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Picture perfect

By Cris Kane

Description An eccentric painter’s portraits have an unusual impact on those who pose for them.

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AddedJune 2019
Updated29 Jun 2019
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2 Parts tap bar to showtap bar to hide

Part 1

So, do you want to go to Sage Winslow’s party tonight?”

Bennett Humphries rolled over on his chaise in order to keep his tan even. “Who the fuck is Sage Winslow? He’s not related to Stanley Winslow, is he?” Bennett said “Stanley” with a mockingly nasal quality.

“He is Stanley Winslow,” replied Bennett’s best – and some might say, only – friend, Dexter Laporte, who was reclining on the chaise beside him poolside. “Apparently, ever since his folks croaked and he got all their money, he’s been calling himself Sage.”

“What a fag. Hey, can you put some more sunscreen on my back?”

“Sure thing,” said Dexter, sitting up and squirting a thick stream of SPF 30 onto Bennett’s bronzed skin. “But I wouldn’t call him a fag. From what I hear, he’s been banging every hot chick in sight.”

“That lardass? You gotta be joking,” said Bennett as Dexter’s palms smeared the cool sunscreen across his well-defined traps. “Well, chicks did money. And the fastest way to a man’s wallet is through his dick. Still…” He pushed himself off his chaise and walked poolside where he dove elegantly into the deep end, immediately washing away Dexter’s efforts at sunscreening and leaving Dexter’s hands coated in slick white lotion. Dexter wiped the residue on his own much paler skin, which was turning pink in the afternoon sun. While he had never been blessed with a body like Bennett’s, he had been in much better shape in high school and college. Now that he was a working stiff, he no longer had the free time to devote to exercise that Bennett did. When he had a free weekend afternoon like this, he liked to just lounge by Bennett’s pool.

Bennett returned to the edge of the pool after a single round-trip, propping himself on the edge with his taut muscular arms. This Sage Winslow news had really gotten under his skin. “So you’re seriously telling me that women, actual women, are having sexual intercourse with Stanley Winslow? On purpose?”

As was often the case in their conversations, Dexter merely shrugged his narrow shoulders, with Bennett speaking again before Dexter got a chance.

“This I gotta see,” Bennett declared, then shot his way elegantly through the water, propelled by his perfectly toned legs. He was a natural athlete but had never focused on any one sport. He didn’t care for team sports, because so much depended on the abilities other people who might not live up to his high standards, and he disliked individual sports, because he knew there was always the chance that, by some fluke, someone might defeat him one-on-one. He now stuck to solo activities like swimming, jogging and weight training which kept his body in such enviable shape, but even those were only done when the whim hit him. It didn’t take much maintenance to keep Bennett looking great.

From a very early age, people had remarked upon what a handsome lad Bennett was, and he only became more stunning as he grew. The elegant bone structure that he inherited from his former-model mother was apparent from childhood and became more refined post-puberty. That, combined with wavy wheat-colored hair and riveting pale-blue eyes, got him a series of modeling gigs when he was in college. At one point, a black-and-white photo of Bennett, shirtless, covered ten stories of a skyscraper in Times Square, advertising some god-awful cologne, a dozen free cases of which were still piled in a corner of his four-car garage, probably decomposing into high explosives. Bennett felt conflicted about the whole experience. He got off on the recognition at first, but he knew it was his good looks and not the quality of the product that were boosting sales of the shitty toilet water. It’s not like he was actually wearing the putrid stuff during the photo shoot, and even if he had been, no one looking at the billboard could smell it. He soon became bored with the hours and the travel and the infighting among the other models, not to mention all the fashion-industry queers that were constantly hitting on him.

Following his modeling experiment, he fled back to Southern California and loafed his way through school after school, drifting from one major to another and counting on his father’s wealth and reputation to rescue him from any jam, a strategy which consistently worked. His parents both hoped he would find some direction and focus, but they had spoiled their golden child too much to start laying down harsh demands now. As a result, Bennett was now an unemployed 25-year-old playboy, good at nothing in particular besides looking incredible, living rent-free in one of his family’s beach houses north of San Diego.

If you’re sensing a pattern here, Bennett abhorred effort.

This applied in all aspects of his life, but particularly in the romance department. Bennett was such a stunner that he easily attracted attention from the ladies without ever having to go in pursuit of it. He never had to be kind or sensitive or funny or in any way interested in their lives. He certainly had no interest in putting in the effort it would take to sustain an ongoing relationship. In Bennett’s mind, a second date was a privilege which must be earned and was only doled out on the rarest of occasions. Bennett was more likely to donate you a kidney than ask you for a second date.

The longest relationship in Bennett’s life was his friendship with Dexter, the son of Bennett’s father’s business partner. Dexter was born three days before Bennett but was firmly delegated to the “little brother” role in their friendship. Although Dexter had grown into a slender darkly-handsome gentleman who attracted his fair share of lustful stares, he was introspective and shy, content to bask in the glow that Bennett emitted rather than creating a glow of his own. He attempted to mimic Bennett’s laissez-faire attitude toward life, but was more of a worrier at heart. He was also far more aware of and concerned about the feelings of others than Bennett was, but then that was true of practically everyone on planet Earth. As Bennett’s one-man entourage, Dexter got to tag along on adventures he would never have experienced on his own, although he usually felt that he had witnessed them rather than participated in them. Bennett kept Dexter around because he didn’t mind Dexter’s company and because Dexter was willing to do things for Bennett that Bennett couldn’t be bothered to do for himself.

Today, in his role as Bennett’s social director, Dexter sent some texts and gathered information about the bash being held at Sage Winslow’s place. He learned that it was supposedly invitation-only, but no one in the history of ever had turned Bennett Humphries away from a party.

Bennett timed their arrival for the greatest impact, roaring up to the Winslow mansion in his silver Lamborghini precisely at sunset. He climbed out of the driver’s seat, removing his leather driving gloves, his sharp gray suit chosen specifically because it coordinated with the car’s paint job. The fireball sinking into the ocean on the western horizon was reflected in Bennett’s mirrored sunglasses and brought out a shimmering glow in his casually perfect hair. He snapped the glasses from his face and cast his baby-blues on the crowd. A murmur rippled through the crowd as word of his arrival spread. Bennett got semi-hard just knowing that so many people were buzzing about him, and he became even harder when he noticed people’s eyes drifting down to the semi-hard bulge in his pants, which in turn made him harder still.

In related news, Dexter got out of the passenger side, wearing something.

Bennett strolled through the front door, maintaining his typically detached demeanor. Dexter trailed behind, nodding or saying words of greeting to the few people he knew, but never straying far from Bennett’s side. Dexter remembered that he and Bennett had visited the Winslow mansion on several occasions as kids, when the wealthier families were trying to encourage their children to socialize together. After a few visits, Bennett was banned from the house for decreeing in front of Mr. and Mrs. Winslow that Stanley was “a big poopy turd”. Dexter had to choose between his loyalty to Bennett versus the chance to continue hanging out with other kids. Establishing a lifelong pattern, he sided with Bennett.

Despite its location on the beach, the Winslow house had always seemed unbearably stuffy and old, with antique furniture and marble busts and gold-framed portraits of long-dead aristocrats. But all the walls were now painted with black enamel and early Beastie Boys was cranked to eleven throughout the house, making it clear that the joint was under new ownership, and it was bangin’. The parquet-floored library had been converted into an indoor basketball court where an intense three-on-three game was currently underway. The plushly appointed den was now a video arcade with vintage Ataris and pinball machines, as well as giant screen TVs for playing the latest games, and an exotic aquarium embedded into the floor.

Beautiful young people packed the house from wall to wall, barely able to move. Bennett shouted to Dexter as they squeezed toward the bar, “What did he do, buy out a modeling agency?” Bennett had hoped to stump the bartender by specifying the most obscure gin he could think of, something Winslow couldn’t possibly have on hand, but every brand that came to Bennett’s mind was there on display behind the bartender. He decided to go to the opposite extreme. “Give me a Corona.” Dexter nudged him. “Make it two.”

They forced their way outside to the huge redwood deck which overlooked the Pacific. Out there, it was slightly less crowded, the temperature was twenty degrees cooler, the music wasn’t as ear-bursting, and the stars overhead were just switching on. Bennett shook his head and mumbled, “Can you believe all this belongs to a stumpy little weasel like Stanley Winslow?”

Before Dexter could reply, a deep male voice cut sharply through the crowd. “Oh. My. God. Do I see the great Bennett Humphries honoring us with a visit?”

Bennett and Dexter’s heads turned toward the hot tub where the voice had originated. In this bubbling cauldron were several large-breasted women in various degrees of undress and one swarthy musclebound man. Bennett thought the guy looked vaguely familiar, in the way that you might slightly recognize some former teenage star from a show on the CW that you never watched. Dexter, on the other hand, placed the face immediately, even if it didn’t match the body. “Sage?”

“Oh, hi, Dexter. Hadn’t noticed you back there. Welcome!”

Although he could now see that some of Stanley Winslow’s features were still recognizable amid the now rugged face, Bennett had trouble getting his brain around the notion that doughy, crayon-eating Stanley had evolved into this guy. He probably hadn’t seen Stanley in six years, but still, how could someone change so radically?

Sage stood up, revealing a powerful body with abundant body hair clinging to his skin. His long black hair was slicked back on his head and a heavy five-o’clock shadow darkened the skin below his prominent cheekbones. As he walked toward Bennett and Dexter, he was drying himself off with a plush towel that he dragged through his legs as if flossing his crotch, drawing attention to his black Speedo and the sizeable monster contained within it. Sage took obvious delight in Bennett’s stunned expression.

“What a pleasure to see you boys again,” said Sage, his delivery as fluttery as ever, even if the pitch was a good octave lower. “You two haven’t changed a bit.”

“Well, that makes two of us,” Dexter joked, just as amazed as Bennett.

“Ha! Yes, I guess I was a late bloomer. Well, better late than never. Come, let me show you what I’ve done with the rest of the house.” Sage took the arm of one of the female guests, seemingly at random, and they kissed hungrily.

Bennett had to yell to be heard by Dexter, but was sure that, with all the other noise, Sage couldn’t hear him. “What is the deal with all these chicks hanging all over him? I mean, he’s always been such an obvious fruit.”

“‘Fruit’? Don’t be so homophobic, man,” said Dexter.

“I’m not homophobic. I’m just, what is it, fructose-intolerant?” Bennett said with a cocky grin. Dexter just shook his head.

Sage left his arm candy to mingle among the rest of the guests while he led Bennett and Dexter upstairs to his bedroom. “In here is where the magic happens,” Sage said as he swung open the doors of what used to be his parents’ tasteful master bedroom. The enormous room was now dominated by a huge square mattress with a red velvet bedspread, suitable for an orgy, and a mirrored ceiling above it. Seventy-inch high-def TVs hung on three of the walls, currently showing a simultaneous triple-feature of Natural Born Killers, Behind The Green Door, and My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. “Fun for all ages,” Sage declared.

On the other wall hung a massive oil painting, much like those that Sage’s parents had preferred, only this was a painting of Sage himself, done in the style of the Old Masters. Against a backdrop of ancient ruins, Sage looked very contemporary, his broad hairy chest on display through an open San Diego Padres shirt. On his legs were ripped jeans and biker boots, and his long hair was blowing in the breeze. One centerfold-worthy naked woman was clinging to his left side, licking his earlobe, while another sat on the ground to his right, arms clutching Sage’s leg as she stared hungrily at his bulging crotch.

“Very tasteful,” said Bennett.

Sage grinned. “It was a pleasure to pose for. Of course, you know all about posing, don’t you?”

“I don’t do that anymore.”

“Oh, really?” said Sage. “I’ve always thought that you never stop posing.”

Dexter stepped in to deflect the direction the conversation was heading. “I can’t believe how good you look, Sage. You’ve really packed on the muscle.”

“Yeah, well, if you want something enough, you find a way to get it. Guess I was just tired of being…what was it? A poopy little turd?” He cast his dark brown eyes on Bennett.

Bennett asked, “So what’s the deal here? Are you trying to set a world record in blowing through your inheritance?”

Sage didn’t look worried. “Are you kiddin’? My ‘rents were sick rich. I’d have to be some kinda idiot to go through it all.”

A confused-looking middle-aged man wandered past the open bedroom doors, clearly out of place at this party. He spotted Sage and asked, “Où sont les toilettes? The bathroom?”

Sage gestured frantically. “Guillaume! Come in and meet my friends!” The wiry Frenchman shambled into the bedroom, wearing a wool suit and slippers. “Guys, this is the wizard behind my portrait. Bennett Humphries and Dexter Laporte, this is Guillaume Dupuis.”

The peculiar Frenchman said, “‘Allo,” and kissed Bennett’s hand, then Dexter’s, before turning urgently to Sage. “Please, m’sieur, the toilet?” Sage pointed toward a door at the far end of the bedroom. “Merci! Merci!” shouted the painter as he scooted his way across the room, his knees held close together.

“I know he seems a little odd, but he’s a very powerful artist. You know what, Bennett,” Sage said, pointing to the painting, “you should ask Guillaume to paint one of these for your house.”

“Not sure why I’d want a big painting of you in my house.”

“Not of me, you dope,” Sage said, taking a swat at Bennett. “Of yourself. I would love to see what Guillaume would do with you. And I bet Guillaume would just love to do you.”

“Oh, I bet he would love to do me too,” said Bennett. Behind Sage’s back, Bennett winked at Dexter, to make sure he caught the innuendo. Dexter nodded. Bennett was strictly a slow-ball innuendo pitcher; they were always easy to catch.

Guillaume exited the bathroom, greatly relieved. Sage gestured him over. “Guillaume, don’t you think my friend Bennett here would make a wonderful subject for one of your paintings?”

Guillaume studied Bennett’s face, inspecting the way the light fell on the various planes formed by his bone structure, taking Bennett’s chin in his hand and shifting it to the left and to the right. Bennett usually got off on having people check him out, but this little French goofball wasn’t exactly his type. “A beautiful face,” Guillaume declared. “It can hardly be improved upon.” He stepped back to take in Bennett’s full body. “Oui. An excellent subject! Such potential.”

Bennett appreciated the compliment. He took another look at the painting of Sage. He wasn’t any big art guy, but from what he could tell, the painting was well done. At the very least, its size was impressive.

Sage clapped Bennett on the shoulder. “You should go to Guillaume’s studio for a sitting. He really does amazing things with his paint.”


When Bennett and Dexter had arrived at Guillaume’s dusty downtown loft, Guillaume ambushed Bennett by snapping Polaroids to be used as reference. “I do not want the poses,” the painter explained, “I want to catch you off of the guard.” After he taken several shots of Bennett, he switched over and took a couple rapid-fire close-ups of Dexter.

Dexter held his hand in front of the lens, embarrassed. “I’m not here to be painted. I’m just along for the ride.”

“Oh, that is a pity,” said Guillaume. “Your visage, it is very interesting. I could do much with you.” Dexter became very self-conscious as Guillaume studied the contours of his face.

Bennett strolled around the studio as if he owned the place, peeking under the cloths which covered some of Guillaume’s canvases. Guillaume rushed over to stop him. “Do not touch, s’il vous plait. Those are not for you and they are far from finished. Now, of what sort of painting were you thinking?”

Bennett shrugged. “I don’t know. Like a big portrait. Just as long as it’s bigger than what you did for ol’ Sage.”

“Aha. So I see, you like to compare. Size, it is very important to you?”

“Isn’t it to everyone?” Bennett replied, glancing in a mirror and brushing a hand through his hair.

Guillaume closely observed Bennett’s behavior, trying to get a sense of his subject, making quick preliminary studies in a sketch pad as he watched how the sunbeams through the skylight fell upon Bennett’s body.

“I was thinking maybe I should be surfing. And Sage’s painting had, what, two chicks in it? I think mine should have at least four.”

Dexter chided Bennett. “Where are they gonna be? On the surfboard with you?”

“I dunno. I’m not the painter. Maybe some of them could be mermaids.”

Dexter started to laugh. “Why don’t you have a bunch of guys on the surfboard and one mermaid pulling a train?”

Guillaume looked confused. “I do not understand. How does a mermaid pull a train? The train is in the water?”

Bennett looked at the painter. “We’re just kidding around. Although maybe one of them could be giving me a blowjob.”

Guillaume threw down his sketchpad and crossed his arms. “Non! I do not do the pornographie! Please to be leaving my studio!”

“Whoa, take a pill, Francois,” said Bennett. “I’m just, whattayacallit, brainstorming here.”

“So this is truly how you see yourself? A how-you-say ‘surfer duuuude’ receiving le fellation from a mermaid?”

Dexter chimed in. “I don’t think your folks would be too thrilled if they came down to visit and found a big painting of you getting your knob polished.”

Bennett had to agree with Dexter there. “Okay, no ‘fellation’.” He looked at Guillaume, who was picking up his sketchpad and pencil. “So what do you need from me?”

“Please strip down, so I may sketch you.”

Bennett knew the drill from his days as a model, quickly kicking off his sneakers, pulling off his faded red t-shirt and dropping his camo cargos. He stood, arms crossed and impatient, in nothing but his white boxers.

“The underpants too, if you will.”

“No way, man. If you’re not gonna be painting my dick, you don’t need to see it.”

Guillaume shrugged as he began to sketch again. “Very well. I shall use my imagination,”

“I bet you will, you old fruit,” Bennett thought.

Bennett had another idea of what the painting could be. “Hey, how about…?”

Guillaume shushed him. “Silence! I am drawing.”

The experience was already bringing back memories of why he had hated modeling in the first place. At least a photographer could snap you while you were moving. When Guillaume saw a pose he liked, Bennett had to freeze in position and hold it, no matter how awkward, as long as it took Guillaume to sketch it. “The old French fag is probably just dragging this out because he loves staring at me,” Bennett thought. “I bet he’ll jack off to his drawings all night.”

Dexter watched the sweat rolling down Bennett’s face and body the longer he held each pose. He whispered to Guillaume, “Do you have any water I can give him?”

Guillaume nodded, pointing his pencil toward a paint-smeared refrigerator. Dexter pulled out three bottles of water, opened one and held it to Bennett’s lips. He gulped it down. Guillaume felt it was very much like a mother giving milk to a spoiled baby. Dexter offered the second bottle to Guillaume, who shook it off, too focused on his art. Dexter sat back on his stool and cracked open a bottle for himself. He wasn’t doing anything but staring at Bennett, but his mouth was parched.

After half an hour, Guillaume seemed satisfied that, between the Polaroids and his sketches, he had enough to proceed. Bennett slumped to the floor. Holding those poses felt like a full workout. Dexter brought over Bennett’s clothes, which he had folded into a neat stack.

“I had an idea. How about me and my Lamborghini?” Bennett asked Guillaume from the floor. “And maybe just two chicks, like sitting on the hood?”

Guillaume shook his head. “Non, non, non! Excuse my poor English, M’sieur Bennett, but you have the tastes of the simpleton.”

Bennett sat up, cross-legged, and stared angrily at Guillaume. “How come everything I say is stupid, huh? That painting of Saaaage, you had two chicks dry humping his legs. Why was that okay and I’m the simpleton?”

“That was how I saw M’sieur Sage in my mind. I paint him in his ideal form.”

Annoyed, Bennett stood up, pulling his cargos up his lightly hairy legs. “Fine, then, paint me in my ideal form. But I better be a shitload more ideal than fuckin’ Sage. C’mon, Dexter, let’s get outta here.”

Dexter walked over to Guillaume, worried. “About how much is a painting like this going to cost him?”

Bennett yelled back from the doorway. “I don’t care how much it is. Fuck it. Just make me look cool, Guillaume. No, scratch that, make me look hot!”

Guillaume nodded briskly. “Yes, sir! Very hot! Absolument!”

Dexter looked at Guillaume. “Even a ballpark figure…”

“Dexter. Let’s. Go. Now.”

Dexter shrugged and walked toward the door, which slammed in his face. Bennett hadn’t bothered to hold the door for him.

Guillaume stroked his goatee and looked at the Polaroids and his sketches. An idea began to form in his head. He placed his largest stretched canvas on his easel and stood back, thinking.

Part 2

Over the next few weeks, Dexter periodically called Guillaume to see how the painting was progressing and to ask if they could swing by and take a look at it. Guillaume would always inform him that it was going well but that he never let his subjects see the painting until it was completed. He told Dexter he would call when it was done.

Unlike Bennett, whose parents seemed unable to cut him off from financial support, Dexter’s folks had stopped giving him handouts once he graduated from college. Fortunately Bennett let him stay for free in a guest bedroom at the beach house, which saved him a shit-ton of money, but he still needed to cover his other living expenses. Most recently, he had landed a soul-deadening gig at a call center which bored him comatose but gave him some dignity when he was out on the town, not always having to rely on Bennett to pick up the check.

In the evenings, as they were lounging around the house, Dexter could swear that Bennett was checking himself out in the mirror more often than usual – and Bennett usually checked himself out a lot. Dexter could understand why, as Bennett appeared to be packing on pounds of muscle. While Dexter was locked in a fluorescent-lit bunker all day, trying to persuade confused elderly people that they needed better internet service, Bennett must be back here lifting weights like a maniac. What had long been a perfect swimmer’s body was growing more robust, with his flat pecs becoming more shelflike and his biceps and triceps achieving impressive definition.

Finally one night, Bennett was lying flat on the sofa, wearing nothing but board shorts and entertaining himself by flexing his newly grown pecs, first one, then the other.

Dexter had to ask, “You started taking steroids or something?”

“What, are you nuts? I wouldn’t put that poison in my body,” Bennett said as he downed a shot of tequila, then rolled off the sofa to search the coffee table for a joint he had rolled that afternoon.

Dexter remained seated in a swivel chair, nursing a light beer and studying Bennett. Bennett looked up, annoyed. “Stop checking out my muscles, ya fag, and help me find my joint.”

Dexter got up and knelt by the coffee table. “So what made you decide to bulk up?”

“I didn’t decide. It’s just happening. I’m exercising the same, I’m eating the same, I’m drinking the same” Bennett laughed victoriously as he found his tightly rolled joint. “I’m smoking the same.”

“You been bitten by any radioactive spiders lately?”

“Not lately,” Bennett said, the joint bouncing in his lips as he fired up his Zippo. Dexter couldn’t help but stare at the perfect semicircular bulge created by Bennett’s biceps as he flexed to light the joint. Bennett had to admit that he liked the extra pump in his arms, however it was happening.

The next night, as they powered down In-N-Out Burgers, Dexter stared across the table at Bennett, trying to figure out what else seemed different about Bennett today.

When Bennett noticed, he stared back. “What, I got something on my face?”

“Eyebrows.”

“I always had eyebrows on my face, genius.”

“Yeah, but you used to have more,” said Dexter. “Did you get your eyebrows waxed?”

“No.” Bennett reached his less-greasy hand toward his forehead and felt around. He’d gotten eyebrow waxes during his days as a model and knew the feeling, and he definitely didn’t have the natural bushy feeling he preferred. “The fuck? You been sneaking into my room at night and waxing my eyebrows?”

“Why would I do that?”

“To fuck with me!”

“If I wanted to fuck with you, I could think of much more fun ways than giving you nocturnal eyebrow waxes.”

Bennett pulled out his cell phone, turned on the camera and checked how he looked. He had to admit, he did look hotter with less of a unibrow.

By the weekend, Bennett needed to go on a shopping spree, because none of his old clothes were fitting properly. Bennett’s t-shirts had become so tight, stretching over the hill created by his ultra-pumped pecs, that they all exposed his midriff. He appreciated the more sharply etched ab muscles which had appeared recently with little to no effort on his part, but he was surprised to see that his treasure trail had fallen out. He wondered if that could be the first sign of impending baldness, but the hair on his head seemed as lush as ever. If anything, he could use a trim.

As usual, Dexter tagged along to offer his fashion advice while Bennett shopped. Dexter had neither the budget nor the body to be as fashionable as Bennett could, so he lived vicariously through trips like this. Since he was having to buy a whole new wardrobe, Bennett followed some of Dexter’s more adventurous suggestions of bolder colors and wilder patterns. Bennett’s broader shoulders and lats had given his torso a more dramatic V shape which wreaked havoc with anything off the rack, and although his waistline had remained a trim thirty inches, his ass and thighs had put on so much muscle that he had to have everything from dress pants to board shorts altered to fit his new dimensions.

While tailors labored to make the adjustments, Bennett and Dexter headed to the beach to toss around the Frisbee for a while. Bennett’s clothing situation had grown so dire that his only old clothes that would fit were stretch bicycle shorts. Dexter was used to feeling inferior to Bennett, but his friend’s appearance was growing so extraordinary that Dexter shrouded himself in the baggiest sweats he could find, hoping the contrast wouldn’t be quite so apparent. As the sun emerged from behind a cloud, Dexter froze in place, letting the Frisbee sail over his head without even making an attempt at it. Dexter asked, “You bleaching your hair?”

Bennett put his hands on his hips and asked, “Why would I need to…?” But enough other changes had happened to him lately that he figured he’d better check it out. He wandered over to his car in the parking lot, crouched down and checked his reflection in the driver’s-side rear-view mirror. It could just be the way the sun was hitting it, but sure enough, his hair did look more platinum blond than his typical yellow-brown. “Maybe I’ve just been spending too much time in the sun.”

As they drove back to the mall to retrieve Bennett’s purchases, Bennett felt a sharp pain in his right earlobe and, shortly thereafter, a similar pain in his left. Each time, the jolt was so severe that Bennett momentarily lost focus on his driving and veered into the next lane.

“You okay?” Dexter asked, seriously concerned.

Bennett tried to shake it off, but the throbbing continued. “Just got this sudden pain in my ears.”

Dexter looked over and his eyes widened. Of all the changes Bennett had undergone, this was the most inexplicable. Bennett glanced at Dexter and saw how pale he had become.

“What now?” Bennett raised a hand to his right earlobe and felt something hard embedded in it. Curious, he adjusted his rear-view mirror to check out his reflection and discovered that each ear now bore a diamond stud earring. “Holy shit!” He slammed on his brakes right in the middle of the freeway. Only the quick reflexes of the driver behind him prevented a rear-end collision. That car slowly merged into the next lane and drove past slowly, the driver honking his horn and flipping the bird. Dexter looked at him apologetically before turning back to Bennett, whose freaking-out was now fully in progress.

“How the fuck? You don’t just suddenly grow earrings!” Bennett had never had any urge to get pierced. Despite the large number of guys his age who wore them, Bennett still found earrings way too feminine. And if he had gotten earrings, they’d have been something cool and macho, not diamond fucking studs.

Dexter could offer no rational theory on how this had happened, but he knew they were going to get demolished if they didn’t start moving soon. “Just get us to the mall. We’ll figure this out later.”

Bennett restarted the Lamborghini and launched it down the freeway, still looking more at his own reflection than the traffic around him. When they got to the mall, he was still shaken up, so Dexter offered to go inside and retrieve Bennett’s new clothes.

Inside the mall, Dexter got a call from Guillaume. “Bonjour, Guillaume. What’s up?

“The painting, she is finished. Can you and M’sieur Bennett come to view it today?”

Dexter wasn’t sure Bennett was in the right frame of mind, but Dexter’s curiosity to see the picture was too great. He promised that they would stop over on their way home.

Returning to the car, Dexter asked for the car keys so he could put Bennett’s new clothes in the trunk. Bennett handed them over weakly. His head was resting on the steering wheel. Dexter had never seen his friend so exhausted or confused.

“You look wiped, man. Why don’t you let me drive?”

“I’m fine,” Bennett insisted, although even he knew that was a lie. “No, you’re right, you better drive.”

He swung open his door and rose slowly to his feet. His body felt strong, but he was starting to lose his mind. His legs buckled and he fell to his knees. Dexter dropped the bags of clothes and knelt beside Bennett.

Bennett looked at Dexter through watery eyes and asked, “All these changes. Do you think I’m going crazy?”

“If you are, then so am I, because I’m seeing them too. Come on, let’s get you up.” He wrapped Bennett’s arm around his neck and lugged him to the passenger side.

As Dexter got Bennett situated and reached around to buckle his seatbelt, Bennett patted Dexter on the shoulder and smiled. “What would I do without you, buddy?”

Dexter was touched. Bennett rarely said anything genuinely affectionate. Anything approaching real emotion typically had a sarcastic tone lurking behind it, but Dexter didn’t detect any edge behind Bennett’s words this time. He tried to think of a reply, but no words were coming to him. Only an impulse. A physical one. He leaned forward and pressed his lips onto Bennett’s.

Bennett immediately leaned backwards and pushed Dexter away, his eyes wide with panic. “What the fuck???”

Dexter was flustered, his sunburnt skin growing more deeply red. “I…I don’t know. You seemed so vulnerable, I guess I just… I don’t know.”

Bennett was shaking now, a queasy feeling in his gut. Dexter was shaking nearly as much as Bennett. He got into the driver’s seat and took a moment to compose himself. He turned to apologize again. “I didn’t mean…”

Bennett raised his hands. “Just drive.”

Dexter nodded and backed out of the parking spot exceedingly carefully. An awkward silence fell between the two men. After his initial nervousness about Dexter taking the wheel, Bennett eventually relaxed and closed his eyes, trying not to think about the strange moment with Dexter.

On his way to Guillaume’s loft, Dexter may have been the first person ever to drive a Lamborghini under the speed limit. When Dexter parked, Bennett opened his eyes and asked what they were doing here. Dexter told him the painting was finished.

“I’m in no mood to look at a fucking painting right now,” said Bennett.

“We’re already here, man. Let’s just go in and check it out.”

Begrudgingly, Bennett got out of the car.

When Guillaume opened the door, he was delighted, looking Bennett carefully up and down. “Magnifique!” he exclaimed. “You are my greatest subject yet.” He ushered Bennett and Dexter into the studio where the huge canvas was covered. “Would you like tea, coffee, water?”

Dexter shook his head politely, while Bennett barked, “Can we just get to the painting so I can get outta here?”

“Certainement.” He directed the two guys to sit down for the unveiling. Guillaume removed the cloth from the painting. Bennett and Dexter were in shock. The painting depicted Bennett standing completely naked in a room full of mirrors. He was smiling at his reflection in a hand mirror, while his other hand brushed back his shaggy platinum blond hair. The mirrors behind him gave multiple views of Bennett’s strong back and muscular ass. Guillaume stared at their faces for a positive reaction, but only saw dismay.

“What the fuck is this shit?” Bennett demanded to know.

“I painted you as I see you: a man of great beauty and power who is very much in love with himself.”

“That’s how you see me? Some hyper-pumped steroid jockey? It doesn’t even look like me.”

“Pardon me, M’sieur Bennett, but you will find it looks exactly like you.”

The guys realized this was true. Bennett’s muscles were depicted in their current overinflated proportions. The hair, the waxed eyebrows, even the diamond studs in the earlobes were exactly how Bennett looked now. But Guillaume hadn’t seen Bennett in three weeks. How did he know about all of Bennett’s changes?

Bennett wasn’t as quick to make the obvious connection, but a chill ran through Dexter as he turned to Guillaume. “Holy shit, you did this to him! How is that possible?”

Guillaume smiled proudly. “It is my talent. I paint the truth as I see it. And what I paint becomes the truth.”

Now it was sinking in for Bennett too. At least he wasn’t crazy. There was an explanation for all his bizarre changes, an unbelievable explanation with a French accent and a pointy goatee.

“So your painting of Stanley,” Dexter asked, “that’s what turned him into Sage?”

Guillaume nodded. “He was very happy with the results.”

“I’m sure he was,” Bennett said. “You turned him from a total loser into a stud.”

“That was what he requested. As I recall, your requests were to look ‘hot’ and for the painting to be ‘big’. I was forced to fill in the rest myself. It is definitely big. Are you saying you do not look hot?”

Bennett stared at the painting and had to admit that, even if it made him seem like an egotistical asshole, he did look pretty damn hot, even with the girly earrings. He did have one major quibble. “My cock does not look like that.”

Guillaume shrugged. “You would not take off your underpants, so I was forced to guess.”

“Well, mine’s a lot bigger, trust me.”

Guillaume replied, straight-faced. “Have you checked lately?”

Bennett instinctively grabbed his crotch. Goddamn, the bump in his shorts did feel smaller than usual.

Dexter had moved closer to the easel and noticed that he was depicted in the painting too, reflected in one of the mirrors. It was a faithful physical depiction, but his expression was one of awe and idolization as he gazed at Bennett’s bare body. “How come you put me in here?”

“It would be wrong to exclude you. You are part of his life. You are his lover, no?”

As Dexter began to stammer a reply, Bennett stepped angrily toward Guillaume. “So is that why he kissed me, you fuckin’ faggot? ‘Cause you painted him gay?”

Guillaume was not flustered. “I do not ‘paint him gay’! I paint what I see.”

“Well,” Bennett said, mocking Guillaume’s accent, “I do not ‘pay for that fuckin’ painting!’”

“But, M’sieur, you must. I have delivered on my promise. You said you wanted a painting that made you hot and was larger than M’sieur Sage’s. You did not even ask the price.”

Bennett fumed but figured he probably was stuck with the tab. He’d just hit up his folks, make up some excuse for why his expenses were high this month. Maybe he could just buy the thing and burn it. He pulled out his wallet and asked calmly, “Okay, what do I owe you?”

“One-hundred-thousand dollars.”

Bennett put his wallet back and stared at Guillaume, seething. “You’re out of your goddamn mind.”

“That is my rate. If you are displeased with this painting, I will paint another for you.”

Dexter stepped between the men, trying to act as a buffer. “Hey, that sounds reasonable, right, Bennett?”

“But first,” Guillaume continued, “you must pay for the first one. I have put in much time and effort which must be compensated.”

“Never, you son of a bitch!” Bennett lunged toward Guillaume, nearly trampling Dexter in the process.

Guillaume stepped in front of the canvas and pulled a revolver from the pocket of his smock. “Please be leaving now.”

Bennett’s huge chest was rising and falling with each heavy breath, his beefy new muscles tensed, but he wasn’t about to pick a fight with a bullet. He extended his arm toward Dexter and pulled him up from the floor, then turned and stormed out of the loft. Dexter looked at Guillaume, trying to think of a way to resolve this, but the Frenchman seemed in no mood to negotiate. He kept the gun aimed at Dexter, who backed across the room until he reached the door.

By the time Dexter got downstairs, Bennett already had started the car and was gunning the engine anxiously. Dexter got in and the car squealed away. Soon they were back on the freeway. Bennett knew exactly where he needed to go.


A totally naked blonde with no tan lines opened the front door before Bennett’s pounding could smash it down. “Is Stanley here?”

“Sage,” Dexter offered meekly from behind Bennett.

“Sage. Fine. Whatever.”

The blonde smiled as she surveyed Bennett’s body. “Can I tell him who’s calling?”

“The Legion of Doom,” Bennett said.

Sage’s deep voice called from the distance. “Who is it, honey?”

Bennett pushed past the blonde into the entry hall, noticing Sage standing at the top of the stairs in a thigh-length silk bathrobe. Bennett bounded up the stairs, and Sage fled into the master bedroom. Bennett caught the doorknob just before the door could close completely. He yanked the door with such great force that it was pulled off its hinges.

Dexter walked inside, nodded politely to the blonde and walked slowly upstairs. He entered the master bedroom and found Sage standing in the middle of the orgy bed, holding a large pillow in front of him defensively. Bennett was circling the bed, amped up. His anger had built up inside him on the drive here from Guillaume’s loft and was about to be uncorked. He pointed to the painting of Sage on the wall. “You knew. You knew what Frenchy McFrench-Fry’s crazy paintings could do, because he’d already done it to you.”

Sage nodded frantically, clutching the pillow.

“So why did you sic him on me?”

“Because I like you!”

Bennett scoffed, “Bullshit.”

Sage had to concede the point. “Okay, bullshit. I was just curious to see what he would do to you. If he could turn someone like me into someone like this, I wondered if he could improve on perfection.” His eyes roamed across Bennett’s new body. “It looks to me like he did a hell of a job. Aren’t you happy with it?”

Bennett had to pause. He couldn’t honestly say he was unhappy with his new body.

“Don’t you realize how lucky you are?” Sage asked. “You’ve been painted by Guillaume Dupuis. Somehow, Guillaume has created this new form of art. I’m not sure he even knows how he does it. You are a one-of-a-kind creation, Bennett. You don’t just own a Guillaume Dupuis. You are a Guillaume Dupuis.”

“But unlike you, I didn’t need a new body. You didn’t do anything to deserve a body like that. You just paid for it.”

Sage lowered the pillow and walked angrily across the bed toward Bennett, being careful to remain out of fist-striking distance. “No, no, no, you never did anything to deserve your old body. You were just born with it, but somehow thought you had earned it. And you looked down with pity on all the rest of us who weren’t as lucky as you were in the genetic lottery.”

As always, Dexter tried to calm the waters. “Now just a minute, Sage…”

“Oh, Dexter, are you there? Well, of course you are! Bennett’s trusty shadow. He treats you worse than anyone, but you still put up with it, even after all these years. And you know what’s sick, Bennett? I’m just as big a suck-up. As badly as you always treated me, calling me ‘fat’, calling me ‘fag’, when you showed up at my party that night, I was thrilled. I was ecstatic that Bennett Humphries, the reason God gave Man eyesight, had honored my party with his presence. Only now, we were equals. And the chicks wanted me as much as they wanted you.”

“Since when did you like chicks, Stanley?” Bennett sneered.

“Since I could get ‘em. Of course, now I can get boys too.” He winked at Dexter.

“Yeah, that’s another thing. Your buddy put Dexter in the painting and turned him gay!”

A wheeze turned into a laugh before turning into a guffaw so loud and deep that Sage had to fall back on the bed.

Bennett demanded to know, “What’s so funny?”

Sage sat up, wiping tears of laughter from his eyes. “Are you that into yourself that you don’t notice anything about anyone, even supposedly your bestest buddy? Dexter’s always been gay. He’s in fucking love with you, man. Why else would anyone have put up with your shit all these years?”

Bennett turned to Dexter, who couldn’t bring himself to look in Bennett’s eyes. Bennett turned back to Sage, accusingly. “What makes you think he’s gay?”

“Well, once it became obvious that you were never going to fuck him,” Bennett grinned knowingly, “he had to fuck somebody.”

Bennett looked back at Dexter, who quietly said, “I’ll be in the car,” and headed downstairs. As Bennett watched him go, he realized all the other recent changes he had undergone paled compared to this revelation.

“So,” Sage said as brightly as his deep voice would allow, “where you gonna hang the painting?”

Bennett turned back to Sage. “Fuck the painting. I’m not gonna pay a hundred grand for that piece of shit. I told him he could shove it up his ass.”

Sage wasn’t sure it was wise to piss off someone as powerful as Guillaume. He just smiled and said, “Are we through now? Because Cyndi has been waiting very patiently for some anal.”

Bennett shook his head, recalling a childhood memory. “Once a big poopy turd, always a big poopy turd, eh, Stanley?”


Bennett drove for ten miles, with the car stereo off and only the sound of the wind whipping wickedly through the convertible, before either of them said a word.

“You know, all the times I called you a fag and said don’t be such a queer, I didn’t mean anything. I was just busting your balls.”

Dexter stared at the road. He said nothing.

Bennett tried again. “How come you never said anything?”

Dexter kept looking straight ahead. “Would you have let me hang around if you knew?”

Bennett pondered that. He honestly didn’t know the answer. Eventually, he asked, “Why did you hang out with me then?”

Finally, Dexter turned toward his old friend with an expression of pity. “Someone had to.”

Description An eccentric painter’s portraits have an unusual impact on those who pose for them.

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