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The Tenant
Part 6

by Graham

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Copyright on this story text belongs at all times to the original author only, whether stated explicitly in the text or not. The original date of posting to the MMSA was: 30 Oct 2017

It was almost 1 p.m. on New Year’s Day, when Mark awoke. His head was throbbing and foggy, and his bladder bursting. Hopping out of bed, he raced to his bathroom to relieve himself.

He stumbled awkwardly into his shower, to begin a long, refreshing, awakening shower, shave, and shampoo. With no immediate, conscious reason, his young manhood swelled, stiff and engorged, which he honoured by bestowing calming, composing relief.

Only when the downpour struck directly against his rump did his brain alert him he felt some smarting discomfort there. What was that? he wondered, but could not really tell by twisting and trying to look behind himself.

Shutting off the shower, and getting out to dry, he turned to view his fundament in the mirror, observing a multitude of hand prints on the rump and thighs. How did they get there? Who had done that? Why?

It had to be his landlord, he reasoned. Mr. Strauss was the only one he’d spent the evening with. But why? What had happened? He hadn’t broken any of the house rules, he was aware of.

His bewilderment was interrupted by a knocking at his apartment door. Mark! It’s Marty Strauss. Are you decent?

Ah, almost, ah, sir, Mark answered. Come on in, ah, Mr. Strauss, he added, wrapping the bath towel tightly around his extremely thin waist. What is it, sir? What’s wrong? he asked as Martin Strauss walked into the apartment.

Just this, Mark. I got a call from your Mother. She’s upset, worried. She couldn’t get hold of you,...

Oh, shit! Aaah, I mean, ah, darn. I’m sorry, sir. I left my phone in my car and it probably died.

Well, she and your Dad want you to go home for the New Year holiday. She said they haven’t seen or heard from you since before Thanksgiving.

Mr. Wickham suddenly looked like a sheepish boy, his face red and glum.

That’s not good, son. You only have one set of parents, and they care about you, worry about you, hope and dream and aspire about you. Be glad you have them.

I know, ah, I should,... but it’s just, ah, going back to Martinsville, being there,... it’s... Mark faded off without finishing the sentence.

Look, kid, I know. It’s like scraping off a scab. You start bleeding again.

But you’re a strong, smart, young man. You can consult, confide in, people  – like your parents  – who you know truly care about you. Share some of what you’re stuffing down inside. It’ll help. I know what I’m talking about, Mark.

The thin, tall teacher stood there, bare and skinny, in just a towel surrounding him from below his abdomen.

Look, Mark. When I lost my youngest son, over 3 years ago, I thought I wanted to shrink, shrivel up, wilt away and die. That’s when my friend and barber, Boots Hill, showed how much he cared about me.

He had me over, stopped by to check on me, invited me to go out with him, and was always ready to listen when, gradually, I was able to talk a bit more about what had happened, what I was going through. Now I know, to this day, he’s a friend I can count on and trust.

You’ve got that with your parents, Mark. Be grateful, be glad. If you need it, you’ve also got it with your old landlord, Mr. Strauss spoke with facetious self-effacement.

Mark’s face drew all attention from the rest of his gaunt, nude body, as his eyes widened, and he appeared to comprehend, at least in part, what his landlord was saying.

You go on and get dressed and pack up. Stay for the rest of the week and the weekend, if you like, or as long as you want to. Come back here when, but only when, you’re ready, the old landlord advised his young tenant.

I’ll pack up something you can take with you to eat while you drive. Now, get moving, hurry! he exhorted Mark.

As soon as Mr. Strauss closed the door behind him, Mark hastened to get dressed, deciding to wear the new underwear and slim-fit jeans Mr. Strauss had given him for Christmas. He pulled a black, long-sleeve turtleneck over his t-shirt, and stepped into a pair of hiking boots.

He packed up an athletic bag as an overnight carry-on, and also his notebook computer. Already in less than 20 minutes, the reality of what he was about to do hit him.

He sank down into the recliner, his bottom just hinting at some discomfort from something that had happened in the last 12 hours. Shifting to get more ease, he dropped his head into his hands, musing over what he was about to do, what might happen, how he would feel.

The door opened. This time Mr. Strauss did not knock first, but charged ahead inside.

Here’s lunch with a thermos of coffee, and a water bottle filled with Sports Aid for you to drink. Seeing the lean, young man sitting in a dejected manner, he stopped.

What’s wrong, Mark? You can’t let negatives control you. Go look for, enjoy, the positive, the love and help of family, friends. Come on now!

Mark looked up with sad, doleful eyes that looked weary and watery. Mr. Strauss spied Mark’s overnight bag, and notebook, and picked them up, hanging the notebook over his shoulder.

Come on, kid, he barked. I’m taking these out to your car. You better be on your feet, following me, if you know what’s good for you! He charged out the door to the car.

Reluctantly, slowly, the thin, young man pulled himself up onto his feet, dragging tardily along after his landlord. Unlock the car, Mark, Mr. Strauss ordered, and the young tenant complied.

Mr. Strauss opened the back door and tossed the overnight bag in, placed the notebook on the floor, and closed the door. Opening the front door, he placed the lunch and liquids containers on the passenger seat, then stood waiting for Mark to get in.

Instead, the slim, young teacher stood tall, but unmoving, staring at the steering wheel. Get in, Mark, Mr. Strauss directed.

Ah, I don’t, ah, know if I want to do this, if I can do it, Mark mumbled softly. It’s not what I... aaa-ow-ow-whuh-eye-are-ah-you-ah-spuh-anking meee-ah-ah-gaaain?! Stop it-aaa-ow-ow-ow!

Listen up, young man! You’re not a snowman! You won’t melt under heat! You’ve got backbone, and strength, and intelligence. You can do it, and you are going to do it! If I have to drag you back in the house and burn your behind red first, then that’s how you’ll go; and it’ll be your choice.

Otherwise, you get in that car immediately! Drive carefully, stay as long as you want, and enjoy the company and support of those who love you. Now, Mark Wickham, before you get your young bottom whipped!

He emphasized his commands with hard, solid swats to the seat of Mark’s new jeans. The young man jumped forward, blushing shamefacedly. Awakened from his trance-like paralysis, he swiftly and gingerly slid in on the seat behind the wheel.

Be careful, young man! Drive carefully, be good, and be positive. Make the most of this time! See you when you return, Mark! the landlord called out, standing to watch and waving at the young teacher backing out and driving away.

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