three pairs of lovers with space

A GIFT FROM SANTA BY JOHN REMINGTON

 

The following story was published in the NAMBLA Bulletin XVII 3, New York, December 1996, pp. 20-27.

 

A Gift from Santa. Memoir of a 1950 Man/Boy/Boy Mentor Relationship

Part I: The Well -Kept Secret

Why did I wait more than forty years to break the silence? There are two reasons. The first is that at age twelve I had sworn a blood oath to keep the secret for at least thirty years. The second is that for the next ten years I was unwilling to present a bowdlerized description of an experience that was clearly one of the most significant events in my life. 

As a boy, I was desperate to attain knowledge of literary creation and the almost magical power of execution which accompanies that knowledge. So absurdly grandiose had I become that I would gladly have sold my soul to Satan himself if I felt it would make me a better writer. When I finally did eat the forbidden fruit, I thought-well, I do this only because I want to become a literary artist and make a meaningful contribution to society. At the same time I worried constantly about repercussions. After all, if the secret had been revealed at the wrong time, Santa might have gone to prison and Kerby and I to reform school. What would have happened to the bird Ernesto is anybody’s guess.

The year was 1950. Like all seventh graders in our Catholic parochial school, Kerby and I were required to enter the children's short story contest held annually in our local diocese. I showed Kerby a carbon copy of my own story, expecting that he would show me his. To my surprise, he refused to show me his story, or even talk about it. 

When he finished reading my story, Kerby shook his head and said “Johnny, this is not a short story, it's a vignette. Furthermore, it lacks action, the characterization is weak, and there's no climax.” 

“Good grief, Kerby, how did you become an expert on short stories?” 

“Let’s just say it’s a gift from Santa.” 

“Kerby, if your story wins the seventh grade prize, will that also be a gift from Santa?” 

“Yes, and I’ll give you a tip: my story‘s going to win.” 

“Hey, Kerby, aren't you a bit cocky? What's your secret?” 

“I already told you, it's a gift from Santa.” 

“Is this the Christmas Santa you're talking about? How do I know that ‘Santa’ isn't an anagram for Satan?” 

“Santa might be Satan to some people, but to me he’s Santa who comes from the North Pole, has a workshop, and likes elves." 

“How can you get a gift from Santa when it isn't even Christmas?"  

“With Santa, it’s Christmas every day of the year, not just December 25th.” 

“So do you plan to share the secret with me?” 

“Okay, Johnny, after my story wins the seventh grade prize, I’ll tell you how I did it, but you’ll have to swear a solemn oath to protect the secret. You’ll have to swear on a stack of Bibles and other holy books.” 

Saturday two weeks later the winning short stories in all grade divisions were published in our diocesan magazine. Kerby’s story had, indeed, won the seventh grade prize, just as he predicted. I was amazed at how clever and charming his story was. Of all the prize-winning stories, his was by far the best. There was no doubt Kerby knew something no one else did. Obviously, it was time for me to find out what the secret gift from Santa was all about. 

Remembering Kerby’s reference to “a stack of Bibles and other holy books,” I loaded the family Bible into a large shopping bag with the Saint Joseph Picture Prayer Book, The Little Flowers of Saint Francis, The Autobiography of Saint Teresa of Avila, The Dark Night of the Soul, and The Cloud of Unknowing. Then I put the shopping bag in the basket of my bike and rode to Kerby’s house.  

Kerby contributed his own Bible, the Saint Joseph Children's Missal, and all four volumes of On the Truth of the Catholic Faith. We stacked the holy books one on top of the other in the middle of his room. Kerby made me put one hand on the stack and the other on my heart, and swear that I would protect the secret to the last breath of my life, not sharing it with anyone, not even a priest, for at least thirty years, cross my heart and hope to die, so help me God. Then we sealed the oath by each pricking a finger and mingling our blood.  

After an early lunch, Kerby said “Johnny, now that you’ve sworn a blood oath to protect the secret, I'm going to let you share in the gift from Santa. But we don't have any time to lose, because going and coming will take an hour. And we can‘t spend more than three hours there, because we have to be home for supper, and this evening we have confession and choir practice. So, Johnny, if you want to chicken out, you’ll have to do it right now. After today nothing in your life will ever seem the same to you again.” 

I felt apprehensive but not scared. More than ever I wanted to know how Kerby had transformed himself from an ordinary schoolboy into a prize-winning short story writer, and if it involved a mysterious metamorphosis, then so be it. All I said was “Kerby, I’m signed, sealed, and delivered.”

We mounted our bikes and pedalled swiftly and silently to the edge of town. Twenty minutes later we turned onto a narrow driveway canopied by tall trees. As we whizzed through the spiraling tunnel of foliage, I began to hear Christmas carols sung by a sweet-sounding boy choir. I was amazed to be hearing Christmas music in May.

Kerby and I parked our bikes at a small cottage beside a lake. As we stepped onto the porch of the cottage, the front door opened and we were greeted by a clean-shaven man with silver hair. The man was dressed only in walking shorts. 

“Santa, this is Johnny, my best friend,” said Kerby. “Johnny wants to be a writer.” 

“Johnny," said the man, “Kerby calls me Santa, and so should you.” Then he hugged us both so hard that the silver hairs on his chest tickled my face. 

“Well, my pretty pair of elves," he said, “before we explore the secrets of Santa’s literary workshop, we must wash ourselves clean of the repressions associated with nice people and polite society.” 

“How can we do that?” I asked. 

“We can bathe in the lake, which is cool but not cold, and fed by a crystal spring whose waters have special properties not found in other lakes." 

Kerby and I were hot and sweaty from our long ride, and cooling off sounded like a good idea, but I wasn’t prepared to go swimming. “Oh, but I didn't bring a bathing suit,” I said. 

“Neither did I,” said Kerby. “At Santa’s we always swim naked, and usually we don’t wear anything afterwards, either.”  

“Johnny,” said Santa, “a writer undresses every time he writes a story. Clothes are a cover-up, the way lies are. Clothes are a sign of shame and pride, which a writer can have no truck with. A writer must be totally shameless and without pride in anything except the artistic truth of his creation. Johnny, my boy, every really great story is an examination of the author’s or someone else’s nakedness, and for that reason a true writer has no choice but to strip himself and everyone else to the bare skin.” 

As Santa opened the screened door and ushered us inside, I found myself in a room that looked more like a library than a living room. Every wall had shelves from floor to ceiling crammed with books. In front of a large picture window was a desk with a typewriter and a lamp surrounded by a clutter of papers. The Christmas carols were coming from a portable record player with built-in speakers. I noticed that the record on the turntable was an album of Christmas carols sung by the Vienna Choir Boys. In the middle of the room was a couch, coffee table, and several easy chairs. Nearby was a bird cage containing a gray, parrot-like bird with a creamy yellow face and crest and an orange circle on each cheek. The bird was side-stepping back and forth on his perch, wolf-whistling, and shrieking in a loud, raspy voice that carried above the Christmas carols, “Pretty boy, prrrretty boy, prrrrrrrretty boy!” 

“That’s Santa’s cockatiel, Ernesto,” said Kerby. “Ernesto can talk, whistle, sing, and fuck, and he’s even toilet-trained. As you see, he also likes boys. And on the shelf behind the cage are some of the published books that Santa wrote.” 

Among Santa’s books I was amazed to see several of my favorite boys’ books. I couldn’t believe my luck: Kerby had brought me face to face with the children’s author I admired above all others! Looking up at the silver-haired man and tugging at his arm, I said “Santa, I've read every one of these books. I love them more than I can say. I think you are the best writer in the world, and I would give my very soul to be just like you!” 

Vienna Boys Choir, ca. 1950

Santa bent down and gave me a hug, kissing me first on one cheek and then the other; the bird Ernesto frantically side-stepped back and forth on his perch, wolf-whistling and shrieking in his raspy little voice “Pretty boy, prrrretty boy, prrrrrrrretty boy!”; and in the background two dozen Vienna Choir Boys sang Joy to the World in German. I felt as dizzy as a butterfly fluttering in a garden filled with millions of bright flowers, each oozing with nectar. If Santa hadn't been holding me in his arms, I might have lost consciousness and hit the floor right then and there. 

Standing in a shaft of sunlight pouring through the window, Kerby began shedding his clothes one article at a time. First he removed his shoes and socks, and then his jeans and T-shirt. As he sensuously wiggled out of his briefs, he said “Johnny, if you want to become a good writer, you should get undressed, too, so you can join us.” 

By now both Kerby and Santa had their clothes off. In the intense aura of sunlight surrounding them, they looked like a pair of Olympian beings, perhaps Zeus and Ganymede, wrapped in a cloak of pure light. I felt intimidated by their almost hallucinatory appearance. I was no sooner out of my own clothes than Kerby and Santa were standing beside me, and Santa was looking with disapproval at my circumcised penis. 

“Circumcision is a horrendous outrage,” said Santa. “It's a state-approved form of child abuse. It amazes me that parents would permit their child’s penis to be mutilated in this fashion. Infant circumcision is an act of extreme physical cruelty and should be outlawed.” 

“But surely this won’t affect my chances of becoming a good writer,” I said, noticing that both Kerby and Santa had foreskins, and feeling my bean sink, “or will it?” 

“No, Johnny, circumcision will reduce the sensitivity of your penis, but it shouldn’t affect your writing, so don't worry about it.” 

“I suppose for a writer, the main thing is intellect," I said, trying to sound grown-up.

“Johnny,” said Santa, putting his arm around my shoulder, “people have the idea a creative writer uses his intellect, but they're wrong. They‘re confusing the roles of literary critic and creative writer, which are opposite functions, not usually performed by the same person. A literary critic uses his intellect, but a writer uses his sex organs. Of course, Johnny, one can write just as well with a fountain pen that has no cap, but with the penis, if the foreskin has been removed, there are certain relationships that will seem less obvious. These relationships help eroticize one's view of the world. This is crucial, because sexual arousal is what gives the writer his creative power.” 

“Santa, what sort of ‘relationships’ do you have in mind?” 

“Well, for example, the little people - such as fairies, elves, pixies, and sprites - have penis characteristics. Sometimes they actually personify the penis. This is also true of certain gods, such as Apollo, Dionysus, Hermes, Pan, and of course Priapus, who more than any other god represents the creative power of the penis. You may have noticed that gods and fairies often wear what is called a Phrygian cap, or ‘pileus.’ The pileus is a tapered, conical cap with a small opening in the narrow, pointed end. If you are circumcised, you may not realize that the pileus is actually a foreskin. Genitals with a foreskin are said to resemble such things as a bird, a Persian lamp, or a dolphin. It's important that you know this if you are, say, to understand what a bird could symbolize, what the genii represents who appears when Aladdin rubs his magic lamp, or what the dolphin is that the boy on the dolphin is riding. When you read Ralph Waldo Emerson's reference to ‘the screen and sheath in which Pan has protected his well-beloved flower,’ you need to know this is a penis image if you are to appreciate the relationship between Pan's flower and literary creation.”

Ganymede in a Phrygian cap with Zeus as an eagle, by Bertel Thorvaldsen

Digging his elbow into my ribs, Kerby retracted his foreskin to expose the shiny, mauve-colored glans underneath. “This,” he said with a mischievous grin, “is what Pan's well-beloved flower looks like.” 

"Hey,” I said, “that’s a quotation from Emerson’s essay The Poet. My dad told me if I wanted to be a writer, I should memorize that essay." 

“Johnny,” said Santa, “your dad gave you some good advice. But you’ll never make sense of Emerson's essay unless you learn to read between the lines.”

“Santa, you’re just the person to teach me that, aren’t you?” 

“Yes, Johnny, I believe I am,” said Santa, combing his fingers through my hair.

“Santa, I have a feeling Emerson learned everything he knew from you!” 

Putting his arm around each of us and winking conspiratorially at Kerby, Santa said, “Kerby, your friend Johnny catches on even faster than you said he would."

With the recorded Christmas carols sounding in the background, we strolled arm in arm to the lake. Plunging into the water, we broke the mirror-like surface into eddies and waves, causing the depths, once so clear and motionless, to shimmer as in a dream. Kerby and I took turns using the front of Santa's legs as a diving board. As we swam to him he would catch our hands and pull them to the side and position us with our feet on his knees so we could push off like a sprinter. I loved the feel of his lips and tongue against my bare thighs and rear end.

When the music stopped, we starting carolling on our own. Kerby and I were lead singers in the boy choir at church, and we dearly loved vocal music. Joining Santa's mellifluous baritone with Kerby‘s alto and my soprano, we sang Deck the Halls, O Little Town of Bethlehem, Away in the Manger, and Silent Night. We sang so sweetly that as we stood nude and unashamed in the shallow water at the edge of the lake solemnly holding hands, each of us had tears in his eyes.

Part II: The Arse Poetica

After our nude frolic in the lake, we returned to Santa’s cottage with rising hard-ons. Santa flipped the Vienna Choir Boys’ Christmas carol record over land played the other side. Then, instead of getting dressed, we headed for Santa's bedroom and piled on top of the double bed. Kerby and I lay on our stomachs, while Santa kissed and licked our buttocks, thighs, and lower backs. 

“All my life I’ve been ticklish,” I said, “but for some reason this doesn’t tickle at all anymore. It just feels good. I don't understand what’s happened." 

“Your switches are set differently now," said Santa. “Artistic creativity requires that your switches be set to a state of sexual arousal. This is how to set them if you want to be a really good writer.”

“Santa, I want to be a good writer more than anything else in the world," I said.

“Then turn over on your back,” said Santa. “It’s time to learn how to structure a short story.” 

Kerby was cuddling beside me. Turning my head to look at him, I said “Kerby, in this how you managed to write the short story that won the contest?” 

“Yes, Johnny,” said Kerby, stroking my cheek with the tips of his fingers, “pretty soon you’re going to know exactly how I did it.” 

“A story unfolds through a series of mysterious events,” said Santa, sweeping his lips up and down my chest, and licking each nipple until it hardened, “behind which there looms an even greater mystery.” Licking and kissing first my one armpit and then the other, he worked to my navel and then slowly down my body until he reached my inner thighs, then down to my feet and toes, then back up to my asshole and balls. Finally he swallowed my cock, sucking and rubbing it with his tongue. When he started flutter-tonguing, the sensation built to a frenzied climax, and I went into convulsions and seemed to burst out of my skin, exploding like the finale to a Fourth of July fireworks display. 

“Johnny,” said Kerby, delicately rubbing his hand across my still heaving chest, “now you have an idea what was missing in the short story you wrote for the contest. Next time you’ll know to model your story on a sex act that reaches a climax like the one you just experienced.” Cuddling between Santa and Kerby, I couldn’t take my eyes off Santa’s huge erection, so proud and shiny as it jutted above his silver pubic hair. I had a strong desire to wrap my fingers around the shank of his penis, but I didn’t have the courage. As if reading my mind, Kerby suddenly positioned himself directly on top of Santa. I was amazed to see Kerby press his lips around Santa’s penis, while underneath Santa did exactly the same thing to Kerby. As I watched the two of them suck each other off, I marvelled at the virtuosity with which Kerby bobbed his head up and down over Santa’s penis while simultaneously pumping his own small penis back and forth in Santa’s mouth. With a spectacular technique like that, I thought, it is no wonder Kerby had written such a good short story. 

Later, Santa left for a moment to go to the bathroom, and Kerby and I lay on the bed cuddling against each other. “You may find that what you like best,” said Kerby, tonguing my earlobe, “is getting fucked in the ass.” 

“Would getting fucked in the ass make me a better writer?” 

“Oh, yes! Santa says it’s on the bottom line of what he calls the Arse Poetica.” 

“In Latin Ars Poetica means ‘The Art Poetry,’ but I guess this one is spelled A-r-s-e!”  

“Good stroke! Spelling it A-r-s instead of A-r-s-e would miss the whole thrust of it. Santa’s Arse Poetica says nothing stimulates the literary juices like getting fucked in the ass.” 

“I wish I knew what it feels like to get fucked in the ass.” 

“Johnny, I’m going to make your wish come true,” side Kerby, reaching into the drawer of Santa’s bedside table for a tube of lubricant. As I lay on my back, he lifted my legs at the knees and pushed them back with his arm. Then he greased my ass, inserting first one and then two fingers. When he finally penetrated my butt with his penis, I was amazed at how easily it slipped in, and how good it felt.  

After Kerby had completed the first three or four thrusts, Santa returned from the bathroom. “Hey, you pair of sexy elves,” he said, “wait for me.” Then, with Kerby up my ass, Santa greased Kerby, and mounted him from the rear. From then on Kerby was the moving, middle link in the three-piece daisy chain. The three of us climaxed together, melting in a shuddering, panting sweaty confusion of arms and legs, so absurd that we couldn’t stop laughing. 

Giggling, we three crowded into Santa’s shower, soaping each other up. Santa laughed himself silly as Kerby and I cracked a series of idiotic jokes and puns. I said, “you know Kerby, I never understood this business of Santa Claus climbing on the roof and coming down the chimney until I beheld Santa squeeze his cock into your tight chimney of a butt.” 

“Well,” said Kerby, “it was magnificent to be holed. Until you joined in, the chimney Santa was coming down was on a one-storey house. Now the house has two storeys.” 

“Until I learn to write a publishable story,” I said, “the house still has only one story - yours. If you’re the roof of the house, I must be the basement.” 

“But the house has two fireplaces, since we both have a chimney for a butt.” 

“Then why don’t we just put a great big log in each fireplace and heat things up a bit?” 

“Okay, Johnny, but what do you make of Santa’s eight tiny reindeer?” 

“The reindeer Santa ate---and that’s spelled a-t-e, not e-i-g-h-t---is hanging between your legs, and it’s the tiniest thing around.” 

“Just three inches, as tiny as yours, which Santa also ate. When you drive your sleigh to the North Pole, remember the tinier reindeer, the greater its lift, and the faster it flies.” 

“Hey, Kerby, what does Santa Claus carry in his big, pear-shaped sack?” 

“Nothing but a big pair of balls! Next time, Johnny, stick me with a stiffer one!” 

We were still laughing as we dried off. We were in such a hilarious mood that the stupidest most banal remark seemed funny. Lounging in the nude for the rest of the afternoon, we were ridiculously jolly, including the bird Ernesto who mimicked our laughter in a funny, high-pitched giggle that sounded so comical that it made us laugh all the harder each time we heard it. With Kerby serving as cupbearer and server, we drank lemonade, ate cookies, and talked about literature. We took turns playing with Ernesto, who was out of his cage. Ernesto flew back and forth from Santa to Kerby to me, sitting on our shoulder or finger, wolf-whistling, and exclaiming “Pretty boy, prrrretty boy, prrrrrrrretty boy!” 

Finally it was time to get dressed and leave. Santa put Ernesto back in his cage and hugged us goodbye. Then we jumped on our bikes and pedaled home in happy, smug silence, so intent on protecting our relationship with Santa that we wouldn’t even discuss it privately with each other, lest some hidden spirit overhear us and blow our secret. 

It was good that I went to confession immediately after my first visit to Santa, because if I’d had longer to think about what we did that day, I might not have rationalized it so easily. After all, I had sworn on a stack of Bibles and other holy books not to reveal the secret, not even to a priest, for at least thirty years. I couldn’t believe there was anything wrong with standing naked in the lake, holding hands, and singing Christmas carols, even though it was May, rather than December. And what we did in bed after we went swimming, how could that be sinful? At the time it seemed exciting and beautiful. The truth is, I felt happy, as if a burden had been lifted from my shoulders, as if, strange to say, our actions that day had been sacramental. 

After only a few hours with Santa I had a better idea of what being a literary artist is all about than I learned from those many books I had read. For years I prayed for the wisdom, knowledge, and skill that would make me a good writer. What if this present experience were God’s way of granting that prayer? Would the “hero” of a fairy tale be any less a Christian if he accepted supernatural help from a fairy? If Santa were not actually a divine being, his wisdom made him seem more than human. What if - and I trembled at the thought - Santa were actually Jesus Christ in the flesh? What if Kerby were an angel of God? Couldn’t the lovemaking that Santa and Kerby introduced me to be considered a religious exercise in the Christian sense? Wasn’t it possible that sexual love could be an expression of heightened spirituality, and therefore the very opposite of sin?

I regarded my confession that evening as valid in the eyes of God, even though I didn’t mention Santa. Instead of feeling sinful, I was overwhelmed by a sense of gratitude that God would bestow His grace on a creature so lowly and insignificant as I, and I pledged myself to be ever more worthy of God’s continued love and benediction.   

Kerby must have arrived at a similar accommodation, for he emerged from confession with the same fierce air of joy that I felt so strongly in myself. At choir practice we sang so well that evening that the choirmaster complimented both of us several times. 

On Sunday, as we choirboys were processing down the isle at the beginning of eleven o’clock Mass, I saw Santa sitting in the congregation, eyeing the altar boys and the boy choir. He smiled at me, and I smiled back. Then I smiled at Kerby, and Kerby returned the smile. I have never been more happy than I was that day. 

The following Saturday Kerby and I arrived at Santa’s so early in the morning that Ernesto’s cage was still covered, and the Christmas carols hadn’t been turned on yet. When Santa uncovered the cage, I noticed that the ground-up cobs on the bottom of the cage were clean. There wasn’t a bird poop anywhere. Santa opened the cage door and Ernesto hopped onto his finger saying “Pretty bird, cockatiel. Cockaprettybird. Prrretty birrrd. Prrrrrretty, Prrrrrretty birrrrrrd.” 

Kerby and I followed Santa and Ernesto into the bathroom. With Ernesto perched on his finger, Santa stepped to the toilet, lifted the lid, and held Ernesto over the bowl. Ernesto jiggled his rear a few times and dropped a huge poop right into the center of the bowl, and Santa flushed the toilet. 

Kerby nudged me with his elbow and said “Johnny, I told you Santa’s bird was toilet-trained, remember? The rest of what I said is true, too, about how Ernesto sings and fucks. Just watch, you’ll see.” 

Kerby and I had already had breakfast once, but after the long bike ride we were hungry again and glad to join Santa and Ernesto. As we ate breakfast for the second time, we watched Ernesto waddle freely about Santa’s breakfast table, stealing a flake or two of cereal, finding stray seeds in a grapefruit half, and pecking a corner out of someone’s toast. As always, the Christmas carols played in the background. 

Then Ernesto jumped on Santa’s eight hand and started whistling a complicated sequence of arpeggios, trills, and coloratura runs. The bird was improvising a Baroque-style obbligato to the carol Ihr Kinderlein kommet, as sung by the Vienna Choir Boys. After Ernesto finished singing, he began pacing back and forth on Santa’s hand, rapidly clacking his beak. Then he started rubbing his rear end on Santa’s thumb. Before long Ernesto was clutching at Santa’s hand with his talons and rubbing against the thumb with real pelvic thrusts, faster until he shuddered and spread his wings, pressing his forehead against the tips of Santa’s fingers. 

“Santa,” I said, “if I saw what I think I saw, then Ernesto was fucking your thumb!” 

Before Santa could answer, Ernesto starting saying “Pretty boy, prrrretty boy, prrrrrrrretty boy” and doing his wolf whistle. Then he flew back to his cage, right in through the open cage door, landing on his perch, and started drinking from his water dispenser. Santa got up and snapped the cage door shut. 

“I hope you noticed, Johnny, that Ernesto sings when he is sexually aroused. Last time you were here I told you that sexual arousal was the proper mode for literary creation. As you can see, that principle applies to birds also.” 

“But is it okay for a bird to have sex with a human being? I mean, what if there are laws against, well, you know, interspecies sex?” 

“Johnny,” said Santa “suppose you discovered that it were illegal? Would you report Ernesto to the authorities? Would you have an innocent bird publicly tried and convicted? Would you want Ernesto sent to prison because of a hand job?” 

“No, of course not,” I said, the blood rushing suddenly to my face. “There might be some awkwardness if the authorities caught Ernesto flagrante delicto, but I think it’s nobody’s concern if you and he practice mutually consensual sex in the privacy of your own home.” 

“Johnny, is your dad a lawyer?” 

“Yes, Santa, how did you know that? Did Kerby tell you?” 

“No, it’s just that you used the expressions ‘interspecies sex,’ flagrante delicto,’ and ‘mutually consensual.’ Johnny, a boy your age wouldn’t have legal expressions in his vocabulary unless he had been in a law office, nervously flipping through statute books.” 

“Oh, Santa,” I said, beet red at being so easily found out, “is my every thought and feeling visible to you?” 

“Johnny my dear boy, I don’t blame you for worrying. We three are taking enormous risks, after all, maybe there’s something to be said for knowing precisely what the stakes are. But consider the grim seriousness of Ernesto’s situation. Ernesto’s art is his song, and for him, art is associated with sex. For the sake of his art Ernesto may sometimes have to step outside the boundaries defined by narrow-minded, human institutions such as church and state. What’s true for Ernesto, is true for the human artist also.” 

“Yes,” I said, “I can understand that to express his artistic self the bird Ernesto must follow his instincts. But for the human artist, following his instincts may pit him against the power of church and state. That means he must cope with anxiety, fear, and guilt - to say nothing of maybe going to jail. Santa, why does it have to be this way? I mean, isn’t it possible that under these conditions the human artist is paying too heavy a price for his creativity?”

Part III: The True Communion

Considering the man/boy/boy sex feast we indulged in that first Saturday, the last place I expected to see Santa the next morning was in church. The following Saturday afternoon I finally asked him about it. 

“Santa,” I said, “after what we did I was amazed to see you at Mass last Sunday.” 

“Johnny, I go to Mass because of the choirboys and the altar boys.” 

“What if the church had no choirboys or altar boys, as in most of the Protestant denominations?”   

“Then I wouldn’t go.” 

“Why not?” 

Vienna Choir boys, ca. 1950

“Because, for me, without choirboy or altar boys, the service would have no religious substance.” 

“How do you figure that?” 

“Johnny, I once climbed to the top of a mountain overlooking the cathedral I worshipped in as a boy. From my vantage point the nave of the cathedral suggested the torso of a man lying on his back. The cathedral transept resembled a pair of thighs drawn back to expose the apse and steeple, which looked like male genitals with the scrotum contracted and the penis fully erect. 

“I reflected that the altar is always located in the holiest part of the church. In the anatomical symbolism of the cathedral itself, that would correspond to the genital area. As I studied the stained-glass windows that lined the circular apse, I realized that they all had the unmistakable shape of an erect penis. When I glanced at the windows along both side of the nave, depicting the life and teachings of Jesus, it struck me that all the windows, not just the ones in the apse, were shaped that way, too. Furthermore, the penis motif was everywhere I looked, even in the doors, pews, choir loft, and pulpit. 

“The next day was Christmas. As I sat in the cathedral that evening waiting for the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass to begin, I wondered if I had affirmed not just an architectural pun, but the hidden, true meaning of my faith, a meaning that I had first became aware of as an altar boy, when I was much younger than you and Kerby. 

“When the Christmas service got underway, it dawned on me that this was more than just the celebration of the birth of the infant Jesus. It seemed to me that the thrust of the service was fundamentally homosexual, with penis worship as the central element of devotion. The holy of holies, if you please, were the altar boy and the choirboys, who served as living vessels of the divinity that was originally incarnate in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. 

“So, Johnny, that seminal experience, when I was a teenager, persuaded me that Christmas is actually a festival of boy-love. I suddenly understood that Christmas carols are personal love songs to the Divine Boy, who responds by granting the sacred gift of creativity to His adoring lover.” 

“Santa,” I said, “tell us about that experience when you were an altar boy. You know, the one that made you understand the true meaning of your faith.” 

“It happened when I was ten years old. I was serving as an acolyte for a Saturday morning six o'clock Mass. The service was held in one of the smaller chapels adjacent to the main cathedral. No one was present except the priest and I, yet the service proceeded as usual. At the communion of the priest, where words are repeated three times, and at each repetition the acolyte rings the hell, I noticed that the priest was glancing at me with a strangely tender expression on his face. Following the words Corpus Domini nostri Jesu Christi custodiat animam meam in vitam aeternam, he put the Sacred Host and paten on the altar. Turning to me, he gently raised me up from my kneeling position and, falling on his own knees, hugged me around the hips. Before I could get my thoughts together, he dived under my robe, pulled down my pants, and started giving me a blowjob. 

“Watching the first rays of morning sun filter in through the stained glass windows over the altar, I just stood there, as in a dream, getting sucked. At first I was too surprised to move, but after awhile I didn't move because I hadn't moved already and had a hard-on and was too embarrassed to move. Then a wave of pleasure hit me and it seemed that my entire body was on fire. Suddenly I started tingling from head to foot, and at the point of orgasm the thought passed through my mind, like sunlight through a stained glass window, that I had just experienced THE LIVING PRESENCE OF THE LORD. 

Priest and Acolyte by August Hagborg

“After that the priest ducked back out from under my robe and continued with the service as though nothing had happened. While I frantically pulled my pants back up, he said the short act of thanksgiving, made the Sign of the Cross with the chalice, and said ‘Sanguis Domini nostri Jesu Cbristi custodiat imimam meam in vitam aeternam. Amen’. 

“After the service, the priest embraced me and said ‘My son, what we have just performed is the True Communion, the way it was originally intended to be celebrated. This is the basis of the True Faith, but you will have to keep silent about it, for it must remain a secret from all but those chosen to be initiated into its mysteries. Someday the world will accept the spiritual validity of what we have just done, but it will not be in my lifetime, or yours.’” 

“Wow!” I said. “Did you believe what the priest said?” 

“Sure, Johnny, why not? I was ten years old: I figured if anyone knew what he was talking about, it was a priest. Later, I wondered if that's why Christians pray on their knees. After all, a popular Neopolitan word for penis is pesce, ‘fish,’ which was and still is one of the symbols for Christianity. In the Gospel According to St. Matthew, when Jesus meets Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea of Galilee, Jesus says ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.‘ If penis equals fish, and fish equals Christianity, maybe penis and Christianity are one and the same. That would be ironic, wouldn’t it?”

“So what did you say to the priest,“ I persisted, “when he gave you the blowjob?” 

“What was there to say? The priest and I had sex regularly over the next several years, but never again in front of the altar, as part of the Mass. And, for that matter, whatever we did, we did in silence, and never discussed it afterwards.” 

“Now that you've explained it, Santa," I said, “it almost makes sense. You are a Christian because you regard Christianity and especially Christmas as based on boy-love. Since boy-love makes it possible for you to be a writer, you maintain the faith by continually listening to Christmas carols sung by the Vienna Choir Boys.” 

“Johnny," said Kerby, “you have an amazing way of summing things up.” 

“Well,” I said, “I guess the important thing is this: Ernesto wouldn't sing if he couldn’t fuck Santa’s thumb, and Santa wouldn’t write books if he couldn’t love boys.” 

“Just remember,” said Santa, “we’re talking about matters that are hidden. Christianity may be based on boy-love, but few will ever figure that out, even though the evidence is everywhere. As a writer, I am motivated by a sexual love for boys, but the results of that love, the books themselves, are never explicitly sexual.” 

“Yes,” I said, “but when I read them, I get a sexual buzz. How is it possible for a book to communicate on a sexual level if it never mentions sex?” 

“Johnny,” said Kerby, “remember what Santa said about Aladdin’s lamp. The magic lamp isn't a literal lamp at all, it’s Aladdin's own penis.” 

“But would there be a story,” I said, “if Aladdin's penis were described as a penis and not a lamp, and the resulting orgasm as an orgasm and not a genii?” 

“There would still be a story,” said Santa, “because the tale of Aladdin's lamp teaches that masturbation can be made to serve a higher, spiritual purpose. If, however, the story were packaged as an autoerotic tale, it might attract a smaller audience, and fewer people would get the message.” 

“But, Santa, this ‘packaging’ you're talking about, isn’t that like wearing clothes? Didn't you say a writer has to strip himself and everyone else naked, and be totally truthful if his art is to have real integrity?” 

“Santa,” said Kerby, “why don't you show Johnny a first draft of one of your books?” 

“Here, Johnny,” said Santa, pulling a thick, clamp back binder from the bookshelf and handing it to me, “turn to any of the paper-clipped pages.” Typed on thick newsprint paper, it was the manuscript of a book I had practically memorized in the published version. 

Starting at the first marked page and running for several pages, the text was heavily underlined in red. The passage was a graphic description of a sexual encounter between the protagonists, two fourteen-year-old boys. Flipping through the manuscript, I discovered many red-lined passages, all of them explicitly sexual.

“None of these red-lined passages are in the published version of the book,” I said. “I think the descriptions are just wonderful. Why did you take them out?” 

“I took them out because otherwise the book would never have been published.” 

“But doesn't that make the book untrue?”   

Oliver Twist about to kiss Little Dick goodbye. An illustration of 1867

“Consider Dickens’ Oliver Twist. In real life Fagin’s ‘affectionate boys‘ would have been child prostitutes, not just pickpockets. There's no mention of Oliver's sexual experiences, even though he's described as ‘delicate and handsome,’ and most of the men he comes in contact with find him attractive. Does this omission make the novel untrue?” 

“Santa,” I said, “how do you know that Fagin's boys would be interested in sex?” 

“Did you ever know a boy who wasn't? To start with, you might consider the names Dickens gives to some of his characters. For example, what about Master Charlie Bates, who is often referred to as ‘Master Bates’?”

“Hey, I’ve thought of another one,” said Kerby. “Before running away to London, Oliver reaches through the fence of the orphanage and kisses ‘Little Dick,‘ his best friend.” 

“Yes,” said Santa, “and you'll find other examples if you know what to look for.” 

“In other words,” I said, “the truth is there but it's hidden from the average reader.” 

“That's right," said Santa. “Let’s consider that basic document of Western society, the Holy Bible. In the New Testament there‘s almost no mention of Jesus’ boyhood. Have you ever wondered about that?” 

Twelve-year-old Jesus debating theology in the temple

“We know Jesus was in the temple debating theology when he was twelve,” I said. 

“Would you be surprised to hear that Jesus left home at the age of nine and lived with a Rabbi, with whom he had a sexual relationship? Does omitting that information make the rest of the New Testament untrue?” 

“Santa, were you the Rabbi who loved Jesus, or Jesus who was loved by the Rabbi?” 

With a patient, loving look on his face, Santa said “Johnny, whether I were one or the other is of no more significance than the difference between your two hands: to every boy-lover the boy he loves is the latest incarnation of Jesus, and through their mutual love, the boy-loving man and the man-loving boy participate equally in celebrating the mystical body of Christ.” 

Observing that Kerby was hiding his eyes with his hand, I realized that my remark had sounded sarcastic, though I hadn't consciously intended it that way. After a painful silence, Santa continued on a different tack. “Johnny, what would happen if you went to school naked?” 

“I’d be whisked home, and then probably to a mental hospital.”

“When you and Kerby leave home to spend the day with me, do your mothers know where you are?” 

“No, they think we’re by ourselves in the park reading and writing short stories.” 

“And what would happen if they discovered what was really going on?” 

“We'd be in trouble and so would you.” 

“Exactly! We’d be punished for not complying with mid-twentieth-century American middle class rules of acceptable behavior. If, however, this were ancient Greece, it would be considered perfectly normal for boys to attend school naked and have sex with their mentor.” 

“Well,” said Kerby, “a society that's funny about fucking is hopelessly fucked-up. And the sort of sex we three engage in is regarded by so-called decent Americans as perverted, and even criminal, so that's why we must never breathe a word about it.” 

“But if an American writer buys that lie and pretends this kind of sex never happens, or if it does happen, that those who practice it are perverts and criminals,” I said, so upset that I was nearly on the verge of tears, “then he’s deliberately painting a false picture of reality. Is the idea of artistic truth for real, or isn’t it?” 

“Johnny, if you compare the red-lined passages in my early draft with the final printed text, you'll see that I really didn't delete anything, I merely rewrote the passages in symbolic language.” 

“With symbolism," said Kerby, “the reader has to figure out for himself that the boy on the dolphin isn't riding a dolphin, he's got a hard-on; that Aladdin isn't rubbing his lamp, he’s jerking off; and that the fire bird isn’t a bird, he’s a boy with hot balls and a stiff cock.” 

“Okay,” I said, the tears in my eyes making everything look blurry, “I get the picture. But I say I'm a completely normal person, not a pervert. Any kind of sex that I, as a bona fide normal person, engage in is normal sex. If society says otherwise, society is misinformed.” 

“Johnny," said Kerby, “you read too much Emerson. Just because you're into something kinky and like it doesn't mean that liking it is universal, or that it's good or healthy. Memorizing essays like Emerson's Self Reliance has probably done you more harm than good." 

“Kerby, why would you say such a thing? Emerson is as American as apple pie.” 

“Johnny, you accept Emerson's words without thinking his ideas through to their logical conclusions, that's why. You should learn to be more critical.”   

Tears of anger were rolling down my cheeks, dripping from my chin, and falling onto my lap. “But I still say that a writer who doesn't tell the truth about sexuality is aiding and abetting society's conspiracy against the individual, and as far as I'm concerned, that makes him worse than a liar.” Then I covered my face with my hands. 

“My sweet, indignant, feisty little elf," said Santa, hugging me, “you’re so worked up that you're actually trembling." Tenderly pulling my hands back and fingering away the tears that were welling in my eyes and overflowing onto my face, he said “Who knows, my boy, maybe there's a good reason why you're so upset. Maybe your special mission in life is to help change society's misconceptions about what constitutes normal and abnormal sexuality." 

At first I held back, but finally I gave in and returned Santa's hug. With his thumb and forefinger he playfully twisted my mouth into a crooked little smile, and then gently lifted up my chin. When our eyes met, Santa said “Johnny, your next step toward becoming a writer is to start keeping a dream diary. Kerby will explain how I want you to do it. From exploring your own dreams you will learn everything you need to know about literary symbolism, and it will give you a totally new perspective on the difference between creative and critical writing.” 

When we were halfway home Kerby said “Johnny, you made an ass of yourself this afternoon.” 

“Yes, I know,” I said. 

Then, as if to change the subject, Kerby said, “By the way, did you ever wonder why I call him Santa, when that's not his real name and he doesn't have a beard?” 

“Well, I figured that that was just a nickname of some sort when it didn't square with the name on his mailbox. I guess I thought it was because he listens to Christmas carols all the time.” 

“The reason I call him Santa is that, when I dream of him, he often has a long Santa Claus beard, and doesn't look like his real self at all.” 

“Then what makes you think the dream figure is really him?” 

“Because the bearded dream figure does the same things that Santa does, that's why.” 

I couldn't help wondering if I, too, would succeed in dreaming a beard on Santa or whether keeping a dream diary would merely provide an occasion for making a second ass of myself. If the purpose of the dream diary were to learn the difference between creative and critical writing, I doubted that this exercise would be of much value. After all, didn't Santa say creative writing and critical writing were opposite functions, not usually performed by the same person? Having discovered the thrill of getting fucked in the ass, I concluded that I was primarily the creative writer type. In contrast, the multi-talented Kerby was obviously one who could function equally well as literary critic or creative writer, since he already knew about symbolism and dreams and was equally good at fucking and getting fucked.

Part IV: The Dream Power

After making an ass of myself in front of Santa and Kerby, I had a hard time concentrating on the Saturday evening boy choir practice. To make matters worse, a memorized passage from Emerson's essay The Poet kept stirring in my mind: 

Stand there... hissed and hooted, stand and strive, until at last rage draw out of thee the DREAM POWER which every night shows thee is thine own, a power transcending all limit and privacy, and by virtue of which a man is the conductor of the whole river of electricity. 

I had always interpreted these words as a flight of fancy not intended to be taken literally. Now I wondered if I could have misunderstood the rest of the essay, too. On the way home from choir practice I swallowed the pride that, according to Santa, a writer shouldn't have, and said “Kerby, please tell me how to keep a dream diary.” 

“Just get a thick, spiral-bound notebook and keep it close to your bed,” said Kerby. “Start writing the moment you wake up, while you're still groggy, before you have time to forget. And write down anything you can remember, even if it’s only a stray image or impression. If you recall only a single image, you can sometimes use that image as a hook to snag the rest of the dream later. It’s like pulling fish out of the water with a rod and reel, or capturing wild animals in a trap. And don't forget to date each dream.” 

That night, for the first time, I saw Santa in a dream. Kerby was there, too, but in the background. At first Santa looked like his normal self. We must have just finished swimming in the lake, because water was dripping off our nude bodies as we stood facing each other on the shore. Then suddenly Santa seemed to be dressed like an ancient wizard or sorcerer. Santa wore a blue robe with strange symbols on it, and - believe it or not - he had a long silver beard. He looked like Santa Claus all right, except that he was dressed like Merlin the Magician. I was completely awed by his change in appearance, and wondered which was the real him. Then I knelt before him and he solemnly touched my head and both shoulders with a magic wand. At that point I seemed to be out of myself, observing the two of us from a distance. The wand must have drastically changed my appearance, because although I was still nude, my body had taken on a distinctly golden glow. Back inside myself again and standing up, I saw Santa in his wizard garb fall on his knees and start kissing and caressing my feet. Not only did he seem to be worshipping the golden boy that he himself had created with a touch of his magic wand, but the wand had somehow restored the foreskin of my penis. I was overjoyed to find that I was finally whole again but puzzled that I had turned gold in the process. Then I glanced up and saw Kerby standing nearby, his hands on his hips, and a smug, knowing look on his face. I noticed that he was not only golden, too, but gleaming like a neon sign. 

In less than a week I had “captured” a total of ten dreams, many of them as amazing in their imagery and action as that first Santa dream. Some of the dream descriptions ran for several hand-written pages. On the average, I recorded from five to ten pages of dream data per day. Never having paid much attention to dreams before, I was fascinated by the material I was accumulating in my dream diary. I discovered that dreams seemed to come from a part of the mind that is much cleverer than the part I knew best and most identified with, and I began to understand that dreams have more in common with poetry and literature than with the prosaic, ordinary thoughts that usually filled my head. It finally dawned on me that the dreaming mind and the literary or poetic mind are one and the same. The reason why most people feel they have little in common with the world of the literary artist is that they identify with the wrong part of the mind. They try to repress the poetic side of themselves, just as they repress from one to two thirds of their true sexuality, which should never be exclusively autoerotic, homoerotic, or heteroerotic, but all three in varying proportions. 

Kerby had been aware of the creative potential of dreams as long as he had known Santa, but, typically, he kept quiet about it. When I asked him why he considered it necessary to keep dreams a secret, he replied “According to Santa, dream thoughts are sexual. If so-called ‘polite society’ considers sex taboo, then dreams must be taboo, too.” 

“Why do you link dreams with sex? Surely you don't think every dream is sexual?” 

“You can prove that dreams are sexual by analyzing the symbolism,” he said. “But there's a simpler test: when you wake up from dreaming, see if you don't have a hard-on. Santa says an erection is as much a part of dreaming as rapid eye movements are.

Remembering that Santa regarded sexual arousal as the proper mode for literary creation, I considered it likely that dreams are sexual in just the same way that serious literature, at least at the deepest levels, is sexual. The truth is, I was as charmed and fascinated by the dream descriptions in my diary as by the sexual pleasures I was enjoying with Santa and Kerby. Interestingly enough, the morning erection usually didn’t subside until I had finished describing the night's dreams. 

I was astonished to discover that some of my dreams had the flavor of folk fairy tale, myth, or religious writings, and yet they didn‘t seem derivative of any fairy tales, myths, or religions I was personally familiar with. Curiously enough, Santa could always produce a book that contained a story paralleling my own dream. Some of the parallels were often from non-European traditions I had no previous knowledge of -such as Polynesian, Eskimo, Aztec, Aborigine, and American Indian. 

Gradually I understood that the concept of universality Emerson refers to throughout his essays is not just a fancy metaphor, but something that is literally true: dreams are proof that at the deepest levels, all human minds, everywhere in the world, are on the same wave length, and most wonderful of all, a child participates as fully in this rich, universal mind as an adult does. 

Before long I had accumulated almost as much dream material as Kerby. Our procedure was to put the mind “in neutral" and read and reread our respective dream diaries, looking for story ideas. This process was meditative and passive, but it worked like magic. Triggered by dream images or situations, ideas would just pop into our heads. Often whole sequences of unusual ideas would explode into consciousness, like clusters of Chinese firecrackers. The sacred act of "creation" seemed more like discovery than invention. Pouring through my already impressive collection of dream material in search of ideas for new stories, I felt like an old-fashion prospector panning for gold. 

Each morning, when my mother came into my room to wake me up, she would find me furiously writing in my notebook. My parents, enthusiastic advocates of free enterprise, were delighted with this commendable display of diligence from their only child. They believed I was destined to be a writer when I grew up, and they considered that because of my friend Kerby's good influence I had made what amounted to a prudent business decision to do what was necessary to get the jump on future competition.

During the summer, when school was out and Kerby and I could spend most of each day with Santa, my mother would hurriedly pack my lunch box as my father and I finished breakfast. Then my father would leave for his law office, and I would hop on my bike and head for Kerby’s house, which was on the way to Santa’s. We two boys, each equipped with a full lunch box and a thick, spiral-bound notebook filled with dreams, would ride eagerly into the crisp morning air and golden sunshine on our way to that sacramental place of enchantment and love, Santa's literary workshop. 

Our routine was to arrive in time for a leisurely second breakfast with Santa and the bird Ernesto and afterwards to spend an hour discussing dreams, literature, and sex. Santa would look over what Kerby and I had done the previous evening, critiquing our work and making corrections. Finally we would take our clothes off, go swimming, have sex, eat lunch, and then spend the rest of the afternoon writing and rewriting our stories in the light of Santa’s suggestions.

By afternoon we were so deep into our writing that the only sound was the ubiquitous Christmas carols sung by the Vienna Choir Boys to the accompaniment of Ernesto’s enthusiastic iterations of “Pretty boy, prrrretty boy, prrrrrrrretty boy!" Santa worked at his desk by the picture window, and Kerby and I at opposite ends of the dining table. Around four o'clock we would put our clothes back on, say goodbye to Ernesto and Santa, and head for home. After dinner, I would write for two or three hours in my room, then drop into an exhausted sleep, and the cycle would begin all over again. 

Whenever my parents asked how the day went, I would discuss the progress I had made with my writing, keeping them up to date on the development of various stories I was working on, carefully omitting that in one way or another all the stories were based on dreams and structured like a sex act leading to orgasm. My parents thought Kerby and I spent our days at the park sitting on a bench somewhere being virtuous and proper, not frolicking naked at Santa’s house, listening to Christmas carols, and cutting short stories from the erotic fabric of dreams, as on a literary production line at the North Pole. 

I found I could manipulate the dream elements in my stories effectively even though I had not the slightest idea what they meant. Santa would explain that while critical (or secondary) writing was akin to analyzing the description of a dream and required that the writer thoroughly understand the underlying implications, creative (or primary) writing was akin to transforming dream material into a poem, short story, or novel intuitively through feel alone, and did not require understanding. To write a story by assembling dream components on the basis of how I "felt" about them, rather than what I “thought,” was a new experience, one that I found strangely congenial. It was like discovering I could see with my eyes closed. 

I was amazed at how “adult” and poetic the resulting stories were. Who would believe that these stories, created by a pair of twelve-year-olds from their own dreams, while engaging in man-boy-boy sex, were not the work of talented adults? Always conscious that I was nevertheless still a child, I wondered why the dreaming mechanism didn't tailor its creations to reflect what is assumed to be a child’s typical mentality. After awhile it occurred to me that probably the psyche doesn't care or even notice whether the dreamer is a child or an adult. At the level dreams come from, no distinctions are made for chronological age because age is a body concept, not a mind concept. In the world of the psyche, in which there is neither death nor decay, chronological age has absolutely no meaning. I began to consider that if at the deepest layers of the mind there is no difference in status between an adult and a child, then why should society insist on depriving the child - Wordsworth’s “Mighty prophet! seer blest!" - of his innate sexuality, denying that a child has sexual needs which must be addressed if the adult that the child is to become is to realize his creative potential as an incarnated human being? 

By the end of the summer Kerby and I each had four short stories accepted by various regional and national children's publications. Except for Kerby’s original prize-winning contest story, already published in the diocesan magazine, we submitted each story under a different pen name. As September approached we were in such a state of euphoria that our feet hardly touched the ground. 

One morning at the end of August, however, we arrived at Santa’s to discover that the fairy tale was over, and our dream carriage had reverted to a pumpkin. A crew of grim-looking men were packing Santa's books and loading them onto a moving van parked in front of his cottage. Around noon the van lumbered off, followed by Santa in his own car, with Ernesto in his bird cage sitting beside him on the front seat. Kerby and I stood by the road huddled together in utter desolation, our dusty faces glistening with tears, as that incredible man, Santa, disappeared from our lives forever 

We experienced Santa’s departure like a death in the family. The grieving process was all the harder because neither of us dared reveal to our parents the true cause of our sadness. I suppose it was assumed that Kerby and I had quarrelled. Perhaps our respective parents attributed their child’s mood change to an early onslaught of adolescence, which caused our voices to start the breaking process at age thirteen, and resulted in our having to resign from the boy choir. 

Just who was this man, Santa anyway? Was it possible that in a previous incarnation Santa had been Emerson's mentor, or the Rabbi who loved the boy Jesus sexually? Was Santa a personification of Christ, Satan, or Santa Claus? Of course when I questioned him, I never got an answer. Some readers may conclude that Kerby and I served as the butt of a joke, and got badly screwed for our pains. Since neither of us emerged from the experience empty-handed, I prefer to regard Santa as a God-sent answer to a prayer. Perhaps the situation was like the world in ancient times, when intercourse between mortals and shape-shifting gods was social as well as sexual, and the sacred and profane existed in such close proximity that it was almost impossible for mortals to distinguish the one from the other. Whatever there was about Santa that caused both Kerby and me repeatedly to dream of him as a bearded sorcerer or wise old man, it had somehow transformed both of us boys into gold. I wasn’t sure who should be beholden to whom, we for making it possible for Santa to realize a personality that was like something out of a myth, or Santa for using his mythological self to transform Kerby and me from ordinary boys into a pair of god-like golden youths. The transformations may have been the stuff of dreams, but it is a fact that Santa never treated us in the impatient, condescending manner that adults normally use to make children feel smaller than they already are. Santa treated us reverently, with patience and devotion, as though we were divine beings dispatched on a literary fact-finding mission authorized by none other than Zeus himself, who had forgotten the wisdom that Santa still remembered.   

I don't think either Kerby or I fully appreciated what this experience in the realm of living myth meant to us until that terrible day at the end of summer when our golden world evaporated like an interrupted dream, stripping us of our recently acquired divinity, and ejecting us from the garden of the gods forever. 

The fact is, it took Kerby and me more than a year to recover from Santa's sudden departure. We consoled each other as best we could, and we continued to maintain our respective dream diaries. We still got together occasionally and planned short stories, but without Santa's participation the production line was effectively closed down. As far as the Arse Poetica was concerned, the frost was on the pumpkin, and Kerby and I began to see less and less of each other. 

At sixteen I developed an interest in girls, and joined an altogether different crowd from Kerby. Later, although we each attended separate universities, we both earned a Ph.D. degree in literature, and became college professors. Kerby, a confirmed bachelor, devoted his entire life to teaching and scholarly criticism; I, however, eventually left the academe to become a technical writer and editor. Married, and with a child to support, I could no longer afford the poorly paid luxury of college teaching. 

Would Santa have been disappointed that I did not pursue an exclusively gay lifestyle, as Kerby did? With a twinkle in his eye Santa would have said that my development as a creative artist had been thwarted by a “surfeit of heterosexuality.” Santa used to say that while an artist need not pursue an exclusively homosexual lifestyle to be effective, any repression of the homosexual component could seriously cripple his creative impulse. He once said that for the male artist, the problem with heterosexuality is that a man is never so much a man as when he loves a woman. Santa thought that an emphasis on heterosexuality could actually destroy a man’s artistic impulse, since artistic creativity requires the strengthening of the feminine (or unconscious) component of a man's psyche, and the weakening of the masculine (or conscious) component, which is linked directly to the ego and reflects the collective values of society. 

But abstaining from homosexuality is not the same as repressing it, and a prudent, politically motivated reluctance to express creativity is not the same as crippling the creative impulse. Moreover, if I were an apostate from Santa’s mentorship, I would not be writing this memoir. I know first hand that boy-love and love for women can and do coexist in the same individual. For me, this is especially true during the Christmas season. Listening to Christmas carols sung with angel sweetness by a choir of beautiful boys, I fully understand why Santa saw Christmas as a festival of boy-love. When I learned that the principle behind Santa's art is boy-love expressed in the erotic imagery of dreams, I realized that the magical source of artistic creation would always be close at hand. This true-life mythological experience I participated in at the age of twelve is the Aladdin’s lamp of my boyhood. Like the lover in Coleridge’s dream poem Kubla Khan, I, too, have fed on honeydew and drunk the milk of Paradise.

 

Comments
Comments of general interest will be collected at Letters To The Editor (some editing may be involved)

Ned Hedley   3 January 2021

An interesting and very enjoyable story. What started out as a fun lark slowly developed and matured and became more serious. Like Peter Pan, though, I couldn't help but feel a little sceptical about this growing up business.

Santa spoke a lot of sense—sex and literature are joined at the nib—but I’m not sure about this one: “while an artist need not pursue an exclusively homosexual lifestyle to be effective, any repression of the homosexual component could seriously cripple his creative impulse.”

The link between homosexuality and art is undeniable, but the relationship is as hard to pin down as an Emerson essay. No culture has worked harder to repress homosexuality than the West, and it hasn’t prevented an impressive artistic legacy. In our day we’ve seen a great big friendly welcome-mat put out for the androphile homosexual. It has certainly not provoked an efflorescence of artistic genius. Pete Buttigiegs by the score but no Donatellos or Leonardos.

I sometimes wonder if a distinction can be made between the boysexual and the gay, when it comes to art. The boysexual is more creatively productive when operating in a tolerant culture, such as ancient Athens; the gay man is more creatively productive when coping with rigorous repression.

The molly, grandmother to today’s gay, was forged in the severely homo-repressive London of the early eighteenth century. Art for the molly was an important tool for survival, nurtured amongst underground networks of the like-minded. Pederasty, as an age-old human and pre-human institution, produced its best when the cultural parameters were set to encourage its better angels, when it was in tune with the zeitgeist. Suppressing pederasty doesn’t create close-knit underground communities, it denatures the energetic bond, splits man from boy, dries up the wells of creativity and leaves nought but ashes behind.

So right now we have a perfect storm of sterility.

* * *

P. Hill   3 January 2021

All the pics of the Vienna Boys' Choir are cool. But I couldn't help noticing -- there doesn't appear to be a single girl in any of 'em. Weird. Was this a thing?

Comments powered by CComment