with another. Why compare a wallaby with a wombat, they’re completely different things."
"Wow, what a reaction. Sorry I sounded silly, but it did concern me once. I don't think it does anymore. You know, do any of us feel really content with ourselves? I think if we had nothing to put a cap on our egos we might get too big for our boots. Perhaps it's an inbuilt part of our survival kit to keep our pride under control."
"I still think it's rubbish."
The weeks passed and the boys' skin toughened under the heat of the sun. Soon they had dispensed with clothes altogether, and what were previously soft white thighs and limbs grew to be brown and golden like Henry's. Their hair which had begun to regrow long on each of them bleached in the intensity of the light. The Aboriginal boy taught them the art of weapon making and led them on hunting parties. Seven brown boys crept through bushes, raced across the sands, climbed trees and dived into the water to catch and kill wallabies, goannas, birds and fish. At night the animals were cooked over or in the fires and ashes of burning scrub trees. They feasted on the generosity of nature and at night they found friendship in the intimate groping arms and clinging legs of each other. Life was good, and all the while they grew closer and more deeply dependant on the group for the realisation of the individual, now sanctified potential within each of them.
Sunny made sure that during this, they all participated in the ideas brought foreword. They each began to add to the whole that was being created. They were invincible, and together they could draw on a combined strength that enabled the impossible to become reality, fantasy to be fulfilled and the concept of failure to be ever diminished by the moment. Success was inevitable. As he planned it, they would work together until the confidence of the group became the spark that ignited the individual flowering of spontaneity. From within each, the group would draw out the treasures hidden under embarrassment and lack of confidence, until it became possible for any of them to lead although with such flowering it would become unnecessary for any to lead. Generosity of spirit should give mutual respect, and personal ambition should develop as an expression not a contest.
Christmas was a time for giving. They managed to celebrate the festival with an innocence and joy more filled with sincerity than any of them had known before. Georgie had collected beautiful thunder stones that he split and presented as the exquisite jewels of their layered crystallised centres. Frank made animals from the twisted and weathered branches of fallen trees. Hans made a mighty effort in collecting berries, honey and nuts that provided the holiday treats for the child in all of them. Jimmy built a table from rocks, wood, bark and mud that dried to a solid surface on which they would share in the feast that Henry provided from his expertise in hunting and foraging. Joseph had made up a song about them all that he sang as his gift in the twilight of the days festivities.
"You have all been so generous in making today wonderful for our band of pilgrims. Your generosity sings to the heavens. Do you realise the things we can all do now? Could any of us have survived here before? Could any of us have made any of this? Now it’s so natural that we do these things. We're different."
Sunny wept as he looked around at his friends. He exhilarated in his optimism but he quickly submerged any fleeting fear of failure. His heart was bursting with the faith he had in them and their future.
"We’re going to do it."
The closer they grew, the less was his intimacy with each of them. The more he led the more distance between them did he create. Of course he loved them more each day and they in turn became more devoted to him and his ideals, but he had no where to lean. His strength, although sometimes faltering internally, toughened in those days. By the light of the sun he was becoming a man, but it was only the stars that were witness to the fear of the little boy hidden within.
They made infrequent visits to the waterfall and deep pool to the north of the camp. It had been reserved for special occasions and the new year was such a day. In the afternoon heat the boys swam and dived from the rocks into the cascade of white spray. They tumbled against bodies, slid over, under and around the slippery flesh of each others stimulation. Georgie could swim under the water for longer then any of them. He nibbled at the boys toes, bit their skin and pounced at any penis he could see in the cool underworld silent to the screams above the surface. Joseph sunned and rested on the moss covered boulders and the others floated in the relaxation of one of natures treasures.
After an hour or so of the tranquillity of this space being disturbed by the games of youth, a lone stranger approached their seclusion for the first time since they fled to their retreat in the privacy of this ancient ground. Unseen from across the desert the old man strode. With determination he had crossed the sands. Days and nights the man had walked. Called to this spot on the scorched earth he had a role to play. Tired and fasted, he had been pushed on until he stood at the top of the falls and surveyed what he had come for. He knew not what he would find but pleased by what he saw, he stopped to wait as he watched the antics of the playful celebrants below. With one foot rested on the knee of his upright leg, leaning on a long stick in one hand he shaded his eyes with the other to see more clearly the boys leaping about in the water. He wore only some rope around his waist and his grey beard reached almost to his sagging breasts. Folds of skin hung from his blackened body in a strength that evidenced his venerable age. For several minutes he stood rigid until at a glance from far below he was seen by Sunny, and in a moment of ecstatic recognition the boy ceased his play and stared back at the still figure awaiting him. Without a word to the others the boy rose out of the water and ascended to the top of the cliff to greet the man he had expected all this time.
"At last, you’re here."
"Boy, you are ready. Come."
Without hesitation Sunny followed the man back across the desert, to the mountains far in the distance. As they set off, the others scrambled to the top of the ravine, only to see the man and boy disappear towards the horizon. From far away Sunny's body, although browned and slim, looked plump and white against the tall, slender, frail, black frame of the ancient who had led him away. They glanced at one another in puzzlement as to their friend's sudden departure, and the young and tender Georgie took hold of Henry’s hand and pleaded.
"Where’s he going?"
"Don't worry. The Elders are our survival. Sunny’s spirit belongs to the earth and he must find his place or it will swallow him."
The boys said nothing further until Henry continued.
"He’s always felt life around him. We often spoke about just how important it was to him. Down by the river at night he used to nag me about the relationship we Aborigines have to the land. It’s something you over-civilised races have lost sight of. He found it hard to discuss. He wanted to go much further than normal Catholic beliefs. There are deeper feelings he wants to tap into that he thought we might help him with. Western religions seem to have become bound to the politics and civilisations they grew up in, not the essence of the untouched earth the people once lived on. All you need surrounds you from the moment you enter the world. The lure of possessions, power, and man made things is what’s crippled everyone. Like smallpox it’s a disease that’s now trying to destroy my people. Once we shared everything, but that respect for family and generosity which used to mean survival, provokes nothing but hatred when we try to hang on to those values in the suburbs. Family obligations are seen as overcrowding in an already run-down ghetto. It’s not the people that fail. It’s the system. Civilisation doesn’t allow respect for sharing, and disrespect for possessions. It demands competition and greed. "
They were attentive to every word he was saying until Joseph, trying to retrieve the moment had to interrupt the black youth who appeared to be talking more to himself than his friends.
"I never knew you spoke of such things."
"When Sunny said to me that you needed me, I thought he was mad, but I realise that what he wanted was to know the people who inhabited this land for longer then anyone has ever occupied any land on the face of the earth. I was only an avenue into that world, and of course I was a boy and he likes boys. He’s obsessed with symbols and he has this thing about beauty. He’s about the prettiest thing any of us have ever seen but that’s not his gift. He wants to share. That’s his gift. He’ll give what ever he has, and his looks and body are just one of the tools he’s found a way of using to share and give happiness to people. He has to give to justify his existence. I think he overdoes it, but Sunny creates so that he constantly has new things to give. Unfortunately he thinks he’s selfish at times, when he’s the most unselfish person I’ve ever met. I know he controls us. It’s his only way of giving everything he has. He’s almost aggressive in his desire for us all to be independent and whole, but instilling that independence creates lonliness, and that’s his greatest pain, the contradiction that eats at him daily. He’s got to get it balanced some how."
"I was being trained to listen and console, but you've known him the least of all of us but you seem to understand him the most. I feel ashamed. It’s so easy to forget he’s also a boy."
"Don't feel guilt. It’s just that I’m new to your circle and I came in at the point when he was discovering himself. I knew little of what had gone before so I had no preconceived ideas. But I know you all love him and so do I. We just need to give him some room. We can’t lean forever, but I'm glad I'm here."
The boys spent a month alone, hurt for various reasons, but confident that Sunny was doing what he must. Joseph taught them to sing, Henry shared more of the secrets of his people with them and they grew in maturity and the security of self awareness lifted them to a level of confidence unthought of six months past.
Sunny's heart beat rapidly in his chest as he followed the old man across sand, grass, rocks and dust. Anticipation of the fruits of this meeting and the pace of their walk mingled within his blood until the heat of exhaustion forced him to collapse onto the ground when they at last stopped high on a ridge overlooking a vast valley of hills and trees submerged in the shadow blue haze of sunset.
For four long weeks the old man and his pupil took no refuge from the elements. They covered themselves in nothing but dust, and they built no shelter. Each day they walked, meditated and slept in the open. The wind, sun and rain beat at their bodies, and the pain was savoured like whips to a flagellant. They fasted often because, it was the soul to be nourished, and the flesh to be beaten. Once the body was servant to the spirit, the control of the spirit by the acceptance of its place in nature could finally be achieved. From waiting grew patience. From nothingness grew everything.
Sunny listened in attentive awe when the man spoke, but mostly he searched and observed. More was passed on by the depth of understanding and feeling that grew between them rather than through the infrequent and simple words uttered in the course of the time they spent together. The boy knew nothing of the man; neither his name nor his tribe. From where, as if it mattered, did he come? With whom, if anyone did he live? The young one suspected that if he had a tribe, he was the native equivalent of a hermit or holy man. The boy had no idea how to describe the mysteries of a culture that he, like most people, knew very little about, and the man was not going to make it easy by telling him, but the boy would absorb. The man's age was obviously great and his wisdom profound, and the serenity with which he faced life affected the youth as much as the isolation and peace of the place. He was, whatever else, most certainly the ancient spirit of the land.
One old, one young, both alone, both the same, they played out simple childish games. Occasionally the man gathered rocks and lay them in patterns on the dust, and they would sit cross legged on the rough ground and stare at them for hours. Sunny would do the same, but laughed at the absurdity of his pile. They would walk all day without a word. The boy following the man, with the old one not noticing the presence of the younger, as he ate berries from the trees and honey from the wild bees' nests. The boy plunged his hand into the wood but gritted his teeth at the taste of insects. They imitated the dance of animals that they saw and sometimes the old one would sit and sing a low long chant at the sun as it rose or sank over the distant mountains. The haunting meditative rhythm of the Didgeridoo ran like a mantra through their minds as they sat by the lightning dance of the fire at night.
Sunny the nomad, spent no two days in the same place. The dry desert sand burnt the soles of his feet one day and the next he might have them soaked in the cool waters of a small pond recently filled from a sudden rain. The view from a mountain top contrasted soon with the deep bottom of a gorge. They may be inside a dark cave in the day to emerge into the bright moonlight at night. The sun could be blistering and the evenings freezing. This was certainly a country of many natures. The earth is like a man in its changing moods, or is it man who is like the land that he came from. God fashioned man from the mud of Eden and the wise ones amongst us accept and respect the mother from which we have all arisen. The mother who feeds us and the womb to which we will all one day return. Sunny had expected just such an experience. He had anticipated its arrival, which is why he recognised and followed so readily the stranger from the desert. He had to replace the confused mother left behind in Europe and the father who gave seed to his existence. He would now adopt nurture for his soul. The ancient earth, the ancient man, the new parents of his latest rebirth.
One morning in this northern wet season he awoke from a dream, to the sound of thunder followed soon by the sting of storm rains as it beat heavily upon his weathered flesh. He had dreamed of his cave just outside Rome. Antinous sat beside him and the old man sat before them both, poking a stick into the shrinking flames of a dying fire. Suddenly the man plunged his hand into the embers and withdrew it holding a golden box. He presented the box to the god who opened it and presented Sunny with scrolls of ancient poems, cloth of rainbows, and flowers that continued to bloom as he held them. Antinous took him by one hand and the old man took the other and through the opening they guided the boy to present him to the assembled crowd. As a great cheer rose the boy scattered the poems and flowers to the assembly, as rainbows washed over and over the heads of the naked thousands. The noise grew wilder and the colours more intense, until he saw the face of his friends and he burst into flame and rose like a column of incense to cloud the sky. The sky blackened and the thunder clapped him awake.
Looking around through the screen of water he realised the old man was gone, and he understood that although the wisdom remained, his guide had disappeared for ever. The previous evening the black father of his new awareness spoke of the boy taking what he knew and felt, back to the place of his birth. To return to the past was difficult, but to be reborn must require a return to the original womb, the source of life. All that could be taught him in the desert had been passed to him and his only remaining task was to share that with his brothers before they launched their performance in earnest. Remembering this, he realised that there could be no more isolation. Yes they were something new, but they must be at one with the world. Close to their peers, close to what they loved, but if they were to sparkle, not too familiar. This they would have to suffer. The tensions of attraction, the disappointments of opposition. If they did not remain apart they would cease to exist.
For the duration of the storm he sat in the open and let the rain wash over his body. The sun came out and the boy continued to sit motionless surveying the emptiness of the land. He could have been the first boy or last man on earth. Nothing indicated the existence of humanity. It may not have been there. Was it all a dream? At that moment it seemed possible, but the forces of nature, in all it's contrasting moods certainly erupted about him. From where did this nature, this sand, this water, this body evolve? He looked at the rainbow washed across the sky. Was this no more than refracted light. Had he not understood that this light could not be seen unless it reflects, but it came to him that by splitting that light apart we have the joy of colour. If he could put the rainbow back together it would disappear again. It became a revelation that every aspect of life has this same possibility. Opposing forces that can negate each other. Good and bad, happiness and sorrow, left and right, big and small. He always believed that the whole concept of the world was dictated by balances. Even in science, as they discovered more sub-atomic particles in the puzzle, did they also not always find it's opposite. One is negative, one is positive and if they could be put together there would be nothing. They would cancel each other out. Sunny had not been sure of God, but did He create the world from nothing? All he had to do was take this nothingness and split it in two opposing parts and there would be dimension, and time. The boy could see that from where he was the day before to where he sat that day there was distance. To get from one to the other took time, but if they had been drawn back together, if he had not moved, if he had not progressed, if he had not created - nothing. Perhaps God did exist and the universe was no more than a thought in the Divine mind, an idle whim. Maybe it is His nagging obsession. Did it matter? It did, because the boy knew he existed. He had to, and so did the wonders he saw about him. It did not matter from where he came, but to where he aspired was important to him. No matter how fragile existence may be, he loved it. He believed in the balance, as long as he could juggle. The dancing acrobatics were fine as long as he could maintain that centre of gravity. He could not afford to let things get out of control, or they would all tumble about him. From now on, he would walk the tightrope between inspiration on one end, and fulfilment at the other, but over the edge he saw the sharp rocky danger of egotism and manipulation. He would have to be careful. He thought he could. It was possible.
Sunny set off across the flooded distance that separated him from his friends who patiently awaited his return. All day and all night he walked. Through the muddied dust and across the drenched sands the small one trudged. Although tired his heart lifted as he got closer to being reunited with the group of boys that he loved so much. They were all part of the same soul and as one they acted with determination. A common will would drive them on. His will.
When Sunny opened the canvas flap of the tent, the boys were asleep in a knot of limbs huddled together in the warmth of each other’s love and bodies. Were these the ones who would support him? They had sought shelter that night from the heavy thunder storm and when Jimmy opened his eyes he saw the mud caked shape of the boy standing against the central pole smiling down at them.
"Where have you been. Just leaving us like that you bastard."
Within moments they were all covered in dust and sand as they consumed the lost boy, once again completing the puzzle they had become.
For the next two months the boys struggled with the desert wisdom Sunny had learned. They too would look upon the wonderment of nature with the eyes of new born children. They grew in strength and love and on the morning of the first of April the blessed fools went to the waterfall to play for the last time. In privacy they swam and dived, hugged and kissed in the cool water, cleansing their bodies, opening their souls. The time of their confinement had ceased. Society awaited them.
"We have proved that we need nothing except what falls before us and we now certainly have nothing in the normal sense of the word. It was free. It was nothing. We took it all. Now we can give it all back. I think it is time we got started. Mother Nature has been generous to us and it’s time we grew up and took our place in the world. Now we begin. We look like brats so lets get out there and make havoc."
The camp was dismantled and with a little coaxing the four wheel drive got them back to Alice Springs. They gave the vehicle, tent and whatever else there was to the local aboriginal camp outside the town, and as the old man had instructed him they chartered a flight back to Brisbane, the home from which the boy had first set out, his origin, his birthplace.

After all this time the vision had reappeared. The goal of my search had once again revealed itself. Like a new blossom the boy, my boy, was sitting in my garden.
Just moments before I had opened the door to be met by the beaming smiles of four lovely and familiar faces; Michael, his boy friend, another mate, and the face that had haunted me for what seemed like a lifetime. The boy stared at me and his expression changed from questioning to recognition. Before anyone had a chance to speak he took hold of my hand.
"So what do you think of me now?"
"Are you special?"
"Yes, I think I am."
"This had to happen. didn't it."
"This is Sunny. We used to go to school together."
"We know each other. Not well, but I think we will."
Michael and his friends barged straight in, and, as always, went to the cabinet and poured themselves a drink. It was a habit that I had nurtured, to make my guests feel at home. It saved me a lot of energy, not having to tend to their needs. Sunny threw a gently protective arm around my waist as we followed them into the back yard.
"We were best friends years ago. We got into a bit of trouble when I had a girlfriend and she blabbed to my mother about some erotic drawings of me in the nude. Sunny thought he was quite an artist in those days. It was really stupid but we haven't spoken for years."
When the group moved to Brisbane, Sunny managed to track Michael down. It had been a reunion full of expectation. The visit to the mountains had proved rewarding for Michael who had realised after their separation, how interesting his lost friend was. Tales of Europe and the sight of Sunny's friends was enough to fire up the local boys. Michael had arrived with a couple of mates who played in his band. They sang and drank, and James took photographs of them as they rolled about on the grass. As the day progressed Sunny grew quieter. Michael had begun to notice the change in the boy that could not be explained by the years of separation alone. He was different, not just from his old self, but to anyone. Something was burning within the boy and his old friend began to feel the heat. Sunny drew him aside and as they wandered through the bush the boy started to talk about inspiration and colours and gods, none of which made any sense to his guest. The boy was hinting at things still secret and whatever happened, he must remain unknown. It was a strange conversation but Michael seemed to grasp something that he was willing to agree with. While they strolled around, Sunny also mentioned that they hoped he could get hold of another photographer. It was at this, that I, an old, but not terribly close friend of Michael's, came into the picture. The troupe were left on the mountain and late that day I received my unexpected arrivals.
I was at least twice the boy's age. He was effervescent with beauty whereas I had long since lost the bloom of youth, and felt it. There were however no barriers. Instant rapport was not an unusual reaction for him but these days it was rare that I felt so at ease with a boy as young as he. I liked the attractions and the pleasures of youth, but it did not necessarily follow that I was always completely comfortable in the company of such flagrant prettiness. In recent years I had thought that my age had become an insurmountable barrier to happiness. Until my late thirties it had never worried me, but since my long trek around the globe, I had felt I had stepped over the edge. No longer was I able to drag my lost youth kicking and screaming into the present. The time had arrived when I could no longer face a mirror. Since the initial breakdown, I had learned to accept life a little better, but my confidence had certainly been absent at the time we had first set eyes on each other. We spoke about Paris and the meeting, although brief, that we both recalled so clearly, and as Michael and his friends drifted out of the conversation, Sunny asked if he might stay the night so we could continue our talk. The others took the hint and now that they were nicely primed, they left. There was another party to explore, more free drinks, and for them, nothing to worry about.
"Michael’s a nice guy, but we were far from being best friends. I had to contact him because he was the only person I remember from when I lived here. I haven't seen any of my family yet. So much has happened to me. Small world though, isn't it? What exactly did you think when you saw me in Paris. I was pretty stressed out at the time, but I’ve always remembered that day. "
Sunny was full of questions. I wondered where all his energy came from. He hadn't stopped talking since his arrival.
"Come on, tell me what you thought."
"Ethereal, I think is the word I would use. Stunning of course, but more than that. I felt a connection with you. It was like finding a lost part of myself. I don't mean to sound too heavy, but it's true. I was having a pretty harrowing time myself. I’d been travelling around after a long spate in the hospital. I sort of cracked up, I guess."
"Seems we collided at a mutually miserable time. Do you think like attracts it's own. I used to recall your look as if it had said I was special. It had an effect on me when the time was right. I'm glad you noticed me. When I saw you I wanted you to help but at first I doubted you could really see past my face. At that time I felt ugly and I wanted you or anyone to see how horrid I really was, or look beyond that and tell me I was fine. I felt like confused shit. I was a mess. I was blaming myself for someone's death, and although I've since realised it wasn't my fault, I didn't know where to hide."
"You’re much too pretty to hide your light."
"But I'm more than just pretty."
"People are attractive because they’re beautiful inside; you know, that special something. It shows through. I don't care what anyone says, it’s the nice people who are stunning. It makes their face different somehow. No matter how objectively plain someone might be, if they’re intelligent and genuinely generous in spirit, they take on a perfection that glows, and it can make them the most attractive people in the world. You may have been sad at the time, but I doubted you were anything but wonderful inside. Guilt doesn't make you bad. Self accusation doesn't necessarily mean you are to blame. It just shows you're concerned for your effect on people, but it's really their business how they react. You can only do your best, and if you constantly strive for that, it's not your fault if others can't understand. I’d say it's rather mean spirited of them if they refuse to see what you’re trying to do, and I do mean, refuse."
"Are you always understood? I always feel I'm misinterpreted. I think I'm seen as having a huge ego, but I wish sometimes that people could see that I don't. I try to face up to reality and make the best of it. I can't deny that I’m pretty, although even that was once a problem. That would be false humility and pretentious if I pretended not to be, but I don't want anyone to think I use it to prove that I'm better or more worthwhile."
"I once had a friend who was so pretty that he hated it, because no one would talk to him. They thought he'd be superior and aloof. His looks were a curse to him. He really was the most stunning boy, but I felt so sorry for him, when he cried out his problem to me one night. I guess it’s hard for some people to understand, but we’re so seldom satisfied with ourselves, and what seems a blessing to some, can actually be turned into a curse if we let ourselves contemplate our navel too often. I didn’t see him for years, and when I did I was so happy for him. I saw a photo of him in a magazine and he was totally bald. He was exhibiting his sculpture in galleries all around the country. He really looked content at last. It's sad that he couldn't accept being beautiful, because he was so striking it was hard to believe, but it only upset him. Maybe that unhappiness was what gave him the inspiration for his talents. Those psychiatric know-it-alls might be right about suppressed anguish finding a talent elsewhere."
"I'm not sure I agree. You’ve either got it or you haven't, and I think all of us have got some talents somewhere. Surely you don't need some great trauma in your life to justify bringing it out. It could be expressed because you’re happy. I think he sounds like a wimp. I've been there, so I should know, but you have to drag yourself out of that shit."
"Yes, but look at the list of those pathetic, neurotic, sick masters. Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Chopin, Van Gogh etc. etc. They were all a bit mad. Is that why they had to create? It's possible, but I guess we’re all a little mad, so you could be correct. Maybe it does have nothing to do with it. It's a bit like the argument about the chicken and the egg, environment verses genetics. What causes what? Who really cares. We are what we are, and you my sweet just happen to be afflicted with a beautiful face."
"I do enjoy being good looking, it would be wrong to say I don't, but I want to use it if I can. Why can't we rejoice in what is beautiful. There’s very little else you can do with it. How your bones and skin are thrown together doesn't mean much. It's only one of those accidents of genetics you just mentioned. I hope I have more to me than that, but if I can make my appearance a tool, I will. That's why I stayed behind tonight. I have to do something, and I thought you might like to help us. You see, I was hoping you could photograph us. My friends and I are going to create some furore and I want it reported in the right way. We’re going to be sensational, but sensationalism is different. I know we need publicity and I'm not going to leave it to chance. Things could get off on the wrong foot."
We talked until around three in the morning. Sunny explaining to me the outline of his belief in beauty being a gift like any artist’s talent. He was never very good at painting or writing but he felt he had inspiration that would work. He had is own special talent and he had to make use of it. It was all he had. The boy was so beautiful, but so fragile. He talked at such length about his passion to prove himself worthwhile, that it never occurred to me to question his special talent. The aura of the struggling performer said it all. I was enraptured by his plea, his dream. The evening was warm and in the course of our conversation he persisted in removing pieces of clothing, until to my surprise he asked if I would mind if he undressed completely.
"I feel much better naked and if you wouldn't mind seeing what I look like I'd be happy if I could get out of these things. Remember you did say I was pretty."
Actually he was not asking permission, because before he had finished, the tease had already removed his shorts.
Our interaction continued but the conversation had stopped, and I made no attempt to move closer to what seemed like an available boy. Although admiration obviously showed all over my face, my lack of physical attention did not appear to worry him, as he smiled at me and unselfconsciously played with himself. I could think of nothing to say as I glanced from his beautiful face to his penis. He stared deep into my eyes as he continued to please me, until unannounced he orgasmed across his chest, smiled at me, closed his eyes and fell asleep. I sat and stared at his relaxed form lying with legs spread, mouth slightly open and his breathing deepening. What a strange little person he was. He was obviously comfortable, so I too eventually went off to bed and to sleep.
I was washing the dishes when he skipped up behind me and threw his arms around my waist.
"Good morning. May I have coffee?"
"Would you like a shower and a robe.?"
"No thanks."
For three weeks Sunny stayed with me. We talked, ate, played and slept. I photographed him for my own private collection, and this he loved. He appeared to like everything I did. I was glad to have him there but could not understand why he settled in so easily. He was like a nomad who felt comfortable wherever he stood. All places were his home, but nothing was his. He refused to clothe himself, even when I received visitors. As if to challenge my guests or myself, he would be the first to the door to welcome them in with a cheeky smile. Some blushed, not knowing how to react but they soon realised they were welcome to admire or stare if they chose or ignore his obvious presence if that suited them. Admittedly it was hard, if not impossible, to ignore his effervesce and his lovely body and face. In fact no one did, but they understood that it was allowed, which made everyone feel relaxed. The boy laughed, danced and sang for everyone and at night he aroused himself for my pleasure, and his own, but still I laid not a hand upon him. To me he was a jewel, meant only to be admired, not worn. Constantly, for those days, I was on the receiving end of his bubbling tactile personality. He was such a joy to be with that I wondered what had happened to me. In his presence I felt we had so much in common, but at the same time he was everything I was not. Perhaps he was all that I wished to be. He hugged, touched and kissed me at every opportunity, and it did take determination to not respond in kind, especially when he fell asleep close to me on the chair, or at times, on my bed. My garden had never looked so fantasy-like, until it was graced by his stunning nakedness as he pranced, danced, lay across the grass, climbed trees, cartwheeled or meditated amongst the ferns and blooms of my secluded suburban oasis. So much did we discuss, but one vital fact about his talents he still failed to tell me. To my great surprise I was soon to see, with my own eyes, what I would not readily have believed otherwise, but not yet.
The day after his arrival he borrowed some paper, and wrote a letter which he asked me to post with an international money transfer for a considerable amount of money. I noticed it was to Greece, but asked no questions. While in London, Jimmy had been able to track down Andreas, and by the third week a large crate arrived on my front door-step.
"This is a bit scary, but I have something that I must see and face before I get started."
"What the hell’s in the box. It's huge."
"If you don't mind I’d like to unpack it myself. Will you help me carry it under the house? I need a fair bit of space if it’s okay with you?"
"Certainly, if it doesn't kill me, but you've made me very inquisitive."
Sunny disappeared with the crate into the large studio space set up down stairs, and remained there for several hours alone. Not until after dark that evening did he re-emerge looking exhausted but pleased with himself.
"Would it be fine if we had a few beers? I need a drink."
"What have you been doing all day, you look buggered and dirty. Take a quick shower while I get some booze on the table. Michael rang and said they’d be over this evening."
"Oh! Can you stop them? I really wanted to talk to you tonight, and I've got some things to show you. If that's okay, I'll run and have a wash, I do look rather filthy I guess. No pleasure in keeping company with a grubby little bastard like this. I also want this to be a wonderful night for us, because tomorrow I'm going to take you to meet my friends."
Sunny turned on the hot water and sat on the little wooden stool while the room filled with steam. He glanced around at the psychedelic painting that covered the walls. He had seen it every day since he arrived, but how innocent it looked compared with the canvases that Andreas produced. The black painted floor and tasteless swirls of colour were an ambitious but amateurish project of mine. I wanted to be a hippie but the best I could do was closet my alter-ego away in a single room, too embarrassed to give over my whole life to an appearance, I knew would mock the reality of my ordinary life. The boy envied what he saw as the simplicity of my life, and wished he could erase the urgency of his dreams, the expectation of his future. He lit a candle turned out the light and climbed into my old rust stained claw-footed bath. This was a special cleansing and the glow in the misty room threw shadows across the wall as if he had company. As he and his dark shadow reached for the bar of soap, they would both be baptised. He had confronted his last demon and survived. Covered in soap he stood under the spray of warm water as it swirled over him to disappear in darkness, down the drain, spiralling through the grate as it washed the last remnants of his past into the sewers, where he decided they belonged. He stepped from the shower, took an admiring glance at the dim reflection of himself in the full length mirror. No monsters, no pain, no disappointment. He could switch on the light once again. He was fresh. He was beautiful. He was very pleased.
Still dripping water he skipped into the kitchen where I was opening the frothing bottles and about to remove a couple of chilled glasses from the refrigerator.
"I couldn't stop them. They must have left already."
"Shit! Well I guess we'll just have to entertain them for a while, and postpone our night until they leave. Anyway, it can wait. Thanks for the beer."
Sunny still beamed, in spite of this minor setback to his plans. He took a swig on his beer, placed the bottle on the table and without warning, jumped on me throwing his legs up around my waist, and his arms around my neck. Not expecting this I overbalanced and the two of us tumbled to the floor. I was flat on my back as he sat on my chest, pinning me to the floor.
"You never touch me, you old bastard. Can't get away now, can you? I do like you, you know, so just stay where you are."
"Get off, or I'll bite your dick."
"No way. Your there to stay until you kiss me."
"Look, you don't want some unattractive old prick like me slobbering all over you. Let me up."
"One, you're not, and two, I do."
Sunny undid the buttons on my shirt as I protested, and planted a very wet kiss on my lips. I had the intention of objecting but what could I do? I knew what I could do. Exactly what I had longed to do since the moment I had seen him in Paris. I kissed him back. So much for determination. Wriggling across my stomach he moved down and unclasped my pants where his hands immediately burrowed towards and claimed my bit of flesh that had ached for his touch.
"Oh shit! They're here. We could ignore them. Guess not. I'll get the door, but just you wait. They have to leave some time, but then again I might not wait until they go. Don't be surprised if I attack you when you least expect it."
"Don't you dare."
Michael and his friend and another unexpected couple burst into laughter when a very erect Sunny opened the door that they had bashed on for several minutes now. They barged past him in familiarity with the household and came upon me buttoning up the last tell-tale piece of my disarray.
"What have you two been up to?"
Red faced I, tried to attempt innocence but Sunny ruined that idea by throwing his arm around my neck again and grabbing at my crotch. I offered them all a beer hoping that soon we would change the subject. Thank God we did, because the boys had wonderful news that they had formed yet another band and would be playing at the festival that was happening soon. They were so thrilled about their own tales that I was let off the hook while we listened to details about their music and what they would wear. They had each played in an assortment of unsuccessful bands but naturally this one was obviously the best, and they knew they would make it this time. How often do we see this optimism one week and find that a month later they all hate each other. Temperamental talents abound. Anyway, they were thrilled and after a couple of beers we went to the back garden to drink under the stars. Having got used to Sunny’s lack of inhibitions they thought it might be fun if they joined him there and then. I tried to object but the boy sided with his co-conspirators and I lost. It was all very innocent I guess, but certainly a new experience to have all my guests flaunting so much flesh at the same time. I think, no I know, I enjoyed it very much. Life appeared certainly to be taking an up-swing. Sunny got very drunk and tried to fondle everyone, but jumped away at the moment they tried to respond. What sort of game was he playing? I sure as hell didn't know. Around midnight we had forgotten that we were supposed to move them on as soon as possible, and Sunny announced that he had something to show us all.
"I know I'm pissed, and I was only going to show this to my beautiful host here but I changed my mind and I want you all to see what I received today. You might not appreciate it. I spent all day looking and deciding whether I should feel shame at a very messed up period in my life or if I could look at it as the past and accept that it's honest. Most of all I decided that they are fabulous pieces of art even if some ugly things are there."
He led them into the studio, and as they stood together in the middle of the room he walked slowly from wall to wall removing pieces of cloth covering the entire collection of paintings, looked on today for the first time since the horror of their execution in Venice a lifetime ago.
"Shit Sunny! What is this?"
After that outburst they stood silently as they went from picture to picture, absorbing the evil grandeur and perverse nobility of the images before their startled eyes. I was unaware of what went through the minds of our visitors. It was not long after that , they left. Comments like 'interesting?', 'Good', 'Fucking wow!'. I thought none of them were great connoisseurs of art. It was hard to know how to respond to portraits of the boy so foreign to what he appeared to be.
I did fuck him that night. On the floor surrounded by the alien pictures that I must admit aroused passions within me that opened up doors that I would rather have kept locked. Sometimes I hid my eyes in darkness, I also remembered the romance of Paris and the persistence of the last three weeks , but often I did stare at the sordid and agonised face of Sunny tortured on the canvases that enclosed us. It proved to me the fragility of the moral outer layer we feel so protects us. Yes, I did it. I revelled in it, but I would have been just as pleased with myself if I had not. I was capable, but I did not need it. The following morning we sealed them back in the container and nailed it shut.
By afternoon I was at the hidden retreat in the mountains where I was to meet the rest of the group. I decided that I should take some shots prior to getting to know the boys. It may give a different perspective to those which I might take when I had developed impressions of their individual personalities. I always liked to take varied approaches to my photography. For me it maintained a freshness and a constant interest in the new, without which I would be unable to continue. It is not just a pose or a subtle lighting change that makes a photograph. It is also the psychological aspect and the relationship of the photographer and the model that has just as much influence on the depth and sincerity of the images created. The images of the paintings I had seen the previous evening still hung in my mind but the boy I knew was not this, and I pushed them to the back of my mind. Today I had fresh ideas to create. New looks; good impressions, the day was full of sunshine. It is always easy to forget the night.
On the lawn at the back of the property I set up my camera where Sunny asked me to prepare for their display. The seven of them, the rest of whom I had at this stage not been introduced to, emerged from the house in gold bracelets and nothing else. In a line and without acknowledging my presence, they stretched out across the grass with the star of all things, in the centre.
"Please don't be too shocked. I want you to capture this."
With that said, the boys held hands threw back their heads to face the sun beating down on their browned bodies and as they uttered the first refrain of a low, soft, hauntingly rhythmic song, Sunny began to rise gracefully into the air followed by the remaining beauties in turn, as their arms stretched and tightened to pull each of them skyward. At first they ascended in a straight line and once they were several hundred feet above the ground they released their hands and in different directions they floated away, danced, swooped and spun like children at play. The innocence of the scene would have brought simple joy to anyone, were it not for the unbelievable fact that by their own force of will, they were towering high above the trees. They were flying and I was watching them.
My camera moved rapidly as I took roll after roll of film with my trembling hand. I was not at all prepared for this, but I at least knew to keep the film clicking. The nervous breakdown could come later. My heart beat so rapidly in my chest that I feared that I may not live to have the inevitable crisis of belief, but still I photographed what I knew to be images never before captured. In my mind I could already see the black and white printed paper that would be disbelieved, examined, scorned and no doubt sought after.
I will never know what sustained me for that first spectacular hour I spent with them, but somehow I managed to survive to be introduced to them when they again assumed the guise of mere mortals, and had returned to the level upon which I could communicate. Charm and serenity poured from every ounce of their slim frames, and it was obvious the affection they had for each other. I had never experienced the freedom with which these boys felt and expressed the bond with which Sunny had united them. Observing the open genuineness of their relationship I now got a better understanding of the background to the familiarity with which I had been treated these last weeks. With confidence in each other and themselves they had lost any trace of unnecessary inhibitions that hold so many of us back. I envied them.
We dined that evening under the stars and I was invited to stay the night so that we could share some experiences, and they were particularly interested to know about the current life of the city from which they would launch their campaign. The city had changed. As elsewhere the students had risen up and taken to the streets. Costumes had changed, communication had speeded up and the tyranny of distance no longer kept fashions, and tastes, and ideas separate from the rest of the world. It had been a short time, a little over three years since the boy had left, but the speed of change had accelerated so much in that time. The politics of the time had become reactionary and would continue in this way for some time to come, but as elsewhere, the seeds of resistance were growing, and they would come and go for many years before the city truly grew up, but it had at last started. Cafe life had taken hold, and people had begun to move out of their back yards and into the dark and dingy spaces where they could talk, sip coffee, eat toasted cheese sandwiches and exchange ideas, and not be reliant on family gossip alone to provide conversation. Asian migration had not yet begun, but the Anglo Saxon influence was at least being diluted by the heavy influence of the Italian and Greek arrivals. The place could hardly be called cosmopolitan, but the pastel plainness of the previous decade was undergoing a metamorphosis, not always tasteful, but at that period in the world, taste would be looked back on everywhere with affection if not a little laughter.
Two days later the boys arrived at my home to see the results of the spectacular photographs, if I do say so myself, that we had taken that fabulous afternoon. They selected the prints that should be used and I set about running off copies to distribute to the newspapers at a time to coincide with the upcoming festival of music and arts being held in the country some hundred miles from the city.
Perhaps like some sort of Public Relations Officer I became a fringe dweller to the camp of extraordinary youth that would soon wage war on the unimaginative and unappreciative. The band were now apostles, but I was a mere disciple, although with Sunny I had developed a bond as strong as any I had ever known. So strong was my relationship with the boy that without noticing it, my confidence had returned with such force that I could hardly remember how I could have felt any different. Insecurities faded into the past and disappeared. Life was so full, I would live forever.
The boy had no real desire to see any of his family, but the day before we set out for the festival, I drove him to see his Grandparents, and his Uncle Bill. It would be an understatement to say that his Grandmother was shocked to see him. They had been told when he disappeared the previous year, and since that time he had made no contact with Sophie and Archie. His Grandmother shouted at him for what he had done to them all.
"I just wanted to let you know I'm okay, so you could tell mother."
"Do you know what that woman has been going through?"
Jimmy bought an old bus and after painting it with sunflowers and stars, and a few internal modifications, we set off to the festival. The wondrous sight of the multicoloured heap of smoke belching rust, trundling through the countryside excited the roadside kids and annoyed the older farmers in the district. Frustrated by the change in society, they had failed in their bid to stop the encroachment of so many 'drug taking Hippies from the Big Smoke' into the peace and quiet of their contented little valley.
Tens of thousands of people had gathered in a field surrounded on three sides by mountains and rain forest. Tents littered the outer ring surrounding a lake. A stage and numerous stalls had been set up to sell, barter and exchange foods and crafts brought by the assembled crowd. Performances continued day and night as the vast numbers sang, danced, swam, smoked and continued to explore the idea of shared enthusiasm for the talents and friendship of each other.
During the days of the festival the boys created many of their own performances. The first day, away from the main area they painted their bodies and in sarongs they stood upon a rock and sang songs written by Joseph. Following this they outlined a circle in which Henry led them in a dance he had devised to tell the story of the birth of the first artist. The Twins took centre stage for acting out the lives of Castor and Pollux while Hans narrated the ancient tale in his charming German accent. At each piece they gathered more and more onlookers as news of the charm and beauty of what they did, spread throughout the mini city. Michael's group even helped them out once or twice, but they had their own determination to cope with. Jimmy and I recorded on film everything that was done.
The once blue lake soon became heavily silted as the mass of celebrants swam and played day and night. On the edge, people soon found themselves ankle deep in the squelch, and often, through the crowd could be seen groups of wanderers covered in nothing more than dried, caked mud. The boys of course, felt quite at home in their guise as children of mother earth. Sunny thought Adam may have looked like this the first day he rose in the Garden; at least until he found where God had put the blessed water he created, and had the first bath.
Most evenings we slept in the open with the rest of the crowd, except for one evening when it rained and we spent the night in the bus, where we invited as many people as could possibly squeeze into the confined space. That night, none of us got any sleep at all, because inevitably it turned into one cramped and noisy party, and as people climbed in and out of the bus to dance in the rain there was soon as much mud inside as there was outside. Although it had not been planned this way, Sunny ended up sitting in the middle of the enlarged group, looking like a guru and his followers, while he talked at length of self expression and once again he related some of the events he had devised when he was on the streets of London. Michael and friends were there as well and Sunny and I took them aside to suggest that if anything unusual happened they should hold on to the secret, because more was yet to come. Of course no one had the faintest idea of what we were talking, but I made them swear they would be silent.
The final night of the gathering ended with a huge bonfire, and the official program had finished in such high spirits that it was not hard to convince the organisers to let Sunny take the main stage for a short period. He and his band had become known during those short days as a very entertaining innovative group. They captured the imagination of all who came into contact with them, and were becoming the most popular unofficial act at the festival. Hundreds were dancing naked around the fire and most were stoned or drunk in the final party evening before they would return to the universities, offices, communes and dole queues the next day. Without any introduction Sunny took the microphone as the boys ceremoniously covered their bodies in red paint at the foot of the stage. Initially no one particularly noticed them in the midst of such abandoned fun.
This time when it hit the magazines and newspapers there were photographs, courtesy of what I had already mailed off in time to arrive at the same time as the news broke. Instantly there were stories linking this with the events in Rome the previous year. The reappearance of the flying boy erupted more spectacularly than on the previous occasion. Not hidden and reported by a few it was now witnessed by the thousands, and there were pictures.
Soon it was followed up with appearances in other states around the country, however the boys were quick to disappear after each event so that who they were remained a secret, known to only a few who treasured their association too much to reveal the identity or whereabouts of the troupe of players. On each occasion they created theatrical events out of song, dance, poems and adorned themselves in originality, careful not to repeat any event except on each occasion Sunny sometimes alone, sometimes with one or more of the boys, finished off their display by soaring into the air to disappear to some prearranged spot to where the others escaped, when people were distracted by the incomprehensible sight of youth defying the laws of nature.
Behind them they left imagination straining to explain and understand why such things were happening.
In the eighteen months or so that followed, Jimmy's fortune dwindled as the boys, and I, the adopted camp follower, flew from country to country, creating sudden unexpected events that aroused the curiosity of people on every continent. It was becoming more and more of an adventure to devise ways of disappearing from sight and maintaining our anonymity after Sunny, and the six apostles stormed from one spectacular display to another. What the world constantly saw, was a mixture of poetry, dance, music and theatrical eroticism. The combined effect of these ingredients, not always particularly outstanding in themselves were set alight and made special by the miraculous impact of the ultimate fulfilment of creative self realisation; FLYING.
In the wake of their passing, cities developed groups and individuals, dedicated with intensity to the pursuit of and creation of beauty. A flowering of the arts burst in sunshine across the countries of the earth. Boundaries began to disintegrate as the universal appeal of generous encouragement spread through first hundreds and soon millions of inhabitants of the prettiest planet known to us. United in the quest for the happy acceptance of our inner worth people talked, travelled, and soon we saw the spread of confidence into isolated areas far from the scene of these miraculous apparitions. It was now 1972 and the great cry of the Sixties ' We shall overcome' gradually transformed itself into the triumphant anthem 'We have overcome' . Yes ,we have overcome this day.'
Not all of their creations however were spectacular news breaking events. As in England, where Sunny led his original terrorists, the new group spent much time on the streets, where more intimate impact was foisted upon individuals and small crowds of shoppers and commuters. In Eastern bazaars, African markets, Asian arcades and European and American malls they were just as dedicated to confronting unwary passers by, with startling and happy escapades. There was soon competition for the attention of the masses as more and more groups took up the challenge to entertain, provoke and inspire. Poets broadcast their voices to any crowd that gathered, public dancing sprang up in the most unusual places, and in parks and on streets traffic was halted while people gathered to watch performances that spontaneously erupted at any time of the day and night. Juke Boxes dwindled as more and more instrumentalists, singers and bands, or small chamber groups took over the entertainment. They were at last given the opportunity, that had been increasingly denied to them since the age arrived of modern, electronic and cheaper use of recorded performances. The limitations developed, because of the powerful restraints of legally controlled and contracted performers and entertainment, were increasingly opened up to thousands of people wanting to express their talents. Everyone could have a go.
Distraction from the sorrows and aggression of life's dark side, like a virus, began to take hold of the populations spread across the globe. Festivals sprang up in cities previously unaffected by interest in such things, and the participation in established celebrations grew enormously in the short period it took to awaken the spirits. Galleries began to bulge, theatres extended seasons, books sold in such numbers that in fear of depleting the forests, recycled paper at last became financially viable, and in the back streets and parks people filled cafes and picnic grounds as they found joy in sharing and gathering together to explore each other’s offerings. There grew an expectation that the approach of the new millennia would prove to be just as foretold by the prophets; a period of peace.
While changes washed over the earth like a tidal wave, the catalyst of this regeneration began to put thought into his eventual climax. He had achieved so much through his inspired example that inside him grew a desire to outstrip anything he had previously done and bring to a close his part in the renewal evolving within the souls of mankind. The days of his influence must end and he chose to bring it to finality soon, and with one last explosion of his optimism. The momentum which he had given the initial energy to, must now proceed under it's own power and that was the truly great thing that he could accomplish. He had no need to lead, only inspire others to discover what they had within themselves, and this he had always hoped to achieve. Did they respect themselves? Had he done more than entertain. It appeared so but still he feared that we sometimes only see what we want to. His dreams, his delusions perhaps.
The better things seemed to become, the more responsibility he took on himself, the more the boy began to doubt. He failed to accept his own observations. As others took up the challenge, he gradually began to weaken in his resolve. The strength of the masses sapped his own. Dreams began to return, where his self image tumbled. What gave him the right to impose his vision on the rest of them? He felt, but felt what? Coldness entered his heart. Sudden illogical stage fright. More and more often he turned to me to pour out his fears and confusions but no matter what advice I gave I felt that it was never enough. He would hug me and agree, but still I sensed that no matter what he said he could not feel the solution in his soul. The others were not blind to the developing depression undermining his confidence, but they prayed that it would pass. It was natural that he should have doubts occasionally. He was entitled to his Gesthemany. He was only a boy.
The sound of thousands of people cheering in the distance could be heard as Sunny met up with the boys and myself on the roof of a deserted building in a small alleyway off The Strand in London. It had been the first time he had returned to that city since leaving shortly after the death of Anthony, some years before. When they arrived three days earlier, they had postered the city to attract the populous to Trafalgar Square, the scene of one of his early battles with ugliness.
Police on horseback tried in vain to control the vast crowd that had been assembling since the posters had first appeared on the streets. For days some had waited in expectation, not knowing the time of the boy's arrival, but in harmony they spent the days and cold evenings huddled together singing and performing for each other. From every approach could be heard the sounds of voices raised in chorus, and the explosion of cheers as groups responded to the excitement growing in anticipation of what might lay ahead.
Around midnight the sound of a helicopter could be heard overhead and from the sky the petals of ten thousand flowers showered down upon the assembled crowd. From the top of the National Gallery, St. Martins in the Field and surrounding office blocks, bolts of red cloth were unfurled down their facades by the members of Sunny's old terrorists whom he had contacted before arriving in the city. A window in one of the buildings opened and from inside could be heard the amplified recorded sound of Joseph’s pure voice singing unaccompanied with the most alarming clarity and simple melodic passion. As the sound of his voice stilled the mass gathered around the column, the boys from around several back streets launched a series of bright red flares in to the sky that lit up with a glow not seen in London since the Blitz. All eyes raised heavenward and amongst the red smoke reflecting the descent of dozens of stars, could be seen the dancing white figure of Sunny swooping above the ecstatically held breath of the thousands struck dumb like so many before them. Flares continued to light up the night as the boy's naked form dazzled the multitude. As the glow descended and the vision faded, the voice of the boys in unison could be heard from the speakers.
"Do it.
You can do it.
Believe in yourself and you will do it."
The boys' voices died down and as Sunny swooped over the crowd he screamed at them.
"You can do it. You don't need me. You don't need me."
The assembly were crying out their sheep-like agreement and shouting their excitement as the boy, now gone, quickly dressed with his friends, and disappeared from the rooftop, across the city to Priscilla's apartment where they were staying.
Over coffee that evening the boy shocked them with the news that it was all about to end. He was calm, but from the moment he had landed on the roof, he had said nothing, he had not smiled, only stared at an invisible thought dangling before his emptiness.
"From tonight I think we should go off in different directions for a while. I'm not sure I can go on."
To cries of 'No' the boy simply lowered his head and continued to say what he had been planning to explain for several weeks now.
"I think we’ve just about done what we can, and if you really believe in the potential of humanity, you must now give it a chance to prove to itself that it has the creative courage to do what it will. We’ve ignited the flame and given some strength to those who needed a bunch of fools like us to show them that if you accept the dangers of self exposure, you can happily express what’s locked within your own wonderful person. Our role is almost finished. I want to do one more thing and then I wish to leave it to others to find their own way. If we continue we’ll become the obsessive centre of what should belong to everyone. They’ve looked at us and now they’re taking up the challenge and that we must let them do. Our time’s almost over.
"I need to spend some time by myself to work out what my future’s going to be and I want to meditate on the best way of exiting one door and finding the next one. We’ve had such a spectacular time in the last couple of years it’s going to be hard to adjust, but life is long and we must prepare for a change in our future. I’ve had enough. "
Sunny felt he should have burst into tears at that moment. The tension had built, the sadness was there, but the emotion would not come. No one really knew what to say and eventually the others bedded down on various couches and spare beds around Priscilla's spacious residence. Although disturbed by Sunny's revelation they all managed to fall asleep quickly. He and I curled up together in a room of our own. He said nothing but held me tightly until I drifted off to dream memories of days that never happened. Around ten in the morning when everyone awoke, there was a note on the kitchen bench.
"I’ve gone to search for my future. I'm not sure I can keep this up any longer. I don't want to be the centre of this. I don't think I have..... I don't know. Please travel and continue to spread what we have initiated and I pray that you will forgive my sudden departure. If you can maintain any faith in me after this quick and impersonal exit I would hope that we can meet again one day at the Spanish Steps in Rome where this more or less began. If I can I will find you, but I will understand if you do not come as it is cowardly of me to run away like this, but I know it’s the only way I can break from those that I love. I have to go. Please do not look for me. I will be fine.
My most affectionate love.
It had only been three years, but Sophie had aged considerably. The boy felt some guilt when he gazed upon her face as she opened the door to her flat in Kensington, where she now lived alone. He discovered her address from the staff at Covent Garden, and unannounced, he knocked on her door early that very morning when he had left one life, to return to another life he had abandoned the last time he ran away.
"Oh my God! "
Sophie burst into tears as she threw her arms around her son, just about squeezing the breath out of him as she hugged and kissed him while trying to control the shaking of her shocked, excited reaction.
"Please forgive me. I'm so sorry for what you must have been through. I think I've been doing the right thing but that’s still no excuse for cutting myself off like that."
The predictable conversation continued into the evening as apologies, explanations, forgiveness and questions passed between them. Sunny slept on the couch that evening and the following day Archie arrived. Although they no longer lived together, Sophie and her husband remained on reasonably amicable terms; seeing each other occasionally for dinner or a short chat over a glass of Bourbon in a Pub.
Recriminations ceased as the family were reunited for the first time since the sad and sudden parting in Venice. Sophie still sang, and Archie still painted but he had all but become an alcoholic. They knew what the boy had been up to since there had been a growing explosion of his exploits in almost every newspaper and magazine in the world. He did however fill them in with details of what the journalists did not know and his current state of indecision.
For so long people had depended on him to lead and support. It was now obvious to his parents that he again needed them. It was once again time for him to lean upon them. His mind required a rest and if someone could take over running his life for a while, he could recharge for his final act.
After talking for several hours he went for a walk around the streets until he found a park where he could sit under a tree and blank out his mind. Now that he had explained himself he could stop thinking for a period of rest, clear everything from his mind, make no plans, and just exist.
Sophie and Archie had sat in silence for a while when Sunny closed the door behind him.
"It's nice for us all to be together again. I'm glad you rang me straight away."
"What do you think we should do? The boy obviously needs help from both of us, and we have a responsibility to look after him when he calls on us."
"While he was talking, I couldn't stop thinking that we might be able to give it a try. I mean you and I. We make a good team when we're all together. This is a bit sudden, but what do you think?"
"I think we were wrong. Don't you see what we did. That boy had a lifetime of us pushing him to be special. He got this obsession that he was different, better, unique. He is, but he’s lonely. Can't you see it? He doesn't feel like anyone else, and he can never really relate to anyone. He always has to be one step ahead. How will he ever be happy if he can't find someone to be close to."
"So we were wrong. We tried. Who says we’re to blame? He's a big boy now and it's up to him what he does. But at the moment he needs help. All we can do is support him. How about it?"
Sunny felt like a little child again. Sitting on a park bench, he watched as other children played with each other and their parents. Full of confidence, they knew they could yell and push as much as they liked. Those were the rules of the game, the freedom of here and now. No restraints. St. George could do no more. He had put the monsters to death. They should have all vanished by now. He was tired, and thought, that alone he could not possibly continue the fight. Yes, he was loved and talked about. Yes, he could give sexual joys to every boy or man he knew. That was just it, he could share himself with anyone. He liked everyone but could he love anyone. He had thought that he did, but now he was uncertain. Perhaps it was his exhaustion. The mind can work irrational wonders when it's vision is clouded under stress. Anthony was truly his lover, but it had failed. It was not his fault that the boy died, but even before that, he only now realised, were they really that close? Wasn't it true that barriers did exist, and for these he could only blame himself, for not realising their existence and doing nothing to bring them down. All his boys loved him but he led them and it was as if he spread his favours as rewards. He enjoyed the pleasures, he enjoyed the group and what they did, but did he need any of them. What would it be like if they left him? Would he suffer? He was too isolated to suffer that loss. Had he not been the one who had just left them? He could not include me in the same grouping as the others. I was older and he knew it but he had an affection for me that was even more difficult for him to understand and to leave, but leave he must. Doubt had once again toppled him. He was a child and that was why he had returned like the prodigal. He prayed that it would be into the welcoming embrace of the two people he had left sitting in the kitchen.
Sophie and Archie at first argued, soon compromised and eventually agreed. They were a family. They each of them had responsibilities. Roles had been allocated and even though they may have mistaken some of the lines, the play appeared to be back in production. As the only son opened the door he was pleased to see his parents sitting smiling at each other across the kitchen table. They glanced at the boy, smiled and all three sat down united in a circle, where each sat beside the other. They each could hold the hands of the two people they needed.
I was shocked by this sudden departure, but life had taught me that you can hold on to nothing for very long. It may become a part of you, like a limb or an organ but that is no guarantee that you own anything. Joseph was the one who suffered most of all. The others had loved and lost but to Joseph it was the first experience of love and his first pain of loss. The short hastily scribbled note had said he would return, but was it certain? What about the intervening time? All had grown together and now it had been cut off. The emptiness and fear slammed into the boy's heart like a rusty blade that ripped him apart. Too stunned to cry, he was unable to speak. All he could feel was a slowness in his brain as it tried to cope with the thoughts that leapt at him, without logic, without rhythm, without hope. As one image appeared to him it became jumbled with another and a desire erupted inside his bones to scream out, but nothing was a solution to the confusion that for the terrifying moments of their onslaught made him want to run into nothingness where he would not be aware of even thought itself.
Often he had heard of the mess in Sunny's brain caused by Anthony's chosen departure, but was this not the boy doing unto others what had been done unto him? Was it not the most selfish and cowardly action he could have taken? How could he have been so spitefully inconsiderate? Joseph had abandoned his pre-ordained passion for the church and followed the boy as requested, and now he and the others had been dropped. Oh yes, he said he would come back for one last adventure and that would be it. It was to finish. Why so soon? What then would become of them? The ex- novice had been brought up to believe that vows would be made for life, but was life not eternal? Could not happiness go on for ever? What was so vile about life that only pain could be everlasting. Was the good we grasped occasionally meant only as a tease, a taste, a persecution?
Throughout that disgustingly long day, we each felt a little anger, some small thread of hope, but mostly confusion, but Joseph would not be consoled. Usually the calm and philosophical member of the group, he had been thrown off balance. He left Priscilla's apartment and disappeared for the remainder of the day. The rest of us sat around discussing what we should do. Should we have faith in him to return? Was it really going to be over soon? Perhaps it was time, just as the boy had said.
Joseph meanwhile had run down the street and forgetting the underpasses he dodged his way through the traffic across the intersection and into Hyde Park. He ran to the centre of the green and laying against the earth he cried into the grass until he could again stand. He left the park and walked aimlessly through Westminster and back to Trafalgar Square where the night before his voice had floated through the air across the heads of thousands of people looking for a future. Now the area was nothing but pigeons and thoughtlessly discarded rubbish left behind by the faithful as they had moved on to the next entertainment. From this cold and desolate scene he turned to St. Martins-in-the-Fields and stepped inside. Sitting in a corner he cared little that this was not his church for he was not certain that it was God, of any religion, that he had come to see. Had he made Sunny his god, and by so doing had he killed the god of his fathers forever? Did he give too much of himself to another as an act of worship that had destroyed his own self worth? It did not seem at the time that he had done any more than accept an opportunity to be exceptional, but the moment his inspiration had walked away through a simple doorway, his life had been thrown immediately into turmoil, and this was far from pleasant or admirable. Something was wrong with what he had done, but he could not understand what he had done wrong. To train for individual self expression and proud creativity should not, at the first opportunity to stand on your own two feet, produce this pain as a consequence. He left the church and found a pub instead where for an hour or so he sat alone drinking Guiness until he was approached by an old man with a newspaper rolled up under his arm.
"Do you mind if I plonk my old bones down with you for a while? You look as if you need company lad."
"If you wish, but I'm afraid I’m not good company at the moment."
"You youngens are all the same. No disrespect, but you all seem to have the weight of the world on your shoulders. You’ll be old before your time. Look at me. I'm almost seventy five and I've fought in two world wars, most of my old friends are dead now and so are most of my relatives, but so what. That’s what it’s all about. We each have our own bit of time here and no one else’s going to enjoy it for us."
"That is just what I was thinking. Are you a mind reader or my guardian angel?"
"Just an old survivor. Do you ever read these papers? The crosswords fill in some of my day, but I read every other bit of news as well, even the financial reports. I don't have any money of course but I find out everything that goes on in the world. Mostly I don't like what I see but at least I know it’s there. It's always been the same you know. Politics makes a lot of noise but basically everything else is always the same. It's just someone else repeating what someone did before. If you like it, it’s sort of secure. Why not feel comfortable in the world. You realise that there is no point worrying because it’ll always be the same."
"Why do you sound happy about it? If nothing changes what’s the point? That sounds even more depressing."
"Laddie I didn’t say it wasn’t good. You have to keep trying. If we didn't try none of the good bits would happen. You see, people do keep trying. Each age has it's group of triers and that’s what keeps us going. It’s still important to want to, but don't be smug thinking that no one ever did it before. This generation of hippies think they are the only ones who ever wanted freedom. All this Love and Peace everywhere. That’s so basic. What makes them think no one else in the world ever wanted it before them. I bet the cave men wanted love and peace but they didn't have an advertising agency to make it a slogan. It's like Psychology, once we can put a label on it we think we’ve discovered something new and solved the problems of the world by putting bits in the pigeon hole. It’s all common sense and neither you nor I are the first to have some."
"It sounds like it’s all a game to me."
"It is. Life is a game. We all get to go around the same board. Roll a dice and see where you land. We all have the same chance to play it well or not, but it’s still the same game, with the same rules. Admire the champions but don't blame the one's who get a bad turn of the dice, and on the other hand, don't blame anyone else if you get the wrong numbers. Play well but don't think it's a competition. Cricket was once a game of gentlemen who enjoyed it just for the sake of the sport, but look at some of them now. You’d think it was a battle. Too much competitive spirit is bloody selfishness now, but like all things it will pass. It's just a phase. What ever is worrying you boy is just a phase. Life or death, it’s still a phase."
Joseph fell to the influence of the drink and the lecture he was subjecting himself to and both were spinning in his brain as the afternoon stretched on. The old man continued to enlighten him and he gradually came back to peace. Relaxation and acceptance returned. He excused himself to visit the toilet and when he returned the old man had left. The newspaper remained on the table but an article had been torn from the front page and was sitting on his chair.
"Your back. We were worried about you all day. Where have you been?"
"Talking to my angel."
James and Henry went to Canada and worked their way down the Americas, visiting festivals and clubs where they attached themselves to groups of performers and helped out where they could. Henry taught more people about Aboriginal dancing then had previously even heard of it. Joseph and Georgie first went to Ireland and then travelled through every European country they could gain access to before briefly visiting the Middle East and then Africa. Hans and Frank set out for India and the East. Each did what he could but they were determined to meet again one day in Rome, at the sleazy little hotel with the sleazy little porter who had shown them such kindness a long time ago.
I came home to Brisbane. I was not a performer. I had much to do while I waited. I had much to think about, much on which to reflect. Who was writing this sad boy's life. The most beautiful, gifted, and happiest of all creations possessed a sadness I could not recognise, could not consume, could not still, but he was my boy. I would light the candle in the window and wait for him, my child of sorrow.

Small feet submerged in the water, Sunny sat alone on the sand watching the seagulls swoop and plunge headlong into the ocean. When they had spotted their prey the scavengers appeared to fall from the sky only to rise screaming and triumphant in satisfaction of their conquest. Would he climb back up in the same way? Could he soar to heights once more? Did he want to? He did feel that the flame that had fired within him had al last, consumed all that he had to give? Burnt-out. However his ever faithful myths and legends reminded him that even though Icarus plunged to the sea with withered wings, the ever renewing Phoenix always rose Christlike from the ashes. Yes, there always was another chance if he could just figure out what it was. Resurrection. Change. Three days descent into Hades. Pain. Suffering. Confusion. Loneliness. Confidence abandoned, and inspiration dead, the creator's mind was stilled. No longer was he in his secret garden. He had entered the dark grove where his followers could not keep vigil with him. Eden was now Gesthemene. Sweet apples to bitter olives. The fear of the burden he carried pushed tears from his searching eyes. Should he do anything, or had the ego destroyed humility and worth for ever? Perhaps there was no more to do? Perhaps he had done too much, or he could even have been wrong? Is it all too late? Had the legend already run its course? Nothing to do but mull over the past on this island, this Patmos. Had fate brought him to where he should be, alone as he deserves?
Running away was just what a boy should do. Forget, and be a boy, a small and pretty boy, a loved boy, a son.
Back in the rainforest, Sophie and Archie walked hand in hand along the cool damp paths. Wet decaying leaves slid underfoot as they rotted into the earth to be reborn in the growth of new life springing up about them. The cycle of nature turned quickly in the lush vegetation of the thick forest. On the problems of their past, they had resurrected a marriage now more deeply committed than the passionate first days of their love at the closing of the war. Their relationship, although severely tried, had weathered the turbulence and come through.
Sunny had flown home to Queensland with his parents. They had briefly visited the relatives and from there, they went to an island off the coast where they could be together in isolation from the world, while all three worked on rebuilding a life that had been turned upside down. Aquarius could dawn without them for a while. They had returned to the spring to start again.
The decision to retreat came quickly, as the three spent tentative happy days together in London, discussing what would be best for each of them. Sophie and Archie united in their love for their child, and he in turn was more interested in seeing them overcome their problems then contemplate his own direction. Archie had nothing to hold him; he could paint anywhere, and it was probably time that he changed his environment before stagnation set in. Sophie decided she had achieved enough training and experience throughout Europe, that she could now base herself in Australia and conduct her career from there. Apart from these considerations she had no engagements for at least four months and she could just as easily study her upcoming roles in the peace and quiet of an island hideaway.
When Sunny left the beach to return to the cabin they had rented, he beamed to himself at the approaching laughter of his parents, as they arrived back soon after he had settled down to read a novel just published by one of his old London friends. He felt pride in seeing the fulfilment achieved by the vested boy who had played the drum at his eighteenth birthday party. One of his original band of performance artists had received fairly good reviews for his first book; a sad but poetic look at life lived by the outcasts on the streets of Liverpool, his home town. He closed the book again, laid it on the grass matting floor beside him and went to the door to greet the smiles of his reunited mother and father.
"Did you have a nice day? I've been on the beach all afternoon. It's so calm out there."
"Thank you darling, it’s been a most wonderful day, I almost feel that 'George' might drop in tonight."
"Not the camel!"
They all burst out laughing at the mention of their long lost companion. This was indeed a happy occasion. They had only spent one night there since arriving late the day before and already the atmosphere was brighter. The three had always reacted well when alone and cut off from the world. Since the early days, as a family they were not only self sufficient, but actually blossomed when allowed to be so. Mistakes had probably been made but they had taken chances and they appeared well rewarded. Nothing is certain or permanent, but they had done their best and who knows, what is a temporary setback may only be hiding the eventual success they had always aimed for. The play is never over until the curtain falls. Who knows what the next act might be. To Sophie and Archie what had happened was only the intermission. The boy wanted to believe. He almost convinced himself that he was back at the beginning and the dream of his life was just that, a dream.
"I'm afraid your mother has been belly dancing again and you know how randy that camel gets. He can smell a good time from anywhere. The Bedouins are restless. This sexy woman’s stirred them up again."
"But Sahib, me just an orphan boy and don't know such things. Me too pure and innocent."
"All right you two, this not so little slave girl is going to cook us some dinner. Why don't you go and clean that breakfast mess off the table so we can sit in some relatively civilised space to eat."
The atmosphere was secure and comfortable as each adopted their respective roles, both real and fantasy. The rules were laid out years ago and could be called upon to ease the wounds of the past and calm the uncertain steps of the future. The mother-wife embraced and supported them both with warmth. The father-husband regained a strength to protect and care for his family, and the son resumed the role of the faithful and obedient student. None of this was a leap forward, politically or in maturity but it was of necessity the correct and encouraging thing to do at this time of reaffirming lost relationships.
For the first few days they reverted to a life that they were familiar with before leaving Australia in 1967, except that now they had isolated themselves on an island instead of their previous suburban oasis. Sunny however still liked to spend as much time alone as he could manage; not to think but to try not to think. He sat and meditated for hours, taking up a simple sound or picture that he could concentrate on until his mind cleared of all thought and in the uncluttered blankness he could hibernate and rest. At other times he, Sophie and Archie fished, swam, strolled, played cards and generally got involved in the most simple and childlike of activities.
There were other cabins on the island but each of them was spread far from one another. Most were unoccupied. The Draytons only ever saw other holiday makers once and that was from a distance. Isolation was their’s, except for the sudden appearance about a month after they arrived, of a boat they discovered one morning moored just off the shore, close to their private patch of forest. No one could be seen on board so they ignored its presence and did as they had planned that day. Sophie and Archie set out on a long walk to try and navigate their way around the island. Anticipating that it might take them all day they took food and water and left soon after breakfast. Sunny locked up, and with a book in hand he intended spending the day at a clear fresh water pool in the centre of the rain forest. The small pond was fed by a spring, trickling into it from a mound of boulders a few metres from the narrow but deep hole. He had discovered this spot a few days before, and the idyllic surroundings were a rewarding touch of paradise. Thoughts of Elysium and the pretty youths of a perfect past could arouse memories of his childhood days on the mountain of Olympus.
He ran through the trees in his sarong, carrying a bag stuffed with fruit a towel and his volume of Twentieth Century Romantic Verse. Thick ferns surrounded the sun dappled space and the boy stretched himself out on a small pebbled edge, just beside the dribble of water working its way into the pool. High up in the canopy of trees he could hear the rustle of leaves as a gentle sea breeze swayed the branches reaching like outstretched arms, for the sun above. The sound of birds flying and singing to each other and the soft splash of the tiny stream added music to the silence. Soon a shaft of sunlight would hit the spot where he lay as the sun rose higher in the sky. He removed his sarong, rolled the towel into a ball, rested his head on it, and closed his eyes in anticipation of the warmth he would feel as the sunshine edged its way slowly across his body. His senses intensified as he concentrated on each experience. The sounds isolated from one another grew louder, as he tuned into each of them in turn. He began to notice the array of odours emanating from the vegetation both dead and alive, and beneath his back he could feel every small pebble as it dented his skin. The alternating cool and warmth of the breeze which was hardly noticeable could be sensed as it drifted through the almost invisible hair on his limbs. Yes, this was the control of his own enjoyment for which he had always been grateful. At least he could still turn himself on. He could create his own high. A true oneness with his surroundings and a sensitivity towards it that united him to the earth. The man in the desert had shown him the connection of his being with that of mother earth. He felt it strongly. There are always temporary disappointments but that aside, this is truly 'the best of all possible worlds'.
The sun did caress his body and for a while the calm and peace sent him into a light sleep as he relaxed in this wonderful little pocket of the universe. His mind was still, and more contented he could not have been.
Refreshed he awoke and after looking around at the beauty before him he propped himself on one elbow and opened his book and began to read. The poems that he found, as he flicked to and fro through the pages, brought a warm smile to his face as he read of love and creation, in words thrown together in structured grace that fertilised the brain. He thought that poetry was like a seed from which your own imagination grows. Planted by someone, else it is the reader who nurtures the image and brings forth whatever blossom they are capable of. He read for an hour or so, and then once again he lay back eating an apple as he watched a pair of birds skip from branch to branch, working their way down closer to the water's edge to take a quick tentative drink and dart immediately back high into the trees.
Closing his eyes again his thoughts drifted towards scenes of the Garden of Eden when all was perfect. He felt, as he thought Adam, before the arrival of Eve, must have felt, when his only companions were the birds and beasts and nature was always kind.
"Hi there."
Startled, Sunny opened his eyes to the unexpected intrusion of a small group of people into his private domain. He had completely forgotten the boat they had seen that morning.
"Sorry if we alarmed you. This place looked deserted. Do you mind if we join you?"
The four of them sat down on the bank of the pool and put their feet into the water to rinse the mud and damp leaves from their toes.
Elizabeth was somewhere around her mid-fifties. She was once an athlete which had given her a very firm body still glowing with health. Her very brown small breasts remained attractive as she sat cooling herself in the boy's retreat. Her daughter Katrina, also topless and very much like her mother, had been a student until they decided to set sail for a life of exploration. The boys were Sebastian, Elizabeth's twenty year old son, and his friend Peter, also twenty. They had been friends since school. There was no confusion as to their relationship as Peter was immediately introduced by the older woman as her son's 'wonderful boyfriend'. The well suntanned four, who hailed from Perth, were all dressed in identical shorts sewn somewhat roughly, by Katrina from a length of tie dyed cloth they had bartered from a productive little hippy as they worked their way up the east coast of Australia. They were on the first adventurous trial leg of their planned trip around the Pacific.
"It looks deep enough to swim in. Do you mind? Have you tried it out?" asked Sebastian.
"Yes, feel free. It's not my pool."
The new arrivals stripped off and dived straight into the crystal clear water. Sunny rose and joined them, as they swam and chatted for the next half hour or more. He liked his solitude, but it was also nice to see someone. He welcomed some distraction.
As the day moved on the group left Sunny alone with the invitation for him and his parents to join them on the boat that evening for a drink. The boy returned to his book and later in the afternoon he walked back to the cabin and when Sophie and Archie arrived, he told them of the party they were about to have that night.
At sunset the three of them, barefoot, but dressed in white summer clothes called to the boat from the shore. Peter rowed the aluminium dingy to collect them, and as they climbed onto the deck a tray of champagne was immediately offered to them by the still topless Katrina. The Draytons were decidedly more formal in their open necked tops than their hosts who remained in their shorts, so Sunny and Archie took off their shirts, but Sophie although admiring the sparkling health of Elizabeth, refrained from exposing her more opulent operatic frame to the public gaze. Relaxation settled them into the gentle rocking of the sea as they sipped their drinks while watching the sun disappear over the horizon. The moon rose full that evening and light sparkled across the surface of the waves lapping around them. Archie thought it better to refrain from too much alcohol because of his recent habits, that he was taking under control, however no one else felt so restrained. He had always admired boats and while the others plied themselves with drinks he plied them with questions.
"When did you set out?"
"We've been at sea for six months now. When my husband died, we sold the house and bought this. I think we’ll probably keep it until it sinks. Who knows where we’ll be by then."
"What made up your mind to live on the water? It's something I think I’ve always wanted to try."
"Well it's very strange, really. We got inspired to get out there and make some changes. My husband was a barrister and spent so much of his life working, that we were all drifting apart. I had to impress the wives of the social circle, Sebastian was growing into a proper little snob at his private school, and Katrina was studying Law like her father, but she got little joy out of it, especially since she had begun to concentrate on the very lucrative but sterile intricacies of Company Law. Anyway, I guess you’ve heard of that boy doing amazing things all over the world. Well we were lucky enough to see him ages ago in Western Australia."
Without batting an eyelid the Draytons sat calmly intrigued. Sunny did however smile very subtly to himself, but was interested to hear directly from someone what sort of impact he had made on them. If he was to return he must believe that it had been worthwhile, and this was an opportunity to find out. The boy had forgotten that he was trying to forget. Buoyed by the company of a family and a relationship wrapped up in one attractive group of people he could not resist.
"Please go on."
"Well of course we were very sceptical after the reports had filtered through from the eastern states. We’d decided it was a great hoax, and my husband even forbad us to speak about it. He hated any challenge that had no precedent to refer back to. Anyway, the boys here asked me to the beach with them one day, and when we arrived there was a huge crowd gathered around a group of boys with masks of gold on their faces and wearing nothing but twisted vines tightly buried into their skin. They had arrived unannounced and apparently spread a red cloth on the back of a semi trailer and stood still and erect upon it for two hours. It didn't take long for people to suspect that these were the boys they had heard of, and soon word spread and people arrived by their thousands.
"At midday they moved for the first time and as one of them sang through a loud speaker the others began to dance around him. The vines had cut into their skin and those up close could see little droplets of blood. It was amazing how quiet the crowd was. You could hear everything so clearly. When the first boy stopped singing the smallest of them all took hold of the microphone and recited some little poem that kept saying 'do it, just do it', and then burst into tears, and I swear to God he flew into the air. There was this huge cry from everyone on the beach as they watched. He spun around in the sky and as he moved directly up in front of the sun we were blinded by the light that we had not realised we were staring at and he just disappeared. By the time everyone had come to their senses they were all gone. The truck was abandoned, but in boxes on the back under the red cloth we found hundreds of flowers. I dried mine and still have it with me.
"When we got home my husband was so angry. No matter what we said he would not believe us. I can't hold it against him though. I think he was being unreasonable because of a brain tumour that hadn’t yet been diagnosed, but we soon found out about it and it killed him within six months. He had such an unfulfilled life really, and when we realised how short it could be, we remembered that boy saying 'do it' so we decided to get up, throw away the rubbish, and bloody well do something. Since that day we haven't looked back and life’s been wonderful. We’re at last doing something we love and have met so many lovely people on the way."
Sophie looked at Elizabeth and her family and then at her own child.
"How could one single little boy change your life? Did he really have that much of an affect on you? "
All four of them nodded their agreement. It was obvious that something had changed them. A wealthy socialite woman and her stuck-up children had abandoned the comforts of the city and were now sitting bronzed and half naked on the back of a boat, free of any care in the world. To Sophie it was a mystery that her son could have such an impact. She knew of what he had done, and there was always the faith in his being special, but in spite of what they had read, this was the first time that she had heard from someone who had actually come under his influence. Archie had similar thoughts, but he was more interested in his own relationship with his son than to care over much about the thoughts of others. It was interesting, he accepted the facts, but did not think it mattered in a world where everyone had to look to their own problems first, which was what he was desperately trying to do.
Sunny on the other hand was intensely interested in hearing for the first time the influence he achieved, now that it was coming from a stranger who spoke, completely unaware that he was the boy at the centre of this modern mystery. They had given up all, and they seemed to be happy but the weight of their decision weighed heavily upon him. He liked the people he had met, and still intrigued, perhaps disturbed, he asked the boys if they would like to join him for a swim the following morning at a little cove he knew of. What he mainly wanted was to know more of their feelings of his exploits. The pretext of a swim, only masked a longing to spend some time with boys his own age; something he had grown very used to and missed somewhat since he had cut himself off from his troupe.
Before sunrise they met at the cabin and set out around the island to the east side facing the ocean. Arriving just as the first rays of the sun burst over the gentle curve of the horizon they settled quietly on the rocks to watch the spectacular explosion of light as the glowing ball shimmered across the surface of the waves, still, in the peace of the morning. Sunny was first to rise from the rock and stand naked with legs spread and arms outstretched to feel the warmth touch the front of his body. The other two boys soon joined him in this early worship, as flaming Apollo rode his chariot grandly up into the heavens. From the windswept grasses behind them the wildlife awaking that dawn could see the silhouettes of three youths spread like crosses across the rocks and from the direction of the open sea could be seen these golden skinned beacons reflecting the coming to life of a glorious day. Just as the heat covered their bodies they dived high, and as one, into the cool of the turbulent water swirling back and forth in the inlet, kicking their legs out as they plunged deep under the waves, to see the sand and small fish tumble and dart through their limbs as they brushed against each other in tentative, teasing exploration. Water dripped from their long bedraggled hair as they climbed back onto the rocks to dry once again in the warming breeze.
"Please tell me more about your experience with the bird-man. I’d like to know how you felt, and what you thought about it."
"It or him?"
"Him I guess, but surely what he does is vastly more important than who he is."
Sebastian began to wonder, but dismissed from his mind a question that he had not quite formed. Something was nagging his consciousness but he was as yet unable to articulate it. He began to think back to that time on the beach when he had seen the boy and his group, and the picture returned to his mind of what a special day it was.
"It’s hard to explain. Obviously seeing him fly was spectacular but it was more than that; so much more. I think I fell in love with that boy, or was I in love with how special he made us feel? From what I recall, I think it was that day that we began to realise that we were in love. We had been close for years but something happened that day to change the way we felt. It was like I woke up with a mental hard-on and had to direct my feelings somewhere. I for one, will never be the same. It's been like plunging head long into the unknown. Fun, but I hope we can keep it up. That boy’s like a torch. Let’s hope his light is never extinguished."
"Don't you think its strange?"
"Of course, but it’s true and I'm glad it happened. Have you ever seen him? He'd change you if you did."
"Yes and no."
Sunny had an overwhelming desire to reveal himself right then, but wanted to see what he could extract from them before he lost the nerve. It was his only opportunity of discussing himself objectively. Time would reveal more, but he thought he should not press too much at this stage. There were more subtle ways of extracting information from them, than badgering them with question after question.
Their relationship was so beautiful to watch. He almost envied the closeness they had. Uncomplicated and equal. Now that he was a role player, nothing was simple for him any longer. Everything was a stepping stone. Every action, every thought, always had to lead to something else. He felt he had forgotten everything learnt in the desert. To make everyone appreciate the moment he had again lost sight of it himself. He needed his teacher. He was only a boy. Why not play like a boy?
"I know you’re lovers, but if I could be rather bold I might say that I’d like to have sex with you both. I’ve been alone here for some time with my parents and I think you’re both very beautiful."
"Wow! We already decided last night that we wanted to fuck you."
With a cheeky smile Sunny stood from the rock on which he was resting. He wanted to hear more but his brain also wanted to rest from contemplating himself. He had to divert his attention. Walking a few steps in their direction he offered himself to Sebastian's mouth, and in turn to Peter. They grappled with each other and soon all three were back in the water where the lovers hands were free to caress every inch of the boy's floating body. With delicate fingers, he was parted and as Sebastian held the boy by the head, Peter positioned himself to penetrate the eagerness offered to them. Passionately the boy kissed them both as he groaned, in the pleasure of sex for the first time since leaving his group on the other side of the world. His hips pulsated and his feet kicked the air, while he grasped their thighs with his legs and arms to pull them more tightly into himself. The lovers thrashed about in the water as their excitement unleashed passions rekindled since arriving on the island. Certainly this boy knew how to please, not professionally but from the heart. So desperately from the heart. It was not until both boys had been satisfied within him that Sunny released his own pent-up satisfaction, that shot up through the air to splash back down into the water, float momentarily, and dissolve within the waves. Together they lay back on the grass above, and held each others bodies as they recovered from the exertion of so thrilling a start to the day.
"What’s that little scar from, if you don't mind me asking? It reminds me of something."
Fearing and wishing to avoid what troubled him at that moment, Sunny dismissed the question and pointed to the horizon where could be seen the distant small outline of a passing ship. Robinson Crusoe must have seen sights such as these from his island, but what a choice to make between rescue and the abandoned pleasures of his two Fridays. Not a single thing appeared to worry these boys. Where ever they had come from, had been left behind. They were now enjoying whatever was simple. Nothing dramatic, nothing pensive, not a single problem could disturb their pleasure. He was no longer childlike. They were.
"Do you think they could see us if we stood up? Perhaps someone has a telescope trained on us this very moment. They could be watching every move we make. There’s no privacy in this world. That's why I came here."
"Let's hide."
The three of them ducked over the dunes and the lovers grabbed Sunny and hoisted him on their shoulders, and from there they ran, tripped, stumbled and exhausted themselves carrying the boy back around the island until gasping for breath they returned to the cabin with Sunny still laughing, trapped above them, from where they would not let him down.
"Put some cloths on you rude children."
Sophie sat them all down for a late breakfast. They talked a while about life on a boat, when Archie proposed that he do a painting of the three of them that he would give to the visitors as a present for the hospitality shown last evening. He had an idea and knowing his son he thought it may just be a good idea, so after eating, the painter and the three boys set off back into the forest, canvas, brushes and paints in hand.
Finding a large twisted tree he placed the three in the ascending limbs reaching high up into the canopy. Sebastian and Peter he sat arms wrapped around each other on a lower branch, and Sunny was asked to climb higher into the tree so that he was a good twelve feet above them. He stood arms and legs extended gazing at the sky peeking through the leaves that sheltered them from the sun. Archie painted furiously for an hour, and the boys descended for a rest and a swig of wine. He would not let any of them see the surprise that was still in progress, even though they pestered him to give them some idea of what he was doing. He insisted that they would just have to be patient, which was not very appealing to them as it was such an exhilarating day the boys were becoming more playful, spoilt and demanding. They took several breaks to cool off in the ocean, while Archie continued to dabble with the canvas, occasionally glancing at his boy whom he had never seen at play with friends before. His son was an individual. Not everything he did revolved around his parents. It was obvious, but this was the first time he had really observed that independence in action. Eventually they abandoned the painting for the day and returned to the cabin.
Elizabeth, Sophie and Archie got together on the boat again that night. Kat and the boys disappeared up the beach and lit a bonfire. Lying on the sand Sebastian and Peter held hands, Katrina watched the moon and Sunny sat in silence glancing from the boys to the fire. He stared into the flames as he felt himself shrinking into the sand. He was getting smaller and smaller. Free from being the centre of attention he wondered what he had missing from his life. In front of him he thought he could see it. The strain of that leadership now made him want to hide and lean. He wanted comforting. He wanted to be looked after. He was not a grown man. He was a boy.
That night when they all went to bed he sobbed into his pillow. Sophie could hear him through the thin walls. She came to his room, where he held her tightly until he drifted off to sleep, secure in the embrace of the mother he had not had enough of in the last few years.
He was much better the next morning and after coffee the boys arrived and they all set off to let Archie finish the painting. Like the day before the boys were up and down the tree several times always trying to steal a look.
"Before you leave Sunny will give this to you. I'm sure he'll be happy for you to have a remembrance of your visit with us. Until then you'll just have to wait."
"But father, I don't even know what you’re doing."
"Think about it and I’m sure you can guess."
Back into the tree they climbed and Archie continued to paint. Sebastian stole an occasional kiss from his lover and when Archie appeared to be concentrating on his canvas they took the opportunity to stare up at the beauty above them who seemed to have drifted away into his own thoughtful world. Isolation had relaxed and calmed both his body and his mind and for the last weeks he had thought of virtually nothing. The past and his future plans had not been forgotten but simply put on hold, but no doubt his subconscious had not rested. Occasionally the confusion burst to the surface, but he was able to submerge it almost as soon as it appeared. The spark given by the arrival of strangers and the exhilaration of the previous morning's relieving sex, had suddenly opened his mind again. He thought of the warmth of his mother, the gentle love of the two boys for each other and the days and nights many months past that we had spent together. The full torrent of questions and answers, the longings and desires, came flooding into the foreground. While standing almost alone in the high reaches of a forest he opened his eyes and he could see the boys he envied, he saw his father whose love he could not do without, he saw himself. He knew what he wanted, what he missed. He made up his mind.
Within seconds of Archie laying down his brushes the boy screamed from the top of his perch.
"Father we have to leave, I want to go home. I can see the rainbow. I want to be a boy, but tonight we'll have a surprise."
The two puzzled onlookers on the lower branch climbed down to the ground and as they set foot on the sand, Sunny jumped from where he was and landed beside them, surprisingly unhurt, from such a height. Immediately before they had a chance to wonder, he grabbed them by the hands and ran along a path to the beach that was only a few hundred metres from where they were. He dragged them into the water and rolled in the surf like a child let loose for the first time. He would not stop laughing, and if he was not kissing them he was staring into their eyes as if he wanted to implant knowledge into their brain by the simple force of his gaze. Wet and sand covered he than chased them back to where Archie waited.
"It's truly going to be wonderful tonight. You'll see. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you."
They had no idea of what had got into him. He shook the water from his hair and went to see the almost finished product created by his father. As soon as he looked on the image he smiled for he knew his father truly had begun to understand his son. He agreed that tonight after Archie put the finishing touches to it back at the cabin, he would present the painting to the visitors, so he asked that they be allowed to return the hospitality and invite them on shore for a beach banquet. Sebastian agreed on behalf of the others, and Sunny kissed them both and biting them on the chin he squeezed them tightly to his heart and let out another yell of joy that sent the watchful birds into flight, and raised the hair on the heads of all of them. They suddenly felt special and knew something was in the wind. They had no idea what was happening, but from the state the boy was in, they could tell that they had stumbled into the birth of an event that they would certainly never forget. Sunny had grown intense but euphoric. His eyes were glazed and his breathing intensified as he began to skip around them and laugh and cry that he had at last figured it out. He was manic. Madness took hold of his unrelenting joy. Infectiously the mood washed over them all, and even Archie stared at the sudden transformation of his son to a height of joy he had never previously seen. With fear he looked at his boy, not knowing what the future was now expected to be. The grip was being loosened.
"Go, get ready and I’ll see you tonight. Come to where the bonfire will be blazing, the night is mine. I guarantee it will be fun. Be beautiful tonight, be very beautiful. BE SPECTACULAR!"
Sebastian, with Peter, ran shorts in hand, back through the forest to tell his mother and sister what had been arranged. Stopping only once on their way to laugh, stare at each other, and embrace they soon arrived at the beach where they dumped their clothes, dived into the water and swam to the boat. Climbing dripping from the sea, they both rushed to hug and kiss Elizabeth and Katrina who were confronted with the exuberant and unabashed nudity of the boys excitement.
"Tonight we are having a party on the beach and I think it’ll be something wonderful. That boy is extraordinary. I don't have any idea of what it is about him but he has moods that are so strong and infectious that I believe we’re in for one hell of a night. You should have seen him in the bush before. He was manic about something. He has a plan or something but god knows what he’s on about."
"Well my goodness, put those things away, or go and do something with them in private, Your sister and I don't need to appreciate your excitement that much."
"Oh shit! I hadn't noticed. Sorry. We do look a bit much I guess, but that’s the point of it all, everything’s strange today. I feel suddenly very free. We’ll get a towel in a minute but can you help us get ready tonight I want to do something special, I feel it will deserve it. He said: ‘be spectacular.’ "
Archie and Sophie failed to understand the exuberant display their boy put on that afternoon. They tried to speak to him but he would only say that he knew it all now. He knew the future. He laughed uncontrollably, and away from their sight he burst into tears. He recalled the way he had dreamed of his parents desecration. Yes he had fucked with their life. He had fucked with everyone's life, but he would fix it now. He could make it right. They thought he was special. He certainly had been so special that he was no longer human, but amends would be made. He would make it right again. He could be himself. Just a little boy. Nothing else was important. It was himself that he could accept. He was only part of it, not the centre, just a cog, trying to play his part. It was so simple.
Just after sunset, from the boat they could see the flickering of light several hundred metres up the beach, as a pile of logs gradually became engulfed in flame. The time had arrived, so they rowed ashore and walked to where Sophie and Archie were busily arranging food on a flower covered table. The Draytons were in their summer whites again, but this time the visitors put on a much more extravagant show. Elizabeth had put up her hair and wound a pearl necklace through it so that in her long flowing sheer black dress she looked very regal, even in her bare feet. Katrina too looked beautiful in her white skirt split to the waist and lace bra covering her tanned breasts. The boys however, were exceptionally, and daringly spectacular this evening. Both were heavily made up so that their faces were painted like pagan gods. Their oiled torsos shone in the light of the moon and fire, and low around their waist they had tied silver chains borrowed from Elizabeth, from which were suspended short strips of black cloth that barely covered their buttocks when standing still, and hid nothing front or back when they moved. They were sure that no one would object to such exhibitionism, as long as they refrained from becoming too excited.
"I see you boys are picking up my son's habits. We never could keep him dressed. You do look very pretty."
"We're trying, but we're not as rude as you said we were yesterday."
"But just as cheeky, and you can hardly say that outfit is much more discreet. I'm only teasing. Sunny will love it."
In the light of the fire they could see an easel standing not far away with a covering thrown over the painting they were still anxious to see. A white cloth draped over the table glowed in the night light and laid out on this festive offering were glasses, wine and food that Sophie and her boys had hastily prepared that afternoon.
"That looks wonderful my dear. Where's Sunny? "
"He'll be here shortly, so I suggest we have a drink now because he said he has something special to show us. He's been very secretive about it all afternoon. He also asked us if we would show you Archie's painting before he arrived."
Glasses in hand, they all moved close to the painting to await Archie's unveiling.
"I was pretty sure that my son wanted to share something with you. I could tell by his reactions since your arrival, and it gave me an idea for a little memento for you. You may not be aware of it, but we haven’t seen our son for some time, and this is the first opportunity we’ve had to be part of what he’s been up to. I wanted to do this painting and I'm happy to give it to you as I was sure that was what he’d like."
Archie gently lifted the cloth from the not yet dry image he had created these last two days. A grotesquely twisted tree wound itself across the canvass like a serpent or a vine clutching at all it could touch. Broken away from the entanglement were the softly painted figures of Sebastian and Peter wrapped in each others arms, and above their bodies detached from the tree and suspended weightlessly in the air, the image of Sunny burst from the picture. The figures and sky glowed with light struggling and contrasting against the dark tortured colours of the clasping growth from which they escaped. The visitors stood back perplexed, but pleased at the image, looked at each other and at the moment of recognition of the floating figure in the canvas a voice could be heard distantly calling to them. At first they spun around, but just as they were realising they could see nothing, the voice of the boy could be heard again.
"Hello. Remember- just do it."
They lifted their heads. Silhouetted against the moon the minute shape of Sunny could be seen spinning hundreds of feet over their heads. The painting, the boy. Now it all made sense. They had been guests at a grand masquerade. Having done what he set out to do and not wishing to further alarm his guests he swooped down, flew once over their heads and descended quickly into the midst of his family and friends. He wore only a white strand of cheesecloth about his middle, and the previously unseen gold bands around his wrists. They all gathered near the fire that now raged fully on the sands. The golden flicker of the flames danced over their bodies and Sunny, the most golden boy of all, shone in the centre of their attention. He continued to dance around them, laughing and kicking up the sand. The boys were dumbfounded but Elizabeth found the words to break the silence that had shrouded them all.
"So now we know who you are. You must have thought us fools the other evening."
Sunny stopped in front of her, took hold of her hands, and kissed her on the cheek.
"On the contrary. I'm sorry , but it’s the first time I've ever heard anyone who hasn't known me talk about the last few years. It was important to me to hear what you said, and I thank you for it. You've helped me make some decisions. "
Sunny was so involved in the effect he had on the visitors that he forgot to remember his parents who had never witnessed with their own eyes what they had often read about their son. He looked up in their direction at last, as they stood together with tears streaming down their faces. He ran to them and all three put their arms around each other in silence. He kissed them both on the mouth and raised his hand to wipe away the tears. Touching his fingers to his lips, he smiled.
"Can we go back soon?"
"You have to, don't you?"
Sunny did not know how to handle the distance he had just created between himself and these two people who became strangers in the moment of realisation of the special boy he was. He turned from them and standing between the boys with their family and his own family he knew the loneliness he felt in his difference, but he had a solution. Sebastian and Peter were the only innocents, and they ran to him and grabbing his hands they dragged him up the beach. Excited by the discovery they again wanted to feel the closeness that had been experienced that previous morning. They tore off their flimsy black strips of cloth and ripped the small fabric from Sunny's body. Oblivious to the closeness of their respective families the three tumbled to the sand and rolled about each other into the water. The boy swam out into the darkness, disappearing from the cries of his playmates. They were about to follow him when from above them he splashed back into the water, which put them off balance with the fright. Tempted to repeat their indulgence the boys hugged him around the waist, but Sunny ran dripping from the water, and from the scene of laughter back to his parents. He stood before them and grinned. The interlude was finished. It was time to move on.
I had predicted that Sunny would return home, and believed he would know where to find me eventually, if he wanted to, so it was no surprise when he once again knocked on my front door. The same sheepish grin of his initial uncertainty met me at the door. That look of never being overconfident with me, was one of his many endearing qualities. It constantly made me aware of my love for him. He was a child to me, so special, the favourite child, because I believed he was so human, so honestly human.
His parents were with him, and once again I sat down with the boy who had become brown from his days in the sun. Always after meditation the boy was suntanned. He truly liked his sunshine, and it clothed him in gold each time he set out to establish a new milestone in his adventure filled life. It was evident that his parents loved the boy but still remained lost to his independence, and I sensed a suspicion on their part, as to the relationship he had developed with me. They were aware of the other boys, and had met some of them under unfavourable and tragic circumstances, but excused or ignored their impact, because of their youth. My age appeared to be a challenge to their ownership of their son. Although they had re-established a relationship with him they were still conscious of a feeling of failure, and the threat of my presence as an apparent substitute, unsettled them. They were so far off the mark. The boy was anything but a son to me. He was a lover, a friend. If it were not for his special qualities, I thought we would have been no more than equals in our relationship, but to them it had to be a relationship based on seniority of age and supposed experience and wisdom, but as to the thoughts of the boy I could see before me, I had no idea. I knew how he had always related to everyone that came under his influence. He shared himself unselfishly, but I did feel that with me he had a trust that surpassed what he had usually developed. Perhaps I felt only as others had felt. Maybe it was his special talent to make all feel special, but if I am to have faith in myself, I must admit that his relationship with me was different. I believed it.
As we ate together Sophie continued to smile at her son and to me. A smile that was so desperately trying to be genuine, but with all her experience on the stage she could not hide the fear that lurked beneath her chatter. Archie joked and drank a little with me, another man of his generation, but he too seemed unsettled. I wondered what was going on behind those eyes that were continually puzzled by his son, and so desperately sought the comfort of his wife. The husband worried about his life, his marriage, himself, but the mother was still controlled by and focussed on her boy, her creation, her jewel. Although there was no crisis as had happened so often in the last few years, I could so easily tell that they saw his disappearance as once again imminent.
"That was a wonderful dinner. Mother would you mind if I stayed here tonight and we'll call you at Uncle Bill's tomorrow. We have so much to talk about if it'd be okay with you.?"
Sophie and Archie reluctantly left in a taxi. We did ring them the following day but he was not to see them again for some months. As I closed the door on them I could see the barriers disappearing. Sensing it like a sailor, as his ship sails from shore, the rest of the world shrank and fell over the horizon. We were alone. Sunny immediately undressed and threw himself into my arms. He kissed me but I sat him back down at the table, and poured some more coffee. He looked suddenly rejected and asked if he could take a look at the paintings, still stored under my house. We wrenched the nails out of the box again and silently he poured over the images, and then like a lost child he looked up at me.
"That's me you know."
"Rubbish, boy. I think we should destroy them."
"No way. You'll want them one day. It'll explain everything."
We returned to the lounge and got drunk. I was aware of the feelings, the needs and the fears of so many others, but I cut out the confusions of what I could not understand, because at that moment I felt like the most content of all beings. This is where I wanted to be, and nothing else mattered.
"Well boy, what have you got planned now?"
"I'm moving in with you. Have you heard how the others are? I've missed them you know."
I pretended to myself that I did not hear what he had casually thrown in between mention of the paintings and his friends.
"Joseph got very upset when you left, but he's fine. They've been running around all over the place doing what they can. I've had several letters. Hans got arrested once in the grounds of the Emperor's palace in Tokyo. I have no idea how he got in, or what he was up to. He didn't explain that in the letter. It's a wonder he wasn't shot. I'm sure they don't take kindly to naked foreigners running around the gardens of the once divine. Assassinations are not exactly out of fashion these days. They let him go for some reason. Probably saw he had nowhere to hide a weapon, but they did kick him out of Japan, so their exploits there didn't amount to much more. They did manage to cause a stir in Hong Kong, when he and Frank flew over the harbour in the middle of some festival or regatta or something, and almost collected a plane coming in to land. It certainly got the locals excited. That one did make it into the papers here."
"I'm glad they're having a good time, but I hope they don't let it get away from them. It's dangerous what we've been doing. I'm going to stay with you. Do you want me?"
"No, they're fine. Yes I do. They're giving it a go. I don't believe you. Jimmy and Henry went off together and are behaving themselves. Henry has turned into quite a little cultural ambassador. He was offered a part in a film, but turned it down of course. I hope he takes it up later. The other two are in Africa somewhere. Joseph was working in some mission villages, teaching the kids to sing last I heard. Poor little Georgie can't stand the heat but is loving being in so many places with Joseph. He’s always tended to mother the kid a bit. It' s the first time the twins have ever separated. It sounds as if it's given Georgie a lot of extra faith in himself. Stop grinning at me. Do you mean it? I need a drink."
"What about you? Have you been doing lots?"
"I've been so busy with a book I began and the photographs I've been working on."
"Did you miss me?"
"Yes my darling, I missed you very much."
"Sorry. I missed you too. Till death do us part."
My heart thumped in my sweating chest. I could say nothing, but I held my glass and stared into his face, the face that belonged to me, the face that was part of me. He smiled and tears seeped into my eyes. The boy reached out for me but I raised my hand to stop his approach. He jumped up from his chair and I watched his slim and comfortable frame as he went to the kitchen. What had just happened? My mind ran from place to place, from dream to dream, from hope to certainty. He did not come back to the room. The questions were rising in my brain but where was he. I staggered up unsteadily from my chair and went to the kitchen and the bathroom, but he was missing. I walked in the darkness to the back garden and there he was stretched out on the lawn, staring at the moon. I said nothing as I sat on a stool in my suburban back yard, filled my lungs with the cool air and I too contemplated the few stars that pushed through the reflection of the moonlit city. Without turning his head from the sky Sunny's voice drifted to me with what I had always hoped to hear.
"I knew I'd feel at home here with you. I love you, you know."
In the months that followed, Sophie returned to Europe for some engagements, Archie took the opportunity to travel around Australia, painting, and roughing it for the first time since the days before his marriage when he was forced to suffer the cold and rain in the jungles beside the small wartime airfields. Sunny and I set up house together and never again did we mention the days with the troupe. Occasionally I would receive letters from the others but Sunny insisted that I not tell them he was with me. He would read their letters, but never comment. Perhaps in his mind there were memories and thoughts but I had learnt early after his arrival that to keep him happy and with me, we must pretend the past had never been.
By day we took trips into the country and at night we made love. I photographed him endlessly. He was a constant inspiration to me, and the walls became covered in an ever changing display of images that became more adventurous and pleasing as the months rolled on. When once he was the leader, he now became subject to my every whim, however with him there never appeared to be a case of leadership for either of us. All decisions seemed to be mutually agreeable. If anything occurred to me it was only through my understanding of his personality and needs. His desires were my desires. His life was my life, and my life seemed to satisfy him.
Like a child, he was happy. Like an adult I felt wise. Full of questions he looked to me for answers. No matter what I said, he gave me the feeling that I was always right. I did feel right. He was not my son, he was my lover but no doubt my long unsatisfied paternal urges were being satisfied at the same time as was my life's quest for companionship. Our relationship was more than all of these things. The two of us became one. The difference in our height, our age, our talents, our needs, our personalities, our experience, our beliefs, our dreams only combined to make a pair more whole and expanded than either of us were before. Sexually I took pleasure in his beauty, and he took comfort, security and joy in my maturity. The gods of his life had certainly blessed me as well.
We had few visitors. Michael and his band had travelled south before I returned to Brisbane, but occasionally we would meet someone who would join us for drinks, sometimes dinner and on rare occasions we had a threesome, with some particularly friendly boy who would make himself available. Sunny was no less attractive as a result of living with me, and the freedom of his past, as well as mine, was a lesson and habit that was hard to overcome. Neither of us considered it in any way interrupted the affection we held for each other.
For the period Sunny and his parents were on the island the magazines and newspapers were full of stories of the disappearance of 'The Boy'. His friends were occasionally involved in episodes that made headlines but by now the central character was recognisable at least by his size and figure. They knew he was missing and journalists buzzed with theories as to why the group had disbanded and although his death had been dismissed as a possibility, other ideas sprung up everywhere, but eventually as time elapsed they became less frequent. There was however one persistent rumour, that he was in hiding until something spectacular would happen when the world least expected. Sunny tried to ignore the papers when he noticed an article about himself, but it was impossible to keep it from him completely. He was so happy that I made no attempt to remind him of his special gift, and we seemed to settle into the contentment of suburbia like any couple. In the past it would have disgusted me to think that my life would settle down so comfortably. Where were the excesses, the highs, the lows, the terror and anguish of trying to understand oneself? It had vanished and I had become what I had previously distained - simply happy. Occasionally the realisation of my selfishness tempted me to stand up but not often and the feeling of guilt at keeping him to myself was soon forgotten as we smiled at each other across a restaurant table, a shopping trolley, or the crumpled sheets of our bed.
As with much of his life, the gods of fate again wandered into the twisting path of this boy. It was foolish to pretend that his life could be as that of other people. It was far removed from his nature to be ordinary, and the brief flirtation with suburbia was doomed to failure. Was it ever possible for the boy to know his needs?
Sunny and I were asleep on a beach one humid Summer evening. A couple of bottles of wine, a small pile of twigs burning slowly, and a blanket spread out on the sand. We had sunbaked and swum for much of the day. With no intention of staying the whole evening we dozed off for a while before driving back to the city.
"That's a familiar piece of arse."
I sat bolt upright at this sudden intrusion, to see two boys squatting beside the embers. The fire had gone out but the moon was as radiant as the boys' smiles.
"I'm Sebastian, and this is Peter. Can we wake him up?"
"I'm already awake. I hope you're naked when I open my eyes."
They were, and they immediately jumped on the boy, and all three tumbled off the blanket, struggled a bit and brushing the sand from their thighs plunged into the sea. I could hear nothing but laughter spluttering from the waves washing rhythmically against the shore, until Sunny raced back to me, being tripped just as he got within a few feet of me. He fell to the sand and his hand reached out and clasped my ankle as the two misbehaving brats, came panting to a halt.
"Our boat’s just up there a bit. It got a hole in it on the reef and we were stranded up north for months. Mum chickened out about the wide open sea so we headed back down the coast. We followed your beacon."
"What a pity. About the trip I mean."
"Do you want to come back to the boat for a drink? Mum and Kat have left us to go back to Perth to sell up some investments or something so we can get a better tub, that won't sink. We've been left all alone. It's so great to see you."
"We were just about to head back home but I guess we could always stay."
We had no plans, and the boy's spontaneity never failed to win me over so we packed up the car and drove up a track closer to where they were anchored. On the deck with drinks in hand, Sunny leaning against my shoulder and the boys fussing around to entertain us, the evening began like another night in paradise.
"We thought you were heading back overseas. What are you doing hidden away here still. What ever happened to 'Be spectacular' and all that?"
"I didn't say I was going back there. I was just going back. I wanted to be loved for being just a boy and I knew where to find it. I did and I've never been so happy."
"I thought everyone loved you. The whole bloody world adores you."
"Me, me, me. I wanted someone to love me, a simple scruff, not a fucking freak. Lets drop it."
"No way. You made yourself an inspiration. You can't back away from it so easily."
I didn't know these boys, but I knew they had become a threat. The peace of my future was suddenly being invaded by two innocents, full of good intentions, and oblivious to the ruining impact of adoration. They were no more than emissaries sent by the world to entreat the master to return to the throne. 'Abandon the contemplation of your cave and come so that we may forget ourselves and adore you. Tell us what to do. Show us the way. Entertain us, so that we do not have to think. Make our life easy.'
"Boys, I think you should change the subject. Sunny wants to be himself. He did enough."
"But that is who he is. He isn't any kid. Everyone thinks he's either dead, or planning something. It's not finished. You can't just start something and quit half way through. You'll only destroy everything you did. "
"Fucking, leave me alone."
Sunny jumped up and dived into the water.
He soon cooled off and recovered, and the boys never mentioned it again for the next two days that we spent with them, floating on the water. The cabin was locked up and they returned with us to our home for a few days rest from the sea. When we arrived the mail box had another unwelcome surprise. The troupe had all assembled together in Rome. Despondent that no word had ever been received from the boy, they had regrouped and wrote to me to see if I would join them so that they could track him down. They had decided he must come back. He must be found. He owed it to them. For as long as I could, I kept the letter hidden while I watched my boy, sometimes happy with his friends and at other times drifting off into thought that was easy to understand. As much as I had admired his life and encouraged him while we were on the road, I now had a relationship with him that was mine, only mine, and he was happy. Was I justified in keeping him here? Was I the one who was holding him back? I didn't think it was my decision. I wasn't to blame. After all, he had come to me. Sure I did nothing to change his mind, but was that wise advice or selfish opportunism? Now I didn't know myself. Doubts guilts, the old insecurities were never far away. My ego tumbled. Instability, so delicately kept at bay, crashed back into consciousness. This would destroy us if I let it fester, so I had to bring it to the surface and take the chance of redemption.
The evening before the boys were due to leave. I took Sunny aside after they had gone to bed. For some time I just stared into his eyes while I summoned up the courage to perhaps destroy our peace. He looked at me and gradually lowered his head. I had not said a word but I am sure he knew what was going through my mind. Without looking up he reached for my hand.
"You know I'm trapped, don't you. Why can't we just go on like this?"
"I guess you made your decision a long time ago. You made a pact and neither you nor I can get you out of it."
"Did I? I often wonder if I was given a choice. Why can't you help me? I thought you were different. I thought you loved me."
"You know I do, but it's not enough to change what you are. You made it this way darling. You made your decisions. We all pushed a bit but in the end it's always up to you. It's the same for all of us. We never really grow up, and when we're children we spend half our life sitting in our own shit. We did it ourselves. All of us were playing with fire and you just got closer than most of us, and it's not yet time to move on. I wish it wasn't so, but the boys are probably right."
I took him in my arms, wiped a tear from his eye and showed him the letter.


From sun up, the boys gathered at the Spanish Steps, awaiting expectantly the arrival of Sunny. Hoping that he would not let them down, they sat in silence, staring at Rome passing on the street below. Through the morning they waited, but as the hours stretched later into the afternoon a great despondency descended on the group. Had he abandoned them? Had he changed his mind, or had something terrible happened to him? They sat until sunset when from behind them they heard a shout as he and I came running down the stairs to hug and kiss the boys, missed so much for so long.
"Our plane was delayed by a storm. Sorry. Everything’s prepared. Oh, it's so bloody wonderful to see you. We're going to the mountains ."
We had already settled back into their favourite cheap hotel. The old porter was so pleased to have his little secret band once again tease and entertain his evenings. Letters were written, phone calls were made and from around the world cartons and crates were ordered. The reunion was not only fun but comforting to be once again making plans. Everything appeared to be worked out together, but Sunny still brewed over hidden thoughts that not even I could decipher. Sophie and Archie had been contacted and gone ahead. They too had been given a role.
Arriving in the town on a chartered flight, the boys and their helpers had four weeks to prepare. Behind a high stone fence they settled into yet another rented villa, found for them by Sunny's parents. Neighbours saw crates of unknown contents delivered day after day, and inside what had become a fortress, work began immediately on preparing props and costumes. As the time approached more of their friends arrived to lend assistance to the boys. One entire hotel had been booked at great expense to house those personally invited, and as it began to fill, the party mood grew. It was hard to maintain secrecy but everyone understood they were bound not to divulge the whereabouts of Sunny because in the end their faith would be rewarded. What ever lay ahead must not be spoiled.
From the four corners of the earth people began to arrive. Almost every friend that they had made over the years had been invited. Those who could afford it were quick to accept the invitation, and those without funds took up the offer of having the group pay for their attendance. The press were alerted, and in numbers greater than for that of a Royal or Papal visit they flocked into the town. Of course it had become such a public expectation that nowhere in the entire region could be found a spare room. Tens of thousands of people packed every hotel, residents billeted friends and relatives, and the parks became tent cities for hundreds of thousands of sleeping bags, with parties, dancing and bonfires. Every bus train and plain was filled to capacity in the week leading up to the event. The pilgrims flocked and others who could find no other way had chartered transport, so in the end the town and surrounding area's population more than trebled. Food by the truck load had to be shipped in to sustain the huge mass assembling.
The day prior to the announced event, the hotel James had paid for had been turned over for an enormous party. Not everyone invited had been required to help at the villa and many had only just arrived or not yet come into contact with any of the boys, because none of them had once left the seclusion of their stone enclosure.
The London crowd were there. The Australians were there and even some distant acquaintances from Venice had been invited. Sophie and Archie arrived at the party with uncle Roland, dressed down for a change. Andreas and his little houseboy had flown in at Sunny's invitation, even though Sophie had to be convinced to forgive him. From China, India and the Americas newly made friends had gathered. Food and drinks flowed freely and for once the boys did not perform. No one did. Submerging his hidden fear, Sunny was overjoyed at being together with so many of those whom he had known. He contemplated each and every one of them, but what had been his role with those he saw before him? How had he influenced them? Had he ever really understood? Had they ever understood? Was there anything to understand? Calmness settled on him. Almost a serene resignation to his place in no more than a story. An episode, overwhelmed by the force of inevitability. The immovable and the mundane; ambitions that had been thwarted; hopes murdered; optimism misguided; futility; or had he dreamed a great dream? To the friends, that day was a celebration, a sharing. To him it had to be a farewell, the night must see itself out before the following day. The last supper.
The boys went obliviously innocent to their beds early that evening, somewhere around six o'clock, so that they could rise expectantly at one in the morning and prepare themselves. They were excited but they knew they would need as much sleep as possible, so they had to force calmness upon themselves and will their bodies to rest. Sunny did not close his eyes that evening. He lay still in our bed and stared at the ceiling. The universe of his existence played itself out like a movie before his sight, his mind, his memory. Such a short period in a man's life and he had created, destroyed, inspired, undermined, led, followed, confused. Too much.
When the alarm disturbed his meditation we rounded the others from their slumber, Joseph put on some coffee and they began to apply their makeup. Each one's body was tinted with a different shade of the most brilliant colours, but their faces were all of matching gold. The golden bracelets that had been their charms since the initiations in the sacred cave and the desert, were placed on their wrists and around each neck Sunny placed a simple leather band to which he had attached a gold locket. In each precious casing he had placed some marble chipped from the block that had been fashioned in secret, before their arrival. By four o'clock they climbed into the back of a huge van that we hired and I drove them to the appointed spot where they would finish their play.
Almost the whole city and its visitors had assembled during the night. So many were tired. So many were drunk. Many were stoned, but all were happy. The great exodus from the city had begun two days before and by sunrise there were more than a million people gathered in the fields and up the side of the mountain overlooking the lake. Around the water's edge some of the helpers lit hundreds of oil fires so that the whole lake was surrounded by starlike spots of light an hour before the moonless night sky changed its black veil.
The party had continued through the night until without warning fireworks exploded from a hundred different vantage points. From the mountain top came volley after volley of red showering stars. From a boat on the water, silver and gold cascaded in every direction. The valley was a blaze of light and explosions, until from out of a hidden inlet swept a fast moving floating platform on which stood the painted figures of the boys. In their hands they carried torches of fire and as the decorated barge floated past the crowds on the shore the boys danced with the flame. On the banks of the water people stripped off and joined in the dance until the whole assembly swayed like a giant wave. When the explosions ceased and the barge had run it's course Joseph and the chorus of followers could be heard singing from speakers set across the huge expanse of fields and water. The words were none. The tune hypnotic.
As the echo of their voices faded into the distance at the completion of the song, the first rays of the sun burst over the horizon on a day so clear it awakened all, both body and mind. Now from the mountain Sunny invited the people to bathe in the water and breakfast with one another. The group had disappeared, but in anticipation of more to come the lake filled with bodies who swam and played in this perfect but crowded setting. The smell of campfires and food filled the air for two hours until from the far side of the mountain came the boys high in the air trailing hundreds of metres of cloth stretching out like streamers. As the boys were painted, so to was the colour of the cloth. A red figure trailed red cloth. Green material fluttered behind a slender green boy and like a rainbow they flew over the heads of the screaming onlookers. Back and forth they crossed over and over and each time with a little more speed, eventually dropping the cloth that slid through the breeze into the water. The boys hovered above the faces turned towards them and began to move in a circle. Faster and faster they moved and as they spun like a top in the sky the image began to blur. It became impossible to distinguish one figure from another until they had gathered such speed that the colours merged together and the blaze of the multicoloured rainbow faded to white and disappeared. A million voices cheered as the vision ceased to be. Then from the invisible circle one by one the boys shot out, stopped and hovered once again visible outside the illusion. From here they plunged into the water and the colour washed from their bodies. Once again the ceremonies came to a halt as the boys entered the crowd in different directions to walk among their friends. Dancing and singing sprung up all across the valley as the boys joined groups to share in their celebrations and then move on to meet as many as possible.
Across the water the platform again floated. This time it was bare of all decoration except a lone white marble statue standing at it's centre. Even the boys had not seen this until now. Hans cried out.
"It's Antinous!"
It was not Antinous. Joseph was first to recognise as it grew closer, that Sunny was the image on which it had been based. Why had he done this? What was it for? This was the secret of the chips of marble in their lockets. The crowd may have been puzzled but the 'Apostles' were even more so. As it hit the grass at the edge of the water the boys were the first to be there to see it up close. There stood Sunny, immortalised in marble that was almost as beautiful as he was. He stared back at them in the pose of the god Antinous, but the figure was more slight, the hair longer and he inexplicably possessed no genitals. Castrated, inoffensive, but beautiful. The questions it aroused could not be explained, and little time was given to do so before thousands had gathered and pushed forward to see this latest episode in a day of wonders.
As people surged into the water to surround the statue, the pontoon on which it stood rocked and on it's pedestal the image moved precariously back and forth. The boys fearing that it would tumble into the water, flew to the other side of the floating stage and dragged it away from the milling excited worshipers. Out into the centre of the lake they pulled the image, and onto the platform they scrambled. It was then that they realised that Sunny was not with them. No one had seen him for some time. Glancing back at the hundreds of thousands before them they realised that he was not amongst them either, as all eyes were upon them. If he had been on the shore they would have seen the usual disturbance in the crowd that he had made since he set foot on the land. A breeze began to blow and in the clear bright sunshine the water began to swirl. The surface became choppy and the sky soon misted over. As the pontoon rocked back and forth with increasing violence the boys tried to hold onto the statue to save it from disappearing into the rising waves. The wind picked up further and the sea rose and fell until they knew they could no longer hold on. They were forced reluctantly to leave the lake and return to the shore. After all Sunny was not with them and they must find him.
As they landed on the grass they looked back and the water had become a whirlpool and the statue and it's stage were spinning in the centre of a small circle that began to rise from the surface of the sea storm. A streak of lightening hit the statue and it tumbled beneath the waves. The striking scene of the marble memorial had disappeared as quickly as it had appeared. Down through the murky waters it descended until it submerged itself into the slime and mud at the bottom of the lake. Buried in the entanglement of weeds it had already gone the way of many an ancient god. No sooner had they arisen in history than they were knocked from their pedestal and forgotten in the memory of man. How soon the mighty do fall. Always.
From the centre of the turbulence a spout of water shot hundreds of feet into the sky. Like a fountain of Rome the stream of water paid one last homage to the lost leader. As the wind caught the spray and spread it across the area, showering rain fell gently on the befuddled. The sun's rays caught the droplets and a brilliant rainbow spread wide and spectacularly across the lake, from side to side.
A cry once again went up and from beneath the arch of the rainbow the golden boy, thought gone, ascended from the far side where he had waited alone contemplating the depth of his decision. The water descended and the rainbow disappeared. Alone he flew. Like a free bird he danced in the sky. Up into the heavens he swooped until he could not be seen and then he would plummet back to skim across the outstretched arms waving to the hero of inspiration. Like a young chick newly celebrating the joy of his own freedom he played in the space where no other humans were capable of being. The boys could no longer join him. He and his talent were about to leave the consciousness of mankind. He had let go, and they already felt that they were no longer part of his experience. Earthbound they began to weep at the inevitability that crept their way. This brief flowering of the extraordinary had awakened minds to act out the tales of legends that would be retold but not believed. Many would not believe, as many had not seen, and perhaps even those who had been witness would one day reject their own memory. Is it the nature of us all to be conservative and sceptical. Flowers only bloom for a short period, but can we appreciate their beauty once they cease to be. The more precious the bloom the more rare and inaccessible it becomes. Perhaps fantasies are too great, too powerful to hold our attention for too long. The mundane is more easily handled by most, for those who try to live with excesses soon fall to madness.
Sophie took hold of Archie's hand. They stood at the rear of the crowd and wept. No more could they relate to him. For a few brief weeks they had reunited as a family but from this day it would be just the two of them, together but alone, who would treasure the life they had nurtured for so many years. Almost half of their existence had been spent caring for the one who created this brief moment. Sophie was sad but she had accepted that she had carried out her role with success. She had fought the battle and could not be surprised with the outcome. She had a life and this had been merely a part of it. So much more was still to be done. Before long she stood and looked with pride at her offspring. He had arrived in their life with a storm and now finally he must break from them just a spectacularly. Did they all not share in his creation, his explosion?
Beside them stood Andreas. He had taken to injecting Heroin, for the man could no longer cope with his own ghosts. Voices and vipers screamed within his head, and soon they would poison him to suicide. He was destroyed. The miracle had not worked for him. He could not accept the blessing. He was too far gone. The anguished mind had burnt shut a long time ago.
As for the boys, they each underwent their own experience and understanding. Frank held his brother to him as Georgie cried bitterly. He could see that no more would the boy lead them in adventures. Life was up to them and they were children no more. Their future would be okay, but this did not still the fear of stepping alone into adulthood. The unknown was there to greet them. It had been a glorious time. Henry smiled at the twins, and thought life was wonderful. He rejoiced in the spectacle, which was no more than a phase in his life. He had come from the bush and to it he could return. He felt his place. Opportunities existed for spreading the story of his people, and he had the confidence to choose if and when he might take up the offers he had been given. Much had been learned and so much had been shared. It was all part of the cycle. Hans and Joseph, who had loved the boy the most, had already faced the possibility of losing him. Alternatives and plans of joining together as a group to entertain, had been discussed soon after his disappearance from London. They knew that the time to part was approaching, but they chose to carry on alone in what ever way they could. With Joseph's voice and the young German's charm they would be a success and branch out into careers that would see them happy until they too would one day retire. James stood with Priscilla and the thought of assisting his sister in her street work had interested him for some time. The two of them would reunite, never have partners and eventually they would be known to have set up charitable institutions throughout England. Never again would any of them create such fantasies but they would all love greatly. It had been a success.
The Bishop had lost himself in the crush. He too was much affected. He would not rise in the church. Today's episodes put to rest his ambitions. More special things in life existed than politics. For several years this would haunt him until with the permission of the Holy Father he would eventually retire to a secluded monastery to live out his days in contemplation of the miracle that was human endeavour.
No one would be the same from this moment on. No one.
As the sun finally reached its zenith the boy of miracles took one last swoop over the heads of the assembly. The cheers rose as the firebird passed brilliantly across the field of faces one last time before he began to ascend higher and higher into the face of the sun. The blinding light made it more and more difficult to comprehend the distance stretching between the boy and the earth below, but still higher did he go. His body diminished in size until the speck that he had become disappeared from sight. The crowd waited for his descent, but he did not return. The 'Apostles' also waited, but nothing. Quiet descended on the gathering and as the minutes passed, the hush continued. The breeze stopped and all was still but they continued to watch and wait. With the herald of a low and distant rumble the wind began to pick up again, and from the other side of the mountain clouds rolled in and the heavens misted over, save for a space encircling the golden disk in the centre of the gathering greyness. The clouds grew black but still the sun shone through. A murmur began to rise amongst the crowd like a buzz of bees and as it grew to a crescendo the sky lit up with lightening that flashed and streaked throughout the rolling blackness. Thunder began to heave and break over unsheltered heads and suddenly with the shattering boom of an almighty blast of light, an explosion of deep crimson shot over the face of the sun. The clouds closed up and the day became almost night as rain poured down upon the startled onlookers.
There was nothing to feel except myself. What had become of the dream? I was drenched to the skin, cold, frightened, confused and very alone. I can not speak for the rest of the crowd but for me it had all gone dark.
"Hey, are you okay?"
"You look sick. Can you get up?"
"Where am I? It's very dark."
"I found you lying here, under the bridge. You'll freeze to death in this rain. Can I get you something. You look like you need a hot coffee or a shot of Brandy. Let me help you up. Step into the light so we can see if you're hurt."
"Sunny! What are we doing here? "
"My name's not Sunny. Lets get something warm into you. You look disoriented."
"But you disappeared. I thought we'd lost you. How did we get to Paris?"
"Sir, I don't know what you're talking about. I saw you down here this afternoon, and I was just on my way back to the train. I came down for a last look at the river and found you lying here, but I assure you we don't know each other. You've possibly been unconscious here for hours."
"But we've been flying around the world together so many times while you were performing with the boys."
"What boys? I really don't understand you. You must have me confused with someone else. I'm not who you think I am."
"But we've been doing this for years. All the spectacular things you've been doing. The whole world adores you, especially me. You're famous, my love."
"But I'm only eighteen, I couldn't have been running around anywhere for years. Look, I don't know you. I only came to see if you needed any help. If you want to get strange, try your mysticism on someone else. I don't have the time. "
"Eighteen? You can't be. What year is it?"
"Nineteen Sixty Eight. I'm sorry Sir but I must go. I have to fly. I must be back in London tomorrow for a friend's funeral."
"Sunny? Don't go. You can't leave me like this. You're special."
"No. That's not my name, I said, and I'm not special."
"Everyone’s special boy. You most of all."
"Do you think you're special?"
"Yes, I think I am."
"Well I'm just an ordinary kid."
"I doubt it. Are you sure you don't know me? I could have sworn. I know this is abrupt, but will you have that coffee with me. I still feel a bit unsteady."
"I think your a bit crazy. Is this your normal pick up line?"
"It's not a pick up line at all. But you are very beautiful. I'm sure I know you, or at least I should."
"Okay you old eccentric, lets have a coffee, and you can tell me all about myself. I'll be all ears."
The young vision threw a protective arm around my waist as we moved off.
"Do you ever dream, boy?"

 Request an emailed copy if you wish. Read it, criticise it, turn it into a script or what ever takes your fancy. I dreamed that Bruce LaBruce might make it into a film one day. I just enjoyed writing it and for me that is enough. I have never tried to publish as that seemed like too much anxiety and hard, possibly futile work.

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