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Pain Management
Brian Bouldrey
 

The room is jaundiced, he thought, and caught the mistake -- Dennis couldn't help himself. To give emotions to things made him feel hysterical, like a character out of a Tennessee Williams play; to personify the curtains or running water made him seem a child in a fairy tale. But that room was jaundiced, sick yellow light.

In the jaundiced light, everything looked red. Even this sickly man sitting there, the one they'd come to give the bread and wine of communion to. His colleague would only refer to him as "the communicant" although Dennis wanted to call him a patient, communicable. The man sat on a couch in shiny burgundy silk pajamas, and in any other light, he'd look like Fred Astaire ready to dance. Dennis had HIV, too, but he assured himself there was nothing he could catch. Still, there were many other reasons for Dennis to feel ill here.

The man in the pajamas said, "All of my nerve endings are right under my skin now. There's nothing, no fat, no flesh, no nothing that can protect me. I can't do anything but feel." He seemed to have surprised himself with this fact.

Dennis had had some trouble during his seminary time, and now he was only an acolyte assisting a real priest, Father Daniel Wrigley, going from door to door among the sick to give them the communion. It was some final chance he'd been offered, humiliating, ridiculous: not actually caring for the shut-ins, but giving them everlasting life if they believed. If Dennis did.

Like Dennis, this man in the pajamas was on the HIV cocktail, but the drugs had not saved him. Or rather, they had kept him alive, but because of his own body's reaction to the drugs, all of the fat had migrated away from his extremities, and made his skin so profoundly sensitive that every touch, every movement, every breeze was painful. He was confined to this yellow room, a low grade fever of pain.


If that room was sulfur-yellow, Monsignor Hardy's library had been royal purple. It was a place for pomp, but the Monsignor looked dissipated. Without robes, in a raspberry-colored dress shirt streaked with cigarette ashes half brushed away, gray oily hair slicked back in lank locks, the corner of his glasses frames taped together, he bent down now to aim his stick. He motioned with his head and cue, (Eight Ball, corner pocket) and said, "You don't think about Christ enough." He sunk it, no problem.

Dennis didn't answer while they listened to the ball roll beneath the length of the table. Dennis should have been thinking about other things, but he couldn't help noting that according to the official rules of "Eight Ball", his opponent should have explained verbally which pocket the ball was going to go into -- a gesture of the head or hand was not officially enough. But Dennis, at the moment, was in big trouble. The less said, the better.

The Monsignor didn't acknowledge his victory, either. He simply reached into the table and took three balls in each splayed hand, the gesture people use at the grocery store to transfer tomatoes to the shopping cart. He had pulled the balls out again and placed them in formation for another game. "I can't look at the cross," Dennis confessed. Over the pool table, there was a large one. Christ was shown in yet another attitude of agony. Every artist of every crucifix used the occasion as a way to express another kind of pain. Dennis remembered every crucifix he'd ever seen, so there was a cumulative effect. Dennis had trouble breathing around pain. And praying before the cross became a kind of long, slow asphyxiation. Maybe Dennis could pray to parts of the crucifix -- the two nailed feet, the lanced side, maybe the crown of thorns -- but all at once: that, that was the horror of memory. "The pain," Dennis said.

For some reason, this pleased the Monsignor. He smiled, and then he remembered himself, and frowned. "Dennis. What you have done is inexcusable. In the eyes of God. In the eyes of Jesus Christ his son. In the eyes of the Holy Spirit. In the eyes of all those people you fooled. The Church. You have lied. You cause pain with your lies."

Dennis looked away from the cross. He had not really lied, he wanted to say; he had just neglected to tell the truth.

"Father Fitzgerald has suggested that you be sent away. I think he's right."

Father Fitz! That man had committed the other six deadly sins himself, every day, there in his Minnesotan fiefdom. Dennis had done all the hard work while Fitz held the reins of power. Dennis made the social calls, called the caterers for the Knights of Columbus, got a plumber in when the boiler broke down. The only crime Dennis had committed was to let the congregation of St. Matthias church, as well as Jay the barber and Greg the masseur, believe that he was a fully-frocked Jesuit priest. They had called him "Father Dennis", and at first he enjoyed the name, which seemed almost true, and then, after a few days, it was too late to correct them.

Monsignor Hardy leaned over the green felt and hit the cue squarely. It broke the cluster of balls. A striped ball went into one pocket, then a solid went into another. "I call solids," he said.


The book was blue, he remembered, blue for sky. One of the big picture books from the How and Why Wonder Book Of series. The How and Why Wonder Book of Gems and Minerals. The How and Why Wonder Book of Dinosaurs. The one he wanted, the one he'd seen in the store and now couldn't find any more, was the How and Why Wonder Book of Birds of Prey, a clunky title that did not soar like a hawk, and so had to be doctored with blue sky.

The raptors were arranged for a cumulative effect, from smallest to largest. Each page spread was devoted to a new bird -- in the upper left, its picture and its name, then a map of the world that showed the big colored blobs where it lived, then the bulleted facts, and in the lower right corner, the bird in action, shown carrying its optimal payload.

At the front of the book, owls with tiny mice in their clutches, the mouse bright-eyed, horrified, appealing for salvation. A sparrow hawk and a sparrow in its talons, some kind of eagle with a rabbit. Always, the victim was alive and struggling, its eyes rolling up into its head, sometimes, not a sight for children. At that age, Dennis had felt privileged and majestic to be able to see such a thing, even if it was only in a drawing. Nature, red in tooth and claw. It seemed like the truth, for a change. The secret world of adults.

The book had a velocity; it made Dennis want to turn its pages faster and faster, to watch the birds of prey grow bigger and stronger, the prey itself more and more substantial -- squirrels, then rabbits, then cats, then farmyard beasts and then, there, there on the final page, a Chilean condor, its wingspan like something off a coin, and in its clutches, a girl, a blond girl in a pink frock. Her eyes like a rabbit's, her hands clawing at the air, her body lifted off the ground, Zeus and Leda: a sudden rush.

When Dennis became an adult, he realized that no blonde girl in a frock would ever show up in the habitat of a Chilean condor. The illustration had been a pornographic fantasy. As a boy, he wanted to believe it. As a man, he wanted to see it again. He haunted used book stores, hoping to find the book. Nobody ever believed him when he told them about the girl in the thrall of the condor, whisked into the empty blue sky, not a puffy cloud around to soften her fate.


One day, before he knew what power was, he let an older boy, one he liked, lead him along a green path, then through a field, to a farm he had always considered "far away". There was a fence, but it seemed like a mockery, at least to Dennis: just some stakes and a thin metal strand -- not even the bestarred barbed wire that snagged your coat and got you grounded and reminded you of itself later when you peeled away the zippered scar. The metal strand was threaded over and under plastic bobbins and rollers.

Dennis meant to slip under or step over, to keep up with the older boy, whose voice was already deep and resonant and commanding; but instead he grabbed the wire, leaned, and felt something happen, something not bad, not wrong, but an excited fizz, the kind mustard or ginger made in his mouth. A big idea felt like that, both freeing and distracting. A tentmate during a camping trip accidentally aimed the flashlight in his eye once for a moment. In the garbage can outside the school that summer, something big was rotting. Just so, there was something big in the wire.

Dennis couldn't pull away. This is what electricity feels like, he thought. The cows this fence was made for let themselves be stopped by it. He never touched a wire like that again -- he didn't need to. And there was that older boy to catch up with, the one he admired.

Thirty years later and far away from home, Dennis walked by an open lot and put down his daypack, which he'd packed full of patens, linens, a little Ziploc bag full of the sacramental hosts, the body of Christ, Amen. He'd been caught in a strange rainstorm that had happened in the radius of this block; the rest of the town seemed to be under blue sky. But he, he had to take cover until the rain passed, let him pass. He'd be late, he realized, as he leaned down to hold the handles of the knapsack, because he wanted to keep it upright, trying to recall whether he'd packed anything inside that might spill.

That was when those same fingers that had tapped power in the electrified fence felt the spark again, the searing press against a hot teakettle. What was it? -- something green.   The empty lot was garden green. Just a brush with these steepled stalks, serrated teardrop-shaped leaves. He felt a quick throb, a lash across the knuckles. He looked down to see if something had bitten him. He saw only weeds, gewgawed with clusters of green berries -- of course, he remembered -- nettles. He couldn't even summon the dignity needed to feel resentful. Nettles: not sneaking ivy, not the deceitful rosebush, just nettles, without any human emotion pressed upon them


"Dennis," said the priest at the door, when they met, but that was all.

He didn't mention it, but after the rain clouds passed, he could still feel the sting along his knuckles, the pain a chalky bite he tasted in a garlic clove, the altitude-changing blare of an organ chord in a quiet church, that thin metal strand of power.

He also didn't mention it because of the priest for whom he was assisting. He had stepped up to the door just as Dennis rang the bell. He hadn't seen the boy -- the man -- for five years, and he was a Jesuit, if newly minted, succeeding where Dennis had so far failed. He had known Father Wrigley only as Danny then, more than ten years Dennis's junior, thrown together by the proximity of name. Now Danny's acne was gone, or it had been hidden away; in its place, Danny had grown and trimmed a complicated sort of facial hair that made Dennis think of French gardens and club kids, hip and fussy. "He's not coherent, so don't bother trying to listen to him too closely," Danny had said, just after saying hello, as if no reunion was happening, not at all. How much had Monsignor Hardy told Danny?      A voice belonging to what would turn out to be the man in the silk pajamas yelled from deep inside, "The door is unlocked."

Father Danny Wrigley pushed it open before the sentence was out: he'd been here before. Knocking was a formality.

They opened satchels on the kitchen table, a realm for nurses and priests and providers from Meals on Wheels, and very clean. "How have you been?" Dennis asked Danny as he helped prepare the water, the wine, the various stacking bits of chalices and napkins. It seemed that Danny would say nothing about their previous friendship. He was a businessman now.

"I'm well," Father Danny said, "though mostly I'm restless, roaming all over doing God's work." Dennis couldn't tell if he was being sarcastic; he wasn't using any of the common cultural inflections of verbal irony that he was familiar with. Dennis guessed that Danny meant the task of giving communion to sick people was a work that made him want to continue roaming. Or that he hated God's work.

Danny's beat, it seemed, was made up of HIV patients. Dennis and he had been paired up not because they'd known each other before, but because Dennis could "relate". Dennis said, "I hope The Church reimburses you for gas mileage."

"You're looking good. Healthy," said Father Danny, pausing to appraise his fellow seminarian, "Though I can see that your medications are giving you a little of that lipodystrophy I keep seeing in many of my communicants -- " he reached out, and because of what he had just said, allowed himself to run three fingers along Dennis's cheek.

Dennis felt the words burn him right where Danny had caressed him. He didn't feel anything had been revealed; well, yes -- people could know that he had HIV just by looking at his wasting face, the frog belly made of all the fat that was slowly migrating from his extremities into a tight protective ball, and the small dowager's hump he'd developed ("home fat", Rigo called his, proudly, and kept his hair cut bristle-short to show it off). Danny's recognition of it didn't burn like truth-telling, but something more intimidating and brutal, like pure reason.

"How are you today, Father?" the man called from deep inside the house.

Father Danny shouted over Dennis's shoulder, "I've brought an assistant today. I think you two will have a lot in common."

"Oh? A homo? A boyfriend? Another doctor? A witch doctor?" The suggestions were called out occasionally until Father Daniel and acolyte Dennis met him in the big yellow room, where the man, almost sexy in his fat-free state, reclined like a calif on brocaded pillows, a copy of the visions of Julian of Norwich propped at his side.

Dennis picked it up, because he had loved this book. The man smiled, assuming that he was in the presence of another priest, not any of the assistants he had called out. He said, "Do you think it's true that we all have a natural will toward God?"

Dennis had to say yes, because he represented the liturgy. He couldn't tell whether Daniel, fussing with his missal, trying to find the part of the mass he already had memorized, was listening to this exchange.

"Even Hitler?" the man said. "Even Jeffrey Dahmer? My name is Oscar," he added.


The Monsignor poured both of them glasses of apple juice. When he set it down next to Dennis's pool cue, Dennis thought it looked like a urine sample, until the Monsignor dropped a tiny ice cube into it. "Dennis," he said, "do you really feel the call?" What he was saying was, this isn't working out. You're fired. The problem for Dennis was that he had sworn poverty, chastity, and obedience, and so he could not protest. Dennis had come back from Minnesota a failure.

Monsignor Hardy handed Dennis his pool cue, apparently because he liked to watch Dennis lose. Dennis had failed so utterly that he was no longer asked to meet his mentor in the main office, but here in the library, full of hundreds of unread texts on dogma, all with titles smacking of socialist realist cant. There was a half-done five-thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle, the finished picture depicted on the box lid, propped against an overwrought chair reserved for a bishop. Only the billiard table in the middle of the room had not collected so much dust.

"I have nothing to say in my defense," said Dennis, "except that I was given no authority when I arrived in Minnesota, and people wanted to have some reason to respect me. I didn't mean to do any harm. I only wanted to help."

"What do you think I should do?"

"I would like you to give me another chance."

The Monsignor stood up. "Dennis, this is no work for you. There are many ways you can serve God without being a priest."

"When I was twenty and didn't know anything about anything," Dennis said, "I would go into the Catholic bookstore downtown, and the nuns would put propaganda in my hands, calling me to the priesthood. That's how hard up the Church was then -- snagging customers buying Bibles. Now I know better, now I could help people even more, and you all think I'm too old, too worldly."

"You are too worldly," Monsignor Hardy said. You are an idol worshipper. You pray to saints more than you pray to Christ, to the Virgin."  Dennis was silent, because it was true. The Monsignor said, "Why is it that you do not pray to Christ, but indulge only in the cult of saints?" Everybody knew Dennis's collection of statues and prayer cards to patrons and martyrs.

"Because the saints need my help. God does not seem to need any help. He can't get any help from me."

This was blasphemy, a heresy, a finishing stroke, he knew. He could give up all hope, now, of ever becoming a priest. But Monsignor Hardy said, "You want to help? Then you will help. I want you to spend the next six months assisting other priests who aid the sick and shut-in. It's not going to be glamorous work. I don't want you doing anything else during this time. No teaching."

"But I'm a good teacher!" Dennis wondered at this -- taking away from him the thing that he was good at, and liked to do.

"Do you want this opportunity?"


Even in the dim jaundiced light, the room was an obstacle course of little objects. Dennis and Danny had come to the room of a pharaoh, a man buried alive with his worldly possessions. There was an order to it, a little, although it seemed more of an inventory, a Catholic Church that had been around too long. He remembered a little game Rigo had taught him,: When you are dressed to go out, check yourself in the mirror, then turn away from it -- then quick!, look at the mirror again and the first thing you see on yourself, take it off. Dennis wanted to do this with Oscar's room. Ten or twenty times.

Father Daniel had everything in hand. He didn't really need any help: this was another humiliation for Dennis to endure. This kid! He could be Dennis's son! He could be the son of Oscar! And he was the one they had to call "Father". Oscar smiled at Dennis, and he had to grit and bare his teeth to smile.

Dennis said, "Would you like to pray?"

Oscar said, "Yes, but I don't like prayers of petition. I like to give thanks."

"What would you like to thank God for today?" Would they thank him for the nice day? For food? For children and puppy dogs? What other children's hymns did Dennis know?

"I would like to thank God for uncreating me. Just as he created me."

Father Daniel looked to Dennis and shook his head: don't encourage him -- that's just the pain talking -- that's enough. Dennis said, "Let's just share a prayer of thanksgiving. It feels good to say ‘halleluja'."

"Nothing feels good to me," said Oscar, although he didn't say it in a piteous voice. It was just a brutal view of his world. Dennis self-consciously touched his own cheek where Daniel had brushed it.


"Oh come on, what could be the harm?" Dennis said. He was sitting on the edge of Rigo's bathtub while he painted the whole bathroom glossy black. It was a stupid idea. Dennis didn't even know why he was doing this, he had nothing in common with Rigo.

"I don't think so, Dennis. What would be the point? I'll be dead in a year. You want me to leave you everything in my will? Well, dang it, it's all yours. Poof! You're my primary beneficiary."

Two of those lantern lights workmen used in coal mines blazed in the black bathroom. It had the dark shine of stormtrooper boots and Greek olives. Dennis guessed that this bathroom was going to be sexy, in Rigo's mind.

Dennis had, only once in his life, fallen in love, if only momentarily, with Rigo. He didn't know what to do about it. He decided to do what he would try to do ten years later when Monsignor Hardy was getting ready to end his studies to be a priest: he would cajole. "Come on. What else are you going to do? Have you already got another boyfriend? Two heads are better than one."

Rigo was not open to the idea, not at all. But he was a captive audience now, painted into a corner, not a metaphor for a change, but truly surrounded by glossy tarry black latex. There was a radio playing in the boxy claustrophobia of the bathroom, and between his appeals, Dennis heard "My soul is on fire, it has a hot desire," or something like that. For somebody who wanted an edgy life, Rigo's taste in music was tame, cruelly sentimental, something for single moms and unpopular office secretaries, soft rock. How many times, Dennis wondered, could they get away with rhyming fire with desire? "Is it really because of your HIV status?"

Rigo daubed the brush with jimmying clumsy strokes at a corner behind the sink, and laughed as if he knew something Dennis did not; this, Dennis later decided, was Rigo's confidence that Dennis was just as positive as Rigo.

"Because I'm not afraid of it. And if you think I'd ditch you the moment you got sick -- " "Blue" and "true" the radio crooned, "away" and "stay".

Rigo was not showing any signs of consent, but listened, both unmoved and engrossed, the way a child tolerates a complicated bedtime story so as not to have to go to sleep yet. "Hand me that rag, will you?"

"Above" and "love"; the smell of plastic and turpentine. While reaching across the tub, Dennis nearly tripped on the big bucket Rigo used to recycle shower water into toilet-flushing water. If it's brown, they were saying all over town, flush it down. "Heart", the singer sang, then "apart". "Rigo, do you really want to be alone the rest of your life? Can't I appeal to you on a pragmatic level? Think of the time you'll save with a division of labor. You cook, I clean up. I do laundry, you vacuum."

"Sweetie, you've only appealed to me on a pragmatic level," Rigo said. "You're not built to be a romantic."

Dennis showed Rigo his own ebony evidence on an oily rag: "Neither are you."

Rigo frowned. He'd taken offence at this. Dennis felt that just then, he'd ruined his chances. "Birds". Then, "words". Dennis said, "I've never felt like this before." The radio mocked him: "implore". But it was true, he never had. There was real passion for Rigo, for his body and his soul, he wanted to be with him, live with him, even, even if he was painting his bathroom black and wore leather pants to work.

"I'm sorry I said that," Dennis backed up. "What I mean is, we're both romantic in unconventional ways."

"Oh, unconventional," Rigo said. "June" and "moon", of course.

"I sent you flowers!" He had. But they were nowhere in the house, he noticed, when he walked into the house to follow up on the gesture.

Dennis had some terrible feeling about this moment. It was supposed to be an important scene in his life, but he was ruining it, and he had no idea what could be said or done to save the day. The words had not been invented yet -- and that thought made him even more sure that he was in love, of sorts, because the vocabulary didn't exist for it. If only he had been a poet, he would remember thinking.

"I could wait, if that's what it would take. Isn't that what real love is? Waiting for as long as it would take, because you know it was worth waiting for?"

Rigo smiled. "You'll be waiting for all eternity. Okay. That would be very romantic. But kind of stupid." They were on the third song of an uninterrupted set, the radio DJ announced. "Do to me" and "Misery".

Dennis wasn't sure when in the conversation he had started to hurt, though he noticed it when the stupid rhyming words in the easy listening songs started to have some meaning to him, when he couldn't be his usual independent skeptical self. Love made him feel weak, easy to harm. He'd make a note never to let it happen again.

"And what's wrong with pragmatism? Saving money and helping another person out." Rigo had dropped out of the conversation. Dennis said, "If you want an open relationship, I'm fine with that."

Rigo laughed again.

"I wish you wouldn't laugh at me."

"I'm not laughing at you, Dennis."

"Then just tell me why you won't be my boyfriend? Why won't you even give it a try? We have fun in the sack, we always have something to talk about. I'm helping you paint your bathroom black. What can't I provide that you need?"

Rigo pushed a cabinet door back in place and revealed a huge swath of white wall, just when he was hoping to be finished with his job. Dennis said, "Why can't I be your boyfriend." "Please," the song rhymed the appeal, unbelievably, with the verb, to "please".

"Because, damn it. Because you can't do this," Rigo said, and he unbuttoned his smock. In the weakened light, Dennis could see vague discolorations on Rigo's arms. Sarcoma? No. Birthmarks? No. Rigo slipped the shirt over his shoulders and the move made him look exploited, tricked to expose himself, and Dennis saw more, the color and scattered pattern his paintbrush would make when it spattered wood stain. Because the black room absorbed all the light, Dennis had to lean in close. That's what made him feel trapped and implicated when he realized that what he was looking at were dozens of cigarette burns, in various stages of healing and not healed. Dennis winced. "Die," the singer cried, and finished with "cry".


Oscar had received the communion wafer. Father Daniel was packing up his kit. There were four other homes in which they had to serve communion. Danny had to take a confession, too. "We need to get going, Dennis," he said, when it was clear that Dennis wasn't moving.

"I want to stay here for a little while," Dennis said.

Danny turned on him, a disgusted businessman. Dennis guessed at a bad history between Father Daniel and Oscar. Or a challenge. Some sort of disappointment. Would Daniel report this to Monsignor Hardy? He needed to remember "obedience". He needed to look at the crucifix more often. He needed to pray to God even though God didn't seem to need him much. Love him, sure, God loved Dennis. But did he need Dennis? Oscar needed Dennis. Daniel, apparently, didn't need Dennis.

"Help me to the door, Dennis?" Daniel asked him, though he didn't need help there, either -- he just wanted to tell him something in confidence. Even Oscar could see that.

They walked back to the kitchen. Father Daniel leaned over and with a stern upright finger he said, "Do you know what pain does to people?"

"What do you know about pain?" Dennis sputtered. That was his area of expertise. How dare this whippersnapper take over pain, too.

"I know that people gather it around themselves like a royal garment. They cherish it like jewels. When you are in pain, you are consumed, and you can't think about or feel anything else. It's not just physical, but mental. You can't think of anything, not even God. You can't attend to any of the other senses. You can't hear a pretty song or enjoy a pretty view. Even your imagination is consumed. You start to believe that your bones will shatter, your flesh will turn to jelly, and you can't avoid those imaginings, no matter how crazy they are. Oscar sees his pain as some kind of focus, as an ascetic experience. He thinks he's a monk. He's vain about it."

Dennis could hardly bear to listen to him. What had Danny ever felt in his life? Had he stubbed his toe, perhaps? The sting of an Oxy-5 pad on his pimpled face? Razor burn? Father Daniel saw the sour look on Dennis's face. But Dennis was in deep trouble, he had called himself a priest when he was not a priest, and Father Daniel knew it. He said, "Pain can become a kind of sin, it seems to me. Something that both humiliates you and makes you feel superior, too."

There was a tottering feeling in the room -- Dennis's life could go either way. He could return to the fold and humble himself before his superior. Or he could speak up, and end this torture.

But before Dennis could decide, Daniel said, "Don't be too long," and walked out the front door.

Dennis would be walking again. He should have hitched a ride with Daniel, because it was probably still raining. He walked back down the hall, and watched walls grow yellow.

"Father Daniel isn't a happy man," Oscar said.

"Shh," said Dennis.

"You're not happy either. Even though you aren't as sick as I am, even though you've been luckier."

"I have a memory, though," Dennis said, "I remember all the sadness. How can I be happy when there's all the sadness. They're dancing in the streets out there, you know. Boys at the discos, orgies and key parties again. Just like the old days. But nobody seems to remember how awful it was." He looked at Oscar, all nerve endings. "How awful it still is, now and then."

Oscar said, "Halleluja, hallelujah."

Dennis looked up at a crucifix over the man. He hadn't seen it in the hour he'd been there, it was too much part of the clutter of the room; here in the yellow room, it wasn't as vivid, didn't stand out when it was with paintings and vases and pillows with tassels and figurines and dried flowers. Dennis could handle looking at it, in full, in all this inventory.

He let himself think: Oscar is a handsome man. The way the fat had gone away from his body had made him lean, taut. He was in pain, and he was beautiful to look at. Dennis put his fingers to the tight, sallow face, a gesture that made Oscar make a smile that was also a wince. "Put your hand down there, please," Oscar said, "Please." Dennis knew that by grabbing the man's penis, he was throwing away his last chance to be a priest. Even more than his unwillingness to follow Daniel on his appointed rounds. He reached down, pulling the satin robe aside. The penis stiffened with blood. Dennis stroked it, and watched Oscar's face convey all sorts of pleasures and pains. He waited for Oscar to tell him to stop, but he didn't, not even to the bitter end. And Dennis comforted himself that he was sharing in some of Oscar's pain. With the vigor of his hand movement, he revived the tingling sting of the nettles whip: they hurt together.

When Oscar came, there was such a strangled scream that Dennis had to think of something else, and he thought of being outdoors, and the blue sky, with no puffy forgiving clouds in it.

 
 

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