Matthew Levine and
Robert Haydon Jones

Matthew Levine, “Unfinished Business”
Inspiration piece

Anne Hutchison
By Robert Haydon Jones


The moment the artist showed Jimmy O’Hara the watercolor of the space where the bar that had been washed away by the hurricane had stood, Jimmy thought of draft beer and boredom.

He told the artist that a bar had been there run by an old washed up boxer named Cubby or Wobbly and that as a lad in his early teens he had sat there drinking the beer and looking at the glossy photos of the washed up boxers that covered the walls. The place was called, Bat Shanty.

It was Hurricane Carol that got it. Bat Shanty had stood next to a very small bridge over a very small stream that had roiled up during the hurricane and scoured away everything before it.

They built a new small bridge over the small stream but Bat Shanty was gone forever.

Jimmy wondered what it would feel like to be gone forever. Would it feel like traveling through the cold black of deep space on your way to Saturn?

Just the other day, Jimmy had happened on a photo of his Dad he had never seen before. His dad was pretty young – he hadn’t gone bald yet. He was smiling at the camera – he had a winsome look that actually startled Jimmy. There was his Dad, a handsome young man, long before he fell in love with Jimmy’s mother. Long before he became Jimmy’s Dad. Long before he was gone forever.

When Jimmy was a boy around 12, he would play with his friends in the open fields that bordered his street. The fields were a mix of tall reeds and hay. The fields were close to the sea.  They were mostly dry – but when it rained or the moon was full – little, aimless creeks to nowhere would appear. Some times you could just scoop the earth in the field and create a little creek on the spot. Some times your creek would have minnows swimming in it.

It was a kind of magic he and his kid friends took for granted. These fields were their territory. Jimmy never saw an adult in them, ever.

Jimmy’s boyhood house is still there. But the fields are gone. The ground became very valuable. They built houses in the fields. Jimmy heard that some of the houses have problems with water in the basement. But the fields he played in are gone forever.

Of course, the fields still exist in his memory. The fields and the little creeks and the minnows. Jimmy wondered how many of his kid friends from back then were still alive, how many of them remembered.

Only when Jimmy and his friends were gone forever, would those fields be gone forever too. Until then, they were definitely in the here and now. Bat Shanty and his Dad too.

Jimmy is very pleased it is so.


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  1. Posted October 24, 2017 at 6:25 pm | #

    Wrenchingly moving, as always. Brings to mind Peter Quinn’s recent memoir in Commonweal, which see:

  2. Posted October 25, 2017 at 7:40 am | #

    A delightful short story that might sweep you back to a time less complicated, a time full of wonder…..Ah nostalgia,the nectar of the elders.

  3. Posted October 25, 2017 at 3:16 pm | #

    A moving meditation on mortality and transience. We are all mayflies in the scheme of the universe.

  4. Posted October 26, 2017 at 9:54 am | #

    Jones gets to the heart of things again.

  5. Posted November 4, 2017 at 8:27 am | #

    Love the lede. So much emotional punch in this short, swooping soliloquy

  6. Posted November 4, 2017 at 1:56 pm | #

    A flash story, long insight. The rain creating streams…the minnows…here now, then gone, but not forgotten. Great painting, too…

  7. Posted November 19, 2017 at 4:34 pm | #

    Lovely piece on the gone forever theme . All of us identify with memory journeys . Well done Bob

  8. Posted November 30, 2017 at 5:11 am | #

    Very well wrought. Funny to imagine how damned seriously the owners of Bat Shanty took their daily ups and downs, how they fussed and fretted over details in the life of that place…how a warmth of pride grew in their chest as they opened her doors each day. Now it’s only a haze in a blood fed organ of a few mortal souls, each sure that when they are done the Shanty will officially cease to be. Or will it? I wonder what eddies even The Bat Shanty has stirred in the hearts of generations like the streamlets come now and again back into life to dampen the basements of the homes in the field.

  9. Posted December 2, 2017 at 3:18 am | #

    From the first “to be gone forever” I felt a bittersweet twinge. Thanks.