Robert Haydon Jones
and Matthew Levine

Matthew Levine
“Central Park, Fall”
Inspiration piece

The Next Stop
By Robert Haydon Jones
Response

Looking back from 68 years away, Jimmy O’Hara could not figure why he had elected to stay on the train that morning at the suburban stop for his prep school and had gotten out at the next stop, at the grimy, industrial city of Bridgeport.

Jimmy took the train every weekday two stops back and forth to prep school. It was a fixed routine.

Jimmy was 13. What had he been thinking he was going to do on a weekday morning in Bridgeport? From 68 years in the future, Jimmy had no idea.

In fact, Jimmy couldn’t recall anything of what he did in the station before he met Jerry.

Jerry, a slim, pleasant looking negro in his mid-forties, had come up to him and asked if he was lost. Did he need help? Jimmy said he was okay. Jerry said he was glad that was the case. Would Jimmy like a coffee?

Jimmy remembered they walked just a couple of blocks to Jerry’s apartment. It was up three flights of steep stairs. Jerry made coffee. It was very sweet. It tasted pretty good.

Jerry had served in the Army during the War. He had finished up in Korea. He asked Jimmy how he was doing.

Jimmy talked to him about how he played football and baseball. He had been a star in his first year at his very famous prep school in Massachusetts — but his father had gotten sick – and now Jimmy had to go to school close to home.

He didn’t like it. His new school was too big – plus they didn’t pay much attention to sports programs for younger athletes.

Jerry asked Jimmy if he would like to drink some beer and Jimmy said, “Sure.” Jerry poured out the beer and cautioned Jimmy to go easy. “We don’t want you going home, three sheets to the wind,” he said.

The beer was cold and it tasted good. Jimmy liked it. He was a little dizzy. Then Jerry asked him if he ever smoked and Jimmy said he snuck a smoke once in a while.

Jerry told him he would make them a very special cigarette. He took papers and rolled a cigarette like Jimmy’s grandfather used to. He mixed brown and green tobacco.

He lit it up. After a few puffs, he passed it to Jimmy. He puffed and coughed. Jerry smiled. “Go easy,” he said. “This is a marijuana combo. Easy does it.”

Jimmy took a few more puffs. Almost immediately, he felt himself start to float. Jerry turned on some music and it was wonderful. He could hear Jerry talking to him in a voice that came from far, far away.

He slept for a while. When he woke up, he was lying there in his underpants. Jerry was telling him he deserved love and attention. Jerry promised he would give Jimmy all the love he would ever need. Then Jerry gently pushed his penis into Jimmy’s butt. It didn’t hurt. Jimmy went back to sleep.

When Jimmy woke up, Jerry was cleaning Jimmy’s butt with warm water. Then he helped Jimmy get his underpants and trousers back on. Jerry asked Jimmy what time the train he took back home departed. Jimmy told him. It would leave in just 45 minutes. Jimmy had been there for nearly six hours!

Jimmy was very, very thirsty. Jerry gave him three or four glasses of water. He suggested to Jimmy that they could remain close friends. He wanted to continue to give Jimmy the close support he knew he needed so much.

Jimmy gave Jerry his phone number. Jerry wrote his phone number on a card. Jimmy put the card in his wallet. As they walked to the railroad station, Jerry suggested Jimmy keep their friendship private. Jimmy agreed he would.

Jimmy arrived home that day just as usual. No one said anything. He had dinner with his family and then took a hot shower. He was exhausted. Fortunately the next day was a Saturday and he slept late.

After breakfast, he was in the bathroom when the phone rang. His mother told him someone named Jerry had called. He would call back. Was it about sports? He sounded older.

Jerry called Jimmy four or five times that day. He missed Jimmy. Was he okay? When could they meet again? Jimmy got more and more nervous with each call. He had lots of brothers and sisters. There were a lot of extensions in the house. He asked Jerry to please cool down. Jerry got very angry at that.

Was Jimmy ashamed to have a negro as a friend? Was he angry that Jerry had given him special comfort? Jerry said all that on a call late that Saturday afternoon and Jimmy’s dad heard it all on an extension in the master bedroom.

Jimmy’s dad confronted him right away. Jimmy tried to say it was no big deal but his dad cut him off. “James,” he bellowed. “Don’t lie to me. I just listened in on you on an extension. I heard it all. Tell me everything. All I want to do is to help you.”

Jimmy told his dad pretty much everything. When he was done, his father gave him a long hug. Then his dad took a pen and a pad and worked with Jimmy to create a detailed chronology of Jimmy’s day with Jerry. Jimmy also gave his dad the card Jerry had given him with his contact info.

Then his Dad called the Bridgeport Police and arranged to meet with detectives to lodge a complaint

Jimmy was surprised his dad had called the police. His dad told him they must. Otherwise, Jerry would be free to prey on other boys. It made Jimmy feel funny. He had been “preyed on.” Like a rabbit by a wolf.

They drove up to Bridgeport the next day after Sunday mass. The police station was out of the old days. They sat in a conference room with a myriad of cigarette burn marks on just about every surface. A pleasant young detective named Gianetti took a statement from Jimmy.

Jimmy’s dad then turned in the card with Jerry’s contact info. Jimmy later learned that the police used the phone number to get Jerry’s address.

That was the start of a long, long process. It was October. Jerry pleaded not guilty, so his trial in Bridgeport Superior Court did not take place until the middle of April.

Jimmy had to write out his complaint at least a dozen times more. He had to go to the doctor. His butt showed only very slight damage but he had to take shots and pills to ward of the potential of venereal disease. The doctor was very unfriendly.

Then the prosecutor interviewed Jimmy. At first, he seemed to attack Jimmy. He kind of implied that Jimmy often did things with men that Jerry was accused of. Jimmy was shocked.

“No way,” he said. “I never did anything like that before.”

That was true. But in a way it was untrue. Jimmy had compared penises with three friends a few times on pajama parties. Twice they had rubbed their penises against each other’s penis.

Anyway, he convinced the prosecutor. He explained they had to be sure Jimmy was legit. That’s why he had pushed him. Jerry would claim he was making it up.

It turned out the prosecutor had real good news. The detectives were talking to two other boys around Jimmy’s age who Jerry had molested. Plus Jerry had been discharged from the Army for bad conduct.

In March, a month before the trial, Jimmy was interviewed by two detectives and then a psychologist at the State Police barracks. Then he waited in another room.

Jimmy could hear the sound of their voices as they discussed him– but he couldn’t make out what they were saying. Then one of them said in a loud voice that Jimmy could hear, “There’s nothing wrong with this boy that a little love wouldn’t cure.”

The days moved on and Jimmy had a nice Christmas and his mother had another baby girl. A week before the trial, Jimmy went to the courthouse and an assistant prosecutor rehearsed him on what a cross examination would be like.

Jimmy wore a sport coat and tie for the trial. The big courthouse was crowded. The morning was used up by preliminaries. Jerry chose to be tried by the Judge.

They read out the charges and then the time came for Jimmy to testify. The Prosecutor had him read out the statement he had written months back. Then Jerry’s defense attorney questioned Jimmy.

He said he had noticed Jimmy was reading a book as he waited. Jimmy replied it was a short story collection he was reading as homework. The attorney then suggested that Jimmy had a very powerful imagination. That his accusations were stories Jimmy had made up to shield himself from the consequences of playing hooky.

Jimmy replied he couldn’t have made the stories up. He had never before been drugged by a marijuana cigarette. He had never before had anyone mess with his butt. The court erupted in laughter.

Jerry was found guilty. The judge sentenced him to three to five years in prison.

Jimmy went on with his life. His father regained his health. The next year, Jimmy returned to the prestigious prep school and excelled in sports. But he got into trouble for drinking and brawling. Finally, years later, in January of his Sixth Form year, he was expelled.

Jimmy tried not to think about Jerry but he couldn’t help it. He knew prison could be really tough on an offender who messed with kids.

The fact was that except for that time on the phone when he had gotten so furious with Jimmy, Jerry hadn’t been all that bad. He hadn’t killed Jimmy. Through all the years, Jimmy has always been grateful for that.

——————————————

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4 Comments

  1. Greg
    Posted September 20, 2019 at 6:12 am | #

    From a dreary picture comes an dark tale by Jonesy. Didn’t see that coming. Nice work gentlemen.

  2. Posted September 23, 2019 at 12:48 pm | #

    Jones goes dark, but not so dark that he doesn’t show how resilient we can be.

  3. Dave Monroe
    Posted September 25, 2019 at 3:34 pm | #

    Powerful story about abuse and the war of emotions and mental constructs afterwords. Guilt, self-blame, rationalization, denial, confusion, disorientation. And at the end, the looming magnitude of the effects are only dawning on the young hero. Haunting.

  4. Malachy McCourt
    Posted September 26, 2019 at 10:19 am | #

    A graphic dramatic story simply told . Compelling the last word . The best story yet

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