"Is he who is a believer like unto him who is an evil-liver? They are not alike."


Barefoot, standing on a laundered throw rug, Ahmed, facing East, lifts his palms to head-height and recites the Allahu Akbar of sacralization—"God alone is great"—for to pronounce this is to achieve the blessed state of prayer. Joleena watches. She is stationed in the bedroom, he in the living room, a door between on which an oval mirror is fixed that reflects the Muslim's devotions.


("Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds, The Beneficent, the Merciful.
Owner of the Day of Judgment Thee alone we worship; Thee alone we ask for help.
Show us the straight path,
The path of those whom Thou hast favored;
Not the path of those who earn Thine anger
nor of those who go astray."

That Ahmed worships is self-evident, albeit quietly, unannounced; he left Joleena to her nap without a word. Her nap is feigned—being more consoled by Ahmed's bedside presence than seduced by sleep's appeal, content to breathe-in the cologne of his masculine proximity.

Ahmed bows
returns to upright
lowers forehead to the rug
sits back on his heels
then once again bows
his movements stylized, ritualized, graceful.

Even beautiful, sexy, cute, when viewed from Joleena's loose perspective, which is philosophically secular and psychologically amorous. Hence depraved? Is it unnatural, sacrilegious to desire a man at prayer? Are priests, whom Jo from early childhood found romantic (and, later, enticing) out of bounds to carnal contemplation, her acolyte urges reprehensible? Were the robes and beads and headdresses of the Reverend Father's vestments inapt objects of affection for an altar boy? Altar girl? For even then, before Jo's underarm hair had sprouted, 'he' felt feminine, felt a secret radical thrill in becoming a Catholic (though Baptist-raised), felt downright holy, for a time, before motivation grew transparent and confirmed it was the costumes, pomp, and ceremony that intrigued; the church's dogma largely wasted on this prepubescent convert. Mass in Latin, spoken once per Sunday, seemed so rich and mystical when compared to Mass in English—an insipid, crashing bore that served to dissipate moods created by the incense, hymns, and chants, medieval halos all but dimmed once ushered from antiquity.

Unafraid, Joleena followed Father Bartle through the vestry, down the steps, across the courtyard to his spartan quarters, gladly—prompted by a dare. Her peers, suspicious of the priest's request for "personal assistance," were disdainful in their gossip, prone to snickering, cruel, perverse. Insensitivity made them cast aspersions on an old man with arthritis whose ingenuous request had been to rub his crippled hands—"Most kind, most kind"—as he sat wearily in a throne-like, wicker armchair... little 'Joseph' perched on a footstool at the Reverend Father's side, the rigid fingers lain, palm upward, in his lap; at first like pig iron in their stiffness, then relaxing, growing pliant, growing limber from the gentle pressure timidly applied, unsure if tacks performed were painful, though they seldom drew complaint. Content to render aid and comfort—left hand soothed, the right came next—Joleena / Joseph was astonished that a service so minute could earn such monumental gratitude—"Bless your heart, lad; bless your youth"—although the priest conveyed his thanks more-often-than-not with snores.

No priest is Ahmed...neither a mullah nor a mufti (neither a holy man nor scholar). Having learned his creed by rote, its repetitions uncontested, he believes that Allah's Word is both austere and absolute, his Faith ingrained, acquired in childhood like the genesis of a pearl, a speck of truth around which gathered, year by year, successive layers, made impervious to analysis or revision, much less doubt. To be convinced is to be spared the vicissitudes of inquiry.


("Lo! good deeds annul ill deeds. This is a reminder for the mindful.")

Ahmed, prostrate, mulls his ledger: noble acts as opposed to sins...

  • the former steeped in blood and glory, his jihad for One religion an uncompromising series of exemplary means toward ends

  • whereas the latter, vile temptations like an acid to his morals ever eating at his virtue, called to question motives chaste

...delay of Zahra's castigation utmost in his reckoning.

Static cling accounts for semi-see-through nylon cleaving sheerly, molding forms that have attracted Ahmed's... warm or caustic gaze? Joleena wonders as she re-adjusts her recherch— attire, exposing that which ought to test the "A-rab's" fortitude. He will yield. Or such is Jo's determination with respect to Ahmed's leanings, his restraint a trifling scruple she can breezily brush aside, once he partakes of her inclusive yin-yang attributes.

Lifting sheets, she shifts her lengthy, well-formed legs beyond the baseboard's box-like boundary, drapes them daintily over the edge and pours her feet to the hardwood floor, her nightgown trailing like a half-shed skin as she stands, ... to no avail, her one-man audience rapt by introspection solely.


("And who doth greater wrong than he who is reminded of the revelations of his Lord, then turneth from them. Lo! We shall requite the guilty.")

None too pleased, Joleena catches her reflection in the door-mirror. She looks ghastly; her self-confidence (once confronted by her sutured visage) drains. Affecting diva-like hauteur en route to her presupposed seduction, she retreats to the unmade bed like a sideshow freak.


("Will they not heed?")

With Ahmed's Al-'Asr complete, he stands, performs one final exhortation—nodding left then nodding right—before his focal point diverts, proceeds to hold him in abeyance, as if he were entranced.

Joleena's afterimage hovering (though its source is back in bed) appears to beckon from the living room threshold, negligee front undone, its lax lapels, like parted curtains, framing flesh from neck to ankles, thighs and calves abutted quaintly in a kiss of apposition, bosom bulging, tummy taut and deeply dimpled, waistline tapered, left hand resting like a c-clamp on her hip, the right obscured, an upraised elbow bent to buttress features masked by lacy bandages (rearranged so that the gauze creates an all-but-eyes-screened veil), the tableau striking, if quixotic in its mix-and-match accoutrements: bulbous nipples / dangling testicles incongruent, tits and balls eclipsed by that which renders gender more definitive yet confusing, as Joleena's pulse is measured by her rigid member's throb, its full erection like some over-arching gargoyle.

Ahmed groans. It is a curious, guttural sound produced in the depths of his gone-dry throat. Teeth clenched, jaw set, his face is a shield of hard-line ambiguity.

Jo's pose wanes. If she is there, as he imagines, her dichotomy on display, then, like a smile one holds too long for the camera, expectation fades, the step that Ahmed takes in her direction threatening, import perilous. Do the calloused fingers reaching, touching, groping wish to hurt, or are they sampling, are they verifying that which signals 'female'? Are they circumscribing tissue to torment or to inflame? Resisting nothing, Jo imagines her restructured bosom suckled, feels the prick of manly whiskers as her left breast swells, distends, enjoys and suffers fierce contractions spurred by energetic nursing, mourns its all-too-brusque abandonment, wells with pride when recommenced; her right breast likewise is assaulted with a maledictive hunger that consumes without consuming, that imbibes with thirst unquenched, a rabid impulse overwhelming him whose mouth encroaches elsewhere, inches lower, leaves the feminine for the masculine in pursuit of virile sap. Could this be happening? Backbone arched much like a bow, her cock its arrow—mastication a delirious affirmation of accord—Joleena shoots a stream of semen, three strong spurts in quick succession, three ecstatic celebrations of her fanciful ideal, so long-awaited, so unlikely (she is milked of every dollop), so fulfilling (emptied swiftly, she feels bled through a punctured vein), hence her alarm at the insistence, the persistence of an appetite that is no less starved for swallowing all and more (were more on tap). Is sweet surrender turning bitter? Is her heart's-desire malignant? Has the passion she so craves devolved to carnage? Come what may, Joleena donates heart and soul to her "hot-blooded man."