(c)1998 by Ricardo Cabeza

Chapter One

There's Something Missing...

It's one of those things that's never fully explained... sort of like a myth... you know, one of those things that makes a good story, even a funny story, but only when it happens to other people. When it happens to you it's a different story. Then it's a tragedy... well, not right away, but by and by... always by and by.

You never hear too much about elves. They are spoken of only in Boy Scout tents in the dark of a rainy, sleepless night. Most people don't believe in them at all... think they're a fantasy... like leprechauns. But they do exist all right... I can assure you of that. They exist sort of like gypsies. And just like gypsies they are ostracized. But unlike Gypsies they do not travel around in caravans. Most of them are involved in the operation of nudist colonies.

They are treated like pariahs because they have different attitudes. That comes from being different. Nobody ever claimed that an elf was human. They aren't... they're elfin. They have elfin history... elfin culture. A lot of people would say that "elfin culture" is an oxymoron. Most people would say that culture is not what elves are about.

Of course those people are mostly ignorant. They have trouble allowing anybody who is a little different to claim culture. If it is not just like theirs, then they think it is no good. And it isn't just the elves, either. Using the same criteria those people are pretty much prepared to deny culture to half the countries of Europe and all of South America as well.

Elves have culture, even if humans hardly ever think so. They live by a code of rules that is different from ours. One of the first rules is the rule of taking. If you need something, you take it. This is the rule that gets them into the most trouble. We think of it as stealing. They think of it as using.

See, to elves there is no such thing as ownership. They long ago decided that the world is not theirs to own, but it is conveniently located for them to use... being right there under their feet. So they did not bother setting up legal rules of ownership. For one thing, they would have no place to keep a deed. Elves don't have pockets. This is because they mostly do not believe in clothes. That is elfin rule number two. Don't be ashamed of yourself.

This is perhaps the most distressing notion about elves to people who have lived their lives concealing themselves. An elf would just as soon walk up to you naked as not. They are not concerned. Probably this is because they never age much more than just beyond puberty. They live long lives of course, and there is no natural way for them to die... they just never get old.

Elves can be killed. This usually happens at birth... a thing that only happens when an elf gets together with a human.

When an elf and a human get together, the baby is always a boy. This accounts for the exclusive maleness of the species. I don't think it's a rule so much as it is a natural occurrence. They just seem to always produce boy babies. And the boy babies they produce are usually drowned at birth... by the fathers of the girls who get in the family way after a roll in the hay with an elf.

It isn't considered murder so much as it is abortion. You never know until it's born, so there's no chance to take care of it until then. Most often the girls go along with it. Better to kill the kid than to condemn him to an eternity of... Well, that's just it... they don't know what the child's eternity will be. They just know that, barring an unnatural death, it will be an eternity, and that's just not natural.

In spite of this elves do get born! I know this for a fact, because I fell in love with one. I did this in spite of myself. I did it in spite of everything I had been told. I did it in spite of the church and school and all the advice my grandmother ever gave me.

"Never fall under an elfin spell." That's what everybody says. They said it to me enough. And for the first fifteen years of my life I listened. I listened because I was afraid of what might happen. I listened to the sum total of all the knowledge there was about elves, which wasn't much. I listened because... well, because I was a good boy.

I never asked any questions. That was not considered appropriate. If you asked questions, it must be because you were interested in the thing that you asked questions about. I kept silent and wondered. I wondered because that is the kind of a guy I am. And when I wondered, I began to speculate about the thing I had been told not to think about.

I always figured elves were missing something important... you know, like a piece of their body... As it turned out, there was something missing from them. Come to think of it, there were many things missing... an immune system for one thing... a conscience for another. They seemed to do well without both. They never got sick, and they never apologized to us for not suffering the way we had to.

You can always tell an elf by the ears. That was what I had been told. I had been told a lot of other things too... like never get involved with an elf or the offspring of an elf. Of course, I had no intention of ever doing that... until I met Clauvio.

I was seventeen when I first laid eyes on him. A bunch of us were hiking through Pine Ridge on a fine summer day and we took the left fork of the trail to go down through the valley rather than make the more perilous descent to town we would have to make if we stayed on the ridge. That other descent was fine in the winter when it was great for skiing or snowboarding, but in the summer the left fork was always the easier.

The trail is narrow though. You have to do it single file. And there is a lot of brush near the trail, so you are better to spread out and follow at a safe distance. That way you are not likely to get whacked in the face by the branch that the guy in front of you has pushed out of his way.

I was the last guy in the line, and I was quite a way back. I was staying way back because the guy in front of me was a bit of an asshole. He had a habit of holding onto a branch and letting it go just when it would do the most damage. It didn't take me long to figure that out. So when I saw Clauvio break into the clearing below and step nakedly to the stream just below the waterfall for a wash, I was the only one who did.

Of course I wanted to stay and watch. And I had no idea that he was elfin when I first spotted him. He was just very good looking. But I had to keep going. I had to catch the others to make an excuse to go back up the trail alone. I raced to catch the disappearing backs, and just as I did, I got a branch full in the face.

"What kept you?" Bill asked. Bill was the asshole I told you about.

"I... I lost my knife. I think I left it back where we built the fire."

"That's five miles..." Andrew supplied and wrinkled his face into a frown. "You sure? I never seen you using it."

"Yeah, well I haven't got it, and unless one of you does, I've got to go back."

I tried to look perturbed and I guessed I pulled it off, because Andrew just said, "You'd better get started then. We won't wait for you here though. I have to get back to town."

"That's okay," I nodded and shrugged. "I'll be okay."

I don't think they were worried about my well being. They didn't waste any time before setting out for town. I hurried back the way I'd come.

When I got to my vantagepoint and crawled forward to the lip of the ridge on my belly, I was a little disappointed to discover that there was no one in the stream... no one showering beneath the waterfall. I guess I let a curse escape me. Almost immediately I heard the curse come back to me as an echo would. The only thing was, the voice was not mine. And it had come from directly over my head.

I looked up and the first thing I noticed was two naked feet. They were fairly large feet, and the bottoms were lightly callused and a little dirty, but they still held their pink tinge. The feet were hooked one over the other at the ankles. As I watched the feet unhooked themselves and a face peered down at me from between them and the legs to which they were attached.

"You were looking for something?" the face asked in a voice that would have been a tenor except for the crack in it.

"Yeah... my knife..."

The feet rehooked themselves. They seemed to tell me by their action that their owner did not believe a word of what I had said.

"...and you," I added. The feet unhooked themselves again and their owner peered down once more.

"And why do you seek me?" he asked.

"I saw you bathing in the stream," I answered. "Why are you in the tree?"

"It provides a modicum of safety."

"Safety from what?"

"Why, from you of course. You and your prying eyes."

"You saw me from down there?"

"We have good eyes," he explained.

"How many of you are there?"

"Just me... I meant that my... family has good eyesight." The way he said 'family' should have given me a hint... but it didn't.

"Are you from around here?" I inquired hoping that I could inveigle him to come down from the branch he was perched on.

"Yes... I live here."

"Do you go to Montgomery High?"

"No, it is not my school." He did not, however, offer to tell me which school was his. I noted this because I was wishing I knew. I had already determined that I would transfer to it on any pretext, if only to join whatever sports team he was a part of... just so I could shower with him... he was that stunningly handsome.

Then he cocked his head to one side, and his long wet hair fell limply away from his ear. I scrambled to my feet and turned to find the trail to town. When I did I found him standing in it. Obviously he was a gymnast... in addition to being an elf.

"My name is Clauvio, and your knife is in your left rear pocket." He did not offer me a hand to shake. He kept his hands on his hips, akimbo, and did not make the slightest attempt to cover his nakedness.

Elves are uncircumcised. Well, I suppose that came with the territory. I mean, most doctors wouldn't touch them, and they had no particular religious beliefs that anybody knew about. It was the first thing I noted though after the shock of having him land in front of me had worn off.

Of course I hadn't known that he was an elf until I got a glimpse of his ear. Then all of my old training kicked in and I hurried away with one purpose in mind... to get my sorry ass back to town and forget that I had ever seen him. But he wasn't about to let me do that... not without some trouble anyway.

"Do you have to leave so soon?" he smirked, knowing full well the effect he had on me. He knew that I was interested in him. He also knew that my upbringing would be filled with warnings about dealing with guys like him. So now he stood in my path and made it difficult for me. He made it doubly difficult by reminding me that everything I had admired about him was still there. The only visible thing that was different about him was those damned pointy ears... and the green blood, of course... but as long as he didn't cut himself...

"Aren't you gonna thank me for finding your knife?"

"My knife was never missing." I made a move to go around him. He stepped in my way.

"I could use a knife like that," he observed.

"They're forty-two dollars at Hannigan's," I advised him and tried the other side. This time he let me pass, but he turned around and followed me... real close.

"I don't have forty-two dollars."

"Yeah, well life's a bitch!"

"Maybe yours is... Mine's pretty good actually."

"I'm happy for you..."

"Where are we going?"

"I'm going home."

"Good, do you have cable TV?"

"Yes... wait a minute! You aren't coming home with me!"

"Why not?"

I stopped and whirled on him. He was almost touching me. And still he did nothing to cover his jewels.

"Cause I don't want you to!"

"Then why did you come back to watch me take a shower?"

"That was before I knew your..."

"Religion?" he cocked his head and quizzed.

"Species..." I threw back at him.

He got a funny look on his face and cocked his head in the other direction as if considering what I had told him. Then he brightened and reached up with both hands and grabbed his ears. He pulled them forward and waved them at me.

"You mean these! I understand now. You think I'm..." He stopped and laughed. "No, man, I'm just a Trekkie. There's a Trekkie Convention in town. I just glued my Spock ears on too tight!"

"You mean you're not an elf?" I asked hopefully.

"Of course I'm an elf, you idiot. I'm too young to know anything about Trekie Conventions otherwise! Do you get the Science Fiction channel?"

I turned and trudged away.

"What's your name?" he called.

"Leave me alone!"

"Hmmm... Humans have strange names." He did not, however, follow me. "Well, you know where to find me when you change your mind!"

"Fat chance!" I muttered to myself.

"No, the name is Clauvio. So... I'll see you later then, 'Leave-me.'"

I hurried a little in case he changed his mind. And I didn't dare to look over my shoulder until I was out of the woods and had gained the highway leading into town. Then, of course, I kept glancing behind to make sure that he did not find out where I lived.

I made it home all right. But when I did I felt foolish for having run away from him. He hadn't been menacing... he'd been inquisitive... just as inquisitive as I had always been about elves. All of a sudden I found myself cursing the fact that I had blown my one opportunity to find out for myself.

It hadn't had a lot to do with my original reason for wanting to spy on him. I hadn't known he was an elf. I had only known that he was naked... and good-looking... and hung. That had been enough to entice me back. And it wasn't that he had gained the upper hand by turning the tables on me. I had been all right with that. I was still hoping for a look at him when I finally spotted him on the branch above me. We were talking to each other for chrissakes!

No, it had been the ears... the ears and the years of constant reminders that there are some folk you just do not associate with. That had been what had done it... what had triggered the response. I had been conditioned. People all around me had conditioned me to believe that Elves were lower than low... that you did not associate with them... and anyone who did was in for a big disappointment.

I stepped back out onto the porch and watched the sun going down over Pine Ridge. I stood there for a long time and wondered about him. But mostly, I guess, I was wondering about myself. My hands slipped absently into the back pockets of my jeans. For a little while I did not notice anything out of the ordinary. Then it struck me. My fucking knife was gone!



Chapter Two

The Nerve

I have always considered myself a free thinker, and the next couple of days I did a lot of it. I thought about Clauvio of course. Well to be perfectly honest I ruined a perfectly good pair of freshly laundered bed sheets that first night thinking about him... or rather dreaming. But the main thing that I thought about... the thing that had kept me awake... was how I had reacted.

My reaction had not been at all the way I thought I might have done. It had been harsh, narrow and bigoted. Granted... the guy had stolen my knife. But somehow that was something I should have expected. Had I stayed a while longer, perhaps I might have learned something. Perhaps he might not have taken my knife if I had not turned my back on him.

I tossed and turned that night. Of course I did. Here I had awakened the previous morning, believing that humans were the only creature walking upright on the planet and forming words... the only creatures with an opposable thumb... the only creatures that could think and formulate plans of action based on logic and research... and now I knew that was not true.

For me, elves had died with Santa Claus. Any talk of them had been fairy tales. Myths abounded and told of other times and creatures from other epochs. I had believed as a child believes a magician is really magical. Then in the cold light of a Christmas morning dawn, my mother had dashed the illusion for me. She hadn't meant to do it, but had been a little too noisy bringing the toys out of the attic. That was when I knew that there was no Santa... no North Pole workshop... no elves.

And then I had gone and met one.

It had been the surprise... the shock and surprise of encountering a creature you knew did not exist. And yet there he was... or had been. My natural instincts had told me to get out of there. Now my curiosity told me to go back.

I was not refreshed the next morning when I awoke and found the mess I had made in my sheets. I showered for an extra five minutes just because I found it so relaxing. I almost fell asleep in there. Then, of course, I had to hurry everything else... dressing, eating and gulping down my milk while the taste of the orange juice was still in my mouth. I grabbed a couple of oranges for my lunch as well, and tossed them into my insulated lunch bag with the sandwiches I had made the night before. I sealed the Velcro closure and headed for the door.

Andrew was waiting for me on his bike when I finally pulled on my windbreaker and slammed the screen door behind me.

"Find your knife?" he asked.

I wondered for a second how he knew about my knife being stolen. Then I realized that he believed it to have been lost. That had been the lie I had told the others to get away from them.

"Naw... not yet."

"I didn't think you lost it up there. You probably didn't take it with you."

"Probably..." I allowed. I was no more interested in telling Andrew about Clauvio than I was in telling my folks. We pointed our bicycles towards the high school and pedaled our asses off to get there on time... for once.

We weren't going to the school for Summer School. We were going there to work. Both Andrew and I had been hired to clean the school during the summer. This allowed the regular staff to take their holidays. It also allowed the board of education to keep the place clean even with all the things that still went on there in the summer. But the best thing about it was Andrew and I got paid, and paid well, while we also got a little on-the-job experience.

There is a small office off the boiler room where we hung out with the regular janitors. Normally the boiler room was off-limits to students, so we also got to see a side of school life that was generally missed by the majority of the student population. We also got to work with a bunch of guys who knew everything there was to know about gold-bricking. This usually started as soon as we got to work. None of the regular guys was in any hurry to get to his duties. The office was a hangout and the boss had to all but boot us out of there.

Since it was summer, the boilers had to be shut down and the tubes checked and cleaned. This was a job for the regular staff, but they also needed somebody small to go inside the boiler chamber and clean things up in there. Andrew was shorter than I was, so he got that job. I got to go upstairs with Bob and scrub and wax the floors of the classrooms that were not being used by the Summer School crowd. I stashed my lunch on my shelf of the janitor's room closet, hung up my windbreaker and smiled an exaggerated smile at Andrew who was suiting up in the overalls he would need to keep his street clothes half-way clean. Andrew did not return my smile. He detested cleaning the boilers.

I trotted after Bob. I knew where our first stop would be... the computer room. Bob likes computers. He likes to play computer games and always schedules some of his early morning time to develop his hand/eye co-ordination. That means I get to play too... and don't think that Andrew doesn't know that!

The Summer School crowd is made up of two types of students; the ones who are getting a jump on the next year's courses, and the ones who are being kick-started to try to salvage the year they have just managed to blow. These two groups are at two opposite ends of the same line. They are likely to maintain this position throughout life.

None of the first classes is in the computer room. Bob and I have that pretty much to ourselves. But by the time the second period rolls around, the jig is up and we have to put in an appearance with our mops, scrubbing machine and bucket. We get one or two rooms done in the morning when it would be no trouble at all to do four. But, as Bob keeps pointing out to me, you have to pace yourself.

"Not to be confused with you have to piss yourself," Bob always adds as we scrunch down in a corridor somewhere to wait for the wax to dry. I usually laugh when he says that... not because it is so funny, but because of the way Bob says it. Of all the regular guys, Bob is the youngest and the easiest to get along with. He has no misconceptions about life and his place in it. His career, like his hairdo, was established a dozen years before when his girlfriend got pregnant and he made an honest woman out of her. The baby had been still born, making Bob's predicament even harder to endure. To make matters even worse, the couple had remained childless.

But nobody ever heard Bob complain. He was one of the happiest guys you would ever want to meet and easily the funniest janitor on staff.

But I wasn't laughing at Bob that morning.

"Why so glum?" he asked.

"I'm just a little tired," I admitted.

"Out with the girlfriend last night?"

"Naw... I just couldn't sleep."

"Why not?"

"Oh... nothin' special... I was just thinking."

"See, now there's where you made your first mistake."

This time I had to grin at Bob.

"What were you thinking about?"

"Elves..." For some reason I trusted Bob enough to confide that much to him. I guess I also wanted to see what his reaction might be. He didn't have one. He just looked at me. I guess he was waiting for me to be more specific.

"Do you believe they exist?" I asked.

"I know they do." Bob was not smiling any more.

"You do?"

"Yeah... why? You seen any of them around here?"

"No." Well, Clauvio was not from the neighborhood. It wasn't exactly a lie.

"Good." This reaction troubled me. But I let it go and tried to figure a cover story for why I had been awake the night before thinking about elves, since I had told him I had not seen any.

"I'm doing a project on elves and I haven't been able to find any good information."

"A project? What for?"

"For the Science Fair next year... I never have time to do it during the school year, so I thought I would get it done now."

"That's good thinking, Jeff," Bob assessed. "But I'd change my subject if I was you."


"Cause nobody wants to hear about... them."

"Yeah... I've noticed... What's the deal with that anyway?"

"The deal is, they're strictly bad news."

"How do you mean, Bob?"

"I mean they're bad news! They can't be trusted. They're always stealing things, and when they get caught, it don't make no difference."

"Why not?"

"Because they never die... Even if you put an elf in jail for life, that's only twenty-five years in this country. To the average guy, twenty-five years in jail is the better part of his life. To an elf, it's a holiday! And none of them are ever sent up for life. It's usually five to seven for the stuff they do."

"Shit... I never thought about it that way," I marveled.

"Course, it wasn't always like that. Used to be, there was capital punishment... that's something they understood. I mean if you could live forever, and some guy comes up to you and puts a rope around your neck, it's gonna mean something to you to lose all those years you coulda had."

"So they had a lot to lose..."

"You're damned right they had a lot to lose! That's why there aren't so many of them these days. Used to be they were hung for just about anything they did wrong... but not these days... These days we put them in a nice comfortable jail cell and give them three squares, and they just lay there and laugh at us."

"Is that why people drown elf babies?"

For the first time since I had known him, I thought I saw Bob's chin quiver a bit. He took a long time answering and only did so after pulling out his handkerchief and blowing his nose.

"Can you think of a better reason?" he returned.

In that moment I knew that Bob had not been the father of the baby his girlfriend had borne. I also knew that all that talk about the baby being still born was just a cover. I wondered if it was Bob who had drowned the baby, or if that was a service the doctors performed.

I allowed the conversation to end right where Bob had left it. Luckily it was time for lunch anyway. We put our mops and stuff into the janitor's closet and headed back down to the boiler room.

Andrew was a dusty mess and trudged off to the showers in the gym to clean himself up. The rest of us made do with a quick wash in the deep sink of the boiler room. Then I went to get my lunch. It was gone.

Losing your lunch around the school was not an uncommon occurrence, but doing it before you ate it was. I immediately suspected Andrew or one of the other janitors. But Andrew had spent the morning inside the boiler and none of the others had been into the room since they rolled out with Bob and I. Of course I checked all the hiding spots, and of course, I came up with nothing.

"Somebody must have snuck in and stole it," Bob offered.

"Is there anything else missing?" Damien, the boss, asked. We did a quick survey and came up empty. Nothing else was missing.

"D'you suppose that one of the students forgot his lunch and knew where to find a replacement?" Bob asked the room.

The rest of the guys shrugged.

I was out a lunch. It wasn't as big a deal as having lost the lunch bag itself. The thing had cost my grandmother over twelve dollars. I grabbed my windbreaker and set out to pick up a burger at the fast food joint up the street. On my way out I met Andrew returning from his shower. He was carrying my lunchbag.

"Is this yours, Jeff?"

"You know it is!"

"Well, what was it doing in the gym corridor?"

"You mean you didn't put it there?" I pulled the bag open and checked inside.

"Of course I didn't put it there. I ain't no thief!"

"Somebody else is," I told him. "I had two oranges in here."

"Don't look at me... I hate fruit."

That was true. If it didn't have icing on it, Andrew wouldn't eat it. But it was a minimal loss and I was just happy to have my lunch bag back. I thanked Andrew for finding it for me.

"That's okay, dude... Somebody has to look out for you. You can't seem to hang onto anything these days."

That was true enough. And I seemed to be the target of thieves. I pulled off my windbreaker and followed Andrew back down to the janitor's room.

That afternoon Bob and I went back to work... by way of the computer room again. This time, when we got there we had a little cleaning to do. Bob dusted the desks off and I pushed a broom around the floor between the desks. In the third row I came across the peelings of two oranges. I was sure that they were mine. They were lying beside a computer that was still on. It had a screensaver running on it. I pushed the mouse a little and noticed that the machine had managed to access the office server. I knew that it must be the office server because there was a screen that showed the confidential information of one of the students who attended during the regular school year. His name, address, telephone number, birth date and a complete history of his marks were displayed on the screen as well as an image of his face... an image that had been scanned from the photograph that had been taken at the beginning of the school year... an image of me.

I felt a shudder travel my spine. Then I leaned over and switched the machine off. I no longer wanted to share my knowledge with Bob. I had to keep it to myself. There was no way that I could have gotten into the school's server... not in a million years. But somebody had, and that somebody was interested in me. They were interested enough to want to eat my lunch and know more about the Chef. And whoever it was, they had resources that I could never match. They also had a lot of nerve.

The rest of the afternoon I was lost in my own thoughts. I worked like an automaton, mopping and scrubbing quietly while I tried to avoid the only thought that I could come up with... somebody was watching me. Somebody was interested in what I was doing... even though I was only cleaning the school.

When I got home that night I felt an air of forboding. I glanced involuntarily at Pine Ridge and as I mounted the steps to my house, my foot came down onto something that almost caused me to turn my ankle. I stepped back and looked down. My knife was sitting on the step. I looked once more towards Pine Ridge, and I knew that I would have to go back up there.

All I needed now was the nerve to do it.




Chapter Three


I got the nerve to go back up to Pine Ridge on Saturday. That's also when I got the time off to be able to go. The day was hot and sticky. It was the kind of heat that makes you gasp for air, because the air you get does not refresh you. It makes you almost as tired as not getting any at all. But I took Bob's advice and paced myself, especially when it came time to make the ascent to Pine Ridge.

Almost as soon as I got into the trees I had the feeling that I was being watched. By now, though, I was used to the feeling. I had had the same feeling all week... ever since finding the orange peelings and the open computer. My world had been invaded. Now I was about to invade Clauvio's. I had no idea what Clauvio's world contained. But I suspected that he knew all about mine. That's the advantage of being ageless... you have time to study things.

One thing was for sure. I knew that it had been Clauvio who had been watching me. Finding the knife on my doorstep made it a lead pipe cinch that he had been the one to bring my picture and confidential information up on the computer screen. That had given him my name, address and telephone number. I wondered how many other confidential files he had gone through before he found mine. I wondered how he had made it into the school. I wondered how he had figured out the password that would get him into the school's server. I wondered if he ever wore clothes.

The one thing I did not wonder about was if he was expecting me. I knew that he was. He had left all those clues to tell me that I was to come and see him again.

And I wanted to see Clauvio again. Sure I feared him, but it was a quiet terror, not the kind that spurs action... the kind of terror that leads the heroine to go down into the basement when she hears a noise... even though the one light bulb in the basement has just blown out, and there isn't a flashlight in the place. You just don't know what to expect, and you know you shouldn't do it... but it's in the script... so you do.

I had been summoned.

The air in the woods was a little cooler than it had been in the open. But the humidity was still oppressive and I had managed to soak through the tank top I wore. There was a mustiness all about me, no doubt from all the ferns and moss. The place was also loaded with mushrooms... at least I think they were mushrooms. I had enough sense though not to taste any to find out.

In spite of all the growth and vegetation there was still something missing. It took me a while to figure out what it was. Then all of a sudden it hit me when I stopped to catch my breath after a particularly rough ascent. There was no noise... other than my heavy breathing that is. There were no bird or small animal noises. Had I scared them away? Or had it been something... or someone... else?

I decided not to wonder about that. I expected it. I was not a great woodsmen. I had not intended to sneak up on Clauvio. I had not been concerned about the amount of noise I was making. I wanted him to know that I was coming. Of course anything else that inhabited the woods would also be aware of my presence.

I heard the stream before I saw it. And then I was there... there where I had first seen Clauvio... there on the ridge overlooking the waterfall and the pool it formed beneath it... the pool that spilled into the stream and trickled down the ridge. I did not creep towards it on my stomach this time. I stood boldly on the ridge and stared down. I panted and I perspired, and then I wished that I had followed the stream up the ridge rather than taking the trail above it. I wished this because I desperately wanted to strip off my clothes and do what I had seen Clauvio doing six days before. I wanted to slip into the pool and feel the cool waterfall shower away the sweat from my body.

Then I realized that there was nothing preventing me from doing it. I pulled off my tanktop and descended the steep bank to the mushy undergrowth beside the stream. I managed to soak both shoes before I was able to take them off. I slipped out of my jeans as I pulled off my shoes, and then I had to find someplace to put my clothes. I laid them on an outcropping of rock and then I found myself looking around furtively. Dropping my boxers is not something that I do in a crowd... voluntarily. I made damned well sure that I was indeed without human companions before adding my shorts to the rest of my clothes on the rock.

I knew that Clauvio would probably be watching, but him not being human somehow made it all right. It was sort of like getting naked in front of the family dog... except of course that the family dog was not likely to share his impressions with the other dogs in his circle of friends. I'm not sure of that, and there is not much chance of finding out, but knowing that Clauvio was not human somehow made me feel better. I don't mean to say that I felt superior. My reflection showed me that was not so. But I figured that Clauvio would not have a lot to say to any of my friends, and after all, he had shown me everything he had the weekend before. Besides, I have nothing to be ashamed of.

Evidently Clauvio agreed with me on that point. He didn't start laughing anyway.

I didn't see him at first. I was too busy watching where my feet were going as I waded up the stream to the pool by the waterfall. When I finally did spot him, I was surprised that he had clothes on. He looked almost human... except for the ears, that is.

"Thanks for bringing back my knife," I called, trying to effect nonchalance as I enjoyed the feel of the cold water on my body. Clauvio did not move. Nor did he comment.

"I'm sorry about the way I acted last week," I persevered. "I think it was because you surprised me." I pushed my face momentarily into the flow and when I looked for him again, he was not where he'd been. He had been up on the ridge at the place where I'd first met him. Now he was sitting on the rock where I'd left my clothes. He certainly got around quickly... and quietly.

"I've never met an elf before," I added.

He still hadn't said anything... hadn't acknowledged my presence really. He sort of just looked at me. Then he stood up and removed his clothes too. I figured that was a good sign. At least he hadn't decided to leave me the way I had left him. He picked up my clothes as well as his and waded through the water to me. When he arrived at the waterfall he hesitated a moment as he sized me up, then walked through the cascading water, being careful to hold our clothes out at arm's length and drawing them through a place between the water and the cliff from which it fell.

"Come in," he invited.

I thought that I was in as far as I could go, but when I stuck my head through the water, I saw him waiting for me in what appeared to be an opening in the rocks. I could have sworn that it hadn't been there before. I pointed this out to him as I joined him in the entrance to what turned out to be a small cave.

"An optical illusion..." he explained and led the way through the opening that nobody knew was there... at least nobody human... until now.

"That is the way it was planned," he told me, and handed me a towel that bore the inscription of the local hotel. The one he picked for himself probably came from someone's clothes line. It was much larger and bore a printed beach scene. I towelled my hair.

"What do you mean? Planned by whom?" I asked as I finished with a quick rub down.

Clauvio had already finished drying himself. He grinned a knowing grin and turned away, stepping up onto a stone that looked like a step.

"Take my hand," he advised. "It is a little dark through here."

I looked at his offered hand. So far I had not touched him. I wondered what the touch would reveal. Was he warm-blooded? Did his skin have the same texture as human skin? Would there be chemicals transmitted from his hand to mine that would forever alter my outlook on life?

I had come for answers... not more questions. I hooked my towel where Clauvio had hung his. Then I took a tentative step forward and reached for his hand. I had to. He was carrying my clothes in his other hand... the hand he had not offered to me.

"I am glad that you came back," he told me as he guided me through a very dark and very narrow corridor. The humidity had all but vanished. It was as if we had stepped into an air conditioned room. I felt a chill sweep through me and I shivered it out. I guess he felt it telegraphed to him through my hand. "The temperature here remains constant all year round," he explained. "It is one of the benefits of living below ground."

"You live here?"

"It is my home. I hope that you like fresh fruit. I keep no meat."

Evidently I had been invited for lunch.

"It's awful dark. Don't you have a torch or something?"

"No, there is something much better just ahead."

"Isn't it dangerous to walk through here without any light?"

"Only for those who do not know this place. That is one of the advantages of keeping it dark."

"You mean another optical illusion?"

"Yes... Now be careful. We are about to go to the right and then to the left. The space is narrow. Let me guide you through."

I felt the rock on both sides of my body and had to turn sideways to make it through the narrow place. Clauvio pulled me into a roomier place. I could still feel the heat of his body close to mine though, and I detected the sweetness of perspiration close to my nose. I wished that I could see him, and almost as soon as I had wished it, I found that I could. Clauvio's armpit was inches from my nose. I followed his arm up to a light switch... a rheostat that had been built into the wall just above our heads. It controlled the lights of a very large cavern that looked like a bachelor apartment.

"Welcome to my home," Clauvio greeted me. "I hope that you will find it warm enough here."

It was warm enough when I got my shirt and boxers back on. I would have pulled on my jeans too, but they were soaked at the ankles. I rang them out and hung them up to dry. All the while I dressed I looked about me. The cavern was uneven with a floor elevated in spots and wooden bridges where the spots did not meet. That separated the den into living areas... kitchen, living room, dining room and bedroom. Each area was furnished... some better than others. The kitchen was the most austere of all areas, devoid of modern appliances, with only a set of shelves, and a counter. There was a porcelain sink without taps, but it did have a drain that fed into a pipe. The pipe led into a crack in the floor and spilled its contents into the crack. The crack meandered across the floor to another larger crack and emptied into it. Both of these cracks emptied into a stream that flowed through the cavern from one end to the other. This underground river pooled in places and cascaded over rocks in other places. It supplied the fresh water for the kitchen before it picked up the waste at the other end of the cave. The underground river was what necessitated the wooden bridges. The step was a short one from kitchen to dining room, but from there to the living room and from the bedroom to the living room, the gap was considerably larger. The level of the rooms was about even except for the bedroom, which was elevated about two feet, and the bridge to it was almost a set of stairs. The bridges all had handrails which were either waxed or polished by ages of usage... I suspected the latter.

Clauvio fetched a bucket of fresh water from the upstream end and carried it to the kitchen. He used it to wash his hands, and then he ladled some into a battered pot and set it onto a gas burner. He turned the gas on and lit the flame with a wooden match. Only then did he turn to me and motion that I should join him in the living room. We each entered the room by a different route. I took the bridge from the entrance hall, while he arrived by the dining room crossing.

He remained as naked as he had been when he passed through the waterfall, and I found myself watching him... especially the good parts. It was hard not to look at him. Clauvio was a stunning young men. I remember thinking at the time though that I really didn't know how old he was. He had the waxy smooth countenance of youth, but there was something old about his green eyes. Maybe it was just the way they looked at me... sadly, as if he had hopes that had no hope of being fulfilled. Perhaps he envied me my humanity. Perhaps it was centuries of watching the world. I know that our first encounter had left him wondering... possibly as much as it had left me wondering. And now we were both determined to find out... but what?

His body was strong and well-formed, his chest broad and creamy smooth except where the rosy brown nipples highlighted it. His shoulders were broad and strong curving down to well-muscled arms. The arms were hairless except in the pits where tufts of black hair adorned each one.

Clauvio's build was not v-shaped. There was very little narrowing to the waist, but neither was it thick. The muscles of his abdomen were all visible, and his navel was an outie. Hair sprouted from just below his navel and grew in thickness exponentially as it would in a human until it bushed above his genitals. The genitals were of decent size, even in their flaccid state... although I could not be sure if I was seeing them in that condition. A portion of the head and the slit it contained were visible through the porthole formed by his foreskin. It had been that way both the first time that I saw him and then again this day. Perhaps he had a permanent chub. Perhaps elves did not have the same abundance of foreskin that humans do. I found myself staring at it and had to force myself to look back at his face.

His face now exhibited an impish grin. The grin exposed his elfin teeth. Elves have longer canines than most humans do. It makes their smile seem a little more sinister than it normally might. There is a contradiction in this, since elves are not exclusively meat-eaters. The teeth seem to be there for effect only.

"Sit down, Jeff," Clauvio gestured to the sofa. I sat on the one end of it and he settled onto the other. "I am preparing tea to drink. Will that be all right?"

"Sure..." I had drunk tea once or twice, but did not find it particularly satisfying. I played the part of the guest well, though, and did not let on. I could always drown it with milk and sugar.

"It is a special blend," he advised. "I make it myself. It goes well with fruit."

I nodded a knowing nod, even though I lacked the experience to know what he was talking about. That was why I was here after all... to get information. That's what I had told myself anyway. But the more I kept telling myself that, the more I realized that it was a lie. I had all the information I needed. What I was looking for now was the experience.

"This is a nice place you've got here," I noted.

"But I don't get cable," he complained, gesturing to the television that sat in what would have been a corner had the room had walls.

"How did you get all this stuff in here?" I found myself asking. The corridor we had come through was not large enough to accomodate the television let alone the sofa on which we sat. I stifled the urge to ask him where he had stolen it all.

"There is another entrance... three to be exact, but only one is large enough to bring things in. Everything that you see here was thrown away by a human. Every year I find more things discarded in the annual clean-up."

I supposed that wasn't the same as stealing. You might even say that elves served a purpose, using what humans had discarded rather than filling up the land fills.

Across the cavern the water in the pot began to boil. Clauvio lifted himself easily and stepped across the bridge to the kitchen. I admired his fine firm asscheeks and the sturdy legs that supported them. He worked at the counter brewing the tea and filling a bowl with the fruit he kept in an alcove in the rock wall. There were apples and pears and bananas... none of them crops that could be picked in this climate at this time of year.

But I did not pay much attention to the fruit or his tea preparation. I was trying to get rid of the erection that threatened to tent in my shorts. I hoped that I would be able to hide it from Clauvio. But when he called to me to join him in the dining room, I was sporting a full raging hard on, and there was no way to hide it.

Clauvio smiled when he saw that, and quickly grew one himself.




Chapter Four


There was no mistaking the fact that I was interested in Clauvio. What surprised me was that Clauvio was interested in me. It went against everything I had ever been told about elves. Elves were supposed to be interested in having sex with women. That was how they kept their species growing. There were no girl elves, only girl humans. The elfin baby was always a boy. All these things went through my mind as Clauvio led me up the gangway to his bed. I mentioned them to him.

"Did that not seem strange to you?" he inquired.

"What? Elves having sex with humans?"

"No, that is only reproduction. I meant the fact that elves are only male."

"Yes, but that means that they must have sex with a female human."

"Not must... it is only when another elf is created. The rest of the time, elves are mostly in the company of other elves... or accommodating humans."

"Like me?"

"There are many episodes of Elfin/Human companionship. There are very few of them that involve a woman."

"You mean that elves engage in..." I swallowed. "...gay sex?"

"It is not considered gay sex. It is considered simply sex. You humans have a habit of labeling things. The hardest thing to learn in your languages are the adjectives. That and your idea that you own the earth make you very difficult to understand."

"Should we be discussing politics right now?"

"No, of course not... What do you like to do... I mean, in bed?"

"Sex? I don't know. I have never had sex."

Clauvio looked at me. I didn't like the way he did it. His smile was too broad. And his canine teeth scared the bejesus out of me. For some reason I thought of Bob, and the way he had spoken of elves. There had been fear in Bob's voice as well as anger.

"Why are you looking at me like that?"

"It is lust that you see."

"Lust? For me?"

"For your virginity... It is an unparalleled prize."

"Then I take it you are not a virgin?"

"Not for some time now."

"How much time?"

"You are very inquisitive."

"And you are very elusive."

"But you must understand... we do not measure time as you do. We do not count our seasons and lay them one upon the other. There is no reason. The stages of our existence are attained one by one, but they do not rely upon the calendar or the phases of the moon or how many times the leaves have fallen from the trees."

"So which stage are you at?"

"The final one... the maturity stage... I am fully functional and I shall stay this way."


"Unless something untoward occurs... But forever is a difficult concept. One cannot remove the past from the calculation."

"Now you've lost me..."

"It is really quite simple, Jeff. In order to live forever one must have been born when the universe was born. I was born when the universe was already in existence. Therefore I will not live forever... forever being impossible for me... but I may live for evermore."

"What do you mean, 'may?'"

"I may be killed. I cannot control that."

"Oh... Yeah... Do you think that will happen?"

"Probably... there are very few ancient ones left, you know."

"Ancient ones?"

"Yes... those that remember the early years... the last in this country were all killed off during the witch hunts. That is when the Elfin scattered."

"The witch hunts... you mean they were considered witches?"

"No... but they were hunted nonetheless. Elfin corpses were strung from almost every tree. Naturally the ancient ones were well known and easy to find. They were hunted out while others managed to escape."

"But why were they hunted? I only read about the witches being burned or drowned."

"The witches... Those women were our mothers."

Now, suddenly, what had been an aberration in my past, finally began to make sense. The witches were collaborating with the elves. The one could not be killed without eliminating the other. The Elfin ears made them demons. The witches who bore them were ordinary women who fell under elfin enchantment. For this they paid with their lives, and in a fit of religious fervor, the elves were also rounded up. Their existence had been hinted at, but no one dared to speak of them openly, other than as demons, since to do so would draw into question man's place of dominance on the earth. And so the slaughter of the elves had not been recorded other than as an attempt to drive out demons.

Clauvio could see the revelation in my eyes.

"But I did not bring you to my bed for a history lesson," he smiled. And then he leaned forward and pulled my boxers to my ankles.

I stood motionless and allowed him to do it. Then he removed my top and I was as naked as he was. Both of us were erect, but for the moment we could only gaze into each other's eyes. Clauvio's eyes were brighter now... almost as if a light shone from them rather than reflected off them. Their color, which had been spearmint in the sunlight, was emerald in the incandescent light of the cave.

Clauvio waited, still holding my shirt in his hand. I waited too, uncertain of what to do. And then I noticed that my shorts were bunched about my ankles. I stepped out of them. Clauvio seemed to nod his approval. I kicked the shorts away. They landed in the stream that wound through the cavern. Clauvio leapt to retrieve them before they could disappear through the other side of the cave with the wastewater from the sink. I felt stupid. Clauvio wrung the shorts out and draped them over the rail of the living room bridge before rejoining me in the bedroom. But still he made no move to touch me.

Then it dawned on me why.

I reached out and grasped his arm, drawing him to me. When our chests touched I licked my lips and leaned forward to find his. He did not respond right away. He let me nibble his lips with my own before finally opening them and passing his tongue into my mouth. Our lips pressed together then as he sought to explore my mouth. I allowed him, happy in the knowledge that he now felt safe enough to do it.

I should have realized before that an elf would never initiate an encounter. If his reading of the situation was wrong it might condemn him. But there was no doubt that he had instigated the affair. The fact that I was in his home was proof enough of that. That made it my duty to touch him first if the affair was ever to get started. I had to want it.

Clauvio accepted my acquiescence, and lowered me to his bed at his first opportunity. There we explored each other's bodies with our fingertips. His fingers made me tingle wherever they touched me... and they touched me in the strangest places. At one point they caressed the soles of my feet, and doddled with my toes, counting them, I suspect.

It was then that I noticed that Clauvio's feet possessed only four toes each, a fact that I had not been aware of until then. That began my surreptitious examination of everything else. I conducted part of this examination with my fingers between his ass cheeks, and found, to my satisfaction, an entry portal. I excavated it with my middle finger. My middle finger sank quickly into it to an alarming depth before being clutched by it and held for the moment... the moment that it took for him to smile into my eyes, and reach behind me. His finger did not gain the admittance that mine had, but found itself tracing the outside of my bung.

I tried to relax it... I honestly did. But there was no way for me to do it without his using more pressure. He would not. He was content, it seemed, to admire it and anticipate it. But I had no idea at the time of what he was anticipating. Had I known, I might have tried to find my own way out of the cave. But then I would have missed the most exciting day of my life... and quite possibly the most painful.

Clauvio rolled onto his back and drew me onto him. My stiff cock seemed to find his upturned ass on its own. His legs rested themselves onto my shoulders as I sank into him and thrilled to the warmth that enveloped me and massaged me. My eyelids grew heavy as my body gave itself over to the feeling in my groin. Then another sensation caused me to open my eyes again. Clauvio was pinching my nipples between his thumbs and forefingers. I watched stupidly as he played with them, and then I felt my ass begin pumping, as the ancient instinct took over, driving me into and out of him.

His eyes told me that I was doing it right. Well, that's a thing that you really can't do wrong... unless you're a complete idiot. I turned my head and kissed the instep of his foot. I didn't lick it or anything like that... that is until much later.

I was aware of what I was supposed to do. Not having fucked before does not mean that I had not relieved myself... sometimes without any help from my hand. I was sensitive to touch and the touch I was experiencing was finer than any I had ever experienced. I knew that it would not take me long. I remember wondering about the etiquette of coming off. Should I withdraw? Should I discharge within him? If I did pull out, where should I splatter my seed? On him? On the bedclothes? On the floor of the cavern... providing I could reach the edge of the bed in time, that is?

Clauvio must have known what I was thinking. His legs drew back and his feet slid down my chest and under my arms. They encircled me and drew me even deeper into him. I would tell him when I was about to discharge, I decided, and leave the rest to him. Almost as soon as I had made up my mind, I felt the unmistakable urge, and tried to communicate it to Clauvio. I'm sure it was only a series of indecipherable grunts, but he seemed to understand. His heels slipped down to my cheeks and pushed me into him. There was no doubt that he wanted me within him when I came off, and I obliged... filling him and spilling nothing.

We remained locked together as the last spasms shook me... spasms unlike any I had so far experienced. And then it was finished, and he lowered me to the bed beside me... smothering my mouth with his kisses... kisses I made a half-hearted attempt to return as I tried to understand what had happened... and what might lie ahead.

And then he left me. I was too dazed to know at first that he was only going to clean himself. I felt the pang of abandonment and wondered if I had done anything wrong. I raised myself from the bed and began a search of the cavern for something with which to clean myself. I settled for my wet underwear. Then I had to wash it in the stream and ring it out once more. I hung it once again where he had draped it. That's when I heard the toilet flush from somewhere behind the bedroom. I regained the bed just as Clauvio reappeared. He entered the cavern from behind the Oriental rug that was draped along what I had assumed to be one wall of the bedroom.

"You have regained your composure," he noted. The impish smile made him look even more handsome than he had in the open. Obviously the light of the cavern was less intense. It provided shadows that would have been washed away by the sun. Those shadows served to highlight the visible features and obscure the indirectly lighted ones in the same way that a flashlight beneath the chin creates a sinister countenance.

I returned his smile and patted the bed beside me. He slid in and I felt myself encircled in his strong arms. His legs rubbed along mine as he raised his foot to massage my calves, and I reached down to grasp it. He laughed when I raised his foot close to my face and counted his toes one by one. I had been right. There were only four. I went for the other foot. He was now twisted in the bed, his head at the foot, his feet on my chest. I compared the two feet. They were both broad enough to have had five toes, only the little toe was missing. His feet were also close enough to my nose for me to tell that they had the faint aroma of decaying vegetation about them. It was not a strong smell, or an unpleasant one. It was just there. I imagined he spent a lot of time barefoot. The callus was not as heavy as I would have thought it might be, but it was still a stronger and tougher foot than mine. The toenails were clear and surprisingly well kept.

"I am happy that you came," he offered, and for a minute I wondered how he meant that. "It is very lonely here sometimes."

"Do you live alone?"

"Yes... now..."

"But there are others?"

"Yes, but not here. I have this to myself."

"Do other humans know of this cavern?"

"Yes... some... But they no longer come here."

"Why not?"

"Because they have other places they prefer to be."

"Then I am not your first?"

"No... does that alarm you?"

"No... I was only asking."

"Have you finished counting my toes?"

"Yes... you're a little light."

He laughed and twisted himself around to cuddle against my back. We shared one of his pillows. It wore his fragrance. I found myself breathing it in. I could not now get enough of him. I held his hand in mine and counted his fingers... five.

"We have not yet eaten," he reminded me. "Perhaps we should do that now and then we can return to the bed."

"Just a few minutes more," I begged. "I feel too good right now to eat."

"As you wish..."

"I wish that you would hold me then," I answered. "And never let me go."

"Never is a long time."

"For you it is..." I admitted, "...not for me."

"Then we must think of the time we have together," he told me.

"That is all I can think of," I confessed. "I just know that it's not going to be enough."

He did not answer. But he held me closer to him and I felt his hot breath on the back of my neck.



"Have you enchanted me?"

"I hope so..."

"Yeah... I do too."






Chapter Five


Even our meal was a sensuous experience. The tea was a surprise... unlike any tea I had smelled or tasted before. It needed no sugar or milk, which was a good thing, since Clauvio had neither in his cave. He did keep cheese. In fact he had a variety of them, which he claimed to make himself. From these, he said, he got most of his protein and calcium.

We ate in the nude. He confided that he seldom wore clothing, that he found it too confining and that the constant temperature of the cave was agreeable to his body. At night he slept beneath a single comforter, which he sometimes used when watching television as well. But if he was in the least bit active he did not notice the coolness.

It was impossible also to know the time, or even the time of day. Like Clauvio, the cavern was timeless. There were no clocks anywhere... except on the video tape recorder, and it blinked a constant twelve o'clock A.M. Evidently elves were no more concerned about figuring out how to set those things than humans were. And the cave admitted no sunlight other than that from the television screen.

Clauvio claimed to be a television addict, although it was never once on while I was there with him. There was a video game machine of the old variety, as well as a large assortment of games. These were older games and still of the type that used cartridges. I did not see a CD in his cavern, or a machine capable of playing one. There were stacks of books everywhere, many of the books displaying bookmarks at various points in their leaves. Clauvio proclaimed only a limited interest in reading, but mentioned an admiration for the way the books were constructed. He also claimed to be far more interested in me than he was in any of his usual pursuits.

He proved this after lunch when he once again led me towards the ramp leading to his bedroom. This time I was a little more anxious. He had made it known to me that it was now his turn. I approached the bed with trepidation, and that was only heightened when he turned to me and showed me the size of the anticipatory erection he had managed.

"Do not worry," he soothed, "I will prepare you."

Somehow his reassuring smile did not reassure me. It had something to do with those canine teeth. I glanced once again at the monstrous cock that waited to plow itself through an opening that was far too small to accommodate it.

"How?" I asked. I guess he noted the alarm in both my voice and my face. At any rate he leaned over and kissed me tenderly. Then he lowered me to the bed, and his face to the place that he sought between my ass cheeks.

My sphincter muscle contracted. There was no way that he could fuck me. But he was not trying to fuck me... not with his cock anyway. Instead his tongue darted around the ridge that formed as he threw my legs into the air. The tip of his tongue explored the aperture. I felt myself relax a little and the tip of the tongue took advantage of the opening. It wiggled itself in and massaged the muscle, trying to influence it to open even further. But I did not open. My mind said yes, but my mind seemed to be no longer able to control my sphincter. I thought that we had reached an impasse when Clauvio's lips attached themselves to the area around my hole. He sucked at me and then I felt his tongue search deeper. Somehow I had managed to admit him.

A gasp escaped me then. I had never known that anyone would do such a thing to another... I wanted to think "human." But that was not right. Neither were the thoughts that raged in my mind. I wanted desperately to do to Clauvio what he was doing to me. And I knew that I would, when given half a chance.

Eventually Clauvio added a finger to the mix and I was able to admit it. Mostly this was because the finger he used was coated with some sort of grease... something that he claimed to have made himself. I was a little worried about that until I remembered that Clauvio was supposedly a vegetarian. I did not believe that the compound would contain anything that might harm me. Nor did I feel any hurt, not even when he added a second finger. He continued to kiss me back there too, soothing me and whispering his love for me as he explored me inside.

When he lifted my legs and positioned himself between them, I anticipated that I might be able to accommodate him. Eventually I was, but in the beginning I almost believed that I would be split in two. Had I not wanted him inside me, I would not have been able to endure the feeling that irreparable damage was being done to me. Clauvio was thick and I was being forced to open... to accept something beyond anything that had ever passed through me before.

I know I cried. I think I whimpered. I am just as sure that I begged him not to stop. The paradox was not easy for me to believe. I desired him and detested him in equal measure. I grabbed at his tits and stretched them for him. This only caused him to grin, and the grin told me that Clauvio too was feeling the intensity of the moment. He thrust even harder into me and laid himself even closer to my face. I found myself growling now and I bit his arm. I felt my teeth sink into him. I knew they would leave a mark. Neither of us seemed to care. He bit my ear for me. The pain was intense and almost made me forget the searing pain between my legs.

I could not bring myself to bite his ear even though I had the chance. I figured there was a reason for them to be shaped the way they were. I did not feel inclined to find out what it might be. And besides, the pain was subsiding. I was able now to endure it. Ten minutes later I had calmed myself enough to know that I was actually beginning to enjoy it.

After I achieved the ability to relax and accept him, there was nothing that I wanted more than to be loved by him, even though I would have sworn that morning that I would never allow anyone to ever do to me what he had done. He was a masterful lover, as much concerned with my pleasure as he was with his own. He nibbled at my thighs and calves, sinking those canines into me until it felt that he would pierce the skin. It kept me attentive, when I was inclined to drift... to allow the experience to take over my whole existence. Clauvio wanted me to stay involved... to stay with him... to be there when he finished fucking me. I stayed, having nothing better to do. There is nothing better than that experience, and I did not want him to finish.

Eventually he did finish. I felt the electricity that shot through him... the spasms that shook us both, and then he collapsed beside me. I covered him with kisses, nibbling at his features and devouring his flavor. He recovered quickly and led me to his bathroom.

It was an ancient affair, but functional with a chain hanging from the overhead tank. The wooden seat had seen better days and numerous backsides. When I was finished I pulled the chain and tried not to think about where the waste was going or what it contained. Clauvio had finished cleaning himself when I emerged. He smiled at me.

"Will you stay with me a little while longer?" he asked.

"How much longer?"

"Long enough to do what we have done again?"

"And then again if you wish it," I answered.

He kissed me in response. Then he led me to his bed again and we talked of many things... none of them important. I do not know for sure how many times we made love. But we drifted into sleep quite often and I dreamed of him, only to waken and find my dreams had come true.

When I finally did leave, the sun was going down and I had to hurry to make my way back to town before it became too dark to see. The town was strangely quiet for a Saturday night. There was hardly anyone out. I was still a half a mile from home when the police cruiser pulled up beside me.

"Is your name Jeff?" the officer asked.

"Yeah... Jeff..." I answered.

"What's your address?"

I told him.

"You're the one," he decided. "Get in!"

"Why? What have I done?"

"I dunno. What have you done?"


"Well, you've taken your sweet time doing it."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean you were reported missing. Where've you been?"

"Up on Pine Ridge... Why?"

"Why didn't you tell your folks you were going to be gone this long?"

"What? I've only been gone for the day."

"Like hell! You were reported missing last night! Now get in the car!"

I should have known when I pulled my boxers on. They had been dry... too dry for only having had part of one day to dry. But there had been no sunlight to show me the passage of time. The cave was always the same... always the same time... always the same temperature. And I had been with Clauvio for whom time meant nothing. Now I knew the effects of enchantment, and how they carried over into the other world... my world.

I got into the car.

Of course my mother and my grandmother were happy to see me... happy and relieved that I was back. But then, of course, they wanted to know where I had been. The police were kind of curious too. On the drive home I had invented a story of finding a cave and taking the opportunity to spielunk it, losing my way and finally, overcome by exhaustion laying down and falling asleep.

"For two days?" the officer wanted to know.

"Yeah..." I answered, a little defensively, "...if today is Sunday like you say it is."

"Hmph... Rip bloody Van Winkle," the officer snorted. Then he took his leave.

My mother worried over me a little more and then tried to feed me. But I had eaten before leaving Clauvio, and could only manage a few bites.

"Would you like something to drink?" my mother asked.

"Yeah... you got any tea?"

"Tea? You?"

My grandmother looked up from her knitting.

"Yeah, I would like some tea... if you have any..."

"Of course..." my mother answered distractedly. "I'll make it."

"I'll have a cup too," my grandmother interjected.

"I'll make a pot," my mother decided.

She left to prepare the tea. When she had gone my grandmother looked at me peculiarly.

"What is it, Gram?"

"Were you alone, Jeffrey?" she asked.

"I just told you..."

"You just told us a lie, Jeffrey. I am asking you to tell me the truth now. Don't worry, I will not tell anyone. Just tell me if you were alone or not."

"No, I wasn't..."

"You're a good boy, Jeffrey," she smiled a worried smile at me, "but you're a rotten liar." She returned to her knitting as my mother came back into the room.

"The tea will be ready soon. You had better get a shower, Jeff."

I was on the verge of telling her that I had showered already, when I realized that it would only complicate matters. Caves were not supposed to have showers and toilets in them, let alone electricity and beds. I decided that I had better do as she told me.

When I finished showering the tea was ready. Mine was waiting for me with the cream and sugar containers in front of it. My mother and my grandmother were already having theirs. I picked up my cup and absently sipped from it. It was bitter... not at all like Clauvio's had been. I loaded it with cream and sugar, but not before my grandmother had once again looked at me peculiarly. I wondered what she knew... but not enough to ask her.

I was really wiped the next day. I could barely drag myself out of bed and I had showered again before I realized that I really did not need to.

Andrew looked at me with a knowing grin when he arrived.

"What?" My voice was annoyed. I was getting pissed off with people knowing more about me than I knew myself.

"Did you get laid?"

"What are you talking about?"

"A guy doesn't disappear for the weekend and not get laid," Andrew observed.

"You're an idiot," I observed right back.

"I'll take that as a yes."

"You can take it and jam it up your ass for all I care."

"A definite yes!" Andrew nodded to himself and set out towards the school.

Evidently news of my disappearance had gotten around. When I got to the school I found out just how far it had gotten. All of the regular janitors gave me the sly eye when I came into the office beside the boiler room, and Bob even went so far as to say that he had thought he might be working alone this week.

"Jeff got laid," Andrew shared with the room.

"The way he's walking, it looks like somebody laid him," Damien, the boss, noted.

The look I directed at him was one of surprise, but I suppose it could have been interpreted as shocked outrage. I got away with it anyway, I thought... at least until it was time for Bob and I to head out to the computer room.

"Damien was right," he noted. "You are walking funny."

"Yeah... well I spent the night in a cave," I told him. "I'm just a little stiff."

"A cave?"

"Yeah... I went spielunking and got lost... okay?"

Bob did not make any more fun of my stiffened gait that morning. For one thing, we were at the computer room. For another thing... well, I'm not sure, but I think that Bob was doing a little mental arithmetic. I wondered if he had been talking to my grandmother.

Somehow I made it through the day. When I got home I found myself spending a lot of time on the front porch staring up at Pine Ridge. I felt anxious... anxious to be up there, but even more anxious when I realized that there was no way I could ever go back.




Chapter Six


Of course I would have to find a way to tell Clauvio. And it wasn't just the problem of finding a way of communicating with him. It was also a way of doing it without hurting him. My love for him was still intense. I yearned to be with him. I needed him within me... needed his kisses and caresses... things I had no hope of having in my world. But his world demanded too much. For him an afternoon of sex was just that. For me it turned into a weekend. In his world the clocks were stopped while in my world they kept running.

And it wasn't just the time. It was the apprehension of others when they heard my explanations. Teenagers often lost track of time, but they could usually account for it when queried. Whenever they could not it was probably not because there was no explanation, but rather there was no explanation that the teenager wanted to give. This was what Andrew thought he understood when he assigned my lost weekend to a roll in the hay with a girl in the next county.

I did not sleep Monday night. I passed most of it at the window of my room, a window that looked out on the ridge. Tuesday was a bitch. My lack of sleep meant that my tail was dragging all day. Don't think my performance wasn't noticed. But Bob did not make any comment about it, since he really wasn't busting his ass either.

When I got home Tuesday night I threw myself onto my bed, and I do not remember anything more of Tuesday until I heard my window slide open just before midnight. I remember freezing in my bed and not wanting to look. Perhaps, I thought, the robber would not kill me if he thought that I was asleep and could not identify him. I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to make deep slow breathing noises. The last thing I expected was for him to whisper to me to wake up, but that's what he did. He did it several times and poked me a time or two before I realized that the interloper was Clauvio... and he was now in bed with me.

"What are you doing here?" I whispered back at him in as hoarse a whisper as I dared use.

"I got lonesome. I thought I would come and sleep with you."

"You can't do that!"

"I'm already here..."

His arm went around me as it had in the cavern.

"What if somebody hears us?"

"I don't snore."

"You mean you only want to sleep?"

"Of course... I'm saving myself for the weekend."

"But they might find you here in the morning."

"I won't be here in the morning." He snuggled against me.

"You're naked!"


"Did you walk through town like that?"

"No, you ninny, my clothes are on the floor."

"Oh... sorry..." I tried to relax, even though I knew that my mother was just in the next room. She was, however, a sound sleeper. My grandmother, who was a much lighter sleeper, slept downstairs. I supposed it would be okay.


"What is it Clauvio?"

"Would you mind if I slept on that side?"

"Clauvio, this is a single bed. It doesn't have sides. Does it really matter which one you sleep on?"

"I like to be close to the window... just in case..."

"Just in case of what?"

"Just in case I have to make a quick escape."

"We're on the second floor," I complained. "If you go flying out the window in the middle of the night you'll kill yourself."

"I'd never do that."

There was that word again... never. I supposed it applied. Clauvio was Peter Pan and his cave was Never Never Land. I slipped out of the bed and tiptoed around it to the other side. When I got back into it Clauvio had rolled over and was now facing me. I looked into his eyes and they seemed to glow, much like a jacklighted deer. He smiled at me. There were the fangs again. Somehow they seemed more sinister in my world. I turned my back to him and pushed my butt into his crotch.

"Why don't you take your shorts off?"

For a guest he certainly was demanding.

"Why? What are you planning to do?"

"Don't worry, I'm not going to fuck you. You scream too much for that. It's just that your shorts are nylon, and it makes my dick feel funny."

"I've got a better idea," I muttered. "Why don't you take them off me?"

Clauvio jumped to his task, but I got more than I bargained for. As he lowered the shorts his tongue found my butt hole. I forgot myself and moaned with the pleasure of it."

"Shhh!" he hissed.

"You started it!" I hissed back.

He clambered back into the bed and snuggled up to me again. This time his chub found its way between my ass cheeks. I was wide-awake now. Funnily though, he had drifted almost immediately to sleep. I reached behind me and held his cock and balls. They were cool to the touch. The rest of him was hot. I reached down and grabbed my own genitals. They too were cooler than the rest of me.

I massaged my nuts a little and became aware of something else that seemed different. I checked Clauvio's nuts again. There were three of them. He was an endless series of surprises. But then, I had heard that three testicles were not unheard of in humans. In fact I knew a guy who claimed to have three, but would never prove it to anybody. We had all assumed he was lying, even though he told us that he did not show anybody because he did not want to be the star attraction of a freak show.

Clauvio moved and his foot slid up my leg. I felt the coarseness of his callous scratch my skin. Then his instep found the spot he was looking for and our bodies were inextricably entwined. I would not have been able to sleep like that, had I wanted to sleep. But I did not want to sleep. Now that Clauvio was with me, I only wanted to lie in the bed with him draped all over me like a python, and breath in his essence. His essence was a little strong. In fact, if the truth were told, he stank. It did not bother me however. I was just happy to have him in my bed.

And my resolution about telling him that I could never see him again vanished.

I drifted off to sleep about five o'clock, and when I awoke an hour later he was gone. I wondered if his visit had been a dream. The window was exactly as I had left it the previous afternoon. I was on the side of the bed closest to the window. There was not a hint of his odor to confirm his visit. It was as if he had not been there at all.

I drifted back to sleep. If it had been a dream, I decided, it was a dream I wanted to dream again.

My alarm went off at the usual time, and as usual it was the last one in the house to go off. My mother had already gone to work, and my grandmother was already out in the garden. I pulled myself out of bed and noticed right away that I was naked. A shiver went down my spine then, and I knew that Clauvio had indeed been there. I pulled the bedclothes apart. There was dirt on the bottom part of the sheets. I gulped. I wondered if I would be receiving regular visits, or if the previous night had been an aberration.

I stumbled through my morning ablutions and managed to get myself together in time for work. Andrew showed up a few minutes later. I was already on my bike and we had started down the lane when my grandmother called for me to come back.

"What is it, Gram?"

"Jeff, did you hear anything last night?" she asked.

Right away I was anxious about what she might mean.

"No," I answered a little too defensively. "Why? Did you?"

"No," she said and motioned for me to follow her, "Come here a minute though, will you?"

"I'm gonna be late, Gram."

"It'll just take a minute. I want to show you something." She disappeared around the corner of the house. I found her standing beneath my bedroom window. She was pointing to the flowerbed that ran along the full length of the house. The dirt was mulched and piled high, and groomed perfectly. All except for the patch just below my window. There a large footprint indented the dirt and left what amounted to a signature of its owner. I swallowed hard when my grandmother pointed to it. "Do you notice anything strange about that footprint, Jeff?" she asked me.

I could not answer. I knew whose footprint it was.

"It only has four toes," my grandmother pointed out. "Are you sure that you didn't hear anything last night?"

I knew there was no sense lying to the old lady, so I did the only thing I could under the circumstances. I told her the truth. "Gram, I've gotta get to work." I left her staring at the footprint and hoped that she would not inspect my bedroom. It would not take soil analysis to ascertain that the dirt on my sheets had come from her flower bed.

Of course, once that idea got into my head, I could think of nothing else for the rest of the morning. It took my lunchbag at noonhour to jostle it out of my mind. But then, of course, I was worried about something entirely different. The lunch in my bag was not the one I had put there. Instead of the sandwiches and pudding cup I had placed there that morning, it now contained an earthenware mug with a wrapper on the top of it, and two apples.

"I decided that we should have lunch together," Clauvio explained when I finally found him in the shower room. He had finished taking a shower when I got there and was now concentrating on devouring my lunch. His long tongue licked the last of my pudding from its cup. "This is good."

"Do you have any idea how much trouble you're causing?" I asked.


"I'll let you have two more guesses."

"They would both be the same," he grinned. "Do you know what your mother is serving for dinner?"

"Clauvio! Will you be serious?"

"I am being serious. I don't see any problem."

"You are the problem," I shot back. "You aren't supposed to exist. You're supposed to be a myth."

"But I do exist, Jeff. And what is even worse, I have a right to exist. There are laws, you know."

"I thought elves didn't believe in laws."

"We don't. Laws are made for people who will not obey them... not for the ones who would anyway. Those people don't need laws. And laws are mostly designed to protect property, not people. That makes them stupid. But you people insist on having laws, so we must endure them and their penalties. So even though we don't believe in laws, we are affected by them, and one of them gives us a right to exist. Ergo, here I am. Now, what's for dinner?"

"I don't think that elves are covered in the Bill of Rights."

"But you aren't sure, are you?"

"No," I admitted, "but even if you were, I don't think that my mother would welcome an elf to dinner."

"What? After the way I treated you this weekend?"

"That's another thing! Why didn't you tell me what time it was?"

"You never asked. Jeff, you have to take some responsibility for yourself."

"Why? Because you say so? And besides, you enchanted me."

"No, Jeff... You take responsibility because until you accept it, your rights are meaningless. And enchantment is not something only elves can do. I was pretty enchanted by you too."

"You were?"

"Of course I was. I have been ever since the first time we met. I hardly ever go into town, but here I am... my second time in two weeks."

"Third," I corrected.

"Not really... I never went home this morning."

"Well, where did you get the stuff you put into my lunch bag?"

"I brought it with me."

"How come the tea is still hot?"

"I used the microwave in the home economics room. Those things are great! I'll have to get one of them!"

"I don't think there are many of them put out on junk days."

"That's true, and the ones that are, are usually beyond repair. Does your mother use a microwave?"

"You can't come to dinner, Clauvio!"

"Why not?"

"Because you're an elf!"

"Is that all?"

"Isn't that enough?"

"Not for me... no..."

"Well it is for my grandmother... She found your footprint in her flower bed this morning."

"I'll apologize if you like..."

"It's not that! Your footprint only had four toes."

"I'm sorry... it's all I could manage!"

"But it wasn't enough. All my life, my family has been telling me not to get involved with elves! I can't just bring one home to dinner."

"How will they know I'm an elf?"

I looked at him. He smiled at me. He was still naked of course. His eight toes and three nuts presented themselves conspicuously.

"You only have four toes on your feet."

"I'll wear shoes..."

"You have three nuts."

"You noticed that?"

"Yeah... last night..."

"I promise, Jeff, I will not drop my drawers in front of your folks."

"What about the ears?"

Clauvio did something then that scared the shit out of me. He looked at his ears... both of them... at the same time. I had seen people cross their eyes, of course, but I had never seen anybody spread them the way he did. I covered my eyes with my hands and turned away.

"Sorry," he apologized. "I forgot how humans feel about that. There... How's that?"

When I looked at him again he had dried his hair and combed it down over his ears with his fingers. For the moment he looked normal... at least from the neck up.

I could not get over the way Clauvio blended in. He looked human without the pointy ears sticking up the way they normally did. He dressed himself and once the rest of him was covered, he was just another teenager. The one o'clock bell rang.

"Jesus! I'm late for work!"

I grabbed my lunchbag and headed for the door.

"So... I'll meet you at your place then?" Clauvio called after me.

"Clauvio... we'll talk about this later."

I raced back down to the boiler room.




Chapter Seven

Guess What's Coming To Dinner

I did not see Clauvio for the rest of that afternoon. The summer school students stayed in class until two o'clock in the afternoon, before they were released to salvage what they could from the summer's day. But I had to work until half past four. That was the hardest time of the day, when the school was empty of all but the reminders of the instruction that had taken place. It took all of the two and half-hours to clean the classrooms that were used.

Andrew usually rode home with me too. He lived beyond me two blocks over on Elm Street, which everybody had taken to calling Dutch Elm Street after the blight. Most days we just drove to my house and he kept going, but that afternoon he noticed that there was someone in my front yard with my grandmother. I felt my heart leap into my throat, and although it was the last thing I needed, Andrew being the person that Andrew was, decided to check him out with me.

I had suspicions about Andrew being gay, but I was not as interested in Andrew as Andrew obviously was in me... that is, when he was not more interested in some new piece of fluff. And Clauvio was about as interesting a piece of fluff as either of us had ever come across.

Andrew, of course, had never assumed that I was available... until that afternoon. He also got a new slant on my lost weekend, which he put into play the next day. I'm sure that he only did this because I did not ask him to come and meet Clauvio. He hung around long enough, but I was too worried about Clauvio being alone with my grandmother to even notice that Andrew was still there... and eventually he left.

"Hi, Gram," I said nervously. "Who's your friend?"

My grandmother looked at me for the first time since my arrival. She was smiling.

"Clauvio tells me that you invited him to come for dinner, Jeff. Did you call your mother yet?"

"No... no, I haven't."

"Well, you'd better do it. She will probably want to pick up a bucket of chicken."

"Clauvio can't eat chicken... he's a vegetarian."

"He is?"

"I am?" This seemed to be news to both of them.

"You aren't?" I asked.

"Not that I'm aware of."

"But I thought you said you didn't use any meat."

"I said I did not keep it. I don't have very good refrigeration. Chicken would be fine."

Now, all of a sudden, and for absolutely no reason that I could pinpoint, I wondered what it was that he had used to grease my ass. I did not mention this however. I had a call to make. But I was no longer worried about Clauvio and my grandmother. They seemed to be getting along well. Now all I had to do was explain to my mother that I had a dinner guest.

I told her that dinner would be my treat that night since it was my company that necessitated the change in plans. Of course she asked me all about Clauvio. And of course I could not answer her. It's not that I could not have dreamed up a story on the spot. It's just that I had no idea what Clauvio had already told my grandmother. There was no doubt that they would compare notes later, and as my grandmother had no hesitation in pointing out, I was a rotten liar.

I managed to tear Clauvio away from her long enough to quiz him. Unfortunately I quizzed him in the recreation room where the television was. He answered my questions rather distractedly as he ran through the channels in search of the Science Fiction channel. The remote control gave him no trouble. He proudly bragged that he could understand any man-made machine, as long as its logic was not too fuzzy.

The story I got from him was heavily weighted towards the fuzzy.

He was supposed to be a Summer School student I had met on my lunch hour. I pointed out to him that the Summer School students did not get a lunch hour, but worked straight through from nine until two. No matter, he brushed it off, he doubted that my grandmother was aware of the school schedule. I had promised to bring him home to dinner that night, since his own family was out of town for the week, and I had promised to help him with some computer stuff.

"What sort of a family would abandon their son for a week?" I argued. That's not the human way.

"What about the people who give their children away?" he countered. He seemed to think that he had a point.

"You didn't tell my grandmother that you had been given away, did you?"

"Just for the week." There did not seem to be a problem with this... in his mind.

"Do you have any idea how stupid that is?"

"It is not stupid at all. Humans are always giving their children to someone else... the ones they do not drown, that is."

"What are you talking about?"

"Admittedly it is only the elfin babies that they drown," he hedged. "And you can imagine the consternation that causes someone like myself. But I stand by what I said. Humans give their children to each other all the time."

"You're talking about day care." I had had an epiphany... either that or I was starting to think like an elf. "And babysitting..."

"Aha! You admit it!"

"That is not the same thing as giving them away."

"Granted, it is usually only for part of a day, but they do give their children to others to take care of them."

"But not usually at our ages." I knew I was making an assumption here. But I trusted him to understand that I meant to say 'apparent ages.' "Usually someone of your... stature would be permitted to live by himself. It would not require arrangements to be made. But it would still be considered a chancy thing to do."


"Because teenagers are starting to experiment with things like sex and alcohol..."

"Did I tell you that I make my own wine? I should have offered you some."

"There's only one thing to do," I decided, completely ignoring this latest outburst. "We'll tell them you're European. That should explain the enthusiasms. Where would you like to be from?"

"Italia... it is where I am from."

"You come from Italy? I mean really?"

"Yes... Is Clauvio not an Italian name?"

"It's close to one. But you really came from Italy?"

"Yes, of course... it was a few years ago however."

"Just as long as you can convince them of that, it should explain your unique behavior."


"Yes. Would you care to try for eccentric?"

Clauvio allowed as how he would settle for unique. Then I gave him some tips about dining with humans and we went over the specifics of how we had met, where he came from and why, precisely, his parents had left him alone.

Dinner was a reasonable success and my mother seemed as infatuated with Clauvio as my grandmother had been. When they heard that he lived outside of town, they insisted that he spend the night. When they heard that he would be companionless for the rest of the week, they insisted that he spend the week with us.

I was beginning to think that we had pulled it off. Then I came downstairs shortly before ten o'clock to get some of the left-over chicken for Clauvio, who was naked of course and absorbed in an Internet contest of Dungeons and Dragons in my bedroom. My grandmother was preparing for bed and had come to the kitchen for a glass of water for her bedside. I couldn't help smiling at her and asking, "Well, Gram, what do you think of Clauvio?"

She looked at me with the same concern she had looked at me the night of my return from the cave. "Remember when I told you that you were a rotten liar, Jeff?" she asked.

"Yeah..." I grinned the foolish condescending grin of someone who is anticipating an apology.

"Well, Clauvio's worse. Just between the two of us, Jeff, that boy's a bullshitter!"

Although I doubted that my grandmother would make trouble for us, her impression of Clauvio did little to assuage the nagging doubt I had had since seeing the two of them together that afternoon. I couldn't help thinking, if only she knew the truth! Then I realized that she probably did.

The news of my grandmother's assessment of him did nothing to ruin Clauvio's appetite, either for food or for Dungeons and Dragons. It turned out that this was precisely the effect he had been striving for.

"When you are trying to hide your true identity, it is always a good idea to present another one."

"I don't think you hid anything from her," I told him. "I think she knows exactly who you are."

This time Clauvio did turn away from the computer.

"If that is so, why has she not mentioned it?"

"That's just it... I don't know!"

Clauvio shrugged and returned to his game. I sighed and watched his back for another hour. It was a strong back and interesting for the way it moved, but it did not move all that much and I was grateful when it was time to go to bed. Clauvio smelled better that night and we did not have to worry so much about being discovered. But we still were concerned that my mother might make a bed check and find us entwined. She had made me bring the mattress from the chaise lounge up to my room. One of us was supposed to be on it.

"Clauvio?" I started when the lights were out and we had lain together for a few minutes in the darkness.


"Would you mind if I kissed you good night?"

Like a flash he was hovering over me, his green eyes blazing.

"No... not like that," I protested. "I want to kiss you."

"I am ready..."

"Yeah, too ready... What I meant was, I wanted to know if you would just lie there and let me kiss you... all over... and not do anything."

"I think I would like that," he told me. Then he flopped over onto his back.

"Close your eyes," I said. "They're like a couple of night lights."

"You don't want me to watch?"

"I don't want you to do anything... remember?"

Clauvio looked a little uncertain, but he closed his eyes... one by one. There was still enough light from the street for me to see him, and I pulled the sheet from our bodies and got out of bed. There was a brief flash of light from one of his eyes as he felt the bed move and I threatened him with a blindfold if he didn't cooperate.

I started in the middle. Clauvio's belly button was a pretty thing as those things go. It was intricate; an overhand knot often used by European doctors, and presented a ridge of flesh that begged to be explored. I explored it. It turns out that Clauvio is ticklish. He did his best to control the spasms that racked his frame and his stomach muscles clenched forming a perfect six pack. But his eyes stayed shut.

I switched my focus to his nipples, tracing the right one with my tongue and then sucking it to erection. It wasn't the only thing that reached erection and I attacked that part next. I licked the slick head and parted the slit with my tongue before swallowing what I could of it. This elicited a gasp from Clauvio. I can't say that I blamed him. It is difficult to remain uninvolved when that part of you is. But I could not allow him to breach the rules, and I abandoned it in favor of his toes. I kissed each one of them individually, and sucked the big toes, both of them together, before working my way down the sole to the heel.

Clauvio didn't know what to expect next and was a little surprised when I arrived at his mouth. I bit the lower lip and pulled it away from the upper one, releasing it to splash back against his teeth. Then I parted them with my tongue and worked my way into his mouth, sealing the opening with my own lips. A kiss is not just a kiss. There is the flavor aspect to be considered. It sometimes has something to do with the dinner menu, but most often, the taste is that of the person being kissed. Moistness is also a factor. A dry mouth is definitely a turn off, just as an excessively moist one is. The perfect balance is obtained when the mouth is moist enough to wonder just whose spit is coating your tongue, and the flavor is definitive enough to know that it is not yours.

Clauvio's flavor tended towards chicken... perfectly moist chicken.

I broke the kiss and Clauvio swallowed. I think he smacked his lips as well. So I kissed him on the forehead and rolled him onto his stomach.

Parting his heavy cheeks proved to be more difficult than I had anticipated. He was fighting me. I think I knew why. Neither of us had showered; him since noon, me since morning. There was no telling what I would find there. But I would not be denied and slapped him to make him admit me.

"Don't blame me if you run into a Klingon," Clauvio broke his silence.

"Shut up!" I said it before I really heard what he was saying. "What do you mean, run into a Klingon?'"

Clauvio maintained his silence.

"Answer me," I ordered.

"A Klingon is a ball of shit attached to an ass hair."

"Do you have ass hair?"

"I don't know."

"Well, open up and I'll tell you."

Hesitantly he opened. It was the only odor about him that I could describe as a smell. It was a funky smell, sort of like ammonia... and shit too, of course. But I could not see where my tongue was going, so I followed my desire and went for the opening. It was sweet.

I know any description of anal/oral sex is bound to elicit an automatic response from most people who have never tried it. I will therefore take the high road here and mention only that two lovers who truly love each other are willing to overlook a lot. I must however also mention that that sort of contact inevitably leads to total involvement on the part of both parties. That probably accounts for me waking up in the morning with Clauvio's feet beside my face.

I kissed him awake and told him to hit the showers.




Chapter Eight


Clauvio left the house at the same time that I did, but he left on foot. This kept him away from my grandmother at least until late afternoon. I did not want him playing with her pumpkin. For one thing, I doubted that he could fool her. He would have an easier time handling Andrew. This was because Andrew was on his bicycle. We quickly left Clauvio in our wake.

Of course then I had to explain Clauvio to Andrew. It was a cinch he was not going to buy that business of Clauvio being a Summer School student. Andrew had already checked out the basket of every manchild in the place and none of them had contained the goodies that Clauvio's contained... in size or in quantity.

I made Clauvio my cousin for the ride to school. For the first time, Andrew did not ride on ahead of me. He doddled along by my side and inquired if Clauvio had been the reason I had gone missing the previous weekend. I gave him my best "What the hell are you talking about?" look. This only settled the thing in Andrew's mind.

"If he's your cousin, what's the relationship?"

"What do you mean? He's my cousin."

"Yeah, but how? First cousin? Second cousin? Mother's side? Father's side? Twice removed or kissing?"

"My father's side..." I grabbed. My father was dead. Andrew knew that. Now I needed to obfuscate a little more. I needed a different last name. Come to think of it, Clauvio had never told me his last name. Did elves have last names? Was Elf they're last name? Clauvio Elf??? Well that worked for me. "He's the son of my aunt."

"Yeah? What's her name?"

Jesus! What was with Andrew this morning?

"Claudia? Aunt Claudia."

"Claudia? Claudia and Clauvio... Lemme guess... Your uncle's name is Claude."

"No, my uncle is the family asshole. His name is Andrew."

Andrew sped up and rode on a little ahead of me. When I caught up to him he demanded, "What's their last name?"

I drew a blank. I glanced down at my bicycle and wished something would go wrong with it that would necessitate my stopping for a while. That's when I saw it... emblazoned on the cross bar... "Raleigh..." I told him. I needed to get somewhere where I could write all this down... just in case Andrew asked me again some time... like on the way home. Clauvio would also have to memorize it just in case Andrew ever cornered him.

I worked on my cheat sheet while Bob obliterated aliens. Writing things down always helped me to remember them. If I had to go to the store I would always make a list. After I made the list, it didn't matter whether or not I took it with me. Once the list was on the paper it was also burned into my short-term memory. That must be why we have short-term memories... for grocery lists. I mean, you wouldn't want to put that stuff into memory that you would keep with you forever. I don't mind carrying Huckleberry Finn around in my brain forever, but one quart of milk and a pound of butter are just not the sorts of things I want to hearken back to in my old age.

I guess that's when it struck me that Clauvio knew a lot about me, but the only thing I knew about him was the outside... and the internal temperature of a few inches of his poop chute. I knew precious little about his background other than his claim to having been born in Italy.

"Bob..." I was speaking before I had really formulated an idea of what I would say.


"I won't be here tomorrow. I've got to take the day off."

"You clear it with Damien?"

"Not yet... I just remembered... I just wanted to tell you."

"Anything wrong?"

"Not really... I just have to do some things for my grandmother."

"Family related responsibilities..." Bob still had not looked up from his screen. Talking while playing video games was Bob's idea of multi-tasking.

That night we had a regular dinner... sausages and mashed potatoes with a tomato from my grandmother's garden. Afterwards, I let Clauvio immerse himself in the Science Fiction channel. He was absorbed in the programs, but managed to give me a running commentary on his opinions of their relevance... to his world.

"It is amazing that humans will accept that little creature in the swamp when they know it is just a puppet with somebody's hand in its ass, and yet they reject elves."

"Television is a willing suspension of disbelief," I commented. I don't know where I'd heard that, but it seemed appropriate.

"Yes, and that includes the news," he agreed. "Nothing ever happens if a television camera is not there."

"There aren't too many of those places left," I admitted. "Even on the Internet people are putting cameras in their own bedrooms."

"Really? And what happens?"

"Usually... nothing."

"Do you think I should have one in my cave?"

"Not the way you walk around..."

Clauvio snickered at that.

"Besides, you don't have a computer yet, let alone a telephone."

"I have a telephone."

I don't know why I was not that surprised.

"What's your number?"

"I don't know..." This did not surprise me either. "I can only make outgoing calls."

"Then it's not your telephone."

"Yes it is... I picked it up in a Spring clean up. It is just not my telephone line."

"Whose line is it?"

"It comes from the ranger station on the ridge."

"That station was abandoned years ago."

"I think that they forgot to disconnect the telephone."

"Do you ever send out for pizza?" I laughed.

"Only when I have company," he answered absently. The program was resuming.

"Where do they deliver it? The waterfall on Pine Ridge?"

"No... I already told you that there are other entrances."

Clauvio was lost again in his program. I added another project to my list of activities for my day off. I would try to find out where else the corridors of the cave led.

I had determined that it was in my best interest to find out more about Clauvio. After all, he had invaded my world, even going so far as to look up my confidential information on the school computer. The only way to do this was to investigate his cavern when he was not there... when I had the opportunity to look through his things without him looking over my shoulder. I hated to go behind Clauvio's back... for anything other than a hump... but his lack of candor seemed to demand that I find out for myself.

I packed a flashlight and a garbage bag into my lunch for the next day and strapped on my wristwatch. Of course Clauvio noticed the watch right away and wished that he had one. I told him that I would buy him one for his birthday. He told me not to bother... that he would probably be better off without one.

As soon as Andrew and I had left Clauvio four blocks behind, I told Andrew that I was taking the day off and veered off for Pine Ridge.

"Can I come with you?" he called after me.

"Not unless you've cleared it with Damien," I shouted over my shoulder.

"You mean you did? Why didn't you tell me?"

Andrew had no chance of hearing my answer so I waved without looking back.

I made it to the waterfall and took my clothes off. I bundled them into the garbage bag with my lunch bag and the flashlight and walked through the waterfall... into the side of the cliff. It took me a little while to find the entrance again and I was soaked of course. I toweled quickly and got dressed before turning on the flashlight and heading through the next opening.

I wished almost immediately that I had not brought the flashlight. The entrance to Clauvio's cavern was Bug City! I do not like bugs! But I made it to the twist and turn that marked the cavern's front door and squeezed through it. The flashlight made finding the power switch easy. Then the cavern was lit and I did not need the flashlight anymore to see. Nothing had changed... nothing that is except that there was no Clauvio there to welcome me. Somehow his absence made the place look junky rather than the miracle of utility that it had appeared to be just four days before.

I wondered if that was part of the enchantment... if there was such a thing as enchantment.

I started in the kitchen, examining his tools and utensils... all of them old and most of them broken. There was a complete collection of screwdrivers, but only a few from the same set. Some of them had painted wooden handles that were greasy with age, while others were formed plastic handles. There were scissors and knives, a couple of mismatched forks, several different types of spoons and a butter knife. There wasn't much in the way of tools that he did not have. He had a pair of pinking shears for chrissakes!

His stocks of food were limited. There was some fruit and a few vegetables in a bowl that was chipped and had a crack. It appeared to have been glued. None of his dishes matched. Each one bore a different pattern. Some were very good china while others were made from plastic. The china and a ball of twine were the only things in his cupboards.

Nothing in the kitchen told me anything about Clauvio other than that he was not prosperous. I climbed to the bedroom.

The bed had not been made. I lifted the mattress and found the box spring beneath it. There was nothing hidden under the bed either. I found one book on the bedside table. It was an old book but well preserved. The words in it were German and the bookmark was a letter addressed to Clauvio. The envelope was not with the letter, so I had no idea where he had been when he received it. Nor did I have any idea of what the words said. I can't read German.

The signature at the bottom was just a very neat set of initials... W.A. It was the second page that I found interesting. It was a sheet of music with compact notes delicately scribbled onto the page. I can't read music either. I folded the letter back into the book and replaced it where I had found it.

The living room was next. Here I found more opportunities for my searching. I leafed through about four hundred books. None of them was from a set, but a lot of them bore inscriptions. I noticed that they were all inscribed to Clauvio. Then I noticed that one of them bore a date... June 12, 1645. I almost dropped the book. Clauvio was a whole lot older than seventeen. Either that or Clauvio was the family name, and these books had been passed down from his forefathers. That thought made me feel a little better. Clauvio had confessed a lack of interest in books. And yet he had a room practically filled with them.

I picked up a book that appeared to be relatively new. It was a copy of Tom Sawyer. The inscription was dated 1923. I leafed through it and a clipping fell out onto the cave floor. It was a death notice. The deceased had passed away on October 4th, 1976. His name was Lloyd Baxter. For some reason the name looked familiar. I slipped the notice back into book and looked once again at the inscription in the front of book.

It read, "Hope the plumbing works." It was signed, "Lloyd." I felt a chill on my spine as I realized that the book had been a gift from the man whose death was announced in the obituary. After that I did not look into any more books.

Nothing about Clauvio's video game collection was untoward, other than its being in dire need of updating. The television drew two channels from God knew where, and both of them were snowy. I switched it off and sat on the couch, and almost impaled myself on a large set of panpipes.

That was the cave and all of its contents, except for the Persian carpet and the bathroom beyond. That's when I remembered the other entrances that Clauvio had mentioned. I grabbed my flashlight and set out to find them. That's also when I discovered that I had left the flashlight on all the while I had been in the cave. I switched it off while I was still able to see with the electric light and stepped behind the carpet.

The hall contained the bathroom and a narrow passageway. I made sure that the flashlight was still good and started up the passageway. It grew quickly dark and I noted with some alarm that the light from the flashlight was a lot weaker than I had remembered it being. I pressed on though, sure that the passage would lead me relatively quickly to an opening in the side of Pine Ridge.

But no such opening appeared. I took to using the flashlight sparingly. Lighting my way for a second and then walking it in the dark. That's how I managed to miss a step down and go ass over teakettle flat on my face. I don't know to this day where the flashlight got to. I had managed to twist my ankle into the bargain, and it soon became very clear to me that I was hopelessly lost to boot.

With no way to light my path I could not go forward. And I had passed enough chambers along the way to know that going back by touch would be impossible. Simply feeling the wall would get me turned around in no time, and without the sun to show me north from south, I would never be able to get my directions.

Had I been interested in paradoxes at the time, I would have noted that my telling my family and the police that I had gone spelunking and managed to get myself lost in the cave, had been an accurate prediction of exactly what had eventually happened.

I crouched down and tried to think. I desperately needed a sign to show me which way to go. I supposed that there would be a search party organized. But that would not be until I was noticed missing. Since I was not expected at work, the alarm would not be raised until I failed to come home that night. I checked my watch. But there was no way that I could see it. It had neither a Day-Glo nor batteries. I settled myself for a long wait. Once again Clauvio's world had grabbed me in its timelessness.

The blackness was so inky that sounds took on a whole new life. I believed I could almost hear the spiders weaving their webs. Water dripped somewhere with a regular rhythm that was probably centuries old. I guess I drifted off to sleep after a while... water will do that to you. I remember dreaming that I was hearing a sound so clear and hauntingly beautiful that I thought I might have died and gone to heaven. I opened my eyes to the same blackness... but the music continued. It was beautiful... sad and yet hopeful at the same time. Then I realized what it was. The music was coming from a set of panpipes. With any luck at all, I was not dead.





Chapter Nine

Family Matters

"Clauvio!" I called.

The music hesitated for a moment, and then resumed. I called again before I realized that the music was getting louder. I continued to call to him until I was sure that we were in the same corridor. A little while later I saw two green lights and felt his warmth. I realized that he was there by my elbow.

"Clauvio?" I was never happier in my life to see anybody... except of course, I couldn't see him. I could not tell how angry with me he might be. Nor did his voice reveal how he felt.

"Jeff? Why are you here?"

"Oh Clauvio... I'm lost?"

"Yes, that is so. But how did you come to be lost?"

He wasn't making it any easier on me. Nor could I blame him. It was all my own damned fault.

"I was snooping on you."

"Oh? Is that all?" He said it as if it meant nothing.

"Yes... and I'm sorry."

"You should not be sorry. I consider it a compliment."

I was getting a little ticked with these constant reminders of Elfin superiority. They don't even get angry when they should.

"You would..." I complained. "But why? Aren't you angry that I snuck into your place?"

"No... you are always welcome wherever I am... and it is not mine... I am its."

The Elfin view of ownership has always given me trouble. But here in the caverns I could understand it a little better. Clauvio had not, after all, built the cave. He had only furnished it... and that, with human castoffs.

"I looked through all your things."

"And have you not let me use everything of yours? Did I not borrow your knife?"

"What does a fellow have to do to make you angry?" I asked.

"There are several things that I can think of... but you have not done any of them... that I am aware." Clauvio's voice took on a note of concern. "But you have hurt your ankle..."

"How do you know that?"

"I can see that you are favoring it. Can you walk?"

"I think so... but how can you see anything?"

"Do you mean that you cannot?"

"That's precisely what I mean!"

"Hmmmm... that is interesting."

"I can only see your eyes..." I corrected myself. "It seems that they glow in the dark. perhaps that is how you can see."

"I do not know... But it is an interesting thought."

"Would you mind if we thought about it somewhere else? I have to get home."

"Certainly... take my hand."

"I'm sorry... I can't see it. You'll have to take mine."

Clauvio was my saviour. I limped along behind him. And naturally, as I began to feel safer, I began to wonder... and being human, I began to ask questions.

"Were you following me, Clauvio?"

"I am leading you..."

"No, I mean when you came here today... Did you know that I had come here?"

"I suspected it... yes..."

"But how? I didn't tell you I was taking the day off."

"No, but you told Andrew..."

"Andrew? You mean he didn't go to work either?"

"I found him waiting in the street."


"I think he was waiting for me."

"Sounds like Andrew... Did he ask you a lot of embarrassing questions?"

"A few... but mostly he wanted to know if I was interested in spending some time with him. He invited me to go to his house tonight."

"Are you going?"

"No... I am staying with you, remember?"

We turned a corner and the light from the cavern became dimly visible. I could now make out Clauvio's form. I could also make out my watch. It was already dinnertime.

"Clauvio, where's your phone. We're late for dinner."

"Perhaps you would allow me to look at your ankle before we leave."

My ankle was a little swollen and he bandaged it for me. He did a professional job of it too. We got home at seven thirty and had our dinner... our cold dinner. There's a rule around our house. Dinner time is dinner time. Anybody who comes late eats it cold. This also applies to company.

Afterwards I left Clauvio watching television. I had to talk to my grandmother. She was waiting for me in her room. She hadn't summoned me or anything, but I knew that she was expecting me. I parked myself in her doorway and waited for her to look up from her knitting. When she did, there was no doubt in my mind that she knew why I was there.

"Gram, you know about Clauvio, don't you?"

"I was wondering when you would figure it out. Yes, I know him. I have known him for many years."

"But he doesn't know you."

"He does... he just does not remember me. I was much younger then, although he has not changed."

"Did you and he..."

"No, Jeffrey," she cut me off, "nothing like that. I was probably ten years old at the time I knew him. Clauvio was a friend of my brother."

"Uncle Gerry?"

"No... No, I had another brother... a half brother... I guess you would call him a step brother. His name was Lloyd."

"Lloyd Baxter..."

"Yes," she looked at me and smiled. "He was much older than me. Lloyd was the son of your great grandmother's first husband. He was at least ten years older than your uncle Gerry, and by the time we grew up he was already gone."

"Gone where?" I almost knew what she was going to say.

"He worked in town, but he lived out north of here."

"You mean up on Pine Ridge?"

"Well, not exactly on it..." My grandmother smiled her most reassuring smile. "Most folks believed that he lived under it. Nobody ever actually saw where he lived. He got his mail at his store. But sometimes people would see him washing himself in the creek up on the ridge. They say that he would see them watching him and seem to disappear."

"You say that he was a friend of Clauvio's?"

"Oh he was much more than a friend." The old woman left me to figure the rest of the implication out for myself. "But he was a good man, Jeffrey."

"How come I never heard of him before this?"

"Because there was no need. There are some things families just do not discuss. Lloyd never hurt anyone, and his greatest desire was to be left alone. The family let him alone just the way he wanted."

"But he was not alone, was he?"

"No, he was most definitely not alone... and he never wanted anything from anyone. It was as if he too stopped being human. He worked when he was needed. He never owned a car. He had a handcart that he used to move whatever he needed."

"He was a plumber, wasn't he?"

"Yes... did Clauvio tell you?"

"In a way..."

"Most people thought that he could have done a lot better if he had worked at it. But that was not Lloyd's style. He was happy to be able to help out where he could, and if the person who called him didn't look like they could afford to pay him, he would forget to send them the bill."

"I think I would have liked him."

"Most people did not know how to like him. They thought him peculiar... some thought him perverse... especially when the rumours started. But he paid them no mind. I like to think that he was happy. I have no reason to think otherwise. But I will never know. It was a secret that he took with him to the grave."

"He liked Mark Twain," I observed absently.

"Yes, but how did you... Well, I suppose that there is a lot that you know."

"I'm still learning, Gram." I leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.

"Just don't forget that you are human, Jeffrey. And don't ever forget that we love you."

I kissed her again and then went out to watch Clauvio watching television.

It was during the commercials that he noticed that there was something going on behind my eyes. But it was still eleven o'clock before he would give up the Science Fiction channel and come with me up to bed.

I led him into the bedroom. He was already stripping when I pulled him back towards me and grabbed him in a full body kiss. He had not been expecting it, but he soon dropped any resistance.

"You are feeling very passionate," he told me when we broke our kiss and recovered our breathing.

"I had to do that," I told him.

"I am grateful that you felt compelled," he answered.

"It's because I have some questions to ask," I told him. "And I wanted to have one final kiss before I did."

Clauvio's brow furrowed.

"Why a final kiss?"

"Because after I ask them, you may not feel like kissing me again."

"Oh... that kind of question..." Clauvio hesitated before taking my hand and leading me to the bed. He sat on it. "Well?"

"Do you know Bob Vecchio?" I asked him.

There was a haze of recollection in Clauvio's eyes. It was not a recollection he wanted to recollect.

"Yes... I know him." Clauvio sighed. "I thought that I knew him a lot better."

"What happened, Clauvio?"

"What happened?" he repeated. "What happened was... he grew older."

"And you didn't..."

"I did what I had to do. As usual, it was not acceptable. I had hoped that Robert... Bob would understand."

"But it was his girlfriend..."

Clauvio turned on me and it was the only time that I ever felt intimidated by him.

"No! She was nothing to him!"

"He married her," I protested.

"He had to... in those days it was not acceptable for a man not to be married. He married her because she was pregnant and there was no father. She was convenient. It was the answer he needed. But he did not know that I was the father."

"Until the baby was born."

"That was the first that he knew of my betrayal... yes."

"And he drowned the baby."

"He drowned the baby because it was mine. If it had not been mine, I am sure that it would have been allowed to live."

"Then Bob loved you... not her."

"Love and hatred are at the opposite ends of the same line... just as he and I are now."

"Clauvio, I'm sorry..."

"I needed that child." For the very first time I saw tears in Clauvio's eyes. "I thought that he might let me keep it."

"Perhaps it was not him. Perhaps it was the doctor."

"The baby was born at home. I found it in the garbage."

"Oh... Clauvio..."

I stretched out a tentative hand in his direction. He took it and pressed it firmly with his own.

"I do not ask too much, Jeff. I only want what everyone else has."

"But for that you would have to give up the one thing that everyone else cannot have."

"Immortality... I sometimes wish that I could. Forever is a long time to be lonely."

"How long, Clauvio?"

"Too long..."

"The books were all presents to you from lovers, weren't they?"


"You have a lot of books. That would make you one of the ancient ones..."

"It would. Does that change how you feel about me?"

I shook my head.

"Nothing can change that." I sat down on the bed beside him. "You came from Italy after the witch hunts."

"By then I was living in the Black Forest."

"In Germany..."


"Is that where you met the man who gave you the music?"

"He was not a man. He was but a child. He was a good friend to me because he understood what it was like to be different."

"What was his name?"

"I called him maestro... but it was not his name. I left for America shortly after I met him and I never saw him again."

"The book..."

"A present at my departure..."

"The music..."

"A piece of his soul to bring with me..."

"Is that the piece you were playing when I heard you in the cavern?"

"Yes. It is the only one I know. I often play it when I am alone. It is a private thing."

"But not only when you are alone. You have played it for others."

"Yes, it seems to calm humans as well."

"It always has that effect on me," I admitted.

"You have heard that music before?"

"Yes, often..."

"But I have the only copy of it. It was never reproduced. No one but me knows of its existence... except you of course."

"And Bob," I added. "He whistles it all the time."

"He does?"

"Yes, he does. Sometimes he hums it."

The torment was gone from Clauvio's eyes. The anger had subsided. He appeared to be listening to another sort of music... the music of his soul. I suppose that elves have souls... even though they are immortal and hardly seem to need them. There has to be something in them to produce the emotions I witnessed in Clauvio that evening.

I put an arm around him and he allowed it. I kissed his widow's peak, and then I brushed his hair away from his ears and kissed them too. He returned my kisses and we were content with them. We did not feel the need for anything more.

That night he slept in my arms, and he has slept there each night since then... sometimes in my bedroom... sometimes in his cavern. I am upgrading his video game collection and we now have an internet hook-up in the cave. I am showing him how to set up a web page. He wants to use it to explain Elfin philosophy. Perhaps some good will come of it.

Clauvio and I have decided to have a baby. We don't know exactly how we are going to accomplish this, but our latest idea involves a frozen human egg, a petri dish and a Shetland pony. We'll probably have to enlist the services of a prostitute, but Clauvio assures me that Elfin sperm contains a complete genetic code which replaces the human genetic material. I'm not sure how it does this, but I must trust to his advanced knowledge which seems to parallel his advanced age. He still doesn't look a day over sixteen though, and I guess he never will.

The future? It will have to look out for itself. But I am not concerned about it... right now. It will get here... by and by.

(c)1998 by Ricardo Cabeza