An Excerpt from the Gay Fantasy Fairy tale, THE ART OF THE HEART By Dan Skinner
Zac swung slowly back and forth on the swing, head bent low and hunched over his sketchbook. He’d just begun drawing Eros moving ghostlike into the room of a sleeping boy. One glance would allow anyone to recognize that it was his own room, his bed…and the boy was Zac himself. The figure was gliding downward upon him readying an arrow from his quiver in his bow. The picture would be detailed exactly, down to the cowboy print on his pajamas.
“That’s really good there, Two-Tone,” the voice came from the side of the swing and surprised him. So intent was he on the sketch he hadn’t heard anyone approach. He didn’t have to look up to know it was Rory. His chest felt a swift stab of thrill and panic. His mouth went suddenly dry. He could see the tanned legs stretching downward out of the shorts, the feet in the worn red Converse basketball shoes standing inches from him. He could sense Rory bending close over his shoulder. A self-consciousness consumed him and his skin blazed with the burn of embarrassment.
“May I?” Rory’s hand reached down close to him to get the sketchbook and lifted it from his lap. He knelt down next to Zac’s swing near his legs to study the picture. “This is pretty amazing!” he said as he flipped the page.
Zac felt himself growing horribly anxious and tongue-tied because of the attention to his drawings. The sketchbook was private and he was afraid his secret would reveal itself in its pages, but he could say or do nothing. He was stuck to the swing, brain frozen with fear. As near as he was to Rory and as compelled by desire to turn and stare at him, he was incapable of movement. His gaze remained fixed on his own feet.
“This looks just like the real comic book stuff in the magazines. I didn’t know you could do this. Have you shown this to anyone?” the older boy asked.
Without looking up, Zac shook his head. He was nervous, sweat trickled down his back.
“These wings on your super hero are just…just,” Rory paused. Out of the corner of his eye Zac could see his finger lightly touch the face of the longhaired Eros as his words drifted off. It was one of the more revealing pictures of the character. The loincloth provided little cover, leaving nothing to the imagination.
The page turned. Zac knew what series of pictures Rory was looking at. It was Rory at the square dance in their barn. It showed the line of girls watching him, awaiting their turn. He had made an old farm dance look like a fairy tale ballet.
“This looks like…” again Rory’s words trailed away into the air. He turned the page back and once more looked at the drawing. He flipped two more pages back. The one Zac had lovingly culled from his memory of Rory at sixteen lying on the tractor beside the road. The day, as a youngster, he’d sat on his lap in the cab of their truck. “How… how?” Rory’s tone held an odd mixture of both surprise and awe. “This is amazing, Two-Tone! How do you do this? It’s like you took a picture of it. This is crazy!”
Zac’s heart was beating so hard, the edges of his vision had gone dark. His senses left him feeling disembodied. He wanted to reach down and grab the sketchbook away from Rory before he could see any more of it. Zac’s soul was bared on its pages and he wasn’t ready for someone to know the secrets that lay within.
Rory shifted his position so the rays of sunlight through the tree branches fell on the pages of the sketchbook. Inadvertently, his leg grazed Zac’s. It was as if a jolt of electricity snapped through the racing current of his blood. He turned toward the older boy; their eyes locked. It was the very first time he remembered ever making eye contact with anyone. The light blue of Rory’s eyes was like a magnet on his own. The gaze between them contained a thousand unspoken sentiments. Rory appeared startled to see the younger boy’s face, and stared into the rich mismatched hues of his eyes.
Zac couldn’t believe he was this close to his idol. His tongue seemed dry, stuck to the roof of his mouth. The twenty-one-year old youth’s face was exquisite. He could see the bare trace of whiskers along the strong line of chin. His ample lips were red as if cherry-stained, the bottom lip sensuously thicker than the top. A brown heart-shaped mole was at the corner of his mouth. Zac had never been near enough to notice it before. But it seemed so appropriate. He stored its exact location in his memory. His neck was long, sleek. In the afternoon sun his skin was the color of dark honey. Zac’s heart ached from being mere inches from such beauty. It was a tragedy he couldn’t kiss that mouth. All of his being wanted that contact more than he’d ever desired anything.
Finally, he tore his eyes away and looked down at his own feet again, hiding behind the veil of near-ginger. He was filled with dread. He needed Rory to hand the book back to him immediately. To not be curious anymore. To not turn any more pages. It was the most important thing in the world to him that the next few seconds went the way wished. He didn’t have a suit of armor to protect himself from hurt, and he wasn’t strong enough to bear it without one. If he had a voice he would ask for the sketchbook back.
The sketches he’d made on the next few as yet unseen pages were intimate and private. He’d done them for his personal use. They were for a lonely heart yearning to no longer be lonely. They had nothing to do with the storyline of Eros.
Time suspended itself in the November sunshine. The air around them grew hushed. Zac heard no bird or bee. What had been bright faded into indistinction as he heard the slow rustle of a page being turned. He didn’t have to look to know what was on it. He visited those pages every night. They were his hero not as he had been seen, but as Zac had imagined him. They were the way the scenes would be if Rory had been the one whose kisses had been designed for his lips alone. He stared at the toes of his shoes, not knowing what to expect. Another page turned. Tears of terror welled in his eyes and were dammed there against his lower lids. The thumping in his chest was unbearable.
“Rory, are you going to play or not?” Dale called out to his older brother from across the yard. His voice broke the trance. Zac looked up to see the younger McHenry holding a horseshoe in the air.
Pages ruffled backwards as Rory stood up next to him. His shadow blocked all the sunshine from shining on Zac.
“Here ya go,” the older boy said, handing the closed sketchbook back to him. He took it without raising his head. He didn’t want to see Rory’s expression. He was afraid to find hatred or anger or disgust marring the face he so admired. He didn’t want to have an image in his memory that would be impossible to forget. But nothing was said. And nothing happened. Rory walked away to play horseshoes and their families had a pleasant Thanksgiving together. Zac sat quietly in his chair at the dinner table speaking to no one, looking at no one–just as it would have been… even if his secret hadn’t been discovered.