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The Boy or The God

by Michael Sargeant

Russ arched his aching back and stretched in the empty church. Cleaning the pews after Sunday morning Mass was his penance the priest said, winking slyly. Russ was an altar boy at St Jude's on the corner of Calles Placido and Corazon in Aldea, western New Mexico, USA. Father Simpson insisted on dressing the boy for services, the attire consisting of robe and cincture over athletic supporter and loafers.

The priest had taken him in the pews a few minutes before. 'It could be worst,' Russ reasoned. Father Simpson's preference was performing oral sex on Russ, reasoning that it did not really constitute 'lying with a man' and was therefore an 'unlisted dalliance'.

As Russ crossed the central aisle he detected a figure lounging at the far end of the back row. Alarmed, he moved to identify the intruder. Surely he must have been present for the dalliance. He was somewhat relieved to find that it was Skye Roberts of the ninth grade, Russ's class.

"Hey Skye," Russ's voice boomed in the stillness.

"Hello Russ," Skye replied, softening his voice in the vaulted silence.

"So, been here long?" Russ tried to sound casual.

"Long enough, Russ."

'Damn! He'd seen, and heard.' Russ slumped into the pew next to Skye, adjusting the cincture that kept riding up exposing more of his bare legs.

He felt some concern for old Father Simpson. Secretly he enjoyed the Father's attentions in the stillness of the church. Sex in a sacred and public place excited him. The priest was gentle and required no reciprocity. It was a tolerable arrangement for a closeted gay like Russ with nowhere else to turn but the church..

He felt some guilt, knowing the church's official attitude toward the union. To be outed would go hard on himself and the Father. There'd be hell to pay all around. Another year, he told himself, and at least it would be legal, just not very moral considering the elevated public position of the pair. Legal or not, if outed he'd still have to get through another two years of school and Father Simpson would probably vanish into another parish as he'd probably vanished into this one.

Russ thought back to how he'd come to the priest the year before to confess his attraction to boys only to receive a most peculiar penance. The Father took him into his office 'to discuss this most private of matters without interruption.' On one wall was an altar-like table covered with a cloth embroidered with religious symbols. A small glass vial containing 'holy oil' stood upon a folded cloth.

Behind locked doors, the ceremony of absolution consisted of Russ lying 'naked before God' on his back on the 'altar' while Father Simpson applied holy oil to the offending member. When Russ had shown convincing evidence, at the priest's encouragement, that he was indeed inclined toward the ministrations of a male, Father Simpson volunteered to be the receptacle of Russ's show of penance and swallowed Russ's ejaculation. With suitable words, Father Simpson released Russ from any guilt associated with past or present acts and encouraged Russ to bring future uncontrollable urges to 'the sacred confines of the church' to guard against 'baser exposure in less secure surroundings'. 'Wrong but understandable, and forgivable' was the message Russ took away that day. But how would Skye react?

"You won't tell will you, Skye?" Russ pleaded.

"You need not fear me, Russ. Fear is the enemy of trust. You will tell in time, Russ," whispered Skye.

"Or?" asked Russ, desperate for a more acceptable alternative.

"Or nothing, Russ. I'm here to help you tell. Eventually as we come to trust one another you will see the wisdom of accepting who you are and of being unafraid of the disapproving stares of others."

Russ had never conversed with Skye other than greetings of recognition. He could not believe an adult capable of such understanding much less one of his classmates. He'd heard Skye was the son of a former reservation trader and a Hopi woman. He and his Dad had moved to town last year after his Mom died. He'd also heard that Skye was almost old enough to be in eleventh grade but that a gap in his schooling and missing the age cutoff relegated him to ninth.

"How did you know, Skye?" Russ asked much relieved that the immediate danger had passed.

"I suspected, Russ. The way you reacted when Lou teased Melvin about being a queer. I spoke to Lou about it after. Lou and I have an understanding. Mel will not be bothered again. I've been watching you with the priest for two weeks."

Russ remembered the Mel incident and his mixed feelings. "That obvious, huh?" he asked.

Skye nodded.

"You too?" Russ asked. "I mean are you gay? You don't have to answer if you don't want to."

"If I declined, it would be an affirmation of the fact…and an admission of a sense of guilt, wouldn't it, Russ?" Not needing an answer, he continued, "I don't consider the gender of the person I'm attracted to important. We are versatile enough to please each other whether we have similarities or differences. I have that versatility."

Russ was fascinated. He'd never met anyone this honest and open about the same feelings he'd die to conceal. He was relieved to find an understanding soul and his innermost feelings tumbled forth. "Skye, can we go somewhere away from here. I feel trapped and confused here. I want…no…I need to share this mess. It feels like something is missing..."

Skye cut him off. "Half an hour, the old hogan at the foot of Apache Mesa," he suggested.

The abandoned hogan was a favorite gathering place for kids. Russ was anxious but cautious. He'd heard stories. Was this an elaborate set up to expose him? He hesitated.

"You said I'd tell. Will some kids be there to beat it out of me? Can we…"

"You can trust me despite your fears, or I can leave."

Russ thought of his favorite spot, the ruins atop Horse Mesa. Secluded. Juniper concealed. He'd camped there many times and never met anyone. "Stay with me while I change and we'll take my ATV up Horse Mesa."

"And what of next time, Russ?" Skye asked quietly.

"Next time?"

"Yes, will you distrust me then also. Will you always choose the conditions under which you will 'trust' while never fulfilling its meaning. There cannot be gaps in our trust. We cannot conduct our business under a fabric of distrust woven of select places. I cannot come and go. There cannot be safe times and unsafe times. Trust is continuous. It cannot be turned on and off to create the illusion of safety. It cannot be acceptable in one situation and denied in another. And trust cannot be sealed by some extraordinary miracle as so many followers demand of their prophets and messiahs. Trust is unlike faith that requires only a thought, a voiced belief. Trust requires an action."

Russ was dumbfounded. He'd never thought of trust in those...well…trusting terms. Skye was right, and powerfully persuasive. He felt drawn to Skye for his honesty, maturity and understanding. Skye should be in the pulpit. Then he thought better of it. Skye and Father Simpson existed worlds apart, and Skye's world held hope. Russ wanted to touch that hope. Tentatively, Russ slid his hand along the back of the polished pew and touched Skye's fingertips. Two breaths drew in sharply and eyes locked in unison.

"Skye!" Russ exclaimed.

"You felt that too?" Skye asked.

Russ nodded. "It was like I'd always known you! It felt…right." After a thoughtful pause he agreed, "Yes, the hogan, half an hour," and he left to change.

As he dressed Russ wondered where Skye Roberts had gathered such a mature outlook on life, and what had flashed between them forming a bond he'd never felt with another even during sex.

* * *

They arrived from different directions at almost the same moment. Russ couldn't help glancing about for danger. But crickets were chirping, birds were flying in and out of the smoke hole and eastern door. There were no fresh tracks. He flushed with shame at his mistrust. Skye just grinned at his surveillance.

"Do you know of the kiva?" Skye asked.

"There's a kiva near here?" Russ said in a surprised tone.

"It's my favorite place, as the ruins are yours. We'll go to your ruins when trust is no longer questioned." Russ wondered how Skye knew of his liking for the ruins, more watching perhaps.

Skye led Russ to a jumble of rock at the foot of the mesa. As Skye mounted the steep slope, Russ's view was of Skye's buttocks well exposed by loose shorts with no underwear beneath. Russ found it very difficult to concentrate on handholds and footholds and kept close to improve the view.

"Did you like what you saw, Russ?" Skye teased when they reached the top.

Russ's face flushed. "S-sorry," he stammered.

"Don't be. It was deliberate." Skye grinned and took Russ's hand. "Look there," he indicated.

At the summit, Russ saw a weatherworn pine pole jammed into the rocks at an angle. Against the pole rested a large thin sandstone slab.

Skye lifted it to reveal a dark hole into which the pole, notched with footholds, descended. Skye took a small leather pouch from his belt, loosened the drawstrings and sprinkled the powdered contents into the hole. "To appease the snakes," he explained. "We'll give them a few minutes to pack."

As the red powder drifted through the opening, Russ admired Skye's long blue-black hair and tanned features, so different from his own fair skin and dark-reddish hair that led his Mother to nickname him Rusty.

"You are different," Russ observed. "You know, from the town kids. Where're you from?"

"Dad had a contract to run the Hopi Rez trading post near Sand Springs in Arizona. I was born in Winslow, went to various mixed schools for rancher kids and Hopis. I learned Hopi traditions from Mom. Dad rejected Christianity and took from Hopi traditions only that he felt useful for living in a harsh land.

"The Hopi believe their ancestors emerged from a cave in the Grand Canyon region. There is apparently such a cave in the western end discovered in 1909 and supposedly explored by the Smithsonian. Rumored to contain some puzzling Egyptian-like artifacts, the area is designated US Government property and is off-limits to civilian and park personnel.

[Author's note: See if interested.]

"My sex and religious education was mixed and liberal, also very natural living in close quarters with my parents and the Hopi children. The Hopis had never fully embraced the White ways, their religion included, and still practice their own traditions, one of few tribes so blessed.

"When I showed a sexual interest in a boyfriend, my Dad took me to a Hopi Two Spirit who furthered my education so as to be guilt-free and able to counter hatred and to argue for complete freedom of sexual choice. That's where I 'lost' a year of school. The best education I ever received.

[Author's note: See if interested.]

"My Dad used to take me to Catholic services. He and I have a sign language for hunting and bargaining for wool. Dad would sign during services so I would be aware of the lies and deceptions as they were occurring."

Skye gave several examples of the methods used by priests to control local parishioners and to cast guilt. Russ was well acquainted with most.

"Think that's the last of them," Skye observed as a fifth rattler finally emerged from the rocks below. He swung onto the pole and descended. As Russ followed he saw the light from a candle flicker and Skye pick up a long thick stick.

The floor was smoothly paved, about four meters in diameter. For seating, a continuous stone shelf circled the room where tightly chinked rock walls met flagstone flooring. Light and cool air flowed along a paved trough that ran from the center of the floor to and under the outside wall. Massive smoke-blackened log rafters made a central pillar unnecessary. Skye dragged the stick around the back and base of the seating. "All gone," he said, referring to the snakes.

"Sit quietly there. When I'm seated opposite you, close your eyes," Skye directed, pointing to a larger stone slab set in the circular seating.

Skye crossed to the opposite side of the kiva and sat cross-legged on a similarly large slab.

Russ closed his eyes. For several moments it was quiet though Russ could hear faint breathing. Suddenly Skye's voice whispered in both ears, as if he were seated each side of him. "You are showing trust. We'll begin the 'conceal or reveal' lesson."

Russ was startled, reached out to both sides and opened his eyes. Skye was still seated directly across from him.

"How did you…" he began as Skye covered his ears and Russ heard his voice reflect around the circular enclosure and reverberate loudly within his ears. Skye placed a finger to his lips signing a whisper. "Never mind," Russ whispered, "I get it."

Russ wondered if Skye's statement was a veiled reference to removing clothing but Skye did not explain. Instead he watched Russ intently. In a couple of minutes, a silver dollar-sized circle of sunlight peeked in the smoke hole and flared onto the floor near Skye who pinched out the candle. Dust motes lazily revealed a shaft of light. The chamber was warm, and silent, and intimate. Russ felt a stirring of sexual excitement, absent from his trysts with the priest. He looked up Skye's shorts.

Skye smiled. "Affects me that way too," he whispered. "I've never been up here with anyone, girl or boy, but I've lain here and thought about it many times."

"You seem to know a lot about how I think, Skye," Russ said remembering Skye's buttocks and legs as they'd climbed the rocks.

"I can hear the excitement in your breathing," Skye admitted. "Once you get a feel for a guy's level of sexual maturity, you know what to look, or listen, for. It wouldn't take much to bring us together, but it's premature, there'd be some confusion on your part after, and the love is not there…yet."

Russ felt a flicker of disappointment at Skye's decision and quickly changed the subject. "You've helped others Skye." It was more a statement than a question.

"Many. Your situation is more complex. You are gripped by a most powerful seduction made more dangerous for being entangled in religious hypocrisy. Here we can explore it without distraction."

The distance between them and the whispered dialog added emphasis to the exploration; intimacy and separation balanced. Russ had great difficulty keeping his penis under control when he thought of what he'd really like to explore.

Russ redirected his thoughts to ponder Skye's assessment. The secret between he and Father Simpson was powerfully seductive. It was more thrilling done in a place of devotion. Surrounded by religious mysticism he'd been easily seduced by the priest. The contrast between the religious high Russ got as he assisted the priest at the altar, and the priest's whispered words of lust and love between Latin phrases, combined to create a sense of scandalous delight that he anticipated at each service. It was as close to having sex in front of the congregation as he could imagine.

Yet after the service and the sex, Russ was shamed by the control and manipulation. He felt no love for the priest beyond that generated during the heat of gratification. The man was so lonely, so trapped in his profession. Perhaps Russ was the only intimate human contact in the poor fellow's life. He did not know. It had never come up. Perhaps he would raise the issue with him sometime.

Russ was overpowered by a sense of loneliness, guilt and sexual desire as he reviewed Skye's words and his own situation. His breath came in pre-tears shudders.

"Come to me," drifted softly to his ears. Russ looked up to see Skye spread his arms.

"You need this," Skye said as he held Russ tightly, "not sex." Tears flowed silently down Russ's face as he remained long minutes in the tenderness and comfort of Skye's embrace.

Relieved, Russ withdrew slowly from Skye's embrace, feeling sudden curiosity. "You said religious hypocrisy made it more dangerous."

"Actually that's where the only danger lies. Sex has been an intimate and elevating part of all worship of the self. The danger comes from denying its propriety while dispensing it under threat of revelation if certain darker deeds are not performed." Skye practically spat the words out.

Russ was disturbed by Skye's exposure of the manipulations. He'd been coerced early in the relationship when the priest asked for Russ's silence in exchange for his. It took several weeks before he made peace with his lust for the priest's ministrations and his abhorrence that such a thing could exist within the sacred confines of the church.

But what of the phrase 'worship of the self?'

"Surely it is worship of God, not of self, Skye," Russ cried. The blasphemy of the statement had him quaking.

"There is no proof of a god, Russ," Skye said quietly.

"Of course there…" Russ began.

Skye cut him off. "Men claim to have an intimate acquaintance with their gods yet cannot agree upon how many gods there are. Thus they must never have appeared to men. How can a man be so sure of something he has never seen and cannot demonstrate the existence of?"

Russ pondered Skye's words, probing them for cracks of entry into which the church's dogma could be thrust. He found none. He still wrestled with the Trinity.

Russ felt fear. How could he embrace Skye's statement, and yet where was the fallacy? Could a mere boy present the crux of the matter?

"Faith Skye, one must believe in the existence of God."

Skye countered, "If you can convert your belief, your faith, into an action that proves the presence of your god and maintain that action under all circumstances, then you will have shown me something I can trust. Even so, anything I see anyone do is nothing more than the work of a man and proves not that a god's hand is behind it. As to a man's beliefs, they are as inconsistent as the moon."

"What of all the superhuman, apparently miraculous events on record?" Russ was feeling his way back to the firmer ground Father Simpson had thrust under him in the past year in public and private sermons.

"Performed by men, extraordinary perhaps by daily standards but a man's performance nevertheless. And each subsequent extraordinary performance by man only shows the increasing ordinariness of the deed, not the extraordinariness of a god 's works."

"But man is God's work," Russ cried, falling back on phrases triggered by key words in Skye's arguments.

"Really? Each conception, each birth attended by a god whose presence is attested to, the mark of the god upon the certificate?"

"I place my trust in the Lord," Russ threw out in desperation.

"You placed it in me this morning Russ. I don't think it crossed your mind to cast yourself on your god's mercy and trust that he would assure that there was no danger here," Skye said softly. "Are you saying I am your Lord, or that you have divided trust? Can you trust two masters?"

Russ considered how he'd been led, this morning and now. He particularly recalled the effect of touching Skye's fingertips. 'The Devil is in this somewhere, evil versus good, the boy versus the God,' he thought. But try as he might, Russ could only conclude, 'The boy I see…the God…the god I don't see' and his faith sagged further.

"In whom will you place your confidence, Russ? In the one who reveals himself to you," and he spread his hands wide before Russ, "or the one that conceals itself from you?" and Skye glanced from side to side as if in search of someone's presence.

"So that's what you meant by 'conceal or reveal' as our next lesson," Russ marveled. "But surely God is good and worthy of choice else what's free will for?"

"Exactly. So choose. Is your good god any better than me, Russ? Have I concealed anything from you? Has your god revealed anything to you? Does he at this moment so firmly reveal the correct choice to you that you have no hesitation in choosing? Lack of confidence is the second enemy of trust. Wherein lies your confidence, Russ? In whom do you place your trust? We have reached the second corner in our business. Which way will you turn?"

Russ rose and paced the kiva floor. He reached deeply into his beliefs and found confusion. He pondered the boy's clarity and strength of purpose and found the old magic of the unknown urging him to discover, to dare. He delved into his desires and remembered all his dreams, crushed under cold cruel belief. He thought of the priest's choice. He'd chosen Russ over his vows to a god he professed belief in. He glanced at the boy who was eyeing him intently.

Then he stopped before Skye, kneeled, placed his arms about him, drew him close, looked into his eyes and whispered, "I choose you, Skye."

Skye returned the embrace then drew Russ to his feet and led him a few steps to the kiva's center. He looked into Russ's eyes and said, "Trust." Russ nodded.

"Lie in the trough, Russ," Skye directed. "Head toward the center. Eyes closed."

Russ obliged. Skye took up the stick he'd used earlier. Pointing it first at the short tunnel the trough made under the wall and seat then at the entry hole in the roof, Skye whispered three Hopi words, struck the end of the staff three times on the floor, then reached out to Russ. "Give me your hand that I may help you emerge from the sipapu and be reborn into the Fourth World cleansed of the White Man's Way."

[Author's note: See if interested.]

"Skye, that was amazing. I felt I was crawling through a long tunnel at the end of which was a world I'd been told existed but had no proof of. There was something I'd left behind but I can't remember it."

Skye nodded.

"What's the Fourth World, Skye?"

Skye's only reply was to thrust the staff at the kiva's entry hole. Then he said, "Sit!" and pointed to a stool-sized stone in the kiva's center. "Feet in the trough."

"Out there is the Fourth World. The servant of the White gods misled you. Rejecting White gods you are as a baby, unprotected. When you confront that servant on his soil you will need to understand how to turn his persuasions and threats back upon him. You will need to know how to channel his fears, turn his lies, dry his false tears, all the while bearing no malice."

"Skye?" Russ said quietly raising his hand.

Skye nodded.

"How is it you know these things?"

"How is it you do not?" replied Skye.

"I did not have the same teachers?"

"Yet you were taught," Skye began, "and knowing no other way you found the teachings wondrous. You saw others profess their belief so you struggled with your disbelief. But as you gained contradictory experience you were fortunate enough not to rationalize those experiences and bury them under the weight of faith. Likewise the Hopi were at first in awe of the White missionaries' teachings. But the Hopi elders were wise and recognized that the White's word was not his bond, that his actions betrayed his words, and they finally fell back on the strength of their ancient ways.

"The Hopi taught their children and I many things of use in the Fourth World. My instruction wasn't limited to the way of the Two Spirit. Now I pass my learning to you."

It was dark when, many hours later, Russ reemerged into the Fourth World, light of mind and spirit.

* * *

Russ leaned back into the comfort of Skye's body. They were lying in the sun under a juniper on Horse Mesa near the ruin enjoying the sound of trees sweeping the wind around.

In the last few days Skye was available whenever Russ needed him. Russ was trying to distance himself from the church, physically and spiritually. He was far more drawn to Skye. He'd wake up thinking of him, a powerful sense of self-worth surging through him. He couldn't wait to be with Skye. He'd never been in love but knew this is what it must feel like. Being in the same classroom with Skye empowered him. He felt confident. He thought of telling people how wonderful it was to be free of guilt. 'Funny', he mused, 'Skye said I'd tell.'

Skye's touch had been quite unexpected. From behind, he'd unbuttoned Russ's shirt and tugged it from inside his jeans. Then he'd loosened belt, button and zipper, exposing Russ's underwear. Skye turned Russ's suddenly erect penis toward the top elastic of his underwear but did not expose it.

He drew Russ's right hand toward his mouth and began gently sucking on a finger. Russ gasped at the softness and warmth and the suggestiveness of the sucking and began gentle thrusting movements with his penis. Through the material and with a fingernail Skye began lightly raking the shaft of Russ's penis where the frenulum was attached.

Russ's breathing became audible and his thrusting rhythmic. Skye circled his tongue around Russ's finger causing Russ's breathing to go into spasms of delight.

"Skye!" he gasped in contracted sentences, "It's so good! Don't stop. Please don't stop!"

Skye replied by finding Russ's scrotum with his left hand and pinching up a small fold between his forefinger and thumb through the material. By alternately pinching and releasing and rolling the fold inside the material he made delightful almost burning sensations that spread a sensual heat throughout his loins.

Russ began to shudder and to move more forcefully while whining with delight. Then suddenly bursting into tears of joy and frustration he cried, "Do it to me Skye! I can't wait! Oh that's it, I'm coming…"

A large wet spot welled in Russ's underwear. Russ's breaths came in brief shudders as he slumped back onto Skye's chest. "I feel all itchy inside and can't stop pushing."

"Enjoy it," Skye whispered. "Lean back and rest, my beloved."

"I'm exhausted," Russ confessed as he tried to sit up. "And I've barely moved."

"Lie still, I haven't finished," commanded Skye. He raised the band of Russ's underwear and wiped Russ's stomach with his finger placing it alternately to his mouth and the wet area. Then he milked Russ's penis of the remaining cum and repositioned Russ's clothes.

Skye whispered, "Thank you for offering the sacrament of yourself to me. I look forward to other ways of receiving it."

Russ quivered with delight at the novel view Skye took toward the act. He thought back to the last Mass before he'd withdrawn from the service of the church, Skye's 'worship of self' had become clear then for the first time. 'I kneel here and pray, but there is no god. Therefore I must worship my existence and the power I used to think flowed from a god, flows from within me, from a greater to lesser self perhaps.' Russ wasn't sure. Perhaps he'd ask Skye. Perhaps he'd find his own answer.

Skye had shown him the answer. Having given part of himself to Skye the worship of self became clear. Skye had raised him to a special level of power and worth. He would always feel grateful to give in the way Skye had shown him.

"It is the giver who is thankful Skye."

* * *

Father Simpson set aside his fears, fear of failure, of loss, of exposure when Russ had told him he was leaving the service of the Church, and of the priest. He sank to his knees trusting in an approach that had succeeded more than once in the past. "I need you. You are the font at which I worship. Can you not see the power you have over me? Was I not gentle, did I not please you? Is there more I can do, more I can show you of the pleasures God allows us to share?"

Russ and Skye had talked of this temptation. "Father, I do not deny the pleasure of the moment, and in a different world we would not need to conceal it as an act apart from our celebration of ourselves. But your way vilifies the act, cloaks it in shame, belies all that you and your institution stand for. In an understanding world our lustful union would have the freedom to grow into love if the seed were there. In the soil about our feet, there can be no growth-filled future for such a union as we have."

Russ had been warned not to mention that he was attracted in love to another. 'Don't add jealousy to the pain of separation,' warned Skye, who was well aware of the difficulties facing Russ and the priest.

Seeing that Russ was adamant, the priest launched veiled threats supported by, 'Whom would they believe, a Man of God,' and the priest had drawn himself up to his full height, 'or a gay boy?' and the priest glared haughtily down on Russ.

'Keep your withdrawal from the relationship based upon your and the priest's dilemma of wanting the best of two mutually exclusive worlds,' Skye reminded Russ. 'Keep it gentle and personal for you both.'

"You see Father, now you are using the Church's moral reputation to gain personal ends. Our relationship would always be cemented by fear and secrecy rather than by love. We simply cannot have it both ways. The flock would not allow it. They have a vested interest in the beliefs and ceremonies of the play."

Excommunication was mentioned. "Excommunication holds no threat, Father," countered Russ. "Your myths and fables are without substance to me now. You cannot control me by fear or by faith."

. The priest reminded Russ of his initial confession in which he'd revealed another boy's name at the priest's urging, a boy who'd been traumatized by the priest's confrontation and threats of exposure into believing Russ had seduced him and had told Russ so.

Before confronting Father Simpson, Skye and Russ had visited this boy, Dale, one afternoon at his home and invited him on a hike. Mel joined them. Using gentle persuasion and example, Skye calmed Dale's fear of exposure by the priest. Russ and Skye planted in Dale and Mel the very real option of leaving the church to further distance themselves from the priest's control.

Father Simpson found Dale to be most unconvinced of the possibility of exposure. The priest weighed the number of propositions, four including Mel and another boy unknown to Skye and Russ, and their hostility, the source of which remained unknown to him. He decided that he had no further hold upon Russ. In everyone's best interests, their final parting was amiable.

* * *

Russ rested his head on Skye's stomach, lightly kissed each of Skye's fingertips, and studied the skillful placing of the kiva rockwork as they discussed the details of the priest's attentions.

"So he never came?" Skye asked.

"Never. I think it was his way of keeping his vows intact. He never even touched himself while doing it to me."

"So you've never…"

"Well with Dale, but only looking…watching," Russ was quick to reply.

"I'd be your first?"

"Yes. Was I?"

"No. But my first lover," Skye qualified. "I wanted an idea of how to proceed. Turn on your side and lay your head down in the same place facing my legs."

Skye unfastened his belt and unbuttoned the loose hiking shorts that had revealed so much. His penis was erect and but a hand's width from Russ's mouth.

"When I squeeze your penis begin to blow on my penis," Skye directed.

Russ nodded then started a little when he felt Skye's hand rest on his penis through his clothes.

Skye began a soft chant in words melodic yet incomprehensible to Russ. Skye's penis began to move up and down. Gradually Skye's breathing became halted. Suddenly Skye stopped chanting, squeezed Russ's penis and whispered, "I'm thankful that you are here to receive that which longs to come forth from me."

Russ began blowing gently on Skye's penis. Almost immediately Skye came, gently in a single pool that collected on his stomach.

"Russ, this is the sacrament I offer to you in love. Take this part of me to yourself that I may be part of you."

Russ dipped his finger and took a tentative taste. Then he began licking Skye's stomach clean. Already excited by Skye's grip and offering, he began to thrust into Skye's hand but Skye relaxed his grip.

"Please, Skye," Russ begged.

"Dear Russ needs to come for himself. Calm yourself. For now be restrained and patience. You need one more lesson so that you may be free of serving yourself."

Awed by Skye's abilities, Russ immediately obeyed. "I want to help others as you've helped me, Skye," Russ said.

"You are not quite ready, Russ. You lack one critical ingredient of trust."

"I don't understand, Skye. I have new confidence. I no longer fear the church, no god is going to strike me because I no longer worship…"

"You feel a sense of abandon, Russ?"

"No. I have you. I have self-confidence, a sense of self-worth I've never had before…"

"Not what I asked, Russ," Skye corrected. "What of those times when I'm not around and when your confidence ebbs low, a mistake diminishes your sense of self-worth? On what will you rely then?"

Russ thought about it. "You're asking me to act without guidance. I'd wait until my self-confidence and sense of self-worth returned, until I could ask your opinion…"

"Exchanging one dogma for another. Your ego never relinquished control, Russ. It merely exchanged props, from the god to the boy."

"But if I have nothing left to believe in…" Russ began.

"Russ!" the boy interrupted. "Deeds, not words. Trust, not belief. Here is a story that is crucial to your understanding.

"A hunter was crossing a mesa when a bear began to chase him. He ran until he came to the edge. He grasped a vine and swung down. He looked up and saw the bear waiting for him. He looked down and saw another bear glaring at him. Two kangaroo rats, one black, one white, began gnawing on the vine above him. Looking this way and that, he spied raspberries growing out of the cliff. He reached over and plucked them. He thought, 'How sweet they taste.'"

Russ nodded as tears welled. "Oh Skye, I should have done this days ago." Russ took the boy gently by the hands, drew him close and kissed him softly on his lips.

"You want me but something is holding you back. You kiss me here in the shadows of that which is left of your world," Skye observed.

Russ drew back, but continued to hold Skye's hands, searching for understanding.

Skye said, "You trust me in private, but I cannot come and go between your private and your public worlds. Can you trust the world in the light of day? Can you trust yourself to bring a new understanding to others?"

"This is the point of no return isn't it Skye? The point where I abandon the old and take up the new."

"Still exchanging old props for new, Russ?" Skye offered.

"Ah! I see. There cannot be unqualified trust unless everything trust would be based on is abandoned. Then one has that sense of abandon as his guide and nothing keeps him from his actions," Russ concluded. "Come with me."

Russ drew Skye to the ladder and indicated they leave the kiva.

In town Russ walked Skye to his home, his arm around him, passing three acquaintances. Before Skye's house and in plain sight of several boys and girls playing in the dusty road, Russ gathered Skye in his arms, tilted his head to one side and kissed Skye with a passion that made two girls cling to each other in longing while several boys stood awestruck and motionless. Then the couple went inside.

* * *

When the ninth grade filed into homeroom Monday morning they were greeted by a chalked message on the front board. In letters writ bold were the words 'RUSS LOVES SKYE.'

The kids were quiet with anticipation. Russ and Skye entered and took their seats with no more than a glance at the message. The teacher hurried in and stopped short when he saw the words.

"Someone's idea of a joke?" he asked and picked up an eraser.

"It's no joke, sir," said Russ, standing. "I wrote that there earlier to express how I felt. I've loved Skye for some time now but hiding it sullies its reality so…"

"Russ," the teacher interrupted, "think of how embarrassing this must be for Skye who…"

"Sir," said Skye standing up, "I love Russ. We are not embarrassed by our love…"

"Boys do not usually love each other, Skye, Russ. Think…"

Russ interrupted, "However, these boys do!"

There were chuckles at the forcefulness of Russ's words.

The teacher was wise enough to recognize that this unusual situation required delicate handling. "Skye, Russ, please be seated. Three things before we turn to more mundane matters. First, I cannot promote homosexual love in class. Second I cannot demote it either. Therefore, and third, the message remains until halfway through the period at which time I shall erase it to make room for other instruction."

There were many nodded heads as the wisdom of this approach was accepted.

A hand shot up.

"Yes Lou," the teacher acknowledged.

"But it's so…icky!" Lou said.

"Thank you Lou," the teacher said. "Since you want to turn this into a democracy, I'm willing to entertain one more vote, as long as it's a favorable one."

The class went dead silent and many studiously arranged books and prepared writing materials.

"I think it's beautiful," came a voice from the back.

"Thank you Melvin. The floor is now closed to voting. If you will turn in your histories to page 182 we were discussing…"

* * *

Skye and Russ helped many kids besides Melvin in various matters. Mel was not the sole gay involved, and there were girls too. Lou and others made no trouble. The consequences had been made clear in the Melvin matter some weeks back.

Father Simpson requested reassignment within months stating among his reasons that the young people of the congregation were no longer receptive to his message of love and compassion. The bishop read between the lines and found a place for the Father. His reassignment of Father Simpson to a Boston church was particularly ill timed.

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