The Moor

by Solsticeman

 

Chapter 6

Monte Caprino, Rome,  Autumn 1942

The boy stood at the top of the Tarpeian Rock… crying. 

     He was unbelievably blond. At first I thought he was a ghost… unnatural.  

     In my fifteen years on God’s Earth I had seen nothing so strange, so wonderful… so un-naturally beautiful. He appeared to be much younger than I… fourteen, perhaps late thirteen. His skin was so white and so soft that I simply couldn’t apply anything I knew about Italian boys. 

     He stood there, as they all did, contemplating the void, the drop… the death of so many. 

     Unlike all the others he stood there and wiped tears from his cheeks. I thought that perhaps the death of Romans had reminded him of the loss of someone he valued… a parent or a friend.  

     I decided that he must be German. I had met blond German men… maybe they too had been this pure and pale before age and the weather textured their faces… and their hands… This boy had the most beautiful hands. 

     I felt a need to distract him… to still his tears. I cleared my throat and then rustled the juniper bush that shielded me from him. 

     He turned, looked nervous… worried. Then he edged away from the void and walked towards me. I stepped out from behind the bush. I was totally naked… He was not. 

     His eyes widened and he stared first at my face, then his eyes drifted down … Once there he seemed transfixed. As his gaze continued… for some reason my member began to rise… I didn’t understand why. Too many men (and quite a few boys) had looked at my nakedness in the last two years for that alone to be unusual… or even exciting. 

     As I got bigger, what grew on him was an expression of utter disbelief… and fascination. Perhaps this is what my priests felt when they saw my photographs... or what I felt when I saw photographs of the original il Moro! 

     I gestured for him to join me. He did… His face lit up, whatever had depressed him was forgotten for the moment! When he reached me I seized his hand and drew him to me… then, without giving him time to pull away or think about what he was doing... I groped him. I held him through his trousers and gently squeezed. I knew that once I had him in my hand he would be unable to resist. No man ever had… once I touched them they were mine. The risk lay in those last few yards, while their mind was still able to reason… that was when I lost them. That was when they might look embarrassed, say a quiet “sorry!” and hurry off. 

     I had him… his mind was unable to calculate the risks, the joy, the danger versus the pleasure. Now that he was in my hand the only thing in his head was the need to achieve orgasm. I knew he hoped it would be slow, but I also knew that no matter the cost or the risk… behind his eyes there was an absolute need… to…  

     I could see his eyes glaze as I continued to play with him.  

     Then I stopped. To come in his pants would not buy me dinner. 

     I asked him how he wanted to come: in my hand, in my mouth, or… 

     I told him the prices. 

     That was when I realised he spoke no Italian… He looked completely baffled. With German men it hadn’t mattered. With them I was the boy and they were the man… They let me know what they wanted and I just had to tell them what it would cost. He was too shy to say what he wanted by reaching for it. 

     He must have understood that I spoke of money. It was when I said “lire” that he looked shocked. He must have thought that I was just a boy out for fun… That I was offering him “business” as they say… that appeared to have shocked him. I was afraid that once again there was a risk of him running. 

     I used the universal gesture for masturbation and then stuck two fingers in my mouth and sucked on them. Each time I said a price in lire, gently but clearly. He still looked shocked. 

     Perhaps it was a genuine offer, or perhaps I thought that offering him my bottom would lessen the shock of the offer of hand or mouth… I turned and bent over slightly… showing him my bottom… which is said to be very fine… many customers have said so. 

     He didn’t run.  He thought for a moment… and then he grinned and stuck two fingers in his mouth.  

     This beautiful boy, this Norse god… in all his paleness had just agreed that I should suck his cock… for money. I was ecstatic… I would have done it for free… The idea of his pale beauty in my mouth excited me beyond reason. I had never felt like this about any other customer. I hadn’t been this excited by Luigi. This boy was incredibly beautiful, and… 

     He needed me enough to be willing to pay me what a grown man would have paid… 

     He gave me what I had asked and I put it in the pants pocket of the heap of clothes under the bush. That he had grinned while agreeing told me a lot about the completeness of his decision to take what I offered on exactly the terms that I offered it.  

     I drew him to me.  

     I opened his shirt and lowered his pants and drawers. Suddenly I had him just about as naked as I. We were standing in the dappled sunshine in a Roman park. I was with a boy out of a Norse legend, and he? I felt sure that he was with a fantasy figure, but I couldn’t guess who it might be. 

     I held him close and kissed his neck while I fondled him. He was already completely ready for me.  

     The moment was magical… this was the most beautiful person that I had been this close to.  

     If he had been someone I could ever fall in love with then this was the moment to… 

     I kissed him! 

     For a moment he seemed startled, but then he relaxed into the kiss. I had kept my eyes open… it was the sight of him that excited me, and it was the sight of his face, so close, as his eyes rolled up and closed. It was perfect. 

     Since arriving in Rome, and admitting to myself that I was now a prostitute… not an easy thing to admit when you are 14 going on 15, I had never kissed a customer… except Fr. Barnabas… He was by now much more than a customer to me.  

     I promised myself that one day I would kiss my own boyfriend… or perhaps girlfriend… I had given up predicting the future…  

     My kiss was for someone special… it was not for sale. 

     This boy had bought my body and my mouth… but this kiss… was free. 

     It was also… mine.  

     I was giving myself a gift… breaking my own rules. I wanted this kiss… as much as I wanted this boy.  

     I wanted to feel the softness of the inside of his mouth, the smoothness of his teeth, to taste the hint of breakfast and coffee on his breath.  

     He accepted my tongue into his mouth… it seemed new to him… he was very young. Perhaps this was the first time that he had been kissed with tongues. I was holding him up. There was enough weight in my arms for me to know that momentarily his knees had failed him. 

     I could sense that he was no longer thinking. I could have hurt him or robbed him and he could have done nothing to stop me… For those moments he was all but unconscious. He was kissing and stroking and fondling… but he was unaware of anything outside those sensations. I felt a responsibility for him… to keep him safe until he could look after himself again.  

     Out of nowhere came an image of a young man on his wedding night… his young bride, still momentarily a virgin… her legs spread wide for him in a lewd posture that required unquestioning love to perform it without shame. A posture made possible not just by trust and love but also by long denial and waiting.  

     This was an immense moment for him…  

     I wanted it to be something that he remembered with affection for the rest of his life. 

     I had been earning my living this way for over a year, and I knew what I was doing. I could feel every tremble in his body… the moment when he teetered on the edge and the pause while I allowed him to draw back… then forward again to show him the abyss… I could sense that the need he felt was verging on pain… that his need for it to end was now greater than his desire for it to last forever. 

     My gift was nearly ended… I took him to the abyss once again…  

     Then I dropped to my knees, took him in my mouth… and with a few swift strokes of my tongue… I threw him over into sexual free-fall. His knees failed completely and I carried his weight on my shoulders while his body shook. Then I cuddled him and said soft things in his ear while he recovered his senses.  

     This boy of my dreams would remember the Tarpeian Rock forever.  

     Maybe he would remember it on that day when his own son came to him … I felt sure that he would have a son… one day. 

     “Grazie, grazie!”  he said. 

     I stroked his cheek … “Bitte sehr.” I said… the only German words I knew, other than prices. 

     At any moment embarrassment and perhaps shame could strike him, so I hugged him, briefly touched his blond hair, stroked his smooth white flank once more… and then it was over. We both suddenly became business-like. He dressed, smiled and departed. I checked the money in my pocket. My morning had gone well and I had enough for a good lunch.  

     Over lunch I sat and pondered the overwhelming need that had just caused him to buy the use of a prostitute in a Roman garden. I understood what drove grown men to such needs and acts of foolishness, but I could not conceive of a need that great in a boy so young. What loss was he trying to regain. It wasn’t his innocence… there had been no embarrassment when he saw my nakedness… just desire. Someone had been there before me. But, there was loss I was sure of it. I had cured that loss, if only temporarily…  

     It had been an act that the Dom would have approved of. The boy had been grieving and I had been able to make him whole again. I was glad that it was me. I hoped that he would now be able to keep himself safe, and… that he would remember me fondly. 

       

Rome, Christmas 1942 

It’s true that Italy is a lot further south than the rest of Europe, and that it’s surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea… but winter is winter. I had saved hard during the summer and autumn and now my savings were keeping me warm. I had a simple apartment… a kitchen, a bedroom and a shared bathroom.  

     It was quite expensive…   

     It was in the centre, the tourist area of the city… I needed easy access for my customers. Serving them among the trees on Monte Caprino wouldn’t work in winter. A goat-herd from the hills of Calabria could stand it… but his customers certainly couldn’t! 

     It was also expensive because the landlord was turning a blind eye to the customers that I brought back with me. I needed somewhere warm for them, the landlord knew that and charged accordingly. 

     Oh yes, and at fifteen (a fifteen year old who looked fourteen) I was just a trifle young to be renting an apartment and bringing back clients… so the landlord felt entitled to charge for that too… It meant that I was working harder during the winter than I had been during the summer. But… my life was much better than it had been back in Calabria. Here I was a successful professional… with his own apartment in the centre of Rome. 

     The work too was pleasant enough. In general, my customers were kind to me. They saw my youth… and when they remembered their own sons back home they tipped me a little extra. 

     The occasional one wanted something that I viewed as unpleasant. Then I would simply run. I was fleet of foot, and the sort of man who needs the services of a boy-prostitute is normally not in his prime… So mostly I just ran. I waited until he was out of sight and then either I went home or back to my pitch.  

     How carefully I avoided meeting them again depended on whether I thought they were a risk. The risk was not violence to me… I could look after myself. The risk was to them. I didn’t like hurting people, and hurting customers was bad for business. It also filled me with regret. These were not evil men like the black priest. These were just men driven by needs that their wives couldn’t fulfil for them. 

     I had only needed to fight off a few, and just one of those had been reported to the police by a bystander. I explained to the Civil Police that I was innocent, a boy who had been attacked and had defended himself. I couldn’t afford for the police to became too aware of my activities I would find myself paying them as well, and Fr. Barnabas would not be happy.  

     So… hurting clients was a last resort… I didn’t like doing it. I may have sounded tough and callous… but that’s only how I’ve turned out… it’s not how I am when I can be myself. God may forgive me, and my priest may absolve me… but there were things that I couldn’t feel good about afterwards. 

 

Perhaps my sensitivity to good and evil came about because most of my clients had been priests. From the start, they understood immediately what it meant to meet Don Fontinella’s altar-boy. A few arranged a private meeting with me… a coffee, or breakfast… or confession. For each of them I was a temptation that they couldn’t resist, but that required them to turn it into an opportunity to do a kindness… a coffee, a breakfast or a confession. That it resulted in us dropping our pants and… well that’s the thing about temptation… if it’s tempting enough then anything can happen. Afterwards? Well afterwards we do what we have to do to live with ourselves.  

     Without exception, these were good men. They all had answered a vocation to be a priest. In return their church denied them the love of a wife and children. It denied them any acceptable sexual relief… and then it was surprised that they found temptation among the flock that they were sent to tend.  

     In many cases their problems started because their first post was to a poor rural parish. There the altar-boys were even poorer than their parents, easily led and very easily rewarded.  

     Priests lead strange lives… they vow to not have sex with women… and in the main they keep that vow. But, when driven by their needs, their position of trust enables them to revert to childish games with boys… remembering perhaps the mutual relief they shared with their friends when young. 

     The solution doesn’t last. While they are getting accustomed to playing with their altar-boys they are also becoming more useful as priests… That’s when the church recalls them to Rome or a city, for a more senior post…  

     There they are in trouble… They cannot simply fondle their new altar-boy… they need to be more discreet… discretion takes time and they are too used to regular relief for time to be an option. 

     The need for an immediate solution leads them to a boy-prostitute in one of Rome’s gardens, a solution that works well in its immediate relief.  

     It works in summer… in winter they run the risk of being seen in the boy’s company on the way to somewhere warmer. It took me a little while to realise that there was a solution, and it worked because they were priests and I was young. Priests who knew me would bring their travelling Mass kit with them… or at least the covered box in which it travelled. 

     They could then hurry along, with me trotting along behind them carrying the box. To people in the street it looked like a priest and his altar-boy on their way to give the last rites to a dying parishioner. It was such a common sight in Rome in winter that no-one noticed.  

     When we entered my apartment building we once again became client and customer. There was no need to hide from the old lady guarding the block; she looked the other way anyway… For her a priest was a good customer… they were least likely to do any damage. 

     Priests were safe, but not all that profitable… the vow was not just celibacy… they also vowed poverty! I didn’t really mind. I just liked being with priests. Priests needed to pretend to themselves that our meeting was more than a commercial transaction, that affection and helping were the true basis of the relationship..  

     Their desire for genuine affection and closeness made it a pleasant way to spend a warm half hour… or an hour if they were especially nice. The love that I could give… or at the very least artfully pretend… was my gift to men who had already given up any claim to a healthy family life. It didn’t matter to me whether that would have been with a woman or with another priest… either way, the church gave them nothing but hard-work, three meals and a bed in exchange for what they had lost. 

     They were well-educated and we could have interesting discussions. My Don had chatted for hours, particularly when he became bedridden. I found that there were things we had chatted about then that I could now use to entertain my priests until they remembered why we were there in the first place… and afterwards it helped them to forget why they shouldn’t have been there at all. 

     My personal favorite was still Fr. Barnabas… He took niceness to new heights!  

     He had immediately decided that I needed an education. It came about because I told him that when I was an altar-boy in Calabria I could count the communicants for Mass without looking. He asked how many years of schooling I had… I said four. That was it… if I could learn to count and hold interesting conversations with a kindergarten education, what could I achieve if he took me in hand?  

     He was a man with a mission.  

     He took me in hand. He taught me to read and write… He loaned me books. I think he hoped that I would find a vocation and that he could enter me in a seminary as a charity case.  

     To be honest, my motives in accepting his help were personal.  It wasn’t just that he was quite young and handsome, which admittedly brightened the sex… it was the education that he offered that attracted me. 

     I knew that one day soon my good looks and my smooth skin would begin to fade. My papa had been hairy, and there was only so long that a razor was going to maintain the illusion of youth. I didn’t fancy the idea of becoming one of the older prostitutes in the park. It was embarrassing to see them chasing after older and older men, offering lower and lower prices. No, that was not for me… I would prefer to join the army! 

     So, with Fr. Barnabas I studied… and I made sure that he enjoyed my studying. He offered to pay but I asked him to give my price to a charity… there was one for young men… to provide them with medicine and food. It had an offertory box in a nearby church. I had given money there, and I knew the box was discreet. A priest giving money to charity is a strange sight after all.  

     We never mentioned money again after that. He didn’t pay for the use of my bottom, and I didn’t pay for the books, paper and pencils he brought me. It was a… practical and dignified arrangement. 

     It was then that I also felt secure enough to become his altar-boy. It seemed strange to be wearing a cassock and surplice again. He first asked me to assist him at Christmas 1942… His altar-boy had caught a cold and he suddenly needed a replacement for the Midnight-Mass service, one of the biggest occasions of the year in his little church. 

     He later told me that my predecessor (he never came back from his cold) had found himself a girlfriend and was now reluctant to satisfy Fr. Barnabas’s needs. The other choir-boys were very young trebles, and to his credit it was not the little ones that appealed to him. He preferred the older… tougher ones, the ones who could say no and mean it… when the time came, as it had.  

     So I served for him that Christmas Eve. It was beautiful, the church was decorated for the season, with a crib and the smallest of the choristers dressed as the Virgin with a doll that he had borrowed from his sister. There was incense, singing… and I was serving Mass again. It felt good! 

     He looked pleased as well. I think he saw it as a major step on the way to weaning me away from prostitution… as indeed it was… if not quite in the way he expected. 

     He was very discreet about me in his church. For a long time, quite a few weeks, he didn’t invite me into the sacristy. Perhaps he didn’t trust himself, in public… I hoped that he trusted me… but who knows. Instead I took the robes home to wash and press… the old lady at the entrance loaned me the iron and starch and roared with laughter when I asked. Her favourite, quietest prostitute was an altar-boy. I feared she would injure herself! 

     When she stopped laughing she offered to wash the surplice in her Monday wash each week. I hugged her and said that in that case I should call her Grandma… she told me not to be so cheeky, but looked pleased anyway… so life moved along. 

       

Rome, January 1943 

A few weeks later I spoke to Fr. Barnabas, while we were relaxing in my bed in the weak winter sunshine. We were talking of things seemingly at random. I put it to him that the way I never entered the sacristy looked more suspicious than if I did. I was glad when he came round to my way of thinking. At my age it was a bit awkward walking from home to church dressed ready for the service. 

     He then reverted to his favourite topic… what I should do for a career now that I could read and write reliably, if not smoothly. 

     It was actually the sacristy that contained the answer, although not in the “steps towards the seminary” way that the good father had been hoping. 

     It was when I finally entered the sacristy for the first time that I spotted it… hanging beautifully framed on the wall beside his desk was a full length portrait of a young choir-boy, dressed in an altar-boy’s vestments.  

     It was one of the earliest of the Dom’s portraits of me, at my youngest and most serious… long before the romantic and… well, an early one before the confessional lesson… long before. Tears came to my eyes as I thought of Luigi and the Dom. 

     Then a moment of mischief overtook me and I went to stand beside the picture. He looked at me and simply said… “Come along, if you’re ready we should make a start!” and off he strode… to Mass. 

     It took two weeks of standing beside the portrait before he remarked… 

     “That boy and you could be brothers… you’re very alike.” 

     At that I closed the door, and said in a very serious voice… 

     “Father, I have to confess that I knew him well. He lived in our village, although he wasn’t my brother. I masturbated him on more occasions than I could count… both at home in bed and in the countryside… He slept in my bed every night.” 

     “He slept in your bed? He wasn’t your brother…didn’t your mother object?” He looked stunned by my revelations. 

     “No Father, she never said anything… she never saw anything happen! I was always very careful!” 

     “But, she must have seen the two of you in bed… surely she objected!” 

     “No Father, she saw nothing wrong!” 

     “But that’s scandalous… How could she see nothing wrong in two boys sleeping in the same bed?” 

     “But Father… there was only ever one boy in the bed, and… he only masturbated himself!”  

     I laughed.  

     I laughed until I cried, at the expression on his face. Then… he went to take a close look at the picture… and then at me and then at the picture. He took it and me to the window… in the light. 

     “It is… it’s you!” He almost whispered. 

     “All those years I’ve admired the beauty of the boy…” 

     “And now, you teach him to read and write… and he shows his thanks afterwards!” I interrupted. 

     “Indeed he does… and I never noticed the likeness…” He said wistfully. 

     “Would it have mattered?” I asked, curious as to why it mattered now. 

     “Perhaps not… perhaps my desire for the boy you had become was purer because you were what you were. I’ve always felt guilty when I… with a new altar-boy. But, with you… here in your bed… it’s all so straightforward…” He paused, deep in thought. 

     “Someone else had already done the hard part… the beginning?” I prompted. 

     “Yes, some enjoy the beginning… I never have. I can see only the loss of innocence, and it makes me sad.”  

     He was sad now. It hurt and angered me to see what a perversion of love they had created for their priests. They had taken “Love one another” and twisted it into a deformed image of itself. 

     “I’m glad it was the Dom.” I said. “He was so gentle… he only touched me the once, and that was only to teach me how to do it properly. Then he left Luigi and me to look after each other.” I paused. 

     “His only pleasure from us was the pleasure that Luigi and I found in one another and then again the beauty that Luigi and I learned to create for his photography.” I went on. 

     “You and Luigi… his photography… Do you mean that… you did more than just that picture?” 

     “Yes… Luigi and I were the only boys in all his later photographs… the last three years. There were no other boys of the correct age in our village.” I finished his thought for him. 

     “I saw some of the later ones… They must have been near his end…” 

     “Yes, that was us… I’m afraid it was a couple of the later ones that probably did for him… The last one was so popular that we had to make five hundred copies… Even with me doing most of the actual photographic work… the printing, mounting, packaging… He was still quite exhausted… just watching over us used up what little strength he had left.”  

     Then I went on… I might as well tell him all of it. 

     “It was the one with me and Luigi quite naked, doing… what we were just doing…  That was the one he was looking at when he died… It was the one that old-Maria found… She recognised me, but not Luigi. I had to leave the village… Luigi is still there. I miss him, he must be fifteen now, quite a young man… I wonder if he has a girl, maybe bambini even.” 

     I sighed at the thought of my lost love. 

     I thought that was it… Fr. Barnabas knew that I was the Dom’s model as well as his altar-boy… and that I was sad at having left Luigi behind, with no contact now for nearly two years. It was a lot for him to know… nearly everything that mattered to me. 

     But, that wasn’t the end of it, not by a long way.  

     Father now started trying to sort my life out for me. Spurred on by the success of having taught me to read and write with fluency, and having awakened my interest in art and photography, he now started feeding me books on art-history. The books followed a theme... painters and sculptors like; Donatello, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Scott-Tuke and art-photographers like the von Gloeden whose work I already knew, and his cousin von Pluschow. He was teaching me how artists created the images of boys and young men that he and his friends enjoyed. He knew that I already understood photography and how to satisfy the needs of that art. Such art could earn me a living… after all, it had done so for other men, for over three thousand years. 

     While I was studying, he was writing letters. One day in early February he came to see me… a pleasant surprise in itself. He brought with him a photograph. It was of a beautiful young man, robust… clearly strong and healthy. He was dressed in work-trousers. He had no shirt… just a beautifully sweat-coated, tanned chest that could have been burnished bronze.  

     He asked me what I thought of it… I considered carefully… guessing that he was testing me on my understanding of the works that I had been studying. 

     I rested my head to one side, while I studied the photograph and considered my reply. 

     “The shave could have been more careful. The hair is too careful, and the light should come a little more from the left so that the modelling of the chest is better defined. The trousers… suggest that he has been in the fields… if that was the intention, fine, but a short Greek tunic would have set his legs off better, assuming they are as well modelled as the rest of him.” I replied cautiously, hoping I had covered everything. 

     “How did I do?” I asked anxiously. 

     “That was a good and complete answer!” He smiled broadly. “But, to the wrong question!” 

     “What I meant to ask, was… How do you think Luigi has turned out? I think he’s really a most handsome young man!” He laughed with pleasure at the trick that he had played on me. 

     I snatched the photograph back from him. 

     “This is Luigi… how…” I stuttered. He was now laughing too much to answer. 

     Finally… “Well it’s a good thing you said something nice about him, as well as criticising his shave… He wasn’t shaving when you last saw him!”  

     That was indeed true… He was now a man, a very young man… certainly not the child I had left behind in Cosenza. 

     I studied the photograph… I could see the resemblance now… The cheek bones had hardened, the jaw line was firmer and the nose more aquiline… but the eyes hadn’t changed. 

     “How did you get this?” I asked. 

     “I bought it… and yes, it’s yours… a gift for your bedroom wall… to help you at night and to inspire your customers during the day.” He went off again in peals of laughter at my expression. 

     “You think I will… while looking at his photo…?” I spluttered in protest. 

     “I should be most disappointed if you didn’t! I expect him to feature in your confessions… in exactly that role. I want you to achieve the most self-less of pleasures while contemplating his beauty.” This time he seemed quite serious 

       

Fr. Barnabas was looking very serious… so I looked serious too. Maybe this was a confession afternoon visit rather than a “thank-you by bottom” afternoon. 

     “You seem worried about something. Have I done something to upset you?” I said. 

     “No.” He answered “I have a couple of things to ask, that’s all. I don’t know how you’ll react.” 

     “Go on… I don’t think that you could ever ask me something that upset me!”  

     “I don’t expect to upset you.” He said. “But, I may cause you a complication… but if I’m to help you then sooner would be better than later.” 

     “First then… Have your business activities ever attracted police attention?” He asked. 

     I jumped with surprise… “Why Father, have they been to talk to you about me?” I said, in shock. 

     “No, no… they haven’t… but have they ever had cause to speak to you?” 

     “No Father… A passer-by once reported an incident when I defended myself against a violent customer… with my knife. But the policeman was satisfied that it was self-defence and didn’t even write anything down. The man had run away by the time the police arrived.” 

     “I think that’s not a problem then.” Father said, and went on… 

     “Would I be right in remembering that hundreds of Don Fontinella’s photos were actually your process work… you exposed and developed the prints?” 

     “Yes Father. The Dom became very weak towards the end. The chemicals were bad for his chest… and the artistic poses had proved so popular that he really couldn’t cope on his own. Of course he watched me work… but the actual work was all mine. He often slept until the prints were ready to check.” The Father looked pleased. 

     “What about the poses?” 

     “Well the Dom was a gentle, simple man. He only understood beauty… a boy in lace, very well shot and nicely printed. It was Luigi and I that moved him on to more… artistic work. It was unfair to ask a priest to suggest… suggestive poses, or make him ask us to be naked. So we, Luigi and I, discussed it before-hand, and sketched out, rehearsed the poses, the tableaux as the Dom called them… We gave them to him finished, ready for him to shoot his photographs. We left him nothing to do that was wrong for him… as a priest.” 

     I minimised the Dom’s role, not to gain credit… but to protect the Dom’s memory and his reputation… as a priest. As a man, I believed that he had nothing to answer for. 

     Again the answer seemed to satisfy him, but I still had no idea where it all was leading. 

     “You have enjoyed the books you have been studying?” 

     “Oh, yes Father, their work is so good, it’s a joy to just sit and think about the beauty that paint and marble can create… and now photography of course… the new marble!” I was feeling poetic. 

     “So… If I told you that I think I’ve found you employment as a photographer in Fosetti Brothers, one of Rome’s great photographic studios… how would you react?” He sat back, and waited for the worst. 

     I was astonished. No, I was well beyond astonished! For a Calabrian goatherd to have become a successful… well successful… in Rome, was already more than I could have hoped for. But… to become a real professional photographer in Rome… in the studio of one of Rome’s best photographers… Yes, I was astonished! 

     “But Father… do they know how I live… how I have earned my living here? 

     “Not perhaps in detail.” He smiled. “But they know that you worked with Dom Fontinella and that you did much of his process work for him in his latter years.  They know enough to know what your skills may be worth… if I have not exaggerated them.” 

     Then a worrying thought occurred to me… 

     “Father, I don’t want to sound ungrateful… but will I be able to afford to quit Monte Caprino? The work may not be respectable… but it pays well, and this small apartment is not cheap!” 

     “My boy… First you should decide if you wish to make this change… Afterwards we can work out the details of how to make things work… Do you wish to become a photographer… perhaps a photographic artist some day?” 

     I rushed across to where he was sitting and threw my arms around him… 

     “Yes, Oh yes Father, more than anything… We MUST make it work!”