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.
Once again I want to thank all of you who have sent me comments about the story.
Fire In Winter
The alarm woke James promptly at ten o'clock. He yawned and stretched. Momentarily he couldn't remember whether it was day or night. He looked at the clock and knew that it must be nighttime. He felt really rested; he hadn't napped during the day in a long time.
He got up and went to the kitchen. He put on the teakettle to heat water for coffee. He used instant coffee now, he was used to it, and it was cheaper than buying the ground coffee since he was the only one to drink it, most was wasted.
He decided on taking a bath now, and began the water running in the tub. All hot at first to warm the tub, and then later he adjusted it to warm. By the time the tub was filled, his coffee water was ready. He poured the steaming water into his coffee and watched as it mixed with the crystal in the bottom of the cup. He took the cup and walked to the bathroom.
He felt the water and climbed in. It was just hot enough to make him wince a little as he settled back to soak. He sipped the coffee as he luxuriated in the hot water. As the water temperature began to drop he started washing using a washcloth to rub the soap on his skin.
By the time he'd finished shaving and dressing it was eleven-thirty. He realized what time it was and hurried so that he wouldn't be late.
He'd just received his usual screwdriver from the bartender when he saw David walk in.
"Hi David," he said as David approached him.
"Hello," David answered patting James on the shoulder when he reached him. "What a day!" he said.
"Fun, huh?" James smiled.
"Yeah. One of our people didn't show up, so I had to double on the register when it was rushed. If I hadn't done some of the work last night before I quit, we'd have been there until dawn."
James and David talked about the inventory for a while before discussing their plans for the rest of the weekend.
"I told Marcy that I was bringing someone, and she said that it would be fine," David said, "You'll like her. She's real people."
"She sounds very nice," James nodded.
"There are a couple of things you have to know about her before we go." David explained, "First, she's an alcoholic, but most of the time, she doesn't drink. Second, she has emphysema, and she smokes."
Alcoholism, James knew a little about it; but emphysema, all he knew was that smoking was bad for it, and was about all.
"Doesn't sound like she should smoke then," James said.
"No she shouldn't," David said. "But she's smoked for over forty years, and hasn't been able to quit. With her it seems that when she tries to quit, she starts to drink, and when she stops drinking, she starts smoking. It goes in a circle.
"She's more afraid of being in a place where she can't drink, than she is of dying, so she smokes, and drinks only once in awhile," David shook his head.
"She sound like she does have a problem," James said.
"In any case," David said, "She's expecting us when we get there, and I told her that it would be in the morning, sometime."
They another drink as Last Call , was announced. David ordered two, since he had gotten a late start, and he didn't have to drive.
James had reservations about David, but thought he'd go along with him this one time, and see how it worked out.
Just like the last time they slept together, David fell asleep right after he got off, and left James feeling cheated. He said nothing, but resolved that it wouldn't happen again.
In the morning, they went to the place where David worked downtown, it was a deli, and being Sunday, it was closed. But David had set aside a few containers of things that they couldn't sell, but which were perfectly good. He was taking them to Marcy. From there they went to a grocery that was on the way to her place where he picked up a few more things.
Her place was a trailer house, now called a mobile home. While it indeed had wheels and an attachment which enabled it to towed, it was neither a trailer, and certainly wasn't very mobile. One had to have it moved by a company specializing in moving such units.
When they drove up to where her unit was located, David said, "It looks like she hasn't been out to get her mail since the last storm."
"Yeah, look at the snow!" James said. "It's a good thing that I have a shovel in my trunk."
James let David get out, and then pulled up close to the edge of the street where the curb should be. With all the snow it was difficult to tell where that was.
Then James went to the trunk and got out the shovel. He cleared a pathway from the street to the steps of the home. David stood chattering about how much fun they were going to have, while James did the work. Actually James didn't mind, as he knew exactly how to go about the project, and do it quickly.
David got out the bags of groceries and stuff from the deli, and James retrieved the mail from the mailbox, and then they went up the path and rapped on the door.
She opened the door on the first rap, as she was quite aware that they were outside, as David's voice carried.
"Hello!" she called.
"Hi Marcy!" David said, "This is James."
"Hi, James," Marcy smiled softly.
"It's nice to meet you, Marcy," James returned.
"Come on in, and shut the door," she laughed. She put her hand to her mouth and coughed, a deep gurgling cough. In the same hand she held a cigarette.
They went inside. James was amazed; there were cardboard boxes, some open, and some taped shut, standing everywhere. There was a path through the boxes from one end of the living room through to the bedroom on the other end. There were small islands of space near the stove in the kitchen, the sofa in the living room, and the bed. Even the bathroom had two boxes in it.
James was certain that she'd just moved in. But having just cleared a path to the door, he knew it couldn't have been within the passed week. How could anyone live like this?, he wondered.
"You'll have to excuse the mess," she said. "I just can't put it all away."
"We'll help," David said.
"I don't need any help," she laughed, "I need more space!"
It was true; every storage space built into the place had something in it. She'd moved out of a regular two-bedroom house, and into this mobile home, and she hadn't gotten rid of anything. What James hadn't noticed was outside beneath the snow, was more of her things, still in boxes under pieces of plastic.
"Marcy!" David called from the kitchen, "Shall I put this stuff away?"
"Yeah, if you can find room."
David opened the refrigerator door. It was like the rest of the house, too little space and too many things to go in it. David reorganized the food, discarding items long over due for the garbage, and put the fresh foods in their place.
James and Marcy sat on the sofa getting acquainted. They found that they had several things in common. Both were divorced, that is, they were both in the process. And they both played music. She had a piano and a Hammond organ. Neither could be used, as space was required for both, and boxes took up the room.
As they talked, James saw several places where, if some rearrangement was made, it would be possible to be able to use both the piano and the organ. He suggested that he could do it for her, and she was more than happy to let him do it. So, while David worked in the kitchen, cleaning up the dishes in the sink, James moved the boxes around. Some he stacked on top of others, after telling Marcy what was inside them. She would be able to get at the contents of either box once they were stacked, so they had to be things that she wouldn't need soon, or in a hurry.
After an hour of such activity, the kitchen was cleaned and cleared, and the living room looked vaguely like it was a place where someone was living. Then with David's help and Marcy's supervision, they set up the piano and organ, side-by-side at right angles to each other. With the peddle-board in place, David plugged it in and turned it on. He sat on the bench, making adjustments in the setups, and then began to play.
The rich pipe-like tone floated through the room. As David continued to play, he became so engrossed in it that he didn't realize how loud he was playing. He was playing it like he was in an auditorium.
"David!" Marcy shouted. "Not so loud!"
When David didn't respond, James who was standing watching, tapped him on the shoulder. David stopped, and looked at him.
"Not so loud," Marcy repeated.
"Oh, sorry," he said, "I get carried away."
"Yeah, and so will we, if the neighbors complain." David laughed, and began playing again, much softer. He played for nearly half an hour, before he stopped.
"David?" Marcy asked, "Is that all you're playing these days, is Bach?"
"Yeah," David said, "I still don't have it all down yet." James hadn't noticed, but had enjoyed it just for what it was, music, rich full organ music, and he loved it.
"You should hear Norman play it," Marcy said to James who'd returned to the sofa to listen, as David continued. "He's better than David, but he plays popular. I have some tapes, if I could find them." It was true, she did have tapes, and James had seen them. They were in a box near the stereo system, somewhere.
"I need to get the tape decks set up," she said. "But I just can't do it myself. First of all, I don't understand how to do it, and even if I did, I don't have the strength to move all that stuff around."
"Maybe later," James said. "Who's Norman?" he asked.
"Oh, that's David's boyfriend, or rather he was, David's boyfriend. They used to live together, until a couple of months ago. David got drunk one night and started throwing things, and Norman threw him out in the snow!
She laughed, and starting coughing. When she got over the coughing, she was still giggling, "You should have seen him. He came staggering over to my place, no shoes and just tee shirt and pants. Covered with melting snow. He was a sight!" It sounded funny to behold, and James smiled too.
"At first, David stayed with me, but he couldn't get to work as easily since he doesn't drive, and since I couldn't drive him either, he had to find a place in the city where the buses ran more often and regularly. He has a nice place now," She explained.
"Yes, it is quite nice," James said without realizing that he was telling more than he should have.
"You'll have to watch out for Norman," Marcy warned, "Norman has a bad temper, and he's very jealous."
"I don't think I know him," James said.
"Probably not. If you'd met him, you'd remember him, he's very intense. Tall dark and handsome!" She started to laugh again, "And a real son-of-a-bitch!" James smiled. He was beginning to like her, she was earthy but not vulgar, and fun to talk with. She knew a lot about a lot of things, and she apparently knew enough about the gay life style to be comfortable with it.
They watched as David played for a while longer.
"I'm going to fix us something to eat," David said stopping his playing in the middle of a sonata.
"You know what's there," Marcy said. Then she got up and walked to the organ. She climbed up on the bench, made some adjustments to the drawbars and started to play.
The soft strains of Some Enchanted Evening issued forth from the organ. James leaned back and relaxed as she continued. She was like David; she could sit and play for a long time without stopping.
"She's good isn't she?" David said as he came and stood next to James.
"Yeah," James whispered, "She really is."
As Marcy ended with the familiar Climb The Highest Mountain, the whole room vibrated. When she was finished, she turned around and saw David standing smiling.
"Guess who got carried away now?" David said. They all laughed.
She got up and returned to the sofa. "Oh my back hurts! I just can't do that anymore." She stretched and tried to get the kinks out of her back and shoulders.
They gathered around the table near the kitchen, and ate the found David had fixed. It was nothing fancy, a combination of the leftovers from the deli, and a fresh salad he'd made. It was all tasty, and everyone ate their fill.
It was dark out when they finished eating, and James looked at his watch. It was nine o'clock. He was amazed at how the time had passed so quickly, it seemed to him that they'd arrived only a few minutes ago.
"We should really go," he said to David.
"Oh, no," David said. "We're staying over."
"Are you sure she knows?"
"Yes, I always stay over when I come out." David insisted. "Besides, she won't let us go home anyway, she loves company."
He was right, Marcy loved to have company, and she loved to talk. Her illnesses kept her confined to her home. Living as she did, in a mobile home park, she didn't have neighbors who visited like she did when she lived in her own home. She was lonely, and when she didn't have visitors for days on end, she would often begin to drink again. She'd drink whatever David forgot he'd brought with him, and left behind. Mostly it would be beer, and when it was gone, she'd call a fellow she knew in the park, and he'd get her whatever she wanted and bring it over to her. Most of the time she'd pay for it, but sometimes she'd forget.
At ten o'clock Marcy excused herself, and went to bed. She was exhausted, the exercise of playing, the excitement of the visitors, and the food had done her in. They said good night to her, and she retired to her bedroom at the far end of the house. David and James sat on the sofa.
"Want a beer?" David asked.
"No, I'm fine."
"I need one," David said and he walked to the kitchen and got one from the refrigerator. Then he returned and sat beside James. David began to relax, and he started to talk again.
With a few questions from James, he launched into the story of his relationship with Norman. James hadn't intended to pry, but he was interested since Marcy had brought it up.
"You don't have to worry about him," David said as he opened his third beer. "He's really a sweet guy." Suddenly David began to become maudlin. As he continued to talk it became apparent to James that he was still very much in love with Norman, but didn't know how to go about making peace with him. This wasn't the first time that they'd had a fight and broken up, it had happened several times before. They'd been going through this process for three years. Each time the space between the breakup and the making up grew longer. And each time the cause had been his drinking. He maintained that he didn't have a problem with it, it was that Norman just didn't understand him, was too demanding and jealous. And this was true, at least according to David, and from James could tell, David was saying it the way it was. Even so, James knew that some of what David was telling him, was only half true.
David had maintained that he wasn't going out with other guys behind Norman's back causing him to be jealous, but James concluded that this wasn't true. David apparently had been seeing other man, and Norman had a certain right to be jealous because of it.
As far as Norman not understanding David's needs, which was probably true, but if David was with Norman the way that he was with him, he didn't understand Norman's need either. And that situation was most likely to be the cause of the jealousy. James, at least, knew that much.
At midnight, they pulled the sofa out into the sleeper position and went to bed. David snuggled up next to James, and slept.
When David and James woke the next morning, Marcy was sitting at the table drinking coffee and smoking a cigarette. David dressed only in his underwear, and his morning erection up along his stomach, hurried past her greeting her as he went. James lay there, hoping David would hurry back. When he saw David coming back, he slipped out of bed and pulled on his slacks, and hurried to the bathroom. It wasn't so much that he was necessarily shy, but he knew what the sight of him in his underwear might do to someone, even someone who knew what was going on.
When James returned, David had closed the bed and Marcy was now sitting on it beside him. They were both drinking coffee chatting easily.
It was New Year's Eve, and James had other plans for it. And early in the afternoon, he and David said good-bye to Marcy and drove back to the city. James dropped David off at his place, and drove on to his own. James told David he'd give him a call later in the week, and David said that that would be fine. James knew that David was disappointed that James was going with someone else for the night, but he said nothing. At first James felt badly, leaving him on his own, so to speak, on this night, but he really did have plans of his own.
James cleaned up his apartment, and took a bath. He hadn't slept all that well on the sofa bed, and lay down for a nap. The phone rang. He looked at the clock as he picked up the receiver, it was seven o'clock.
"Hi there," It was Mike.
"Hello!" James was excited that he'd called.
"Did I wake you?" Mike asked.
"Actually you did, but I'm glad," James laughed.
"It must be nice!" Mike said, and then added, "I was calling to confirm."
"I'll be there," James said softly. "I'm really looking forward to it."
"How's business tonight?" James asked.
"Not as bad as I thought it might be. We're busy, but it's nothing we can't handle. And since we're not open for the midnight madness, we'll be out on time, I'm sure."
"Good," James said.
"Oh, I've got to run, an order's up." Mike interrupted. "See you later!"
"See you!" James said. He stretched and climbed out of bed. He had to get something to eat, and wasn't sure what he wanted, or if what he had in the refrigerator was any good. He pulled on his slippers and went to check it out.
What he saw there wasn't what he had in mind. He checked his wallet. He had enough money, if he was careful, to get a quick meal downtown, and still enough leftover for the rest of the week. Since he did have food in the house, he'd be okay.
He got dressed and drove into the city. It was a busy night downtown by the time he arrived, and he had to park several blocks away from his usual spot on Third Street. But he was in a good mood, and didn't mind the walk. It was cold and clear, with just a feeling that it could snow.
He had a burger and fries with milk to drink, before he went to meet Mike. When he arrived at The Hour, he found it like it was the week before, wall-to-wall people.
He was beginning to wonder whether he'd be able to see Mike in the crowd even when he came in. He ordered a drink and stood near the door so that he'd have a better view of people coming and leaving. He saw David come in, but David was looking the other way and went around the bar to the far side without looking his direction. It wasn't that he didn't want to speak to him, but at least he didn't want to meet him before Mike arrived.
He looked at his watch nervously, it was ten fifteen. Just then Mike stepped through the door into the crowd. He did see James and came to where he was standing directly. They hugged and greeted each other.
"It's good to see you," James said warmly.
"What's happening?" Mike asked.
"It's a mob tonight!" James said over the dim.
"Yeah, it usually is on New Year's Eve!"
Mike left James and went to the bar to get a drink.
Just at that moment David appeared coming around from the other side of the bar.
"Is that your date?" David asked. He was drunk.
"David, don't!" James said with firmness in both his voice and eyes.
"Just kidding!" David laughed and walked on passed him. He wasn't kidding, James thought.
"What's the matter?" Mike asked as he returned carrying his own and a fresh drink for James.
"Oh, nothing really," James smiled and accepted the drink.
"You sure?" Mike asked and added, "You looked as if you could have hurt him."
"He's just drunk," James said passing it off.
Mike knew, or at least suspected, that the guy had said something to James that was somehow related to him, and his skin color. He was used to it, but never appreciated it. He was glad to see that it angered James, although at this point he didn't know whether James was angry for what it implied about James, or for what it meant to him. But for tonight, it was enough that it didn't please James.
James tried to put it out of his mind, and to enjoy the evening. He was succeeding for the most part. They laughed and joked about some of the people they saw. Some of the clothes were quite outrageous. A few of the girls were in drag, many quite convincingly dressed in evening gowns, wigs, makeup, and heals, looking as if they'd come from the bar next door by mistake. That was an area of the gay scene with which James still wasn't comfortable. He never knew how to react to someone in drag.
One of the people stopped and kissed Mike on the cheek. She, or rather he, had on a lovely black sequined gown, and looked for all the world like a woman. James was at first convinced that he was, until he heard the voice.
"Hi, darling!" the voice said, it was obviously a falsetto, breaking at the end.
"Hello, Cynthia!" Mike laughed, "Don't we look elegant tonight!"
"Oh thank you, dear!" And then looking at James, "And who is this handsome hunk you have in tow tonight?"
"This is James," Mike said. "James, this is Cynthia."
Cynthia gave James a quick kiss on the cheek, and said, "It's nice to meet you, James."
"It's a pleasure, Cynthia. You look lovely." James said, feeling a bit more relaxed than he thought he would. Cynthia holding her glass up so as not to spill it continued her promenade around the bar, disappearing in the crowd.
"He's really a dear person," Mike said.
"I don't recognize him," James said.
"You would if you saw him out of drag, he's quite a handsome man. I don't really understand why he does drag, but then I don't understand a lot of things about what people do or say."
"I suppose," James said. James felt like Mike did about the last part of his statement. He had frequently felt that people wouldn't have approved if they'd known what Hobbie and he were doing together, even the gays didn't seem to understand. In their case, however, no one knew, and so the problem never arose. He frowned briefly and then turned to Mike and smiled.
"I really don't care what people think," he said. "I'm having a good time, and I don't care who knows it!"
"Me too," Mike said, "You like to dance?"
"Love to," James answered.
"Let's go to the Backstage, and see if we can get in." Mike tipped up his drink. James did the same, and they went out the door into the night air. It felt fresh and cool, quite a change from the smoke filled bar. They walked down the street, and turned up the next block. The Backstage was what used to be called The Pit. It had been enlarged and redecorated. The dance floor was still small, and tonight it was quite crowded as they walked down the stairs.
Many of the same people they'd seen at The Hour were now here. James and Mike waited until they spotted an opening in the floor and then walked out and began to dance. Mike was quite accomplished, and easily followed James' lead. He didn't quite know why he followed, but it seemed more natural to him, as James was taller, and was apparently used to leading. He really didn't care who was leading as long as he was dancing.
As they were continually being jostled by the crush of people, they danced just two songs, and then retired to the sidelines.
"Okay, People!" the voice came over the sound system, "It's nearly time! Champagne's at the bar, come and get it!"
James and Mike flowed with the crowd and picked up a plastic glass filled with the bubbling liquid. They moved on with the crowd, and stood holding their glasses, waiting for the announcement.
"Five! Four! Three! Two! One! Happy New Year!" the same voice announced. And then a record started to play the familiar strains of Auld Lang Syne, everyone joined in the singing of the traditional words.
Mike and James toasted and tipped up their glasses, getting rid of the champagne so it wouldn't be spilled, and then joined in the singing. James' eyes misted as they always did when he heard that music. There were few pieces of music that affected him that way, and this was one of them. There was another reason why this music had that affect on him, and he'd nearly forgotten until it began. Today was his nineteenth wedding anniversary. And New Years Eve would always bring back those memories. As the tears streamed down his cheeks, and he tried to sing the words, he wondered what was going on with his family a few miles away. Mike noticed the tears, and hugged James a little closer, wanting him to know that he was there, no matter what else.
When the singing was over, and the record continued with variations on the theme, everyone turned to their partner, if they had one, and kissed. James brushed his cheeks with his hand and leaned over and kissed Mike tenderly. It felt good to be with someone tonight of all night, he thought. He resolved never to be alone on this night again. And it would be eight years before the resolve would be broken.
"Let's be gone," Mike said. "I've had enough of the crowds and the noise."
"I'm with you," James said, and he followed as Mike led the way through the throng and up the stairs. James drove to Mike's apartment and pulled into a parking space at the end of the block around the corner from the entrance. Carrying their coats, they hurried and went inside. They took the aging elevator up to the third floor to Mike's place.
Inside his apartment, safely hidden from the noisy crowds and prying eyes they made love until they needed to no more. Sleep overtook them, and the lay in each other's arms peacefully.
To be continued
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