Young William "Wilum" Greyhorse carves small animals and toys for his younger sisters as a method of coping with alcoholic parents and physical abuse. With the growing estrangement from his family, he is shaken by the increasingly powerful feeling that he is different.
The day he meets Jason Bedford in an Albuquerque park, the Native American youth's unexplained yearnings blaze into outright desire. Jason, a successful Anglo artist, likewise exposes him to a different, heretofore unimagined, economic lifestyle. When his whittling turns into art, Wilam begins to hope this will provide a way of escape from the trap his life has become.
Born into a Native American culture without a tradition of respect for Two-Spirits, Wilam finally embraces his unusual appetites and struggles to chart an uncertain course through the homophobic society surrounding him. His growing skill as a sculptor helps him find his way. His search for a soul mate proves more difficult.
I walked down this great little park behind the big hospital on Central near the I-25 freeway. The place was full of hills and hollows and lots and lots of trees. It was the only place I knew where I could smell pine resin and musty oak and even a few flowers that reminded me of home.
Some guys were playing touch football, and one of them invited me to join in. I’m not much for sports, but I can run fast, so I gave it a try. In a few minutes, I’d forgot just about everything except doing my best in the ball game. The others didn’t hand off the ball to me much, but whenever I got my hands on it, I ran for all I was worth. I made a touchdown on one of the runs too.
Ball games usually bore me, but for some reason, I didn’t want this one to end. Of course, it did, and that’s when I noticed this blond-headed Anglo sitting on the grass with a big pad in his hand. I eased over until I could see he was drawing pictures. Good ones too. He was working on one of a Mexican girl about twelve or thirteen sitting with her family a few feet away, and it looked exactly like her. When he was done with it, I walked on past him and sat down on a big rock. I wished I could draw like that. He made things look so real, almost like it was a photograph, except that it wasn’t. Could I do that with my knives? Maybe I’d try another bust of Nola to see if it came out any better.
Surprised, I looked up to see the artist dude. “Huh? I mean, yes, sir?”
He grinned at me. “I didn’t mean to startle you. My name’s Jason and I wondered if I could sketch you?”
“Me? You want to draw me?”
“If you don’t mind.”
“Yeah, sure. What do I have to do?”
“Nothing. Unless you want to talk to me while I sketch. Or just ignore me if you prefer. But maybe you could put your foot up on the rock and prop you elbow on it. Yeah. Like that.”
“Do I have to be still?”
“You don’t have to freeze up, but don’t move around too much. Just remain in that general position.”
I watched him out of the corner of my eye as he sketched. He was a little taller than me and had a good build. His features were drawn into a slight frown as he concentrated on his drawing. And he worked really fast. The first thing I knew, he was ripping off one sheet and starting on another one. When he finished, he handed me some money and asked me to go over to the hotdog wagon at the edge of the park and get us something to eat.
We talked a little while we ate our hotdogs. I grew up in a place where it’s rude to stare directly at someone, but I gave him a pretty good going over. Older than I was by maybe eight or nine years, he was a good-looking guy, not pasty like a lot of artist types. Probably worked out some. I don’t know what it was about him, but he was easy to talk to. I probably told him more about me than I had anybody else -- ever.
I got sorta envious when I found out he made his living by drawing and painting. How great would it be to live off of my carvings? He liked this park more than any other in the city, he claimed. The hills and the trees were part of it, but he said there was always somebody interesting here to draw. I got up the nerve to ask him if he was going to be back next weekend. He said maybe, so I told him I would be too. I trudged home thinking this was one of the best days I’d had since we moved to Albuquerque.