Postcards From the Ledge (and Other Extraordinary Folk): Some Men Never Go (Story 2) ~ Part B

Ken Painter By Ken Painter, 26th Dec 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
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.)


It’s simply amazing how the years can just fly by in a frenzied swirl and then drop you one day suddenly like a fragile egg on hot asphalt. That’s exactly how Keith felt the year he turned 62 after he and Alli had been married for 32 years, the year they discovered she had ovarian cancer.

After the discovery had been revealed to the couple by her physician, it had explained a lot of the lethargy and dizziness she’d recently been feeling, also all the unattributable bloating in her joints which had been causing Alli no calculable amount of misery in recent months. But she hadn’t detected the lump. It had evidently grown inward and swiftly up to that point attaching itself to her left ovary and was now approximately the size of an orange though she still couldn’t feel it. It was just in there spreading every single day ticking like a sub-dermal time bomb.

Keith and Alli decided not to withhold this horrible development any longer from their two sons, Brad and Barry, and so a most somber and tearful family meeting was conducted swiftly as the parents outlined their immediate plans and the prognosis. Immediate surgery had been scheduled for their Mom in two weeks followed by chemotherapy and radiation as necessary. Odds of success at the moment: fifty - fifty, and after five years, 70 % they’d been told. A lot depended on a variety of factors, but the positive mental outlook of the patient always helped, and the boys were informed that all three of them and their families would be her cheering section. Everybody was on board with that!

While the surgery at first appeared successful, Alli’s overall constitution eventually failed under the strain of chemotherapy, and she never rallied because of the after-effects. She passed to the disease some two months later. Alli was 56-years old.

All three men were simply devastated.

Everything Changes

Since Alli had passed in very late summer, Keith had taken a leave of absence from school when classes began that year for what would have been his 41st at Walmont High. He actually could have retired outright, and they probably would have liked him to so that they could have hired somebody cheaper, but his plan had been to hang on till he turned 65. He decided that he’d sit out that entire first semester, and see how he felt about the whole thing as time went on.

Time did not help. Time on his hands only gave Keith more time, time to think, time to wallow in self-pity, time to reminisce, time to fall into a depression rather than seek grief counseling which is what his sons encouraged him to do.

As the end of the first semester drew nearer Keith decided, what the hell! He was 62. He’d been in the classroom 40 years. Forty was a nice round number. He’d been married to Alli for 32 of those years with her as his partner-in-crime in the very same English department at Walmont for 34 of them. It was time to put up the chalk and stay home. Let the Young Turks take over. He just couldn’t face a class again with another teacher inhabiting Alli’s classroom and haunting him thusly. Not after all this time together. And with that decision he wrote his retirement letter of resignation and mailed it to the superintendent’s office with a copy to his principal. The deed was done!

But the time on his hands still wasn’t going to solve Keith’s problems. What Keith wasn’t revealing to anyone most notably because he wasn’t being honest with himself, and therapy may have helped him realize this, was the fact that he actually felt responsible in some way for his wife’s death. He felt guilty.

You see, the last decade or so of their marriage, Keith and Alli had really just been going through the motions. The boredom had crept into the house and especially into the bedroom, and though neither had voiced this to the other, the proverbial elephant had occupied a huge space in their lives especially choosing to sleep right between them in their king-size bed. Keith had been masturbating on the side for so long now he couldn’t actually remember the first time he took himself in hand again to seek relief. Nor why exactly. It would be another three years before he’d even admit to himself that he’d been beating off to visions of Ricky . . . all these years. But there was the crux of Keith’s problem which he failed to understand. He loved his wife, yes, but he had never really been in love with her. A huge difference. Few men ever really understand that.

All he understood at the moment was that Alli may have perceived some kind of underlying coldness in him and slowly had taken to backing off from him bit by bit. There had occurred that creeping cordiality in their marriage. At school they were the best of colleagues while at home they were the best of friends. Partners. A team. Lots of marriages work that way, right?

And so Keith felt guilty as hell that Alli just gave up after her surgery and had just succumbed to her therapy, therefore it was all his fault. Staying home from school, getting himself all depressed, he began eating more. He wasn’t exercising which didn’t help anything. His osteoarthritis had already been worsening through the years anyway, and suddenly he found his waist thickening, but he seemed not to care all that much. His latest visit to his doctor saw the need for blood pressure meds which brought his blood pressure down to normal, however there was a nasty side effect. Weight gain!

By age 65 Keith celebrated going on Medicare by finding himself 50 pounds heavier, diabetic and being put on oral medication for that, plus the added attraction of the creeping diabetic neuropathy which had begun developing in his hands and feet. His doctor also wrote him a prescription for pain for his arthritis which was getting out of hand, because he had recently taken to walking with a cane. His life was spiraling out of control. Brad and Berry no longer came for visits as often. His physician asked if he’d ever gotten any grief counseling after Alli’s death to which Keith responded in the negative.

“Then may I suggest, though I’m not going to order you to do this, but I do think it would be a good idea to get some kind of therapy. Anything. And so I’ve got a friend who’s a reputable psychologist I’d like to refer you to if you’re willing,” Dr. O’Shaunessey looked at Keith rather imploringly.

Keith thought for a moment. His life certainly had taken a huge downward dive. He really had nothing more to lose. “Give me the name. I promise to think about it. I really do.” And he accepted the referral, not cheerfully, but resignedly.

He thought for only a day and then made the appointment. Dr. Matthew Dobson had a small office in a second floor walk-up just into the edge of East Lansing. Keith didn’t know why, but after the first session he felt sort of a gay vibe about the much younger probably early 30’s very-easy-on-the-eyes Matt as he asked to be called. There wasn’t anything overt about Matt’s behavior that would suggest such, nor was there a rainbow flag hanging in his office. Just an intuition on Keith’s part. Or was it perhaps wishful thinking? He hadn’t had a thought about another man other than Ricky ever. Or had he and just never acknowledged it? Damn.

Keith, though reticent on that first visit, took enough home with him from it that on his succeeding regular weekly visits with Matt he found himself willing to open up a little bit more each time. Matt kept peeling off another layer and another then another, and Keith would focus all of this introspection at home as a sort of homework assignments until finally in a most unexpected and ultimately tearful session for him some nine months in he whispered the name Ricky, and then he broke down sobbing.

Dr. Matt wasted no time in picking up his phone. Quietly speaking into it he stated evenly, “Mrs. Colgate, please reschedule the rest of my morning appointments if you would? Thanks. I appreciate it.”

Matt just sat quietly waiting with his hands folded in his lap giving Keith all the time he needed to compose himself. When at last Keith’s breathing had evened out, and he’d dried the remnant of tears lining his cheeks, the doctor gently asked him, “Okay, Keith, how does Ricky enter into what you’ve already been telling me?”

Keith began at the beginning and told the good doctor everything, everything, leaving nothing out about their relationship from the first time they’d become friends when Ricky and his family had moved in next door to his very early in their Kindergarten year until they’d moved away during the summer after their 7th grade year. He described all the associated feelings and emotions and the depth of those feelings that had transpired with that loss and how they both had tried though unsuccessfully to keep in touch for the next year or so until they’d eventually lost track of each other. Matt had interspersed Keith’s moving narrative with the occasional clarifying question but otherwise had let the story move of its own accord which consumed much of the rest of the morning finally ending at a good stopping off point with Keith feeling relatively confident about his disclosure to the good doc.

Over the next few sessions Matt steered Keith carefully by guiding the questions expertly in such a way that he endeavored to help Matt come to discover on his own that he was still carrying a torch for Ricky in his heart, and he really always had, that kernel of unfulfilled love was what he had termed it except that over the years that kernel had actually grown to consume Keith.

Once Keith had come to an understanding of this concept, then they could begin to work on Keith’s guilt, the nagging feeling of responsibility he felt for Alli’s death. That was actually quite easy. Shit happens. Get over it. Don’t fancy yourself a martyr. Matt threw out all sorts of aphorisms during the next few sessions, actually a different aphorism for each one sort of like a theme, and the whole point was that in no way was Keith responsible for Alli’s ovarian cancer in the first place. Sure their marriage sucked in some respects that last decade, and what marriage doesn’t go through that at some point? And they never talked about it. But Alli was just as guilty of not talking about it as Keith was. “So don’t martyr yourself over it,” Matt had said, and Keith actually had responded with a small grin and a chuckle at that line if only because the Doc looked so damned cute while saying it, all sort of smiling a devilish grin with a twinkle in his green eyes, and yet sounding like a Jewish mother. God, Keith thought, was it wrong to have dirty thoughts about your doctor over 30 years younger than you? Then he quickly dismissed that thought with the more liberal, who gives a shit? Perhaps he was healing.

Matt opened their next session with a question that rocked Keith’s foundation if only because he hadn’t anticipated anything along this particular vein.

“In your adult life at any time have you ever thought about looking up Ricky, not necessarily to contact him, unless you wanted to of course, but just to find out what he’s doing with his life? Certainly you’ve been curious?” Matt looked at Keith with raised eyebrows while chewing on the tip of his pen, and thus the ball had been served neatly into the end of his court.

Keith sat thoughtfully for a moment just staring. He actually wasn’t afraid to answer the question, the question was how to answer the question! Keith took in a huge, deep breath, and exhaling he said, “Well, certainly I’ve been curious, and lately he’s virtually all I think about. After we lost contact as I’ve said before I actively tried not to think about him for a long, long time, but every now and then, of course his memory would pop up. But no, I’ve never tried to find him, certainly not while I was married. And I wouldn’t want to right now, at least not at the moment, not looking like this.” Keith motioned with his hands at the extra weight he’d put on.

“I kind of thought that might be the case,” Matt responded. And they spent part of that session talking about the progress he’d made and discussing many of the factors that had contributed to Keith’s weight gain, diabetes, and his use of the cane.

“Here’s what I’d like to suggest to you,” Matt finally said. “I believe you’ve finally progressed to the point that we can cut these sessions back to every other week. I’d also like to recommend that you join some kind of a gym, preferably one with a therapy pool in it and a track so that you can walk, not run, not even jog, but I’d like you to start walking every day if you can until you can get up to a mile a day if that’s possible. I know you’ve got the neuropathy issue, and this is not an order, merely a recommendation.”

“Sounds kind of difficult, Matt,” Keith rebutted.

“That’s why I said a gym with a therapy pool,” Matt said. “Use that as your starting point, and then whatever walking, any walking you can do on top of that is merely a bonus. And please check all of this out with Dr. O first. Please get his consent.”

“Okay. I’ll be sure to do that. That makes me feel better.”

Keith called Dr. O’Shaunessey that afternoon, and he completely agreed with his colleague merely adding that Keith should just begin slowly, but otherwise the advice was sound. And please call him if he had any trouble with the program at all.

Big changes were in store for Mr. Keith Richardson.

The Transformation Continues

Keith checked out a couple of gyms in the area and found that Options a small local chain had exactly what he was looking for and just what Matt had recommended. Two days after Matt’s groundbreaking session with Keith he began his first small session at the gym.

Matt had actually prepared a list of goals he’d like for him to accomplish there, and on his beginning Options had assigned him a personal trainer, Duncan, approximately 30, fiery red-hair, blue eyes, well-muscled, 5 foot 8 inches tall and looking like a gold medalist from Scotland’s Olympic gymnastics team complete with the accent (Keith didn’t even know if Scotland had an Olympics gymnastics team, nor did he care, he just knew that Duncan was gorgeous, and he was beginning to feel alive again). Duncan had examined the list and understood it thoroughly, and he informed Keith that he’d also taken some courses in Physical Therapy to aid him in his job so had a basic understanding of what his doctor’s goals were. That first week it would be nothing but the therapy pool and dry sauna for him, then in week two they would introduce him to the track for some walking but only as much as he felt he could handle.

Keith loved the therapy pool, temperature controlled in the mid-80’s and just right for his muscles. Duncan accompanied Keith into the locker room and momentarily stripped to change into a navy blue Speedo while Keith was slipping into his swimming trunks, and Keith couldn’t help but notice the beautifully sculpted behind of Mr. MacIver. Oh my GOD!!! Porcelain never looked so pristine! Keith thought it was a good thing he probably didn’t catch a glimpse of Duncan’s cock, or they’d have had to call 9-1-1.

Duncan showed Keith how to grasp onto the float line in the center of the pool and what particular exercises would be best for the exercises in his legs and then watched for about five minutes as Keith tried these out to Duncan’s satisfaction, and then the Scot demonstrated some hand and arm exercises while holding on to the float line with the feet. He stayed with Keith awhile longer because he knew these would be more difficult for him. Keith’s neuropathy was more pronounced in his feet and lower limbs, and thus holding onto the float line with the feet proved a bit more difficult at first, but Keith got the hang of it, and Duncan eventually left him to work in the therapy pool at his leisure returning later to lead him over to the dry sauna to complete his round for the morning.

The second week true as promised Duncan added walking on the track to Keith’s repertoire, and though it was slow going at first and he was allowed to use his cane as time went on and the days and weeks progressed Keith found that his work in the therapy pool was paying off. Sure the neuropathy couldn’t be cured, but his diabetes was well under control, and his muscles were responding to the therapy that Matt had prescribed and Duncan had initially assisted him with. It was slow, but it was sure.

After about three months of every other week sessions with Matt, the good Doc noticed the improvement and changed his sessions to once a month. With his augmented diet and regular therapy and exercise at Options approximately 11 months after he began his regimen there with Duncan, Keith had dropped the unsightly 50 pounds. His arthritis felt considerably better. And while the diabetes and neuropathy were not gone, they were under control, and Keith felt well enough and confident enough again to walk without the cane. He felt alive! He felt in control of his senses in ways in which he hadn’t for a long time.

And he even thought about men constantly not that he was doing anything about it, but he was acknowledging that to himself. There was certainly a lot of eye candy walking around. But no, he was thinking about one man in particular. A guy named Ricky. Ricky Schneider.

(End of Part B of this story. Next up: Part C which concludes "Some Men Never Go (Story 2)."

Link to Part C of "Some Men Never Go (Story 2)" . . . Here


Coming Out, Coming Out Of The Closet, Gay Experience, Gay Lesbian And Bisexual, Gay Men, Gay Rights, Gays, Lgbt, Lgbt Community, Psychoanalysis, Psychologist, Psychology, Senior Citizens, Seniors, Short Fiction, Short Stories

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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