Robert Haydon Jones
and Matthew Levine

Matthew Levine, “Thinking of Pay Dirt”

Pay Dirt
By Robert Haydon Jones
Inspiration piece

Jimmy finally hit pay dirt at the Alanon lunch meeting on his next to last day in La Jolla. Jimmy had eaten lunch there over the past three weeks. Several attractive women in their seventies had openly flirted with him.  That gave him courage.

When the meeting opened and the Secretary asked if there were any announcements, Jimmy raised his hand and said he was looking to rent a room for a few weeks. He said he wasn’t at all ready to go back East and face the emptiness of winter now with his wife gone.

“The fact is, I’m not thrilled with the idea of the chill and damp of February in Connecticut by my lonesome“, he added. There was a murmur of assent. Half of the people at the meeting were snowbirds. Many had dead spouses.

Jimmy said thanks and the meeting started up. He didn’t need to say more. In the three weeks he had been going to 12-Step Meetings in La Jolla, Jimmy had heard five or six “need to rent a room” announcements from older men. There was no need to explain he couldn’t afford to stay in La Jolla, even at cheap hotels.


Jimmy was unaccustomed to budget constraints. He had been a handsome man all his life. He had married twice. His wives were very rich and deliriously happy to be with him. He had taught Art History at Columbia. He was 73, lean, and still a money threat even in a friendly foursome.

Jimmy and Felecia, his second wife, had ploughed through her trust fund over the last decade. They lived on Mortgages afterward. They were about tapped out on the rainy evening in May when a texting drunk ran over Felecia at 40 MPH in a crosswalk in Greenwich.

Jimmy had been shocked by his grief. He had worried about her all through their marriage. Felecia was a recovering alcoholic. Emily, his first wife, had never admitted she had a problem, and had died suddenly of an accidental overdose of sleeping pills after way more than a few too many.

Now Felecia, an exquisite, petite, raven-haired beauty, had also succumbed to the disease. The drunk who had killed her was in jail. He had no insurance, no license. He was a Hungarian drifter who had overstayed his visa.

When the police came and told Jimmy, he had a sort of seizure. He blubbered. It was way beyond crying. He was bent at the waist and yelling and weeping great gouts of grief from deep in his interior. The cops took a step back.

Jimmy saw himself using his sawed-off shotgun to blow away the Hungarian. The vision gave Jimmy a warm hit. Then he went ice cold again like he had way back as a kid and then again in the Marines.

This surprise made him feel like an utter fool and that made him angry. In the Marines, death was always right around the corner – it definitely was not in a crosswalk in Greenwich Connecticut early on a May evening during a gentle spring rain.

He was terrified again, but he was able to deal with it and handle all the arrangements. His four adult children were very concerned for him. Mark and Joan, his children with Felecia, were shocked and scared much the same way Jimmy was. At the funeral, as the priest talked about his sweet, dead wife, Jimmy absently wondered if a sudden indelible scoop of reality was the gift a sudden, fatal accident gave survivors.

Jimmy scattered Felecia’s ashes in the meadow on the river by their home. The funeral, and the gatherings attendant to it, were festive and very sad. Felecia had been an extraordinary person. Now she was gone forever.

Jimmy welcomed the formalities. He sold the house for much less than he had thought he would get because his close friend, Pete Gelderman, a top real estate attorney, told him to take it. It was just enough to pay the bank and taxes and other expenses. Felecia’s insurance went to the children. Jimmy sold Felecia’s three-year-old Mercedes. He took a room at an extended stay facility. He put the art and the furniture and the books in storage.

He started some disciplined wandering. He visited his children in Boston, Bethesda, Austin and New York. He did New Year’s Eve in Times Square. On New Year’s Day, for the first time ever, he felt old. He suddenly realized he had not had an erection for months. He was feeling very angry and very sorry for himself. And he was cold.

He decided to go to La Jolla, where he and Felecia had spent months every winter at the house of a couple who had become their close friends. Jimmy and the husband had been buddies in the Marines. The ladies had hit it off.  So, even though their friends had been dead for a few years, Jimmy went on out to the pink hotel in La Jolla.

It was just what he needed. The weather was perfect. He went from beach to beach.  He got back in the flow of 12 Step Meetings. The Alanon meeting was particularly helpful. They knew him there from before. He mentioned his wife had been killed and he was coping okay and then he had announced he needed to rent a room.


Later during the free lunch that followed the meeting, Mary, a squat Asian woman in her late fifties, offered him a room with a bath in the Heights section for $750 a week. Jimmy could tell she had regular takers. She seemed surprised when he declined. But $750 was way more than he could afford.

It seemed he would have to fly back to New York on the red eye after all. He was finishing his delicious, free BLT and was about to leave for the hotel to check out, when Julie Lane, one of the flirts, came up to him and said she had just heard he had been looking to rent a room. She had come late and had missed the announcements.

Julie said Jimmy was welcome to stay at her place on Windnsea Beach. It was a big, old style, Spanish house in pink stucco. It had a rose garden and two big palm trees. Her husband had died in June. It was just her now. There was plenty of room.

If Jimmy gave her $200 a week, it would be plenty. He could have a bedroom with a bath and a little study. He could stay until July when her daughter and grandchild came for the summer.

Three hours later, Jimmy came to the house in a cab with his one suitcase and a duffle. Julie showed him to his little suite and then took him around the house. It was a beauty. It was on a hill overlooking Windnsea Beach – the best surfing beach in La Jolla.

The property had been in Julie’s family for more than a hundred years. Her father owned banks and had also prospered in real estate. Julie’s late husband, Don Lane, had been a
renowned heart and lung surgeon for nearly thirty years and had then headed up the medical school at UC San Diego. is pdoHis

Julie’s daughter, Louise and her daughter, Lulu, lived in St Louis and Washington DC with Louise’s husband Kirk Mallory, who was in his second term as a US Senator.

Julie, at 71, still turned heads. She was a green eyed, willowy, honey blonde with a body that had a surge to it. Men had desired her since she was 11. Women resented her for good reason.

She had practiced yoga daily for fifty years. Five years back, she had retired as the president of California’s largest Credit Union. Julie Lane had not had a sexual thought or desire for more than a year – ever since Don had emerged from a yearly physical with a diagnosis of a metastasized, Stage 4, small cell, tumor in his left lung.

When Jimmy first arrived at her house, they both were stiff and awkward and over polite. By the time Jimmy had unpacked, the sun was setting right in front of them over the sea. The surfers were still at it. Jimmy and Julie sat on a sumptuous rattan divan surrounded by rose bushes and took it all in.

Julie suggested they have dinner out and she drove them into the village to a small, cheery, easy, California-style, place overlooking the Cove. Julie had a Pinot and Jimmy went with a large Seltzer. They looked at the menus and Jimmy leaned on Julie for advice and they ordered.

Then they started to talk.

It has been months now, and that conversation is ongoing. There is still so much they want to say. They kid each other about prattling. They are happily amused by the miracle of their linkage. After that dinner the first night, they went on back and said Good Night, but at 2:30, Julie came to Jimmy’s room and cuddled up with him.

Touching each other with their bodies was a thrilling balm for them. Each of them had been hurting big time for a long time and then they weren’t. Thereafter they slept together in the Master Bedroom.

Everyone at the Alanon Meeting knew right away. It being Alanon, some people clucked, but it didn’t matter. Like it or not, Julie and Jimmy were the real deal. Actually, Jimmy and Julie often clucked themselves. They were amazed they had been completely blindsided by their connection. In fact, each of them harbored an annoying doubt blip. It seemed impossible. The fact was that the could have gone on living the rest of their lives without each other in the grim silence they had grown, oh so accustomed to.

When the doubt blipped up, they looked away and everything was okay. As for the sex, it was just as big a surprise as their connection. They loved making love. They did it a lot. All sorts of ways. They were in their 70’s! It seemed impossible.

Jimmy said it made him think of Martin Luther’s comment that sex was just so monstrously powerful an urge — it was unfair to expect anyone to be chaste. Julie said it was amazing — they both had forgotten sex.

On June 21st, it was the Summer Solstice and they were sitting by the rose bushes watching the sunset. Julie said she hadn’t told her daughter about Jimmy. She was coming on July 1st.

“What would you do if I told you to leave for two months?”, Julie asked.

“I guess I would make another ‘need a room announcement’ at the Alanon Meeting.”

Julie winced.

“I’ll call Louise tomorrow and tell her. No, I’ll call her right now. I can’t believe I waited so long. I won the Lottery and I didn’t tell my dear daughter.”

She went inside to make the call.

Jimmy sat with the roses looking out at the sea. He watched a surfer ride a wave in almost all the way to the shore.

He too had won the Lottery!  He would call his dear children tomorrow.


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  1. Posted October 24, 2017 at 3:29 pm | #

    Nice story Bob! Touching. When you gonna write a novel about Jimmy?

  2. Posted October 24, 2017 at 6:42 pm | #

    I forgot Jones could punch so hard! This really got me.

  3. Posted October 25, 2017 at 3:54 am | #

    R.H.J. always writes “stuff” that sets off my Memory Bank! I’m a recovering alcoholic–a former Marine who also knows what it’s like to be in combat–and like R.H.J. I always enjoy the wonderful stories about “Jimmy”! Yes–write a full book about Jimmy! Wonderful!—Jack Orth

  4. Posted October 25, 2017 at 8:33 am | #

    Hopeful and charming story about “Wow look what can happen” when I reach out to others……………Jimmy knows how to stay in the game.

  5. Posted October 25, 2017 at 3:23 pm | #

    An inspiration to live in hope.

  6. Posted October 26, 2017 at 9:57 am | #

    “Many had dead spouses” is a story in an of itself, like Hemingway’s children’s shoes.

  7. Posted November 3, 2017 at 5:19 pm | #

    Robert! Bravo…perfect story.You’re doing it! Very well done…When is Jimmy the Book arriving? Patty

  8. Posted November 4, 2017 at 8:22 am | #

    This is the kind of piece that could be turned into a feature film. Here’s to winning the lottery!

  9. Posted November 4, 2017 at 1:49 pm | #

    The story flows with ease, grace, and stark images and turns of phrase. Well done story about hope, love, and connection

  10. Posted November 19, 2017 at 4:48 pm | #

    A nice easy progression of love .nicely told and utterly believable

  11. Posted November 25, 2017 at 4:19 am | #

    Love the simple sentences that fit smoothly together like a parquet floor. Love doubt blip. Encouraged by the uplift. Thanks.

  12. Posted November 30, 2017 at 5:30 am | #

    This story breathes in and out with a gentle staccato of the waves rolling and splaying in foam onto Windermere Beach… that rhythm makes it hard not to root for the characters. I almost wanted Jimmy to take her up on the 2 month sabbatical…