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

Ken Painter By Ken Painter, 26th Dec 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/1omsbtd5/
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.)

An Unusual Referral

Keith broke the news to Matt at their next session of two important announcements. The first was that he had just shared a pleasant visit with both of his sons.

“How’d that go?” Matt asked.

“Quite well actually,” Keith offered. “We went out to dinner together, me with them and the families. It was nice, but we didn’t talk about anything substantive although that was quite fine really. They couldn’t get over the positive transformation. Basically I just told them I had to get well. I told them that therapy had finally paid off for me, and that made them very happy since it had been their idea in the first place. I didn’t tell them how intense it’s been though,” Keith chuckled and Matt smiled with green eyes shining.

“No need to,” Matt interjected.

And then Keith told his therapist about his decision to search for Ricky and asked if he knew of a good private investigator.

“Funny you should ask,” Matt smiled, and he stood up and walked over to his desk drawer and pulled out a card. “Name’s James Etheridge, but he’ll probably ask you to call him Jim. He’s in the building next door. We have lunch together often, and that’s uh . . . um” Matt paused. “On second thought, I just thought of a reason you might want somebody else, but you can call Jim and ask him to recommend someone. Or I can even call him for you if you like?” Matt was suddenly blushing and embarrassed and looking at Keith with a sheepish look that just threw Keith into a look of complete bewilderment.

“But why wouldn’t I want Mr. Etheridge, Matt?”

Matt sighed. “Okay, Keith. You got me, and I am sorry. I wasn’t thinking when I
opened my mouth. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Jim as a Private Eye. Nothing at all. He’s a great guy. He really is, and he’ll get the job done for you. But in the interest of full disclosure here, um . . . while I have no problem with this, absolutely none at all . . . Jim and I are . . . well, partners. He’s my lover,” Matt chuckled, “we’ve been together 5 years now, well almost 6.”

Matt was grinning from ear-to-ear. So Matt was gay! Perhaps Keith had been developing a Gaydar all along and didn’t fully realize it. “Okay, I get the picture. Jim may find something out about Ricky or not, and you and him are partners, and . . . Does he know about me?”

“Oh hell no!” Matt responded. “He’s never heard of any of my clients nor I any of his. We have a pact to never talk shop. But if you do take this to him about Ricky, please understand that this will be a first, and while we, and I mean by that he and I won’t discuss any of his findings, but whatever you discuss with him will remain confidential between you and him, and whatever you choose to share with me will also be the same between you and me. But do you understand the slippery slope involved here?” Matt looked quizzically at Keith.

“I get it, and I’m a big boy.”

“Okay then. In that case, here’s his card.” And with that Matt handed Keith his lover’s business card.

Hiring the Other Half

Matt called Jim Etheridge’s office that afternoon and arranged an appointment for three days hence.

When Friday afternoon came and he met with Jim, and they were comfortably on that first-name basis, Jim asked Keith the million-dollar question.

“Okay, Keith if you don’t mind my cutting to the chase, it would appear that my husband knows you in some way, because last evening he asked if a gentleman by the name of Keith Richardson had made an appointment, and I said yes, for this afternoon. All Matt said was that you were a referral, but that was all. Mind filling me in?”

Keith was grinning back at Jim, and he suddenly thought this might be more difficult than he first thought it would be. If the good Doc was McDreamy his partner here was Prince Charming. Just over six feet, perhaps 190 pounds, close-cropped sandy blond hair, with steel-blue eyes that looked right through you, a day’s growth of beard, broad shouldered, and probably a year or two older than Matt. Take me now, please! Keith offered, “Matt is my amazing therapist, and he’s already read me the riot act on how you two keep your business and clientele separate. You are doing me a huge favor if you take this case. If you choose not to, I’d really appreciate it if you could steer me towards someone who can.”

Jim looked at Keith quizzically for a moment sizing Keith up, and then said, “Okay. Fair enough. Tell me what you’re looking for me to do.”

“I’m looking for a long lost childhood friend of mine. Name’s Ricky Schneider, or Richard Allan Schneider rather, born March 10, 1940 at Our Lady of Mercy Hospital in Lansing. Used to be my next door neighbor. He lived at 1543 South Abington St. in Lansing, and his family moved away to Flint on June 28, 1953 when we were both 13.” Keith paused as Jim scribbled a few notes. “I don’t mind telling you since you are the partner of my friend the good Doc, Matt Dobson for whom I have the greatest amount of respect and he knows all of this already, that not only were Ricky and I best friends as close as brothers from Kindergarten through the 7th grade, but we were lovers from age 10 until he moved away that June, and his moving devastated us both. We tried to keep in touch by letter,” Keith began nervously rubbing his hands together and tears were ever so lightly starting to form, and Jim sensed his client’s agitation, and so he interrupted.

“And so you lost touch,” Jim jumped in, “like normal teen-age boys would do. I get the picture.”

Keith nodded his head and then mouthed almost voicelessly, “Thank you.”

“I can take this. Shouldn’t be too difficult to locate him at all not in this day and age with the Internet and all.” Jim looked up at Keith who was composing himself. “You know, Keith, in all honesty, not that I want to talk myself out of any business or anything, but you could probably track him down yourself via the Internet and save yourself a few bucks in the process.”

“Thanks Jim.” Keith cleared his throat. “I appreciate your candor, but back at you with the honesty, once I get beyond surfing for porn I can’t locate a damn thing on the Net!”

When they both stopped laughing, Jim said, “In that case you need my help! Please, give me what other names and dates you’ve got.”

Keith filled Jim in on what remaining names of Ricky’s family members he knew, father, mother, two younger sisters, where Garrett worked, and he also gave Jim a photocopy of the last childhood picture he had of Ricky. Jim then told him about his fees to which Keith agreed, and Jim said he might have something as early as the middle of next week but certainly should have something no later than the following Friday. At any rate, Jim would keep him informed, and if Keith had any questions he should feel free to call.

Monday and Tuesday came with no word, and Keith really wanted to call Jim, but he’d resolved that if he hadn’t heard anything by Wednesday he would call Jim first thing Thursday morning. He didn’t need to make that call, however, because Jim called Keith just after the lunch hour early Wednesday afternoon, and he informed Keith that he’d found everything he could find on Mr. Richard Allan Schneider, the very same Ricky Schneider that Keith was looking for, and would Keith care to come in on Thursday morning at 9:00 a.m. to see the findings.

“Can’t we just discuss it now over the phone?” Keith asked.

“Oh no, I’m sorry, Keith,” Jim said evenly. “I’ve got lots of stuff here, and I never discuss business over the phone. And unfortunately, I’m booked solid with other clients for the rest of this afternoon, or I’d have you come in today.”

“It’s okay. I’m just anxious is all,” Keith said resignedly. “See you tomorrow.”

Keith really could wait. Ricky had been found.

Discovered

Keith was 10 minutes early to Jim’s office the next morning where Marlene, Jim’s receptionist offered him his choice of organic teas. He selected one and settled into a comfortable chair nervously awaiting the findings about his long-lost friend and lover.

At precisely 9, Jim’s door opened and he motioned for Keith to come in, shook his hand, and asked for him to be seated.

He then opened Ricky’s file and began a narrative.

“First Keith, I’d like to give you kind of an overview of my findings of what I found before I let you have Ricky’s file sort of the Ricky Schneider Story as it were after you two parted, if that’s okay with you?”

“Sure, go right ahead.”

“After Ricky and his family left you they moved to Flint, but you know that. The address is really unimportant. His dad, of course, had become a mid-level manager in one of the engine design departments at GM headquarters. Ricky began the 8th grade at David Buick Jr. High School, and then the next year went on to Ogemaw High School where he eventually graduated in June 1958 with a C average. He never really excelled in anything, but he did have a flair for electronics, but you probably knew that?”

“Yeah,” Keith interjected. “He tinkered around with some ham radios in his dad’s garage once in awhile I remember. He could tear them apart and put them back together again like they were tinker toys!”

“Well his high school yearbook shows him as the president of the Ham Radio Club at the school, so evidently he stayed with it,” Jim went on with the story. “He must have taken that with him into the service, because he joined the Army right out of high school, and he kept re-enlisting. From his records it looks like he became pretty good with signal operations sort of a veritable Radar O’Reilly of his group. There was just one problem.” And Jim looked up with an unreadable, but certainly not happy look on his face.

“What? What is it Jim? I haven’t waited all these years Jim for no news!”

“Okay, Keith,” Jim went on. “I am sorry, because from here on, the news gets much more difficult for me to deliver, and that’s sometimes the case.” Jim paused to read Keith’s face and noticed it was turning pale, but Keith’s hands hadn’t begun to shake at least. That much was good.

“Ricky had kept re-enlisting, and as you well know after President Kennedy’s assassination the political turmoil in Southeast Asia which my History professors have told me about, I apologize for my ignorance, kept growing out of control, and The Vietnam Conflict or War or whatever it was they ended up calling it came about,” Jim was getting angry now, “and a lot of very excellent men died.” Jim paused for a moment to catch his breath and to look at Keith, and as he did so tears started to well in his own eyes as he announced, “Richard Allan Schneider died during the Tet Offensive on February 26, 1968, Keith. I am so very, very sorry. It’s all here in the file.” And then Jim pushed the file across the desk toward Keith who could only stare at it. Jim then put his right hand over his eyes and suddenly began to weep as silently as possible.

Keith just sat there stunned looking at the folder for how long he couldn’t tell. All these years he’d carried the torch. His beloved Ricky. Dead in Vietnam. In that goddamned senseless war. That useless fucking war!

As Jim wiped the remaining tears from his eyes with his shirtsleeve, he apologized, “I’m so sorry Keith for my lack of professionalism. I promised myself before you came in I wasn’t going to let that happen. And it never has before, but there’s just something about this case! About Ricky. And about you. Damn, it’s hard to explain.” Jim looked over at Keith with a helpless look in his eyes though Keith never for once doubted his sincerity.

“I understand, Jim” Keith responded softly. “It’s really all right. You don’t need to apologize.” Although Keith still had that deer-in-the-headlights look, he asked, “Is it okay if I take the file with me and bring it back in a day or two. I want to look at it closer, but I’m not really in the mood right now.”

“Go ahead, take it,” Jim said. “That file’s yours to keep. I’ve already filed away my copy.”

“Thanks,” Keith said and rose without saying anything further and turned to leave, but as he reached the door, he remembered his manners and turned back toward Jim.

“I really appreciate this.” And then Keith left the office. Jim just shook his head in simple wonderment.

Keith drove home in a complete haze. Walking into his neat and quiet home he laid the file on the kitchen table where he would look at it later that afternoon, evening, the next morning. Eventually. He knew he would get to it. Whenever. It was important to him, but it was secondary now. Yes he would get to it, but he had a date first. Due to the exigent circumstances of the devastating news he had just learned about Ricky Schneider, the only person on earth he had ever been in love with and actually admitted that stark truth to another human being his therapist and dare he say friend, Dr. Matthew Dobson, Ph.D., he now had a date which required his immediate attention.

And so he walked toward the rear of his home and quietly entered the master bedroom. Entering the large walk-in closet, and taking his key ring out of his pocket he carefully thumbed through the keys until he located the small golden one he was looking for. Keith then gingerly bent over into the corner of the closet and uncovered an oblong metal chest then took the golden key and unlocked it. Then carefully looking through the memorabilia within Keith gingerly removed the aged object of his desire, and he walked out to his bed and plopped down. He then held the folded now yellowed T-shirt of a 13-year-old boy up close to his nostrils and breathed in deeply. Even though it was well over 50-years-old and carried a somewhat musty odor Keith imagined he could still locate a scent of Ricky hidden in the sweat which had thoroughly permeated it over half a century earlier. And he wondered. What had happened to his T-shirt? Had Ricky carried it with him to Southeast Asia? Had it been folded in his backpack or stuffed and hidden somewhere on his body and riddled with bullets as Ricky went down during the Tet Offensive? Knowing Ricky as he did, he wouldn’t want to bet against it. God! Oh my God, he thought as he inhaled Ricky’s T-shirt and began weeping and shaking uncontrollably, and he slid from his bed onto the carpeted floor beside it. Eventually he would run out of tears only to end up curled into the fetal position on the floor next to his bed as he gave way to a restless slumber.

Time Marches On

After that fateful day Ricky’s most cherished file would join Ricky’s most cherished T-shirt in Ricky’s lock-box, and Keith resolved to file Ricky’s memories away pleasantly and cherish every single one when nostalgia got the better of him.

Keith continued seeing Matt for his monthly sessions, and he also continued working out reasonably regularly at Options both for the next couple of years. However, his few years of neglectfulness which had resulted in his diabetes and neuropathy had still progressed if for only a part of the natural course of the aging process, and even though he’d dropped the extra weight and reasonably maintained his health, he was still on blood pressure meds, and so when he had a mild heart attack at age 72 the angiogram showed only minor damage, but there was still a need for two stents in his right coronary artery.

After the heart attack the very next Christmas his sons had gotten him one of those Life Emergency S.O.S systems for frail seniors with a button that you wear around your neck. Keith really didn’t think he needed one, but then on Halloween night in 2013 he felt light-headed, and as he was passing out had the presence of mind to push the button he didn’t need just in time.

Brad and Barry were contacted and they all had a heart to heart talk after Keith had been admitted into the hospital. It appeared that he needed an additional stent put into his right coronary artery.

“Dad,” Brad said gently, but he was thinking, Geez, the old man is getting dotty. “We’ve been through this before. “Either one of us, Barry or myself, is more than happy to take you into our homes, but you’ve been saying, no! You keep saying you don’t want to be a burden, that you’d rather be around folks your own age.”

Keith sighed and then started chuckling, “Oh yeah, you’re right. Sorry Son. Jesus, I’m really losing it. Okay, well then,” and he let out another long sigh, “they’re going to do this thing tomorrow, put another stent in my RCA maybe two they say. Whatever they need. It’s not a bad thing. And then I’ll go home probably the next day. But in the meantime why don’t you guys start scouting around for me and start looking for a placement.”

“Okay, Dad,” Barry said. “Sounds like a plan.”

The next day the heart cath went off as planned. Only one additional stent was needed, and Keith was released from the hospital one day after that.

Brad and Barry checked throughout the Lansing, East Lansing, and Okemos areas for suitable nursing facilities. The problem they’d been finding was too many had waiting lists. Or they weren’t clean enough or for some other reason didn’t meet the Richardson Brothers’ standards. But the boys kept calling around and around until they finally located the perfect facility in East Lansing, Blueberry Hill. The price was right, the location was accessible, they had a bed ready to fill, and it was clean, bright and cheerful.

Brad and Barry took their father out for a look-see, and Keith was in agreement. All that remained was to pack up the old place, sell off his stuff, put the sale’s proceeds into their dad’s bank account, and sell the house, and they already had a realtor on that. The daughters-in-law were already on top of organizing the rummage sale to be conducted at their church. All Keith had to do was pack a couple of suitcases with his clothes, two cardboard boxes with some other books, pictures and assorted memorabilia, and the boys helped him with that. And Brad moved the suitcases and boxes into Keith’s new room on a two-wheel cart while Barry wheeled Keith into the room in a wheelchair. Keith, of course, was seen to be clutching an oblong metal box in his lap as he was wheeled in, the contents of which remained a mystery to all concerned, and no one asked. But he held onto that box like it contained Spanish coins salvaged from a sunken ship and worth millions of dollars. Only Keith knew, however, that the box contained his very heart and soul, his very fiber of life.

Why?

By Keith Richardson

Dear God . . .
My life has meant discovery, and up till now you’ve given me
A life so full of harmony with joy beyond compare
But now each hurdle that I find keeps breeding doubts within my mind
And burdened down, I feel inclined to slip into despair
In stronger times I would have fought this nagging feeling it’s all for naught
And chased this fear of being caught alone without a prayer

Why do YOU allow the Bad to reign the Good to bow
And why do so few see the seeds of truth and harmony
I wonder how can I explain the height of love, the depth of pain
I have no answers, only questions, mere suggestions . . . . .

Tell me why am I so frail, a prisoner of this form of jail
And where is it decreed that I should ache or I should bleed
I wonder how does one prepare for one’s demise, a strange affair
It is a riddle, quite confusing, and not amusing, so I cry

I want to laugh and sing with thunder, I want to run and dance on air
I want my world refilled with wonder, not empty, cold, and threadbare
Oh that empty! I can’t go there

Tell me why should there be tears as we grow wiser in our years
And where do people go who lose their faith, who lose control
I wonder how long must I stay in such a wretched state, I pray
That I can bear it as I grin it every minute that I die

I want to laugh and sing with thunder, I want to run and dance on air
I want my world refilled with wonder, not empty, cold, and threadbare
Oh that empty! I won’t go there

Tell me why am I afraid to grow above the standard grade
And what is there to fear should my path not be always clear
I wonder who of us can say that he has fought his best today
Now there’s a challenge for the taking, history making
Why not try?

(Written by Keith during his period of healing therapy with Dr. Matt when he was still hopeful for locating his long-lost lover, Ricky Schneider).


(This concludes "Some Men Never Go (Story 2)".


Link to next story Part A (of 4) of "Some Men Go Crazy (Story 2)" . . . Here


Link to Part A of this story "Some Men Never Go (Story 2)" . . . Here

Tags

Gay Community, Gay Couples, Gay Experience, Gay Lesbian And Bisexual, Gay Love, Gay Men, Gay Rights, Gays, Lgbt, Lgbt Community, Psychoanalysis, Psychologist, Psychology, Senior Care, Senior Citizen, 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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