It was cold, for the end of October, and, the young blond boy, shivered at the sudden, biting wind that scattered the cardboard colored leaves on the path in front of him, swirling a large bunch into a  funnel that spun down the path like a miniature tornado…  Matty ran towards the center of the funnel, trying to feel the power of the little tornado, like he always did, but, as usual, the whirlwind vanished as quickly as it had appeared… He sighed, and glanced about, searching for another, but, all he saw was a pair of scrambling squirrels, dashing about, one chasing the other, in frantic circles around the base of an ancient oak… He reached down, and, grinning, picked up a large acorn from the cold grass, and, awaited an opportunity…

      The squirrels stopped momentarily, halfway up the massive trunk of the red oak, and, faced off against each other, motionless… Matty picked a spot, about 3 feet above the 2 little warriors and heaved the acorn at it, using his little league skills as a right fielder. He was blessed with a strong and accurate arm, and, the acorn connected with a sharp ‘crack’ against the giant tree, startling the squirrels into a little panic maneuver… They broke off the war, one heading south, the other north, and, the northbound critter ended up on a dead branch of the tree some 30 feet up, and, chastised the little boy soundly…. Matty giggled at the chattering rodent and shrugged off the ‘lecture’ as another cold wind gusted from behind…  Turning up the collar of his blue baseball jacket, he braced himself against the cutting cold and continued on his journey.
      He was alone, by design, today, because he wanted the privacy of his mission preserved… For 3 weeks, he had been on a type of quest… It was vital that noone know about his plan, at least, noone on earth, he thought… He had prayed on the matter and felt sure that his plan was a sound one, and, that secrecy was the best way. So, onward, he walked, and then jogged, as his destination appeared, through the hedges that bordered it on the southern side… a quaint, but, elegant building constructed to withstand the test of time, from stout bricks that were painted white, and capped with a slate roof whose copper flashing  had acquired a green patina thru the years. He had heard, from the gentleman farmer whose ancestors had founded the library, that the structure was built in the 1930’s, after the town outgrew the combination town hall and library… There was a recent addition to the structure, 8 years ago, that extended to the south… a contemporary addition that was designated as the children’s wing, and, was already experiencing it’s own growing pains, as the town population had burgeoned in the post war years…It was here that the young boy made his entrance, the heavy oak door slamming shut behind him, as a gust of wind propelled him into the quiet vestibule…

       The librarian at the main desk peered over her horn rimmed glasses as Matty wiped his feet on the rough mat inside the door. The grey – haired lady nodded her approval, and, smiled at the thin 10 year old… Over the past 5 years, Matty had become a regular customer who now appeared to have acquired a persistent habit as well… He was well liked by the staff, who frequently reserved the new book arrivals that pertained to animals or history for him… They were devoured quickly by the boy, who was known for his ferocious appetite for knowledge, a trait that enamored him with the staff, as it was a departure from the usual,  10- year -old -boy -syndrome– wrestling, laughing, and, a general spite for anything in print… But, that was not the habit that the elderly staff whispered about, to the embarrassment of the boy…  You see, it had become imperative that Matty had access to the library bathroom, pretty much as soon as he arrived… The usual procedure had been to issue a door key to the lavatory as requested, if the child could be trusted to use the facility properly, but, after the staff realized the frequency of need for the blond boy, they had made an exception to the rule, and, had issued a dictate that Matty had unfettered access…  They agreed privately, to leave a hidden key for the boy, on a window sill outside the facility, and, now, all Matty had to do, was to catch the eye of the nearest staff member, and wink… The recipient would wink back, a secret signal clearing the way for the skinny boy to make the journey….
      What none of the staff understood, tho, was that the entire arrangement should have been classified under the category of fiction… It was a carefully devised plan by the boy to gain access to the adult section of the library, where the only bathrooms were located, past the ‘Stacks’, and down a winding pathway that led to a stairwell, which descended to the bowels of the building, a ghostly quiet area that also housed the town health clinics, that were used only in the mornings, and, on special days. Matty had designed the plan for a reason that would have been impossible for the nice ‘old’ ladies to understand… It had become, in reality, a survival plan. It had become a lifeline to the type of understanding not designed for the consumption of a 10 year old child…

      But, Matty knew that knowledge was power. And, the type of knowledge that he thirsted for, was inexplicable.

    

    

      He needed to find answers for the boy in the swamp…

      There was ONLY one way– a quest… a secret mission that would become the journey of discovery and terror,  understanding and horror, and, on a day in October, the end of any innocence, left in a shattered boy.
                                                          
                                      

                                         October 21, 1964

      It was a Wednesday, when Matty walked down that long corridor. He wound his way through, glancing to his right for any signs of library patrons or personnel as he passed the ‘Stacks’ in the connecting wing near the children’s section. He continued on, even tho it appeared that the area was empty, and, made his way around the corner, and, into the library proper, where a separate mahogany main desk stood… It was illuminated by a green shaded lamp with a brass base. The boy slowed, and lingered , in the hallway, until the attending librarian  noticed him, and winked… He winked back, and smiled, and turned into the stairwell, noisily descending the stairs until he reached the bottom, and then, quietly retraced  his footsteps, stealthily ascending until he was near the upper landing. He furtively peered around the corner. Mrs. Pettingale was still at her station, looking down at the work in front of her… Matty retreated , and waited. It seemed like an eternity, but, finally, the phone rang at the main desk. The boy quickly peeked around the corner, just in time to see the older lady turn and head for the office in back of the main desk. It was his chance… He darted across the open hallway and, back into the area known as ‘The Stacks’.  He was alone… He calculated the time, and, knew that he wouldn’t be missed for 10 or 15 minutes… a bit of a long bathroom stay, but, it had worked, without question, the week before.
        The boy knew exactly where to go-  a section of the stacks where all the medical journals were housed. In his previous visit, he had even isolated a chapter in the book , ‘Psychopathia Sexualis’, a heavy book that the boy had located after several references from other books had isolated his search for the name he was looking for – the name to describe his feelings for other boys… the name that would explain his place and value to the ‘normal’ world. He already knew that something was not quite right, and, as he pulled the massive book from the shelf where he had located it last time, his heart began to beat harder. He lifted the heavy book and walked to the deepest part of the stacks, where a tiny wall lamp illuminated the old books with an eerie glow… He glanced nervously down the aisles on both sides of the long bookcase, and, listened intently… He was alone…
      He looked at the book. The bookmark that he had left, the Friday before, was still there, undisturbed!!  He quickly opened the book and, started to read, to absorb, retreating, advancing, as the words played out before him… homosexuality… was this him?? He read further, looking for the word, back and forth, but, it never appeared… just words like perversion… he wrote the word down on the piece of lined paper that he took out of his pocket… his heart sank… ‘abnormal’… He knew this word!!  He reread the sentences… sickness, treatment, perversion, abnormal, criminal…. he searched and searched, his 10 year old mind reeling, his heart sinking, his eyes tearing, until he was sure… there was no hope… there was no love, there was no joy, just loneliness and sickness, and perversion, and therapy that might not work to ‘fix’ his broken mind…
    
        He put the book back on the shelf, and, sat down on the single wooden chair that was left in the deepest part of the library. He put his face in his hands and started to cry… Why?? Why had God done this to him?? What would happen to him?? How did he become like this??  He prayed… “With all my heart, I ask you Father… why did you make me this way?”

       There was only silence…


      The blond haired boy took his hands away from his face… he was trembling uncontrollably… His chest hurt, and the pain went thru to his back… he stood up on his shaky legs and looked around… He was still alone, more than ever in his life… He didn’t know what to do, or, where to go, but, he knew now, that he would never be truly loved by the people that had loved him before… And, he also knew that the only place left for him was the church where he had become a ‘lamb’ of God, some 4 years prior… He gathered himself, and walked into the main library, and past the startled librarian, who challenged him, but, was ignored, and out the front door, in a daze, the Autumn air biting at his face, but, it didn’t matter any more…

      He was in the church now, seated in the same pew that he sat in at his First Holy Communion. The candles for the saints flickered through the red glass casings to the right of the altar… The heavy scent of incense awoke the boy from his trance. He looked around, but, didn’t remember the journey or the arrival, but, somehow, he was here…

     Leaning foward, he reached down and pulled the kneeler  into position and kneeled on it, and, began to pray. He prayed for a very long time, repeating the prayers that he knew best… ‘O MY GOD,  I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell; but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who art all-good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. Amen.’ He said the prayer followed by an ‘Our Father’ and then a ‘Hail Mary’ and then repeated the sequence, over and over, his hands clasped together, as he had been taught, head dutifully bowed…. 


      “Son… son…. SON!! ”  


      Startled,  Matty looked up. Father Buckley stood in front of him… 


      “I’m sorry to interrupt you, Matty, but, shouldn’t you be getting home?  It’s getting dark, and, it must be close to your dinnertime….. Are you alright?”
       Matty nodded… 
      “Are you sure? Is there something that you need to confess, perhaps?”
      “No Father… ” Matty said quietly…
      “Well, son, could you tell me why you came here today?”
      The boy shivered. He began to speak, but no words came out… He decided to committ a sin… one that would haunt him for the rest of his childhood… He decided to lie to a priest… “I came here to pray, Father…. because… well, because of my cat … you see, she died… hit by a car… she died… so, I came to pray for her…” Matty could feel the tears start to fill his eyes again, but, this time, it was for a different reason altogether… How could he ever be forgiven for this lie?? He could never speak of it in confession, without telling the truth behind it…. It was all too much… He stood up, and, ran for the heavy oak doors at the back of the church, leaving the priest standing there…. As he pulled the heavy door open, he could hear the man of God calling out to him…” Matty…” He ran into the cold evening air….

The sun was setting, as the boy walked slowly home… The gusty winds had calmed, and, the sky was painted in the colors of autumn… hues of gold and amber, the clouds reflecting the last of the fire in the west as the sun melted into the sharp treeline…


As Matty walked, he thought back to the past summer, and, the joyous moments that he had shared with his brother and friends…He remembered his close call in the emerald waters of the tranquil lake and then, the horror that was part of his displaced memory… left in the care of the Others, and preserved in the shattered heart of the boy in the swamp… He reached the summit of the hill, and looked across the open field, and sat down on the cold rock, at the entrance to his special place…Beyond the quiet field, the willows beckoned him, their graceful limbs belying the deepening shadows of the lurking marsh. Nothing stirred…


          To the west, the last trembling glimmer of light faded from sight, and the boy prayed… He  asked his Father to prepare the way, and, bring him Home where his Dzaidek was waiting…. It was the only way that he could ever find love, and, he didn’t have the courage to live his life in loneliness…He closed his eyes and envisioned the journey as the sun surrendered and the moon rose in the east …. 



         Matty opened his eyes. Ahead, the distant swamp was washed by the moon’s tender  caress … The blond haired boy rose from the cold seat and turned his back to the silent marsh and it’s secrets. He stepped to the edge of the rocky outcropping. Far below, a dislodged pebble ricocheted it’s way to the bottom of the drop- off… Matty whispered a final question. “Is it time, Father?”

        A gentle breeze brushed at his shoulders and swirled suddenly, pulling a loose leaf  from the ledge, and lifted it skyward, until it vanished into the darkness. As the wind diminished, a faint cry wafted across the moonlit field behind the boy… It was the plaintive  cry of a frantic mother, calling out to her lost boy. Startled, Matty spun around, and, in the process, lost his footing… His right shoe sought a purchase on the slippery ledge but failed, and, he began to fall, arms flailing, his hands, clawing,  searching for salvation … One last grab at the rough face of the ledge became that salvation in the form of a perfect handhold… the boy spun onto  his left side, crashing into the granite with his shoulder, but, he held on, and, hoisted himself to safety… He shivered and felt the rush of blood to his face… The distant voice was louder now, and, joined by the tiny voices of a distraught family… Matty looked across the open field at the approaching lights and understood…The path would be long and lonely, but, it was his to travel… He sat down on the rock and asked forgiveness, for his thoughts and weakness, and, then, watched the flickering lights cross the open field….



Dedicated to the memory of Seth Walsh, and, the other young lambs that were called home before their time… Rest in the loving embrace of Our Father… We will not forget.  Love, tman <3<3<3


       

Advertisements