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.
The work is copyrighted by the author and may not be reproduced in any form without the specific written permission of the author. It is assigned to the Nifty Archives under the terms of their submission agreement but it may not be copied or archived on any other site without the written permission of the author.
For those of you who are interested in reading my other works that are on Nifty here is a list:
1 "The Case of the Fallen Idol" in Gay Male/Beginnings/fallen-idol June 28 2004
2 "Rusty" in Gay Male/Historical/rusty April 14 2004
3 "A Trail West" in Gay Male/Historical/a-trail-west May 4 2004
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.
James is now out of the Air Force, living a very different kind of life, and married to the woman he had dated only a few times. Now we continue with Part 3 - The Fire in Winter.
Fire In Winter
James opened the large manila envelope marked PERSONAL. It was the one that he had filled and sealed when he had packed to leave Great Falls and the military three years earlier. He couldn't then bear to part with the contents. It contained the letters that he had received over the years from Joey, Hobbie, Tommy, Jack, and two from Mischa.
He opened the first of the letters from Mischa. It was dated one month from the date that Tommy had stopped to visit James in Great Falls.
"Dear James," it began."I am so sad. I wish that I did not have to write this letter to you. But I know that you would want to know. I cannot believe that what happened is true.
"Tommy was killed in a fire which destroyed the house in which he lived. I had not heard from him after he left you, and when I could not reach him at his home, I called the bar where he worked. It was there that I learned from one of his friend of what happened.
"The Grandfather apparently had a heart attach and knocked over the stove setting the house on fire. Both he and Tommy died in the blaze. Fortunately no one else was hurt, but I cannot believe that he is gone. I know that you loved him too.
"I hope that you are well, and that your life is good. I will write to you again soon. Love always, Mischa."
James remembered how he had cried when he received the letter. Even now as he read it again, his eyes misted, and tried to recall how he first met him. Tommy was only a boy really, just eighteen. And now he was gone almost four years. He refolded the letter and looked at the second one from Mischa. He didn't read it. He remembered what it said though. It told of Mischa's trip to Japan that same year, and of how he visited Tommy's grave site. The police found Tommy's money, and the letter that said the Mischa was to have it. The amount was large for so young a man, and they were reluctant to give it to him. But eventually they could find no reason not to. They cleared the money and gave it to Mischa, over nine million yen, which at that time was twenty-five thousand dollars, American.
James never heard from Mischa again. The letters he had written were returned unopened and marked simply UNKNOWN. He often wondered where he had gone. He had remembered that Mischa had other money too, and supposed that he had simply left Poland, taken his money and disappeared.
James looked at some of the other papers, but he didn't read any of the other letters. He took everything out of the envelope, and separated the letters and other papers from the photographs that he would keep. Then he resealed the large envelope. Nothing remained that would harm him, should his wife find them. The rest he took to the basement and burned in the incinerator, waiting until the last piece had burned completely.
His reason for destroying the letters was simple, he and Elaine and Tommy were moving from the apartment to a house now. He didn't want them to be lost, and then found at a later time by her or anyone else. And in a house, that could easily happen, as the children grew older.
When he returned up the stairs he closed the brown corrugated box and sealed it with fresh tape. He straightened up and looked out the window. He suddenly felt very much older than his twenty-six years. He wondered if he had make it to middle age, which to him now meant his forties. He looked at himself in the mirror.
He had lost none of his youthful appearance. If anything he had improved with age. His hair had darkened slightly, but showed no gray as common among his acquaintances the same age. His face had no wrinkles or lines, he still looked twenty or younger depending on how he was dressed.
His body was not muscular, but neither had he gotten any heavier. His waist size was the same now as when he was in high school, and he still weighed one hundred fifty-five pounds. There weren't many people he knew that could say that. And next June he had be attending his high school ten-year class reunion. He had gotten the questionnaire to fill out. He was delaying mailing it until the new baby was born.
With Elaine pregnant now with their second child, the apartment would not be large enough. Her parents were building a new home, and had offered to sell them their old home at a good price, and to carry the mortgage. It was a deal that they couldn't pass up. Even with steady increases in pay, he was barely able to keep up with inflation.
The move into the house went smoothly, and the work of redecorating it begun. They couldn't afford to do too much at any one time. But they did remodel the kitchen just before they moved in, right after his in-laws moved out. There was varnishing and painting to be done in the kitchen after they moved, but the cabinets were all in and the plaster and electrical work all finished.
It was summer now, and the windows could be open during the day to let out the fumes from the varnish and paint. Elaine was made sick by the odors, and so spent much of the time at her mother's, while James worked on those tasks. The kitchen was finished first because it couldn't easily be used while you were working on it.
James arrived home one night in early July of 1958 to find Elaine sitting reading, waiting for him to come home.
"Hi, Honey," she said as he came into the porch.
"Hello. Is it hot enough for you?" he asked leaning over to kiss her.
"God yes," she answered.
It was then that James noticed a strange look on her face, the kind that told him that something was wrong.
"Tell me about it," he said. "What happened today?" He sat down on the sofa beside her and put his arm about her.
She put her head on his chest and began to cry.
"Hey, hey," he said. "It's all right."
"Oh," she sobbed, "It was awful!"
"Shhh," he held her gently, "It's all right."
She began to be able to control tears. "Lorri and I were shopping, and there was a big truck. It run into the side of her car and threw us off the road." Lorri was her sister, and often drove her whenever her Dad was busy. Elaine didn't drive, and since James needed the car to drive to work, it really didn't make any difference.
It was then that James realized that Tommy wasn't in the house with her.
"Where's Tommy?" he almost shouted.
"Oh, he's okay, he's at Mother's. And Lorri's okay too."
"Thank heavens," James said. "Are you okay?"
"Yes, I feel okay, it's just that it was so frightening."
"I can imagine that it was. You're sure everyone's okay?"
"Yeah," she said blowing her nose and drying her eyes. "We all went to the hospital and they checked us all over, and nothing seems to be wrong with anyone."
"Poor Lorri. I'll bet she's upset about the car," James said.
"It is kind of a mess," Elaine said.
"How'd you get home?" he asked.
"My Dad came to the hospital and picked us up. He took Lorri home first, and then brought me home. Tommy wanted to go to their house, and you know he can't say no to him. So..." She sighed.
"What's up for dinner?" James asked, "We going there?"
"Yes, we're going there. We can go anytime."
"Okay, let me wash up first and change my clothes. It was kind of dusty and sticky there today." James said. "Can I get you something to drink?"
"Thank you, I'll have some more iced tea, please," she said, handing him the glass from the table beside her.
Dumping the melted ice into the sink, he refilled the glass with ice and poured tea over it. He put in some lemon juice in it.
"Here you are," he said handing her the glass. "I'm glad you're okay," he leaned over and kissed her tenderly.
"Hey?" he asked. "And how did the baby react to the ride?"
"I didn't notice anything at first. And now, it's so quiet, I'm worried."
"What did the doctor say about it?"
"He said that as I long as I wasn't hurt, there wouldn't be any problem," she answered taking a sip of tea.
"That's good," James said and added, "I'll hurry." He went down to the basement and took off his work clothes. He wore a sport shirt and slacks most of the time. Often some of the dry chemical dust got on them in spite of the lab coats they wore.
So he took them off in the basement and shook them over the washtub down there before putting them in the laundry basket.
He ran upstairs barefooted in just his shorts, looking at Elaine as he passed by.
"I'm hurrying," he called and went through to the bathroom. He didn't have time for a bath now; he would have to do that later before bed. He took a washcloth and wiped his body off. He needed to feel fresh, more than to wash. It had been quite warm in the lab where he worked. The central air-conditioning was less than perfect even when it wasn't really hot outside, and today it had been eighty-five degrees.
James pulled on a pullover sport shirt and a clean pair of slacks. He sat on the bed while he pulled on socks and his tennis shoes. He returned to the bathroom and combed his hair. He hoped that they wouldn't stay too long at her folks tonight, as he was exhausted.
The drive to her folks was five minutes since they lived very close. When they arrived her Dad was sitting on a chair in the driveway watching Tommy who was playing in the grass with a large ball that was kept there for him.
James liked her father. He was a short, quiet man, with white hair, and a twinkle in his eye all the time. He mother was a pleasant, early fifties woman, however, with a quick temper and a meddling tongue. He didn't dislike her, but he wasn't fond of her either. James was never quite sure whether she liked him or not, but it didn't really matter all that much.
The three of them went inside through the garage and into the kitchen. Elaine finished setting the table that her mother had begun earlier. Her mother was busy making gravy. No matter how hot it was she always cooked a full meal whenever they came for dinner. Tonight it was meat loaf, mashed potatoes, gravy, waxed beans, rolls and a tossed salad, and desert with coffee.
After dinner Elaine and her mother did the dishes. They were nearly finished when Elaine let out a small gasp.
"Ohhh," she said. "I'm wet!" She ran to the bathroom.
James, who'd been sitting holding Tommy on his lap, handed him to Elaine's dad and ran to the door. It was open and Elaine was standing drying herself.
"Shall I call the doctor?" he asked.
"Yes, you'd better," she answered, "I just had a twinge right when it happened. It might have been a labor pain."
James went to the phone and dialed the doctor's number. He gave the woman who answered the information and the number of the phone he was using.
"I'm going home and get your things," he said. "You'll be okay until I get back, won't you?"
"Sure, they'll be calling back soon." He kissed her and hurried out the door.
When he returned Elaine was on the phone. James had left the small overnight bag in the car, but carried in the other thing she needed in a brown paper bag.
"What did he say?" James asked when she hung up.
"He said that we should call him leaving a message that we're leaving for the hospital when the pains are six minutes apart."
"Sounds like a long night." James remembered when Tommy was born. She'd started labor at five in the evening, and he wasn't born until almost five in the morning.
"Could be," Elaine said. She suddenly grimaced as another contraction began. James looked at his watch, and wrote the time on the piece of paper already on the table. The time was seven-ten. He saw that the last time was eight minutes ago.
Tommy came running into the kitchen where James was standing next to his wife. He reached down and picked him up.
"Hey, Tommy," he laughed. "It looks like you're going to have a baby sister or brother real soon!"
Tommy laughed too, and gave James a funny look.
"Baby?" he asked.
"Yes," repeated James, "Baby!" James took Tommy's small hand and put it on Elaine's bulging midsection, "Baby."
It was still hot outside when they arrived at the hospital at nine-thirty. The contractions went from eight minutes to five minutes at nine o'clock, and they left after calling the answering service. But now they were three minutes apart. Things were moving fast. When they were told the receptionist at admitting how close they were, they sent Elaine right up to the labor rooms, and asked James to fill out the forms for admission.
When James got up to the labor rooms, he found Elaine alone in her room lying with her hands on her stomach biting her lips.
"How's it going?" he asked.
"Oh, James?" she asked, "Is the doctor here yet?"
"I don't know, shall I see if I can find out?"
"Would you?" she looked up at him.
"Sure," he kissed her. "Be right back."
James went to the nurses' station a little way away and asked about the doctor. He hadn't arrived yet. When James returned to Elaine's room he found a nurse examining her.
"I'm afraid you'll have to leave, we've going to prep her for delivery now," said the nurse.
"Okay," James said. He went to the bed and said, "See you later, Honey. I love you."
"Ohhh!" she groaned as another contraction hit her. James left and went to the waiting room.
An hour later the doctor, a tall slim bespectacled man about forty-five arrived.
"Mister Arneson?" he asked.
James stood up and walked over to him.
"Congratulations," the doctor held out his hand. "You have a fine baby daughter!"
"Is everything all right?" James asked excitedly.
"Oh, yes, Elaine's asleep right now, but she's fine, and so's the baby."
"Thank you, Doctor." James said.
"See you later," the doctor said and went back through the double doors.
A girl! It was just what they'd been hoping it would, James thought. He went to the desk and got the details from the nurse on duty. Then he hurried down to the lobby and dialed Elaine's parent number. He told Mrs. Daugherty the good news. She was excited, and repeated everything he said, so that Phil could hear it, as soon as James told her. James asked how Tommy was, and was told that he was asleep already. He told her that he had call again in the morning.
James looked at his watch, it was eleven fifteen, too late to call his folks tonight. He would do it first thing in the morning. He left the hospital and walked out into the warm night air. He looked up into the sky. It was clear and bright. The stars blinked down as if to say, "Everything's fine, just fine!"
Tommy and Toni's baby brother, Dean was born thirteen month later, the same day as the earth quake in Yellowstone National Park. Elaine had not been pleased at all when she found out that she was pregnant for the third time.
Her sister and brother-in-law had adopted two children, the first the year after Tommy was born, and the second six months ago. Elaine's mother was saying that Elaine shouldn't have any more children after Toni was born, that she just wasn't up to it.
James quite agreed, but for different reasons. But what could one do if you didn't want to use rubbers or a diaphragm? The doctor suggested using the pill, but Elaine wasn't sure about that. The Church was against any kind of birth control except rhythm, and with Elaine's irregularity after Toni was born, it just didn't work.
Now that Dean had been born, James wasn't sure what they should do. They would have to decide soon; since it was time again that they could have sex. Money was tight as it always was. He had gotten good raises, but with a growing family and the price of everything going up everything you turned around, it just wasn't enough.
Elaine finally gave into to her doctor and tried the pill. For six months she used it, and everything seemed like it was going well. They were able to have sex whenever they wanted to, or whenever Elaine wanted to. Before Dean was born, she'd made a remark about his performance in bed. He had tried to overlook it, but her attitude was one of constant criticism about everything that he did, all during the time she was pregnant. He was beginning to feel as if it wasn't worth the effort.
He couldn't talk to anyone about her. He had no close friend at work with whom he could talk about such things. His other close friends were all far away. He didn't dare to write them about it. It seemed that she'd taken to reading his mail as soon as it came in the house, even that which was addressed to him. It wasn't that he had anything to hide in the mail, but he didn't like the idea. He had found out quite by accident that she was reading his letters because he got a letter from Sam and she'd mentioned something about what had said about a mutual friend getting a divorce. Usually James gave her the letters from Sam to read, but that one he'd neglected to read that part, because he knew the fellow was gay. Sam hadn't known, at least when James was in service. James had just brushed it off, but he never forgot it.
The winter set in early that year, 1959, and James caught a cold. When it didn't clear up within a week, Elaine told him to see a doctor about it.
That was her way, she always told him what she wanted him to do, rather than suggesting or hinting. It was just another one of the many things that were beginning to get on his nerves.
James he wasn't sick, since outside of the sneezing and coughing, he felt fine. It was just a week before Christmas, and James finally had had enough of her nagging about it.
"I'm going out for awhile," James told her.
"Where are you going?" Elaine asked.
"I'm going to see Neil Jensen about getting some work done on the car." James lied. Although it was true, that Neil did work on their car, that wasn't where he was going.
He drove through the slushy streets to the downtown area of the city. He hadn't been downtown in the evening in quite some time. It was pretty with the Christmas lights and decorations.
He found a parking spot about six blocks away from the major department store section. When he got out he started to walk along the main street toward them. It was only then that he noticed where he was.
There staring him in the face was the neon-lighted sign, The Hour. He hadn't been there since he'd been when he was in the Air Force. Why not, he thought, he really needed a drink anyway.
Loud blaring music greeted his ears when he went inside.
The place had changed considerably since he'd been there last. The shape of the room hadn't, nor the placement of the bar. But the decor was much different. It was gaudy and brash. He nearly changed his mind and was about to turn around to leave when a tall, handsome young man bumped into him. The man grabbed him to steady him, as they collided.
"I'm terrible sorry," he said.
"That's okay," James said. "I'm fine."
"No, it isn't. I should have been looking where I was going."
"Really, I'm okay," James said again smiling. It had been a long time since any man had held him in his arms, even momentarily. It felt strangely good.
"May I buy you a drink?" the stranger asked.
"That's okay," James said.
"Please, I insist," he asked smiling back at James. "What would you like?"
"A screwdriver," James finally gave in.
"A screw it is then!" James watched as he disappeared through the crowd to the bar. It seemed strangely comforting to be in the company of so many young men, and although the crowd was mixed, younger and older, the majority were his age or younger.
"Here you go," the dark-haired stranger said handing him his drink. "My name's Randy, what's yours?"
"James," James said without thinking about it. It had been so long since he'd used any name other than his real name, that he'd forgotten that sometimes it wasn't wise to do so. "I'm pleased to meet you, Randy."
"It's good to meet you too, James," Randy smiled.
James said, "And thank you for the drink."
"You're welcome, James."
James and Randy stood talking just outside the path to the doorway.
"Let's move away from the draft," Randy suggested. He was not wearing a coat, and dressed in a light short-sleeved shirt he felt every draft as the door opened and closed.
They went toward the back of the bar, where James had seen that they had put in booths. There happened to be an empty booth, so they sat down.
"Are you from here?" Randy asked.
"Yes, I live in the suburbs," James answered, and then asked, "How about you?"
"No, I'm here visiting the family, I go to school in Chicago, so I just get here on holidays.
"I really love Chi, it's so big, and there's so much going on all the time. But it doesn't help my studies much. If I'm not careful, I'll be flunking out soon."
"What are you studying?" James asked.
"Social studies and Econ," Randy replied, and greeted the short heavy man who passed by, "Hi, Ralph! What's up?"
"Not much, Randy. And you?"
"You know, the usual." Randy looked back at James, "You must excuse me. They're so many people I haven't seen in a long time."
"No problem, I understand." James was relaxing now. He felt at home talking to Randy.
"I see you're married," Randy said.
"Yes," James answered, he'd completely forgotten about the ring.
"Three? My, my you've been busy! What're you doing in here?"
"Well," James started.
"Hey, don't mind me, my mouth works faster than my brain. It's none of my business."
"No," James said, "It's okay, I really don't mind. I've been so tense recently; I just had to get away for a little while. I haven't been here in a long time, and I thought I'd stop in and have a drink."
"I'm glad you did," Randy said, smiling at James and putting his hand on James' knee. "You're very handsome, you know."
"Thank you," James said. Randy was the handsome one. He was surprised at the immediate reaction within himself, as Randy's hand remained quietly resting on his knee. It was the kind of sensation he hadn't felt in a long time. A sudden need became uncovered in his mind.
"You don't mind?" Randy asked.
"No." And then James asked, "Should I?"
"I wasn't sure," Randy smiled and said, "I don't need to get a black eye just before Christmas." They both laughed. Randy was quick witted and fun.
They sat in the booth talking. The waiter came by and took their order for another drink. James paid this time. Randy was senior in college. His family was wealthy and lived in the city. The family thought he was going to marry the girl he'd date all through high school, in fact, they were counting on it. Her parent and his were good friends, it was sort of expected that they would marry when he finished college.
"I really don't have any intentions of doing that though," Randy said.
"You're right to consider it carefully," James couldn't help but wonder at this point in time, if he hadn't made a mistake. It was too late to do anything about it. He was married, and now with three children, what could he do about it?
"Say? Would you like to dance?" Randy asked.
"Sure, where?" James eyes brightened. He hadn't been dancing anywhere in over two years, and it had been longer since he had danced with a man.
"The Pit, it's just a block away," Randy said. They finished their drinks and then Randy got his jacket from the coat-check and they left. It had begun snowing lightly. Just what they needed, more snow.
The Pit, what an apt name, James thought when they went in.
It was located downstairs from a straight bar, and it was just a small area of the basement which had been from storage into a tiny bar and equally small dance floor. It was crowded; so it wasn't easy to do anything but hold onto each other, try to sway to the music.
James and Randy unbuttoned their jackets, but kept them on since there was no place to safely leave them. Their bodies were warm one against another. James got that strange feeling again as they touched.
They rested their heads against each other, and swayed slowly with the music. They were close to the same height and weight. Randy was younger by five years, but James actually looked younger.
"You having a good time?" Randy asked.
"Yes. How about you?" James pulled his face away and looked into Randy's eyes.
"Yes. I wish there were a bit more room to move about though," Randy smiled back.
"It could be a touch larger, but right now I don't care.
"I'm enjoying just being close to you."
"Me too," Randy said and pulled James closer to him. James could feel Randy's body responding to their closeness as was his own.
"I don't suppose you have someplace to go, do you?" Randy asked.
"Nope, but we could go to the Baths, if you like."
"I'd like that," James answered without hesitation, then added, "I can't stay all night though."
"I know," Randy whispered, "I know."
It was nearly one o'clock in the morning when James got home. He hurried to get undressed. He put on his pajamas and eased himself into bed. He hoped that Elaine wouldn't wake up, or if she did that she wouldn't realize that he'd just gotten home.
She stirred, but didn't awaken. She snuggled up close to him, and he put his arm around her. How different she felt than Randy. He couldn't explain, even to himself how he could love her, go out and make love with a man, and come home to her. He felt dirty, ashamed! What kind of man was he? He lay there awake a long time. He didn't sleep until it was nearly time to get up.
To be continued
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