by Rigby Taylor

Chapter 1

According to his grandfather, Mortaumal was a smart kid. According to Mortaumal, Simon was a brainless bully. So why wasn't it Simon with his face in the dust? Surely twice as clever should outsmart twice as big? But sadly, the world isn't affected by our wishes. He'd hoped that yesterday's flushing of his head in a toilet would satisfy his tormenter for a while, but on the way home Simon had sprung from behind a billboard advertising Jezebel's Gymnasium, dragged the unwilling object of his attention behind it, tossed him on his face in the dust and sat on his legs. Mortaumal was debating whether to humiliate himself by screaming for help when Simon dragged his shorts down.

Shocked, or perhaps excited at his daring, the bully allowed his grip to slacken sufficiently for his victim to slither away and tear off down the footpath, school bag flying, shorts barely back in place until… a busy road. A glance behind made him reckless. With a one-fingered salute to his persecutor he shot across in front of a large truck.

Outraged by the insult, blind to everything except the necessity for revenge, Simon put on a spurt and was on the point of grasping his prey when…

Screeching brakes, a squishy pop and screams of horror from pedestrians made Mortaumal stop and look back. A smile split his face and for the first time in what seemed a very, very long time, he relaxed. The front wheel of the truck had rolled over Simon, spraying blood and undigested bits of Mort's lunch onto the footpath. The driver got out, looked under his vehicle and added to the muck.

'He may be still alive!' someone screeched, prompting a bystander to leap into the truck and back off, revealing a mess that inspired several more people to follow the driver's example.

A deep voice directly behind Mortaumal began to chant softly:'Mother dear, what have we here, Spread out like strawberry jam? Hush dear boy, it is your Pa Run over by a tram.'

Mortaumal's involuntary laugh was loud, causing nearby heads to turn and frown.

'The lad's hysterical from seeing such a dreadful accident. Someone attend to him!' a motherly type shouted.

'It's alright, he's with me,' the deep voice announced, placing a large hand on Mort's shoulder.

A woman screamed, causing all heads to turn. 'Where's the kid who pushed that poor boy under the truck? I saw him do it! Find him before he escapes!'

The hand on Mort's shoulder gently took his arm and led him down a side street, out of sight of the gathering crowd of thrill-seekers.

'Don't go away, young fellow,' deep-voice said calmly, 'I'm just going to get my son.'

Mortaumal looked back and saw a wheelchair slowly manoeuvring towards them. The man took hold of the handlebars, brought the wheelchair close, then bent over the occupant and adjusted some straps. A sudden fit of the shakes forced Mortaumal to sink to the ground. Visions of the mess on the roadway that could so easily have been him, filled his head, which began to spin, so he wrapped his arms around the nearest solid support, the powerful leg of his abductor. Tears sprang and great sobs wracked his frame.

A hand ruffled his hair and he gazed up into concerned brown eyes. His agony evaporated, but he didn't release the leg.

'I didn't push him!' Mortaumal sounded desperate.

'I know you didn't; I saw what happened. You've done nothing wrong, but when humans are hysterical it's dangerous to be rational, that's why we didn't hang around. Are you feeling sorry for the dead boy?'

'No, I was imagining it was me all squashed. It could easily...'

'No it couldn't. I saw you check you had time to cross the road. You're far too smart to meet your end in such a cliché, so forget about it.' his smile was genuinely friendly. 'Time for introductions I think. I'm Leo.' He held out his hand.

Mortaumal released Leo's leg, stood, and manfully shook his hand. 'I'm Mortaumal... only everyone calls me Mort.'

'And which name do you prefer?'

'Mort. Would you want to be called death to evil?'

'Death to…? Of course...French. Whose idea was that?'

'Granddad's. He spoke French till he came here. He says he's seen too much evil and hopes I'll live up to the name.'

'And so do I... but don't let the responsibility get you down.'

'Oh, he didn't mean all the evil in the world, just bad people I meet.'

'That's a relief. Well... I'm delighted to meet you, Mort.' Leo turned to the wheelchair. 'This handsome young man is Fystie.'

Mort captured the hand that was fluttering in his general direction, shook it firmly, then held on to prevent it escaping. 'Hi, Fystie, what're you doing in a wheelchair?'

'Trying to relax; my chauffeur's not up to much, he seems determined to drive me through every stone and pothole in the city. What were you doing on your feet when we met?'

'Going home from school. You talk a bit funny... I can understand you but... are you okay? You're twitching a bit and your mouths open and…'

'And I'm dribbling.' Fystie's face was a picture of despair. 'Please don't tell me you don't find it sexy, I've been practising my come-hither tongue lolling, ready-for-a-kiss look for weeks! I thought that was why you're still holding my hand.'

'Of course it is,' Mort didn't bother to conceal his grin. 'It's very fetching.'

'Then how about fetching the towel from behind my seat and using it.'

'Mort extracted a towel from the bag hanging on the back of the chair and after gently wiping his new acquaintance's face he looked deep into his eyes. 'Sexy doesn't begin to describe you, Fystie. Perhaps...'

'Alluring? Sensual? Voluptuous…?'

'All those things.' Both boys cracked up with laughter.

'I think we ought to be getting a move on,' Leo interrupted nervously. 'Ambulances, TV cameras, police… I've a feeling we ought to scarper.'

'Yeah, I can't wait to tell Grandpa. But...' Mort looked uncertainly at Leo. 'You said you'd seen everything... would you come and tell him so he doesn't think I'm exaggerating?'

'I was going to suggest it. Which way?'

They set off at a fast trot, Mort having to jog to keep up. After ten minutes Leo stopped.

'Do you need a rest?'

'No, but can I push the chair?'

'Sure, until you get tired. This is the brake; make sure you engage it before you collapse.'

'No worries, Leo. Hang onto your seat, Fystie.'

Leo was the offspring of respectable, working-poor parents who considered the ability to read, write and calculate simple arithmetic quite enough education. They therefore raised no objections when he quit school with the blessing of his teachers on his fifteenth birthday. Working in a hardware store by day and training with the local AFL football club every evening, was his idea of heaven. After impressing selectors at a tryout, his fans were suitably disappointed when at the tender age of seventeen, a professional club signed him up and he moved interstate.

He considered himself lucky to be taken under the wing of Jock, an ex professional player and now team physiotherapist, whose internationally-famous-model wife didn't object to having Leo board with them. Jock was a well-educated mentor, who managed to convince his protégé to complete his high-school education, eliminate alcohol, eat only healthy foods, take care of his body, and respect nature. Jock kept Leo's muscles supple with expert massage, and his libido strong with daily doses of high quality semen, administered either orally or anally depending on their mood.

At twenty, against Jock's advice, Leo married Amy, who for several years had been following in the footsteps of the legions of young women throughout the ages who trailed soldiers to war, or gold fields, or any other place where decent women fear to tread, secure in the knowledge that they're sitting on their own little goldmines. Amy was considerably older than she looked, but despite plying her trade assiduously had failed to make her fortune. Realising that time was running out, she decided to marry Leo, a rising star predicted by pundits to be destined to earn millions.

Thus it was that after one of the festive after-practice evenings during which Amy and another public spirited youngish woman opened their legs to the entire team, the innocent target of her scheming felt honoured by her proposal of marriage in the mistaken belief that it was she, and not the room full of sweaty naked men in various stages of arousal, that had triggered his remarkably powerful sexual performance.

They were publicly shackled together in a pseudo Gothic church heavy with the scent of flowers and alcohol, watched by millions of TV addicts desperate to believe in a fairytale prince and princess in love.

Alas for Amy's plans. At twenty-nine her dreams of fabulous fortune evaporated when constant injuries, although minor, made twenty-one year old Leo fear for his future health. He had too much respect for his body to want to end up a battered, overweight, alcoholic wreck like so many ex professional sportsmen, and so in the prime of youth and usefulness found himself with a small nest-egg, magnificent physique, slightly battered face that endeared him to females and prevented men from thinking him queer, and a termagant of a wife with a bun in the oven.

Amy felt little for her child when it finally arrived, apart from mild annoyance at the extra work. She dutifully breast fed him for a year, kept him clean and nicely dressed, and was on the point of almost liking him when his persistent physical oddities were diagnosed.

'Cerebral Palsy! What the fuck sort of disease is that? It must be your fault; all that over the top physical exercise deprived your sperm of what it takes to make a healthy kid. So take him! He's yours.'

Patiently, Leo reminded her that no one knew for certain what the causes of CP were, but it was neither his fault nor hers. It probably happened in the womb, and had nothing to do with genetics.'

'That's right, lay the blame on me!'

And so it continued for days, weeks, months… until a truce was declared. Leo was now in charge of the kid, as she called him. She was prepared to assist when she wasn't at work or out with friends, but he was now his father's responsibility. When Leo was working, Fystie was reluctantly entrusted to day care. When not at work, Leo carried his son everywhere in a specially designed sling — at first on his chest so they could gaze into each other's faces, communicating every emotion, thought and idea, then later on his back. They walked/jogged/ran to the shops, day-care, work, the park. For longer distances Fystie was strapped into a pushchair.

Amy had decided the car was hers, which suited Leo who could never seem to get enough physical exercise. Unfortunately, winning three trophies in minor Muscle-Building contests provided no useful financial gain, and a string of temporary jobs scarcely paid the bills. Life as an escort for wealthy women paid reasonably well, until he learned about the dangers of injecting chemicals into his penis to achieve erections.

A series of billboards on which his sculpted frame caused sales of the designer underwear he was modelling to soar, was qualification enough for the managers of 'Jezebel's Gymnasium', a meandering complex of converted warehouses to offer him employment. An almost-famous model would be an ideal demonstrator at their acclaimed Dance Yourself to Fitness classes.

It was the perfect job. The boss was happy to let Fystie sit and dream behind the stage during his father's classes, as long as he kept well out of sight, and as he grew older the boy became a familiar sight around the service areas of the gymnasium, crawling, then tottering, stumbling and always laughing and chatting incomprehensibly to all who'd listen.

Leo now had all the physical activity he desired, plus a captive and admiring audience. His experience as a professional sportsman paid dividends in meticulously planned sessions that were always executed and explained with enormous energy and enthusiasm. Serious bodybuilders as well as casuals who simply wanted to look less wimpish on the beach, kept asking for him, and Aerobics for Addicts, in both the air-conditioned gymnasium and the tepid pool used for physically disadvantaged adults and children, were packed.

Naturally, other trainers were jealous. Equally naturally, Management thought it wouldn't be a good idea to pay him more than those who did half the work. He didn't mind — he was happy, which is more than could be said for Amy; numb of bum, perched on a stool scanning groceries at a supermarket checkout for eight hours a day, just to pay for a child minder.

When Leo started at the gym, numbers for what should have been the lucrative mid-afternoon sessions for bored housewives were falling disastrously, so he was charged with reviving interest. As he considered it a crime against nature to conceal any part of the body he'd lovingly built without steroids, he wondered if part of the reason for dwindling patronage was that male trainers wore baggy shorts and T-shirts, while the females bounced around in thongs and bras.

In a memo to Management he suggested that males should have the option to dress in a similar fashion to females, and vice versa; anything else was sexist. Management prevaricated, then granted him a trial period with the proviso that the tone of the establishment would not be lowered. Also, if he was going to wear a thong like a girl, he had to be hairless like them. This was no problem to a man used to Muscle Building contests.

Management worries evaporated when the numbers of both males and females in Leo's classes more than doubled, nor was there a murmur about tone when his original modest thong shrank to a teensy little pouch. The increase in his hours of work finally saw a commensurate rise in his pay packet just in time for his thirtieth birthday, and the future was looking rosy until the afternoon when the boss's wife, who handled finances and staffing, appeared backstage after his show dressed in her trademark flimsy sun frock and strappy sandals. She was short, emaciated, and sported curly blond hair that did nothing to hide her age. Scrawny is not the same as slim; blond doesn't mean young; and sun damaged skin proves you've spent more years in the sun than you admit to living.

Her name wasn't Jezebel, but it should have been. Without a greeting she approached him, slipped a finger into his pouch and ripped it off. Leo remained impassive, merely staring into her eyes as she fondled his scrotum and slid his foreskin on and off his knob until he was aroused. Slipping the straps off her shoulders she let the frock drop to the floor. She was not wearing underclothes.

'Your contract's up for renewal soon.'


'So fuck me.'

Face still impassive, Leo picked her up, deposited her on the table against the wall, spread her legs, positioned his erection then said as if he didn't care, 'Are you sure you want this?'

'Just do it!' she snapped.

An almighty thrust forced the air from her lungs, followed by a gasp when he bent backwards till his hands touched the ground, dragging Jezebel with him so she was sitting astride his groin, impaled, feet dangling, hands flailing. A powerful hip thrust catapulted her a couple of centimetres into the air, to plonk back impaled even deeper, if that were possible. She began to slip sideways so he stood, replaced her bum on the table and let violent thrusting expunge his contempt.

The episode was never mentioned, but Leo's hopes it would never be repeated had been dashed a few hours before he met Mort. Fystie had taken a sickie from school and, as usual, watched his father's performance from the room behind the stage. When Jezebel joined Leo backstage she failed to see Fystie sitting in the corner, so dropped her dress and demanded a replay. Leo's face again remained impassive. While lifting the woman onto the table he winked and smiled at his son over her shoulder to tell him it wasn't serious, then did his best to ram his rod right through her.

The brutality of his father's thrusting thrilled Fystie, who had always disliked the woman because she told everyone he was an imbecile; so he was disappointed when she walked away unhurt.

They left the Gymnasium immediately after, Leon furious with himself for not refusing the woman, Fystie energetically convincing his father that he'd done the right thing. It would have been insane to risk his job over a meaningless fuck. Distracted by their discussion they hadn't noticed the kid having his head thrust into the sand.

'Don't look,' Mort commanded at the gate beside the house. 'There's a secret catch that no one's allowed to know except me and Grandpa.'

Leo and Fystie dutifully turned away, Mort opened the gate and they proceeded along a narrow path that opened out into a luxuriant garden. Shade trees, flowerbeds and a struggling lawn fronted the wide verandah of an old Queenslander.

'Hang on,' Mortaumal said, whipping off his shorts, sandals and T-shirt, 'Grandpa doesn't like me wearing clothes at home in case I get dirty, he says a body's easier to wash and dry.'

'Sounds sensible, especially in this heat and with such excellent shade.'

'Yeah... he's nothing if not sensible. Grandpa!' he called. 'Visitors!'

A wheelbarrow approached from beyond the trees, pushed by a lean man wearing a battered straw hat and nothing else. He stopped about ten metres from them. Only his eyes moved, back and forth from son to visitors.

Leo stared at the lean, smooth, yellowish-tanned man who moved with such flexuous grace he was reminded of a snake. Surely he was too young to be anyone's grandfather. Then the hat was removed and the face belonged to someone who had seen more than most, and not been impressed. Ageless but definitely not young.

'Leo and Fystie brought me home in case I was mobbed by the crowds who thought I'd shoved that bully I told you about under a truck.' Mort said as if it was now all perfectly clear.

'But you didn't.'

'No, but I would have if I could have.'

'Some things, Mort, should be thought and not spoken.' The older man stepped forward and offered his hand. 'Welcome. I'm Shrude, Mort's grandfather.'

'I'm Leo, and this is Fystie.'

Shrude nodded and shook hands with both.

'It's sweaty weather for pushing that thing around the city.'

'I like the exercise.'

'Hey! I pushed it, not you.'

'Don't show off, Mort.' The voice was gentle, yet commanding. Shrude turned to his guests with a slight frown. 'I was just going to make myself a drink, will you join me?

'That'll be great, thanks.'

'We've no pool, but if you're hot there's a hose over there.'

'Come on,' Mort laughed, 'get your gear off.' turning to Fystie, 'Can you walk?'

'Why, wanna race?'

Leo undid the straps and helped his son out of the wheelchair, then while he removed his trainers, shorts and shirt, Mort did the same for the son.

'Hey! We're the same size if you straighten up. But you're a bit wobbly.'

'I used to be a sailor; takes a while to get used to dry land.'

'You'd look really good if you weren't sort of twisted. Can't you straighten up? I wish my hair was curly like yours. And you're getting hairs down there. I hope I get hairs soon.'

'The reason I can't straighten up, as you so rudely suggest, is because, unlike you, I have too many muscles and they're all in competition. When one pulls, its opposite number sometimes does the same. Sometimes neither does anything and I collapse. I'm sure it's only a question of training. I'll get all my muscles under control one day; even my tongue!' As if to prove his point, his right arm shot out nearly hitting Mort's ear, and his left leg gave way, causing him to cling to his friend's neck for support. Suddenly serious, he looked up into Mort's eyes and frowned. 'Are you repelled?'

'Not at all.' Mort also frowned. Also serious. 'It's... interesting.' He held Fystie steady till he regained his balance, then stood back and nodded judiciously. 'All your bits look normal. You're much more attractive than that fat kid who got himself squashed, that's for sure. It's just so sad... you're bent and... and... you could be so beautiful and... I'm trying not to cry. It must be horrible for you…' He wiped impatiently at his eyes.

'Don't you dare be sorry for me!' The outburst was fuelled by desperation rather than anger. 'I was born like this, so I'm used to it and have as much fun as you.' Fystie's voice softened at the sight of Mort's contrite face. 'I know you were trying to be nice. I just get mad when people act as though I'm a tragic case. Come on, I'm overheated, turn on the hose.'

Leo had been nervously listening to the exchange. When his wife announced that he was on his own when it came to raising their son, the fragile little boy who now depended totally on him became the only person on the planet that he loved more than himself. Every time he took Fystie in his arms he felt as if his heart would burst with pride and love. And as his son grew older, the love increased along with fear for the future.

Meeting Mort had been wonderful. He'd never seen Fystie so witty, so communicative. And Mort could understand him! He wasn't used to anyone else bothering to do anything more than listen politely for a few seconds, say something inconsequential, having understood practically nothing, then move on. There was something very special going on between the two boys. Both ten years old, both verbal and pretty smart, both on the same wavelength, whatever that meant. He breathed a sigh of relief that Mort had not misunderstood Fystie's response to pity, and it was with an almost euphoric sense of lightness and joy that he picked up his son, swung him round and deposited him on a paved area while Mort sprayed them with cold water that made them gasp, then laugh in delight. Fystie began to dance, and fell over. Leo picked him up, then took the hose and sprayed the two boys who clung to each other for support against the powerful beam.'

'Come and get it or I'll throw it out,' Shrude called from the verandah.

'Must we put our clothes on, Mort?'

'No way, you look like superman with all those muscles. I'm jealous. He cast a look at Fystie and shouted, 'And I'm jealous of Fystie's hairy balls!'

'So…' Shrude said with a contented nod when Mort's tale had ended. 'That young terrorist's dead?'

'Yeah, they'll have had to scrape him off the road.'

'Wouldn't have felt a thing, more's the pity. Thanks for bringing Mort home, Leo, and being prepared to stick your neck out if anyone should accuse him of anything. Grieving parents can be loose cannons, looking for anyone to blame except their offspring. It's good he's gone, characters don't change with age, people merely learn to conceal the worst bits. Bullying boys become bullying adults, ruining lives wherever they go.'

'You're not sentimental then, thinking all life is sacred?'

'Sentiment without sentimentality, that's my aim. Like the way you treat Fystie.' Shrude turned to him. 'You're very quiet, young man. Tell me about yourself.'

Fystie's eyes widened. He grinned, saliva dribbled and he laughed. 'I'm a superior being with the power to command men to do my bidding. Dad feeds, washes and cleans me and takes me everywhere I want to go, and only minutes after coming under my spell, Mort pushed me all the way here from the centre of town. That's power, don't you reckon?'

'I'm sure you're right, although my hearing's not what it was. Would you be offended if I asked Leo to repeat it?'

'Mort understands me, he'll do it, Dad's too polite and wouldn't repeat anything rude.'

Mort translated, Shrude laughed, and Leo grinned in pride. After Shrude had been apprised of the daily problems faced by the cerebral palsy brigade, as Fystie called them, they went on a tour of the garden, where the boys soon disappeared to investigate Mort's special places.

'My father bought these three hectares for a song sixty years ago,' Shrude explained, 'planted the trees and ornamental garden around the house, and made a living from the rest, growing pesticide-free vegetables. I kept it up until the big supermarkets drove prices so low I had to work twice as hard for quarter the profit. Developers have offered millions, but when a doctor told me I'd be dead or in a nursing home before I reached sixty, I decided to just stay and enjoy the place.'

'How old are you?'


'Isn't that what's called negative gearing?'

'Yep. I'm on borrowed time.'

'What's the problem?'

'Worn out. A heart has only so many beats in it, apparently, and mine's on its last lap.'

'You seem to be handling it very well.'

'For Mort. I'm sick with fear about what will happen to him. I'm his only relative and I can't bear to think of him in a foster home. He's…'

'Very special. I feel exactly the same about Fystie.'

A loud laugh from Fystie. 'Why's that chair hanging from the tree?' he asked, pointing at a large armchair suspended about half a metre from the ground, draped in colourful silks that were waving in the breeze.

'My wife likes it.'

A piercing shriek of laughter made the visitors jump. A wrinkled face appeared over the armrest and shouted something incomprehensible, before tossing a plastic bottle at Shrude.

'Grandma wants some more water,' Mort explained, picking up the bottle and running back to the house.

'I hope you'll forgive my curiosity,' Leo smiled, 'but why is your wife sitting in an armchair suspended from a tree?'

Shrude gave the chair a push that sent it spinning and swinging, triggering a burst of wild giggling from the occupant. 'Because Nasturtium likes it, and it keeps her out of mischief. She was fine until three years ago when someone reported us to the cops for growing marijuana. We weren't, never have, but that didn't stop them tearing the place apart. Nasturtium confronted them, so they shoved her so hard she fell and smashed her head on the edge of the concrete steps and scrambled her brains. An internal police inquiry found they'd acted in self defence.'

'That's terrible!'

'That's Queensland.'

'Too true. And it's getting worse. We'll soon be like the U.S.; more police kills than road deaths.'

Twenty minutes later they had completed the tour of the gardens and returned to the house.

'Shrude,' Leo said seriously, 'this is the most relaxing day I've had for ages. I love your place, I like Mort and you, and I resent having to put clothes on, but we've got to go.'

'Can Fystie come and play sometimes?' Mort asked.

'Don't ask Dad, I'm the one in charge,' Fystie announced. 'Of course I can come, whenever the chauffeur's available.'

'I can push you after school and Leo can come and pick you up.'

'Do I get a say in this?' Shrude was grinning. He'd almost given up hope that his grandson would find a decent friend.

'Is it okay, Grandad?'

'Very okay. Fystie can stay over sometimes too if he likes. But if you're not in a hurry, why don't you both stay for a meal?'

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