A Misunderstanding

by Rigby Taylor

At Art School Marjory discovered she had the skills but not sufficient imagination or ego to be an artist, so she became a wife and mother. Twenty years later when all except her youngest had fled the coop, she set up a studio in her basement and gave classes to people who had always wanted to draw, but never got around to it. Her 'Life' classes proved the most popular, but this evening the model was late and the students watched with concern as Marjory's self-confidence unravelled.

Her son, who sometimes joined the class, offered to telephone and sort out the problem. He sprinted upstairs, stood quietly at the top and counted to one hundred, then ran back down to inform his mother that the model had left town leaving no forwarding address.

"Oh my goodness! It's too late to find another! What on earth shall I do?"

"I'll model – but I choose my own poses."

"You're too young! The students need a professional!"

"Mum, I know what to do."

With ill-concealed nervousness Marjory apologised to the class while Antony slipped behind the screen, stripped, checked that everything was as it should be, stepped onto the podium and adopted a series of athletic three-minute poses that kept the would-be artists delighted and very busy.

Marjory gazed in awe. She'd always left Antony to organise his own life, assuming his avoidance of team sports and preference for solo pursuits like computing, karate, swimming and reading meant he was a bit of a nerd. But under the spotlight she discovered her little boy had become a handsome young man with well defined muscles; manhood jutting almost too proudly from its nest of pubic hair. She gazed nervously around. No one seemed perturbed. The busy scratching of pencils the only sound.

She felt dizzy and sat down. This morning Antony had been her baby. Tonight he was a man! When had it happened? A chunk of her life was missing! She'd been too busy to notice. The realisation was bleakly depressing.

For the twenty-minute poses Antony chose difficult positions, yet remained utterly still, exuding a confidence she'd never guessed he possessed. Close cropped hair emphasised his fine head and smooth young neck. And such well shaped legs! In the two-minute breaks between poses he wandered naked among the easels and stools to look at drawings and charm the artists with praise, questions and ingenuous smiles.

Marjory's heart missed several beats. What must her students be thinking! Models should never mingle with students when naked!

Antony had been practising his poses for two weeks; since intercepting the model's phone call saying she was moving interstate. He told himself he was doing it as a social experiment. People didn't question a nude man posing for an art class, but what if he wandered around naked between poses and during the tea break? If he could charm everyone into accepting him doing that, it would prove taboos against nudity were not inherent in human nature.

Of course there was also another, perhaps more truthful reason that he kept tucked away at the back of his brain in case anyone found out. The idea of being naked in a room full of dressed strangers had fuelled his sexual fantasies for weeks.

The other models his mother used, usually kept their legs together and reclined, sat or stood in positions that required the minimum expenditure of energy. Antony did the opposite; holding poses for long minutes in extreme positions to demonstrate strength and flexibility. High karate kicks, gymnastic exercises, a sprinter poised for the starter's pistol... complicated and powerful stances that thrilled his audience and left him exposed and apparently vulnerable. But he didn't feel vulnerable. While cleverly presenting himself as naïve and innocent so no one would guess he was getting a mental thrill out of it, he felt wondrously potent.

Luckily for his image, the difficult poses required constant monitoring to avoid sagging, and this, together with sometimes extreme physical discomfort, ensured that arousal remained purely cerebral and no one had the slightest cause to object.

Time passed too quickly.

At tea break, Antony jumped from the podium and began handing round biscuits and beverages with such friendly, guileless naiveté that everyone assumed he was unaware of the extraordinary effect he was having. The class had never been so friendly and chatty. Bubbling with enthusiasm. Marjory couldn't decide if she was embarrassed, jealous or pleased. A unanimous decision booked him for the next five sessions, and his mother agreed to use him for her two other Life classes.

"You're braver than me," his father said with a smile when told of his son's success.

Antony didn't consider himself brave; he'd been enjoying the most liberating experience of his life! And that made him wonder if anyone was really brave. Perhaps sky-divers and mountain climbers were just like him – doing what they wanted. What an inner voice insisted they do.

Deirdre, his mother's divorced school friend, had recently joined an evening class in the vain hope of meeting someone who appreciated her. She wasn't talented and found it difficult to finish drawings in the time available. Would Antony pose privately? He always needed money so agreed on the spot, leaving his mother unable to object. On his next free evening he found himself reclining naked over an antique divan in Deirdre's Spanish-style apartment.

Barefoot in a flimsy sun frock, Deirdre stood at her easel muttering to herself. "Oh! It's so difficult. Come and tell me what I'm doing wrong."

Bored and pleased to stretch his muscles, Antony stood beside her. A smooth hand caressed his buttocks.

"Looks OK to me," he muttered, moving away to hide his annoyance.

"Let's change the pose," she said, taking his hand.

He pulled away.

"You're tense. I'll give you a massage."

Before he could find the words to refuse, he was face down enduring an amateurish pummelling. It was unpleasant and the carpet wasn't particularly clean, so he rolled over intending to get up and tell her to stop. The words never made it into the air. Deirdre had already slipped off her dress and before he could escape she'd straddled his calves, pressed him back onto the carpet and begun sucking on his penis. To his astonishment it engorged! He wanted to scream; pound her head with his fists... but was terrified she'd bite it off, so lay still, watching in frozen horror as his tormentor slid forward, rose onto her knees, reached behind, grasped his erection and lowered herself onto it.

As if drugged he stared at her soft white belly, a patch of hair and long brown nipples that jiggled inches from his face. He thrust them away, repelled by the softness.

She didn't notice; just kept riding him. Grunting.

Claustrophobic anger anaesthetised all sensation. How dare she? How dare she! After an age, a series of ecstatic moans signalled his release.

Deirdre rolled off and sprawled on her back. "Ah! I needed that!"

At home Antony stood in the shower scrubbing his genitals till they hurt. He felt unclean. Used. Why hadn't he stopped her? She'd treated him like a blow-up doll! What was wrong with him? Why hadn't he enjoyed it? Why hadn't he shoved her off and left? Why hadn't he ripped shit out of her before going home? He couldn't face her again. No one must ever find out! The shame! He couldn't model again. The bitch had ruined everything!

He muddled through the next day at school earning reprimands for inattention, but didn't care; he deserved punishment for being such a useless wimp. Pocketing a Stanley knife from the art class he hid himself in the toilets and made small cuts on his forearms. It hurt, but he wanted it to. Then he realised people would ask questions. There was nowhere he could cut himself because the following night, unless he could think of an excuse, he'd be naked in front of a drawing class. The thought made him feel sick.

Alone in his room, self-hatred mushroomed until his brain was consumed by one thought – he had to cleanse himself. A night spent concocting feverish plans for punishing both himself and his rapist left him shivering. Mind a black mist. Incapable of getting out of bed.

His father, worried about his son's mood the previous evening and non-arrival at breakfast, came to investigate.

"You OK?"

Antony remained facing the wall."

"Want to talk about it?"

Shame took a back seat to anger and tears. "Deirdre raped me! You have to prosecute her!"

"What happened?"

If Antony left out any detail it was unintentional, and gradually as he relived the experience the miasma of misery lifted. It was no longer his problem alone. It was now also his father's. It was true—a problem shared is a problem halved.

His father thought for a while, then said softly, "I watched you the other evening. You looked mature and confident. I was proud of you. During the breaks you wandered around, completely at ease, and, astonishingly, everyone else was equally relaxed. That's quite an achievement!"

The complement triggered a further lightening of mood. "Thanks, Dad, but that's no reason for..."

"You visited Deirdre, accepted a massage, and got an erection. What was the woman to think?"

"But... I couldn't help it!"

"Yes... I remember... always stiff at the most inopportune moments. Enjoy it while it lasts." His smile was perplexed. "Didn't you enjoy any of it?"

"I hated all of it!"

"She's a good looking woman."

"I felt sick when she touched me – and when I touched her."

"Did you ask her to stop?"

"I couldn't! It was like I was frozen."

"Did she hurt anything – apart from your aesthetic sensibilities and pride?"

"No. But that's not the point!"

"Remember a couple of years ago I took you to the Grand Prix and you endured a day of noise and fumes and racing cars going round and round and you swore it was the worst day of your life?"


"I thought I was giving you a treat. Perhaps this was a similar misunderstanding."

"She didn't give a stuff about me!"

"Most men would be jealous."

"And probably the kids at school too! But I hated it!"

"Does she know?"

"Don't think so."

"If you lay charges everyone will find out. Is that what you want?"


"Then just file it under Lessons-Learned."

"What lesson? Stay away from randy old bitches?"

"No. Only be naked alone with people you fancy."

Antony stared out the window. It was a glorious day. A kookaburra let loose with a barrage of maniacal laughter.' He sighed and shook his head. "So I was stupid."


"And now I'm soiled goods."

'Not at all, attractive and experienced goods."

Antony managed a wry smile. "Thanks, Dad."

"Thank you."

"What for?"

"Making me feel useful."

To Antony's relief, as soon as he stepped onto the podium that evening the exhilaration returned. During supper, instead of mingling he chatted to Stephen, a slim and darkly intense student who was hoping to get into Art School. Deirdre sidled up and handed him an envelope. "You forgot your fee," she said roguishly, patting him lightly on the bum.

All anger had dissipated; transformed into benign contempt. Antony took the envelope, nodded vaguely and returned his attention to Stephen.

"Your fee?" asked Stephen with a friendly leer. "Don't tell me you..."

"Hardly! She's an old bag. I just sat for her at home."

"That's what I need so I can finish my Entry Folio."

As if in a trance Antony heard himself saying, "If you like... I could..."

"Just joking. Can't afford it anyway."

"No charge – I've nothing better to do."

"You sure?"

"Yeah, why not?

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