By Michael Chandler
I was about fifteen and a-half, when my mom and I had just begun really talking. Up until then, I had not been allowed to share in adult opinions. I was to obey, and that was that. Now that I was in high school, I stayed up long after my younger brothers and sister were put to bed. My dad was often working quite late, and, my homework done, my mom would iron clothes while she and I watched television, and I would spout my fledgling views of the world. Whether or not she agreed with me, she always listened and contributed, and I was happy that we were developing an adult rapport. There was no more yelling and hitting.
There was a lull in just such a conversation one night, when my mom mentioned, “Mrs. Courier says she saw ‘the Faunus’ today.”
“ That’s what she told Ginny Candiotti,” she shrugged.
“Of course, Mrs. Courier is, like, eighty-five years old and has to squint through her glasses to see her front door. Besides, I thought they caught that guy.”
“I don’t know. That’s just what I heard.”
My mom chuckled and went back to her ironing.
“The Faunus” was a mythical figure in our neighborhood, kind of a cross between a centaur and the Loch Ness monster – like a wood nymph, but if you believed the sightings, a boy.
Behind the houses on our street were several acres of woods, separated by a large field, so when people claimed to have seen “the Faunus’s” naked body by the edge of the woods or in the tall grass and milkweed of the field, their views were fleeting and from afar.
“The Faunus” was usually seen by only one person at a time, so there was seldom corroboration. Some witnesses were reasonably credible. Some folks were obviously spinning yarns. There were no grainy photos, no jumpy videotapes. Some claimed that the boy was an abandoned orphan, and some even insisted that “the Faunus” was a ghost. Over the years, his legend grew.
“The Faunus” got his name from Dr. Whittaker, the retired head of the Latin department at Colby College, who lived in a big old house on the other side of the street from us, even further from the woods than the people on our side. He had been up in his widow’s watch one afternoon, bird watching, with a pair of what he called “spyglasses,” when he caught a glimpse of the naked boy. He ran downstairs and across the street, shouting for the neighborhood men within earshot to follow him into the woods. By the time the gaggle of men got there, neither the apparition, nor any trace of him was to be found. He then referred to the Puck-like creature as “the Faunus,” and the name stuck.
Sightings were sporadically reported over the years, “the Faunus” purportedly seen both days and evenings, during all four seasons. The closest anyone ever came to affirming “the Faunus’s” true existence was Bobby DiPietro’s discovery of bare footprints in the snow, late one March. They led nowhere. For the most part though, “the Faunus” was merely a harmless, comfortable Maine folk legend who belonged only to our neighborhood. He was warmly regarded.
I am very qualified to give you the real low down on the legend, because I was “the Faunus.”
It started when I was in the second grade. I was six years old, and my mom had arranged for one of the eighth graders who lived in our neighborhood to walk me home from school each day. It was just about a mile. Over time, the older kid stopped walking me home. It must have been embarrassing for him to have a yakkety six year-old tagging along with him, and it was clear that I was okay on my own. Neither one of us told our parents of our non-arrangement, and none of them ever mentioned anything.
The route home consisted of a long stretch of tree-lined avenue from the front of the school, then a five-cornered, large diagonal intersection, known as Payson Corner, where I had to cross two of the main thoroughfares, and then go about four hundred yards down my street, home. I have found in life, that if you set an unusual precedent, it is often not questioned as time goes on, so, as it often took me about an hour and a half to walk the mile or so to my house, my mom never asked me what took me so long. Also, my siblings were still babies back then, and I was a hyperactive, disruptive element in the house. If I had been any earlier, she would have just made me go outside anyhow.
From what I know today, many boys, around six years of age, become curious about and attentive to their penis. About halfway down the tree-lined avenue leading from my school, there was a stretch of very old houses, whose low windows were mostly obscured by shrub and bushes, vines and trees, and whose occupants were mostly elderly folks who had raised their families there. There was very little foot traffic. I took to brazenly walking down that stretch with my penis hanging out of my fly. It was easy to mask it with my hand or my book bag from oncoming traffic, and I was learning early on that if you do something outrageous in plain view, most people are oblivious to it, because it is not something that they expect. If you act all sneaky, it raises flags. I would tuck it back in and zip up before I got to the busy and open Payson Corner.
After a few weeks of doing that, off and on, I got bolder. Across the avenue near Payson Corner, the opposite direction of my route home, there was a road that led to a cement factory and sand pit and dead-ended there. It was lightly used. At its entrance, there was an abandoned house with a fenced yard that abutted the rear of a few businesses on that part of the corners. I would take off my shoes and socks and pants and underwear in the yard, hop the fence, and sneak around in the alley behind the businesses, mere yards from the heavily trafficked corners. What a thrill! I would leave my shirt and jacket on, in case somebody walked or drove by, so I could cover my naked lower half behind a garbage can or a stack of wooden pallets and pretend I was loitering. Also, it would take me far less time to quickly jump back over the fence and throw my pants back on. It would be much easier to explain being barefoot than naked from the waist down. After a few close calls, with people parking their cars, a police cruiser, and an aggressive stray dog, I again changed my tack.
About a hundred feet off Payson Corner, running diagonally off my street, and splitting the woods that were behind my house, was a dirt road that went on for miles and really led nowhere. The only cars that ever traveled it were those of teenagers going out drinking, and that was mostly at night, or before high school football games on Saturdays. A marsh ran along the side of the road, and then the woods, the large field, and the backs of the houses along my street. Coming off my street at a right angle, was Woodside Road, its houses’ backyards cutting through the woods about a quarter mile from Payson corner, so I had a triangular section of some three acres of forest, most of the time, all to myself. I practiced nudism pretty much whenever I felt like it.
In good weather, I’d strip off my clothes by the side of the dirt road, stick them in my book bag, and splash through the marsh into the woods, where I’d sneak about, climb trees, and run along the many footpaths. “Like an Indian,” I thought, and I learned how to be silent and invisible, in case there were other neighborhood kids playing out there after school, but there never were. When I was finished romping around, I’d dress, retrace my steps, through the marsh, back down the dirt road, and head home down my street, so nobody would see me coming out of the woods... just in case.
In the wintertime, I’d cross the frozen marsh, into the woods, and take off everything but my pack boots. What a feeling to be knee-deep in snow and naked. I’d traipse around like Admiral Byrd, surveying a brand new landscape.
During the summer and autumn, leading into my third grade year, when I was seven, I indulged in my nudism fairly often, about once every week or two. In the summer, it was mostly, but not limited to, twilight. Getting caught was hardly an issue in the fading light. In the autumn, it was after school. Getting bit by the mosquitoes from the marsh was indeed an issue, but I noted that I didn’t get bitten any more than usual, just not always in the conventional places. It was a good thing that I was at the age of bathing myself, because I would often end up with pine tar on my scrotum or my butt. When school was out, since I was not carrying a book bag, I at first wouldn’t stray too far from where I left my clothes. Then I began to dare myself to roam farther and farther from where they were. Soon, I was scampering around the woods in the buff, unfettered. There was never even a close call.
The closer I could get to the edge of the woods, sometimes crawling into the tall grass and brambles of the field, the closer to getting caught, the bigger the thrill. Sometimes I would climb the trees near the forest’s edge, mostly hidden by a few trees remaining between me and the houses, and perch there for fifteen minutes or so. I was a secret observer and felt a lordly inner laughter at how I was getting away with this, right under peoples’ noses. It was that summer that was heard the neighbors’ first gossip of the mysterious naked boy in the woods. Just before the school year was to begin, on a daytime sojourn, that same apparition became known as “the Faunus.” After Dr. Whittaker’s doddering charge into the woods, by which time I was long gone, I laid off for a few weeks. When I thought it safe to resume, I hung further back in the woods, but it wasn’t long before I got back to my usual bold pattern.
This went on through third and fourth grade. I would exercise my freedom a couple times a month during the school year, more frequently during the summer, and the legend of “the Faunus” grew.
Sometime in July, between my fourth and fifth grade year, I was sitting in the kitchen having a peanut butter sandwich, and my uncle Joey walked through the door. Nobody in our large, extended family ever bothered to knock. He was the husband of my aunt Mary, one of my mom’s many sisters. He was a city cop, and he was in uniform. It was the first time I’d known him to stop by while on duty. My mom offered him an iced tea, and he sat down at the kitchen table and plopped his hat down, wiping his forehead.
“What do you know about this character they call, ‘the Faunus,’ that people say is running around out here?” he asked.
My mom gave him a doubtful frown and shrug.
“I don’t know. A couple people have said they’ve seen a naked kid out in the woods, but I’ve never seen him.”
“So it’s a boy then,” he surmised, jotting it down in a little black notebook.
“That’s what they say,” and she smirked, “I guess they could tell the difference.”
“Uh huh. What time of day have they seen this kid?”
“I don’t know; it’s just what I’ve heard. You should talk to Dr. Whittaker, across the street, and to the Whitmans, the negro family in the green house, her name is Louise, and I think Mrs. Douglas says she saw him too. She’s right next door. In the gray Cape.”
“Anything else you can think of about this ‘Faunus’?”
My mom thought for a second. “One of the stories is that he’s an abandoned orphan, but I don’t know where they get that.”
“That’s what I’ve heard too,” Uncle Joey answered. “We’re gonna have some patrol cars out over the next few weeks, and if he is some kind of abandoned kid, we’d like to get him into Child Services, so if you see some cruisers parked around here, don’t get nervous. I’m gonna go talk to these neighbors you gave me.”
There’s nothing like inside information. It’s one of the advantages of having a big family, spread throughout the city. After Uncle Joey left, I walked out on the back porch. He had left his cop car in our driveway. As I looked at it, I imagined being in the back seat with handcuffs on, naked, and I sure didn’t want that. What would my parents say? Plus, everybody in the whole huge family would know, and I knew that if that happened, I’d carry it with me for the rest of my life, so “the Faunus” would have to make himself even scarcer for a while.
The first thing the cops did was to scour the woods for signs of some imagined wild boy’s habitation: litter, any type of shelter, remnants of fires, human excrement, squirrel bones, any type of evidence. Apparently, they found none, and it was a big story throughout the neighborhood, straight up through the end of Woodside Road. Now, categorically everybody knew about “the Faunus.” There was even a story in the evening paper about the naked wildboy. The only photo they could come up with was a nondescript picture of the outside of the woods. The article spurred a search for the mystery parents who might have abandoned such a child in our suburban wilderness. I swelled with pride and vibrated with excitement. This was almost as fun as the secret exhibitionism itself.
I kept a close eye on the patrol cars parked on our street, as well as Woodside Road, and the old dirt road. It was easy to do, because they were, excluding the dirt road, places that we kids regularly played. Once in a while, the cops would ask us if we had seen anything, and of course, nobody had. After a few weeks, interest petered out, and I guess the department figured that they had spent enough money on something that might not have existed in the first place, so they sent the cops back out to chase real criminals and to find children who were truly abandoned, in the poorer parts of town.
In late August, I resurrected “the Faunus,” and continued my nudist romps in all weather, throughout the fifth grade. Fifth grade mercifully ended in late May, coinciding with my tenth birthday.
In midsummer, I climbed, of a pre-noon, stark naked, high up into a fir tree in a small clearing at the forest’s diagonal, close to both the field and the marsh, where I could observe the homes of the potential, semi-believing observers of “the Faunus.” Pine trees in Maine are fluffy and tall. They have many footholds and are inviting to climb, scrotum-seeking pine tar aside. For an ascending nudist, they offer much cover. Upon the high limbs, I had in mind my lordly dominion, my “Faunusdom,” and I lingered there for many minutes. My clothes were at the base of the empirical, sticky, needle-laden tree.
Fallen pine needles are one of the best mufflers of intruders’ footsteps, so I heard nothing, yet I felt a presence below. With confidence, I thought it could not be. Still, there was that feeling, and I looked about twenty feet down.
It was Angela Candiotti, a girl my age, a neighbor, a playmate, staring up at me.
I was unashamed. I had to be. I had learned very young, when caught in the act, exude total normalcy. Let the observer come up with the explanation.
“Hi,” she said, “Can I come up?”
Her voice and manner were innocent, but my ten year-old mind considered the dark consequences of letting a girl in on a discovered secret. I had no choice but to trust her. She could easily and probably run off with my clothes and tell her parents.
She didn’t even look at my clothes, but took off all of her own, and scampered up the tree. I gave her a hand to pull her up the last stretch, to my branch, where she plonked down sidesaddle, her face flushing, I’m sure, from the climbing. She faced me, unsteadily balancing herself.
“This is pretty fun,” she panted, “Do you do this a lot?”
I had to look at her whole body. She was more looking down at where our clothes were, and then farther, several yards off, unafraid, but surveying our height.
“Kind of,” I answered. “Just when I feel like it.”
“I’ve seen you out here a few times. Have you heard about ‘the Faunus’?”
“Yeah. I guess I’m trying to be like him,” I lied.
She giggled. “No. You’re him. Don’t worry, I won’t tell.”
I made it a point to show that I noticed her nudity.
“I won’t tell on you either,” I chided, tapping her on her shoulder, which made her almost lose her balance. I caught her firmly by her arm, and she smiled at me.
We were quiet for a few minutes, as we looked out over our vista. It was clear to me that she was finding a mutual appreciation for what I had found. I could see it in the set of her shoulders, her jaw, her faraway look, how there was no self-consciousness of our sitting so high up, naked, in a tree, together. Hers was a view both inward and outward. She glanced back at me to assure that we were seeing the same thing and smiled again at the answer she saw.
I pulled a pine cone and bounced it off the top of her head.
“Come on. Let’s get down. I’ll show you some more cool stuff that I like to do,” I said.
On the way down, I figured I’d have to help her, but she was adept and limber, unafraid of scrapes from the trunk or barefooted stabs from the branches, unaware of errant streaks of pine tar sticking to the parts of her body to which pine tar did not normally come into contact.
This girl was turning out to be someone with whom I could share my secret. That is, more than she already knew. She hadn’t told on me yet, and she was giving up her half of the nakedness, so couldn’t we possibly be... partners? The idea was enticing and exciting. What fun is a secret if you have to keep it all to yourself?
At the base of the tree, we picked up our clothes, and I ran ahead of her, down through the paths, deeper into the woods. I had her drop her clothes where I threw mine down, and I took her to a rock bluff, where there was a very old, fat rope swing. I helped her on, and pushed her out over the edge. She squealed with newfound fright and delight, and I had to shush her. After what I judged to be too long, I had to pull her off the damned thing. She would have stayed on it until she was late for dinner and got us both caught.
We played tag, and we hid ourselves behind the lilac bushes, the large boulders, the junipers, the huge oak trees, and the sumac. I took her to a wild strawberry patch that I knew, right on the edge of the field, and we hid among the weeds and the strawberry thorns, ate the fruit, and laughed at the oblivious world and at ourselves. I grabbed her by the hand, and we ran back to our clothes and got dressed.
I thought about making some kind of a pact with her, but it seemed unnecessary. We were both bright red and beaming.
“Come with me,” I said, and led her by the hand, through a dry part of the marsh to the dirt road, which we followed to Payson Corner. “This is so we don’t get caught.”
At the end of the dirt road, on our street, was the L’il Peach convenience store. I had fifteen cents on me, which was enough for Angela and I to split a can of Pepsi.
As we drank it behind the store, she gasped, “When can we do it again?”
I felt like The Professor. I got serious.
“Angie, we gotta be careful. No nothing to anyone, and always pretend like you just don’t know, like everything’s normal. We can’t just do it all the time.” She handed me the can, and, in my fantastic role as an army captain, I chose my next strategy. “If I think it’s safe, come over to my back yard, and I’ll hang a sock out my bedroom window.”
Angela squinted her eyes and locked them curiously onto mine.
“How will I know which one is your window?"
My shoulders drooped. Really, she was a bright girl, but I had lost a bit of trust.
“If there’s no sock, there’s no sock. If there is one, it’s my window.”
Her face lit up.
“Now, Angie, you can never, ever tell, no matter what happens.”
She broke out a completely artless, toothy, ten year-old smile, which I have never seen duplicated in any Hollywood film, or any real, adult life circumstance, and said, “Never, ever. I promise.”
I have never, ever been so convinced, so smitten.
I gave her the rest of the Pepsi, and we walked down our street, to our families’ homes, as if nothing had ever happened.
Certainly, in the weeks after joining up with Angela Candiotti, I hung socks out of my window, far outpacing “the Faunus’s” usual frequency. I got to be the lookout, the strategist, the one responsible for two, and I reveled in the responsibility, in our mutual secrecy, in our mutuality, in our shared, secret laughter.
Angie and I were too young for a sexual interest, and we transcended even a bodily exploratory curiosity. We sought the same freedom. We were both far out in the open, yet hidden from those around us. I remember our eye contact and her smile and, really, her elbows, wrists and shoulder blades, how her hair flowed in rhythm, as she ran ahead of me, not her naked body, but her naked being. We – had – it – together. Tag, tickle, hide-and-seek, we had to make each other be quiet so often that I took to having us play “Indian.” We crawled, through the field, as close to the houses as we could, in twilight hours, daring each other to sneak up through the lawns and tag a garage or a back porch, accompanied by a quick, disrespectful ass-wiggle. We would steal through the back yards of the small houses on Woodside Road and tip over a lawnmower, or loop a dog chain through a screen door.
Oh, ha-ha, what under-creative pranks, you may say. Yet, what if you found out that those pranks were perpetrated by a boy and a girl from your neighborhood who had been running around your back yard totally naked? What if you heard a noise outside, came out to investigate, and we two nudist sprites were unseen, hiding under your back porch, inches below your feet? Ha-ha, indeed.
Angela and I had our nudism in the woods, in the trees and paths and the rocks and the marsh, in the sun and the rain, and in the days and evenings, but we went to different schools, so when sixth grade began, our connection waned. Our families were friends and certainly neighbors, and we two were at most regarded as innocent playmates. At holiday neighborhood get-togethers, and when we would play together with the other children, we shared knowing smirks. Angela and I, as “the Fauni,” had a few winter outings, and I introduced her to snowbound nudism. Those times were brief, because I lent her my pack boots and her short boots were too small for me, so my feet got too cold too fast, even during the frenetic, stinging snowball fights. We made tentative plans to ice skate naked on the frozen marsh, but that never worked out.
In the springtime, near the end our sixth grade, I was out in the woods for a naked sneak, and I spied Angela, already there. I looked around and found her clothes and her book bag. I left her book bag and stole her clothes. I shinnied up into an ancient oak tree with them. The first huge limb was about eight feet off the ground. I watched her frolic around from up there, unseen. She danced, and then pretended to be an airplane and crashed sliding into a pile of last year’s slimy leaves, and then she danced some more. She went back to where she had left her clothes. She looked around, half warily, half in panic, for a person or people who must have seen her, were still watching her, holding her clothes. She picked up her book bag and covered her front, still scanning the area, figuring she had been caught. Then, panic subsiding, she looked at the ground, at the footprints in the mostly melted, late-April snow, and followed them with her eyes to the oak tree.
I waved, and she shot me a playfully aggravated look. She dashed to the foot of the tree, threw down her book bag, and scrambled up the eight feet of oaken trunk like an olympian. I could barely believe her prowess, her determination. She deftly threw herself around the trunk to straddle the limb and face me, no sidesaddle.
“You pig!” she shouted in a scorning, jocular way, that only real friends can get away with, and she shoved me to one side. I was entirely off balance and ready to fall, but she snatched me firmly by the shoulders. I grabbed her shoulders, I believed, for balance. Our eyes penetrated one another’s. She hitched forward and kissed me long on the mouth. She leaned back and with sparkling, challenging eyes, grinned at me, at herself, at her boldness. For both of us, it was our first kiss – naked, in a tree.
I tossed her clothes down to the ground, and she flipped around and leaned her back into my chest. I didn’t know what to do with my hands, so I wrapped them trepidatiously around her belly. She wrapped her fingers through mine, and we held each other’s warmth for a long time.
I was just learning how to exercise wit, and I felt that the long silence required a punch line.
“You should hang a sock out your window next time,” I said flatly, like in the movies.
She didn’t answer, but nestled her long hair further into my shoulder. I became aroused for the first time ever by a girl who was not an image, and I do not believe that any mattress I have ever shared with a woman has felt as comfortably secure as that tree limb which was jammed up between our dangling legs.
After much more silent time in this new, small world of ours, I helped Angela down from our tree. We got dressed, had one more tender, smiling peck on the lips, walked down the dirt road, and went to our respective homes, carrying our books and one more secret.
As a result of Angela’s and my many naked sojourns over the following summer, autumn, winter and spring, there had been a few more sightings of “the Faunus,” and, knowing what I knew, just one of them could have conceivably been verified. The others were mostly drunken, boastful musings. In one of the latter, “the Faunus” had been a translucent Christmas caroler.
Come summertime leading into our eighth grade year, there were, roughly semi-weekly, socks hanging from my window. I had chided Angela about her naked dancing, which I had observed from our kissing tree, and she decided to teach me how. We concentrated much on dancing, fast and slow, without accompaniment, dropped our games of tag, and played Indian-style, quiet, invisible hide-and-seek, when the dancing would run its course. It was good remedial practice for not getting caught in our nudism, and, hell, it was fun.
There was no more kissing. We did not yet know of adult or even adolescent intimacy. We were a little too young for it to be as thrilling, stimulating as exhibitionism itself. The kiss had been, however, an unforgettable experiment that, at that point in our lives, was still a few notches below, stark naked, climbing trees, scrambling over the rock bluffs, leaping off the rope swing into the scratchy brambles, splashing through the marsh, or dangerously taunting the folks on Woodside Road. In addition, we regularly played with our other pals from the neighborhood, and who wanted to be pegged as having a boyfriend or a girlfriend at age twelve? Whenever Angela and I found ourselves in the same circle of friends, we had, instead, the underlying excitement of what we were putting over on everyone else. Boyfriend and girlfriend, indeed! You should see us when we’re “sittin’ in a tree.”
That, our twelfth, summer, things were about to get mighty crowded.
I woke up one midweek day and hung out the sock. An hour or so later, I forded the marsh, peeled off my clothes and darted around to a couple of what were our common meeting spots in the woods. I found Angela, and she still had her clothes on, which was not unusual. We grinned hello, but I could tell that she had something to say, something to reveal. I tilted my head. From behind a lilac stand, emerged a girl, probably a year younger than us, her fingers nervously fidgeting behind her back. She looked quickly at my face, torso, and more, and then at the ground, blushing profusely. She too, was fully clothed for a fine summer day.
“This is my friend, Francine, from school. I told her about what we do, and she said she wanted to try it too.”
I looked at Francine, who was unable to make eye contact with me, and I wondered what Angela had done. I did trust Angie. Certainly, I had to trust her, yet there was an overwhelming thought that she had made an error that would cost us our entire, private game. I was bound to find out the verity of her decision. I approached Francine, who was still staring at her shoes, and I playfully shoved her shoulder.
“You guys get ready,” I said, “And let’s go climb on the rocks.
“Francine, you wanna go on the rope swing?” encouraged Angela.
Angela quickly stripped down, and Francine dutifully, shyly took off her clothes and shoes, as we watched. Within ten minutes, we were all in gales of laughter. We climbed and swang and ran and romped. The game of “tag” was far more fun with three. We hid and sought. We tackled and rolled, and, in spite of my youth, I could see that a burden had been lifted from Francine. She was one of us. I gathered up our clothes, all mixed in together, and we found a hidden clearing among the sumac. We laid down on our backs, side by side, in the soft, undergrown hay, and looked up into the clear, warm, noon sky, having three separate dreams of the present and of our youthful futures.
Those dreams would have been, for most youngsters, impeded by thoughts of constrictive, surrounding adults, but we were exercising a freedom, a creativity, that those outsiders, our pillars, could never imagine, could never imagine we could be capable of.
Francine had merged into Angela’s and my partnership, and I trusted Angela all the more. We all held hands, eyes comfortably closed, in the breezy sunshine. We got up and got dressed and played basketball in Angela’s driveway until dinnertime, when Francine’s mom picked her up and drove her back to their home, a few miles away. As I, gentlemanly, shut the car door for Francine, she winked. I turned back toward Angela, who jammed her fists into her hips and gave me the “told ya” head tilt.
Francine would return occasionally for our naked romps, and once or twice hoodwinked her mom, Angela being away somewhere, and just we two had innocent, naked fun together. She loved the raggedy, old rope swing.
Of an evening, sometime near the Fourth of July, deep in the woods, Angela and I were having a ticklefest. As we rolled in the ferns, our familial world was far away. We sensed something, and looked up, in tandem.
It was Jimmy Wycault, a kid who lived up the street, near Payson Corner. It was clear that he had not been looking for us, but had just been taking a walk in the woods.
He looked like he had been stuck with a hat pin, and rather than being embarrassed, or “found out,” Angela and I laughed out loud at his discovery and his being taken so far aback.
“Well?” Angela dared.
Because the command came from a girl, Jimmy Wycault removed his clothes, as he silently, hypnotically stared at the spot between Angela’s legs. He was a year older than us, a big deal at that age. He was known as a bully, but Angie and I were a firm unit, and we had some element that put Jimmy Wycault off balance. Maybe it was that Angela and I were lithe, and Jimmy Wycault was pudgy. Maybe it was that we were the naked ones and yet felt more comfortable than he did. We gave him no reason to be self-conscious.
I jumped up and tagged him hard in the chest.
“You’re it! Come get us!” and Angela and “the Faunus” bolted further into the woods, Jimmy Wycault in whooping pursuit.
I stopped short on the slippery leaves from last autumn and brought him down by the ankles.
“Shhhhh!” I warned. “We gotta be quiet out here.”
I laughed and let him to his feet. He looked at me.
“Let’s go find her,” I jabbed him, “She’s pretty good,” and we sprinted off in Angela’s pursuit.
She was more than pretty good. It took us twenty minutes, scouring her prospective hiding places, climbing trees for sniping views, to find her in the crevice of a couple boulders. She hadn’t put one over on us; she had let herself be found. She had wanted to learn the same thing that I had been suspicious of when I had met Francine. Was Jimmy Wycault for real? He had gotten himself much of the way there, but he could not take his eyes off Angela’s naked girlhhood.
From what I had seen on TV up to that point, it crossed my mind to slap him across the face, into our reality, even though he was quite a bit bigger and fatter than me. He just looked so smitten and wordlessly dopey, that I was certain that to slap him would have been a bad, cheap idea.
I looked, earnestly, into Angela’s knowledgeable brown eyes.
She stuck her fists into her hips.
“Fun, right?” she demanded.
Jimmy nodded obediently.
“You gonna tell anyone? ‘Cause now we can tell on you.”
Jimmy stood like a statue. He was under Angela’s spell.
Mrs. Wycault was the only divorced person on our street, and on the seldom times that Jimmy and his mom went to church together, fatherless, usually on Christmas and Easter, people would look down, frown, and shake their heads.
He was loved by his mom, but no wonder he was mean, protective.
Burbling up in my chest, for her being so damn perceptive, I wanted to kiss Angela again, and poor, abusive Jimmy Wycault didn’t know what the hell he wanted to do. Angie gave him a hard, sideswipe kick in his naked ass and yelled, “Hide-and-seek! I’m It! Go!”
“Five- ten- fifteen- twenty- twenty-five- thirty-...,” and we two boys bolted away, up until a hundred, by fives. Why we didn’t just count to twenty, I have never been able to understand.
My hide-and-seek style is to get behind and stalk the seeker, so I rarely get caught. Jimmy, I’m quite sure, wanted to be found by Angela, and just before she was going to surprise him, I jumped out from behind her and slapped her on the butt, startling a squeal out of her, and we all had a big laugh.
We dressed and showed Jimmy our way home via the dirt road, circumventing adult suspicion. He seemed somewhat disoriented by two trusting, new, highly unusual acquaintances, but we all could sense that he had liked what we had done. Probably, we were what he had needed all along. At his front porch, he ducked into the kitchen and brought us out a few cans of supermarket brand soda. His mom came out and was happy, with an air of apprehensive hope, to greet Jimmy’s two new friends and that everybody was smiling. Jimmy visibly relaxed against a post. Angie nudged my shoulder and nodded toward the bully, who was gazing off into a new somewhere. Her lips were purple, from the cheapo grape soda. We had changed over another kid.
We said good-night to Mrs. Wycault and walked back toward our houses, giggling, and not knowing why. She shoved me on the shoulder, and I shoved her back and called her “purple lips.”
We got Jimmy in on the sock-in-the-window signal, and often had Francine among us in our frolics. Jimmy, being just that bit older than the rest of us, was considerably more tactile and direct toward the two girls, and they instinctively, precociously would push him away, when his intentions became too clear. He eventually got the message, and ours was unadulterated, free fun.
One afternoon, it was stormy and raining. My mom was upset about who-knows-what, and the babies and toddlers were fussy. The walls were closing in, and nothing was on television. Books and the radio held no charm. I had to get out of the house. My mom thought I was crazy to want to go outside, but she let me put on my raincoat and run along, relieved to have one less brat underfoot. I said I might go over to the Candiottis’, but I didn’t. I got outside and felt that I had to have that unfettered mindset.
I ran up to Payson Corner, turned down the dirt road and into the woods. It was raining steadily, and I peeled off my clothes, stuck them under a pine tree, and shot through the woods, leaving claustrophobia far behind. I ran hundreds of yards, squishing the dead leaves through my toes, swinging up and down among the low tree branches. I got to where I could see the backs of the houses on Woodside Road, slowed down, and went into a crouch. I could see a woman and a man drinking coffee in a lit kitchen. I crawled several yards to one side and spotted Tommy and April Burnett, through the sliding glass doors of their back porch, tugging and fighting over a beanbag chair. They went to my school, and I thought April was pretty.
If she could only see me now.
I sidled further back into the woods. I turned to dash back towards the deeper part, and my gaze ran smack into a bearded man, probably in his thirties. His arms were folded, and he was staring directly at me. I recognized him from his house on the other side of Woodside Road, where he lived with his wife. According to the side of his truck, he worked at a tree nursery.
The ferns and baby maples did not even reach my shins, and there was no place to hide. I stood stock still, my eyes wide with fear. His immovable leer showed no emotion.
“So... ‘the Faunus,’” he said.
I wanted to rebut that there was no such thing as “the Faunus,” and that I was just a kid running around naked in the woods on a rainy afternoon, but I could not speak. Where the hell was Angela? God, would he call the cops?
“What if your parents knew what you’re doing?”
“I don’t know.”
“I’ll bet you do,” he answered. “And I’ll bet you’d find out soon enough, if I went and told them.”
“Please don’t,” I begged, melting inside.
“I think I just might.”
His expression had never changed. There was a twinkle in the corners of his eyes, and he wore a half grin, which could have meant anything. It was a very unsettling trait of Mainers.
“Now, you get out of here, and don’t you let me catch you around here again.”
Any cue would have been as good as that one. I sprinted for my life back to my clothes, never looking back. I dressed faster than a fireman and ran down the dirt road to my street, and all the way to Angela’s house, where I banged on the door.
Proof that there is a God of Heaven and Earth, it was Angela herself who answered.
Out of breath, I rasped, “Come on,” and pulled her down the cellar stairs. It was her father’s finished workshop, with a bar and a pool table, and I yanked her over to a padded bench, where I told her about what had just happened. I was sick with fear that this guy would tell my parents.
Angela mulled this over.
“Remember, you told me to just act like nothing ever happened. I know you can do it.” She took and smothered one of my hands in both of hers and emphasized, “I know you can do it.”
We got up, and I went home. For the next three days, I was petrified, a thousand miles away, in a gulag that my family could never fathom.
Children are foolishly resilient. After about a week of sitting together on Angela’s front porch, playing fish and rummy, Monopoly, and jacks, one evening, she pulled a pink and white sock out of a pocket of her shorts, and placed it on my knee. We walked up past the L’il Peach, down the dirt road, and into the woods, where we took ‘em all off. We danced, giddily, ballet-style, and she took off running in the direction of Woodside Road. I chased after her in an effort to make her stop, and she did, a few hundred yards from the backs of the houses, far from their view.
I caught up to her and grabbed her arm.
“Angela, what are you doing?”
“Come on,” she taunted, “What are you, afraid?”
“Of course I am. What are you, stupid?”
“Yup. Catch me,” she teased, and ran away in the direction of the houses.
I caught her arm several steps forward, and we pulled each other back and forth, like a tug of war. We both slipped and fell, and she suddenly craned her neck in the direction of the top of Woodside Road, past its dead end, and shushed us both, firmly. We didn’t move or breathe. Lying flat, in the fading sunset, we were hidden now by the ferns that had given me no cover when I had needed them most. I looked in the direction that her chin indicated.
I saw what she saw. Angela looked back at me with the same shocked expression that I wore, and hers turned to awed bemusement.
There in the woods, about fifty yards away, was the bearded man, holding hands with his pregnant wife, both utterly naked, strolling through the trees and ferns, holding hands, sharing a laugh together. Angela and I were rapt. It was the first time I had ever seen a woman’s developed breast, and bushy pubic hair on real, live people. They were unaware of us, and we stared in amazement, hitting each other on our shoulders, silently giggling. They turned and walked further away from our hiding place, and we waited until they got far enough away for us to run back to our clothes.
“Holy crap!” I whispered, loudly.
“I guess you don’t have to worry about that guy telling your mom and dad,” she said.
That night, in bed, I imagined Angela Candiotti with breasts and pubic hair, but not pregnant. I couldn’t tell whether it was a pleasant thought or not. She and I had both been slow to physically develop. Maybe she would grow up and never be that way. I felt my penis under the covers and wondered how it could ever grow as large and hairy as that man’s.
One mosquito-laden evening, as Angela, Jimmy Wycault and I made our safari closer to the Woodside Road area, we stopped, dropped, and nearly had a unified cardiac arrest. Deep down past the end of the road, were the bearded man and his pregnant wife, naked, of course, standing in a rough circle with four other nature lovers, swilling beer and cocktails, laughing and joking. I recognized one pretty young woman as a bank teller from the branch that my folks used. Angela was fascinated and disgusted by the sight of her hairy-backed math teacher, who, last semester, had nearly flunked her. There was a skinny guy that nobody recognized, but there, laughing loudest, shining like the ruby in the crown of the Red Queen was... Francine’s mother!!
We three were transfixed. What had we begun? What had I begun? How many other people were doing what “the Faunus” had so innocently started so many years ago? Did grown men walk down the street with their penises hanging out? What other deviant behavior was being indulged in, and by how many others, which we could not even fathom? What if we told both Francine and her mom that they unwittingly shared an enjoyment of nudism? Would it be something they could talk about together? Could Francine show her mom her favorite rocks and trees to climb? Could she push her mom on the rope swing? Could they lie on their backs and hold hands together in the warm, noon grass, thinking only of the present?
If we three crashed the adult group, could Angela get her Math grade bumped up to a B?
I really wanted to get a closer look at Miss Devane, the bank teller. She was the type of woman I could one day marry.
There was simply too much risk in the potential commingling of our exhibitionism. The adults had us in both age and numbers.
The three of us snuck back to our clothes pile to regroup. What had happened back there, we wanted to know, in furtive conspiracy? Our private fun which had separated us from our oppressors, had now been usurped by the very same! Should we call the cops on them? They surely knew where I lived and could turn me in too. Angela and I verbalized the idea of going and joining them, but there was the very large problem of Francine’s mom. As it was, we decided to sleep on it for a few days, comparing notes from time to time, and having made any progress, meeting, when we felt like we were getting somewhere. Bottom line was, we didn’t want to be defeated. This was our freedom, and like all others, we didn’t want the adults to take it away.
One thing was sure from the outset; we weren’t going to tell Francine.
What we ultimately decided was that there was plenty of forest for everyone. We youngsters would keep to the triangular patch that went from the marsh and the dirt road, down to the field. That section included the rock bluffs, most of the footpaths, the rope swing, and a lot of the best trees and sunning clearings, and the adults could have the big share of dark woods abutting Woodland Road and past. We would, if we felt like it, send a scout over there, and if there were no adults – especially no Francine’s mom – we could taunt, if we pleased, the folks on Woodside Road. That’s how it went, the rest of the summer, spritelike, “Fauni” dancing, climbing, playing in the woods, lying in the clearings.
Until Labor Day Weekend.
About seventy-percent of all the people in the neighborhood had gone away somewhere, for the three-day weekend. Among the few who remained, there were backyard cookouts and coolers of soda and beer, as could be expected anywhere in the USA. Late Saturday morning, I hung out a sock, took the dirt road to the marsh, stripped down, and sauntered over to a rock bluff. I sat down and thought about whatever it is that naked twelve year-olds think about on spectacular, waning summer days. After about a half-hour, Angela sat down wordlessly beside me, and I guess she saw what I saw, because she laid her head on my shoulder. After a time, Jimmy Wycault showed up using a Moses-style walking staff, hopped up onto a low, sturdy oak limb, rested his head on his knee, and impassively surveyed our horizon. On cue, Francine emerged from a footpath, a daisy in her hair, and took in the moment that belonged to the four of us alone. No one moved or spoke for fifteen minutes.
“Somebody’s gotta be giving away hamburgers around here,” proclaimed Jimmy, “Let’s go get some free food.”
We all broke out in grins. Each one of us instinctively climbed a couple of our high but hidden trees, and looked around the neighborhood for barbeque smoke. We found three candidates whom we knew would be glad to see us. We ran as far as we dared to the dirt road before getting dressed, and went on our hamburger-chips-and-soda raid. There was plenty of watermelon to be had, as well. After thanking each picnicking party for the food and soda, we’d stash it in some bags under a porch and hit up the next place, and so on, until we had all we could carry back to the woods for a naked feast. Jimmy had also stolen two beers.
We ate and ate and laughed and joked and rolled around in the leaves and grass and dirt. We had a brief potato chip fight. Eventually, we climbed up onto various perches to scope out whatever there was to be seen. It was late afternoon now, still plenty of light, and Jimmy saw it first.
Over by Woodside Road, a few adult torsos were visible through a slender break in the trees. We held to our distant, high limbs, all of us watching, as the group of adults grew; now eight, now a dozen. We all climbed down and reconnoitered a few hundred yards closer to the group, lower to the ground, but with a better vantage point. Jimmy had brought the two beers. He opened one, and we passed it all around, each of us admitting that it was our first one ever. The adult nudist crowd continued to swell. Now there were twenty, twenty-four grown-ups. Somebody had brought a radio, and there was dancing and drinking. We passed around our other beer.
Now, there were about thirty naked revelers laughing and dancing around the radio. The four of us looked at each other, and nobody had to make the suggestion. We were going to join the party.
Plenty of light spilled through the trees in our direction, and we were spotted by several of the partiers from about fifty yards off. Some stopped what they were doing, and many broke out in loopy grins and nodded their heads in exaggerated, hippy affirmation. I felt smug that they thought we were joining them, when actually I had been hopping around that very same spot in the buff for years. They welcomed us into their circle and gave us soft drinks.
Francine noticed her mother before her mother saw her, so that gave Francine the upper hand. She put on a big smile, walked defiantly to her still-oblivious mom, and gave her a full embrace around her waist. She then handed her mom the daisy from her potato chip-flecked hair. Her mom had had a few drinks, and she flushed even more; she looked at her daughter and then around at her friends, bewildered. She was met with nothing but approving smiles, deep, understanding nods, and even some light applause.
Our entrance complete, the dancing and revelry resumed, and I even got to see the pretty bank teller up close, but, over time, the novelty wore off for us four. The grown-ups were getting a little too boisterous, drinking and smoking pot. There was also another no-no underway. A few of these guys were getting together wood and stones to start a campfire. We looked around at each other and made a stealthy exit, with no parting words. We left virtually unnoticed.
It is important to note that, outside of not getting caught, we four had very few rules, stated or otherwise, associated with our nudism. They were along these lines: neither Jimmy nor I touched the girls without their permission; only pre-approved invitees (a ludicrous rule, because only Francine had ever been invited, and it was only ever we four); no pooping unless in a complete emergency – and then, it must be buried; absolutely no littering; no stripping of saplings or destructive breaking of branches; no articles of clothing EVER left behind, and, above all, NO FIRES. The reason is simple. People can see them from a mile away, and if you have to run off to find your clothes, or if you don’t hear footsteps for the sound of the fire, even if your clothes are nearby, nothing but disaster can ensue.
We returned to the area near the bluff where we had left the rest of the food. We took it to where we could see the adults from several hundred yards off, and we continued our nudist repast, while watching them build their fire. We ate cold burgers and hot dogs and drank warm soda until we’d had enough. It was twilight now, and I suggested that Jimmy and Francine go collect up our clothes, while Angela and I cleaned up our food mess. We got dressed, got the food waste bags ready to roll, and we all climbed high up into a big fir tree, to watch the antics below.
We weren’t up there for a half hour before a dozen crisscrossed flashlight beams penetrated the woods over at the end of Woodside Road. There was a hubbub of confused and angry voices. Some people tried to run, but were laughingly subdued. Back down Woodside Road, in the fronts of the houses, red and blue police lights whirled from the cruisers and the paddy wagons. Even the fire department was there to put out the campfire. We all walked down past the L’il Peach and threw our garbage in their dumpster, denied to Mrs. Wycault any insight into the nature of the goings-on down on Woodside Road, and decided that Francine had better stay overnight at Angela’s house, as Francine’s mom would probably not be available until the following morning. The three of us sat on Angela’s front porch until I had to report home, none of us saying much, not basking in the glory of how much smarter we were than the grown-ups, but something more like... comfortably ruminating upon the completion of a long campaign, ended in victory.
Of course, they had to stop the presses to get this thing on the front page of the Sunday paper: “Thirty-One Arrested in Nudist Romp,” it read, atop a very large photo, mystifyingly creatively shot so as to include nary a breast, buttock, or private part of the seventeen or so handcuffed subjects pictured.
Fortunately, there were among the arrested, no city councilmen or Presbyterian ministers, but there was a local weatherman (who ended up keeping his job), two town librarians (who didn’t), three car salesmen (surprise), seven college professors and four of their wives (surprise), a junior high school math teacher (hmmm...), and the owner of the local Dairy Queen.
The story went on to tell that the trouble started at 8:15 p.m., when a very intoxicated, naked woman began pounding on the door of 429 Woodside Road, demanding to use the bathroom. The startled elderly residents then called the police. To avoid further embarrassment to her family, I will not use Francine’s mom’s last name.
The newspaper then did itself and me one better. Some bright copy editor remembered the story from some years back, about a character known as “the Faunus,” and that now, this mystery had finally been cracked.
To my surprise, as much as I had thoroughly enjoyed our nudism throughout the years, as much as I had thrilled to being the mysterious and unidentified “Faunus,” what a burden I felt had been lifted from all my years of subterfuge. It was as though I had been given a full pardon. It was as though I had never walked down that tree-lined stretch of avenue leading to Payson Corner, with my six year-old penis indiscreetly flapping about, never lorded over my neighbors wearing only what God had given me, high in a fir tree on a windy day in March, never held Angela in such a way that would have caused the abusive Vincent Candiotti to have mashed me to a pulp with one of his pipe-fitting tools.
Maybe I should have been sad that the ruse was finished or felt jealous that I hadn’t been properly credited, but it felt more like I had shed a role into which I’d been too-long typecast. I didn’t have to live up to anything. I was just a kid who liked to take off his clothes outdoors.
The thought was as freeing as the exhibitionism itself had been.
I walked straight through the field to a grassy clearing, took off my clothes, and lay down in the sun. I reread the “Faunus” article, read the Sunday funnies and Parade Magazine, and Angela showed up. Looking back, it was as though we were twins. We naturally understood so many shared and complex thoughts that we did not need to verbalize. She too knew of the burden lifted, the game so well played. She grabbed the funnies and read them for a while.
“Did you hear anything from Jimmy?” I asked.
“His mom said she doesn’t want him playing in the woods anymore.”
“What about Francine? Where’s she”
“Her mom came and picked her up at about six o’clock this morning,” she said, not really raising her eyes from Prince Valiant, “She just said ‘thanks’ to my mom for watching Francine, and they left, but then Francine called a little while ago and said that her mom is making them move into her grandma’s house up in Livermore Falls.”
“Gross. It wasn’t her fault.”
We talked about school and what a drag the end of summer was. We expressed hopes for teachers we might get and whom we’d like to sit next to in class. Angela wanted to make the girls’ basketball team, and I knew she would. I was getting the neighborhood paper route in about two weeks – ha-ha - all the way down our street and Woodside Road. “Let ‘the Faunus’ into your home.” We both had a big laugh about that. It would also mean that there would be just about no time ever for after school naked shenanigans.
I guess that twin-like, unspoken accord was showing us that things were changing, and we held hands and ambled about, silently, until the sun was almost down. I had plenty of time to study her body with my eyes that afternoon, in a way that I hadn’t bothered to before. She knew it, and she let me. I think that she had already done the same to me, without my knowing it, sometime in the past. Through our open assessments we each had come to the conclusion that we were just not for one another, while at the same time, there was a unique, undeniable comfort between us that no other could fulfill.
That thought and the color of the twilight made for a bittersweet lovesickness that, after we dressed to go home, that little, sad, resigned peck on the lips only made deeper and sadly, better defined.
A few years went by, as high school began, and although I’d have my occasional romps in the sun and the snow and the rain, they were held partnerless and were only fun for a short time each. I was involved in all kinds of activities in and out of school, got really good grades, and I had a job at the hospital (I got in some very risky rooftop exhibitionism up there, as well as some downright crazy late night running around right downtown.).
Angela had a string of not-too-bright boyfriends with muscle cars, which were in various stages of restoration through vocational school. We were three houses apart, but we lived miles away.
I believe that a big wedge between us having a continuing social relationship was that we were now physically developed enough for a sexual relationship, and we had ruled such a thing out at an earlier age. I think we both knew that the temptation would probably be great enough to follow through with our urges and spoil our inner connection.
That’s not to say that I did not hang a sock out once in a while, unanswered.
I had turned eighteen at the beginning of the summer of 1979, and come the end of August, it was only a couple weeks before I left for college. My school started late for some reason, so most of my school chums had already left for their various institutions. Nobody was at home in my house, and the neighborhood was very quiet. I took a few beers up to the stone bluff with the now ratty and dangerous rope swing. I stripped down, opened a beer and rested my head on my knees. She was trying to be quiet, but I sensed her.
“Hey, college boy, what’s your name?”
She sat down next to me, chin on her knees, like me.
“They call me ‘the Faunus.’ Mind if I buy a townie girl a beer?”
She wrapped an arm around my shoulder and shook me lightly. As she did, her breasts jiggled, and I saw the thin line of pubic hair that reached just about up to her navel from the bushy part below, and I remembered when we saw the man with the beard and his pregnant wife and how I tried to picture Angela with a developed body, and if she ever had one, if I would like it.
The answer now was obvious. She was just as she should be. I made a quarter turn to her to hand her a beer and to see more of the face that meant so much to me, and I saw her take a quick peek down to see how I had grown, and I remembered wondering how my tiny thing could ever end up looking like that bearded man’s.
She smirked a little and hurried the beer to her lips, so that I wouldn’t catch her, but there was hardly anything we could ever do without the other one knowing. So we talked a little about stuff. Jimmy Wycault had opened up a garage in Livermore Falls to be near and to impress Francine, who wasn’t sure yet. Francine’s mom opened up a bar there that was doing great, what with her reputation as a “free spirit.” Angela was going to nursing school, and I was leaving them all behind to go to the Big City, because, Angela teased, they weren’t good enough for me.
At any other time, I would have laughed along with her ever-permissible familiarity. This time, it cut.
“Oh bullshit, Angela!”
I pushed the heel of my hand into her shoulder, and there was that jiggle. She met my eyes, and hers softened perceptibly.
“The problem with us is,” and I had to choose my words quickly and carefully, “and always has been, that we’re both too good for each other. We’re too much of a good thing to be together; we’re wasted on each other. We both know that we’ve gotta to share ourselves with somebody who needs us more, and we’re damn lucky to have found that out as young as we did, before we burned each other out. Before we locked out the whole world. There’s nobody in the world that I’d want for my partner in life more than you, but you know as well as I do that it just doesn’t add up -- you, who gets D’s in Math. You knew it before I did.
“So don’t even joke about me leaving you behind, because it tears me up inside. Now put on your clothes and come with me, and I’ll show you in five minutes, exactly how we fit into each others’ lives... whether I like the way it is or not.”
We put on our clothes, picked up the beers, and walked through the field to my house. I stood her in the middle of the living room.
“Stay right there. You taught me how to dance. I’m going to show you what I’ve learned.”
I went to the record player and pulled out an LP, and put it on.
Fully clothed, I wrapped myself around her and held her such that we were the only two living beings in a place with no boundaries.
And the music began:
“There was a boy,
A very strange enchanted boy.
They say he traveled very far,
Over land and sea.
A little shy
And sad of eye,
But very wise was he.
“And then one day,
One magic day he passed my way,
And though we spoke of many things,
Fools and kings,
This he said to me,
‘The greatest thing
You’ll ever learn
Is just to love
And be loved
I enveloped her body with mine, during the sublime instrumental part, Time and Place not even being theories, until was repeated:
“The greatest thing
You’ll ever learn
Is just to love,
And be loved in return.”
The song ended, and I kissed Angela Candiotti on the lips for as long as it took to wring out every bit of tortuous love and frustration of unattainable romance, of every drop of regret and of shared triumph, of every unfulfillable dream of sexual, emotional passion with nobody else but her... and she let me, and she shared every drop with me. We were true partners in our own release. She had taught me how to dance, an activity of both reliance and freedom. We had, in our years of nakedness and trust, taught each other both reliance and freedom.
I walked her home, hand in hand, and at her door, we released one another.
Several years later, my dad was selling the house, and I figured I ought to take a trip back up there, just to have a last look around. I asked about Angela Candiotti, now Angela O’Brien, with three children and a husband who owns a sporting goods store up in Skowhegan.
I pulled a beer out of the fridge, and I took a long, clothed walk in the woods, not only to reminisce, but to reconnect to long-shelved tenets and long-held notions, some dormant, some augmented by new wisdom or undermined by false sophistication. Maybe I would bumble onto a new, worthwhile way of looking at things.
Far overhead, a squirrel jumped from oak to oak several yards ahead of me, could not quite grab his object branch, and tumbled down into the ferns, splashing up a cloud of last year’s dry leaves. Panicked, he darted off, and in the flurry of kicked-up leaves, in the corner of my eye, I caught a flash of the naked haunch and elbow of a little boy disappearing behind a rough, gray boulder and some maple saplings.
Or was it a little girl?
Or was I just imagining things?