Postcards From the Ledge (and Other Extraordinary Folk): Some Men Never Go

Ken Painter By Ken Painter, 7th Dec 2014 | 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 it's original form.)

How Mick Met Abbot and Rollie

Abbot and Rollie’s senior neighbor in the apartment building across the street from them, Mick Yeager, had become their friend quite by accident. It had all started one cold and somewhat blustery early December morning about 3 ½ years earlier. The boys had just moved into the apartment across the way a couple of weeks prior, and on this particular early December Saturday morning Mick had gone off to commune with some of his senior friends at the Community Center a couple miles away. Just after lunch time he stepped off the bus at the corner near their respective apartment buildings and walked down the sidewalk on Abbot and Rollie’s side toward the Mom & Pop Grocery which was just past their building to pick up a few things on the return trip. As Mick got just about at the front doorway to the boys’ building they appeared, stepping outside into the frosty air and muted sunshine on their way to the gym. It was at this precise moment that Fate intervened, as Mick would later view it, because though he did not know the lads, he looked up at the handsome young men and smiled, and taking his eyes off the patchy, slippery sidewalk, he attempted to say “Good afternoon,” however, he only made it as far as “Good af --” before his left foot hit a patch of ice and his feet went out from under him! Thankfully and mercifully, he was within a forearm’s length from the boys at that precise moment in time, and Mick landed softly and unharmed in Rollie’s well-defined, strong arms. From that mishap, the boys accompanied him down to the grocery, one on each side, assisting him while he shopped, and they made certain that he got back to his apartment safely that day. From then on, Abbot and Rollie became like the sons he’d never had.

Mick was reminding them of that introduction to him just a couple of evenings ago after a relaxed meal with them in their apartment when he’d read Ab’s most recent fake suicide postcard, “I fell for you a long, long time ago . . . and it was forever!” Mick let out a soft chuckle as he looked up grinning at Ab. Then a twinkle came into his eyes as he glanced over at Rollie, “yeah, I guess I fell for you a long, long time ago, too, Rollie!” They all got a good laugh out of that one.

Mick really envied the love that these two wonderful young men shared, not that you could say he was overly jealous of them. No. He really loved these guys, and he was so happy for them, it made his heart full to the bursting point. Over the years he’d come to know the basics of their story not that anyone perhaps would ever know all the nooks and crannies, but he knew enough that Abbot’s life growing up had been a horror show and Rollie had fallen for him in college and reconciled that love and accepted him warts and all into his life, and the two of them adored each other. Ab’s demented mother was no longer a part of that life and no longer a danger to herself or anyone else for that matter, and he’d gone through sufficient therapy through the years to help him work through his PTSD to get him to the point where he now was save for his monthlies which pretty much the entire neighborhood viewed as a terrific sideshow and harmless. The boys’ life worked for them, and he was happy for them and yes, even a tad envious.

But why shouldn’t he be? Mick was born on December 7, 1941, and his father had gone down with the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor. He grew up in a whole different time and place. We are all products of our generations aren’t we? Yes, we’re products of our genetic code too, Mick also came to realize these things in his later years, but as he tried to put two and two together over many decades he came to the stark conclusion that genes represented only a portion of the answer to the final result in a person’s happiness. So much more entered into that equation. So very much more.

Mick's Early History

Even though Mick’s dad went down at Pearl, he and his mom weren’t there in Hawaii on that horrible day that, yes, has lived on in infamy as President Roosevelt went on to so resolutely proclaim. No, they were back home in Michigan. In fact, it was the bombing at Pearl Harbor which sent her into labor. She was due to deliver anyway. Already full-term, Mick’s dad, who wasn’t eligible for leave anytime soon, was just waiting to receive word of the impending birth and whether it was a boy or girl from his assignment as a gunnery specialist aboard the Arizona. As soon as news of the bombings of Battleship Row hit the airwaves over the radio Mick’s mom’s labor pains began in earnest followed in quick succession by her water breaking. Fortunately, she was with her family who got her to the hospital in Grand Rapids in quick order where Mick entered the world at 10 minutes to midnight still on that horrible, fateful Sunday . . . her first and what would prove to be only child.

Being the war years virtually all the men of marriageable age were stationed in various war zones around the globe, and so war widows especially those with children like Mick’s mom, Sadie, were not in line to find new beaus so easily. In fact while her eyes and heart weren’t really closed to the prospect, of course, she wasn’t out there actively looking. What was important was to be able to find work now that the war was on what with a baby to feed and care for and no income from a father. Fortunately, there were few men to work in the factories, and during these war years many women, Sadie among them, were able to secure work doing jobs that heretofore had been off limits to them. It was in this way that Sadie found a job in a machine shop manufacturing airplane parts for the war effort. Michigan in general, and places like Lansing and Grand Rapids in particular were some of the places to be during these years for that kind of activity.

And then the war ended, and the men came home in victory albeit victory came with a heavy price. The men came home with wounds both external and internal. Some had no wounds or at least many thought they had none, it’s just that they didn’t show. Mick’s mom managed to begin dating one of those. His name was Alden Bradley, Al for short. Al was a great guy . . . on the surface. He loved to take little Mick out in the backyard and toss a little baseball around with the almost five-year old tyke. He loved to take Sadie out dancing. Ooo, she loved to dance. Sadie would tell Mick in later years that was one of the things that made her fall in love with his father, Michael whom he was named after, Michael and Michael, Jr. better known as Mick. Sadie just never saw any of the signs. Perhaps lovers never do. Or perhaps they go ignored.

At any rate there were no problems until after the small, intimate, justice-of-the-peace wedding which occurred a scant 8 months after the dating began. It only took Al something like a month before he began showing up at home drunk, and the bruises began showing up on Sadie immediately. Mick’s grandma, Eva, had a fit, and his grandpa, Ed grabbed their shotgun and wanted to go hunting for Al, but Sadie put a stop to it. However, when the bruises showed up on Mick a week later there was no stopping grandpa Ed and his shotgun, and no one ever saw or heard of or from Al Bradley ever again. He never took any of his clothes or came back for any of his other belongings. Funny thing was the cops or any other family members of his never came looking for him either. Nobody ever reported any bodies popping up in the Grand River. Nothing! Whatever happened, Mr. Alden Bradley just dropped from the face of the Earth, and Mick’s grandpa wasn’t saying, and nobody appeared to be asking, and everybody seemed to be okay with that!

And Sadie never dated another man in her life. When Mick was 12 years old, Sadie had Alden Bradley declared legally dead, and that’s the last time his name was ever mentioned in the family.

And so Mick would remain without brothers and sisters for the remainder of his life. Thoroughly loved by his mother, yes, however, thoroughly without siblings and in a single parent household.

Mick ~ The Later Years

Mick sailed through high school without any real problems at least none in the academic area. He was a virtual all-A student. He excelled in all of his subjects, but his real interest, his true love as it were was in History especially American History. His high school librarian, Mrs. Marion, always knew which aisle to find Mick Yeager browsing in if anyone were to come looking for him should the time escape him and he became late for a class.

However, Mick trudged through his junior high and high school years just like the requisite minority percentage of boys the American public was only then becoming aware of thanks to Alfred Kinsey as he nursed his deep, dark secret of male attraction. He’d basically known he had it since his next door neighbor Billy Coffey kissed him full on the lips one fall Saturday afternoon in the woods when both had been chasing each other around and Mick had allowed Billy to catch him, tackle him, and then plant a quick wet kiss on his lips after which they broke into a fit of giggles and hysterical wrestling for a full three minutes getting up and running further into the woods and finally dropping onto the ground and laughing hysterically before catching their breaths. Finally rising from the ground a few minutes later, they never said another word to each other, but rather contemplatively yielding to the guilt of the pleasure, they simply held hands for awhile each lost in his own thoughts and ambled to the edge of the woods where they dropped each other’s hand because of the visibility to the neighborhood. Nothing more was said to each other as they quietly walked to their respective homes, and the incident was never mentioned again. The boys would continue to be friends and would continue to play together, but nothing more would ever happen between them. Mick would have loved for something to have happened, but he was never an aggressor on any level. And, of course, society wasn’t encouraging him to have any kind of feelings like that toward any males, certainly not in the Fabulous 50’s!

You see, after the experience with Al Bradley, Sadie had returned to her roots in the Dutch Reformed Church which fairly well saturated the area with it’s brand of theology and that did not include man on man love better known at the time as homosexuality. The term gay hadn’t been heard yet around those parts when Mick was in junior high and high school. He wouldn’t first hear that term until almost a full decade after he received his high school diploma and a few years even after he received his Master’s Degree. And, of course, Sadie dragged Mick along with her to church. So Mick ended up being reared with all the religious institutional guilt from an approving family, because Ed and Eva went along, after all they were long-time pillars of this church having raised Sadie and her brothers and sisters there from infancy. Sadie, after all was just returning to her roots after losing her beloved Michael to the horror of Pearl Harbor and the beatings of her second husband! Church families do provide comfort and stability. Community.

But homosexuality, that is the question. And it was the question, the cud that Mick chewed on all through high school. Always looking, discreetly of course, never wanting to draw any attention to himself, but yes, certainly looking, but never touching. No, no touching except himself. His right hand was very, very practiced.

Mick’s unfulfilled longing, his deep dark secret, his closeted homosexuality, the question, the cud he kept chewing on stayed with him all the way to Michigan State University after his graduation from high school in June 1960 where he graduated third in his class missing the top two spots by a mere couple hundredths of GPA points. So close was he and so impressed was MSU with his academic record when coupled with his low economic status that Mick received a full-tilt scholarship there. His dream was coming true to pursue becoming a History teacher. But what to do about his male on male attraction?

It’s a strange thing. East Lansing even in the early 60’s was a far more liberal environment than Grand Rapids, however, Mick was still a product of time and place. While moving away from the family would offer him a measure of freedom, and he would learn a measure of independence from the experience, he still did not avail himself of that independence to pursue another man or men away from the prying eyes of the church or family or other friends, acquaintances, and other hangers on. Mick was just not one to be aggressive enough when he needed to be . . . a perennial observer to the parade of life.

And so it would be, Mick always looking but never getting up his nerve to touch, always observing the parade but never participating. He finished his baccalaureate degree in four years and stayed on for a fifth to earn his master’s degree in American History graduating with high honors before accepting a job within the Lansing Public School District at Eastwood High School where he would become a much heralded and popular teacher and head of his high school’s Social Studies Department finally retiring after 42 years of teaching and only then because his heart was showing signs of weakening a bit. That damned pacemaker, he used to call it, but otherwise he was perfectly healthy. Why wouldn’t he be? He never smoked, drank, or took drugs a holdover from his conservative church upbringing. His only vice if it could be called such was with the advent of the Internet and being the consummate learner which he was Mick had learned to surf the Net well and had fallen in love with the nude male body. Not the real hardcore stuff, but if he was going to look, he was going to LOOK! And Mick had discovered the Internet to be an ocean of wonder! His right wrist had never been stronger!

However, that’s all it was, lonely eye candy, a diversion for someone who never had the nerve to participate, a wilted flower who never got plucked from the garden of life. When gay pride parades started becoming the fashion Mick would always be in attendance. He had no compunction about anyone witnessing him alongside the parade route supporting Pride Day, but to join the throng and march or wave a gay flag or step inside a gay bar even to enjoy the laughter and camaraderie for so much as a few moments, no, Mick could never make it that far. If Fate hadn’t intervened on his behalf literally throwing him into Rollie and Abbot’s arms on a blustery December afternoon some years ago, he couldn’t imagine ever having made it to the point of even having younger gay friends than the blessed few elderly ones he’d managed to gain from the senior community center. He always wanted more gay friends, yes, but he just wasn’t proactive enough.

The extent of his proactive ideas had spent itself about a year or so after the fateful afternoon he’d met Rollie and Abbot. Since Mick realized how much time he spent looking at the Internet and men in general and various sites what would be the harm in posting an ad on a local reputable same-sex dating site? And so he did with a little blurb about himself, his likes, dislikes, what he was looking for in a man, and that was it, but he didn’t post a picture of himself. He didn’t have one. And he had no way of taking one really. He didn’t own a cell phone, didn’t want or need one really, so he had no way to take selfies, and he didn’t want the boys across the street to know about this. He was just too self-conscious about the ad. Nope. The dating ad would just have to speak for itself.

Evidently it did, because in the just over two years it had been there Mick had never received a response. Not even a little one. He couldn’t have felt a bigger loser, but then just like the Fate he felt that had dumped him into Rollie and Abbot’s arms that cold morning years ago, he felt if it was gonna happen, it would happen.

And that was one of the last things that ran through his mind that warm June afternoon just before his body hit the floor of his apartment.

Running On Empty

By Mick Yeager

My heart aches
And my arms burn
With an emptiness inconsolable
Each night I go to bed alone
A pillow and a blanket for my only comfort
And my only intimate friends
Ah, but it was my choice that I live The Lie for this long
And now my looks are gone
I’m past the age of attractiveness
And I gave my life to public service
So Sugar Daddy isn’t used to describe me
Perhaps sugar-free
I know HE must be out there somewhere
For ME
As I am for HIM
But where is he tonight
When it’s so cold in this desert
And I’m so alone
And my heart is aching
And my arms are burning
And my life feels like it’s running on empty
I’m going to bed now
To cry into my pillow
And my blanket
Once again
To rise again in the morning
And begin the seemingly endless waiting and hoping
All over again

(Written by Mick in a fit of despair about a year after his online ad from the same-sex dating site had failed to produce any results.)

(This concludes the 3rd story of the set. Next up: Part A - the 1st of 3 - of "Slugger" about the first would be gay Major League American Baseball Player.)

Link to the next story, Part A of "Slugger" . . . Here


Gay Community, Gay Couples, Gay Experience, Gay Lesbian And Bisexual, Gay Love, Gay Men, Gays, Lgbt, Lgbt Community, Senior Care, Senior Citizens, Seniors And Sex, Short Fiction, Short Poem, 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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author avatar SaigonDeManila
2nd Feb 2015 (#)

I dunno if am missng the ride all togetherof great story here but am hooked on your poetry man!

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author avatar Ken Painter
25th Apr 2015 (#)

Thanks for reading!

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