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: 08 Jan 2018
Mark had grimaced at the prospect of driving back to Martinsville and confronting his Dad with his lengthy, detailed confession of failures on his part. The wise, kindly, firm landlord gave his young tenant no choice, however.
Go pack up and head home, Mark. Stay as long as you want to, feel you need to. We’ll be ready to go once you’re back. Despite his grudging, inward reluctance, Mark did has his landlord instructed, although he drove the slowest he ever had on the trip home.
His Mom and Dad were surprised, and pleased, to see him. After lunch, he quietly asked his Dad if they could talk privately, quietly, confidentially. Not knowing what to expect, Mr. Wickham nonetheless readily acceded to his young, adult son’s wishes.
They began the first of several, long, heart-to-heart, Father-to-son sessions that week, with Mark revealing, in anguishing detail, what had happened over the recent two or more months, and his Father listening at length before voicing his reactions and recommendations.
Mr. Wickham asked his son the same questions Mr. Strauss did. Was this what he truly wanted? Was it who he really was? Did he see himself as inevitably and necessarily involved in such relationships.
Once again, Mark confessed his pleasureable enjoyment of what happened to him, what he experienced. He also acknowledged his own guilt-riddled feelings of shame and self-deprecation for conceding to it occurring.
Each of those sessions, in turn, concluded and resulted in several rounds of stern, serious, discipline at the hands of his Dad. After each one, his Father dispatched him, like a misbehaving boy, to his bed to cry himself to sleep.
With passing each day, Mark’s rearend became sorer and more uncomfortably painful. With each day, the young teacher found himself feeling more belittled and juvenile, more demeaned and disgraced, sorrowful, reduced and humbled to his Father’s chastened boy.
Each morning, over a lengthy, hearty breakfast, Mr. Wickham relayed clear-cut instructions to advise and help his son heal and recover. He wrote a note with all of them on it for Mark to take back to his landlord and friend, Mr. Strauss.
At the end of his soul-baring week with his Father, at home, the young man drove uneasily on his lambasted bottom back to Chatham. He had returned to his apartment, at his Father’s directive, for further, frank and open talk, compliance, and treatment with his landlord.
The young man was determined to slowly recover, struggling to regain his identity of who he truly was: self-assured, self-controlled, confident, easygoing and friendly; but now a bit more diffident, humble, reserved, almost shy.
The next morning, he was awakened at 7 a.m. by Mr. Strauss knocking hard on the apartment door. Stumbling out of bed in his, morning-tented, cotton sleep shorts, he walked hastily to the door and opened it. The landlord stood looking at the groggy-headed, skinny, young man with obvious, bulging, morning wood.
Come on, young sir. It’s time for you to be up. Hurry, get cleaned up, and come out to the kitchen
for breakfast. We’re going to put some pounds of muscle on that gaunt frame this summer, kid.
Mr. Strauss chuckled as he announced the start of the summer’s plans for young Mark Wickham. Mark did as instructed, however, quickly joining his landlord for breakfast.
Sitting, eating, they talked together about a plan to rehabilitate, heal, and protect the young man from the effects of having been ravaged physically, emotionally, psychologically by his coach-masseuse. Based on Mark’s own admissions; on the advice and recommendations of his Father; and some of Mr. Strauss’ ideas from raising his own son, they formulated the content of the summer program.
First, Mark agreed to go every week with Mr. Strauss to St. Chrysostom’s, and also the participate in the college-aged group of the church. For the first two weeks, he would help Mr. Strauss with the interior painting of the house.
Additionally, he would use the admittedly old, workout equipment in Mr. Strauss’ garage to work out daily. He would also take all his meals, every day, with Mr. Strauss, whose goal was to add pounds of muscle to his scrawny, young tenant, with healthy eating. Mark would take care of the weekly mowing, edging, and trimming of the yard.
Mark would not go anywhere without first informing Mr. Strauss where he was going, how long he expected to be, and who would be accompanying him.
If I tell you no, you can’t go; or that you can’t go with a certain person; or that you can go only if I am with you; you will accept and comply with that. Period. Nothing further to be discussed. the landlord detailed.
Mark looked slightly bothered, but then conceded.
Okay, okaaay. I mean, I’ve got to trust you and my Dad, I know,... and I want to get back to running daily, too, though, he added.
Fine, but we need to decide in advance what routes you will take, what time of day you can go, and how long you can be away, Mr. Strauss interjected. It was clear to Mark his landlord had given a lot of thought to the different facets of the summer plan.
We are going to get you healthy, happier, safe, and turned around, Mark, the older landlord decreed.
To do that, we have got to insist on the things that will help you, and also protect you.
By the time Fall arrives, you should be in a better, stronger, wiser condition to avoid becoming a victim of others, including coach Steve White. You’ll see. It’s going to be a great summer for you, young man.
Mark nodded, and signed the list of conditions Mr. Strauss drew up. That very day, they began the regimen. Mark worked out in the garage in the morning, then began the yard work.
At mid-afternoon, he told his landlord he wanted to go for a 5-mile run in the arboretum not far from Mr. Strauss’ house. His landlord’s approved, but insisted he take his phone with him, and be back no longer than an hour.
The young tenant set off on what would be a daily pleasure of solitary running. He would return, revived, and happily conforming to the strictures of his landlord’s summer program for him.
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