Postcards From the Ledge (and Other Extraordinary Folk): Some Men Go Just Where They Want (Story 2) ~ Part C

Ken Painter By Ken Painter, 3rd Jan 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>General Fiction

Join me in a stroll through an eclectic collection of short stories filled with gay and straight characters in the mid-Michigan communities of Lansing and East Lansing and surrounding areas as they laugh, love, and find their lives intertwined in inexplicable ways. (Some of the stories - not all - contain softcore male/male sex scenes, and some of the material contained has been previously published on Wikinut by this author and have been modified from its original form.)

Releases, Releases!

The second semester began just as Turnipseed released the Rainbow Chaps new single It’s All About You another fine effort from Eric and Todd and from the forthcoming album still to be entitled Down Home Country. Industry insiders were all abuzz about the sophomore effort, because everyone knew it was that all-important second album which proved a group’s possible staying power . . . or not. By Easter all was looking good as the song topped out in the Top Ten once again for the group, and as the single began waning on the country charts the album was released right on schedule.

This all coincided right about the same time that Tom Dunbar just happened to have scheduled his classroom visit to Gavin’s room for that semester’s evaluation of Mr. McDermott’s classroom and teaching techniques. Later when Dunbar stuffed Gavin’s pink copy of the evaluation in his mailbox cubby without benefit of putting it in a sealed envelope or meeting with him in private to discuss the observations both of which were in direct violations of his teacher’s contract untenured or not plus a human violation of basic good taste if only for the fact that any passer-by could pull it out and read it, Gavin merely kept his cool and put all of these points in a precisely-worded and typed response and then mailed three registered letters, one each to his principal, the superintendent of schools, and finally his union representative. He kept his original and two copies for himself knowing the war had only begun because for the first time in almost three years at Pines Junior High his principal had lowered his performance rating by one point overall, and he’d done so without any good reason to do so. Gavin’s scores were all perfect up until this one, and the entire world was aware of what had transpired to change Principal Dunbar’s mind. Proving that though? That would be like trying to move the Queen from one side of the chessboard to the other and looking your opponent squarely in the jowls and saying, “Checkmate, you asshole!”

During the next weeks Harley did his best to keep Gavin calm. They both knew what was coming. It seemed inevitable, in fact neither had come to fear it.

Harley said it first as they snuggled in bed one cool early April evening just after the album had dropped. “What are we afraid of Babe? Hell, the album’s got the name of your song on it! Your song! That just blows my mind!”

“I haven’t told you the best part yet,” Gavin smiled sheepishly at his beloved as he looked up at him from his curled up position snuggled in Harley’s arms which he’d been softly petting.

“What?” Harley grinned back. “You holding back on me?”

“Well yeah, sort of,” Gavin said as he scooted up in the bed so that he could look in his lover’s face more directly. “Normally I either let you read the e-mail or tell you about it the moment you come through the door, but this was too special. I just wanted to wait until we were already naked and in here together. Like now.”

“That good, huh?”

“That good!” Gavin nodded.

“All right. Lay it on me.” Harley closed his eyes and sunk back into his pillows.

“They’re releasing the single version of Down Home Country Blues next Tuesday.”

“ALL RIIIIIGHT!” Harley hollered with his usual broad smile and raised both of his arms with fists doubled up straight toward the ceiling. And yes, Gavin was absolutely certain this time somebody must have heard the bellow all the way up in Traverse City!

Teacher Union Chess

Commensurate with his teacher’s contract this time to the letter of the day Gavin received by registered mail a letter stating that he was being denied a tenured position with his school district nor offered a contract for the following year. Included was the date and time of the school board meeting in which he should appear with his union representative should he desire to appeal his case.

He called his union rep Shirley Addison to schedule a meeting with her for later that week. When he met with her on Thursday Gavin found out some very interesting facts.

First, of the five total teachers system-wide who were up for tenure, Gavin was the only one who had been denied. Second, very coincidentally all other four teachers were married and straight. Gavin was in a committed relationship, not permitted by law to marry his significant other, and gay. Third, all four teachers who had been granted tenure had lower performance ratings than Gavin whose scores had been virtually perfect, and that last one had been suspect which called the school board’s denial into a total sham. And four, and this one makes everything else look really weird, was the fact that they weren’t offering him a contract for the coming year.

“Yeah, I wondered about that,” Gavin looked puzzled. “Is that one of the options?”

“Actually it is.” Shirley nodded. “They can deny you tenure and refuse you a contract, but the only time I’ve ever seen it done is when the denied teacher is a complete moron! And to my recollection that’s only happened once before in my 23 years here. Believe me you don’t want to know!”

“Actually back in Lansing I remember a couple of cases.”

“Over the years you‘re bound to hear of a couple. But that certainly doesn’t apply to you! You should have been tenured! My god, you’re a rock star, or in this case a country star,” and they both began laughing. “But that’s the normal option. The option in between, and the one that should have been offered to you if they were going to deny you is to offer you a contract for a fourth year complete with regular increases, still untenured, but then up for review again to offer you tenure at the end of the fourth year. That’s the normal process. It’s sort of a remediation for borderline cases which you’re clearly not, but it helps some folks along who need it. Tenure denial is strictly for getting rid of those who shouldn’t be in the classroom, not Teacher Olympians!”

“Well, thanks Shirley.”

“You’re welcome, but don’t thank me yet, because about half of the things I told you tonight we can’t use in your appeal to the board, because they violate the rights of the other teachers who were granted tenure. I only told you all of this for the lawsuit I’m hoping you’ll file against these bigoted idiots. If I can dig up the facts, so can your attorneys.”

“I was kind of wondering. Is there anything in particular you would recommend I do for the appeal?”

“Just be cool, calm, represent yourself well, but most of all do not back down from anything and do not overreact to anything. I’ll be right there with you.”

“Got it.”

Who's Making a Spectacle of Himself?

Ten days prior to the end of school on the balmiest of late spring evenings at the regularly scheduled school board meeting in the high school gymnasium the Tenure Denial Appeal of Gavin McDermott was the item #7 and the last one scheduled under New Business on the board’s agenda that evening. In heavy anticipation of the event word must have leaked out to the community and even some of the local media as well as a few of the national newsmagazines.

Gavin and Harley smiled to themselves as they entered the gym and sought out Shirley in the crowd for they truly had no idea where they would even be seated. It took several minutes for them to finally locate her at a table set up near the front especially for the three of them when the appeal would come up last on the program during the climax of the evening.

“Did you arrange all of this?” Gavin smiled inquisitively at Shirley and motioning toward all of the media assemblage around them.

“Not me.” She smiled back at Gavin. “I thought it was probably one of you two.”

“Not me,” the surprised Gavin smiled back and looked at his beloved Harley.

“Don’t look at me,” Harley laughed. “I thought it was you!” And he threw Gavin a mock punch to his right bicep.

Before they took their seats Shirley briefly went over with them statements she would make on Gavin’s behalf before the board.

“I can’t tell them anybody else’s individual ratings, but I can divulge how you rank within the percentile district-wide comparatively speaking and also within your school which I plan to do and with great effect!”

“That good?”

“You’re 99th percentile in both. Actually you’ve got the highest ratings in your school, but I can’t say that here, and you didn‘t hear that from me,” Shirley shot the boys a circumspect smile, and they nodded their quiet understanding,” but I’d be willing to bet that they already know that, and I’m telling you that so that you can furnish that little tidbit to your attorneys for your case. If I can look it up so can they, and that probably can be used in a lawsuit. Just not in an informal hearing such as this.”

“That’s all right Shirley. I’m learning that my battle isn’t here. It’s really in the court of public opinion.”

“I think you’ve got that right,” Shirley nodded, and they took their seats as the meeting was about to begin.

When at long last all of the mundane business of the evening had finally transpired approximately an hour and a half later the sanctimonious and very obese president of the school board Horace Burkhalter looked over his half-moon reading glasses at Shirley Addison and asked, “How long will your appeal take do you think Ms. Addison? Should we take a break?”

“Well, meaning no disrespect Mr. Burkhalter, that kind of depends on all of you.” Shirley motioned to the board. “We really don’t have a lot planned here, and we’d rather not be all night either.”

“In that case let’s dispense with the break and get on with it then.” Burkhalter motioned for the secretary to read the matter at hand, and when she was finished a few moments later he called for Ms. Addison to present her prepared list.

Shirley began with a history of Gavin’s teaching accomplishments prior to his position within their school district which she asked that the board consider as evidence in the event that any individual members weren’t aware of his pedigree before he came to their humble district. After quickly summarizing these facts she then went into the basics of his three years at Pines Junior High finishing up with the astounding percentile rankings.

“And last I’d like you to consider this astounding fact! Never in the history of this school district has a teacher who has rated within the 99th percentile ranking of his school and in the 99th percentile of the entire district been denied tenure by this board or any other before it. It is absolutely unprecedented and totally lacking in merit! I thank you for hearing my facts.”

At the conclusion of Shirley’s summation there came a registering of sporadic applause from the audience, not a loud ovation, but certainly a reasonable amount of approval from some of the attending parents, and Gavin, Harley, Shirley, the board, and no doubt the media representatives noticed them.

Board president Burkhalter asked Gavin to stand so that he could ask him a few questions. Gavin stood, but as he was doing so he knew he was going to have to work hard to keep a straight face with this pious sonofabitch. He’d never met Horace Burkhalter personally, and now he stood before him wondering for just a few seconds if this was the way Jesus felt standing before Pontius Pilate. Though Gavin doubted that Pilate looked very much like this guy. Mid-50’s graying hair which was once rust-colored, Gavin had noticed earlier in the evening prior to their sitting down that Burkhalter was probably about 5 feet 8 inches tall, but he certainly topped 330 pounds easily. However, what made his overall visage even more comical was that he was wearing a rusty-brown suit which when coupled with the man’s obvious high blood pressure and already ruddy complexion, well, Gavin thought if Burkhalter were to top himself off with a green plaid tam-o’-shanter he’d look just like a walking, talking, ripe beefeater tomato.

“You’ve been making a spectacle of yourself,” Burkhalter stated challenging Gavin.

“I beg your pardon, sir?” Gavin looked puzzled back at the board president.

“What Mister McDermott, you didn’t hear me?” Burkhalter was baiting Gavin, and he did everything but call him ‘boy.’

Gavin refused to bite, but he wouldn’t back down either. He knew the whole world was watching this pompous ass. “Yes sir, I heard you, and if I heard you correctly earlier, I believe you asked me to stand so that you could ask me a few questions. That Mr. Burkhalter was a statement, and since one of the lessons we teachers so often teach our students is the difference between fact and opinion, the statement that you just made and I quote, “You’ve been making a spectacle of yourself,” is an opinion. I cannot answer an opinion, sir. You asked me to stand to answer your questions.” And with that Gavin shut up while the vast majority seated in the auditorium just roared with laughter. He knew he’d made a laughingstock of Burkhalter and sealed his fate with the board, but that had been his goal all along, because he’d just won in the Court of Public Opinion with one simple argument.

Gavin just stood there motionless with his hands locked behind him and looking at the school board momentarily while waiting for the laughter to subside while Shirley covered her grin with her hand by playing like she was yawning, and Harley made no attempt to conceal his laughter. Burkhalter futilely tried to regain control of his meeting, and suddenly at of the corner of his eye Gavin noticed little 75-year-old Maude Everhart, eldest member of the school board anchored way down at the right end of the seven-member table very cagily giving him a thumbs up and grinning very noticeably at him. She was letting him know that she really liked what he said, and he thanked her quietly with a neat little wink which she caught and winked back. Imagine that! Gavin winking at an old widow woman, he thought.

When at last it was quiet again, Burkhalter scowled at Gavin and growled, “Mister McDermott, let me rephrase my statement then. Do you have anything you’d like to say on your behalf?” He looked at Gavin and raised his eyebrows with the challenge.

“Yes sir, actually I do.”

“Somehow I thought you might,” Burkhalter said resignedly. “Go right ahead.”

“Thank you. It seems to me that none of this has to do with my teaching ability or anything that I do in the classroom. I believe that Ms. Addison’s statements attest to that fact pretty clearly. It appears to me that this has all arisen from the fact that I happen to be a multi-tasker, and by that I mean that on the side I’ve written a few songs, thus far an extremely few songs, three to be precise. But there seems to be a backlash because I wrote a gay song. Well, gee folks for those of you who haven’t met me, I’m gay, and I’d like you to meet my husband or at least he would be if it were legal here in this state, Harley Henderson, Jr. Please stand up would you Harley?” The cowboy stood up and waved his hat to the crowd and sat back down. “Some of you may know Harley. He’s one of the co-owners of the Double H Ranch just outside of town.

Anyway, I’m not gonna take all night with this. I’d just like to ask everyone here in the auditorium a question and then enter into evidence with the board an interesting little piece of information before I finish off my comments if I may?”

“Go right ahead,” Burkhalter nodded, “but make it quick.”

“I will and thank you. I’d like to ask the audience if any of you country music fans have heard of a song called Down Home Country Blues?” Cheers and applause went up from about half of the audience, and Gavin nodded. “I kind of thought I’d get that response. That’s the latest release from the Rainbow Chaps, right? Yeah. Friends of mine. Good guys.” And then Gavin looked from the audience back toward the board members as he produced a magazine from under his folding chair. “I’d like to introduce to you this copy of Top Notch Magazine which just came out this morning with this week’s rankings from the various national music charts. Perhaps many of you haven’t heard yet, but actually I’d like to ask my most beloved person in the world to stand up and help me with this announcement, so Harley would you come over here please?” Harley came over to stand next to Gavin, and they held no compunction about putting their arms gently around each other’s waists. Gavin looked at Harley and asked, “Harley would you please read what single is number one for this week as of today on the country charts?”

“Yup. It’s Down Home Country Blues by the Rainbow Chaps up from number five last week.” There were a lot of cheers from the audience mixed with applause.

“You like that song don’t you,” Gavin asked the crowd. Lots of audible yeses went up along with a few more cheers. “Yeah, I like it too. I agree with you. And that’s Number One in the entire United States folks,” Gavin addressed this last part directly to the board table. “Harley right after it says the Rainbow Chaps it also says in parentheses who the songwriters are. Would you read that also please? Thanks Hon.”

“It says Lyrics, Gavin McDermott and Music, Gavin McDermott & Eric Lindstrom.”

An audible gasp went up from the board and from some in the audience, but at least half of them were cheering and applauding. Maude Everhart was shooting two thumbs up at Gavin and Harley, and it looked like she didn’t give a damn who saw her.

“Thank you, thank you all.” Gavin motioned for everyone to please quiet down and return to order. “I’d like to place this magazine in evidence with this school board for multiple reasons. My purpose is to show that I can both teach in the classroom and write songs without hurting one or the other. Additionally, this evidence proves that as a gay man I don’t only write gay songs, but I can write songs for mass appeal that can even go to number one on the charts. Your denial of my tenure is totally without merit and lacking in foundation, and I close my argument.” And with that Gavin dropped the copy of Top Notch directly in front of an almost apoplectic Horace Burkhalter and sat down amid the standing ovation and loud applause which had broken out among the majority of those in the auditorium.

Someone on the board quickly moved that the audience portion of the meeting be quickly adjourned which was quickly seconded, and the crowd soon began to file out. The board quietly and quickly then moved and seconded to meet for a private session to vote on the appeal which was still before them. That matter took less than five minutes to dispense with, however they had five business days in which to notify Mister McDermott of their vote in writing. Gavin would never hear it from their mouths directly although he’d later learn everything from old Maudie's lips (she insisted that he and Harley call her Maudie as they all eventually became friends).

Nothing else really mattered though, because this phase of the war was over, and the public knew what was now going on. In this day and age, there would be no crown of thorns as there would be no cross. No crucifixion. The public humiliation was turned back on those doing the tormenting in this case the Grand Inquisitor. Torquemada had more than met his match.

It was all captured on camera. The next morning on every news program in America and even on a few overseas English-speaking outlets the face of Horace Burkhalter became synonymous with the term village idiot. Some TV talk shows began picking up on his name and his huge girth and began showing side-by-side photos of him with the now infamous character from the 60’s TV show Hogan’s Heroes the bumbling General Burkhalter. On the Friday night late TV shows the jokes made about old Horace were positively murderous. And everyone kept showing the footage from the board meeting again and again and again. It was posted and reposted throughout the worldwide Web. The whole globe it seemed was abuzz with the news that a community in western Michigan was in the process of getting rid of one it’s star teachers for no apparent reason other than the fact that perhaps he was gay and had written a gay country song which was much-acclaimed in its own right, and now that very same teacher had written a number one country song which wasn’t the least bit gay in nature thus making the school board looking the ship of fools the world now knew them to be Maude Everhart being the sole exception. Her lone dissenting vote would later come to light by media diggers, and she became a voice for reason among progressive elements in the area due to the exposure emboldened as she had become thanks to Gavin and Harley.

In the meantime, as the school year wound down and Gavin began saying his good-byes to his friends on the staff who meant the most to him and likewise to his students, he received that registered letter which informed him that by a 6 - 1 vote the board had upheld their original decision to deny him tenure. No reason was given. He smiled and actually felt a little free. Emancipated even. Perhaps they’d even done him a favor. Just think of the songs he could now write.

(End of Part C of this story. Next up: the concluding turn of events.)

Link to Part D of "Some Men Go Just Where They Want (Story 2)" . . . Here


Country Music, Gay Community, Gay Couples, Gay Experience, Gay Lesbian And Bisexual, Gay Love, Gay Marriage, Gay Marriage Rights, Gay Men, Gay Rights, Gays, Lgbt, Lgbt Community, Short Fiction, Short Stories, Songs, Songwriter, Songwriting, Teacher, Teachers, Teachers Unions, Teaching

Meet the author

author avatar Ken Painter
Retired Chicago public school teacher. Singer, songwriter, musician, author, & opinionated old curmudgeon. Married to my husband & living in Colorado, USA. Also a father & grandfather.

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