A Canterbury Tale

The Outsider's Tale
Chapter Two

Christmas Eve! I really thought the lunch rush would be busy at Mancinelli's with all the last minute shoppers on Main Street, but many of the businesses downtown were already closed and the shoppers must have just wanted to get home out of the snow. Mr. Mancinelli locked the door at two, just as Davy arrived in his tattered winter coat and the wool cap that was too small to contain even his head, to say nothing of his hair. Nicky and Jamie had come downstairs from their apartment to help clean up and Mr. Mancinelli let us each have a beer, even Davy, who had to do the obligatory boy burp after his first huge swig.

When everything was put away and cleaned off, Mr. Mancinelli came out of the office and handed Jamie and me each an envelope.

"Your Christmas bonus!" he declared with a warm smile. Jamie looked shocked. I admit that I was a bit surprised. We opened them and found twenty-five dollars! Jamie was speechless; I just shook my head. This was a LOT of money!

"Merry Christmas!" he boomed, giving Jamie and me both bear hugs.

"Hey, Pops! Where's my bonus?" Nicky demanded.

"You wanna bonus? My boy! He wants a bonus!" Mr. Mancinelli took Nicky's grinning face in one hand and roughly, but affectionately, gave him a few slaps with the other. "You get a bonus when we get home!"

Davy whispered into my ear, "I think Jamie gave him his BONE-us this morning!"

I took Davy's grinning face in one hand and roughly, but affectionately, gave him a few slaps with the other. "I'll give you a bonus if you don't behave!"

As Davy and I were putting on our coats, Davy turned to Nicky and Jamie, who were about to go back upstairs and asked, "Hey, Stevie and I are gonna build a snowman this afternoon before we head over for dinner. Wanna help?"

Jamie looked at us as if we were crazy.

"That's kid's stuff."

Nicky bopped him on the head and looked at me understandingly. Davy propped his fists on his hips.

"Hey, it is not. Besides, Stevie's never built a snowman before!"

As Mr. Mancinelli led us out the door to the alley, Nicky declared, "I think it could fun." He winked at Jamie and then said, "We'll meet ya there in a few."

Davy looked up as they climbed the metal stairs up to the apartments above the restaurant and then grinned knowingly at me.

"Nicky's gonna give Jamie another BONE-us!"

"Come on!" I said. I started off down the alley, but it was a moment before I realized that I was alone. My brain must have been addled by the beer, because the implications of this didn't hit me until the snowball did. It landed on the back of my hooded head. I spun around and saw an insanely grinning wild boy, his eyes wide with lunacy, clutching yet another snowball and poised to jump.

"You little shit!" I yelled as I bent down and furiously grabbed snow. It was just a moment, but before I could attack, Davy had already fired his second shot. It hit me square in the face!

"Fuck!" I yelled as I took off after the little devil.

"Stevie's cursing! Stevie's cursing," he sang as he ran up the alley to the east. He was experienced with running in the snow and could easily pick his feet up high enough to make progress. I, on the other hand, kept slipping and falling. Davy was laughing hysterically.

"I'm gonna kick your ass!" I declared as my southern accent betrayed me. "I'll show you cussin'."

Davy didn't see the lump in the snow as he reached the end of the alley. It must have been a box of trash obscured by the snow. He was looking back at me and suddenly fell over.

As he scrambled to get up, I had time to catch up and jumped on top of the frantically struggling brat.

"NO!" he screamed as I forced his face down into the snow.

"Ambush me, will ya?"

"AAAAAAHHHHH! Help! Help!"

I suddenly flipped him over and held his arms above his head with my left hand. Davy knew what was coming and his eyes betrayed both terror and anticipation.

"NO!" he screamed again.

With my right hand, I began to mercilessly tickle my boyfriend. He writhed and twisted in the snow, screaming his laughter and protests. After a moment, I took pity on him.

"Do you apologize?" I demanded.

"NEVER!" he declared with typical Davy defiance.

"Well..." I said as I resumed my assault.

"NO!!!! Hahahaha! STOP! Hahahaha!"

"Do you apologize?"

Snow was getting inside the collar of his flimsy coat.

"OK! OK! I apologize!"

I halted my assault and grinned at him as he struggled to catch his breath in the bitterly cold air.

"You . . . running dog . . . imperialist . . . pig!"

I grinned.

"You sound like Donald."

He stuck his tongue out at me and I leaned down and kissed him on the lips. He kissed me back and I whispered, "I love you."

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a pair of scruffy work boots. I looked up and saw Brad McKenzie watching us with a blank expression on his face. I was surprised to see him there, but what struck me more was the condition of his face. There was a big purple bruise to the side of his left eye and a cut on his upper lip just to the right of his nose. Our eyes met, but instead of what I had seen in them yesterday, they were dead, devoid of emotion, of life.

Davy saw me looking up and looked up, as well. Brad froze for a moment and then simply walked on past us and down the alley.

I climbed off Davy and he stood up. We brushed the snow off each other as we watched Brad slowly trudge away from us. Curious, we began to walk north along the sidewalk away from the alley, but we watched Brad, nonetheless. We stopped for a second as he reached the dumpster behind Mancinelli's. He turned and saw us watching him and emotion finally came over his face.

"What the fuck you lookin' at?"

We both turned and walked north, away from the alley. Neither one of us said anything for a block. We crossed First Street and started west. Snow was falling again and the muffling effect made the world seem eerily silent about us. The only sound was our feet crunching through the snow and our labored breathing.

"You don't think he was looking for something to eat, do you?" Davy asked softly.

I shook my head.

"I don't know. But, he sure looked like somebody kicked the crap out of him."

"Yeah," he replied softly.

We were both disturbed by what we had seen, but as we approached Third Street and were about to cross toward the house, we heard a high-pitched honking. Turning, we saw an old, beat-up red Volkswagen Beetle careening through the snow toward us, a crazed looking Nicky behind the wheel and a hysterical Jamie laughing from the passenger's seat.

Davy wisely jumped up on the curb. I, on the other hand, stood defiantly in the middle of the intersection, my hands propped daringly on my hips, my eyes trained on Nicky's. Just as he was about to hit me, he jerked the steering wheel hard to the left and the rear of the Bug spun toward me, throwing snow all over me. Davy, watching from the security of the sidewalk, laughed hysterically, as did Nicky and Jamie.

"Shit!" I yelled for the second time in ten minutes. "Are you fucking nuts?"

"Whoa! Stevie!" Nicky yelled through the open window. "That's some good cussin', Dude! I'm proud of ya!"

I flipped him off, brushed the filthy snow off my new coat, and stomped toward the sidewalk. The Volkswagen rumbled past us and then roared up the driveway. Davy and I followed, The Brat giggling the whole way. I debated resuming the snowball fight, but knew the others would probably take his side and I would be outnumbered, with them between me and the refuge of my apartment. Instead, I followed Davy to the Bug.

As Nicky climbed out he turned inside and then emerged with a bottle of Bud. He flipped the top off, allowing it to fall in the snow and handed it to me. Jamie came around the corner as he handed another to Davy. Two beers in one afternoon was more than I thought was prudent for my boy, but the look from both Davy and Nicky told me to keep quiet.

"Well, let's get to work," Jamie declared as he approached. The way he said it, though, made me look at his eyes. They were bloodshot and he had a ridiculous grin on his face. I turned to Nicky and saw the same eyes and grin. As did Davy. Apparently, the bonus had been something other that what we thought.

"Hey, share the wealth!" Davy demanded with an obnoxious grin.

I punched him on the shoulder and he looked at me with mock, at least I hoped it was mock, disgust.

"Republican!" he said.

Nicky and Jamie both giggled.

As we chugged our Bud's, Nicky and I began rolling snow and making the base of the snowman, which we placed next to the bare rose bush in the center of the back yard. Strangely, Davy and Jamie had disappeared around the side of the house.

"What are the younguns doin'?" I asked, alcohol now, instead of anger, releasing my southern accent from its prison.

"Who knows?" Nicky grinned as he began to roll the next section. Patience emerged from the mudroom, clad in her usual, ethereal, earth-mother dress and, standing on the top step, handed us a carrot and two potatoes for the nose and eyes. She giggled, prompting a similar giggle from Nicky. Donald, clad in his usual jeans and flannel shirt, brought out a top hat and started singing "Puttin' on the Ritz" as he placed it atop our creation. We all clapped and cheered and he grinned insanely. I, too, grinned, though I was acutely aware I was the only person, except for Davy, whose perception of reality had not been severely altered by anything more than Budweiser.

"Hey, that's cool!" Davy was standing beside me and smiling broadly. "Your first snowman!" he declared. "Good job!"

He patted me on the back and I hugged him.

"Where have you and Jamie been?" I asked.

Davy gave me his cheeky grin and I felt a sudden sense of dread and foreboding.

"Oh, no. What have you done?"

Davy giggled and ran around the house. Nicky and I looked at each other and followed.

When we came to the front of the house, Davy and Jamie were standing proudly on both sides of their creation, an absolutely perfect snow-penis.

Standing about six feet tall, it was a flawless representation of an erect, circumcised male organ, complete with the head perfectly shaped and slanting realistically and even the circumcision scar and the ridge on the underside running from the tip down to the edge of the scar.

I was appalled.

Nicky screamed, "Yes! It’s great!"

"Oh, son! That's beautiful!"

Donald was standing behind me, a look of such paternal pride that I hadn't seen in years. "Good job!"

As fate would have it, Jon Hughes' grandparents chose that particular moment to drive past in their Lincoln with Father Macintosh and his wife, Fiona, in the backseat. The car seemed to suddenly slow down drastically. I could see a look, first of curiosity and then of abject horror on the face of Jon's grandmother. His grandfather was clearly disgusted, though Fiona was covering her mouth as she tried to suppress a laugh. Father Macintosh simply shook his head.

Davy waved at them. I turned and covered my face in desolate shame. The Lincoln then suddenly gunned its engine, the rear end spinning to the side before the wheels caught their traction and the car sped up the street.

Everyone was laughing hysterically. I was holding my face in my hands.

"Oh, lighten up, Pizza Hut! Those old farts could use a good shock. Hell, they probably have no idea their grandson is fucking Anthony like a rabbit!"

"How did you know?" I demanded with shock.

"Bloody hell! Who doesn't, besides Jon's grandparents?"

I felt as if it was the end of June and I had just gotten off the bus again. The people in this town never ceased to amaze me.

"Why don't you people come in for some hot cocoa?" Donald said as he stomped up the steps. "It'll be my contribution to your bourgeois mystical holiday."

"Alright!" Davy and Jamie declared simultaneously. I followed helplessly, wondering who else would see the monstrosity profaning the Goldstein's front yard.

Donald had a roaring fire going as we entered the living room. From the snowball fight in the alley and all the work he had done in the front yard, Davy was soaking wet, once all the snow had melted. He ran upstairs to change—he hadn't moved all his clothes to my room—and soon returned in a dry pair of bellbottoms and a ratty red pullover sweater. I was sitting Indian style on the floor in front of the fireplace and Davy, as he liked to do, sat down between my legs. We snuggled as Nicky and Jamie cuddled on the couch and Donald looked on approvingly. Patience emerged from the kitchen with a wooden try on which were six steaming mugs of hot chocolate.

"This is a wonderful Christmas!" I declared as I hugged my boyfriend and took a tentative sip of my cocoa. Donald looked at me smiled.

"I'm glad you're happy, Steve."

Together, the six of us sat in front of the fire as Donald and Patience passed a bong between them and to Nicky and Jamie. I turned it down, pleased that his father still had a prohibition for pot when it came to his son, and just stared into the fire with contentment.

But, all good things must come to an end, and that peaceful moment was soon shattered by the ringing of the ancient cast iron telephone on the table beside Patience's chair. Her face clouded as she answered it. Her eyes looked at me and my heart stopped.

"Stevie, it’s your mother."

Davy turned to me, a look of concern on his face mirrored on the faces of the others. I took a deep breath as Donald passed the telephone to me. Davy crawled out of my lap and sat next to me, wrapping his arms around me as I placed the phone on the floor in front of me and lifted the received up to my face.

"Merry Christmas, Mom! Yes, it is. Yes. We're all sitting in front of the fire drinking hot chocolate. No, ma'am, there's nothing in the hot chocolate. Yes, I'm doing just fine. Yes, there's almost a foot of snow on the ground. Yeah, it’s really cool! This is my first white Christmas! I love it! Yes, I have a good coat. I went over to Penney's. Well, Mom, there aren't any Niemans around here. Well, Mom, there are only around twenty-thousand people in this town. Yes. Yes, but they're nice Jews. No ma'am, I'm not doing drugs. Mom, I've never lied to you about anything like that. I don't do drugs. Mom, for God's sake, I've never been in an orgy! No, it’s not like that here. I don't care what Dad said, they're not hippies. They're just different. No, ma'am. Yes, ma'am. Yes, I'm going to church tonight. It’s at ten o'clock. Yes, some friends have invited me to dinner tonight and tomorrow. Yes, I got the box. UPS brought it Monday. No ma'am, I haven't opened it. I'm waiting until tomorrow morning. I know, but I'm not alone. I have lots of friends who are really cool. Mom, you know why I didn't come home. Mom, I don't care what you tell your friends. Well, why not the truth? Well, you don't need to tell them I'm gay. Just tell them I'm taking a year off and living in Canterbury. Mom, why would you tell them that? What if the Asburys go to Vail and I'm not there? Besides everyone knows I don't ski. No, Mom. We've been over this. No, Mom. No. I like it here. I'm happy! Mom, don't threaten me. I don't care what you do with your money. Leave it to the homeless shelter downtown. Yes, I'm absolutely serious. You can't blackmail me. Mom, I didn't insult you. No, Mom, I don't want to talk to Dad. No. No, Mom. Yes, Merry Christmas, Dad. No, Dad, I didn't talk back to Mom. I just . . . No, sir. Yes, sir. No, sir. Yes, sir. Yes, sir. I will, sir. I love you, too, sir. Merry Christmas, Dad."

The entire room was silent as I quietly replaced the receiver in the cradle of the telephone. I just looked at the phone without saying anything.

"Fuck," Nicky whispered.

"You OK, Stevie" Donald asked.

Automatically, still looking at the phone, I replied, "Yes, sir."

"Good God, don't call me ‘sir.’"

I looked at him, uncomprehendingly. He smiled and then I understood. I returned his smile.

Davy hugged me tightly and kissed me on the cheek.

"They think I'm a disgrace to the family. They think I'm a loser. They're ashamed of me. They're afraid of what their friends will think."

Patience sighed and Donald sat up indignantly.

"Listen, Stephen. You may be a fascist, but you are one of the most decent people I know. You're honest and good. Since you came in Davy's life, he's opened up totally. He's no longer the quiet, sullen little introvert that he was. He's a completely different person now. He's obnoxious! He’s happy! He's rebellious! He's everything I've always wanted in a son! I am so proud of him! And, I have you to thank for that!"

I wasn't certain if I should be pleased about that or not. Davy sat up grandly and gave both Donald and me a proud smile. Nicky and Jamie just giggled.

"Yeah, and look at how you helped Jon and Anthony and me yesterday when Brad McKenzie was hassling us." Davy put his arm around me. "You were so cool. You were over that counter in a flash and you had him out in the snow on his ass in seconds!"

"What? What was this about?" Donald demanded.

I sighed.

"Brad McKenzie's this kid whose been giving people a hard time at school and he came into Mancinelli's yesterday and tried to start something with the boys."

"What's his problem? Do we need to talk to the school or his parents?"

Davy looked at me.

"I really don't think he's going to be a problem in the future," I said cautiously. "I think he has enough trouble of his own and I don't think he's going to bother Davy or his friends again."

Davy nodded, but Nicky spoke up.

"Bullshit. McKenzie's a punk and always has been. His older brother's in the pen for armed robbery and his mom's a hooker at that bar on the east side, Gene's Place. He'll be in the pen before he's eighteen. He's a loser."

"Well, now wait a minute, Nicky," said Donald. "Nobody's born a loser. Maybe he just needs the proper environment and conditioning. If we got him some counseling and therapy and—"

Jamie shook his head and sighed.

"Man, listen to you people," he declared. "You're calling him a loser and you say he needs conditioning likes he's one of Pavlov's dogs. Maybe all he needs is a friend."

Everyone looked at him as if he were crazy, except for Davy.

"I know what Jamie's saying and he's right. In fact, Jamie's probably better about talking about this than anyone else here."

Jamie looked down at his lap and softly replied, "Yeah."

Nicky put his arm around him protectively. "What do you mean, Little Dude?"

Jamie shrugged. "You don't know what its like to get dumped on day after day, to get insulted over and over and told you’re nothing and to get beaten up and . . . and stuff. It just gets to you after awhile and the anger inside just builds and you want to kill someone and you don't know who or how, but you gotta do something and you think you're going crazy. And, it seems like its never gonna end. And, then you snap."

We were all quiet. We knew what Jamie was talking about because he had lived it. We found Jamie when he snapped.

"When I snapped, I took it out on myself. But, when Brad snaps, he takes it out on others. You all were my friends and you saved me. Maybe all Brad needs is a friend. I've seen him in school for years and I don't think he's really a bad guy. I just think he has a lot building up inside him."

I remembered that look in Brad's eyes when I threw him into the snow and what that look said to me. I remembered the totally blank look he gave me earlier when he saw Davy and me kissing in the snow. That blank look said more than any other look he could have given. He could have kicked me in the face. He could have spat "Faggots" at us. He could have done all sorts of things. He didn't. he just looked at us with no expression and silently walked away. That empty expression was profound and eloquent.

We were all silent, contemplating our own thoughts about what Jamie had said, when Nicky glanced at his watch.

"Hey, Jamie and I gotta take off. We got shit to do before dinner tonight. Well be by at five-thirty to pick you two up."

After Nicky and Jamie left, Davy ran upstairs to get the dress jacket and tie I had bought him for his birthday dinner, leaving me alone with Donald and Patience. I turned to Donald and asked, "You really aren't upset with me taking Davy to church tonight?"

Donald snorted and picked up his bong.

"Hell, I'm more worried about wearing a coat and tie than going to church. It don't care if he goes to church with you. We aren't practicing Jews. You know I'm an atheist. If he wants to go with you, that's cool with me. It’s good theater. Hey, nothing's grander than a High Church Episcopal service on Christmas Eve."

I smiled. I knew he didn't intend to demean my faith.

Davy came down carrying his dress clothes and we went over to my place. We took a hot shower together to clean ourselves and warm up from the snow and for an hour, we cuddled in bed, ending with me giving him a quick hand job. The sound of Davy's cries as his lust peaks is the most beautiful sound on earth.

Dusk was settling in as I tied Davy's tie in a tight half-Windsor and then brushed his wild boy hair. I pulled it back in a pony tail and then slipped his jacket over him. When he stood in front of my mirror, I saw a hint of a smile, though he refused to acknowledge that he liked what he saw.

Nicky and Jamie seemed to have returned reasonably to normal when they picked us up, and the drive through the heavy snow to the Mancinelli house on the south side was slow but fun. Nicky had the radio on and we all four sang along to Jose Feliciano's "Feliz Navidad." Davy even made the "Ah ha!" cry in the middle. It was hilarious.

The whole Mancinelli clan was there when we arrived. Both of Nicky's older brothers had arrived from the City and had brought all their children. I had to bop Davy to get him to quit leering at little Vincent, a younger version of Nicky with the same dark curls, brown eyes, and long fluttering lashes. And, I grinned when Vincent's older sister, Angela, started smiling at Davy, who blushed and, for the first time I could remember, actually didn't know how to act.

I was helping Mrs. M set the tables when I heard the most bizarre music of my life emanating from the living room. Someone had turned the sacred Christmas music off and replaced it with Hot Chocolate. Davy and Angela were dancing together as were several other Mancinelli larvae, as well as Nicky and his sister-in-law!

‘I believe in miracles! Daaaa-daaaaa. Where you from? You sexy thing, you sexy thing you!’

Davy grinned at Angela as he sang, "You sexy thing you!" Nicky laughed hysterically as Angela blushed and her mother grinned. I was amazed. Davy could dance. Where did he learn to dance like that? His parents were hippies and I was from the South!

"Eh! What is this???" Mr. Mancinelli bellowed from the doorway of the dining room. "This is Christmas Eve! We don't do this . . . this weird stuff. You! Nicky! Put on that Dean Martin Christmas album!"

The kids groaned, as did Nicky, but, I had to admit, it was good. And, dinner was even better. Mrs. M had fixed something called bragola, veal wrapped around salami and sausage and eggs. There was pork roast, and mostaccioli in the most incredible red sauce, and mushrooms and eggplant and . . . it was just too much to remember, and words wouldn’t do it justice, anyway. We sang Christmas carols and Mr. M told us stories about growing up in the Bronx in the twenties and thirties and what Christmas was like then. And, to be perfectly honest, I didn't miss my parents once, until the end, when I actually pitied them for not being able to enjoy the kind of Christmas Eve with which I had been blessed.

At nine-thirty, Davy and I said our goodbyes and hugged everyone and assured them we would be back for Christmas dinner, which we were promised would be an even bigger and more incredible feast than the one we had just finished. I couldn't imagine how and the thought of eating even more was beyond my ability to comprehend. Nicky drove us through the snow to St. Andrew's and apologized that he couldn't give us a ride home because his family was going to midnight mass at Sacred Heart. I assured him it was no problem and that Davy and I were looking forward to a nice walk home on Christmas Eve.

The church was almost full as Davy and I entered. We stood near the baptismal font and looked for a pew. Fiona and Mrs. Runnymede hurried past, but not before the old bag—Mrs. Runnymede, not Fiona—raised a skeptical brow and narrowed her eyes at Davy. I raised my own eyebrow and she harrumphed off.

We found a pew near the back of the church next to a tall column. Davy watched curiously as I genuflected. I tapped his shoulder and shook my head as he started to copy me, indicating he didn't need to. He seemed relieved. As I pulled the kneeler out knelt to pray, Davy started to do the same and once again, I indicated he wasn't required to. Once again, he seemed relieved.

When I had finished thanking the Lord for the gifts he had bestowed upon me this Christmas season—the Goldsteins, the Mancinelli's, and my cherished love, Davy— leaned back and took in the sight. The church was incredible, just as spectacular as the cathedral back home. There was greenery and spectacular banners hanging everywhere. Father Macintosh was going all out and giving us a truly high church Christmas Eve.

As the organ bellowed out and the congregation stood, Davy turned and stared in awe as the choir entered and began the procession up the nave singing. Then came St. Donny Madison, the crucifer, with Jon and Anthony on either side as tapers. They slowly moved up the nave as Father Mac, resplendent in his magnificent vestments, followed, swinging the incense.

Jon and Anthony were so beautiful with their angelic expressions, their eyes locked on the altar as they moved to the sanctuary. I was moved almost to tears by the experience as they passed and I nodded my head to the crucifix. Davy leaned against me and I could tell he was moved as well.

The initial prayers were said, the lessons were read, Father Mac asked the congregation to pray for Gerald our President, Nelson our Vice-President, and Philbert our Governor, after which he delivered his sermon. And then began my favorite part of the service. After the Lord's Prayer, I just loved to hear Father Macintosh in his booming melodious voice and his almost musical English accent read the Collect in that perfect ancient English, "Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid, Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee and worthily magnify thy holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen."

Davy sat in awe as Donnie, Jon, and Anthony assisted Father Mac with the Eucharist. He was moved, truly moved by the experience, so much so that when it came time for our pew to join the procession to the sanctuary for the Eucharist, he wanted to accompany me. I hugged him and shook my head. He nodded in sad understanding.

When the service ended in a magnificent hymn, and we gathered in the rectory, Father Macintosh joined Davy and me as we sipped our Kool-Aid and ate our Pepperidge Farm cookies—certainly an improvement over the Oreo's during Father Enfield's tenure.

"Davy! I'm so glad to see you! Did you enjoy the service?"

"It was . . . wow! It was cool. I thought it would be real boring, but Stevie said that if I paid attention it would make me feel really good. And it did."

Father Mac smiled warmly, his eyes twinkling. He gave Davy a hug and shook my hand.

"Thank you for coming, Stephen. I pray for you and for your parents everyday."

"Thank you, Father."

Just then, Jon and Anthony joined us, looking so cute in their Christmas coats and ties. They huddled around Davy, excitedly asking him how he felt, what he thought about this or that moment. Davy grinned the entire time and as we donned our winter coats and then crunched through the frozen snow along Canterbury Avenue toward Third Street, Davy said, "You know, it’s weird. I don't believe in God, but that was so cool. The music was beautiful and all the kneeling and standing and the prayers and songs. I hear prayers like on TV and they just seem mechanical. You know? And I know that this is like a ritual that they've done for centuries, but Anthony's dad makes it sound so real, so . . . so real. It's weird. I don't believe in God, but it made me feel so good. You know what I mean?"

I put my arm around him and he leaned into me as we walked. The campus of Canterbury College looked ethereal in the ambient light of the town with its ancient buildings, the blanket of white, and the towering old oaks and maples naked in the winter night. As we turned onto Third Street, we both stopped for a moment to enjoy the spectacle of dozens of houses lit up with their Christmas lights.

That night, I held my sweet Davy in bed and made love to him as I never had before and when he cried out in his ecstasy, screaming my name and his love for me, I felt as fulfilled as I thought possible. God had given me everything I needed in life. What could possibly go wrong?