by Rigby Taylor

Chapter 28

Ideas, Thoughts, Theories, Principles.

Irma spent the night in Amanda's spare room. She woke at her usual time. Head, throat, back, groin, aching. She ran her hands over her body. Naked! Where was she? Where were her clothes? She sat up slowly. The room whirled and she toppled sideways. Lifted fingers to her face. Sticky. Raised her arms. Filthy smell. Awareness percolated and she dragged herself to the bathroom, relieved herself, then leaned against the wall until everything stood still.

'I drank too much,' she whispered.

It had seemed fun at the time but her head ached too much to think any more so she showered off the sweat and stench, dried herself, stumbled back to bed and fell asleep, not waking till Amanda put on a rock music CD at full blast.

The previous night's pseudo sadism had kindled Amanda's appetite for the real thing, so to keep her guest happy she placed a pot of strong coffee and three aspirins beside a slice of burnt toast and marmalade on the table. This unwonted concern for another human was sparked by worry that Irma might be losing interest in revenge. Amanda's hatred of men fed on a dwindling supply of victims whose deaths could never be traced to her, so Irma's arrival was particularly welcome because the blokes she wanted eradicated were even less likely than usual to be traced back to Amanda, or even arouse suspicion. And if everything went belly-up it would be Irma who took the rap—especially when Amanda told the cops about Bindi.

'Coffee!' she shouted through the bedroom door, screeching with laughter at the sight of Irma holding the pillow over her head. 'Come on, girl, it's ten o'clock. You've slept long enough.' She tossed a pair of her own jeans and a psychedelic T-shirt onto Irma's bed. 'Put these on and come for breakfast.'

Irma managed to down the coffee and aspirin but was unable to stomach the toast.

'I can't stand Violet; bloody frowsy old baggage,' Amanda growled, 'and I don't give a fuck about her husband. I reckon it's the boyfriend who dumped the slut you drowned, and the kid who accused your friend of rape who deserve to suffer. What do you reckon?'

Irma nodded, and wished she hadn't. Spending another day with Violet would indeed make an already bad day worse. As there was nothing she needed at the motel they left the house as soon as both were presentable, and drove down to the Esplanade in case Violet took it into her head to come round to Amanda's and demand to join them.

The sight of hundreds of teenage backpackers excitedly jabbering, greeting, planning, studying tourist brochures and maps, piling into camouflage painted four-wheel drive busses for the 'Safari Adventure of a Lifetime', taking photographs… were an unpleasant reminder of a youth that had all but passed them by. Feeling older than they wanted, they drove to a park away from the tourist strip and sat on the grass to plan. But every scheme seemed either too complicated or dangerous, leaving them with Violet's idea of hiding in Chloe's garden until opportunity knocked.

'What then?' Irma's brain refused to think.

'Then we slit their throats.' Amanda slid her jeans up over her right calf, exposing a neat scabbard strapped just below the knee, and the handle of a knife. Looking around carefully to ensure they were unobserved, she drew it out.

Irma gasped. It was a small and very sharp-pointed kris, the wavy blade reflecting the sun on each razor sharp edge.

'A 'gift' from a Malaysian student.' Amanda said with a complacent smirk. 'He didn't need it any more after I tried it on him.'

She handed it carefully to Irma who grabbed the handle fiercely as if frightened it would swing round and stab her.

'You look really professional,' Amanda complimented, 'so as I'm the strongest I'll immobilise them while you do the honours.'

Irma was not sure she wanted the honour. It was all becoming too real. It had been Violet, she now remembered, who had insisted they drown Bindi. Picturing the jagged hole such a blade would make when pulled out, drained the blood from her head. She had to steady herself.

Carefully observing Irma's reactions, Amanda realised confidence building had to be the next activity if she wasn't to lose this chance. Playacting at the club was OK for laughs, but she needed to hear some real screams; see some real blood. Dragging Irma to her feet she gave her a long hug and whispered compliments about how lucky she was to have such a beautiful, brave and intelligent friend—someone with whom she could be totally honest and trust to back her up.

Irma was only human and therefore prepared to believe even the most outrageous compliments. She drank greedily of the praise and, gazing into Amanda's sincere and candid eyes returned the warm and loving hug—and was lost.

Jarek and Sebastian rose at dawn, hiked three kilometres to a pool between gigantic granite boulders, returned for a healthy breakfast of eggs, papaya, pineapple, toast and avocados, then weeded the vegetable garden. At ten o'clock they drove to a pleasantly treed suburb a few kilometres north for lunch with Sebastian's father and stepmother.

Fee and Rex greeted Jarek with little ceremony but much warmth; grateful their son seemed to have sloughed off his depression and might even be ready to accept a new lover. Lunch was pleasant, although Rex, who had spent the entire morning preparing the elaborate feast might have been a little disillusioned had he known that for Jarek food was merely fuel—necessary but not worth spending time on. He would have preferred a bowl of lentils and a boiled egg.

During lunch it became obvious that Jarek was being examined—not on his suitability as a mate for Sebastian, but to discover his ideas, values, beliefs. The realisation excited him. All his life it seemed he'd been searching for a disinterested sounding board for ideas that most people would think stupid, rude or insane, if he were foolish enough to share them. These two people were different. He knew intuitively that they would consider his ideas seriously and perhaps even understand.

'I'm not a fan of Homo sapiens,' he said bluntly. 'We're not that different from most so-called higher social animals apart from clever tool making that's enabled us to over breed, build war machines capable of horrendous mass destruction, deforest the planet and destroy the biological systems in which we evolved.' He took a breath, looked around, was satisfied he wasn't being set up and continued. 'Instead of thinking rationally to prevent problems we wait till catastrophe overtakes us, then instead of changing our behaviour we apply a band-aid and continue as usual, with the predictable result – we're on the brink of annihilation.'

'Well put. Do you have a solution?' Fee asked with a smile.

'Not for the human race, we're on an express train to extinction - just like all the other species that have perched for a while on top of the food chain. All I can do as a teacher is encourage kids to develop their independence so the future will be a little less horrible for them.'

'What sort of educational program would do that?'

'There is nothing in all human knowledge that children should not be taught and know about from the earliest age, if they show interest. How we're made, born, age and die, and how we should live.'

'How should we live?'

'Within our means, leaving the natural world richer and better able to support life than we found it. Destructive natural urges must be curbed. Unless everyone understands and lives by the rule that more than enough is too much, we are doomed. Plenty of wise men have told us how to live, however they are ignored while our leaders hang on the lips of charlatans who ignore the reality of existence and insist that either there's an invisible supernatural god in charge of things, offering life after death, or that unfettered capitalism will make everyone free, wealthy and contented.'

Where is the individual in all this?'

'He is central. Only truly independent thinkers value independence and individuality in others and will therefore work together to ensure a good future. Countries, societies and relationships based on dominance and servitude can never be happy, productive or stable.

'What about love and sharing… companionship?'

'They are the foundation on which the individual flourishes. There is nothing more tragic than a great individual who wanders alone. Aristotle understood that when he spoke about the complete man.'

'What values should we espouse?'

'All wise men not infected by religious dogma have advocated kindness, generosity, consideration, affection, honesty, hospitality, compassion, charity, humour, gentleness, equality, listening, egalitarianism, respect for the elderly, love of children, and diligent respect for the land, plants and animals. These are sensible behaviours owing nothing to imaginary gods.'

'I can see you've thought a great deal about this, and I have the impression you embody most of those admirable qualities.'

'Fee, you are too kind. Regretfully I confess to being merely human,' Jarek laughed.

'What methods did you use to teach those sorts of things at the camps in the rainforest?'

False modesty wasn't one of Jarek's faults, so he described the rules of tolerance and non competition plus several of his tricks for combating pupils' insecurities, such as drawing Leon out and making the fat boys feel worthwhile.

'I'd never dare do anything like that,' Rex shook his head in admiration. 'I'd be terrified that forcing them to face their fears would backfire and they'd feel even more inferior, having been singled out.'

'I guess it helps that I point out my own imperfections and oddities, and explain that it's our differences that make us interesting. It wasn't difficult to get everyone to agree that in the skin cancer capital of the world Leon's almost black skin was superior to Sasha's dead white variety. As is yours Fee. Have you problems with being so dark skinned?'

'I don't, but plenty of people I meet do. You'd never believe how many refuse to believe a black woman can use a computer, let alone understand the banking and financial system.'

'It's very useful,' Rex laughed. 'Fee let's them think she's dumb, then makes deals she'd never get away with if she was a white man.'

'I believe it. Leon and his grandfather haven't been so fortunate. Claudius is a qualified accountant unable to find an employer. His daughter and son in law suffered tragically. It's amazing they're so sane.'

Fee turned to Rex. 'You've no indigenous students, have you?'

'Not yet.' Rex replied with a smile. 'I was wondering when you'd bring that up. The answer is Yes! If he's as bright as Jarek says.'

Jarek frowned. 'I don't think it'd be fair to ask Leon to leave his grandfather; it would leave the old man alone. I couldn't do it.'

'What if his grandfather was offered the position of resident accountant? We need one, Fee's too busy with her other work, and he could double as concierge and live in the old Principal's house. What do you reckon?'

'It would be fantastic! I could contact them and see what they think. Meanwhile, when am I going to see the school?'


From the main road no one would guess the school was there. Clever planting of trees and shrubs concealed the high, wire-mesh fence and gave those driving past the impression they were seeing the back fences of private properties with entrances on another road.

The school occupied the entire six-hectare city block so they had no curious neighbours backing onto their land. The only access was a private lane that seemed to lead only to the principal's house. However, when they continued past the garage the view opened onto playing fields, tennis courts, vegetable gardens, and, nestled amongst a stand of tall eucalypts, the two-storied main building with its single storied annex, a gymnasium, and a long, low dormitory block.

Thanks to the trees and dense shrubs that surrounded the property, traffic noise was minimal and peace reigned. The school had been intended for up to seven hundred pupils, so thirty were easily accommodated. The ground floor contained study and lecture rooms, library, services, kitchen, dining room, lounge and games room. Three futuristically well-equipped science laboratories shared the top floor with compact bed-sitting rooms with en-suite shower and toilets for advanced students and teachers. Three young men in lab coats were at work in the central lab. They looked up, greeted Sebastian and Rex warmly, were introduced to Jarek and Fee, nodded vaguely and returned to their investigations.

'They're certainly keen,' Jarek remarked. 'No holidays for them?'

'This is their idea of a holiday.'

'They didn't know Fee?'

'This is the first time I've met any students,' Fee explained. 'Before starting this project we decided, for a variety of reasons that I fully agree with, that this was to be a male-only environment.'

'What're they working on?'

'Secrets,' Rex laughed. 'If you decide to join us, all will be explained.'

'That's sensible.'

Attached to the main building by a covered way was a well-equipped gymnasium, and an intimate, professional looking theatre. Behind that a dormitory block with comfortable individual bed-sitting-rooms for the rest of the students.

After inspecting the buildings they wandered past the tennis courts to the pool. It was hot so they stripped off and swam, then lay in the shade to discuss what they'd seen.

'I like it,' Jarek said firmly, 'but I wouldn't like to live in.'

'I wouldn't let you,' Sebastian announced. 'You're living with me.'

'That's a relief. You've such a beautiful house.'

'What about the owner?'

'Yeah, he's OK too.'

Sebastian's grin was luminous.

'The school's only a few minutes drive from Sebastian's. We already have ten teachers living in so there wouldn't be room for you anyway if you do decide to join us.'

'I suppose they're all single and young?'

'No. Ages range from twenty-eight to sixty. Some were married, all except one are separated and he goes back to his wife on weekends.'

'What do you mean by physical education, Rex?'

'All the things you mentioned. Fitness, health, stamina, independence, self-respect, self-reliance, respect for others, respect for nature, acceptance of our evolution as wild animals with a smart brain and exceptional tool-making abilities but not much common sense… plus anything else you can think of.

'Do you want a similar structure to my camp program?'

'Definitely. I must say you were daring, considering the area's in the bible belt.'

'It wasn't really my idea. Stephen, the Principal, is concerned about how many young men appear to have lost pride in their masculinity while young women flaunt their female attributes.'

'That's very interesting,' Sebastian said with a slight frown. 'Chloe was lecturing me about that a couple of days ago. Have you been talking to her Rex?'

'He hasn't; I have,' Fee laughed. 'The school science program has reached a critical stage, morally and philosophically, so Rex thought we should canvass the opinions of people we respect. I visited Chloe last week, after she asked if her grandson could come to our school. We chatted for a bit and when I brought up the topic of male/female interaction she gave her opinion. It took no prompting from me. She was clearly delighted not to have her ideas discounted. I admire her immensely and understand why you're so attached to her, Sebastian. She will be an excellent ally if we ever need one.'

'So will Stephen,' Jarek added. 'It's no wonder they both hit it off; they're a pair of iconoclasts. It was he who persuaded me to teach the boys to be proud of their maleness and refuse to become feminised snags, because that's a form of castration and turns youths into angry young men, prone to violence and contempt for women.'

'Perceptive. What I find extraordinary is that there hasn't been a word of complaint from parents about you and their kids baring all,' Rex remarked.

'That's because as far as I know no student has told them. We agreed that most people, including their parents wouldn't understand, so after I pointed out that we're not obliged to tell our parents everything, they decided they wouldn't. Just as I haven't told my parents I'm gay.'

'Few people can understand people like us who are relaxed about our bodies,' Fee interrupted, 'especially indoors, classrooms or school grounds. If accosted by an angry parent, how would you explain, or justify, a naked life?'

Jarek frowned, pursed his lips, smiled, gave vent to a great sigh of relief and shared thoughts that had been buzzing in his head for the last seven weeks. 'I had no intention of running a nudist colony until Stephen told me about his experience as a fourteen year-old at a similar camp, where the teacher wore nothing but a brief bikini. He said how liberating it was for all the boys and suggested I be similarly relaxed. Naked, we expose not only our exterior health and fitness, but also our mental self respect and discipline—or lack of it. The mind and body are not separate entities, they're an indissoluble unit. That means an unhealthy body indicates an unhealthy mind. Of course accidental and birth disabilities don't necessarily indicate unhealthy bodies. I've known people with seriously deformed bodies who were, if you take into account their difficulties, healthy and fit. That applies to old people as well. There are men and women in their seventies and eighties who, although relatively weak and easily tired, are lean and fit for their age and as sharp as nails.'

'You're right,' Sebastian interrupted, turning to his parents. 'Stephen is an excellent example, as you'll see when you offer him a job.'

'I thought he was retired,' Rex grinned.

'Yeah, but he'll soon get tired of that. Sorry, Jarek. Carry on, it's interesting.'

'Flatterer.' Jarek grinned. 'Before the mad monotheists arrived to stuff us up, most human societies accepted penises along with noses, fingers and everything else as natural—which they are. We considered and discarded G-strings because wearing them not only meant we agreed our bits should be covered, but they drew attention to them, making them seem more important than noses, fingers, and knees. They're important, of course, but I could live without them easier than without legs, arms or a head. As for the nonsense that seeing a penis sends everyone into an orgy of sexual frenzy, nudists know that after a quick look to check what the bloke's got, the penis ceases to be interesting.'

'Good point,' Rex muttered. 'How did you go about discarding your gear?'

'Took them down to see the swimming hole where, by a happy accident, Zeno was skinny-dipping. Instead of going back for togs I persuaded them we shouldn't waste time but just join him. After a minute of excited whispering they lost interest in everyone's bits, and from then on naked was the same as clothed, only more comfortable and less fuss.'

'So easy. Isn't there always the size problem? Guys with small cocks feel inferior.'

'That never happened, perhaps because, as you can see, mine's on the small side of average and half the fourteen year-olds' penises were larger than mine. If the problem looked as if it might arise, pardon the pun, I was ready to point out the disadvantages of long slacks and hanging balls when climbing trees and walking through long grass, while not denying the value of larger appendages for impressing others. Like your generous testicles, Rex. I'm impressed but not jealous when I think of how much more vulnerable they'd be in a fight.'

General laughter.

'That's why I'm a coward. What if someone gets a hard-on?'

'A couple of kids did, so I congratulated them on having a fine functioning organ and told them to be proud of it. That leads to discussions about erectile dysfunction, how it's often psychological because boys are made to feel erections are sinful when they're not, they're natural… all that stuff.'

'Have you ever had an erection in front of them?'

'Only once when I fell asleep and someone tickled it with a blade of grass. Their laughter woke me. It was amusing, not naughty. I wasn't embarrassed and neither were they, and it led to a discussion about the value of pre-cum and lubrication.'

When Rex and Fee stopped laughing, she said, 'One last question. Don't be offended, but is being naked with the boys a sexual turn-on for you?'

'That would make me a pederastic exhibitionist, I suppose. No. I often feel sexily alive when I'm active and naked in the fresh air, but I'm not turned on by kids, or by exposing myself to people. The least hint of disapproval would unman me. I don't go home and wank afterwards, and I never think about sex when I'm in front of a class—I have to concentrate too hard. I guess I'm so used to it after all these years I simply don't feel naked. Like now. We're all naked but none of us is sexually aroused.' Jarek looked at his feet for a few seconds then looked up at Fee and frowned. 'It is my firm opinion that it would be totally inexcusable, indeed criminal, for a teacher or anyone in a position of responsibility or authority to initiate sexual behaviour with minors, or to respond sexually to their overtures. First, because their inferior position makes it almost impossible for the minor to say no, and the results can be catastrophically bad for them; and second, because overtures from kids are almost always innocent explorations in which the young person is discovering how to develop their social skills and learning how to charm and manipulate, not requests for sex. To respond as one would to an adult would be as bad as initiating sexual activity.'

'I thought that would be the case. What will you do with students who refuse to be naked?'

'No one has the right to make someone else feel inferior, insecure or wrong for any reason, or to try to force them to do what they don't want. Everyone must feel free to do as they wish with the usual provisos about the rights of others. I'm reasonably sure if I took them away for a week they'd lose their shyness, and I bet I could get the whole school spending the day comfortably naked.'

'Fifty bucks say you can't.'

'You're on.'

'Does that mean you'll be joining us?'

'Looks like it.'

'Chloe phoned this morning and asked if her grandson's boyfriend could also come to school here. Would you recommend him?'

'I'd never have managed the camps without Zeno, he's a wonder, and Cador's been informally adopted by Stephen. They're both academically outstanding; two of the best students I've taught. Also, Stephen would be good value if you need a relief teacher. Without him the camps would never have happened.'

'Is he staying in the area?'

'It seems Chloe wants him to; he's certainly smitten by her.'

'This is all very neat. Too neat! You and Seb. Zeno and Cador. Stephen and Chloe.' Fee was frowning. 'Nothing so perfect is ever allowed to happen. I see problems. Don't you, Jarek?'

Jarek looked hard at Sebastian's stepmother to see if she was serious, and decided she was. 'I always expect the worst, Fee. I think I've been on my guard against the world since birth. Not because the world is filled with malevolent people, but because most people are thoughtless and their unpredictability makes them dangerous. Last night with Sebastian was the first time I can remember when I felt totally relaxed and let my guard down. I may not have your intuition, but I understand what you mean. We must never take our lives and happiness for granted.

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