The following story was inspired by a real person, Ben S. Clarke, a local Rush-Limbaugh-Wannabe whose mission it was to offend everybody who was not on his side. Ben used to be a political speech writer in Washington DC during the dark eight years of the George W reign. After W’s virtual disappearance, Ben was out of work, and his mother arranged a “job” as at the local newspaper where he could marinate in his frustration about all things liberal. That included disparaging comments about women, especially jokes about those in a same-sex relationship (And no, for very obvious reasons, he wasn’t married or had a girlfriend). Things hit closer to home than expected when his sister, a person he evidently knew for more than thirty years, came out as gay and was about to marry her partner with whom she had a long and dedicated relationship. Well, Ben, this one is for you.
This post is part of “Cemetery Polka” and other dark stories from New England by Wilfried F. Voss
We Live To Love Another Day
I want freedom for the full expression of my personality. – Mahatma Gandhi
Where do I begin to tell the story… Oh God! Now I sound like Eric Segal and his “Love Story.” Well, it is a love story… sort of… Anyways…
It was just a few months ago that my Frederick and I went to the local department store to get him some new sneakers. I mean, it was time. You know, he wears the same pair every single day, and I try to tell him to wear some other pairs. He has enough, believe me. But he doesn’t listen, oh no. Well, unless we go to church, you know. Then I put my foot down. Otherwise, he looks at me with his absolutely gorgeous blue eyes, and says, “Pleeeeease!” and I just can’t deny him any wish. Anyways…
So, we went to the local department store, Frederick hopping in front of me, yelling, “I am Thomas, the steam engine. I am a very useful engine!”
He looked so cute in his khaki shorts and the yellow polo shirt with the writing “Duck, Duck, Moose” on it. You get it? Duck, Duck, Moose. Not Duck, Duck, Goose. We got that one in New Hampshire. Anyways…
“Psst!” I told him. “Keep it down a little bit, honey.”
But he just went on, when he noticed the two women behind the cosmetics counter, you know the type of woman, those stuffy wallflowers with their 1950s-inspired hairstyle and almost colorless clothes from the same period, those women that young men with an otherwise promising future were forced to marry as part of a business agreement between the parents. Absolutely boring attire, you know, unless you use them for Halloween. Now, there is an idea… Anyways…
So Frederick turned to them and yelled, “I need a lot of water, you know. To make steam!”
“It all goes down into my belly,” he explained, pointing to his stomach area. The two ladies looked somewhat consternated. Maybe they never had children, I thought. I mean, he does have an outgoing personality, and that’s not everybody’s cup of tea… Anyways…
“You wanna see?” Frederick asked them, and, to my dismay, he pulled up his shirt all the way and showed them his bare belly.
“Frederick!” I yelled at him. “Pull your shirt down! Such a behavior is not acceptable, young man!”
“Okay,” he pouted, pulled down the shirt, and went on a bit more quietly.
The two ladies, however, watched us with disapproving, darkening faces, and the elder one of them picked up the phone. To cut things short, soon thereafter we were approached by the store manager who asked us in a firm but polite tone to, please, leave the premises. He didn’t offer any explanation, but I tell you, I was in tears all day about this unbelievable lack of tolerance. I know, my Frederick can be somewhat overbearing, but that was too much. Anyways…
Frederick was very sweet, though, and he was so cute when he tried to console me. I went through his wonderful blond hair with my hand and dried my tears.
“I love you, honey,” I told him, and I blew my nose. Then the sweetest thing happened. He gave me a big bear hug, and said, “I love you, too. I love you to the moon and back!”
You know, it’s this kind of love that makes me think that I can’t bear the thought of ever being apart from my little boy. But in my heart I knew, I had to do something about his outgoing behavior before we got into more trouble. That night, literally, I cried myself to sleep.
I can tell you right here and now, things are fine with us now, and, while the solution was so obvious and simple, I am still in shock and beside myself, I mean, like full of joy. Anyways…
I had talked to some friends from out-of-town, and they recommended consulting a professional, somebody specialized in behavioral problems. At first, I was troubled by the thought, but the scene at the department store was only one in a long line of similar, unpleasant experiences with the local population. My friends recommended, though, not going to a local doctor. Apparently, the only answer these guys have is prescribing drugs, rather than actual treatment, to control the problem. You know, it’s a well known, but accepted problem with businesses and services around here. They all want to make a quick buck, but when it comes to put in some serious work, they butt out. Anyways…
“Go to somebody in Boston,” a friend recommended. “The big city guys are much more open-minded.”
And that we did. Dr. Webster was very friendly, and he insisted talking to Frederick alone before offering a diagnosis. I felt a little uneasy, because, really, I hardly ever leave my little Frederick alone with somebody we don’t know, but the doctor assured me, it was all right. Frederick was okay with it, too, and that helped to ease the pain of separation. I had told him that we were going to Sesame Street to see Mr. Noodles, because Mr. Noodles always knows what to do. Okay, it might take him a few tries, but in the end, he gets it right. So, Dr. Webster was not surprised when I introduced him as Mr. Noodles to Frederick, and then the two of them disappeared into the doctor’s examination room. Frederick was so cute. He had his Elmo tucked under his arm, because you need Elmo when you visit Mr. Noodles, and he threw me a kiss before the door closed.
I couldn’t help it and started crying again, but the very nice nurse at the reception was very understanding, and she handed me a box of tissues. Anyways…
About thirty minutes later – It felt like an eternity to me – they both came out of the room, and the doctor said he wanted to talk to me next. I knew Frederick would be fine in the reception area, because they had a large train table in one corner for the kids to play with, and Frederick loves trains. Anyways…
“Well, Mr. Johnson,” the doctor started, “before I discuss Frederick’s condition and a possible treatment with you, why don’t you tell me your story from the beginning.”
“From the beginning?” I asked sheepishly, and the doctor nodded.
“Well,” I said, “Frederick and I are partners for almost forty years now. Oh, my God! Is it already forty years? I mean, time goes by so fast. Anyways…”
“You see, Frederick and I first met in San Francisco. I was a student at the University of Southern California, and he was a German exchange student. I mean, it was literally love at first sight.”
Well, I gave him my whole life story, how I had to move back to Grand Fenwick…
“Grand Fenwick?” the doctor asked. “Where exactly is that?”
“Grand Fenwick, Massachusetts,” I explained, but he still looked confused. But then I remembered that we were in Boston, and Bostonians are unable to grasp the concept of a Central or, God forbid, a Western Massachusetts.
“That’s west of I-495,” I explained. He still looked confused, but he nodded and encouraged me to go on with my story. So, I continued telling him about taking over the landscaping business from my father, and how I introduced Frederick as my partner – business partner that is. Neither my parents nor my sisters and brothers ever suspected anything but a professional relationship between the two of us. They were all delighted, and all this time they assumed we were just exceptionally close friends, who lived together, traveled together, and enjoyed working together. Anyways…
“And how did your life develop in Grand Fenway?” Dr. Webster asked.
“Fenwick,” I corrected him. “Grand Fenwick.”
The doctor didn’t seem to care and encouraged me to go on.
“Well,” I said, “living in a closet all these years takes a toll on you. We’ve had our problems, you know, but we were able to work it out.”
“However,” I sighed, “people in Grand Fenwick tend to be… let me put that very diplomatically… somewhat narrow-minded. The idea of gays among them doesn’t sit well with them. We had to be very cautious.”
“But your family, neighbors, friends… they never suspected anything?”
I shook my head.
“Not a clue, doctor.”
The doctor nodded.
“Mr. Johnson,” he said, “talking to Frederick was a pleasant experience. He is very intelligent and knowledgeable.”
You may imagine how pleased I was to hear that.
“What’s wrong with him, doctor?” I asked, and he shook his head.
“To be honest,” he continued, “I am not quite sure, but I do have a suggestion…”
“No drugs, doctor. Please!”
He looked at me, somewhat irritated.
“Only an incompetent fool prescribes drugs in such a case. No, my solution is much simpler than that.”
“Frederick hasn’t shown any signs of violence since he started to change his behavioral pattern, right?” he asked.
I shook my head, no.
“Then, in my professional opinion, there is no need to institutionalize him,” Dr.Webster said.
Institutionalize my Frederick, I thought. I can’t live without my Frederick!
The doctor noticed my face filled with shock, and he took my hand and looked at me with a comforting smile.
“If life in Grand Fenway is not treating you well,” he said, “why don’t you just move back to San Francisco? The way I see it, you are in or at least close to retirement age. Make yourself and, after all, Frederick a great life rather than living in a cave with these Neanderthals.”
What a marvellous idea, I thought, and I couldn’t help it but start crying again. Anyways…
As they say, the rest is history. Frederick and I found a very nice apartment near Polk Street in San Francisco, and we are having a blast every single day. Yesterday, we went to the bank for a deposit. Frederick calls it the “lollipop bank,” because, as you may have already guessed, they pass out lollipops to kids. That also means, we can’t use the drive through, but that’s all right with me. We don’t have a car, anyways. I mean, we live in San Francisco. Anyways…
“Do you want a purple one or a green one?” the very nice lady behind the counter asked after Frederick, in his most polite behavior, requested a lollipop.
“I’d like the yellow one,” he told her with a smile from ear to ear.
“Yes, you can have the yellow one,” she responded, “but I found that most kids don’t like lemon. How about, I give you a purple, a green, and a yellow one? Then you can decide what you like best and let me know the next time you come by.”
“Can I?” Frederick looked at me with excitement written all over his face, and I nodded, yes. Frederick was so happy, and I realized with joy that life was good. Anyways…
I need a tissue.