ICELAND, AN ANONYMOUS STORY, 1991
The narrative presented here was submitted anonymously to the March 1991 issue of the NAMBLA Bulletin Volume XII No. 2 pp. 21-23. Whether or not it is a true story is quite unknown.
“A BOY’S RESIDENTIAL SCHOOL in Iceland,” the advertisement said, promising ﬁne accommodations, sports, an eager student body and a salary commensurate. It failed to mention the wind chill factor that gives the place its well-deserved name. Summer in Iceland lasts for two days, sometime in July, when the snow finally melts, before the sleet season begins. And there’s no school in summer.
I packed a trunkful of down-filled, insulate-lined clothing, wraparound UV-protection sunglasses, rag wool socks, SPF 29 sunblock, and a portable stereo with CDs by every hot, black, Southern-style musician I could find: Zydeco from New Orleans, Jelly Roll Morton piano solos, Blind Catfish Diddly singing the Tupelo rapist blues, Greatest Licks of “King" Slide Bar and his Up Tempos, James Brown’s Undiscovered Screams in the Night. I imagined the lumbering bass notes knocking the crystallized frost off my dormitory windows so I could stare out at the leafless, bone-white trees in the school courtyard.
And I read what I could about. Iceland: its small population of freckled, hardy souls whose income depended on 747s refueling on their way to Baghdad, slaughtering whales, netting North Atlantic cod, and making eight varieties of beer and two of vodka for export (beverages that locals couldn't afford since the government tax department was intent on keeping the weather from driving them to drink).
Sobering as well was reading about the Church, an offshoot of an early version of the Church of England, that kept the citizens from thawing each other out. Iceland boasted of a very low rate of teen-age pregnancy, although the pimpled chubbiness of the younger women may have also contributed to that statistic, if the unflattering photos in the tourist pamphlets were any guide.
I found out, upon my arrival in Reykjavik, in whose icy outskirts was the School, that underneath the somber-colored woolens and oily-looking down coats, Icelanders possessed great warmth. I was greeted effusively on snow-covered airport tarmac by the Assistant Headmaster (the Headmaster was, I later found out, still enrolled in a state-run detox center) and a group of sixth-graders, who unrolled a hand-painted banner of greeting, in English.
The paper snapped loudly in the brisk wind. This was August, a month before the school year I adjusted my new flannel scarf and bent over to receive chilly cheek kisses from the boys. The Assistant Headmaster, himself a mere youth of 25, gave me a brief hug. We were all exhaling clouds of vapor as we hustled across the parking lot to the school’s van and piled inside. The boys, without prompting, treated me to some Icelandic ballads, of which I understood not one word, and was therefore free to imagine were paeans to a frigid God of the North, an icicle-draped satyr whose member stood erect and frozen under a heavy coat of animal skins, while he sat at the water’s edge, longing for the wild boy who sleeps with bears in mountain caves. I later found out they were all advertising jingles for different kinds of barley breakfast cereals.
Soon I settled into my rooms - or room, really, since it was just a large studio with a tiny kitchenette and bathroom attached. It was hardly the stone castle of my fantasies - more like an overstuffed, slightly enlarged Motel 8 room. The door was varnished plywood, and had a cheap brass plane knob like any tract house in New Jersey. The floor was covered with a heavily padded brown-and-white nylon carpet. There was no stone ﬁreplace; instead, a thick, squat, ﬁre-blackened iron stove sat against one wall, with a large bin for firewood beside. When I opened its velveteen curtains, the double-paned picture window revealed not a treed courtyard but the vast, white emptiness of fields, punctuated by two distant farmhouses and bisected by a grey streak of cleared highway, The bed, happily, was double size and rather plush. It sported a very adequate down comforter and cozy flannel sheets. The sofa and dining table and chairs were straight out of an Icelandic Sears showroom. I immediately purchased some woolen wall hangings to decorate the bare, cream-colored walls, something done, no doubt, by every foreign teacher within a week of arrival. It wasn’t exactly gloomy, although it did get light late in the morning and dark in mid-afternoon. It was more empty than sad. After two weeks, I felt like having a shot or two of neat vodka every time I entered the room, and as soon as the kitchen help arranged for some, that's exactly what I did.
The teaching itself was a fair diversion. I had four classes daily, grade levels two through seven, and the drab classroom was filled with, as promised, eager students. There wasn't much else to do, snowmobiles having been banned some years back, so they studied and read. The advertised sports turned out to be chess and table tennis, neither of which, to my dismay, require undressing beforehand or showers after. I don’t believe I saw anything but hands and faces, until I began tutoring a small group of seventh-graders after school in my room. Once the three or four boys had taken off their heavy coats, scarves, gloves, and rubber boots, I had one of them build a tremendous fire in the stove, and then damp it down until the stove-pipe glowed red. The room became stifling, and off came shoes, sweaters, shirts, wool caps, and socks. They indulged the new teacher his need for heat as we reviewed the lessons and I got a look, finally, at the white, smooth arms and pink toes of the boys.
Two months into the school term, a favorite emerged: a seventh grader, whose full name defied pronunciation save by Icelanders and moose; his nickname was Dork (Out of kindness I never told him its American connotations.) In any event, he hardly looked like a Dork: slim (or so it seemed) underneath the layers of clothing, a shock of white-blond hair atop a blue-eyed, rounded little face that was white as a Japanese geisha, with two small spots of red brush. He was no more than five feet tall and his cool, sweet voice was high-pitched and soft.
“May I speak at you,” he asked me one afternoon, approaching my desk after class.
“Speak with you,” I said, and he blushed.
“I am sorry, speak with you. I am shy to be speaking. I am hoping,” he said, as I began hoping, too — “that I may come with you for private instruction.”
“You are always welcome at my tutoring sessions, along with your classmates.”
“No,” he pleaded, “I must come only with you. Oh, I am too shy.”
“Well, I do have spare time on Tuesdays. That's tomorrow. Why don’t you come then, about three o’clock?”
“I am certainly sure you may help me at my problems,” said Dork. He turned and ran out of the classroom.
The day of Dork's appointment went beyond the usual chill and afternoon rain. Morning had barely broken before a blizzard of heroic proportions threatened to tear out trees by their roots. Shutters were bolted across windows, curtains drawn, and classes abandoned. I returned from the dining room to my rooms prepared to huddle under the comforter for the entire day. I stripped to my flannel nightshirt and cap, got a half bottle of vodka and a glass and three thick novels and placed all this on the night table. I drank off two shots of vodka, lit a roaring ﬁre, closed the curtains, and, hoping the electricity wouldn’t fail, slid into the bed and opened one of the novels. I was soon asleep, roused every half hour or so by the rumbling of my windows in the wind.
At five minutes before three, to my surprise, I woke to a timid knocking at the door. I’d forgotten about Dork completely. I stumbled to the door (assuming my visitor was someone from the kitchen or another of the teachers) without dressing and without hiding either vodka bottle or glass.
Dork stood before me, bundled in coats and cap and scarf, holding a book bag. He turned his glance to the floor when he saw me in my night clothes.
“Oh, never mind, Dork. It’s because of the blizzard. Come on in and we’ll study.” I put my hand on his shoulder — well, on the scarf that fell on the coat that hid the sweater, shirt and undershirt that sat on top of the shoulder — and he looked up at me.
“I am shy,” he said
“Well, the heat’s going out the door, so make up your mind — in or out.”
He decided to come in.
The wind shook the windows and the fire came to sudden life as I opened the stove to replenish the wood. Despite the chill air whistling at the sides of the window, the room grew warm and I managed to get little Dork to remove most of his outer layers and sit beside me on the bed. He looked a little uncomfortable and I knew that it was not only because he had revealed his slender, pale forearms. I was, after all, sitting beside him dressed only in my nightshirt. “Only” is correct — I hadn’t on anything underneath.
I must confess here that although I’d known for what seemed like decades that I enjoyed looking at slender, attractive boys and certainly I was consistently employed at some boys’ school or other, it was only on the rarest of occasions that I’d made fantasy become reality and actually touched one and even more rarely had one touched me. I would usually pick a favorite or two at each school and watch them carefully, be generous with their grades, accompany them on outings and so forth. Perhaps four or five times the opportunity presented itself to take the association onto a more physical plane, although, in my dreams the opportunities presented themselves almost every night.
Of course, as Dork unwound the red woolen scarf from around his tender, cream-colored neck and smiled shyly as he unbuttoned and struggled out of his thick coat, feelings of attraction stirred within me. He was such a fragile boy, so pure and trusting! He wanted so much to be in my confidence, to have my approval. And, yes, I confess: I wasted so much to hold him in my arms.
We opened one of the textbooks and he began reading selections, while I corrected and encouraged him. I put my arm around him and leaned close, as if I needed to in order to see the book clearly.
After he finished a section with very few errors, I told him he was doing well and he seemed to relax. He leaned into me and at the same time looked up, his face close to mine, and he smiled.
“When did you grow as tall?” he asked me.
“So tall,” I corrected. “I’m not really very tall, but when I was a boy I was just as little as you are now. Maybe even smaller.”
“Oh, no,” he said, smiling up at me and laughing.
“Oh, yes,” I said. “Some boys are tall earlier than others. You know that.”
He looked down at the book, not reading. “I’m the smallest one in my dormitory. All boys are bigger than me. And…”
“And? You mean they trouble you about it?” At this, he hunched his shoulders and leaned directly against me. He started to tug at the hair on my forearm. I began rubbing his shoulder, more or less in time with his gentle pulling.
“Yes,” he said. “And also…”
“Oh, I see,” I said.
“When we’re dressing, they are always making jokes of me because my… it’s… so small.” Did I see a tear drop from his soft cheek onto my nightshirt? “They are pulling down my pajama after lights are out and they… they play with my…it… so they can see it is so very small even when it is growing up.”
“Well,” I began, even as my “it” was beginning to stir not ten inches below Dork’s full, red lips and a mere three inches from his idly playful hand. “You see…” and suddenly, there was a great gust of wind. The fire belched smoke back into room. The windows rattled and the lights — God bless them — went off.
“Oh, please,” said Dork, evidently afraid of the darkness and the wind, for he clung to me and wrapped both arms around my middle. In the darkness he could not see the odd tenting of my nightshirt.
“Is it really so tiny?” I asked, holding him close to me. “You know you will grow big like everybody else sooner or later.”
“But the others are so much longer, almost an inch, some of them!”
I didn’t ask how he knew this, but I reached in front and began unbuttoning his shirt. At the same time, without a word, he unbuckled his belt and stretching his legs out, pushed his heavy wool pants down to his ankles. Even in the darkness I could see, barely, his slim, pale legs and a whiter area, his underwear.
“Look,” he said, sliding the underwear to his knees.
“But I can’t see,” I said.
“Oh! Don’t make a joke on me.”
“No, I only mean, it’s so dark that…”
“Here,” he said and he placed my shaking hand on the object of discussion and it was indeed very small, but also very hard and straight. I could only imagine, as I felt the tiny, circumcised tip, its pink color. I felt underneath. His little sac was tight and smooth. “They also… They are having me kiss the other ones, each of them — the bigger boys. And they light a candle and look at each other, I am ashamed to say.”
I held him close to me, twisting my midsection in a way that, I hoped, would prevent his leaning into something that would probably make him run out the door. “Oh, Dork, don’t be shy. Boys are like that, everywhere.” And then, as I was still playing with his little stick, I had an idea. “Would you like to go inside the bed?”
He didn’t say anything, but he lifted my hand up, leaned over, and tugged off his shoes. As he kicked off his pants and briefs, I slid under the comforter. He sat for a minute on the edge of the bed and unbuttoned his shirt. He was going to take everything off! I could just make out his slender form, the gentle slope of his shoulders, the curve of his back, the silhouette of his hair.
He crawled beneath the comforter and cuddled close to me. “I am ashamed to say,” he repeated. By this time I was embracing him and stroking his back. He found my hand and placed it once more on that tiny, firm part of him. My nightshirt had slipped up and as he reached around me, his hand grazed against my leg and the small of my back.
“What is it?” I asked.
“They lie down and do shameful things,” he said. I kissed him on the forehead.
“But you don’t?”
“Oh, I am so small.”
He put his face up to mine. I could see that his eyes were closed. My tongue found a tear on his cheek. The wind howled. A great gust again rattled the window in the dark, warm room. I felt his small, soft hand along my thigh and then it found what I’d been (so foolishly!) trying to conceal.
“You’re not too small,” I said. “And…”
“I will show you the shameful things,” he said, as he started to rub against me. I could see his eyes were open and his lips were parted. I met them with mine.
The electricity was not restored until the following morning, just before Dork and I went down for breakfast.
Comments of general interest will be collected at Letters To The Editor (some editing may be involved)
Helen 02 February 2021
I think we can be fairly sure the story isn't true. The country is nothing like what he describes; the sun does not rise late in the morning and set early early in the afternoon in August, and Church of Iceland is Lutheran, not Anglican, and so on. But it has its charms nonetheless!
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Michael Rice 08 February 2021
I should think someone who had had a confused understanding of the origins of the Church of Iceland before he went to the country, and was as uninterested in Christianity as he sounds from his tone, could easily spend several months there without having his understanding of it corrected.
On the other hand, it is so very well known that the summer days are long in the far north that his saying the sun rose late in August seems to me more likely a confusion of seasons in his writing than the sort of genuine ignorance that would have been corrected by experience.
So I'm not sure we can be so sure.
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Anonymous 98, 19 June 2022
Well, it does have all the earmarks of a wishful fable. But quite fun to read, and imagine.