Let The World Go By
This is a story that involves sex between males. If such a story is offensive, or illegal for you to read where you live, then do not continue, go and surf elsewhere.
This is a work of fiction and in no way draws on the lives of any specific person or persons. If there is any similarity to any real persons or events it is entirely coincidental.
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I really do apologize for my slowness in getting each chapter uploaded. I hate it that I am so slow, but I want the story to be the best that it can be. Once again I want to thank all of you who have sent me comments about the story. I know that I have not answered all of the e-mails -- please forgive me.
I am sorry for the error in the previous version of this file. I don't know what happened. I tried reloading it, but the same error happened. So I have divided this chapter into two parts. Sorry about that.
The Years In Between
James' stay in Japan en route to the States from Korea was almost three week longer than scheduled, not by design, but by an accident of fate. One of the men in the tent where James was being housed waiting for the ship to come in, developed spinal meningitis and within hours, had died after been rushed to the hospital.
This tragic event resulted in the quarantine of everyone with whom he'd come in contact until the cause could be determined, and until it could be verified that none of them were contagious. As a result, the ship that James and his fellow tent mates were due to take home to the States, carried only one of them, the one who had caused their delay. Spirits the day they were due to leave were low as they watched the other men at the camp pack up and leave.
A month after they had arrived, they too boarded the trucks carrying them to a waiting ship. Once on board their spirits lifted, and nothing seemed to bother them. Even the duties assigned them just to keep them busy, didn't bother them. They were going home, and in twelve days they would be back with their loved ones, and that feeling pervaded everything that happened. However, when word came down, that their ship was being detoured to stop in Hawaii to pick up some dependents of the top brass there, they once again became disheartened, and felt that they were on an endless journey.
By the time that the ship finally sailed through the Golden Gate into San Francisco Bay on the twelfth of May, it was more than five weeks since they'd left Korea. The docking and disembarking seemed to take forever, but when they walked down the gangway to the blaring of a military band, they waved and cheered even though they knew full well that none of their loved ones would be there waiting to greet them, and that the band was there to greet the dependents for whom they stopped in Hawaii. Still the excitement of the moment transcended all their disappointments and buoyed their spirits after their long confinement.
An hour-long train ride from San Francisco to Travis, and they were on their last leg of the long road home. The processing and debriefing completed, they were at last free to begin their thirty days of leave before reporting to their new assignments.
For James the more than thirty hour train ride from California to Minnesota was tedious. But it provided time for him to reflect on the past two years. He'd changed from the shy, introspective farm boy he been when he left for Lackland, into a self-assured, strikingly handsome man. As he adjusted his tie in the mirror of the train's washroom, even he couldn't help but notice the difference himself.
There was a short stop in Minneapolis, before he boarded another train headed back west across the prairie toward his home. From a phone in the lobby he called his parents to let them know his arrival time.
He wondered if his friends there would remember him, or recognize him. Would anyone besides his family care that he was back? As he sat in the coach watching the countryside rush passed his window, he could not help but feel melancholy. Hobbie had gotten married, and he'd had to leave Harry and Mike behind in Korea. Mike was no doubt already home because of James' delay in Japan. Harry was due to leave tomorrow. The green fields rushed passed interrupted by the roads that wound their way interminably back and forth across the train tracks. The small towns lay sleepily along side the metal ribbon that stretched out as far as the eye could see, tying the countryside together, and seemingly rising out of nowhere in the distance.
The third stop of the train was his, and he picked up his bags and trudged down the aisle. The porter had opened the doorway for him as he crossed the entryway between the coach cars. As he stepped carefully down the metal stairway, he could hear his sister's voice shouting.
"There he is! There he is!"
His first days home were busy with family gatherings. The never ending questions and chatter about the happenings of the past year began to rankle his nerves.
On the third day, he could take it no longer. He had to get away for a while. His mother didn't understand, though she pretended to. James went to the phone and rang the operator. He gave her the long unused phone number, 683R1. Joey was the only one of his friends who was still in town, the rest were away at school. Joey was now a senior in high school.
"Hello?" came the voice at the other end of the line.
"Yes, this is James Arneson. Is Joey there?"
"Hello, James!" Joey's mother said. "Yes, he's here, just a minute."
"James!" Joey shouted. "How are you?"
"Hi, Joey," he said softly. "Fine, and how are you love?"
"Just fine! I've been waiting for you to call. I know you've been busy with family and all."
"Yeah, it's been busy," James said. "Can I see you soon?"
"In half an hour? I've got to run an errand for Mother first. Okay?"
"Sure, that's fine." James spirits began to rise. Someone did care. Someone did want to see him. He suddenly felt alive again. "Can you pick me up, my sister has my car?"
"I'll pick you up, in say, forty minutes!"
"That'll be great!" James answered. "Thanks." He hung up the phone and walked out into the yard. It was good to be back in familiar country, but it was never going to be home again, this tired looking set of buildings, several badly needing paint. Even the trees look tired. Across the yard he could see the cattle grazing in the pasture, and the hogs banging the feeder doors. He was standing with his hands in his back pockets looking off to nowhere.
"It's good to have you home, son," his mother put her arm around him.
"It's good to be home too, Mom," he lied. And then he bent over and kissed her, as if somehow that would gain him forgiveness for lying.
When Joey drove into the yard, James was still standing looking off into the distance. His mother had long since gone back into the house to prepare the evening meal.
James went to the back door and called inside, "I'm leaving now, Mom! See you later!"
He climbed into the car along side of Joey. They looked at each other briefly before either of them spoke.
It was James who broke the silence, "You've changed Joey, you look so grown-up!"
"God!" Joey responded, "You've gotten absolutely beautiful, James!"
"Thank you, Joey," he blushed, "You're too kind." James put his hand on Joey's as they continued to look at each other. "My mother's watching from the kitchen window, Joey. Let's get out of here!"
"Oh, sorry," Joey said, and he put the car in gear and sped out the upper driveway. He watched as this young man with whom he'd shared his adult sexual life easily handled the car. He was not want one would call handsome, more striking than handsome. His face and body had definition. The angular cheekbones and Roman nose combined with the rich full lips gave him an air of sexuality that James had never seen before.
"So how are you, Joey?" he asked.
"Oh, just fine. Gee, it's good to see you again," Joey answered looking again briefly at James.
James' eyes were a pale blue, and his hair still blonde, though slightly darker in streaks that blended throughout, into a new and different shade. His face had thinned just a bit, having lost the remaining baby fat, which he never did have in abundance. He was, by anyone's standards, a handsome man.
"And how about you, James?" Joey asked.
"I'm better now," he said. "That I've seen you. The past two days have been pure nonsense! I guess that I'm just not cut out for this slow and easy pace anymore."
"Perhaps, when you are here awhile, you'll relax more," Joey suggested.
James wondered, could he ever slow down that much again?
"Any place in particular that you'd like to go?" Joey asked.
"Some place where we can just talk, privately?" James suggested.
"Sure, there's a new place, and they're not too busy this time of day. We can get a booth in the back, where nobody'll spot you. We can talk there."
Joey pulled the car into a parking space, and turned off the engine.
"I still can't get over how handsome you've become!" Joey said.
"Come on now, enough's enough!" James laughed. They got out and went inside. Just as Joey had said, the place was fairly deserted. Two businessmen sat in a booth near the front having coffee, and an older lady sat alone sipping tea at the counter.
When the waitress came to their table they ordered large cokes. As they sat waiting for them, Joey began telling James some of the things that happened since he'd been home last. "You remember Danny, don't you?" Joey asked.
"Well, you'll never guess who he's married to!"
James was interested, "So tell me, who?"
"Did you know Betsy Coleman?" Joey asked.
"Wasn't she the short heavy set girl in his class?"
"That's the one!" Joey laughed. "If you thought she was heavy before, you should see her now! She's pregnant again, and she's a mess!"
"What do you mean again? They've only been out of school two years."
"Well, this'll be their third! And no twins either!"
"I don't believe it!" James said. "What's happened to him?"
"I don't really know. The only thing I heard was that Danny got her pregnant just before graduation. Her father was furious, and forced them to get married right away. It was either that, or go to jail!"
"But Danny wasn't that kind of kid. I don't understand."
"Well, he kind of went to pieces after Mister Jensen was killed in a car accident," Joey continued. "They had became good buddies after you left, or so I heard. Anyway, after that Danny started drinking, driving wild, and chasing anything in skirts. That's all I know."
"So that's it," James said. He told Joey about the incident when he and Danny were in the Cities during a contest in James' senior year. He had told Joey that the third member of the incident was a stranger, but that he had to remain silent about whom it was at the time. But now there was no reason that Joey couldn't know.
"Well, no wonder!" Joey said. "That would break me up too!"
"Does he live here in town?" James asked.
"Yeah, over on Columbus I believe. We can look it up, if you want."
"Maybe later," James became quiet and depressed again.
Danny was such a fun loving guy; it was a shame to hear of this.
"Tell me," Joey said, breaking into the gloom. "What's going on in your life? You got any hot numbers waiting for you anywhere?"
"Well," James began, "You remember I told you about Hobbie?" Joey nodded. "Well he's married now. And there was Harry in Korea. We had a real time in Japan." James was trying to make it sound interesting, without being too serious.
"I'll bet they kept you busy with the gorgeous piece you have?" Joey teased.
"Well, I rarely get turned down." James smiled.
"I'll bet not!" Joey laughed. "Talk about swinging on a star!"
James reached over and poked Joey in the shoulder.
"What about you, Joey?" James asked turning serious again. "What's going on with you?"
"You're the only one I've ever been able to get serious with. I can't seem to get interested in anyone long enough to get anything started. If things keep going like this, I'll end up an old auntie!"
"I'll never believe that!"
"I'm going into the air force after graduation next year. Maybe that'll broaden my horizons, give me a wider field of play, so to speak."
"Do be careful! They're really up tight about that sort of thing now."
They continued talking for about an hour, before Joey said, "I'm sorry, James, I've got to take Mother out to dinner tonight, it's her birthday. Do you want me to take you home now?"
"No, I can get a ride home later. Do you mind waiting a minute? I'll try to get in touch with Danny. If he available, you can drop me there."
"That's fine," Joey smiled.
James went to the phone and looked up the number. "Hello?" Came a woman's voice on the other end.
"Yes, this is James Arneson, is Danny there?"
"Sure, just a minute."
After a short pause, Danny came on the line. "Hello, James!"
"Hi there," James tried to be cheerful, "What's this I hear about you being a Daddy?"
"Yeah, it's true."
"I'd like to see you, if you're not too busy."
"Sure come on over. Betsy's going out for the evening, I'd enjoy the company."
"Okay, I'm on my way." James went back to the table.
"All set?" Joey asked.
"Right, you can drop me off at Danny's. Sure you don't mind? I could walk."
"Like I said, I planned on taking you home, so I've got the time."
Joey pulled up to the little white house on Columbus Avenue, and let James out. It was a cute little house, with a white picket fence around it. He walked up to the front door and pressed the buzzer.
"Come on in, James." Danny introduced James to Betsy. She remembered him, but they'd never known each other well. She had her coat on and was on her way out.
"Bye, honey," she said. "Nice to see you, James."
"Bye, love," Danny said as she went out the door. "Come on in, and sit awhile," he motioned to James. "Gosh is been almost two years. Seems like just yesterday."
"Yeah, time flies. I was sorry to hear about Mister Jensen. He was such a nice guy."
"Yeah," Danny sighed and instantly became depressed.
"I didn't mean to hurt you by bringing it up, but Joey told me about it, just now."
"That's okay. Nothing can bring him back, so I guess I'll just have to get over somehow."
"Do you want to talk about it? Sometimes it helps." James could see that Danny was hurting.
Danny began to sob his hands over his face. James got up and walked over to him, putting his arm around him.
"That's all you need! You come over here for a visit and I sit here and cry over spilt milk!" He continued to sob.
"Hey, it's okay, go ahead and let it out. It really does help."
"I loved him so," Danny said finally, and dried his eyes on his sleeve. "You remember how we met him in the Cities?"
"Well," Danny continue, "About a month after we got back from the trip I gave him a call. He was busy that night, but he invited me over the next weekend. I went over and we had a nice visit, even though I did have to come in through the alley and leave the same way. He said that he had to be really careful.
"I continued to see him until school was over. He went away as usual during the summer. When he came back in the fall we started seeing each other again, at least once a week, until the accident.
"He was driving back from the Cities after a long weekend, apparently he fell asleep and drove off the road and into the side of a railroad underpass. He died instantly. After that I just sort of went to pieces, I couldn't think of anything else. I started drinking, even had an accident myself. Only I didn't do such a good job of it, just broke my leg and foot.
"While I was in the hospital Betsy and I got to know each other real well, she worked there after school. She's not much to look at, but she's got a heart of gold. I guess, she's my kind of person. She really takes care of me, you know? Gets me through the rough times.
"We've got two kids already, and she's expecting again.
Danny laughed. "You know how people say it, again?"
They laughed as Danny began to cheer up.
"I'd offer you a beer or something else to drink, but I don't drink any liquor anymore. Would you like a soft-drink?"
"That'd be fine, anything's fine," James said.
"Okay," Danny got up and went to the refrigerator and got bottles of soda and glasses from the cupboard.
"You've never been with another guy, since Jensen, I mean?" James asked.
"No, I don't go anywhere that I could meet anyone. I guess that it's best that way. But sometimes, I'd give anything just to be with a man again."
"It sounds as if you're doing all right here with Betsy. You've got a person who loves you; you've got two, soon three children. You live in a nice house. It seems as though you have everything a man could ask for," James said.
"I suppose you're right, James," Danny leaned back in the chair reflecting. "But, what does it all mean?"
"I don't know, Danny. No one does, but only you can decide what it means to you. You have to decide where you're headed, what you're looking for at the end of the road. You have to decide your own destiny, only you can decide."
They were interrupted by the sound of a baby crying elsewhere in the house.
"Oh, that must be James. Would you like to see him?"
"Sure, I'd like that," James followed Danny into the hallway, passed the bathroom to a small bedroom in the back of the house. There in a crib lay a baby waving its arms and feet, crying.
Danny picked up the baby. "This is James," he said hold him so that James could see.
"He's cute, and a big boy too."
"Thanks, he's going on eight months. And the one sleeping over there is Marshall. He's nineteen months old. We named him after his grandfather, my dad. And James here, after Betsy's father."
"I think that I like them when they're a bit older myself," James laughed.
"In certain respects, so do I" Danny chuckled as he changed James' diaper. They went back to the front of the house, where Danny prepared a bottle and fed him while they continued their conversation.
"What about your personal life? Are you married? Do you have a lover?"
"Well, I'm not married. I've been writing to a girl in the Cities, I met when I was in college. We haven't gotten around to any talk of that yet though. I suppose it's a possibility, one day."
"What about guys? Do you think that you'll ever stop wanting to be with a man?" Danny asked offering James a cigarette and lighting one for himself.
"That's a difficult question to answer. I've often wondered about it myself.
"In all the men I've met so far, including you, I've seen something which has interested me, not just the physical things, either. I've also seen things which make it difficult for me to live at peace with myself, however." James stood up and walked slowly around the room.
"It's a funny thing," he said. "When I look at a man, touch him, and make love with him, I find that I am certain that I could never want to be married to a woman.
"But when I'm with someone like you, who has a wife and a family, I think that maybe I'd like that too. And I'm afraid I can't have both."
"Why not? If you lived someplace where you had a chance to be with guys once in a while, and still be married, wouldn't that be a solution? I mean in a large city, you'd have the space you'd need. In a small town like this, though, if you had a boyfriend, everybody would know about it!"
"I suppose it would be possible, but what if I got married and then found out that I couldn't perform with a woman?"
"That would present a problem," Danny laughed. "But I can't imagine you not being able to perform under any circumstances."
"Well, I guess that's my basic insecurity, however." James thought for a moment and added, "There's only one way to find out."
"Yeah," Danny said, "You'll just have to try it."
"I never have, you know." James said. The thought made him uncomfortable, and he changed the subject.
"You've never been with a guy since Mister Jensen?"
"No, like I said before, I think about it occasionally, but nothing's ever happened.
"I envy you, Danny." James said. "You've very lucky."
"Thanks, James," he answered. "I appreciate your coming over and listening to my tale of woe."
"Hey, think nothing of it. What are friends for?"
"I'm glad you feel that way. About being friends, I mean. After some of the things I did in school, it's a wonder I have any friends at all. I'm afraid Joey'll never forgive me for what I did."
"Well, you'll never know, unless you ask him. Have you?"
"No, I'm too chicken."
"Well, don't be too sure, what's the worst thing that could happen?"
"He could say no."
"Well, then at least, you'd know that not being friends was his fault. We all make mistakes, but if we admit them, and take the steps to get forgiveness from the injured party, then that's all we can do."
"Hey, with all your other activities, when did you have time to get so smart?" Danny teased.
"I guess it's the company I keep!" James laughed and looked at his watch. "Do you realize what time it is? It's nearly midnight. I'd better get out of here before Betsy gets back."
"You don't need to rush off. Why don't you wait until she gets home, then I can drop you off. Now don't object, I know you don't have a car because I saw Joey drop you off."
"All right, I'll stay. On one condition."
"That you and Joey get together for a talk."
"It's a deal. I really do like him since he's grown up."
"Fine, it's a deal."
It was nearly an hour before Betsy returned, and the two friends sat talking about old times, and James recounted some of the good times he'd had so far in the military.
The drive to James' parent's farm was silent; each had their own thoughts.
"Thanks for the ride, Danny. Good luck with your life."
"No big deal about the ride. Thanks for the conversation, and letting me get so many things off my chest like you did. You don't know how I've needed that."
"I've enjoyed seeing you again."
James was about to get out of the car when Danny pulled him back and kissed him.
"That's for being such a good friend."
James kissed him back, "You're really special, don't ever forget that."
To be continued
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