The High-Functioning Nudist

To Be a Nudist in a Modestly-Clad Man's World

Christmas Part 1: The Nudeman Before Christmas

The children leapt atop their parents’ bed, wailing, shaking their heads violently, their grins too big for their faces. It was Christmas day in the Howell household, much like it was in the neighbors’ households…and everywhere else, too. The nudist and his wife assessed their surroundings, still in a REM-stage fog.

“IT’S CHRISTMAS!” yelled both kids, somewhere between five and one hundred times each. Keith and Marcia both widened their eyes for a couple seconds, the way an irritated person does.

“Go downstairs,” said Keith, stretching his words in that sleepy way while turning over. In his opinion, he had bought his kids what were some, how the French say, “bomb-ass gifts.”  Because of this, he felt no further obligation to them this morning or any mornings in the foreseeable future. Keith turned to Marcia, who was hardly fazed by the cacophony and resumed sleeping, and joined her.

The two slept another hour before making the trek downstairs. As a parent, Christmas morning can be either a joyous occasion or a wrong-gift-induced disaster. As a naked parent, one must worry about that, but also about not bending over too much when picking up gifts.

The children had already ransacked the stockings, which had been hung over the fireplace with real indifference, the parents not giving much of a shit what St. Nick thought. Pez dispensers, disposable razors, malt balls, carrots, yo-yos, a copy of Face/Off starring John Travolta and Nic Cage, packs of bubble gum abound! After all of the stockings’ contents had been carelessly strewn about the living room floor by Sonya and Joseph, Marcia and Keith entered the room, looked at the mess on the floor, and forced loving smiles.

Joseph sobered up and approached his parents. “I would like to open all of this stuff immediately,” he said without expression.

Keith laughed and did a James Brown impression. “You wanna get into it, man?! Well, get into it, man!”

Marcia shook her head as she walked toward the kitchen to pour herself some coffee. She needn’t see the massacre in her living room to know that she would be finding scraps of wrapping paper stuck in crannies for the next two months.

Keith sat on the couch, admiring the scene: an 8-foot Douglas fir, dressed with tinsel and ornamentation and placed directly in the middle of the living room (Keith thought it would be nice for directing the holiday traffic that his home would soon host), an unlit starter log in the fireplace, and his children making no effort to savor the morning’s treasures. There was no snow on the ground outside, but, regardless, it was real cold. It was a Rockwell-ian scene, indeed. Keith, enamored with his family, felt a sense of pride as his son unveiled his first, second, and third gifts. They were a Super Nintendo, a kite, and a mini-piano, respectively.

Marcia re-entered, and Sonya, waiting patiently while her brother tore through his gifts, then set to hers. No disappointed faces in the Howell household this morning as Sonya unwrapped a portable CD player, Christina Aguilera’s first album, and the newest issue of Cosmopolitan.

Keith and Marcia looked at and admired one another as Joseph played the entire Charlie Brown theme song on his mini-piano. Sonya asked Joseph what a “sex” was. Joseph interrupted his playing to shrug and then started again (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JgoPl35n_AY).

After half an hour of ripping piano work, the children, tuckered out from the morning’s festivities, fell asleep on the floor. Sonya’s ears were covered by her headphones and Joseph was cradling his kite. Keith and Marcia let them sleep, as they would need the energy for the family event that would later ensue. The adults found themselves thinking the same and ascended the stairs to their bedroom. Marcia snuggled into bed wearing her kerchief, and Keith did the same, wearing nothing but his cap, and both settled in for like, an hour or so nap.

 

Coming Soon: Christmas Part 2: Pun Title

Church, Pt. 2: A Good Father Makes a Decent Pun

The Howells strolled into Hands of the Lord Church of the Rock for the Sacred Heart and took a gander at the ornamentals. The crown molding was baroque, the pews were lacquered in a shade that Keith could agree with, and the programs for the sermon were very tastefully done.

Keith wore his Sunday’s best: cuff links, a bow tie, and some wing-tipped dress shoes. Otherwise, he was still naked. He walked in behind the rest of his family, feeling anxious for the first time in a while about public nudity. Those who saw Keith walk in were astonished at what they perceived as audacity, but were unable to act on their desire to kick him out of the building.

Keith hadn’t been inside of a church since he was a kid, and his children had never been. Joseph and Sonya kept tugging on the ornate tablecloths and asking questions about what a God is. No one really knew, so Keith deferred to Marcia, and Marcia deferred to the priest.

The Howells took a seat in the back row of pews: the best place to get reacquainted with the Church, Marcia and Keith thought. After getting situated, Keith looked down at his son and whispered.

“Is this what you need?” he asked Joseph, not letting Marcia hear him.

“I don’t know. Mom thinks so,” he whispered in reply, feeling confused as to how church would affect his behavior.

“Listen, Joseph. This is a good thing we’re doing, regardless, but I don’t want you to stop being yourself. Just do it when it’s appropriate.”

“Okay, dad.” Joseph smiled at Keith.

The priest approached his pulpit and said a thing or two. He was old and wily and truly enthralled with his discourse, but the sermon was easy to lose interest in. That is, until about 30 minutes in, when the priest shined a spotlight on Keith.

“And here! We have this man, who could not even afford to buy clothes, but still managed to bring himself and his family to church. Sir, how good is God to have brought you here today, in spite of your struggles?!”

Keith felt so weird. He adjusted his cuff links and tugged at his tie a little bit. “Uh, yes, yes it is good,” he said just loud enough for the priest to hear him.

The crowd turned to look at Keith, and those who were once glaring now looked on him with pity, having not thought about his obvious poverty before.

“How good, brother?!”

In about a second-and-a-half, Keith looked down, muttered, “Shoot,” and looked back up and replied, “Yes, very good.” Marcia looked at him, a little frustrated with his lack of participation.

“’Very good’ he says! And ‘very good’ is right! Amen, brother!”

The crowd echoed “amen” and returned their attention to the pulpit. Keith caught his breath and came down from the anxiety of being the object of spectacle. Joseph looked up at his dad and told him he “did good.”

At the end of the sermon, the Howells walked toward the end of the pew, hoping to make it out to the car quickly. The front pews led, however, and the line to get out was long. When the Howells made it to the door, they were stopped by the priest.

“I haven’t seen you around before, guys. Thanks for coming.” Turning his attention to Joseph and Sonya, he asked, “Did you guys learn anything good today?”

Joseph said, “Yeah, I learned a lesson about not making fart noises in class. If coming here is what happens after I do that, I’m done.”

Keith and the priest both laughed. Marcia took the reins on fixing Joseph’s reputation with the Church. “We were all captivated,” she said. “Joseph especially learned some valuable lessons.”

The priest looked Keith up and down and shook his head with a smile. “Well, I sure do hope you guys can keep abreast.,” the priest said. “You guys look like you really could use the body of our Lord, ya know?” And with that, the priest walked away, happy with his puns.

Before the Howells walked outside, Keith pulled Joseph close to him, kneeled down, and asked, “Hey, is the reason you make fart noises in class because I haven’t been able to go on field trips with you and stuff like that?”

Joseph was surprised to hear his dad say that. “No way!” Joseph exclaimed. “It’s because fart noises are funny!”

Keith smiled at Joseph, and then Keith put his face in his elbow and blew. Joseph laughed and joined, and Sonya laughed and joined. Then Marcia realized the futility and ridiculousness of her attempt to influence the behavior of a 10 year-old and put her face in her elbow, too. After a few seconds of that, everybody jumped on top of Keith and put their mouths on his naked body and blew. Keith crumbled to the floor and laughed hysterically as his family assaulted him with raspberries, and the church rang with the sound of the Howells’ laughter.

Attention then turned to the pulpit, where the priest was blowing into his wrinkly inner elbow, spit flying everywhere. He did it right next to his microphone and struggled to maintain his composure as he intermittently burst with laughter.

As the confused church-goers (they were really grappling with whether or not their respect for the priest should waver) filed out of the building, the priest came back down and said, “You guys don’t know how much I love that stuff. When you get a microphone and a room designed to carry sound all to yourself, you make a lot of fart noises. I try and keep it at a minimum during the sermon, but it’s a pretty easy cover for incontinence and the kids love it.”

Church, Pt. 1: Atti-nude Adjustment

Keith and Marcia sat across from the principal, awaiting the ruling on their son’s punishment from his school. Because of the understanding that Keith could not enter Joseph’s school, the three agreed to meet at Applebee’s, an establishment that hasn’t yet outlawed nudity and unabashedly welcomes it.

“For the crime of refusing to discontinue making fart sounds with his mouth and inner elbow in the middle of Ms. Schmidt’s 4th grade class,” Principal Hardy began, “Joseph K. Howell is sentenced to two of days out-of-school suspension.”

Marcia gasped and moved to pull Keith closer to her, Keith’s arse audibly peeling from the leather booth. Marcia put her head on Keith’s chest, and his nipple fit inside of her ear.

“Does he need counseling?” Marcia asked with tears beading in her eyes.

Principal Hardy adjusted his bib, took a bite of his chicken parmesan (only $20 with two appetizers!), and with a full mouth said, “We think it may be a cry for help-type situation.” Hardy swallowed, took another bite, and said again with a full mouth, “You know, these types of things generally start at home, and this isn’t the first time he’s made fart noises in class.”

Marcia backed away from Keith and made a small separation between the two of them. She looked at her husband, seeing him differently. Marcia thought of the handsome home her on-call optometry business had provided, the ritzy public school she had put her children in, and the love she had for her children that she constantly reminded them of. Keith was the blemish in their children’s upbringing.

“I see,” Marcia said, staring at a potato wedge. “Well, what do you suggest, Principal Hardy?”

Keith had hardly been listening to their dialogue. He spun his fork in his chicken alfredo, attempting to construct a monolith of some sort, but wet noodles don’t really have the consistency for it. When he heard his wife ask for suggestions as to remedying his son’s behavior, however, he made a sound.

“Ya know, this is all just kind of dumb,” Keith blurted. Marcia furrowed her brow at his dissention. “Joseph is a funny kid whose sense of humor is just a little beyond his teachers’ grasps. Fart sounds are always funny, and if his teachers don’t agree, they need to check on their attitudes.”

“Sure, Mr. Howell,” said Principal Hardy. “But the issue here is his disruption of the class.”

“This could be a cry for help, Keith!” Marcia exclaimed, ire drawn. The restaurant patrons at the booth behind them turned to catch some of the conversation.

Principal Howell felt the onus of the discussion shift and grew to feel very unwelcome. “Mr. and Mrs. Howell, I think we’ve said what needs said. I’ll leave the rest of the disciplining to you.” With that, Principal Hardy left $20 on the table and walked out of the restaurant.

Keith and Marcia climbed into the family roadster and drove out of the Applebee’s parking lot.

“Keith, I know that the offense was minor, but the circumstances are such that, I dunno, maybe Joseph feels alone. Maybe he wants attention,” Marcia explained calmly. Keith looked ahead, feeling ambivalent but considering her words. “I mean, his dad was the only one not allowed to attend career day. His dad can’t bring him cupcakes on his birthday. His dad can’t coach little league! You have no idea how baseball works!”

Keith stewed. “Well,” he said, “What would you like me to do?”

“I think we need to go to church. This family needs to get right with God. It’s a family activity that promotes togetherness and, you know, Jesus.”

“No way! They would never let me in there. And I’m very confused about God right now, anyway. Like, if he’s there, what purpose are we serving him? And why do innocent people suffer? I dunno. I think I’m too existential for church.”

Dinner and a Nudie

Keith strolled into the dimly lit restaurant, holding open each door on the way for his company.

“Formal attire only, sir,” said the host. Keith smiled and politely pointed at his feet – French silk socks and Italian leather shoes.

“Oh, excuse me, Mr…I apologize, what was the name on your reservation?”

“Howell, Keith, esquire. For two.”

“Yes, let me show to your table, Mr. Howell, esquire.”

Mr. Howell pulled out his guest’s chair, smiling at her as he did so. Her name was Marcia Kurtis back then, and Keith was feeling privileged to be in her presence. The two had first encountered in a less upscale setting a week ago.

“Thanks for bringing me here, Keith,” Marcia said. “It’s nice to see you outside of the bars, where we can be our normal, sober selves.”

“It’s no problem, really. I thought I should make it up to you after last weekend,” Keith said apologetically. After some gratuitous dancing on a stomach full of firewater, Keith needed to expel his contents. Marcia’s dress was ruined, and Keith felt better. He was in no state to coherently apologize then, and Marcia wasn’t in one to coherently accept an apology, either. The two called it a wash and exchanged phone numbers.

A very gaunt figure in a tuxedo approached Keith and Marcia’s table. “Good evening, Mr. Howell, esquire, and his lovely partner.” Keith was impressed at the personal service. “What will the two of you have to drink tonight?”

Freshly 21, Keith ordered a fine but reasonably-priced wine, assuring the waiter that his date, who was in fact only 20, had simply forgotten her identification but was certainly of legal age. Keith had a bit of a penchant for mischief in his youth. The suspicious but very poor and tip-needy waiter obliged, uncorking the bottle and pouring two glasses.

“Wow, Keith. That was so smooth,” Marcia gushed, sipping her wine. “So…I have to ask…how do you get away with it? I mean, being so naked.”

“I generally deflect this question,” Keith said, but he was feeling vulnerable and had already taken a few gulps of wine. “But I’ll answer it for you.”

Just as Keith was about to explain, a customer in a beige suit approached the table.

“Excuse me, sir,” the restaurant patron began with malice. “I brought my family here with the intent of having a fine dinner in celebration of our son’s birthday.”

Keith looked over at the man’s family to see his son looking embarrassed and his wife holding back tears. The son was wearing a t-shirt with some hair metal band’s logo on it – maybe Poison? Who cares.

“Your lack of clothing,” the man continued, “is distracting my family and ruining our outing.”

Keith apologized, but told the man that he refused to either leave or don clothing, to which the man responded with a flurry of curse words and inflammatory statements. His wife burst into tears immediately.

Keith calmly responded, “Listen, sir. Look at your son’s attire; he has no desire to be here whatsoever. Your entire family is embarrassed that you would even have the gall to approach me to complain about exercising my rights as a free American to enjoy a meal with a lovely woman whom I respect and would never publicly embarrass under normal circumstances. If you feel similarly about your wife, you will kindly return to your table, quit your rubbernecking, and eat your food.”

The man was stunned and infuriated. He turned around, quickly stomped back to his table, gathered his family, and left for the door. The man’s son and wife both waved at Keith and mouthed “sorry” as they left.

“Assholes are like opinions or something,” Keith said to no one in particular. He sighed, laughed a little bit, and returned his attention to Marcia. “So, what kind of music do you like?”

Marcia’s jaw was hanging a little bit as she stared at Keith. “That was…pretty mature, the way you handled that.” “Mature” wasn’t the word she was looking for. She surveyed Keith’s body with demure eyes and traced the rim of her glass with her finger.

“Thanks,” Keith said. “I generally don’t have to deal with these things; there are always just a few people that will make it awkward for you to be naked in public.”

Marcia felt an obligation to honor the generosity of Keith’s offer to buy her dinner by staying and eating everything, but she had seen what she needed to see, physically and inter-personally. She grabbed the nudist’s hand and escorted him to the men’s restroom.

Keith walked out ten minutes later, going out first to make sure no one was watching as Marcia followed him. The plan was bad; all eyes were on the naked guy exiting the bathroom – “Did he just take all of his clothes off and walk out to the dining area?” Keith sort of panicked, his blood still pumping from the romp. He normally just waves it off and keeps walking, but he had to hang back for Marcia.

He turned back toward the restroom, answering to a man’s inquisitive look at a nearby table. “Forgot my wallet or something. I forgot something. You know that feeling that you forgot something?”

He went back in and found Marcia in a stall, standing on a toilet. “What do we do?!” she whisper-yelled.

“Wait?” Keith guessed. “Maybe wait? Just wait and see? Shit, I dunno.”

Marcia said, “Hold on, I’ll work this. I took an acting class.”

Marcia stepped off the porcelain, sighed, went to the mirror and put on a face, and strolled out. No one questioned her or even looked at her, but she continued, anyway.

“HAHA! That was the men’s restroom! Would you believe that I’m in there for fifteen minutes and don’t notice the urinals! I mean, how could you? Very unassuming urinals. Why was I in there for fifteen minutes, you’re asking now?” She was really doing good work with this one. “The goddamn mussels here, ya know? Anyway, thanks, guys. You’ve been great.”

Marcia ended her monologue with a sincere bow and took her seat. The whole restaurant was set a-mumbling by her performance. Keith walked out after a couple minutes, flashing a bottle of hand soap to the inquisitive guy from earlier. “Yup, got it now.” He sat down at the table and put a hand in Marcia’s hair, attempting to fix it for her. She looked really sexed.

“So, we’ll see each other again, right?” said Marcia, eager to learn more about her new partner.

Keith ruminated. Was she the stay-at-home type? The late-night optometry type? The type to disagree or talk back?

None of it mattered, he thought. It’s probably just a fling. “Yes,” he said earnestly. He then covered the check and the tip, both.

Keith delivered her home, romped with her one more time, and took himself back to his dormitory. As he laid down, visions of sex, bathroom stall graffiti, and Marcia’s angry dad, who has superb hearing and did an excellent job chaperoning tonight, filled his head.

The Naked Gunman

Perusing the aisles of the MonsterMart, Keith and the Howells were shopping for the week, and the whole family was feeling good. Keith picked up a box of store-brand boxed mashed potato mix and smiled at his kids.

“If we buy and eat these, are we doin’ the Monster mash?” Keith said like a kid. The kids, Sonya and Joseph, each laughed, kind of getting the joke. Marcia smiled at Keith and wanted to say she loved him. As much anguish as his nudity has wrought upon her, she could never forget the way his humor and personality made her feel. The group then re-commenced their journey for food.

Keith put the potatoes down and started walking, too, tapping each box of foodstuffs as he walked by. He was feeling particularly excitable this morning, for he was with his family. Nothing made the man happier. Having an idea for a family activity later in the day, Keith told his family to keep shopping while he headed for the outdoors/sports department.

Keith approached the MonsterMart employee in the department and said, “I’d like one of your finest soccer balls, please.”  Keith’s bright attitude was contagious, and the obliging employee gladly led him to the soccer equipment section.

After selecting a junior-sized soccer ball (he wanted his kids to be able to play, and he wanted to be able to kick it to the moon), he began walking back to his family, but on his way, an intriguing and unfamiliar sight stopped him. Keith cautiously walked to the gun section, feeling a shortness of breath. He felt a strange draw to the glass counter, displaying the machines of war on animal and man.

“Hey, man,” said a big man in camouflage, also browsing the weaponry. “You look earthy,” referencing Keith’s nudity. “You into big game?”

Keith came out of his trance and responded timidly. “Well, I’ve never really been hunting. I mean, I would if I got a chance. I’ve always thought about it.” Keith imagined himself taming a bear in a three-ring circus.

“Well shit, man!” said the unrefined but friendly countryman. He was standing in front of the camouflage turkey blind display, rendering him invisible. “Me and some of my buds are goin’ out tomorrow. You from around here? Got a gun? Wanna come?!”

Anxiety became Keith as he considered the man’s offer. He did have a gun, his father’s old rifle, he did want to go, and he was indeed from around here.

“Well, I can’t see why not,” said Keith with an earnest smile. Keith was making friends from all walks of life, and he was feeling pretty good about that. The two men exchanged information (the other guy’s name was Jeremiah, Germ for short), and made plans to meet at dawn the next morning.

Keith ran back to his family, soccer ball in tow, and explained his plans for the next day. Marcia was nervous about him toting a weapon in the presence of unfamiliar men but was growing very supportive of his extraversion.

 —

The huntsmen convened at dawn in Germ’s driveway – the morning clear and the sun already warm on their heavily clothed bodies, Keith excluded. He maintained his nudity, except for a traffic cop’s orange vest that he had saved from Halloween last year when he went as a traffic cop (best costume nominee!). He even went barefoot, for the wild experience.

Keith was introduced to the three other men that would accompany them: Bill, a tall and skinny goofball that apparently had the most brains of the three (trusted with navigation), Marcus, by all accounts the sharpest-dressed of the them (Louis V. rifle case), and Skye, a Native-American with a mean streak (hunted with brass knuckles, a ball-point, and a paralyzing grimace).

“Why?” said Skye, apparently asking a question about Keith’s lack of hunting garb. Bill’s inquisitive look expressed the same question. Marcus just looked.

“It’s just the way I am,” Keith said to Skye. “Like Bill is tall, or you are aggressive.”

It was explanation enough for them.

The expedition began as the men drove from their suburban community to an area, which, according to Germ, was not approved for hunting but “had the biggest animals to kill.” Keith had some reservations about that, but these guys had done this before. The men all seemed pretty sedate, except for Skye, who never took off his brass knuckles or his frown.

Arriving at their destination, the men unloaded themselves from the pickup, collected their respective weapons, and stepped into the woods.

 —

 Keith felt like a fraud sitting in the turkey blind with Germ, totally invisible to unsuspecting game. Keith wanted to be on foot, hunting and being hunted at the same time, at the mercy of the wilderness, with only his intuition and his deadly weapon to protect him. After shooting the shit with Germ about politics for a while, Keith got antsy and had to leave the blind to find his prey.

He ventured out alone, not fearing the woods or its perhaps violent inhabitants. Taking an unbeaten route, he removed his traffic vest and tied it to a tree for a trail marker. After doing so, he looked at his own body sans vest, and he felt he was one with his surroundings. He was as naked as he came, and so was every beast he encountered.

He passed plenty of kill-able animals – squirrels, rabbits, scorpions – but he could not bring himself to murder an animal that had no intention of murdering him. So Keith trekked into the deep woods, hoping to be pressed into battle, but he only found Skye crouching behind a rock, stripped of all but his deerskin underwear and covered in mud.

“My grandfather,” Skye said, unprompted. “He taught me to leave the concept of civilization behind while on the hunt. Treat the journey as if it were my only source of nourishment. So I wait until I’m very hungry, until my hunting is intensified by my will to live, until I become a predator out of necessity.”

“Oh,” uttered Keith. He considered Skye’s approach. Keith was a real white apologist, so he chose to trust the guidance of the ancestors. He found the nearest tree and purged himself behind it.

A few hours passed, and Keith realized he hadn’t brought enough water with him to counteract such a loss of important vitamins and minerals. He was beginning to feel lightheaded, weak in the knees, and a little crazed. Skye noticed Keith’s increasingly tenuous grasp on reality, and knelt beside him to offer him drink.

“This will heal you,” Skye said, as he put his canteen to Keith’s mouth. “But we must find food.”

Feeling revived but still starved, the two set out into the forest, following a creek they stumbled upon. “Our prey will stay near the water,” said Skye. Tracing the creek’s path through the forest, they found Marcus sitting in a tree stand, flipping through a Vogue.

“Oh, hey guys!” exclaimed Marcus, likely scaring any animals in the area. “I was just reading a…a how-to on gutting bucks.”

“You have shamed our outfit, Marcus,” Skye said, shaking his head. “But you may come with us to find food.”

Marcus gingerly descended the tree and set to foot with Keith and Skye. The three had just begun meandering through the forest when a wild grizzly leapt out of the bed of the creek and onto the bank, choler in its eyes. The men, though unafraid, attempted to flee for their safety. The grizzly pursued. When they recognized the disparity in bear-to-human speed, Keith and Skye stopped and glared at the bear. The bear also halted his run and menaced. Keith and Skye narrowed their eyes at the enemy, unfazed by the sudden confrontation. Marcus, also unaffected by the danger, stripped naked to match his cohorts, imagining the stories he would tell.

Skye pulled a bayonet from his bag, Marcus took aim with his rifle, and Keith took off at a run towards the beast, his gun still on his back. He refused to die in this forest. The other two began to run, as well, seeing the advantage that three average men had over one 1,200 pound bear. Keith leapt at the throat of the creature, his open palm extended to go for the gullet. The bear struck Keith in the ribs as he was airborne, knocking him to the ground. Marcus then closed his eyes and took two blind shots at the bear, missing both, and taking his time reloading.

Keith lay on the ground, writhing, as Skye took to guerilla tactics, running behind trees and boulders, his hand-held bayonet positioned to stab. The bear set to Keith, pushing the immobilized man, playing with him. As the beast’s attention strayed, Skye leapt on its back and wrapped his arms around its neck. The bear struggled for but a few seconds before closing his eyes and lying on the ground, neutralized. It was a classic sleeper hold.

After assessing Keith’s health with only his vision and determining that he would make a quick and full recovery, Skye smiled and said, “Classic sleeper hold.”

 —

 The huntsmen reconvened, and Bill provided Keith with enough food to sustain him. Marcus, Skye, and Keith exchanged their perspectives on the story as they walked back to the entrance of the forest, Keith feeling more fulfilled than he ever had. His life and others were endangered, and he attempted to protect them all, albeit unsuccessfully.

Germ and Bill were entertained by the tale, though Germ was unsurprised. “Yeah, man, there’s some serious shit out there. Wrestled a croc that swam all the way upstream from the gulf coast once, no joke,” he said. Keith knew that guy was a damn liar sometimes, but liked him enough anyway.

They drove back home, telling stories of bravery and camaraderie, tuckered out from the trials of the day. When they got back to their meeting place from the morning, the sun was setting and Keith was both sad to depart from the men and happy to return home. He knew he would see these men again, for they were real friends to him on this day. He drove home with a smile on.

 —

 At home that night, Keith was too excited about his story to sleep before telling his wife and kids. Fueled by the outdoor adventure he had earlier, he built a small campfire in the backyard and his family gathered ‘round. There, he told his kin of a great sky and the elders, the blood-passion of seeking the kill, and the greater reward of allowing to live. “Underneath our Gap-brand jean shorts, and our Tommy Bahama shirts,” said Keith, “We are just like every creature on earth. We are only seeking a life undisturbed by others of our species and those outside of it.” Standing up, feeling as naturally nude as he ever had, Keith embraced his wife, who embraced their children, forming a lovely chain hug.

The Nude Poets Society

Keith knew and loved his wife, mitigating his anxiety about defending his values to her while at home. The men he worked with, however, caused trepidation that could not be assuaged. Keith never shied from contact, though, and, in fact, went out of his way to interact with his colleagues. He refused to let scrutiny, real or perceived, interfere with potential friendships. In response to his outreaches, he was generally met with kind responses, and he stifled his innate skepticism just enough to let himself believe these men could be his friends. They had not yet invited him to any after-work gatherings, but they soon would.

Today was Friday, and the nudist could not help but keep an eye on the clock. The agenda for his evening was blank, but Keith was sure he and his wife would find something enjoyable to do – read together, maybe talk about their feelings. Who knows, he thought. He knew for certain, however, that they would not be watching “24” again (Marcia referred to Keith as “Kiefer” while the two were acting like adults the other night). And just as Keith wiped the disgusting memory off of his face, the intern turned the corner to deliver Keith’s office mail. A fairly nondescript character aside from an indiscernible neck tattoo peeking from his shirt collar, he had proven to be a pretty nice kid, so far.

“How’s the paper route treatin’ ya, chief?” asked Keith with a smile.

“Just fine, Mr. Howell. Here’s a few things for you,” said the chief, handing the envelopes to Keith. His etiquette quickly became less formal before he started, “Hey, listen, you’re a little different than most of the guys I’ve met here. Most of these guys, they’re here because they sold out. The way I see it, you’re here because you won’t.”

“That’s nice of you to say,” said the modest nudist dismissively, hoping none of his coworkers could hear the intern further widening the gap between the nudist and them. As he turned around to end the conversation, the intern continued his thought.

“We’re kind of the same, y’know. Well, we’re here for different reasons, but, in our hearts, y’know, we’re really the same.”

“Yeah-huh,” Keith mumbled shortly.

“Me, I wanted to be an English major, but my dad said he wouldn’t pay for my school if I didn’t take a business degree, which is very bogus.”

The well-meaning intern realized that he was acting too cool and brought himself back to the office-friendly behavior. “Listen, I just noticed that you, like me, are cut from a different cloth and wanted to see if you wanted to hang out with my buddies and I tonight, if you didn’t have anything going on. We’re going to an open-mic poetry thing at a bar. Just gonna have a few brews, listen, relax. You’re welcome to come if you’re not busy.”

The nudist ruminated on the offer for all of a few seconds before realizing that the sedate night at home that awaited him would be forgotten in a week, while a memorable night with new people was an affirmative reply away. Even though he was just an intern, the time would at least be spent with someone associated with the office.

“You know, I could use the adventure. Sure, where should I meet you?”

Keith thought a 9:00 p.m. meeting time was a little late, and his wife thought it was really late, but Keith made the trek to the bar district and showed up a few minutes early. He waited for half an hour in front of the Poetry Pit, the well-dressed passersby spectating. He had long grown indifferent to the sticky eyes of others, but the people walking in and out of the Poetry Pit were dressed so well and so chic that the nudist found himself feeling very under-dressed. Even more embarrassing was Hudson, the intern, showing up at 9:30 with two of his friends.

“I may have misunderstood, but I thought we were meeting at nine,” said the confused nudist.

Hudson, now seeing the nudist’s lack of familiarity with Hudson’s lifestyle, replied, “I mostly meant nine-ish.”

Hudson and company lead the way into the bar, where the only visible light was the spotlight on the stage and some candles on the tables. The group chose a table in the way back, Hudson and company being careful to not seem too interested in the stage. Hudson’s friends introduced themselves as Gus and Sabrina, and they seemed nice enough. The nudist was surprisingly well-received in the bar. “Individuality, man,” one patron slurred to Keith.

“Four PBR’s please,” Hudson said to the waitress, whose outfit did not signify that the bar employed her. Keith was unsure of what conclusions to draw of the dress that seemed standard fare in the bar. The jeans seemed uncomfortable and the shirts were baroque pieces of art. Then Keith looked at himself and laughed.

“So, Keith,” started Gus, “How long have you been a nudist? Pretty recent change, or are you way into it?”

Hudson looked at Gus with reproach, but Keith had never been approached so forwardly about his lack of clothing, and it made him feel comfortable telling the story. “Well, I started as soon as I got out of high school. I had been trying it around the house alone, but I went to a private school, and my parents would have killed me if I did anything to mess up my family’s reputation there. So when I graduated, I donated everything I owned.”

“Cool, man,” Gus approved. “Very original.”

“Wow, man!” shouted Sabrina. “That’s amazing! How do you get away with it? Why doesn’t anybody stop you?”

“I think -” and as Keith started explaining, a man in a tweed jacket stepped to the microphone and spoke.

“Thanks for coming out tonight everybody,” he said in dispassionate manner. “As you know, tonight is open mic night, so, step up at your leisure. If everyone could, please blow out the candles at your tables, and let’s get started.”

The first poet stepped to the microphone and started reading. Keith had no idea what she was saying, and she bobbed her head really weird while she read, but her cant was beautiful and Keith was mesmerized. All he could tell was that art spilled from her mouth, and he wanted to be like her.

As soon as she finished, Keith stood up. “The bathroom’s in the back, man,” said Hudson, assuming Keith’s objective, but Keith walked to the front. The chairs were really close together, and Keith felt his ass slide across someone’s corduroy pants. Up the stairs, onto the stage, under the light, every feature illuminated.

He was in a trance on the walk, sober but blacked out, but he was now somewhat conscious of his actions. He could see only silhouettes of people, but he felt close to them. As he felt himself starting to speak, he blacked out again.

“My life, marred by criticism, scrutiny, prejudice. But I am more human than those who serve. As I came, so I am. Those I am close to hardly know me, and they won’t.”

As the final line dripped from his tongue, he regained consciousness of both himself and his surroundings, and he grew timid while the crowd grew wild. Without acknowledging their applause, Keith walked back to his seat and looked downward while Hudson, Gus, and Sabrina celebrated.

“You were brilliant, man!” “Seriously, you gotta come back next week” “So succinct, so rare.”

As they walked out of the bar, multiple patrons asked to shake Keith’s hand, take pictures with him, and one girl groped him.

“It was the best art piece I’ve ever seen,” one said. “Stripped down, bare, exposed. I felt you.”

Keith was one of them now, whether he knew it or not. He was a warrior poet, a real intellectual. Hudson congratulated Keith, explaining the gauntlet of authenticity Hudson was subject to before he was accepted, the gauntlet Keith forewent.

Keith returned home in the early morning, a member of a new tribe whose ideals he did not necessarily subscribe to. His wife would never know of his membership, and he hoped that Hudson would keep work and play separate. Keith crawled into bed with his wife and thought about himself. Those guys were nice, but they were young and weird on purpose, and Keith only knew how to be weird on accident. Maybe he would go out with them again one day, but not tomorrow and probably not the day after. He went to sleep pondering the truth in their approval of him, but thought it better to reserve his skepticism for the government and the music industry.

A Nakedman’s Home is His Castle


The elementary school bus route has a stop 630 feet from the school’s campus. Keith, whose son and daughter attend said elementary school, lives with his family about one-and-a-half miles from it. The court-issued restraining order, instated at the school district’s urging, states that “Mr. Keith A. Howell is not to be within 500 feet of Indian Trails Elementary School or any property under the school district’s ownership.” Keith A. Howell, a nudist, understands. To live free, one must sacrifice some liberties. Every weekday morning, Keith loads his kids into the car and drives them to that bus stop 630 feet away from the school. The routes are configured to have a stop immediately outside the Howell family driveway, but Keith cherishes the impractical jaunt. He yearns for semblance of normalcy, and driving his children near the school is as close as he comes.

“Why do we do this?” asked Sonya one morning in the car. “The bus comes so close to our house.”

An anxious realization that it would be a long while before his children understood overcame Keith. “It’s on my way to work,” Keith said, concealing his emotions. “Why not?”

“There’s a field trip coming up to the Native American history museum, Dad,” said Joseph from the back seat. “Can you come?”

Keith looked down into his lap, looked back up, and said “I probably can’t come, bud. Work and whatnot.”

As the children left one vehicle to board the other, Keith told each one he loved them, trying not to lose his grip on a tear.

His children had never really questioned Keith’s lack of proper clothing. The effects on their psyches were somewhat apparent (Joseph constructed an incredibly anatomically correct human figure out of papier-mâché for his art class), but Keith remained positive that their tolerance of others’ lifestyles would benefit from the situation. His wife, however, remained skeptical.

Keith returned home from work that same night with a smile only slightly hardened by the day’s business. Before leaving the foyer, he liked to rid himself of any clothing that may have the funk of the office on it, so he slipped off his sandals and removed his hat at the front door. Leave your work at work, he thought. His kids heard him moving about and ran up to him to greet him. “Daddy!” they yelped. He replied with excitement and tossed each one some candy he picked up on the way home. Keith established safe boundaries with the kids and left all the hugging to mom. He knew at some point they would love her more than him because of it, but he was without option.

Keith followed his kids into the living quarters, where wife and mother Marcia was found snacking on trail mix and watching a made-for-TV movie. The children scattered and left Marcia and Keith alone.

Marcia looked at Keith and smiled. “You get off early?”

“No,” he said. “Same time as normal.”

“Oh.” Marcia was wearing her professional’s outfit. She was an optometrist by day and, more recently, by night.

“I’m on call tonight,” she explained,”So I may have to miss dinner. I’ll leave some money for you and the kids to get something, if I have to -” As she said that, her cell phone jingled. “Yeah, I’ll have to leave.”

She ran out the door with her utility brief case, filled with portable slit lamps and phoropters. She had taken to the idea of being the area’s only on-call optometrist when she saw the community demand for it, coupled with Keith’s lack of disposable income. He worked as hard as anyone, but his employer seemed mostly unresponsive to his productivity. Marcia took it upon herself to fill the monetary void but not without some resent.

“You have a wonderful mind and a work ethic that can’t be taught,” Marcia told Keith numerous times. “Sometimes we have to sacrifice our values for our families and ourselves.”

“You know it’s who I am,” Keith plead in their latest dispute. “Being a nudist, regardless of its consequences, is how I maintain my freedom. I’ll work because I have to, and I’ll work damn hard, and I’ll buy you and the kids what you need, but I’m going to do it as myself. As long as I maintain my nudity, I maintain my senses of individuality and liberty. My sanity is bound to my nudity, and it’s not for sale.”

After Marcia left, Keith walked upstairs to notify Joseph that Keith would be leaving for a few minutes and Joseph needed to watch his sister and the house. Joseph, 12, was both mature and responsible for his age – a product of his father’s upbringing. Joseph accepted his charge, and Keith departed.

Keith took to the highway in his convertible sedan – not a fancy ride, but he loved the freedom of having the top down. He had no destination, physical or mental, and the patterns of his thought and course reflected that. He took exits unfamiliar and considered his wife. He loved her, and he was fairly certain that she loved him, but if the woman he married failed to accept the repercussions of his lifestyle, who could? The colonies are for those who want it easy, he thought. No consequences, no problems, no real life. He knew he would be accepted there, but it would be at the cost of living. He had put himself apart with his choice.

When Keith returned, he found his children sleeping in the living room. He carried each one to his and her respective beds, and returned to the couch. “Today was a serious day,” he thought. “But I’m not a serious man. Better end it with a laugh.” Keith popped the Naked Gun into the VHS player and fell asleep with a smile on.