A Nakedman’s Home is His Castle
by Dillon Hayes
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.