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
During the following week James and Jim talked on the phone several times. On Friday, Jim invited James to join him for dinner after work. James agreed, and it was decided that they would meet at the restaurant at five-thirty when Jim got off work. James who was through a four-thirty had plenty of time to get into town from Egan where he worked; in fact he decided to stay a little while later at work than usual.
At five-thirty James found a parking space just half a block from the New China Inn. He put two coins in the parking meter to cover the half hour remaining on the day, and walked into the door. It was still happy hour there, and he looked around to see if Jim had come in. Not seeing him, James went to the bar and ordered a drink.
It was quite different from The Happy Hour bar he usually went to. The crowd was very mixed, in that there were blue collar and white-collar workers, men and women. He felt slightly uncomfortable. He saw no one he knew even slightly. He stood where he could watch the door, hoping that it wouldn't be too long before Jim came in.
He sipped his drink nervously as he looked about the room. The most interesting face he saw was the bartender's. A tall dark-haired young man with dark eyes. He was handsome, James thought, and whenever James looked his way, it seemed that the bartender was looking his way. James managed a smile despite his nervousness. The man smiled back, but quickly went about his business, as if embarrassed by the eye contact.
James felt a tug at his arm. It was Jim who when James jumped in reaction to the touch spoke.
"I'm sorry I startled you," he said.
"That's okay," James smiled.
"And I'm sorry to be so late," Jim explained, "But we had a late trial today. The jury came in with a verdict at the last minute, and the judge decided to end the trial, and let the jurors go home, rather than holding it over until morning. It made everything late."
"I'm fine, really," James said.
"You get a chance to meet Ralph?" Jim asked.
"No," James said, "Who's Ralph?"
"The cute bartender, silly, who else do you think?" Jim laughed. "Come, I'll introduce you." They walked to the bar where Jim ordered his drink.
"Ralph, I'd like you to meet a friend of mine, James Arneson. James, this is Ralph Thompson. He makes the best Manhattans."
Ralph and James shook hands and exchanged greetings, and smiles.
"You can send my drink to my table, please, Ralph." Jim said, and then to James, "Let's go eat, I'm starved." Jim and James walked to the dining room where a rather stocky red-haired woman in her late forties greeted them. She showed them to a table, and then Jim introduced her to James. Her name was Juanita, and she was married to the owner and chef, Ling Too. Occasionally their sixteen-year old son worked as a waiter, usually on weekends.
Jim's drink arrived as soon as Juanita had left, brought on a tray, still in the shaker with a iced glass standing beside it. The young man carrying it was indeed their son, Tom. He was a handsome boy, a delightful mixture of the two races. His skin was extremely fair; his hair was dark reddish black in color and straight. His eyes were a light color close to violet and just slightly Oriental in appearance. Jim introduced him to James. He smiled shyly and accepted Jim's outrageous compliments about being the best waiter in the city.
When Tom had departed, Jim said, "I think he's straight, but he's so cute, it'd be a shame if he is."
"He is handsome," James acknowledged.
"Did you like Ralph?" Jim asked.
"He's quite nice looking too," James said. "He seemed to be watching me while I was waiting for you."
"He was," Jim said, "I could tell by the way he looked at you when I introduced you. I shouldn't be surprised if we don't hear from him later."
Before James could ask what he meant, Jim suggested that they order their dinner. Thus distracted, James soon forgot about Ralph.
Young Tom, who had special instructions from his mother about serving Jim and his guest, served their dinners expertly. Tom, who understood the implications, did his best to do it right.
Jim had a single cup of coffee after dinner, adhering to his doctor's order about stimulants. Two cups a day was his limit. As they left the restaurant, they went out through the bar. Jim waved to Ralph who waved back and winked at James. James smiled and they walked to the car. Jim wanted to stop at The Hour before going home. Such was his routine on Fridays, or whenever he ate at downtown.
It was nearly nine o'clock when they arrived and the party atmosphere was in full swing. They managed to find a booth at the back and sat talking after James got them their drinks.
"What were you saying about Ralph?" James asked referring back to Jim's comment at the restaurant.
"Oh that," Jim said, "I think he's gay or at least bisexual, I've seen him around."
Jim was being evasive, as James perceived it, choosing to not explain everything he knew. James let it go, feeling that it Jim's right to keep a secret if he chose to. He relaxed and sat back and listened as Jim told stories about his trips to Europe and how he and Charles had had many interesting encounters there, more Charles oriented than otherwise.
When Jim invited James in at the house after they drove there from the bar, James accepted. Jim offered him a drink, which James declined. He was already quite relaxed from the food and drinks they'd had earlier. Any more and he'd have trouble staying awake, much less driving back to his apartment.
They sat on the sofa in the sun-porch listening to music. Neither of them had much in the way of conversation to add to the evening. Jim put his hand on James' arm.
"Will you stay over tonight, James," he asked.
James was not surprised; he'd been expecting the invitation. "If you want me to," he answered.
"I do, very much," Jim said looking deeply into James' eyes. He leaned over to James and kissed him tenderly on the lips. James responded, not knowing exactly how he felt about the situation. He liked Jim very much, but he wasn't sure that there was anything sexual about it though. Surprisingly his body responded to the stimulation of the kiss.
Later when Jim lay fast asleep in his arms, James wondered about this charming man. He was more than twenty years older than himself, older, in fact, than his father, by five years. He never considered someone of this age as a possibility before. He recalled something the psychiatrist had said to him during one interview the year before.
"You may well encounter an older man who will want to be your companion. Consider well how you will deal with this. You should not do as so many do, rule out someone because of their age alone. Believe what your emotions tell you about them, there is much to be gained in experience and love from someone who is older than yourself."
James lay awake for a long time pondering this statement. When at last, he slept; he was at peace with himself for the first time in a long time. Secure in the realization that he had accepted himself for what he was, and now could go forward to accept someone else, and whatever it was that they could offer him, he could willing accept, and in return give of himself also.
James slept late the next morning, and when he finally did awaken, it was to the aroma of freshly brewed coffee, and the sizzle of bacon floating to his ears. He listened for a moment before getting up to go to the bathroom. The house was quiet except for the occasional noise from the kitchen below.
He hurriedly made his trip to the bathroom. He remembered that it was Saturday, and that Lyle also may have slept late this morning, and so he locked the bathroom door to be certain he wasn't interrupted.
Down in the kitchen Jim was fixing breakfast. Lyle had come downstairs and used the bathroom down there. He came out and stood in the kitchen waiting a chance get at the refrigerator to get some juice.
"Well," Lyle huffed. "Who's in the bathroom?"
"What?" Jim asked, not certain he'd heard the question correctly.
Lyle repeated the question.
"Whatever difference could it make to you?" Jim said, almost angrily.
"Excuse me!" Lyle growled. "I just live here!"
"And don't you forget it!" Jim's eyes blazed. The nerve of that queen, Jim thought angrily!
Lyle took his glass of juice and stomped up the stairs.
When he reached the top, James was just coming out of the bathroom. They exchanged glances. Lyle tossed his head haughtily and went to his room slamming the door behind him.
I think, James thought as he went back to dress, I've stepped on someone's toes. He decided that he wouldn't mention it to Jim. He'll soon see for himself, and there was no point to bringing it up.
He was correct, for the first thing when he came down the stairs, Jim spoke.
"I hear you've met Lyle," Jim's eyes twinkled now more in amusement than anger.
"Yes, he seemed a bit distant," James said smiling a bit.
"That's one way of putting it." Jim smiled. "It's more like he found a thorn in his jockstrap!"
"I've never been introduced to him. But I've seen him before, though, I don't recall where."
"I'm certain," Jim said, "He'll let me know where it was."
"Really?" James asked.
"I'm sure of it. I'll take care of him, though, don't worry about it." Jim continued his preparations.
"May I help you?" James asked.
"If you'd like, you can put plates and silver on the table," He pointed to the cupboard, "They're over there." James walked to the cupboard, and pulled open the door. He took out two plates.
"Two?" he asked.
"Two." Jim laughed.
James finished setting the table, and sat down on one of the two chairs next to the table.
"Does Lyle have his meals here?" he asked.
"Sometimes," Jim said. "Mostly, he snacks. Once in awhile, I'll invite him on Sunday's if I have company, and it's someone he knows. Otherwise we go our own way."
"I see," James said.
Breakfast completed, Jim put the dishes in the dishwasher and washed the frying pan before putting in. Then he turned it on.
They went to the sun-porch where Jim began reading the Saturday morning paper. James smoked a cigarette slowly as he waited until Jim finished a section. Then he picked it up and looked through it. He very seldom read the paper like Jim was doing it, front-to-back, but selected the sections he was interested most first, and then if time permitted, he read the rest, and he rarely read anything but the Sunday paper.
"Are you free that whole weekend?" Jim looked up suddenly from his reading.
"I've nothing planned," he answered.
"Good," Jim said. "Tonight then, we'll have dinner out, and on Sunday I've already planned dinner with the girls."
"Thank you, that sounds nice," James said, then asked, "Who're the girls?"
"Oh, they're neighbors from down the street, we exchange Sunday dinners twice a month, usually. This Sunday they're coming here. They're girlfriends," Jim smiled with a twinkle in his eye. "They claim they don't like dykes, but they are, if you asked me. But when they say that, I usually agree with them. It's true, I don't care for dykes either that much. But neighbors are neighbors.
"Oh, Steve is coming over this morning to work on the yard. He does the mowing and trimming. You'll like him," Jim said.
"I'm sure," James responded and looked up as he heard the front door slam. Jim was up in a flash, and out to the front door. James started to get up and follow, but decided against it.
When Jim returned he was smiling.
"You really must have snubbed him," Jim said.
"Like I said, I've never even talked to him," James protested.
"I know, I know," Jim laughed, "That's what's got him so pissed off."
"I don't see why," James said.
"Apparently he tried to pick you up somewhere, sometime, and got turned down, or worse yet ignored. But what he told me was that you tried to pick him up at the baths. To quotes him:
'That's the kind of person he is!'" Jim laughed loudly, "Can you believe that bitch? Inferring that you are no good because you went to the baths, while it's okay for him to go."
"So that's where it was!" James said. "I don't go very often," he started to explain.
"Don't worry about it, it's none of his business anymore than it is of mine. I just think it's funny that he'd act that way about it, though."
"I hope he get's over it," James said frowning.
"She will, dear, she will!" Jim chuckled.
The doorbell chimed. "That must be Steve. Come on, I'll introduce you." They both got up and walked to the front door.
Jim opened the door and Steve came in.
"Steve, I'd like you meet James. James this is Steve, he's the yard man." Jim made the introductions. James and Steve shook hands.
"I don't know about being the yard man," Steve said smiling, "But I do mow the grass and pull the weeds."
"Stop that!" Jim said, laughing.
James looked him over, Might not be a yard, but it looks substantial, he thought to himself smiling.
"The key's on the hook by the back door," Jim said.
"Okay, Jim. Anything special you need today?" Steve winked at James and looked at Jim, and started to walk passed Jim toward the kitchen. Jim swatted him on the butt as he went on.
"Don't mind him," Jim said to James as they returned to the sun-porch. "He's married and got two kids. But he likes to fool around when he can. Loves to get fucked when he can find the right person. He and Charles got at it one day several years ago. From what Charles said, he's a real lady in bed!"
James watched out the window as Steve went about his business of fixing up the yard. Steve was just over six foot tall with red hair and freckles. Looked every bit the farmer type. As he worked and the temperature outside went up, he took off his shirt revealing his muscular frame.
Jim noticed, and said, "He'd better not go any further, or he'll have every bitch on the block after him."
"And the guys too," James said.
Jim returned to his paper while James continued to watch out the window.
"You can take him out a beer, if you like," Jim said. "There are plenty in the refrigerator. The opener's in the drawer with the silver."
James got up and took a beer to Steve. Jim watched from the porch while James and Steve chatted. I'd like to see that! Jim thought out loud, as he recalled James from the night before. "He'd really give it to him!"
James returned to the house with the empty bottle, which he set on the cupboard, not knowing whether Jim saved the empties or not. Then he rejoined Jim in the sun-porch.
Sunday morning James slept in while Jim went to church. He was picked up by a friend who always stopped by to drive Jim to church. When they returned at noon, James was up and dressed. Since Lyle was gone, he had the house to himself. He was reading the Sunday paper when Jim came in.
James helped Jim prepare the dinner for the afternoon meal. It was to be at four o'clock. Jim was making a pot roast with all the trimmings. James watched as Jim worked in the kitchen, and helped with getting everything in line. Jim showed his where he kept his linens and good dishes, and silver, and James help him set the table. Jim had a particular way that he always set it up. And James tried to remember, in case he'd have a chance to do it again.
The two women rang the doorbell at three forty-five. Jim let them in and introduced James to them. James had to agree, they were girl friends, there was no doubt about it.
They seemed pleased that Jim had found himself a boyfriend, and even more pleased that Lyle wasn't there. They didn't care for him in the least, and made no bones about it.
Conversation centered around various neighborhood happenings, and the widow next door, and her constant stream of boyfriends. They warned James about her, telling him that she'll sleep with anything in pants, preferably a younger man. James smiled and kept silent about that remark.
When they had left, and Jim and James had cleared away the dishes, James suggested that he help wash them and put them away.
"Oh no," Jim said, "Sparkle's coming in the morning. She always does the dishes too."
Sparkle was Jim's cleaning lady, Ruth Chimowsky. Even though Jim couldn't really afford to have her anymore, she came anyway, and he always paid her cash.
James said good night to Jim, and drove back to his own apartment. It seemed drab and lifeless compared to Jim's house. He tried not to think about it, and went quickly to bed, and fell asleep easily not waking until the alarm sounded at six-thirty.
To be continued
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