There is nothing quite as lovely as a child at play, barefoot and communing with nature. He was perhaps 7 or 8, hair the color of corn silk, eyes as blue as the sea, lips ruby red and smiling, freckles adorning his cute face, and a body tanned and fit from hours of play. He was naked and running through a patch of clover, his small perfect feet carrying him swiftly as he danced and cavorted, in love with nature and life.
I paused to watch him, but I didn't feel like a voyeur. No, far from it. Watching the boy was like gazing upon a field of flowers or watching white fluffy clouds form shapes in the sky. He was pure and innocent, and his nakedness seemed natural, normal, and in no way disturbing.
Suddenly I saw him start to hop on one foot and then he lifted his foot, grabbed it and held it, his smile turning to a grimace of pain. I watched as he hopped around a bit more, obviously in distress, then suddenly he fell to the ground and began inspecting his injured paw.
Concerned for him now, I approached slowly as one might approach a wild animal, fearful I might spook him. He seemed not to notice me at all for a moment, they he looked up and gave me a pleading look.
"Darned old bee stung my piggy," he whined, more annoyed than injured.
"Oh my," I said, "may I see? If the stinger is still in there we need to get it out."
In way of answer he thrust his foot at me and I sat cross-legged in front of him. I picked up the wounded paw and inspected it, noting how small and perfect it was. Such a work of art, I thought to myself, this boy and every part of him from the crown of his head to the bottom of his foot.
"It's not so bad," I said smiling, "just think, the poor bee had to die to sting you," I cooed pinching the stinger between my fingernails and extracting it.
"Really? He's dead," he said looking even more upset now.
"Yes, unfortunately that's the way it works," I said, wishing I hadn't mentioned that fact to this tender soul, "there, all better. It may hurt for a bit, but it doesn't look like it's swelling. I assume you're not allergic or you'd be swollen up like a balloon by now," I said tickling the bottom of his foot and making him giggle.
"What's lergic mean?" he said pulling his foot back and looking it over as if I had done something lasting to it.
"Allergic, it means that you can't stand the poison the bee has, and it can make you sick."
"Oh," he said looking at me with those beautiful blue eyes, "what's your name anyway?" he added cocking his head like a curious puppy.
"Bobby," I said offering my hand, "and you are..."
"A boy," he giggled.
"I know that you rascal," I laughed, shaking my head.
"My name is Joe," he said simply.
"Well, nice to meet you Joe," I said shaking his small soft hand, reluctant to let it go.
"Nice to meet ya too," he said grinning, "What are you doing here?" he asked then.
"I...I don't know," I said, suddenly wondering the same thing myself, and what's more, wondering where here was, "I seem to have forgotten," I said blushing, "It happens when you get old."
"You're not so old," he said pulling at a clover leaf from the ground, inspecting it, and discarding it before picking another.
I laughed, "I feel younger today, that's for sure," I said, realizing that just being with this beautiful young boy had made me forget my aches and pains, and best of all, my feelings of hopelessness, despair, and depression.
"Want to see my secret place?" the boy said suddenly.
"Uh, secret place?" I asked looking around and again wondering, where are we. All around were trees, and flowers and fields of clover, birds sailed overhead and the wind blew softly, making singing noises. It was, idyllic, peaceful, and perfect here, like something from a dream, like Heaven.
"Come on," he said taking my hand, "it's not far," he added as he led me through the patch of clover and toward a copse of trees.
I breathed deeply, the scent of flowers and grass, and trees, and fresh air, and sunshine filling my lungs. For the first time in a long time, I felt alive, and healthy, and happy. My eyes were bright and clear, my hearing so acute I could hear grasshoppers in the grass and the gurgle of a stream concealed somewhere beyond the trees.
"It's over here," Joe said skipping along and forcing me to skip as well, and to my surprise, there was no pain, no fatigue. I felt sure-footed and agile for the first time in more years than I could remember.
We entered the treeline and the temperature dropped a few degrees as we were plunged into the shade. Overhead a cacophony of sounds washed over us as birds trilled and fluttered about, but there were other sounds too. The sound of the wind, and the sound of that babbling brook, now closer than ever.
"Up there," he said suddenly jarring us to a halt.
I looked at him questioningly as he pointed upwards, my eyes following his small finger to the trees overhead, where lay his secret place. Joe's secret place was nestled in the limbs of an oak tree so large, and no doubt so old that it had been there much longer than I had been on this earth.
"It's amazing," I said in awe as I stared at the structure high above us. A treehouse, but unlike any I had ever seen. It was built of rough wood, the bark still clinging to the boards, but the boards seemed to fit together perfectly with no gaps between them. It was as if the structure had just sprung from the tree itself, a natural outgrowth of it.
"It's my secret place," Joe said again, "come on, I'll show you the inside, it's really cool."
"But, I'm not very good at climbing trees," I said, worried that this little monkey was asking more of me than I could produce.
"Oh, don't worry, there's a way up. Over here," he said dragging me to the base of the tree, "See, there's stairs."
On the back side of the tree, a wooden stairway built of the same rough logs as the treehouse wound up in a spiral toward the Heavens and disappeared into the floor of the treehouse.
"Come on, it's easy," he said dragging me along.
Up and around we climbed till we were inside the treehouse, which looked much larger inside than out. It had to be some sort of illusion I reasoned, or I'm hallucinating the whole thing. There was what I thought of as a nest in one corner, but instead of straw, the nest seemed to be woven of soft ropes and filled with a downy layer of material that resembled flannel or wool.
The inside of the walls were smooth, unlike the outside, and painted in a rainbow of colors, pinks, blues, yellows, purples, and greens. There was a small table and two chairs, small enough for a boy Joe's size, but I found I fit in one of them easily. What was happening to me? I wondered. The mystery deepened, but for the moment I was content just to sit and visit with this small naked boy.
Upon reflection, it seemed as if I knew this boy, or one like him, and began to sort through my memories in search of where, or when I might have known such a beautiful creature as this.
"Do you like it?" Joe asked then, holding his arms up to include all before us.
"Oh yes, very much. As a boy I always loved treehouses," I said, "I had several as a boy, but none as fantastic as this one. Who built this for you?"
"God," Joe said as if that were the most logical explanation in the world.
"God," I chuckled, "Well, he did a very good job," I said, hesitant to dispute his word since he seemed so sincere.
"Want to play a game with me?" Joe said then as he jumped up and ran over to what looked like a steamer trunk, the kind with a lid and a shiny silver hasp. It too appeared to be made of wood, but was smooth and perfect in design and completion.
He opened the lid and pulled from it a board game, one I was all too familiar with, for it had been my favorite game as a boy growing up.
"It's Clue," he said sitting the box on the table.
"My favorite game," I said, looking it over and noting it was exactly like the one I had owned as a boy. My friends and I had spent so much time playing the game, that eventually the cards had become smudged, the pieces tarnished, but to my credit, I'd never lost a single piece of the game all those years. I'd taken the game off to college with me, but after that I have no recollection of what might have happened to it.
Picking up one of the cards, I was lost in thought as visions of my childhood flashed through my head. I guess I had zoned out for a while, because suddenly I felt a tug on my arm, and when I looked up there was Joe's smiling face.
"Hey, you okay?" Joe said patting my hand gently.
"Fine," I said coming back to the when and now, wherever that was, "this is a pretty complex game for a lad your age," I added, "How old are you anyway."
"Oh, old enough," he said grinning, "you can go first."
We played for what seemed like hours, but must've been only a short time because as far as I could tell the light outside had not dimmed any. But then considering I had no idea what time it had been when we'd climbed into the treehouse, I was only guessing.
"That was fun," Joe said, having won the game easily, almost as if he knew the answer to who did what to whom with what before we'd begun.
"Yes, it was," I agreed, "I'm wondering, who do you play with ordinarily? I mean, surely you must have friends."
"There's always someone," he said starting to put the pieces back in the box.
"I've been meaning to ask you," I said grinning, "why are you naked?"
"Why not?" he said simply, "God made me this way. Don't you like how I look?" he pouted, sticking out his lip but grinning beneath.
"Of course I do. You are a work of art, sweet boy," I said rubbing his arm, "I have always thought there was nothing as beautiful as a boy, and a naked one is twice so."
"I know," Joe said smiling warmly, then placing the lid back on the box he replaced it in the trunk.
I followed his movement, noting how graceful he was and how perfect his little rear was. I was not aroused, rather awed by his beauty and innocence. In another time, another place I might have been, but not here, not now.
"We should go to the waterfall now," Joe said turning to face me, giving me a full view of his boyhood.
He was uncut and perfect, two cherry-sized balls in a wrinkled hairless sac dangling loosely between his legs. His smooth chest showed some definition and his small pink nipples were erect, a dime sized circle around them accentuating them. His tummy was flat, a perfect innie belly button smack dab in the middle, and there was just enough baby fat in his hips to add to his adorable figure.
"Come on Bobby," he said when I'd recovered from my boy gazing, "you'll like this place, it's super cool."
Super cool? I thought, how could he know? That was my favorite saying as a boy. Once I'd learned what cool was, I took it to the next level and always used super with cool. Super cool. Yes, this whole experience was super cool.
Again, I felt no aches, no fatigue as I followed Joe down the stairs and back into the trees. There was a well worn path just wide enough for us to walk side by side, Joe's hand firmly holding my own. It was peaceful and serene, and I felt such overwhelming joy and contentment just to be here with this small boy in such a magical place.
Was it real? Or was this a dream from which I would awaken, remembering only snippets of it, Joe lost to me forever? I tried not to worry about what I had no control over, and decided to enjoy my time with Joe, regardless of what happened afterwards.
The sound of the babbling brook, as it turned out was really the sound of a waterfall which fell into a pool of water so clear you could see to the bottom. Small fish darted around in the water and where the falls dumped into the pool the water was white with froth and seemed to dance in the afternoon sunlight.
"It's my swimming pool," Joe laughed, "come on, come in with me."
"But, I don't have my suit..." I stammered, then realizing how ridiculous that must sound, I began to undress before Joe could answer.
I hadn't thought much about what I was wearing this whole time, but as I undressed I took note of the garments I wore, and wondered where they had come from. I was barefoot, which I had noted earlier, but didn't give much thought to, and on my legs were soft pants of what looked like the same material as Joe's nest. My shirt was sheer and silky smooth, the color of fresh butter, with tiny red dots adorning it. Certainly not my usual wardrobe, but then nothing was usual about this whole situation, so why should my clothing be an exception?
I was naked in minutes, and gave no thought to the fact that I was naked with a small boy. Somehow it just seemed natural and right, and as I looked down at my body, I felt no shame, no modesty. As Joe had said, this was how God created us, and we were beautiful.
"Come on," Joe said taking my hand and leading me into the pool which seemed to have naturally carved steps leading down into the blue water.
I feared it would be cold, after all, it was being fed by a waterfall, but to my surprise the water was the perfect temperature. Not too hot, not too cold, perfect. I could feel the small fish darting around my legs, causing a pleasant sensation and I giggled as if I too were a small boy.
"The fishies are hungry, and they think we're food," Joe laughed, "this is my favorite place," he added looking extremely happy, "Do you like it?"
"I love it," I said sincerely, and I love your secret place, and I love all of this," I said spreading my hands to include his world, "and most of all, I love you Joe," I said, never so sure of anything in my whole life.
"I love you too," Joe said coming to me and throwing himself against me in a ferocious hug.
Tears stung my eyes as we stood there, waist deep in the clear cool water and clung to each other as if our life depended upon it.
"Do you know me now?" Joe said looking up, his eyes brimming with tears.
"What do you mean...?" I choked out, but instantly I knew exactly what he meant, "Oh...no, it's not possible..." I gasped, "That was so, so long ago...I was just a boy...OH MY GOD, Joe, can it really be you?" I wept.
"Yes, it's me. It's Joe, and we're together again."
"But how, why?" I sobbed.
"Because it's your time," Joe said simply, "it's time for you to come home."
"Home, you mean...? I'm dying?"
"It's all right," Joe said hugging me tighter, "this is your home now," he said suddenly eye to eye with me.
Then looking down, I saw that it was not he who had changed position, but me. I had shrunk till I was no taller than Joe, and looking down at my body, I no longer saw a pot-bellied, wrinkled, flabby body of a 69 year old man. No, I was young again, as perfect as Joe, and healthy and strong. I was a boy once again, and now, now I remembered it all.
Joe, who had been my best friend when we were boys. He'd died of cancer the year he turned 8 and I had never quite gotten over it. Then one day it was as if I had never known Joe, or had a friend who died. My subconscious had deleted the painful memories of my lost friend, I can only suppose as a survival mechanism. But now, it was all coming back to me, the good, the bad, and most of all the love we'd shared. The treehouse we'd built, and the hours we'd spent playing Clue, our favorite game, all came washing back into my memory like a tide crashing on the shore.
"It's okay," Joe whispered, "we're together again...for always."
"But how?" I said, but I really didn't care how. I just wanted it to be true, to be here forever with Joe for eternity. Was this Heaven? I had no idea, maybe Heaven is different for each of us when we pass on. Maybe deep within my soul this was the Heaven I'd sought, and now it was mine.
"Shhh...it doesn't matter," Joe said looking up into my eyes and smiling, "you're here, and I'm here, and that's all that matters."
"Yeah, you're right," I said laughing, "And it's all Super Cool!"
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