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A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME

























































































Jeff's body was slinking lower and lower, his long legs in his baggies already past the front legs of the desk. His body was drooping...drooping....

"Mister...Friedman."

Jeff's eyes popped open and instantly he snapped awake and was up at attention again.

"Mr. Friedman, I know you don't fall asleep in the middle of a basketball game, and believe it or not an old man like me has seen you play. I would appreciate it if you would not fall asleep in the middle of my class."

"Sorry," Jeff mumbled.

"Buustedddd..." Barry beside Jeff said in a barely audible voice, smirking.

Jeff squirmed in his seat, embarrassed. Everyone was smiling at him, and he hated THIS kind of attention.

"Thank you for your editorial commentary, MISTER Jones," said the elderly math teacher Mr. O'Hannigan, with so much the appearance and demeanor of John Houseman, you'd swear they were twins separated at birth. "Now back to the subject of functions and relations."

*******************************************************************************************

The next day went by fairly normally, but after math class, Mr. O'Hannigan stopped Jeff at his desk.

"Mr. Friedman."

Jeff stopped and looked at the weathered old man in the tweed three-piece suit that must have been from the 1970's!

"Yes?" Jeff said timidly.

"Jeff, I'm concerned about your marks. You haven't done well in the last two chapter tests, and I KNOW you want to get an athletic scholarship. These things don't come without a price. You MUST have a certain average at the end of the year in order to even be considered."

He let that piece of information digest in Jeff's mind. Jeff only blinked.

O'Hannigan continued.

"I have assigned a tutor for you. I've discussed it with your parents. They have agreed to the modest fee for him."

"Tutor! Awww! Who is it?"

O'Hannigan just looked at Jeff.

"No. No, not Derkheim," Jeff said, incredulous.

"Yes. Mr. Derkheim. I believe you 'athletes' call him..."

"UGLY!"

O'Hannigan only raised his weary eyebrows and nodded with the slightest amusement.

"Why didn't you ask ME?" said Jeff. "Doesn't anyone consider what *I* want? 'What do you think about this, Jeff?' 'Oh, I think it's a wonderful idea someone controlling my life!'"

"Calm down, Jeff. I expect such childish responses from Mr. Jones, not you. It's not as bad as that. Freddy will assist only for an hour twice a week. You will arrange a convenient time for you both. Now get used to it because your parents are paying for it, and you NEED the help."

Jeff was tight-lipped.

"Oh, don't look at me like that, young man." Then he paused, softened. "Jeff, I'm old enough to have seen two generations of students pass under my teaching. I've followed the careers of many. Some who I thought were completely hopeless turned out to be wild successes. But this was the exception, never the rule. Almost invariably, those who worked hard in high school had wonderful careers and family. I want you to succeed. We all do. You're...a rising star. Please don't come crashing down like a meteor. I'm old enough and truthful enough to say...it would hurt me." And he looked away. "That's all."

Jeff only nodded once and left.

*******************************************************************************************

The first night of the tutoring was at Jeff's house. He was the only son of a Crown prosecutor father and a mother who had re-entered the Ontario Public Service as a Finance policy analyst when Jeff was ten. Jeff's athletic nature came from her; she was a natural athlete who had won various international competitions in Track and was almost chosen for Canada's Olympic Team in 1980. After retiring "from the field", she took a degree in Political Science and began her Public Service career until Jeff came along six years later.

Seated at the mahogany dinner table, Freddy Derkheim scratched his neck, Jeff staring at him sprawled in another nineteenth century country-style carved mahogany chair. If one could sleep with one's eyes open, Jeff looked just like it.

"And that's how you calculate the foci and directrices of these functions," Freddy said softly.

Freddy was a gangly-thin teen with black dirty hair, pimply face and rumpled old clothes. He had only a couple of friends, all three the top intellects of the class. In math, he was the one to get 100% on each test and really didn't seem impressed by it. What destroyed the rest of any potential in the teen's image was a set of thick black plastic-frame glasses that would have done Dmitri Shostakovich, the old 20th century composer, proud. He shuffled around, bent over, almost perpetually embarrassed-looking. The jocks hated him.

"Of what POSSIBLE use is this?" whined Jeff.

"Oh. I'll show you." And he proceeded to explain with a clarity superior to Mr. O'Hannigan precisely the purpose and applications of these mathematical esoterica.

Jeff had to nod, impressed not by Freddy, but by his obvious innate intelligence. 'He might become a MATH teacher someday,' Jeff thought with sarcasm.

They both went over problems Jeff had the night before with certain questions and then Freddy left for the evening.

"Glad he's gone," Jeff moped as his mother passed.

She only raised her eyebrows.

"I'm surprised he doesn't stink," continued Jeff.

"Your ATTITUDE stinks, young man," said his mother in no uncertain terms. "Homework. Now."

"All right...." and Jeff slunk into his bedroom to get the rest of his homework books for the dinner table.

"And no Internet tonight, Jeff. Work."

"Awww..."

"I mean it."

"Damn."

"What did you say?"

"Nothing...."

*******************************************************************************************

The second tutorial night, a Thursday, Freddy had pulled a number of books from the library and asked Jeff politely if he could simply drive him and the books in Jeff's car to Freddy's to drop them off.

"No prob," Jeff muttered, praying the guys would not see UGLY in HIS car.

Freddy's place was in the poorer section of town, an area Jeff had never even SEEN before and now knew why.

Freddy gave calm and patient directions for Jeff to follow, the latter hoping to be no more than seconds getting in and out of this neighbourhood in one piece.

Freddy's "house" if you could call it that was a run down old shack that was probably ready for demolition around 1940. It was stacked among an infinite series of equally repulsive buildings going both to the left and right of it.

Jeff pulled up front and parked, keeping his eyes peeled for thugs to jump out and try to steal his Camaro.

Freddy, seeing Jeff's discomfort, said, "You don't have to get out. I'll be back in a minute." Then he proceeded to take one armload of books from the back seat and went to the door.

"Aaaht? Izzattyou??!" Jeff heard a woman's slurring shout from INSIDE the house.

Freddy only walked in and said, "Yeah."

Closed the door.

"How'd you get here so fast?!! One of yer faggot-friends drive ya in a car? Hunh? Hunh??!!" Jeff heard the woman's voice again.

Mumble. What could have been "Yes, Mum."

"And what're all theze books, hunh? Haven't we got enough books around, hunh?"

Freddy only came out and removed the second stack of books from the back seat and went into the house.

"They're library books, Mum. Don't damage them or you'll have to pay for them."

"Haa, haaaaaa!" roared the woman. "Pay, he sez! Pay?? With what??? Get out, ya faggot!!!"

Freddy only closed the door quietly behind him and returned to the front seat of Jeff's car, closing the car door
and looking straight ahead.

"You see what I have to deal with," Freddy said softly, and nothing else.

Jeff only put the standard-shift car in first gear and pulled away, glad to be on the road again.

Jeff thought about that incident on the way to his own house in his own upscale subdivision in Scarborough. Finally parking the Camaro in the garage beside his father's fire engine red Mercedes, he slunk behind Freddy as both entered the house through the garage entrance. Despite Jeff's lanky 6'8" height, for once he felt very small.

*******************************************************************************************

Word had gotten around that UGLY was tutoring the basketball team's star center. Now it was the weekend. In the partying AFTER finishing Jeff's homework, the guys never let him live that humiliation down. They had a basketball game of Shirts and Skins and even though Jeff's team, the Skins, won, everyone proceeded to give Jeff a taffy-pull stretch with his elastic body and an orgy too just as an afterthought.*

*******************************************************************************************

Tuesday evening.

Freddy was over at Jeff's house giving his usual math help.

The hour was nearly up. And both were tired from their own work schedules.

"I can drive you home," said Jeff.

"No. Thanks. The subway's fine. Thanks, anyway." Freddy looked away. Got up, collected his books.

Jeff stood up, naturally towering over the other 5'10" teen.

"Must be great to be so tall," Freddy said in a low voice.

"You know it. I rule," Jeff said, his normal jock humour coming out.

Freddy smiled despite himself, then grew grim again, and muttered, hesitantly, "Mind if I ask a question?"

"Sure."

"Have you been doing some...exercises or something lately? You seem different."

"Ya? How?" Jeff said, smiling.

"I've been watching you in math class. I can't explain it. I...sorry, but sometimes you look...it's so difficult to find the right words...more 'limber' than you used to be."

Jeff knew Freddy was further back in the desks behind him in math class.

"You been watchin' me in math class?" Jeff said, a hint of sarcasm in his voice, but also humour.

Freddy looked away. "Well, I mean, um...ya, I mean...everyone does...I mean...ya." And he looked down, embarrassed.

Looking up once at Jeff's slightly smug but glowingly attractive face that only athletes have, Freddy swallowed and said, "Guess that's what us faggots do best: look at the jocks....G'night." And Freddy stepped out into the spring night air, closing the door behind him quietly.

This was the second time Jeff felt small because of Freddy. He shouldn't have been mean to him, no matter how he might feel about him.

Thursday. Freddy saw Jeff at the latter's locker at the end of school.

"Uh, maybe we should call it quits, Jeff, the tutoring. I'll recommend someone else who's just as competent."

Jeff only looked at the rumpled teen and frowned. "Why? You sick?"

"Um, no, I just don't feel you're comfortable with me, and I feel you shouldn't be distracted from the work."

"Naw, man. Dat's my prob, not yours. I'll drive by around 7:00 to pick you up. 'Kay?"

Freddy, perplexed, only nodded finally. "Uh. Okay. Later."

"Dude." And Jeff pulled his homework for the night, looking away from Freddy.

Freddy walked away, a bit dazed, well, normal-looking again.

******************************************************************************************

That night, as Jeff promised, he drove Freddy over to Jeff's and they did the usual math lesson. Jeff was growing more used to the presence of the other, if not really liking him.

When they finished, Freddy picked up his books and said, "Um, about the other night. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said anything."

"No sweat, dude," said Jeff. He could see the acute embarrassment in the other, and finally said, "You okay, man?"

"Yeah. It's just...I mean...it's hard to focus on the work with someone like you...sometimes."

"Whattya mean, someone like me?"

"I...I don't mean that in a bad way. I mean, you're not just any jock in the school. You're THE jock. The MAN."

"I KNOW, man. I RULE," Jeff said, his pearly whites beaming. Any adulation he could get from any quarter was of course in his mind justly deserved.

Freddy smiled despite himself, for just a second, then stifled himself.

"And uh, to answer your question from the other night..." continued Jeff.

"Uh, no, that's okay. I was out of line."

"Pppfff, no you weren't. I was just surprised to think you would look at someone like me."

"Ya. Well...I do."

Jeff waited a second, trying to think of what to say.

Freddy continued. "I hear things. Just rumors. Waldheim doesn't know, but hears things. You can't help but hear HIS loud mouth, well, everywhere. I heard him say 'the jocks know.' And he says there's something special about you. He doesn't know what it is, but I bet he does and just says that. He's a terminal liar. All those school paper hacks are."

"Sure der's somepin special about me. I am de MAN," said Jeff, cutting the jock slang thick, and his body slunk back with unusual looseness.

Freddy saw it. "That. What did you just do?" And Jeff could see the puzzled look on the other's face.

"You did something. I see that all the time in math. It's...I dunno...it's...I can't explain it," said Freddy.

Jeff debated in himself. Should he say anything? But he could see the interest and the suppressed embarrassment in the other's face.

Jeff lowered his head. "Uh...ya, somethin'...happened to me last fall."

"An accident?"

"No, dude. It's...I'm like you, finding it hard to put into words. But I'll tell you. The jocks know, so it'll come out sooner or later. Come on."

And Jeff took Freddy upstairs into his bedroom and closed the door.

Freddy was puzzled and it showed.

"It's okay, dude. My folks don't even know yet," said Jeff quietly.

Freddy nodded.

Jeff continued. "Like I said, somethin' happened to me last fall. It wasn't an accident. It was...a miracle."

Freddy only looked at him with furrowed brows, skeptical.

"I know, man, you think I'm sh*ttin' you. I ain't. All right? Somethin' happened to me." And he put up his left hand to Freddy. "Come on, man, pull my finger."

"Sh*t, man, you brought me up here for one of your damn jock jokes? Come on. I'm not a complete assh*le." And he prepared to walk out. Jeff stopped him, holding him by the shoulder.

"No, man, no. It's no joke. Come on." And he held out out his left hand again.

"What?"

"Pull it, man. Pull hard."

Freddy only looked at him like he was crazy. But he took Jeff's index finger and tugged gently. He was immediately speechless and gasped when he saw the finger stretch out six inches like nothing, then further to twelve inches. He was so shocked, he let go and the finger retracted with a snap like a rubber band.

But Freddy only frowned and looked at Jeff.

"A jock trick. You sh*ts are always doin' this. You went to a joke shop and bought an elastic finger or whatever it's called and you think this is funny. It's not."

"Shh, dude, be quiet, my mother's just downstairs. It's not a trick, man."

"What, you just want me to believe you. Some f*ckin' trick from a joke shop and you...."

Freddy was cut short when Jeff pulled on his own head and his neck stretched up three feet high.

"Holy shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhiiiiiiii....." stammered out Freddy and sat carefully down on Jeff's bed, speechless again.

Jeff let go and his neck retracted back to its normal length.

"How? How did you...?" Freddy could only whisper out.

"I told you, dude, somethin' happened to me last fall, and I'm a rubber dude now."

The mathematical mind in Freddy reasserted itself and he frowned.

"Mirrors, man." And he looked around for the non-existent mirrors that might have caused what he thought he saw.

Jeff took Freddy's shoulder gently and said, "It's not mirrors, man. It's real."

Freddy had been the brunt of jock jokes for too long to believe Jeff. But it was so hard to believe what he had just seen.

Jeff continued. "Dude, I'm gonna do somethin' that might freak ya. Promise me you won't shout out, 'cause if you do and my folks come, I'll say you tried to grope me or...somethin', I dunno. Anything. Promise."

"Okay. Okay. I promise."

Jeff, in his Maple Leafs logo shirt and baggies began to undulate in a way Freddy had never seen anyone do before. Jeff was waving in and out...like he was made out of RUBBER....Then he was slowly sinking to the floor, his baggies collapsing first from the feet down.

Freddy could feel the scream coming to his throat, then instantly he felt Jeff's left arm stretch and wrap tight like a python around his mouth and nose, barring him from screaming and barely breathing!

Jeff undulated and collapsed his boneless body right down to his neck, his elongated left arm never leaving the tight squeeze on Freddy's mouth and nose.

From Jeff's collapsed body, Jeff said very quietly, echoing a phrase he had heard only recently, "You see what I have to deal with."

Jeff could feel Freddy's lips curl up in a smile and him starting to laugh despite himself. Jeff slowly began to reconstitute his former bodily appearance, slowly rising up from the floor, his limbs regaining their normal bone-with-flesh appearance. When his body had regained its normal look again, he said, "No screaming, man. Or I'll say you're a molester or somethin'. Swear?"

Freddy only nodded.

Jeff removed his left arm, and Freddy was wide-eyed again as it flowed slowly like a python moving, back to Jeff's normal arm length.

Freddy only rubbed his eyes, and looked again at Jeff.

Jeff did a quick jiggle, and his entire body wobbled like a Jell-O mould for only an instant.

"F**********ck, man..." was all Freddy could whisper.

Jeff could not help but see the boner in Freddy's jeans.

Jeff nodded. "Yer not the only one, dude. Even straights can't resist it."

But Freddy, adjusting his pants so it wasn't so obvious, became serious again.

"Man, Jeff, what's gonna happen to you? It'll come out, and you'll never be a basketball player. They'll say you have an unfair advantage or something. I mean...jeez..." And he smiled despite himself. "So THAT'S why you look like you're bending like rubber in math."

"Ya, dude. I'm a rubberman."

Freddy swallowed, scratched his temple, continued. "I...the physics are...imposs...the chemistry...how...the biology...it can't be....It's a...."

"Miracle, smoothie. Like I said."

And Freddy looked at the jock, completely baffled. The logical mind couldn't grasp it, even though he had seen it with his own eyes.

"How did it happen?" asked Freddy.

"That I can't tell you. At least not yet. Maybe someday I'll tell everyone. But for now, even showing this is a secret that only a few people know."

"Why tell me?"

"Yo, Einstein, my brain is not bacon and Eggs Benedict. When you said you were lookin' at me in math, I knew you were a fag."

Freddy looked down.

"Stop that, man, it's nuthin' to be ashamed of," said Jeff. "F*ck, half the jocks are gay or bi. Deal wit it."

Now THAT was a revelation to Freddy, and he said, "They...they ARE??"

"F*ck, ya, Jerkheim. Get used to it!"

But Jeff could see this was a very weird revelation for Freddy, and he softened. "Sorry, man. Didn't mean ta raz ya."

"What about you, Jeff?" Freddy asked, sort of looking beside him, not really at him.

"Ppppfff. Bi, dude. I'll f*ck anything that's cute." And Jeff smiled with his pearly whites, his lips stretching unusually wide.

Freddy only nodded, and Jeff understood. He saw it in a lot of the gay and bi jocks.

Freddy's body language was screaming, 'I wish I could do you!!!"

"Ain't gonna do it," minced Jeff ala George Bush Sr. "Not with you, dude. You need a makeover, like from the hair folicles down."

But Jeff, remembering Freddy's poverty, bit his own tongue. "Ow."

"What?" said Freddy.

"Nuthin'. Yo. Let the MAN give YOU some tutoring in the looks department."

And Jeff proceeded to write down a grocery list of things to buy. Then he gave them to Freddy.

"Git this sh*t, dude. And the fags will be wantin' to whup yo ass REAL GOOD." And Jeff smiled again.

Freddy looked at the items, and Jeff could see Freddy's body wilt like a plant, and he knew. He knew Freddy couldn't buy these things. Probably because he had no money.

Freddy handed it back.

"I'll keep it in mind, Jeff. I...really should get going."

Looking at the list, Jeff forced out, "Please. Don't tell anyone. It's gonna come out someday anyway. I just wanna do it my way."

Freddy only nodded and walked out.

*******************************************************************************************

"What if the Prom King wanted a guy to be his partner?" said Jeff to Barry Jones, "Waldheim" to his friends and enemies. (Named after former UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim, whose past was highly suspicious due to his Nazi involvement in World War II. This dualistic good guy/bad guy persona was strangely apropos for Jones, a budding amoral journalist.)

"Dunno, Stretch," he said to Jeff, calling him by HIS nickname. "Have any plans, your Rubbery Highness? It's gonna be you, you f*ck."

"Heller, ya. Drop some lines, will you?"

Waldheim grinned devilishly and sucked on his mandatory toothpick. Nodded slowly.

*******************************************************************************************

The reaction from the school principal to Waldheim's rumors was predictable. The principal put up posters throughout the school and gave an interview in the school paper that gay partners would not be tolerated at the prom.

This prompted a beautiful and equally scorching editorial in the next week's edition from Waldheim, calling the principal among other things "from another decade, certainly not THIS one" and "a 50's Janus" which, most people realized after a Google search, meant two-faced, "since we live in an era where sexual freedom is the norm, not the exception, and to try to turn back the clock to an apparently more moral or pristine era is an affront to the countless gay activists who have dedicated their entire lives to the gains they alone have caused."

******************************************************************************************

Prom night.

Everyone was waiting for Jeff and his partner to show. No one knew who he had asked. The jocks didn't know. The girls didn't know. NO ONE KNEW. And Jeff gave absolutely no hint. Waldheim alone figured it out.

The band was playing. Everyone was dancing slowly. Then, they came.

Jeff was stunning in a powder blue tuxedo, white opera collar, and black ascot, his blonde hair slicked back wet ala the 1920's, his immense height flowing along in a lanky stride that in itself was sexually provocative. Beside him was an intense but equally attractive young man in an all-black tuxedo with black satin lapels, his previously pimpled face almost cleaned up by the special soap that Jeff bought him out of his own pocket. But nobody really had noticed the change over the last month before prom night. Any other blemishes were covered by a professional makeup artist that Jeff hired, again from his own pocket. Teeth whiteners, haircut, contact lenses, a bit of bodybuilding training and posture tips from Jeff had transformed this young man from a pariah...to a Prom King. It was Freddy Derkheim.

Jeff and Freddy danced to the slow music, their bodies close, then everyone else did too.

The jocks AND the girls were astonished (and jealous).

Of course, Jeff was elected Prom King. And Jeff declared Freddy Prom King too! To the roar and approval of everyone! The principal walked out of the gymnasium in disgust.

"Now tell me, Stretch," said bleary-eyed Waldheim when he finally showed up, more than half drunk (half drunk being his USUAL state), "who's the Butch and who's the Bitch?"

Everyone within hearing distance roared with laughter.

"I'M the Butch!" said Freddy. And everyone laughed as did he.

Jeff did a dimple-press to his left cheek, smiled almost preternaturally large, and wrapped his long arms around Freddy with a decidedly impish gay touch.

"And I'm the Bitch!" shouted Jeff. "And you muthaf*ckin' dudes know it, too!!!"

At least the jocks couldn't deny it....

 

(dedicated to Yahoo member fatdaddyschlonger, a possible future basketball star)

 

The Holy Insurgent of Uncertainty

c2004

 

*described in the story "Stretch"




__________________________________________________________________________________________





THE FIRE



Laying with an arm across Jeff, Freddy was woken up by sounds.

The sun was already coming up at 5:00 a.m. through the windows of the cabin. Slowly coming back to consciousness, Freddy looked at Jeff. Jeff was crying softly.

"Jeff?" said Freddy groggily. "What is it?"

But Jeff only turned away and wouldn't look at him. And he couldn't stop crying.

"Jeff? Are you sick?"

Jeff only shook his head no.

Freddy could only put his head on Jeff's chest and wait.

Through his sobbing, Jeff only said, "I'm a freak."

Softly, Freddy said, "Yeah, well, join the club. Not until too long ago, you and your friends considered me a freak."

That brought Jeff up short and he looked at Freddy. It was true.

"Yeah, but we changed you," said Jeff. "You can't change me back. I don't want these 'powers' anymore. I don't want them."

"Yeah, well, you're stuck with them. You're a hero."

Jeff's tears had pretty much worked themselves out. And he just nodded, remembering.

********************************************************************************************

A week before graduation, a fire broke out in one of the old four storey low-rise apartment buildings only two blocks from Jeff's house in the early evening.

Jeff was home from school and said to his dad, "Let's go see it."

His dad wasn't too keen on it. Perhaps he just didn't want sparks to hit his red Mercedes.

"You should let the professionals handle it," Dad said. "The truck's probably already there."

"I'm going," said Jeff.

"Oh, all right," said Dad, and they drove down, parked, and walked over to the firemen. The building was an inferno and beyond hope, so the firemen were hosing the adjacent buildings to keep the whole block from going up in flames.

Jeff kept hearing little noises, but couldn't make out what it was over the sound of the fire engine truck. He walked around to the side and gasped. Sure enough, a little girl of about five years old was in a top floor apartment, screaming at the window.

"Jesus, there's a kid!" Jeff shouted to the firemen, pointing.

The firemen pulled out an inflatable mat like a trampoline and pulled it over. Once it was set, the firemen were urging her to jump onto it to safety. But she wouldn't.

"Something's wrong," said Jeff, more to himself than anyone. "Give me a coat," he said to the Fire Chief.

"What?" said the Chief.

"A coat! A coat! Even if it's your own!" said Jeff.

"You can't go in there!" said the Chief, incredulous.

"A coat! Now!" said Jeff.

The Chief took off his own coat and gave it to Jeff. Jeff grabbed it and ran, pulling the coat on as he ran.

"Where are you going??" said Jeff's dad. But Jeff was already inside.

Jeff ran the stairwell, which in these old buildings were all wood, not concrete, and falling apart. He got up to the fourth floor, figured out the apartment, and rammed the door. Flame whooshed him in the face like a whirlwind, but the fireman's coat protected his face.

Flame was ubiquitous, and the whole floor was about to crash down. He ran through the apartment and found the screaming girl by the window. He tried opening the window, but it was fused shut. Grabbing a lamp, he smashed out the window, and the little girl was so shocked by the actions of this young man, her screaming was reduced to loud whimpering.

Without even stopping to think, Jeff picked her up by the collar of her shirt and butt of her pants and threw her out the window, where she landed on the rescue cushion, screaming all the way.

The floor fell away and Jeff was being engulfed by flame. Strangely, he wasn't afraid, saw an untouched section of first floor through the gaping hole more than half the apartment long, and jumped forward, right shoulder first. As an athlete, he knew the right way to fall, but this seemed more instinct than effort. Before hitting ground, he bent inward bracing for the impact, his elastic body flattening to about an inch thick and curving into a rough ball shape. He rolled into the impact like a judo flip, then simply rolled clumsily a couple of times, snapped back to his normal form in a second, and ran out the back way before anyone saw him.

He walked over, heaving and in a daze, to the Fire Chief and handed him his coat.

"Jeff!" shouted his father.

By now teams of paramedics and ambulances had shown up, taking injured to hospital, including the little girl.

Jeff looked anxiously at the vehicles.

"The little girl," said Jeff, heaving.

The Chief answered. "Smoke inhalation and shock. She fainted when she hit the rescue mat. She's not out of the woods yet. But you've given her a chance. How the hell did you get up there and back?! Those stairwells were an inferno!"

Jeff didn't answer, still looking at the paramedics.

"Son, do YOU need medical attention?" said the Fire Chief to him.

"No. I'm all right. Thanks," said Jeff softly.

Jeff walked towards the Mercedes. Jeff's dad followed, stunned by his son's actions.

In the car, Dad looked at Jeff and said, "How did you get up there and back?"

"I don't want to talk about it. I just want to go home. Please. Let's go home."

Dad only started the car and turned back for home.

Once at home, one look from Jeff's mother at him and she said, "You look like you've been to Hell and back. What happened?"

Jeff only went upstairs to his bedroom, his mother following.

Jeff proceeded to take his clothes off, his mother looking on intently.

After Jeff crawled into bed, Mum only said, "Jeff," waiting for an explanation.

"Dad'll tell you. It was a bad fire."


Needless to say, news of this got into the newspapers and Jeff was identified as the hero. The Fire Chief had memorized Jeff's dad's car license plate number and had the police do an identity check.

For the last edition of the school paper for the year, Waldheim wrote an editorial about Jeff's heroic deed, calling him "the epitome of manhood."

After seeing the editorial, Jeff was grim throughout the day and strangely detached about it all. The shock was slowly engulfing him, like a slow-motion mudslide.

Seeing him approach in the hall before the last class of the day, Waldheim detected Jeff to be a cross between catatonic and The Thing before shouting "It's Clobberin' Time!"

'I wonder what it's like to get a shotput ball to the face,' Waldheim thought, noting Jeff's massive clenched fists.
'Is it better for the face to be tight or loose to absorb the impact?'

Jeff looked at Waldheim grimly.

"I saw the paper," said Jeff softly.

'Here it comes,' thought Waldheim, waiting for the blow.

Before he could react, Waldheim felt Jeff's gigantic body wrap around him in a hug, the feeling being inside a surprisingly soft but sturdy bed comforter, his nose pressed firmly into Jeff's cushiony chest like padded marble. Jeff's jaw rested on Waldheim's head. Not that Waldheim was a dwarf, but Jeff really was that big. 'So this is how Derkheim feels,' thought Waldheim. 'Lucky sh*t !'

Finally, the bear-trap released, and the steel-hard sinews of Jeff's arms flowed away.

Jeff still had that odd look in his face, looking at Waldheim, not angry now.

Waldheim the journalist, always one to describe any situation perfectly, was finally at a loss to describe the look in Jeff's face. The latter's soft brown eyes stared at him with a disconcerting come-hither look, like one would give only to a lover. A transcendental look, like the look of the Buddha, or having a stroke.

Waldheim, still tingling from the powerful embrace, could only smirk. "Well," he finally grated out, "you're welcome."

Beginning to walk away, he turned to Jeff and said quietly, "It's a good thing yer hitched, Stretch. For a minute there, I thought you were comin' on to me."

Jeff only raised an eyebrow like Mr. Spock, and he understood. Waldheim knew Jeff had become involved with Freddy and was going to take the latter to the prom. Slowly, Jeff only put an index finger to his lips, a symbol of "Keep it quiet."

Waldheim only nodded, and gave a simultaneous nod/wink/thumb & index finger "Who's your buddy?" sign ala "The Buddy Jesus" to Jeff. Then he sauntered off.

'Poor kid's losing it,' thought Waldheim as he walked, even though the two were the same age, remembering the haunted look in Jeff's eyes. Waldheim always saw himself as much older, already a jaded "man of the world", never a kid. 'Still...once the novelty of having powers like that wore off, the fear of being discovered could destroy any sane man's mind. Better him than me. It would surely to Goddess drive me crazy, eventually.' Waldheim, along with the basketball team, knew of Jeff's fifth dimensional powers, though only beings like Mr. Prince would understand them enough to call them that. Waldheim was careful to draw attention only to Jeff's heroism, for the "how" of events should always give way to the "why".


Jeff didn't want to talk about the fire to his parents, and his secrecy eventually caused a quarrel with his father. Under no circumstances was Jeff going to tell his parents about his fifth dimensional abilities, and the strain of not being able to tell was becoming an undercurrent of Jeff's personality, with periods of languid indifference (Weltschmerz or world-weariness) to a seething anger to barely suppressed anxiety.

The next day after graduation, Jeff took Freddy to his parents' cabin by one of the lakes, hopefully to relax and maybe, maybe, to forget the world for a while.

*******************************************************************************************

"You know," said Jeff, still in bed with Freddy, "I did experiments at home."

"Yeah?"

"I found that I can control the amount I can feel. I found if I willed it, I could shove a pin right into me, and
I wouldn't even feel it. My skin would simply bend around the pin. A pin, for chrissakes! But I fooled around with it. By different...oh, how do I say it...states of will, I guess, I could 'will' myself to feel the pin more and more when I touched myself with it, up to the point of it being normal just like anybody else touching a pin to your skin. In other words, it hurt like hell. I concluded then that I could kill myself with a knife, if I...couldn't go on."

This made Freddy squirm. "What? What is this talk about killing yourself?"

"I'm scared, Freddy. I'm scared."

"Of what? What are you scared of? Of being caught?"

"Of course, of being caught! I was sure I was going to get caught when I went into that building. I knew the floors were collapsing. I knew it! If I hadn't had these powers, I would have been killed! I fell three f*cking floors! The fire was so bad, there were no firemen in the building!"

"But you did it anyway."

"I didn't even have time to think! I just...knew I had to save that kid! No matter what happened to me. I had to do it. No one could do it. I had to do it. Afterwards, I was almost sh*tting myself with fear. But at the time, it's like...something possessed me. I had to do it, no matter what happened to me."

Jeff only looked at Freddy, and an odd look was in Freddy's eyes. Jeff sensed Mr. Prince looking at him through Freddy, and Freddy said, deadpan, "You were only possessed by the Spirit of Humanity, Jeff.  Welcome to The Human Race." Jeff even sensed Prince's voice merged with Freddy's, as if Freddy himself had been possessed by Prince. Maybe Mr. Prince was the Spirit of Humanity. In fact, along with the name of the god Thoth, this was one of Prince's titles from the ancient past.

Jeff looked stunned at Freddy, but Freddy only looked at Jeff and said, "What?", his voice completely normal again. Had Freddy even said those words? Had Prince possessed Freddy to say that, then made Freddy forget? Or (as Jeff preferred because it would finally remove the horrible burden of responsibility from him) was he just going insane after all?



The Holy Insurgent of Uncertainty
c2009


_____________________________________________________________________________________________________


LACHRIMOSA



“Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. For Thou art with me.”

---

Fifty years after Kintaysa’s death, the wolf demon Koga saw the death of his clan, murdered by Kagura, an incarnation of the demon lord Naraku, save two. These two remained Koga’s companions for many years until they became attached to two humans in Kintaysa’s village, a girl and a young man. War came even to the secluded village, and Kintaysa’s works of art dedicated to Koga were stolen by the lord of the invading army. Everyone was killed, including Kintaysa’s apprentices and Koga’s former companions.

Koga still lived at the old clan site and when he smelled human blood which wafted on the wind to the mountain, he rushed to the old mountain trail used by Kintaysa to get to the clan. When Koga saw the burning village, he ran down the trail as fast as he could.

By the time he got to the bottom, the army had already gone. Nothing was left but a smoking ruin.

When Koga saw the corpses of his two former companions, he broke down and cried.

He gathered the corpses of the village, all he could find, threw them in a pile, then gathered wood and oil. Then he burned them. And then the madness began.

Seeing the bonfire of bodies, the sound of drums pounded in his head, like the Wolf God ceremony he had done so many times. Only the sounds were the beginning of madness, for they were heard only in his head.

He danced slowly, hopping from foot to foot, then within minutes was dancing harder and faster, for the drums in his head were pounding harder and faster. But the ritual was not correct. The dance tempo had to be done correctly. So the Wolf God could not come. But Koga danced, beyond sanity, despair his only drive.

In only minutes, he collapsed and was unconscious before he hit the ground.

The Wolf God (for convenience to human readers, call him Lobos) saw the spirit of Koga before him, howling with despair, screaming with madness. There were no friends left alive. Koga was tired of the ceaseless civil war in the country, and the demons greater than he who killed everyone he loved. Only Kintaysa had lived and died in a time of peace, at least in his village. Koga’s tenuous grasp of the memory of Kintaysa was the only thing that kept his mind from shattering completely. Lobos saw this and knew he needed help.

From the world of dreams, Lobos travelled deeper into the Inner World, deeper into the worlds of Reality. He smelled for Hermes Trismegistus, whom the Egyptians called the god Thoth. He smelled everywhere, traversing what humans would call entire universes in the blink of an eye. But he could not find the god.

Almost giving up in despair, he came across—by accident?—someone just as good. Resting in a twilight Causal world was the spirit of the mystic Saturno di Roma. Saturno was under a tree, looking at a still lake, though such a world is entirely a mental creation. The Wolf God Lobos approached and laid beside him.

Saturno petted the god, knowing full well who he was. Then, he rose and began walking these soundless paths. Together, they spoke without words. Lobos told Saturno of his lonely servant going mad, and begged for help.

With a smile and a nod, Saturno agreed.

And then instantly they were near Koga, the latter still asleep, his eyes half-open and glazed, spittle running from his mouth, looking no different from the corpses strewn about before being burned.

Saturno and Lobos looked at each other and knew what to do. Their actions cannot be described in mundane human terms, but suffice it to say they jointly performed surgery on Koga’s soul. Since Koga was not human but a demon, his soul was different from a human’s. As an immortal, Koga was incapable of ordinary death, so Saturno and Lobos carefully extracted all Koga’s life energy then consumed it. Together, they transferred the energy to the Tao. Both Saturno and Lobos studied Koga’s past before the transfer, and essentially put a “tag” on the soul—like a memo—as it dispersed to the Tao, granting Koga’s only wish to be reunited with Kintaysa’s soul no matter the circumstances.

The Wolf God Lobos remained with Saturno di Roma in Saturno’s world for a long time, until Saturno’s second human incarnation in Earth’s eighteenth century.

---

The cat was stuck in the tree again. Meowing pitifully, Ian was getting the ladder to pick her up when the Incident happened.

Ian, for a split second, thought a power line had snapped and struck him. But it was something much more wonderful and potentially deadly.

When his father went outside to see what was keeping him, he saw his son sprawled on the ground, unconscious. The cat lay beside him, dead. It was the summer of 2009.

---

With Freddy gone to study at M.I.T., Jeff had already spent two months at the University of Toronto and already had done midterm exams, getting only average grades. Though his energy for basketball never flagged, Jeff’s demeanor was decidedly subdued to the point of morose. Mum had been an athlete herself and had seen depression in athletes. She was worried.

One Friday night, when Jeff’s friends usually got together for partying, Jeff was getting in the habit of staying home, doing very little. This night, Mum sat on Jeff’s bed while the latter twirled a pencil at his desk.

“There’s something going on,” said Mum.

“Mm? What do you mean?” said Jeff, still twirling his pencil with unconscious grace.

“You’ve been down in the dumps since graduation. It’s Dad, isn’t it?”

Jeff stopped the pencil, then looked at his mother. How long could he lie? How long could he keep up the facade that he was the same old Jeff?

“Dad is only part of the equation,” said Jeff, which was true.

“Something’s changed. I can see it,” said Mum. “You miss Freddy, don’t you?”

“Of course I miss Freddy.”

“You love him, don’t you?”

Jeff only looked at Mum, not knowing his expression. What expression would deceive her best? Jeff was becoming at a loss to know anymore. He didn’t even have the energy to deceive.

Jeff only nodded.

“When Freddy left at the airport, he cried on your chest, didn’t he?”

“Jesus, Mom, why don’t you just shout it so Dad can hear?”

“Dad is working in the garage. I wanted to talk to you alone.”

“Yes. He did,” said Jeff, sotto voce.

“Is that it? You were afraid Dad would find out?”

“Yes, Mum,” said Jeff, his lips a bit tight.

“But there’s something else, isn’t there?” said Mum.

“Why do you think that? Isn’t one’s sexuality enough to hide from one’s parents?”

“Jeff, I haven’t got time to play mind games with you. And I will not descend into clichés. I’ll let other parents do that. But I’m worried. If you can’t talk to me, I hope to hell you find someone you can talk to.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Jeff. You used to go out on Friday night. You used to have a good time with friends. Something is tearing you apart inside and it’s tearing me apart watching you.”

“I’m glad I’m not a mother.” And there was a hint of a smile.

“Sometimes it’s a trial. But I fully intend to keep on being one. Talk to someone. Jeff, please.” Then Mum walked out, obviously pained.

---

The next Wednesday, a class was cancelled due to a professor’s illness. Jeff just drove around in his car. He ended up in Etobicoke, a wealthy suburb in the greater Toronto area and ate at a Subway. Across the street was an art gallery. God (actually the Tao) knows why Jeff walked into the gallery after eating his submarine sandwich, but there he was, looking at paintings. If a friend told him he would be looking at paintings at an art gallery today, Jeff would have laughed at him and told him to pull his head out of his ass.

But there he was.

“Brilliant,” said the man in front of the painting. Jeff barely heard him. The painting was riveting. Jeff stared at it in fascination. It depicted a face of an aboriginal man with eyes closed in the middle of screaming, superimposed on a large wolf howling. They were both angled the same way, as if there were a relationship between the two.

“Yes, it is,” said Jeff quietly. “But why did the artist call it ‘Par for the Course’?”

Still looking at the painting, the man said, “Because everyone is like this.”

Shaken from his study of the painting, Jeff only looked at the man beside him. Dressed in a black dress jacket and pants and open white collar shirt, the man appeared about thirty-five years old, with fine, obviously half-Asian features. His long black hair was tied securely to the back of his head in a bun.

The man continued. “We put on masks. Vast swaths of entire countries work in jobs they can’t stand, the only comfortable people really the 1% of any country’s population who earn up to 100 times the salaries of their employees.”

One last look at the painting, then the man looked firmly at Jeff and shook his hand. “Brian Gosharotee.” Then he walked away.

Jeff approached the painting. In the corner was a small stylized autograph: Brian Gosharotee.

He was the artist. Jeff was talking to the creator of this fantastic painting. And it wasn’t the only one. There were two others: one of Jesus using his crucifixion cross like the Grim Reaper’s scythe, mowing down a crowd of people, limbs flying; the other, a medieval Japanese castle, only the perspective was of a man outside at the foot of it looking upward to the tip of the spire, a wild perspective.

Jeff was fascinated by the man/wolf painting. And he continued to stare at it. There was something important about this. But Jeff could not figure out what. He looked at the other paintings by other artists, mostly abstracts, but Jeff could not appreciate those. And he continued to stare at the wolf painting.

The gallery was closing. It was 6:00 p.m.

Brian was putting on a black duffle coat and looked at the tall youth still staring at the painting.

“Care for a coffee?” said Brian to Jeff.

“Hm?” said Jeff.

“They’re closing the gallery.”

“Why? It’s only about 3:00, right?”

“It’s 6:00,” said Brian, smiling.

“What do you mean, 6:00?” said Jeff, then looked at his watch. The digital numbers said, “6:01”.

“Sh*t,” said Jeff lamely.

“Come on,” said Brian. “I’ll buy you a coffee.” And he steered Jeff out the door, giving a quick nod to the gallery owner.

Jeff walked sort of semi-conscious down the sidewalk until they went into a Chapters bookstore and Brian bought two large coffees at the Starbucks. They sat at one of the bistro tables after they fixed the coffees to their liking. Jeff looked at the somewhat enigmatic-looking Brian as they sipped their coffee.

“I don’t believe I caught your name,” said Brian quietly.

“Oh. Jeff. Jeff Friedman.”

“Pleased to meet you, Mr. Friedman.”

“No, I’m just Jeff. Mr. Friedman is my father.”

“I should have seen that coming a mile away,” said Brian with a smile.

“I like your wolf painting,” said Jeff, somewhat uncomfortable. Why had he come into a coffee shop?

“Yes, I know. You stared at it for four hours.”

“Four...hours?”

Brian nodded. “I’d offer it to you, but men in your financial situation rarely have the cash.” The painting was being sold for $5000.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Gosharotee, but...I’ve been having trouble concentrating lately. There’s been a lot on my mind.”

“Please. Call me Brian. Mr. Gosharotee...”

“Is my father,” they both said at the same time. Then smiled. For an old man, Brian was very attractive. Jeff thought he must have been a real babe at 20.

“I go to U. of T.,” said Jeff. “Phys-Ed.”

“I’m not surprised. You’re very tall, and you have an athlete’s glow.”

Jeff smiled. “A what?”

“An athlete’s glow. You know what I mean. The look of superlative and unspeakably good health.”

Jeff just laughed.

Brian continued. “Why would a Physical Education student walk into an art gallery in the middle of the week? Or any day of the week?”

“I don’t know. I’m not much into art. But your work is something I can understand. The other is just coloured blobs.”

“Not too loud. The artists might be in this very Starbucks.”

And Jeff visibly ducked, making Brian chuckle.

“Got a girlfriend?” said Brian.

“I have a boyfriend.”

This made Brian smile, his white perfect teeth completing his face like the right pose of a model.

“Good for you,” Brian said. “Yours is the first generation who can say this with a straight face. Pardon the pun.”

And Jeff also smiled. Then frowned again.

“But he’s not here. He’s at M.I.T. in the States,” said Jeff.

“I see. Do you have to get back to Residence?”

“Nah. I live with Mum and Dad.”

“Mm. Probably a mixed blessing.”

“You said it.”

“I’m sorry you’re having a bad time.”

“Who said I’m having a bad time?”

“You did. You said you’re having trouble concentrating. If you want me to go, it’s all right.”

“No. I like you. Are you Asian?”

“Half-Asian. My father is Canadian-born. My mother came here from Japan.”

“You’re beautiful,” said Jeff, with complete innocence.

Brian smiled and said, “I wish I could say the same of you, but with you having a boyfriend, it puts me at a disadvantage. But thank you for the compliment. I like you too.”

---

Jeff visited the gallery in Etobicoke as often as he could, finally getting the courage to ask Brian to his parents’ to dinner.

Jeff’s car parked in the driveway of the house this Friday evening and they both got out of the car.

Mum and Dad watched at the front door as Brian Gosharotee walked in a slow procession to the door. He was dressed in formal black, in a garment a cross between kimono and large satin-lapelled double-breasted jacket. White opera-collar shirt, black silk ascot tucked into a black satin vest. He used a polished ebony walking stick with a silver eagle in the handle. His hair was in his traditional bun in the back but decorated with two black lacquered sticks crossed in an X. His eyes were highlighted with delicate black eyeliner, making him an exotic sight.

As he approached Mum and Dad, he said in a soft voice, “I am honoured to be entering your home.”

Mum and Dad, both stunned into silence, simply ushered him in, Jeff following.

Mum helped him remove his kimono/jacket and placed these in a closet along with the walking stick.

“Dinner is almost ready, Mr. Gosharotee,” said Mum. “Would you like anything to drink first?”

“No, I’m fine, thank you,” said Brian.

They sat at the mahogany dining table.

“Jeff tells me you’re an artist,” said Dad, settling into his place.

“This statement is a fact,” said Brian, deadpan. “What else did he say about me? Nothing good, I hope.”

Jeff smirked. But it pulled the rug from under Dad.

“Jeff, help me,” said Mum, and Jeff helped fill then place large porcelain bowls of food on the table.

“Mr. Gosharotee,” said Mum as Jeff sat, “please feel free to serve yourself.”

She placed a large bowl of mashed potatoes beside Brian first and he proceeded to scoop some out.

Then, there was a pasta casserole, a roast of beef, and vegetable medley.

Brian declined wine, drinking only ice water, while the others had red wine for beverage.

“What do you do for a living, Mr. Friedman?” said Brian as he ate with almost studied slowness.

“Crown Prosecutor. Criminal proceedings.”

“I see,” said Brian. “Would you say there has been an increase in white collar crime?”

“More petty theft.” Dad continued to plow food into his mouth.

“The conclusion could be that high level criminals are simply more adept at covering their tracks, or simply become corporate CEO’s.”

Jeff almost sputtered laughing, but contained himself by coughing into a handkerchief.

Dad didn’t know whether Brian was making fun of him or not, so waffled.

“I am only a lawyer, not a sociologist,” said Dad.

“And you, Mrs. Friedman,” said Brian. “Jeff tells me he has followed in your footsteps by becoming an athlete.”

“It’s true I once competed at the Olympic level,” said Mum, somewhat embarrassed.

“That’s extraordinary, and so is this gravy,” said Brian, as he delicately inserted a gravy-laden slab of beef into his mouth. “You must tell me how it’s done.”

“Thank you,” said Mum. God knows she didn’t get many compliments from her own husband.

“They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Your cooking has certainty won me over,” said Brian without guile.

Mum only smiled. While Dad fidgeted.

“How long have you lived in Toronto, Mr. Gosharotee?” said Mum.

“Since I was five years old, and please call me Brian. My father met my mother at the Canadian embassy in Tokyo. When he was assigned to the Japanese Consulate in Toronto, mother moved here as his wife. Her family was...disappointed in her choice. They would have preferred a Japanese husband from a more...influential family.”

“He must have had something that appealed to her,” said Dad.

“Yes,” said Brian. “Character.”

“Please, Brian, have more,” said Jeff, passing the bowls of potatoes and gravy towards Brian.

“Thank you,” said Brian. Dipping the tablespoon into the potatoes, he said casually, “But the First Family realizes that this is simply the modern way of things.”

“The First Family?” said Mum.

“Oh, I’m sorry, you don’t understand,” said Brian. “My mother is indirectly related to the Imperial Family.”

This brought Mum and Dad up short. ‘He’s rich,’ they both thought.

“Whoa!” said Jeff. “That’s way cool. You probably know kings and queens.”

“Mostly queens, I’m afraid,” said Brian, deadpan, and Jeff laughed out loud. Dad only squirmed.

“I tend to avoid the limelight,” said Brian. “I’ve always felt that if you want to live the high life, become a celebrity. If you want your privacy, and perhaps a cardboard box for a house, become an artist.”

Jeff was liking Brian more and more by the minute, smiling at him with a near-delirious smile.

Brian continued. “Probably my mother’s greatest pleasure was securing the Shigatsei Collection for the State.”

“What was that?” said Mum.

“Kintaysa Shigatsei was an artist in 16th century Japan. The country was in constant warfare, and the collected works of the artist fell to a minor lord for eight generations. The family fell into debt and the collection was sold to a wealthy private collector. They remained with this family for another eight generations. The final owner had no heirs and the estate defaulted to auction. My mother worked for State Antiquities and was assigned to buy the collection no matter the cost. Though the collection has now been placed with the Imperial Crown Jewels, all the pieces belong to the State of Japan.”

“What is it, paintings?” said Jeff.

“No,” said Brian. “Literature, probably only legend, states that the creator dedicated all the pieces to a minor deity with whom he was personally acquainted. The collection comprises suits of armour fit for an emperor; ceremonial cloaks; swords; battle gauntlets; chain mail; Tea Ceremony sets; art battle scenes in polished embossed steel, copper, and bronze; sacred offering stands and altars; incense holders in porcelain; I could go on and on. It’s a huge collection, comprising a lifetime’s work.”

“What do you mean, 'with whom he was personally acquainted?'” said Mum.

“I don’t know,” said Brian. “I wouldn’t presume to know. But I will say this. Before the Industrial Era, the people in feudal Asia took their religious symbols very seriously. And there are things that science can’t explain and wish we would never talk about. More than likely, the dedicatee was probably a member of a noble family. The gods are always ‘the good guys’ and the demons are always ‘the bad guys,’ usually attackers in times of war. The ‘good guys’ however, are also inevitably the victors who write the history books.”

Mum found him more and more interesting with every passing minute. And she actually liked his deadpan sense of humour, something not even most professional comedians could carry off.

As Brian was walking out to the car after the visit, Mum wryly said to him sotto voce, “Just what are your intentions with my son?”

“Mom!” said Jeff in a sotto voce scream.

“It is traditionally the father that asks such a question,” said Brian softly. “Your son has told me that he has a boyfriend. So I will not interfere with that. And, because I am HIV-positive, I am not going to lay a hand on him sexually, because infecting him is something my conscience will not tolerate.”

Mum gasped audibly and said, “Oh, Brian, I’m sorry. That’s not what I meant. I was only joking. Forgive me.”

“It’s all right,” said Brian. “Thank you for the dinner. I enjoyed meeting you both.”

Brian then got in Jeff’s car. Jeff got in on the driver’s side.

Jeff waited until Mum went into the house. Then he turned to Brian.

“Brian, please forgive my mother. She was just being...”

“A mother. It’s all right. She needed to know. And so did you.”

Jeff, feeling terrible, drove Brian to the subway, where Brian would take the train home to Etobicoke.

---

The next Friday evening, Jeff decided to do homework on Saturday and wanted to see Brian at home. He called him up and made sure he was free, then drove to the suburb. The artist lived in a large bungalo at the end of a cul-de-sac, surprisingly insulated from the usual “grid housing” where the only view from your balcony is your neighbour’s balcony.

Brian greeted Jeff at the door and let him in. Brian was dressed in a mauve dress shirt under a black satin dressing gown which on an average man would have looked gaudy, but on the exotic Brian looked normal. Jeff was just in a shirt, jeans, and backwards cap.

“Something to drink, Jeff?” said Brian.

“It’s a little early, but what beer have you got?”

“I don’t drink it myself. It’s only for friends. But I’ve found that when friends try Czech, German, or even Russian beer, they never go back to North American. Though there may be some Canadian cream ales. Just check the mini-fridge there.”

Brian pointed in the kitchen and Jeff poked around. Sure enough, the bulk was foreign beers that Jeff hadn’t known even existed. He pulled a Canadian cream ale that he knew was good. Experimenting was for another time.

“How was school?” Brian said, as both wandered into a decidedly upscale living room.

“Boring. I’m doing a lot of physiology this term and it really sucks ass.”

“Hm! And I thought sucking ass wasn’t a bad thing,” Brian said, in his notorious deadpan.

Jeff laughed like a kid. “It isn’t, but, you know....”

“When you get into your chosen field, the schooling will be just a dream. You will wind up on a professional team someday. I know you will. Your education will come to good use after your team career.”

“I hope so.”

“The beer. I see you chose home brew.”

Jeff smiled. “Yeah. But I must say you’ve got a wild collection of foreign beers. Where the hell did you get those?”

“I wander around liquor stores, checking out the wines. Just before leaving I check out the beer section. It’s mostly the same-old-same-old. But sometimes a store gets in something special and I check it out. And I have friends. ‘Oh, Brian, I found this is Berlin, Munich, St. Petersburg, Hong Kong, try it out.’ I have to have a lot of friends over just to get rid of it.”

Jeff smiled. Then became serious.

“Why Toronto, Brian?”

“Hmm?”

“I mean...you’re obviously from a well-connected family. You can live anywhere you want. Why Toronto?”

“Ah. Don’t put down this country. I’ve travelled extensively and you don’t realize how peaceful this country is until you see other countries. I visited the United Kingdom, didn’t like it. France, Italy. The people have no manners and the cost of living is outrageous. Canada is home. Though I may eventually seek saner weather someday. Like Victoria or maybe somewhere out in the country on Vancouver Island. But right now, Toronto is fine. I grew up here. I’m used to it. And...not to wax esoteric, but if I lived elsewhere, I wouldn’t have met you.”

Jeff blushed despite himself.

“How...how did you become HIV-positive?” said Jeff quietly.

“When I was twenty, I developed severe carpo-tunnel in my left arm. The surgery was minor, but the consequences were not. I was under general anaesthetic and required blood. The blood was tainted. A blood test from a routine annual checkup a year later revealed I was infected.”

“Oh, no.”

Brian nodded. “I actually look better now than I did in my twenties, because it took years to get the proper drug cocktail and dosage correct to inhibit T-Cell degeneration. I was one of the lucky ones. Most HIV-positive people, mostly men, died within five years of diagnosis in the 1980’s. Now, most live normal lives, simply with medication. It was diagnosed at the right time. The Krever Inquiry into tainted blood in Canada revealed a whole score of lax procedures on the part of the blood donor administration.”

Jeff took a large dose of beer.

“Don’t you get angry?” said Jeff.

“I used to. Until I realized it doesn’t help. I put my energy into my work now. Eventually you will too. Would you like to see the workshop?”

Jeff nodded and they proceeded to another wing of the house where they entered a studio the size of a one-bedroom apartment with paintings mounted on the wall and lots of cans of paint and dropcloths everywhere.

“Just take a look around,” said Brian.

Jeff began looking at the paintings, and then there was this music. It was Brian in a far corner playing a beat-up old upright piano, in perfect tune. Jeff did not know the music, but it was the Gnossiennes by nineteenth century French composer Erik Satie. “Gnossiennes” was a French play on words for “Gnosis” which is Greek for “knowledge”. The minimalist, unhurried melody playing softly in the background created the perfect atmosphere for observing the paintings, the feeling like watching a film, but you were in the film as one of the actors—a strange feeling.

Here was a Crusades theme, Crusaders walking off the field, some dead, some Muslim soldiers and horses dead on the field, and one Crusader in the process of walking in the canvas to the right almost finished “walking” off the canvas. The Crusader had Brian’s own face.

Another was an aboriginal dance involving a bonfire, drummers, dancers around the fire and observers. Background black. Obviously night. The only illumination the bonfire. Eerie and beautiful.

Another painting of a wolf with human eyes, staring at the observer, again in perfect, photographic detail. Another one of a man walking with a wolf. The wolf motif appeared often. Brian spoke. “The paintings in this room are my first ones and thus very hard to part with. They will all be sold eventually, but really not until I need the money.”

“Why the wolf, Brian?” said Jeff softly.

“I don’t know. I’ve always been inspired by the wolf. It’s a beautiful, wild thing. Ancient man no doubt tamed wolves to become our modern dog. We’ve been on good terms with them for a long time.” The Gnossienne played even as he spoke. Japan was also a prevalent theme. Battles. Bloodshed. Knights, both Oriental and early Christian.

But it was the wolf with human eyes that held Jeff riveted. There was something important here, like a name you knew and is on the tip of your tongue. You just can’t remember.

And then Jeff was sitting in an old easy chair, his face in his hands, heaving with tears.

Brian stopped the playing and approached.

Finally, Jeff spoke. “I can’t get involved with you. Knowing me will hurt you and I don’t want you to get hurt!”

“I have had to live with the real prospect of death for over ten years. You don’t come across as the abusive type. Why are you concerned about harming me?”

“Because I still have a soul!” shouted Jeff, and he ran out of the studio to the front door and then to his car.

“Obviously not a corporate CEO,” said Brian who proceeded to his mini-bar to pour a shot of Canadian Crown Royal scotch (not Jack Daniel’s which is whiskey).

---

When Freddy returned to a surprised Jeff early in the term, Jeff realized Freddy was different. His face was different. The relatively smooth face he had through the summer was gone. Freddy appeared subtly scarred. His eyes were different, like a man who had seen war, and now must live with the memories. There was a new maturity in Freddy, to the point of darkness. And Jeff was afraid for him. Freddy told him all that had happened after their summer of love, including the fact that he now had exactly the same abilities as Jeff.*

Walking in a Toronto park, Freddy showed him a photo of Prof. Potter’s tombstone in Boston.

Meredith Montgomery Potter / 1920-2010 / Rest in Peace, along with the dates of his wife and son who died as a child.

Suddenly, to the sky Freddy shouted, “HAL, Mr. Prince! Hear my prayer! Let there be no more tears for Professor Potter! No more tears!” But overwhelmed with grief, Freddy himself fell to his knees and broke down in tears himself.

Jeff waited, not knowing what to do or say.

When Freddy could stand and look at Jeff again, he said, “This man was the only one who understood what we have become. Our abilities can be explained by higher mathematics, called Dimensional Physics. A stable higher-dimensional field surrounds us. Jeff, I am intellectually oriented. I can refrain from using these powers for the rest of my life. But you are physically and emotionally oriented. For you to forego these powers is like lifting a mountain on a daily basis.”

“No sh*t,” pouted Jeff. Then, on a more sober note, “Can we escape from the world? Can we go to the future?”

“Our abilities are called fifth dimensional abilities. I have hypothesized that HAL and Mr. Prince are sixth dimensional entities or have access to sixth dimensional powers. We can do weird things, but we can’t confer these abilities on anyone else. They can. We can’t move in time. We’re stuck here. But I firmly believe that Time is no obstacle to them. Even Arthur C. Clarke said, ‘A technology suitably advanced would be indistinguishable from magic’ to any less scientifically advanced culture, including ours. It is actually a misnomer to call Mr. Prince a sorcerer, but more accurately, a highly advanced scientist, using the technology of consciousness that we haven’t even begun to develop. If we are demigods, they are real gods.”

“I don’t want to be a demigod,” said Jeff, his voice quivering.

“I would not be talking to you now without these powers. I would have died from AIDS. The field somehow nullifies disease.”

“Are we immortal? Forced to live forever?”

“That I don’t know. But what I do know is this.”

And Freddy held Jeff’s hands in his own and said softly, “I, Freddy Derkheim, take you, Jeff Friedman, to be my First and Foremost Lover, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for as long as I have the privilege to live.”

Without conscious thought, Jeff was speaking the words, like another person speaking, “I, Jeff Friedman, take you, Freddy Derkheim, to be my First and Foremost Lover, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for as long as I have the privilege to live.”

HAL9000 and Mr. Prince faded into appearance only ten feet from them. Jeff looked at Mr. Prince with real fear.

“Well said,” said HAL, his voice strong but gentle. “And no, you are not immortal. But you are blessed with abilities that you have not even begun to utilize. We do not wish to force you into using them. Opportunities will arise on their own. As with your experience in the fire, Jeff.”

Jeff only nodded solemnly. Freddy had described HAL, but Jeff was looking at a living miracle. HAL9000 was a living machine. Only a slight difference in the way he moved and the fact that he did not blink his eyes showed that he was in any way different from a living human being. HAL also looked remarkably like an older version of Freddy.

HAL continued. “The entity Meredith Montgomery Potter has left this field of reality. He is not destroyed but resting in a higher dimension, evaluating his life and planning his future incarnation on Earth. The mechanics are beyond the human mind, so I will not try to explain further. His son was part of an entity which desired human experience but not a full human life. But rest assured: the compassion of this entity’s parents has changed the nature of this entity forever. Love is never a waste of time.” HAL paused, weighing his words. “We hear you when you call. Do not be afraid to call us. Because of the stable fifth dimensional fields surrounding you, you, more than ordinary people, have easier access to us who use higher dimensional consciousness. An analogy would be: an intercom system, or a telephone message system. ‘Leave a message, we’ll get back to you.’ But be warned. With this knowledge comes responsibility. Do not abuse this privilege.”

“Yes, HAL,” said Freddy. Jeff nodded.

“Besides,” said HAL with a hint of a smile, “you being my physical parent, I have a filial responsibility to you.”

Jeff’s eyes widened at this and he looked at Freddy. Only half-joking, he repeated what he said earlier, “I’m glad I’m not a mother.”

Mr. Prince, looking at Freddy sternly, said, “Shaun’s friend Ian will awaken from his coma on December 16. Be there.” Prince looked at Jeff. “You too.”

Then Prince nodded once. But did not smile.

“The artist is...trustworthy. A fond farewell,” said Prince.

Even as they were fading from sight, the smiling HAL made the traditional gesture of “blowing a kiss” to them. Then they were gone.

---

Ottawa General Hospital.

As Jeff and Freddy walked into Ian’s room, on seeing the gigantic tall but lanky basketball player Jeff, Ricky** gasped, his mouth in a perfect round “O”. “Ohhh...he’s so big.

Ricky immediately approached and had to look up to see Jeff’s face.

“I’m Ricky. What’s your name?”

“My name’s Jeff, little bro.” Ricky immediately hugged Jeff in a tight squeeze.

“Can I marry you?” Ricky said like a little boy.

Freddy tapped Ricky on the shoulder.

“Take a number. He’s mine,” said Freddy, deadpan, but not without humour.

Ricky then stood in front of Freddy. “What’s your name?”

“I’m Freddy,” he said, almost smiling. Ricky immediately hugged Freddy tightly.

“I love you too,” said Ricky. “Can I marry you too?”

Freddy, smirking at Jeff, said, “Well. You can’t hate him, can you?”

Ricky then got on top of Ian’s bed and just looked around, like he had just arrived.

Freddy approached Kipp, the latter standing up from his chair, and the two entwined in each other’s arms like they were two parts of one whole, and kissed.

After the kiss, Freddy looked at Ricky and in a no-nonsense voice said, “Kipp is mine too.”

Ricky just gasped. “You mean you have two lovers??? Sweet!! Oh, but that’s nothing, if I marry you all, I’ll have...”

And Ricky counted on his fingers.

“Counting Jonathan, five lovers!!” said Ricky, and he smiled deliriously. “Oh, God. Five loverssss....”

And Ricky vibrated with rubbery pleasure.

“Nympho,” said Shaun.

“Ha, ha!” said Ricky.

Freddy said, “Jeff. This is Kipp and his brother Shaun,” his head nodding to each.

Kipp approached Jeff, the latter staring in fascination. Everyone who saw Kipp for the first time had the same reaction. The young man in the transparent plastic suit was dressed in current fashion, with black shirt, scarlet mod vest, black jeans, and white hightop runners.

Jeff was surprised by Kipp’s soft voice, almost exactly like Freddy’s own. “If Freddy loves you, then so do I.” And Kipp gently hugged Jeff around his body, placing his head on Jeff’s chest, and Jeff was very moved by this gesture.

Kipp returned to his seat.

Shaun, dressed in well-worn super-baggy UFO pants, beat-up hightop runners and old oversized red hoody with the hood pulled up, got up, every movement a subtly boneless, rubber-limbed gesture. He approached Jeff with a strange liquid grace and stood before him, his body still slightly undulating constantly like he had no skeleton and didn’t care who knew it.

“I’m a b-boy,” said Shaun to Jeff. “I do poppin’. Freddy told me you’re flexible too.” And he smiled almost as crazily as Ricky with equally perfect white teeth and deep smile dimples.

“Yes, you could say that,” said Jeff softly, not knowing how much Freddy told this bunch about his fifth dimensional powers.

Shaun said, “Ricky there pops but he has an unfair advantage.”

Ricky immediately said, “Hey!”

Shaun said to Jeff, “My dancing ability, however, is pure skill. I am literally made out of rubber.”

And Shaun smiled even harder at Jeff with almost-drunken lidded sexy eyes, causing even the steady Jeff to feel the vibrations of hornyness deep inside him and his penis swelling. Jeff swallowed nervously, but he understood the swagger. Not so long ago, he was exactly like Shaun. And couldn’t conceive of being any other way. Until he met Mr. Prince.

“And like Ricky, all dancers have a sex drive that can only be described by some as inexhaustible, by others as maniacal,” said Freddy.

Shaun pointed at Freddy, and smirked, his body still undulating. “You know it. I’ma gonna have you too, someday. You is jes like me. The Rubberman.” And Shaun smiled deliriously, his body still waving slightly, demonstrating his point.

“I’m made out of rubber too,” said Ricky, smiling, as an afterthought.

“How long have you been waiting?” said Freddy.

“About an hour,” said Kipp. “Are you sure this is the day?”

“Yes,” said Freddy. “Wait.” Freddy looked off to the side. “I’m getting a message from HAL: 'Ian is already on the way back to consciousness. The analogy is like a sleeping person who knows it’s time to get up, but the body is not ready yet. Please be patient.'”

Ricky said, “What do you mean, ‘I’m getting a message from HAL’? I thought HAL was your computer, Shaun.”

“He was,” said Shaun. “And he still is. But something happened to him. He became a god. Now he can do whatever he wants. He can even destroy the world.”

Look of incredulity from Ricky. Then finally, “Awe-some! That is just totally awe-some.”

Shaun shrugged. “We thought so too.”

“You’re not sh*tting me,” said Ricky. “You’re really not making this up.”

“No,” said Kipp. “I was there and Freddy too. It was...a scary thing. We shouldn’t talk about it.”

“I have some cash,” said Jeff. “You guys want drinks?”

“Root beer for me,” said Ricky.

“I want a raspberry slushy,” said Shaun.

“Ohh, a raspberry slushy...” murmured Ricky. “No. Root beer.”

“Just water for me,” said Kipp.

“Coffee for me, Jeff,” said Freddy. “Creams and sugar.”

“All right. Don’t tell too many ghost stories while I’m gone,” said Jeff. And he left.

“How are you?” said Freddy to Kipp.

“I’m all right,” said Kipp. “School’s good.”

“How’s Sam? And Mum,” said Freddy. Sam had by now married Kipp’s mother.***

“They’re good,” said Kipp. “Sam’s a lot happier now.”

They continued to get reacquainted.

Jeff soon returned to the room with the drinks accompanied by a handsome sandy-haired Catholic priest dressed in traditional black jacket and white collar.

Shaun had seen the priest in the past. But remained silent. Ian, still in coma in the bed, was an attractive young man the same age as Kipp. Currently with a shaven head, when he was living a normal life, he had shaggy long black hair like an EMO boy and was a close friend of Shaun. The two danced almost constantly and were favourites at dance battles and the clubs.

Before the incident which caused the coma, Ian and Shaun would see a youngish man of thirty at the clubs watching them dance, especially Ian. Ian didn’t like him as he simply wasn’t his type of guy—too normal, too “white bread”. At one outside dance in the summer, Ian made a point of pointing him out to Shaun and laughing, which of course the young man saw and left, mortified. Shaun had nothing against him, but he felt it was unnecessary to make fun of the man. Perhaps Ian was getting uncomfortable and wanted to pre-empt him hitting on him.

The priest quietly introduced himself as Father Sid Sullivan, and he had known Ian only vaguely as a popular dancer in town. When he heard the young man had had some sort of accident and was in a coma, Father Sullivan visited his hospital bed every day for a year. The priest alone did not know that today Ian was to awaken.

Ian’s eyes opened slowly and normal waking consciousness arrived slowly. Still, when his eyes were open, he saw old friends: Shaun and Ricky who were dancers with him, and others he did not know. A young man who was all silver and yet moved like a human being. And two others with dark hair, one stern (Freddy), the other (Jeff) with strangely compassionate eyes and exuding an almost palpable love of a church Madonna. And another man. A handsome sandy-haired Catholic priest, staring at him with an even more profound love, or was it desire?

Where had he seen this priest before? Then he knew.

“I know you,” said Ian groggily to the priest. “I was mean to you. You were really a priest. I’m so sorry.”

The priest nodded. “I was not a priest a year ago when we...met at dance meets. I had to finish Seminary. I am glad to see you conscious again. I was afraid I would never see you awaken. I will tell the nurses, then will notify your parents. You will probably be going home soon, so I wish you all the best. I’m glad I saw this day because I am to be posted on my first assignment soon, in Guatemala. Take care, Ian.”

And the priest left, the door closing behind him, Freddy following him with his eyes with an icy stare.

Looking directly at Ian, Freddy said darkly, “That man is in love with you. He is going to be tormented for the rest of his life.”

“The stuff that saints are made of,” said Jeff, though why he said it, he didn’t know.

Ricky, sitting on Ian’s bed, continuously bent his limbs into different weird positions as easily as normal people cross their legs. Ian was astonished but also delighted.

“Something happened to me,” said Ricky. “I’m rubber now.” But Ricky was also a hopeless showoff and loved the attention.

Ian’s brows furrowed. And many emotions quivered his face.

“What is it, Ian?” said Ricky.

“When I was in the coma, I wasn’t unconscious. The night of the Incident, I was swept into another world. I thought it was this one, but it wasn’t. There were no people there. Only one man who called himself Mr. Prince.” At this, they all were wide-eyed.

“I’ll bet he was the one who changed me,” said Ricky, offhand, like ‘Oh, I’ve got to take the garbage out.’ “What did ya do in this other world?”

“I...I could do things,” said Ian. “The world looked the same as here, but I was different. I could stretch myself, flatten myself flat as paper, melt to the ground, and even worse sh*t gross things. Prince would watch me. Sometimes he would even play with me.”

“Eww!!” said Ricky.

But Ian continued. “Usually he was nice. Sometimes he wasn’t, and I’d be afraid. But I never tired of the things I could do. And I never had to eat or go to the bathroom or anything. But I didn’t think about it when I was there. It was like a dream. Only more real. Much more real. When you wake up, you say, ‘Oh, sh*t, I was just dreaming.’ But this place was as real as I’m talking to you now. I’ve been out for a month or so, right?”

Kipp spoke to Ian. “Ian, I’m sorry to say this, but you’ve been in a coma for a year.”

“A...a year???” said Ian.

Ricky, getting off the bed, went over to Shaun, squirmed behind him on the chair, then proceeded to wrap his boneless rubbery legs like a corkscrew around Shaun’s legs in the latter’s super-baggy UFO pants, then slid head-first up the back of Shaun’s oversized hoody, wrapped his equally boneless arms in the same manner around and around Shaun’s arms inside the hoody, finally poking his head through the neck of the hoody right beside Shaun’s head—inside the hoody!

“You know, you could make a living from porn doing this,” said Shaun with a wry face to Ricky’s head stuck right beside him.

Ricky’s face went like a lightbulb went off above his head and he said, “Now you’re talkin’. Bow-chica-bow-bow...” And he kissed Shaun on the lips.

“You’re sure you got a boyfriend, Mister Horny?” said Shaun.

“Ya, and he likes getting it just as much as you do,” said Ricky, and he kissed Shaun again, right on the lips. “Mwuh.”

Shaun, without a boyfriend or fifth dimensional powers, took whatever his attention-starved self could get. And the two snuggled.

“Yeah, you want it,” said Ricky.

All of them looked at the two lovebirds have their fun, and drank their respective drinks.

When the nurse arrived (Ricky back on Ian’s bed looking like a normal guy again), Freddy approached Ian’s bed and said to him, “If the memories of your experience are overwhelming you, get Kipp or Shaun to contact Jeff or me. We can help you. We know what you have gone through. And you’re not alone.”

Freddy walked away and Jeff approached Ian’s bed. He spoke to Ian in gangsta-slang, almost a different language. Jeff: “Yo, bro. Da Man did dis ta me too. It’s ma own fault and it still f*cks wit ma head. We’s watchin’ ya back, boyee. You know it. We’s one mind. One heart.”

The two banged fists softly. And Jeff grabbed Ian’s right hand and kissed the back of his fist at the wrist. Something that made Ian’s eyes brim with tears.

Final waves, and then they left before Ian’s parents arrived in the evening.

---

Jeff, Freddy, and Ricky had dinner with Kipp’s father and mother. Sam was glad to see Freddy again, and he was not surprised by Freddy’s boyfriend. Despite their differences in personality, Jeff and Freddy were remarkably compatible, even physically. And Freddy dreaded the day he would be forced to make a choice between living with Jeff or living with Kipp. Ricky’s joking about marrying them all was actually a very appealing idea. Freddy wished they could all live with each other. Somehow.

Shaun, despite his new friendship with Jeff, knew that he was still alone. Freddy with his new penetrating seriousness, took Shaun aside for only a minute before leaving and told him, “When Ian recovers his strength, he will need you to get back to normal life again. I have a feeling you too will become very close. You will not be alone forever.”

“Do you keep talking to HAL and Mr. Prince? You’re beginning to sound just like them.”

“Actually, no. But one can’t help but be changed by what we went through.”

Shaun nodded. “I love you, Freddy. I wish you could live here in Ottawa.”

“Someday, I might. But I have an internship to complete at M.I.T., then a degree to finish at U. of T. I will visit often, I promise.”

Shaun held him, like a drowning man clinging to a lifeline. Freddy even kissed him on the lips with a passionate tenderness. And Jeff did not mind. There was a growing oneness with all of them. There could be no anger.

---

When Jeff and Freddy returned to Toronto, Freddy met Jeff’s parents, and the latter could not have imagined the change in him. Freddy had gone from a scrawny pimply high school kid to a mature young man with sharp, penetrating eyes that seemed to look within and through a person, seeing the inner self. In this, Freddy was becoming a psychological sibling of Mr. Prince.

Freddy lived with his mother for a week, explaining that illness had ruined his school term. In no way could he tell his alcoholic mother the truth that he had lived through a higher dimensional spatial anomaly and had acquired the powers of a demigod. His mother was frightened of the change in him, screaming at him that he was “becoming his father” who was far from weak but had fled from his wife’s mind games early in their marriage before either knew she was pregnant with Freddy. Neither Freddy nor his mother knew that the man was hit only a year after leaving home by a drunk driver and was killed instantly. After a week of his mother’s abuse and crocodile tears, he packed and arrived at Jeff’s house, actually begging for “asylum”. As if he were a fleeing political prisoner. In a sense, he was. For the politics of the abusive mind masquerading as martyrdom are the most lethal.

Freddy lived with Jeff until the start of the new term, then returned to M.I.T. to pick up where he left off. Even after Freddy’s departure, Jeff’s father still had not clued in that their guest and his son were lovers. He missed all the secret smiles between them (even at the dinner table), the quiet kisses behind closed doors, the veiled language. Mum of course missed nothing and even raised her eyebrows when Dad asked rhetorically why Jeff hung around with fags (meaning the “foreign” artist Brian Gosharotee). As Freddy was heading towards the departure gate for Boston at the airport, Freddy’s new “family” saw him off, again. Dad shook his hand warmly and remarked how he had progressed from a “wimp” to a “real man”. The deadpan look of Freddy betraying no emotion or thought said it all. A young man now completely in control of all aspects of himself, Freddy played the game by thanking him and noted he would be back in the summer. A “real man” indeed. “Real god” would be more accurate. Both Freddy and Jeff could have sliced Dad in two with their fifth dimensional powers, killing him as quickly and efficiently as Mr. Prince could. Both Jeff and Mum looked at each other with a mild knowing glance, both now well-versed in concealing their knowledge from Dad. Mum decided within her own heart that what Dad didn’t know (ie. couldn’t figure out) wouldn’t hurt him. Maybe someday, she would drop the bomb of truth in his lap. But not yet.

---

After Freddy’s departure, Jeff became lonely again, and though Brian was often in his thoughts, Jeff had not visited him for weeks.

Jeff wanted to tell Brian about himself. But he was afraid. Afraid of involving the artist in something that might endanger him. That was the last thing Jeff wanted: Brian to be hurt by knowing about his extraordinary powers. Still, Mr. Prince himself said that the artist was “trustworthy.” He would not have said it if it were not true.

And like all the previous inexplicable encounters with Brian, there Jeff was at Brian’s home on a Friday night, the gently smiling Brian looking at the tall youth at the door with that same strange look on the latter’s face, Destiny pulling him along like a child’s pull-toy and the poor boy not knowing whether to laugh or cry about it. Jeff was in his bright red Adidas tracksuit with white stripes, white basketball hightops and red ball cap on backwards.

“I was afraid it was something I said,” said Brian. “I’ve missed you, Jeff. Come on in.”

Jeff entered and they sat in the studio. Brian sat in the old easy chair, while Jeff pulled up a stool and sat. The powerful paintings somehow reassured him, especially the wolf with human eyes.

Jeff spoke quietly. “Freddy came back from M.I.T. and stayed for a few weeks at home. It was good to see him again. He’s...changed. But we still love each other. That will never change. But I haven’t stopped thinking about you either. I....”

And the weight of words was like an ocean current pushing him, keeping him from speaking.

“I...love you too, Brian.”

Brian simply stared at him, saying nothing.

Jeff finally continued, the weight of words like lifting a mountain.

“I don’t know what to do, Brian. I need to know how you feel.”

“Does Freddy know about me?”

“Yes, he does. He also has met someone else who he loves. So he is in exactly the same situation. He doesn’t want to think he is abandoning me and I don’t want him to think I am doing the same.”

“HIV-positive men can and do have sex. It’s simply a matter of using a condom. But condoms break, and as I told your mother, I cannot forgive myself if you should come to harm because of me. I won’t accept that. And so sex between us must not occur. Period.”

“What if I told you that you having sex with me won’t harm me.”

“I’d say you’re deluded and you’d better grow up and face facts. HIV is the only known cause of AIDS. And I will not infect you.”

Staring at the painting of the wolf with human eyes, Jeff said, hardly aware of his own body, “No. You won’t infect me at all. No matter what you do to me. I have been told you are trustworthy by a very reliable source. I must ask you to keep a secret that I have been very afraid to tell you until now.”

“I will make no such promise. If you have broken the law, I will do my best to understand the causes. Then seek the police if necessary.”

“No law has been broken,” said Jeff, virtually unconscious of his own speech. The painting was affecting him, releasing him from his fears.

Jeff spoke to the painting. Or more accurately, the painting was speaking through him.

“I am going to do something, Brian. Not to you. To myself. I’m not psychotic and I’m not going to hurt you or myself. But you must know if we are to keep seeing each other. I need you to know what I am. Please stand. You may be frightened, but please don’t shout out. Please.”

Brian stood up, not liking the tone of Jeff one bit. He thought Jeff was going to show him a scar or a perhaps a secret deformity which would not affect his athletic skills.

It was with an audible gasp, his hand involuntarily clasped to his own mouth, when Brian saw Jeff’s body undulate like living rubber, the Adidas tracksuit slipping off him and falling to the floor. Jeff’s boneless feet stepped out of his runners and in only seconds he wrapped himself, legs first, around Brian in a continuous coil like a human python, until Jeff’s emotionless trance-like face was staring at Brian’s directly in front of him. Naturally, Brian was shaking with fear. No sane person could have expected such an event.

“Now you know,” said Jeff. And tears coursed down his cheeks, his normal consciousness slowly returning. Jeff slowly uncoiled himself and walked over to the tracksuit and slowly began putting it on.

“How, Jeff ? How is this possible?” said Brian, hardly greater than a whisper.

Putting on the trackpants, Jeff said, “It was my own fault. Call it ‘be careful what you wish for. You may get it.’ The gods are not dead. They are real, because I met one, and wish to hell now that I hadn’t.”

“I’m not following.”

“The god was rewarding me, for saving the life of a close friend of mine in a skiing accident. I thought he was just a crank, so I wished for, well, what you just saw. He did it. And I was never so scared in my life. As soon as it happened, I knew I had changed. My body seemed normal, yet I knew I could do these things, like a trained athlete who knows his talent is a part of his being. I’m not so worried about our government, but if a foreign government should find out about me, we all could be in real trouble.”

“Oh, come on. I’ll admit it’s...incredible, but we don’t live under the Cold War anymore. But...as you wish. I can keep a secret. And I can see why you just can’t advertise it. It’s...well, I’m speechless.”

“I didn’t hurt you when I squeezed you, did I?”

“Oh, no. You’re the gentlest python I’ve ever encountered, not that I’ve ever encountered one that way before. And probably wouldn’t be speaking to you now if I had.”

Jeff smiled, already back in his clothes. “I’ve learned only recently that the ability can be explained through higher mathematics. Only one man in the whole world understood the science behind it. What was it called? Dimensional Physics. He has now passed away. There may never be a man of his genius again that could understand...” Jeff gestured at himself. “...this. This ability also nullifies disease such as HIV. You cannot hurt me.”

“How do you know this?”

Jeff stared at the floor. “I just know.”

“Mm...I’ll have to be better convinced than your say-so. Many gay men wouldn’t think twice having sex with you, but rest assured, I am not ‘many gay men’.”

“That is why the god who gave me these powers said you were ‘trustworthy’.”

At this, even Brian gasped. Then finally, he nodded.

“I...will have to think about this,” said Brian. “When I became HIV-positive, I slowly resigned myself to the fact I could not have a relationship again without endangering my partner. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t attracted to you. I highly doubt there would be any gay or bisexual guys that wouldn’t be.”

“I was captain of a basketball team. Many guys who swore up and down they were straight were...attracted.” Jeff remembered with now-bittersweet memories his high school friends of all sexual orientations who were completely in love with him and weren’t ashamed to admit it.

Finally, Jeff said, “I will not force myself on you again. You have every right to...get rid of me for what I’ve done to you already. But I...I really want you.”

Jeff was already tearing up and Brian promptly handed him a fresh tissue. Tissues are a natural staple in an artist’s workshop.

Wiping his eyes, Jeff laid the tissue aside.

Suddenly, Brian was right in front of him. And he did what Jeff thought would never happen: he embraced Jeff and laid his head on Jeff’s chest.


---


*see “My Hero” and “Genesis”
**his story in “The Dance”
***post “Genesis”



Author’s note: The artist Brian Gosharotee is the reincarnation of the Japanese feudal-era artist Kintaysa Shigatsei. Freddy, Jeff, Ian, and Kipp are Partial Incarnations of the wolf demon Koga. Koga’s demon soul provided the necessary energy for Kipp’s resurrection. The priest Father Sid Sullivan is a Counterpart or Probable Personality of Mr. Prince (see Jane Roberts’ “Seth” material for definitions of these terms); the two share the same source Soul Entity. Ricky was once a shaman in Earth’s ancient past who was known to all the animal gods including the Wolf God Lobos. Ricky, though unhappy with outer life, is unusually blessed in his inner life. He is remarkably free of anger, has an innocent and childlike (but not childish) demeanor, and is emotionally centered (ie. highly emotional) like Jeff, Ian, Shaun, and Kipp.


The Holy Insurgent of Uncertainty
c2010