09-04-2011, 11:29 PM
The broiling Nevada sun tempered itself as it descended toward the horizon. A black late model Range Rover rolled up the curving drive in front of a large mansion just outside of Las Vegas, and came to a halt in front of the main entrance. JD climbed out of the driver's side, circled around, and opened the passenger side door to allow his mother out of the vehicle. Dimitra stretched her limbs, grateful to be standing after such a long ride from the airport. JD fetched the two suitcases from the back seat and carried them to the front door. Dimitra stepped up to the door and pressed the doorbell button.
Through the side windows she could see someone trotting up into the foyer. Costa opened the huge front door and smiled at the sight of his mother standing there. "Hey, Ma," he said. "Good to see you. Come on in."
Dimitra stepped through the doorway. "Thank you, dear," she said, smiling warmly. "And thank you for taking me in on such short notice. I hope it doesn't inconvenience you in any way."
"No, not at all," Costa protested. "You're welcome to stay as long as you want. I got plenty of room here, and you can borrow the Lexus if you wanna go shopping or something."
Dimitra gave her middle son a kiss on the cheek. "That's so sweet of you, Costa. Thank you."
"Uh, hey, Cos?" JD called out from behind as he struggled with his mother's luggage. "You wanna give me a hand here?"
Costa began clapping enthusiastically. JD was not amused. "You know what I mean!" he said irritably. "Get over here and gimme a hand with these bags!"
Costa came to his brother's rescue and picked up a large brown suitcase. "Lighten up a little, willya?" he told JD.
The bags were carried to the guest bedroom on the second floor. Weary from her long trip, Dimitra lay down on the king-sized bed. "So tired," she murmured. "How can someone be tired from sitting in an airplane for four hours?"
"Jet lag," Costa explained. "Crossing three time zones will screw up your body clock. You just lay here and rest, okay?"
Dimitra didn't argue, but closed her eyes and dozed off. Her two sons quietly left the guest room, closing the door behind them. "So, what's on your agenda for tonight?" JD asked Costa.
"I got a photo shoot tonight with Criss and another model," Costa replied casually.
JD was intrigued. "Criss is posing for you with a model? Hmmmmm. What's her name?"
"It's a he, his name's Tuburi Zubufu, and he's not posing with Criss," Costa informed him. "It's two separate shoots."
"Mind if I hang around?"
"Well, if you like looking at nude bodies..."
JD started. "Nude?"
"Yeah, nude. As in naked, bare, in the buff..."
"You talked Criss into posing nude for you?" JD was incredulous.
"It's just for a private portfolio."
JD began to laugh. "Oh, God! This I've got to see!"
Dimitra, thankfully, declined dinner that evening, saying she ate already on the plane and preferred to turn in early, sparing Costa the embarrassment of having to explain his plans for the photo shoot in his downstairs studio. Tubufu showed up at exactly seven PM, fresh from rehersal for a Vegas show at Caesar's Palace and raring to go. Criss showed up twenty minutes later, still feeling grouchy over his physical that morning, still hoping he could get out of the promised photo shoot for the evening. Finding JD at the house surprised him at first; then he remembered that his mother was here to stay with Costa for a few weeks. Maybe with her here, Cos will have to cancel the shoot, he thought.
That hope died when JD informed him that his model, Tuburi, was down in the studio, posing for Costa, and that he, Criss, was next. "Come on, man!" Criss pleaded. "I just got back from a physical. I've already stripped down for every doctor in the clinic! Maybe some other time, okay?"
From the sadistic smile on his older brother's face, he could tell there was no backing out of it. Whether he felt like it or not, JD told him, Criss Angel was going to pose nude for the camera. Poor Criss was shepherded down to the lower level where the photo session was taking place. JD led his hapless brother into a side room to undress. "In," he ordered.
Criss stared into his elder brother's gloating eyes. "You're enjoying this, aren't you?" he asked.
JD shoved Criss into the dressing room, or in this case the undressing room, and slammed the door. In the tiny, dark closet, Criss cursed his fate. God! How did I get myself into this? Why did I let Costa talk me into doing this?
Resignedly, Criss undressed for the shoot. A thin cotton robe hung from a hook behind the door. He pulled it over his naked body and peeked out of the dressing room. On the other side of the room, a naked Tuburi was stretching, writhing, twisting and squatting gracefully in front of the silvery grey backdrop, his sinewy muscles flexing and relaxing with every move. Flashes of light from the camera punctuated every pose his graceful dancer's body made.
Criss emerged from the dressing room, fascinated. Never before in his life had he ever seen such a perfectly developed human form! The taut muscles, the finely turned limbs, the firm, lean torso--how could one person achieve such perfection? The charcoal blackness of his skin emphasized the structure of his splended frame, highlighted by the overhead lights and the light backdrop. His every move seemed to flow like water, the sweat from his dark flesh seemed to shimmer in the light. Criss could not help but wonder if he had been born with such a body, or if he had to work on it to achieve such physical perfection. Probably both, he conceded. Whatever the case, Tuburi Zubufu was without a doubt the most beautiful human being he had ever seen. Had he lived in the days of the ancient Greeks, sculptors would have carved his form out of marble or molded it out of clay. Artists would have immortalized him in mosiac tile, porcelain urns, or frescoes in some wealthy patron's villa. Songs and poems would have been written about him. He would have been hailed as a demigod, a son of Zeus, a living diety walking on the earth. Women would have desired such a body for themselves, and not a few men, too...
Criss' reverie came to a screeching halt. Wait a minute! Am I falling in love with this guy? Okay, he's got a great body, granted, but I'm not gay for him! That last prostate exam I had proved that already! No, I'm not in love with him, I can't be in love with him! I'm a straight arrow! I love women, and only women!
He continued watching Tuburi pose. He's beautiful, but not in a sexual sense--at least as far as I'm concerned. I appreciate his body only in an artistic sense, like Costa does. Yeah, that's it! I admire him like I'd admire Michaelangelo's David. No sex involved at all, just pure physical beauty. It's aesthetics, not sexual desire.
"Okay, that's a wrap," Costa announced. "Thanks, Tuburi, you've been great."
Tuburi stopped posing and stood up straight, smiling at Costa. "No problem, man," he replied in his heavy Kenyan accent.
Upon hearing those words spoken by Tuburi the spell he had on Criss was broken, and the slim African ceased to be a demigod and became human again before his eyes. Tuburi donned the thin cotton robe lying on a chair and disappeared into another dressing room. Costa turned around to see his brother, Criss. "You ready, Criss?" he asked.
Criss was flustered. "Uh, gee, Cos," he stammered. "I dunno, uh, see, I just had a physical today and..."
Suddenly, JD appeared out of nowhere and shoved his recalcitrant brother into the spotlight. "He's ready," he told Costa.
You are so (bleeping) dead, JD! Criss cursed under his breath. I am so gonna (bleeping) kill you for this!
"Okay, Criss," Costa said. "You can take off the robe now."
Lord, get me through this, Criss prayed. The white cotton robe fell to the floor, revealing his total nakedness. Criss' face flushed beet red, and he covered his manhood with his hands. Costa became frustrated. "What the hell's the matter with you all of a sudden?" he demanded. "You were naked for two episodes of your show, and now you're acting all prudish on me? Relax, willya?"
"C'mon, give me a break here," Criss pleaded. "I just had a complete physical where I had to take off my clothes for several doctors already! I mean, how'd you feel if you just had some lady doctor stick a finger up your ass for a prostate exam, among other things?"
"I'm not here to examine you, Criss," Costa argued. "I'm here to take your picture. Now, come on, work with me! You promised, remember?"
Criss' hands dropped helplessly to his side. "So what do you want me to do?" he asked, sighing.
Costa guided his reluctant model through the various poses he wanted. "Lift your arm up over your head and turn to the side. Good. Now, turn around, bring your left leg back like you're walking. A little to the right. Good. Good. Now, give me a dancer's pose. No, no, no! I said 'dancer' not 'marcher'! Let it flow! That's better. Good. Now, kneel down on one knee and give me a profile. That's good. Now, just a casual sitting pose with your arm on your knee. Relax, willya? Okay, good."
Sweat dripped from Criss' bare skin under the hot lights as he posed. He was still a bit dehydrated from the stress test in the cardiac unit and from the blood sample taken from him in the lab. I'm gonna have an all-over tan when I'm done here! he said to himself, if I don't pass out first. He looked up at Costa. "Could I have some water, please?" he begged.
Costa bought Criss a bottle of water. "Here," he said. "Take a break. You don't look well."
Criss dragged himself away from the hot lights and collapsed in a chair, his sweaty flesh soaking the canvas back and seat. He cracked open the bottle of water and sipped it slowly, fearing he would cramp up if he drank cold water too fast. He felt a hand on his bare shoulder. Looking up, he saw Tuburi Zubufu looking down upon him with concern. "You okay, man?" he asked.
"I'm good," Criss replied. "They took a blood test on me today, and I guess I'm still feeling it."
"You rest here," Tuburi told him, massaging his shoulder. "You be okay."
He left Criss in the chair and headed for the stairs, clad in jeans and a plain white t-shirt. Criss watched as climbed the steps up to the main level of the house. His movements were still graceful, but they did not have the same impact upon him when he was posing for the camera. Clothed, he was no different from any other person on the street; only when he was naked did he reveal his true beauty.
Criss looked down upon his own naked body, dripping with sweat. A tiny puncture wound where the nurse had taken the blood sample still lay on the crook of his right arm, stained with antiseptic all around it. He mentally pictured the scars on his back from being impaled with steel hooks to dangle over the desert from a helicopter. He lifted one foot and examined the sole; a small scar resulting from walking barefoot on heavy twelve-inch screwdrivers creased it in the middle. His right hand still bore the marks of the failed nail gun demonstration he had performed last year. Tuburi had no scars, or none that he had noticed. Tuburi was flawless. Tuburi was perfect. And Criss envied him.
He had always been proud of his own body, but during the past decade he had pushed it beyond all human endurance, whether it was his fitness regimen or his demonstrations, and had suffered for it. He toned his muscles to an athlete's standards, only to crush it beneath a steamroller lying on broken glass. He ran five miles a day on the treadmill just so he could escape a collapsing hotel in Florida, emerging from the rubble covered in concrete dust, coughing and wheezing. He sharpened his reflexes with tae kuan do and jujitsu, only to nearly break his neck jumping out of a prison van loaded with explosives as it careened off a cliff. In his moment of weakness, Criss felt remorse over how he had been risking his life, his health and his God-given body for the sake of his art. Tears welled up in his eyes as he caressed his damp flesh.
Thank You, God, he prayed. Thank You for blessing me with good health and a strong body. I know I've used it and abused it over the years, but You've always come through for me, healing my injuries and giving me the strength to go on. I know we all can't have perfect bodies like Tuburi, but I'm grateful for the one You gave me. When I look upon this body, unclothed, even though it bears the scars of past demonstrations, I feel no shame, no revulsion, for are we not created in Your image? Me, Tuburi, Costa, JD, Mom, Sully, even that wack job going around flashing himself around Vegas--we're all reflections of You. Keep me in good health, and watch over me as You always have. Amen.
"Criss?" It was Costa, kneeling down beside him. "You okay, bro?"
Criss wiped away his tears. "Yeah, I'm good," he said.
"You wanna go on with the shoot?" Costa asked. "I mean, if you're not feeling well..."
Criss stood up, firm and tall, in all of his naked glory. "Let's finish this," he said confidently. "I've got nothing to be ashamed of."