He had never taken his gaze from the pliant rubber Greek gods who frolicked below, washed by equal parts of salt wind and lust.

“Have you ever wondered,” he said at last, a faint line of sweat on his upper lip, a faint brim of perspiration along the hairline under his cap, “about vampires who do not appear in mirrors? Well, now, see those glorious young men down there? They appear in all mirrors; but no one else does. Only the minted gods show. And when they stare at themselves, do they ever see anyone else, the girls that they ride like seahorses? I have no such faith. So now,” he went back to his starter subject, “do you understand why you saw me with the wee dark mole A. L. Shrank?”

“I wait for phone calls, myself,” I said. “Anything’s better than that!”

“You actually understand.” He stared at me with eyes that burned the clothes off my body.

I nodded.

“Come visit me sometime.” He nodded at the faraway Carousel Apartments where the calliope groaned and lamented over something vaguely resembling “Beautiful Ohio.” “I’ll tell you about Iris Tree, Sir Beerbohm Tree’s daughter, who used to live in those apartments, the half-sister of Carol Reed, the British director. Aldous Huxley sometimes drops up, you might see him.”

He saw my head jerk at that and knew I was on the hook.

“You like to meet Huxley? Well, behave yourself,” he caressed the words, “and you just might.”

I was filled with an inexpressible and insufferable need that I had to force myself to repress. Huxley was a madness in my life, a terrible hunger. I longed to be that bright, that witty, that toweringly supreme. To think, I might meet him.

“Come visit.” Hopwood’s hand had crept to his coat pocket. “And I will introduce you to the young man I love best in all the world.”

I forced myself to glance away, as I had often glanced off from something Crumley or Constance Rattigan said.

“Well, well,” murmured John Wilkes Hopwood, his Germanic mouth curling with delight, “the young man is embarrassed. It’s not what you think. Look! No, stare.”

He held out a crumpled glossy photograph. I tried to take it but he held it gripped firmly, his thumb placed over the head of the person in the photo.

The rest, sticking out from under the thumb, was the most beautiful body of a young man I had ever seen in my life.

It reminded me of photos I had once seen of the statue of Antinous, the lover of Hadrian, in the lobby of the Vatican Museum. It reminded me of the boy David. It reminded me of a thousand young men’s bodies wrestling up and down the beach from my childhood to here, sunburned and mindless, wildly happy without true joy. A thousand summers were compacted down into this one single photograph, as John Wilkes Hopwood held it with his thumb hiding the face to protect it from revelations.

“Isn’t it the single most incredible body in the history of the world?” It was a proclamation.

“And it’s mine, all mine. Mine to have and hold,” he said, “No, no, don’t flinch. Here.”

He took his thumb off the face of the incredibly lovely young man.

And the face of the old hawk, the ancient German warrior, the African tank general appeared.

“My God,” I said. “It’s you.”

“Me,” said John Wilkes Hopwood.

And threw his head back with that merciless grin that flashed sabers and promised steel. He laughed silently, in honor of the old days, before films talked. “It is I, rather,” he said. I took off my glasses, cleaned them, and looked closer.

“No. No fake. No trick photography.”

It was like those contest picture puzzles they used to print in newspapers when I was a boy. The faces of presidents, cut in three sections and mixed. Here Lincoln’s chin, there Washington’s nose, and above, Roosevelt’s eyes. Mixed and remixed with thirty other presidents you had to recut and repaste to win a fast ten bucks.

But here a young man’s Greek-statue body was fused to the neck, head, and face of a hawk-eagle-vulture ascending into villainy, madness, or both.

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Categories: Bradbury, Ray