Better Buy a Dozen

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A Short Story by Richard Balthazar

            Sometimes in my dance I slip out of my trance and start watching the other dancers, appreciating their personal styles and wondering what earthly rhythm they’re riding. Often it bears no relation to the rhythm I feel in my own old bones. I’m impressed by the fact that in dance moves, it’s clearly to each his own, as in dress, physical appearance, and attitude. I usually have these lapses into consciousness when the music loses its life, like later the other Sunday evening when the DJ guy lost his groove. Hunched over the control panel, he studiously twisted dials while the music sank into a monotonous metronomic beat. At least for me, it drained away my ecstasy, and though continuing to dance, I contemplated the other dancers.

            At the start of the evening, I’d noticed a new young fellow of color, apparently Asiatic, with that midnight-black hair and dark eyes with that enchanting epicanthal fold, dancing calmly off in a corner by himself. The dark tuft on his chin and wisps along his upper lip made me wonder if maybe he might be yet another brave soul like my new trans friend Larry. I was also reminded of my Vietnamese soldier lover of fifty years ago, and my dance for Chi was infused with the profound peace he brought to me in my libidinous youth.

            When the DJ and I lost our groove, I found myself still dancing quite near the new kid moving vigorously to the monotonous beat, somehow curling forward with a hint of Latin swing in the hips that resonated in mine. He’d taken off his shirt, revealing a slender, hairless chest the color of wild-flower honey. His white linen, draw-string pants had gotten quite wet from the sweat running down his lithe back, and the clinging linen went nearly transparent. Golden globes almost glowed through it, commanding my close attention.

            Even nonsexual octogenarians can still have aesthetic preferences. As mentioned before, I’ve never cared for breasts—having been sufficiently breast-fed as an infant. Buh-zooms hold no allure for me. But buh-tocks are a horse of a very different color. Nicely rounded, not too heavy, and a little bit perky, they’re a captivating eyeful, forget the paraphernalia in front. For a good while, I pranced around behind the alluring Asian kid, appreciating the glowing visions and reveling in memories of Chi. But when the boring beat got to me, I left early for home and returned to my engrossing drawing of an Aztec dancer.

            At the following Sunday dance, I found the same exotic fellow there moving in his restrained but energetic way, but he naturally gave no indication of recognizing me. Like most, he danced mainly with closed eyes, which I was well used to. I hadn’t gotten used though to the way he and most folks danced without facial expressions, totally immersed in their inner joys. Personally, occasionally emerging from my own joyful sphere, I enjoy watching other folks jubilate and display their identities in dance. Later, when the Asian kid took off his shirt again, I noted purely incidentally the sweat running down his spine and getting his grey linen pants all wet, but they didn’t go transparent, just clinging to the shapes and masking their glow…

            Even with eyes closed, I try to express my own joys with a big smile (again incidentally, flashing my new dentures), only on rare occasion returned in kind. Most often that was by women, fewer guys, some keeping a straight face and merely folding their hands devotionally at me. I appreciate the respectful acknowledgement of that gesture and often use it preemptively when I catch an elusive eye. A woman who always smiles back at me, affectionately, is the svelte young black-haired woman Delia, a dancer I’d known for a couple years since PTA meetings with my daughter Mame at grandson Jamie’s high school. Delia always hugged me and many other folks with lingering greetings of shared energies.

            After the dance, she caught me in the lobby sandalling up and asked me to a light supper before Wednesday’s dance out on Fox Road. She wanted me to meet her son who’d been in our school a year behind my Jamie and had just graduated this year: He hasn’t had a father for several years and no grandparents available.—I’m all the family he has…—I think he really needs a man’s perspective on life at the moment. That was an invitation easily accepted.


            Delia lives at the north end of Otowi near the entrance to the Acequia Trail in a little house with two big arbor vitae trees by the porch and red-rose bushes in the gravelly yard. She met me at the door with a long, welcoming hug and led me into the kitchen where posole (New Mexican hominy) simmered on the stove: We’ll have this and a small salad—if that’s not too much. : Just right—I often just have a tamale and salad. : If you’ll slice this cucumber, I’ll go call Patrick to supper—he’s probably deep in one of his fantasy novels.

            When I’d scattered cucumber slices over the salad bowl, Delia returned to introduce her son Patrick, and I reeled—the sweaty Asian boy of the wet pants! I went to shake his hand, but he grinned and grabbed me in a hug as warm and lingering as one of his mother’s, commenting confidentially in my ear: I saw you the other night—you dance serenely. : So, sweetie, this is Jamie’s granddad Rich I told you about. : Yeh, the guy you call Bapu.

            Between “serenely” and “Bapu,” I was flattered and amused. : Bapu?—Oh, I bet you heard Jamie and Mame call me ‘Papou’—Greek for ‘grandfather’—I’m Papou the Grampire. : Oh, I’m sorry—You were the wise old man on the PTA, and I just got the feeling you were like a spiritual teacher.—You know, they called Gandhi ‘Bapu.’ : Well, I’m just a merry old grampire. Delia pointed us to chairs at table, and Patrick giggled: I get it—grampa and vampire!

            Delia had picked up on my surprise at her Asiatic son: Patrick’s father was Chinese from Taiwan—he died several years ago in a car accident. : Dad was Chen Hu-Jing, peaceful tiger.—My middle name’s Hugh.—So, I’m Patrick Hugh Chen. : Hu-Jing wanted his son to have an authentic Irish name—ironically, I suspect. : I think it’s a way-cool pun! : He called me Jing-Li, peaceful beauty.—Rich, would you start the salad around while I fetch the posole?

            On her way to the stove, Delia spoke over her shoulder: Paddy’s looking for a job. : Just for the rest of the summer—to earn something for college this fall. I did a mental double-take at the very Irish nickname: What school? : UNM, on the new free tuition thing. : So I suppose you’ll be moving to Albuquerque?—Too bad! : I’m going at the end of August, but I’m moving now to live with a guy who’ll be my roommate at school. Delia served posole into our bowls: Since Paddy’s leaving, I’m selling this nest to move to a place off Jaguar Road. I was troubled that she was moving to the southside, but her posole was top-notch with great red chile.

            : I bet you’re excited to be taking off on your own.—Big deal for a young Paddy-Cake. : That’s what we called him when he was little! : Very little… : But Paddy, my boy, your mom says you might need answers to some questions from a male perspective. : You know, sweetie, some fatherly advice—wisdom about life. : From an old grampire with false teeth! I attacked my lettuce while they laughed. : Well, I’ve got lots of questions—hope you’ve got time for answers. : I can certainly spend some with you to talk about whatever you want. : Could you come over on Saturday?—And help me move to the apartment with Artie? : As long as there’s no furniture involved.—All I’ve got is a little Corolla.

            Delia took away our empty bowls: It’s mostly all his books, heavy science books. : But not that many, Mom—I’ve got more boxes of clothes! : Anyway, before we blow this joint for the dance, I think maybe I can deal with one life question—what’s your biggest issue? Paddy chewed on his chocolate chip cookie, pondering: Actually, Papou—and Mom knows this—it’s discrimination, man.—Being Asian-American is a vicious bad rap.—I couldn’t ever make any real friends at school.—Oh, I kind of knew Jamie, and he was nice—really tall!

            : Taller now…—So, for what it’s worth, here’s my grampire wisdom on discrimination—When somebody doesn’t like you, well, fuck ’em—dance right away from them, their loss.—And if they do like you, be gentle and kind.—Remember, you’re not here on this green earth to make people like you, but to love as many folks as you can manage! : That’s right, sweetie.—Gee, thanks for saying that, Bapu… Humbled, I hustled us off to dance on Fox Road.


            We drove there in three cars because each would go our own way from the ‘dancehall,’ Paddy in an old jalopy jeep planning to visit his future roommate. We three danced about hither and thither for a good while, and I found their different modes of dance very expressive of their personalities, Patrick’s forceful (like a tiger?), and Delia’s sensuous with sporadic bursts of arms swirling in wing-like circles. I was happy to see old friend Geno looking newly clean-cut, maybe for a new job. My new trans friends Larry and Corazón smiled greetings and danced on, totally engrossed in each other. I was sad to miss lanky Victor, maybe away on summer vacation. Unfortunately, not many dancers attended as regularly as I.

            When the music got, shall we say, visceral in the late fourth rhythm, mother and son danced a writhing pas de deux, bodies colliding and slithering, rolling over each other’s backs. Paddy lifted his mom in a gymnastic arc over his head, graceful, like professionals. When Delia danced away into a solo flight across the hall, shirtless Patrick invited me into a bout, but, not one for such tactile choreography, I declined, if only for my stiff joints. The sweat ran copiously down his back, but the blue linen of his pants only got darker when wet.

            Delia left first, tired from her workday in a bank. After maybe ten minutes more of music with any discernible tempo, Paddy and I sat along the wall for a wrap-up concert by an ethereal blonde girl who played crystal bowls with interweaving, meditative tonalities from the various sizes, not unlike a glass harmonica—a transcendent experience. Afterwards, sitting out in the lobby with me to sandal up, Paddy ventured: Got time for another question, Papou? : Nothing better to do at the moment.—Fire away! : I mean, I wonder what’s it like to be gay.

            : Aha! Are you the Q in LGBTQ? : There’s another reason I’m wondering.—My best, my only, friend at school turned out to be gay. Paddy gazed solemnly at me for a long moment and sighed: He was always wanting to kiss me, but I wouldn’t. I told him I didn’t want to love him—that way…—Then he went off and killed himself! : That’s horrible!—You guys could’ve talked through your feelings and resolved things. : Oh, God, I feel so guilty! I just don’t know what to do!—: Forget that guilt nonsense, Paddy-Cake!—We’re each solely responsible for what we do or don’t do.—You may have contributed to his anguish, but you aren’t responsible for what he did. : But what can I do?—I keep remembering Donnie alive.—I can’t just forget him!

            : And you shouldn’t ever…—When you remember Donnie, his spirit’s with you.—So, invite him into your dance, let him live again sharing your joy in movement. : I can do that? : Absolutely!—I do it all the time with the spirits of those I’ve loved and lost.—Their afterlife is in our memories of them, and in our dance they can live again. : Wow!—I’ve never thought of it like that! : You’re a link to life for your Donnie, maybe his only one now…—To dance is to live! : That sounds like Snoopy! : A wise old beagle.—Dancing for the dead’s like a shamanic ritual.

            Paddy seemed satisfied—or maybe freaked—by my occult blather, and we bid each other goodnight, he to his visit and I to work on my drawing of an Aztec dancer. It was remarkable how my fascination with the lovely lad’s golden globes had turned so quickly into grand-paternal affection, the mixed blessing of old age. In my contented dotage, I rejected such temptations of the flesh, but unlike St. Augustine, I haven’t repented my youthful licentious transgressions and don’t disparage those of others. Indiscretions make for fascinating memories. Under all his intricate regalia, my dancer started looking like a Greek sailor I’d once loved.


            On Saturday morning around ten I dutifully showed up at Delia’s house to help with Paddy’s move. Over coffee and Danish, she announced that her house sale was to close at the end of the month. When I volunteered to help her move as well, she thanked me: But I’ve got a crew of movers to do that. : Her new apartment’s real nice—a great view out at the Jemez.—Our view from the Evergreen Apartments is just out on the train tracks. : Only for a couple months, sweetie. : I know that complex—I used to live over by the Smith’s.

            While Delia refilled our coffees, Paddy turned serious: Papou, Thursday evening I turned on KUNM for their reggae show—Donnie loved reggae—and I danced for him. : That’s great!—How did it feel? : Like he was with me!—I told Mom what you said… : Yeah, I do it too, Bapu, for Hu-Jing—all the time. : I thought maybe you might… : And last night I danced for Dad too!

            We started hauling boxes out to our cars lined up at the sidewalk. Delia’s was a silver Honda with lots of room, and Paddy’s that ancient open-top Army jeep with very little: Mom calls it my ‘MASH-mobile! As we stashed the boxes in our cars, he confided: While I danced with Donnie, I thought about what you said about loving as many folks as we can—and thought about loving him—that way. Does that mean I’m gay too?

            I feigned surprise: Just because you’ve thought about making love with a guy?—I think everybody does that at one time or another. : Yeah…—Because I sort of liked imagining… : Who wouldn’t?—Forgive me, Paddy-lad, but one swallow does not a spring make.—Or were you perhaps imagining something else more intimate? : Uh…—Yes. : I see…—That’s a bit more problematic.—Think maybe you caught gay cooties somewhere?

            My joke was overheard by Mother Delia walking ahead of us to the porch: He’s always asking me if I think he’s gay, and I say how would I know? : Great answer! : Come on, Mom, I only asked twice, and the first time you told me to go figure! : Did I, sweetie? : An even better answer…—So, Paddy, what do you figure now? : Well, I don’t really feel much like the straight guys at school, all crude and horny.—I mean, I wonder what type of person to think of myself as. : I told him he should just think of himself as a good person. : You best listen to your wise mother, Paddy-Cake.—Then the minor details will fall into place.

            On our next trip with stuff to the cars, I dispensed some more grampire advice: If you don’t feel either straight or gay, that’s great!—Means you’re sitting in the cat-bird seat, can become whatever you want. : That’s another thing I told him, Rich. : Wise Mom!—Just avoid labels.—Our culture demands we label our ‘perversions’ from the norm, but labels are just traps to integrate us deeper into the matrix—even ‘male’ and ‘female.’ : Bapu!—I didn’t know you believe in the matrix! : What’s to believe in a metaphor?—The only label I’ll accept, with chagrin, is ‘human.’ They laughed, and Delia suggested: I can see that printed on a business card! : A late old friend of mine’s business card had just his name and ‘person.’

            : But, Papou, you have to be either male or female— : —Or both and/or neither.—I guess I’m talking about gender fluidity here—rejecting those obsolete labels. : Those labels aren’t quite worn out yet, Bapu.—I still find them useful. : Me, too—but these youngsters nowadays often don’t. : I wonder how you’d feel gender-fluid.—It must feel weird. : I wouldn’t know.—I felt very much male up to maybe twenty years ago when I started feeling like neither gender. : Now that’s truly weird, Papou! : No, it’s not, sweetie.—I kind of understand. : I thought maybe you might.—And you, Paddy my boy, obey your wise mom and go figure.

            The drive to Paddy’s new pad took at most ten minutes up St. Michael’s. Alone in my car with his boxes, I wondered at my manufactured grampire wisdom and worried maybe I’d been too flippant about Paddy’s conundrum. But it was the best I could do on the spur of the moment. Carrying the first boxes up the steps to their second-floor apartment, I apologized for not being much help with his question. : No—I’m glad to know I don’t have to choose any label!

            The new roommate Arturo, a small Hispanic kid who worked at the nearby Smith’s store, helped us haul boxes upstairs and then served us their pizza for lunch. Paddy made an exciting announcement: I didn’t tell you, Mom, but yesterday afternoon I found a job—at Trader Joe’s, starting Monday! : How fabulous, sweetie! : I can walk to work up the Rail Trail.—They were all happy about hiring an Asian-American!—How great is that?! Delia hugged her son excitedly: See, honey!—Somebody really appreciates you!

            : But why do so many other folks not? Another opening for the grampire: Actually, Paddy, some labels are still useful for discussion purposes—like the two basic kinds of people: homo-socials and hetero-socials.—Most folks are homos who only like to be with people just like themselves, and then there’s the minority of hetero-socials who appreciate different types. Artie jumped in with an opinion: I guess I’m hetero-social then—I think Patrick’s a cool Asian dude, and most Hispanic kids I know are boring!—Except for the girls… His qualified opinion said Artie was also hetero-sexual, resting me easy about Paddy’s new roommate.


            Not to over-exert myself for the evening’s dance, Sunday afternoon at the gym I didn’t work out, just took a relaxing sauna. Geno was there too, enjoying a day off from his new waiter job at the Palace Prime. A notable hunk in the nude, he’s never indicated any sexual inclination to me or in general, but that doesn’t matter. I’d noticed his style of dancing was evolving, more arm action, and he said he’d learned that from me: I’ll show you some more new moves at Body this evening. I looked forward to that: Especially if you get naked. He didn’t—just took his shirt off. His new moves were fancy footwork, a charming improvement.

            I was troubled not seeing Paddy or Delia, but well into the second rhythm they showed up and blew my old mind. He was wearing one of his mom’s gauzy floral dresses, and she was all spiffy in a man’s slacks, white shirt, and bow tie. Nothing had been done to their appearances otherwise, Paddy’s dark beard and mustache still there on his chin and lip, and Delia’s long hair curling around her button-down collar. They greeted me with big, long hugs. In hers first, Delia whispered: No labels anymore, Bapu! In his hug after that, Paddy whispered: I’m being fluid.

            They made quite a splash amongst the dancers, Delia mostly because so many knew her and got hugged. Folks didn’t react much to Paddy, not many knowing him—and it being a bit impolitic anymore to make over a boy in a dress. He clearly enjoyed dancing in his mom’s dress, though his dance was still much the same as his boy-style with foot-stomping and arm-pumping, but a tad more ‘fluid.’ Monty, a long-haired fellow also in a dress, dark and shapeless, got into a writhing number with Paddy, and while dancing nearby, I wondered what folly I’d wrought.

            On a water-break, we met outside the back door. Paddy gushed: God!—I love dancing in a skirt—with nothing underneath! : So, how do you feel about nudity? : Um… I’m sort of modest. : Why?—You got something special to hide? : Um… I guess not. : Well, if you keep sweating, your skirt will probably go translucent… : No! : By the way, men only sweat, and ladies glow.—And you should learn to dance more like a girl.—Watch how Lucy, that thin woman with tattoo-sleeves, prances around like a nymph.—And don’t hunch so much.

            : Okay, I’ll try—and don’t sweat!—But it gets pretty hot in a dress. : Yes, you are hot! Paddy took off the blouse, looking even more hotly androgenous in just the flowered skirt. I vividly imagined it wet: Also, by gender fluidity I didn’t mean necessarily cross-dressing. : It’s a great way to feel like a girl! : So, when are you going to start giving guys the eye and wiggling your bottom to turn them on? : And make them think I’m gay? : Remember, no labels!—If you feel like a girl, you should like guys, I’d think? : I guess so… : Well, being fluid means liking both boys and girls. : Being bisexual? : Which literally means ‘being of both sexes.’—I prefer to call it ‘ambisexual,’ like ambidextrous, able to do it with either hand.—But forget labels!

            : I liked imagining Donnie but I don’t know if I’d generally like making it with guys. : Of course, you haven’t done it with one. : How do I find a guy who..?—I can’t tell. : I’m no expert in such things, but I usually can tell if he comes on to me.—Enough did. : But how did they know you were…? : As a lad, Paddy-Cake, I was an infamous faggot. : Papou!—When? : Several decades ago, too many…—But finding the right first fellow is mostly a matter of sheer luck. : That’s not much help.—Where am I going to find this luck? : You’ve just got to get out there and look for it, look for guys to meet casually and amenably in their native environment.

            —Like maybe that wild-dancing guy Bear out there, the sweaty, athletic one with the blue toenails. : He is good-looking… : Go and dance up close by him.—He loves what I call crash-dancing with guys—and girls—and if you get into it with him, I bet you can tell if he’s ‘interested.’ : You mean, go out there and tangle with him? : Yeah.—But I mean, only if you’re attracted…—I’ll warn you, Bear can get a little rank later in the evening. : He’s sort of attractive, muscular and happy…—I can imagine… : Then go for it!—Try your luck, tiger!

            Dancing at an unobtrusive distance, I watched flower-skirted Paddy dance with bare-chested Bear in his flashy harem pants. I tried not to gape at their spontaneous gymnastic tangle, though others did. Self-possessed and confident, Paddy engaged with smiling Bear, meshing their arms, legs, and torsos in ways that made my old bones ache. As that rhythmic selection ended, they hugged for the finale and danced off on their separate ways to a new beat. I read the situation as Strike One.

            Not really spying on Paddy, I observed him getting into another tangle with that cute, willowy, blonde guy with long corn-row braids. We’d shared the folded hand sign at each other earlier that evening. Their tangle wasn’t as gymnastic but much more sensuous, and it looked like a hit from the way their eyes were constantly on each other. Before even the end of the selection, however, they broke it off with a friendly fist-bump and danced away. Strike Two. The rest of the evening Paddy didn’t go up to bat again, so I didn’t have to witness a Strike Three.

            Out in the hall as I came out of the men’s room, I ran into a Delia hug on her way into the women’s. She was happily bedraggled and full-on sweating in her late husband’s slacks and white shirt, her braless bust barely peaking through its wet cotton, bow-tie already ditched. Androgynes, both son and mother. I told Delia she made a handsome lesbian, like a gentler Marlene Dietrich, and she properly scolded me for using the label. She also sat along the wall with Paddy and me afterwards for the finale number by a bearded guy (great dancer!) blowing a huge conch shell and inspiring me to add a conch-blower to my Aztec dancer piece.

            When we got up to leave, Delia turned away to talk to somebody while Paddy regretted to me his two strikes: But Bear and Fred were nice and fun at least.—It was exciting to dance with those sexy guys. : How exciting? : Not that way, Papou…—But I could feel both their strong bodies all over and could feel how…—Well, how making love could be lots of fun. : What an understatement!—Obviously you’re the foolish virgin yet. : You know I am, dammit! Promising Paddy we’d figure out what to do about that problem very soon, I wished him great fun and even greater luck on his first day of work at Trader Joe’s.


            Getting home from dancing, I sat up late with my dancer drawing and slept later than usual on Monday morning, till almost seven-thirty. During breakfast I fondly imagined Paddy at work already at Trader Joe’s, the same fond imaginings as the week before with grandson Jamie starting his new job in a restaurant in New York. A grampire’s fondness… I made a grocery run, resisting the temptation to Trader Joe’s since the stuff I needed I always got at Sprouts. Defying the summer heat, I watered my thirsty garden and several house-plants, ate my standard lunch avocado, wrote some chatty emails, and then did a good long workout and sauna at the gym.

            I got home in time for Paddy’s call reporting on his first workday. Talking to me on his walk down the Rail Trail in the afternoon heat, he sounded pretty tired but excited still. His day had started right away with stocking shelves and racks—and then going back and doing it all over again because stuff simply flew off the shelves. Meanwhile, he learned where most things were and pointed confused customers to things they were looking for. It wasn’t very hard work, but the brief breaks and lunchtime were welcome.

            Paddy sounded quite happy about meeting two other young employees also just starting, a (“real handsome”) Native American guy named Roberto and a (“real sexy”) black girl named Shari: Both were very friendly to me.—We all hugged goodbyes. : You seem to have landed in a good hetero-social job, Paddy, a hotbed of diversity, so to speak. : Not as hot as out here in the sun…—I can’t wait to get home and take a shower. Right then the Rail Runner train roared and rumbled down the track beside my substitute grandson, and he signed off. Wondering about this Roberto guy and Shari gal, I lay down for a nap in front of a fan in the afternoon heat.

            He called again Tuesday on his hot walk home: Roberto’s from Pojoaque Pueblo and going to Northern in Española this fall; Shari’s going to Highlands in Las Vegas.—They’re both on the free tuition program too.—Papou, I get the feeling maybe they’re both ‘interested.’ : Are you? : I think so…—Maybe…—But what can I do? : Whatever comes naturally.—Be open to whatever… : Should I say something?—Make some kind of move? : Why not invite them along to the dance tomorrow?—See what happens in a natural environment… Again, the train rumbled past, and we said goodbyes. I figured Paddy maybe had found some good luck.

            Wednesday morning I again resisted the temptation to go to Trader Joe’s, ostensibly to see if maybe my frozen linguine and clam sauce was in. It had been missing for a few weeks already. But in fact I wanted to scope out Paddy’s co-workers. Instead, I waited for the report on his hot walk: Papou, they’re coming tonight!—They both love to dance! : That’s wonderful!—Folks who don’t like to dance are emotionally handicapped.—Emotions are best experienced and expressed in motion. : Mom came into the store today to meet them and liked them a lot.

            : I look forward to meeting your new friends.—We’ll learn a lot about them from how they dance. : I’m picking them up, and we’ll probably be a little late. : Not a bad idea.—New folks might find the first rhythm a bit boring. : I do, I know…—Mom has an astrology group tonight and can’t come. : That’s good too.—She might cramp your style. : Oh, no, she’s going to help me dress again.—I’m so excited… The loud train once more cut off our conversation. In fact, they weren’t all that late, arriving just as the rhythm got to perking up.

            Wednesday’s dance had moved temporarily back to its old Paradiso location behind the cannabis dispensary on Early Street. It was a more intimate space than the barn-like hall on Fox Road. From my traditional dancing ground back near the stage, I gawked at Paddy leading his friends out onto the dance floor. Bare-chested, he was in a brilliantly colored sarong with glitter-gold fingernails and emerald-green toenails and bangle bracelets at wrist and ankle, obviously Delia’s handiwork. Behind him, the Native American guy and the black girl were obviously enchanted by his gender fluidity, any remaining romantic ice no doubt now broken.

            The guy Roberto was a total hunk of heaven in cut-offs and tank top with black hair longer than mine, and the slender girl Shari was breathtaking in a flowered leotard and tiny scarlet bustier, as black as the DJ Chelsea and even prettier. The three were a vision of honey, coffee, and dark chocolate. On Paddy’s beckoning, I prance-danced over to them, only slightly hunky in my pink tank top and blue running shorts and sun-tanned nearly as brown as Roberto. In the silent space, we simply hugged greetings, Shari first, and then tall Roberto. He laughed and squeezed hard, lifting me up off my feet. I clung to his strong shoulders. Paddy hugged me sinuously and whispered in my ear: Aren’t they gorgeous?!

            While we danced merrily around to the quickening rhythms, I unobtrusively watched Paddy’s new friends move. Roberto’s dance was reminiscent of Native American ceremonies, slightly crouched and stamping with arms extended like wings, very intense and joyous. Shari moved in something of an African way with knees raised high and reaching arms, ethnically exuberant. Chelsea jumped down from her console on stage to dance with her in a sisterly fashion. Paddy watched, appreciating their beautiful positive energies, as did I.

            In the summer evening heat, most males shucked their shirts. Not I, though—not to scare the smooth-skinned youngsters with my worked-out shoulders and chest covered with curly hair—think an ageing Burt Reynolds… Paddy and Shari soon got into a playful writhe, and bare-chested Roberto joined them in a tangle of  sensuous bodies, each intent on the others, touches as gentle as caresses. With a thrill, I realized that I was glimpsing their future. In the ensuing pacific interval, we went outside under the red Japanese-style portico for water and a cool breath.

            Shari hugged me again: Patrick’s mom says you’re like a guru. : Not much… : Papou’s more like a shaman. : So, Shari, do you like Chelsea’s music? : She’s really a great DJ.—I met her last fall at a Fiesta party. Roberto hugged me next, exuding a fragrance of lavender: What kind of shaman?—I’m learning herbs. : Papou dances with spirits! : Only sometimes…—You want to be a ‘medicine man,’ Roberto? : No, a medical doctor. Shari embraced him: His Indian name’s [unintelligible sound]. : It means ‘Sun Spear.’ : Like ‘Shakespeare…”

            : Well, you all seem very athletic. : I took Tae Kwon Do for a long time, Papou.—I’m a black belt. : So did my grandson. Sun Spear explained his impressive physical talents: I was a wrestler at Pojoaque High. : And I took modern dance at the School for the Arts. : I also knew a guy who taught that there. : You mean Will? : Yeah.—He used to dance a lot with us here.—And Sun Spear, some years ago I worked the iris beds at Pojoaque Middle School— : Hey, no shit?!—I was one of the little kids that helped you!—Got all muddy…—You had short hair, same mustache… : And a little jazz-patch on my lower lip? : Exactly! And those iris were really pretty purple every spring! : I think I threw in some hot reds too, but no matter.

            Our acquaintance pleasantly furthered with these personal details, we jumped back into the exhilarating fourth rhythm. My ecstasy embraced the hive energy of the dancing herd and  connected directly to the bright energies of my triad of young friends. We glittered like fireflies in the crowd of dancing stars. Meanwhile, I devoted some ecstasy to spirits of loved ones lost and some to simply admiring my beautiful living friends. Their second tangle, even tighter and more powerful with the beat, broke my concentration on my own footwork. The inevitable future for this constellation of three fireflies came into much sharper focus.

            Avoiding the wrap-up meditation, but really for my young trio to get to work way early—six-thirty in the morning!—we left early. In overflowing jubilation, Paddy turned two cartwheels across the parking lot, his sarong flapping, and then back to us, barely winded. They piled in the MASH-mobile and toodled away, waving. I watched and wondered how it would happen.


            On schedule, Thursday afternoon Paddy called me as he walked the trail home: Papou, I think I’m in love with both of them! : Why do you think that?—What do they have to say about it? : Nothing yet… The Rain Runner roared past once more, and we waited until Paddy could continue: Last night at her place off Siringo Shari kissed us both goodnight—passionately, and at Sun Spear’s brother’s place off Airport , he and I kissed—with tongue! : Enough said! : But Papou, how am I supposed to choose? : Play your cards right, and you may not have to. : I don’t want to!—They’re both so… so hot! : Let me see what I can do about it.—And be patient!

            That evening I dropped in on Delia in her now-empty nest, and over chamomile tea, I remarked on her son’s imminent romantic encounter(s). She’d heard all about it from Paddy and was thrilled that he might have such beautiful initiation(s), wishing for some way to help Cupid out. I figured we could help mostly with logistics. Three kids couldn’t make love comfortably in an open jeep, and these had nowhere else to do it. We needed to act quickly to prevent romantic travesty or tragedy and soon devised a plan to invite the bunch out to dinner Saturday evening. Crucial to our plan was that the kids were going to be off from work on Sunday morning.

            In his Friday report to the grampire, Paddy was breathless with excitement: Sun Spear kissed me in the stock-room! : And where did Shari kiss you? : Out back… : Well, you best mind your PDAs, Paddy. : I know…—But it’s so hard! : I’m sure. The passing train made its awful noise, and Paddy picked up his thread: Papou!—We’ve got nowhere to be alone together! : That’s why your mom and I want to take you three to dinner tomorrow evening. We’ve got a nice surprise for you! : What? : Wait for it.—And don’t do anything stupid tonight. : I’m not seeing them tonight. : Good… : But I’ll call and invite them.—Thanks! : Seven o’clock.

            We met at the Hotel Santa Fe’s elegant Amaya restaurant where the trio rolled their young eyes at the prices. Paddy and Sun Spear had subtly enhanced theirs with kohl, and Shari wore silver shadows that glowed on her dark face. Delia advised that as our early gift for her son’s birthday next week, dinner would be our treat, but they still ordered the cheapest bison burgers. Then she said she was thrilled they’d met each other and wished them a summer of unforgettable romance. Their beautiful eyes got huge in surprised embarrassment.

            In grampire fashion, I added that a loving trinity like theirs was a rare and precious thing, and Paddy’s mom and I wanted to solve their privacy problem: We’ve rented you a suite for tonight here at the hotel! Delia laughed at their utter delight: Please do call up room service for refreshments—and maybe even have breakfast in bed! Exchanging excited glances and gushing gratitude for the birthday present, they had a hard time eating their buffalo burgers. Paddy started to cry, making his kohl run. Shari and Sun Spear both tenderly wiped his cheeks with napkins and laughed joyfully. A tear welled up in my own old eye—of tenderness, joy, or envy?

            While Delia and Paddy went to the Registration desk to pick up the key to the suite, I sat with Shari and Sun Spear on a luxurious sofa in the lobby. Confidentially, I begged them to be gentle with Paddy: He’s a virgin. : I know.—So am I. : Me, too. : How perfect! So, do either of you virgins have any notion of what to do? : I’ve got a pretty good idea. : Me, too.

            Waiting for the elevator, Delia and I hugged all three, and she handed Paddy a small package wrapped with a red bow: Play safe, my darlings. While they ascended to their night in heaven, Delia and I ambled across the lobby, and I simply couldn’t resist asking: Do you think they’ll use all six? : Probably.—I figured I’d better buy a dozen!