Tony Anthony and
Robert Haydon Jones

Tony Anthony

By Robert Haydon Jones

Inspiration Piece

We all have a nifty built-in alarm that goes off when someone we can’t see is looking at us, right? Usually it’s no big deal. The alarm is a remnant from long ago when we were prey animals. So, Jimmy O’Hara was not alarmed when he felt the hidden eyes on him as he took his regular twilight stroll at the Dog Park, a 30-acre remnant of a mid 19th century estate his rich Connecticut home town had acquired 20 years back.

Jimmy O’Hara had gotten to middle-age against very heavy odds through amazing good luck and because early on he had made a conscious decision to honor his intuitions. He made this choice when he was 12 in the extremely unpleasant aftermath of being drugged and raped by a man Jimmy’s inner voice had warned him not to trust.

So even though this was the Dog Park, after another minute of feeling the eyes on him and his alarm clanging steadily, Jimmy decided this could be the edge of some sort of trouble. Someone he couldn’t see had been on him for way too long.

He started a quick scan: Dogs and their walkers, a few skylarking children, a handful of bird watchers and some old people on benches. Nothing. But…

One of the neat things about our nifty, built-in, “hidden eyes on me” alarm is that often you can follow that interior beam on out and track right on to the Looker. (If you haven’t done this yourself, I urge you to try next time you feel the eyes.) O’Hara knew how to do it – he did it straight out of the gate — the problem was he was denying the Looker he had locked on.

Then he came to his senses and swiveled back to the Looker he had passed over. About 70 meters ahead, seated on a bench at the crest of the path up the hill he was walking…an old woman…her face slightly shrouded by a wide-brimmed hat, holding something dark and glittery in her lap – a gun? Hard to tell – it seemed wrong size – old woman, a glimpse of snow white hair – Jimmy was assessing, assessing, when her eyes came straight up and met his. She was the Looker all right. She nodded confirmation and Jimmy’s “Big Trouble” gong went BONG! BONG! BONG!

The old woman had been a ripe, worn, woman approaching the outer edge of her beauty when Jimmy O’Hara had last seen her forty years back.  She was maybe 18 or 20 years older than Jimmy. They had quite a lot of history together – but Jimmy was totally surprised she had sought him out.

As he came up to her, she said, ” It isn’t fair you look this good, Jimmy – I was hoping if you weren’t dead, you would look like Dorian Grey – but you look good – I’ll bet you’re killing more ladies than ever.”

“Not really, Greta,” Jimmy said. He was looking at her hands. What was she holding? “In fact, I’m a happily married man – with oodles of kids and grandkids. I’m a writer.  I don’t drink or drug. I drive a Mercedes. I sing in a church choir.”

“I know all that Jimmy”, Greta said. “A 2010 S550 Mercedes. 7 Children. 11 Grandchildren from 2 wives. I knew all that before I left London to see you. Quite a smug, self-satisfied life… it isn’t fair you aren’t dead or in prison or hospital or suffering some how – you have a lot to answer for.”

Adrenalin spurted warm and wild through Jimmy. The question was: Is it a gun in her lap? If it was a gun, the questions were: Could he get her before she fired? Or could he run and escape any bullets? He was surprised and annoyed that he had an overwhelming urge to jump her. What the fuck was her deal anyway?

Greta’s husband, Andre, had been O’Hara’s boss, mentor and idol – after Jimmy was hired straight out of college as a junior writer-producer at the hottest small advertising agency in New York.

Andre was 25 years Jimmy’s senior –a Basque from San Sebastian, schooled in Paris, the black sheep of an Import Export dynasty – living large in NYC as a Creative VP for maybe the most famous ad agency ever. He was brilliant, ruthless, ambitious, hard drinking, witty, a compulsive, incessant womanizer. Jimmy adored him.

They worked and partied like a Batman & Robin twosome for a rhapsodic year – the best year of Jimmy O’Hara’s 22. They won all the big awards. Clients chased them – squads of women chased them. It was good. Then it was bad. Jimmy won awards – Andre didn’t.

It unraveled from there. The day after Jimmy won the Cleo for best TV spot of the year, a secretary in HR warned him that Andre had asked for approval to fire him. “Too much ego to be a team player.”

Jimmy went into icy-cold mode. The next day he took a job at a big agency that had been pursuing him for months. The salary was 6 times what he was making. He gave Andre two weeks notice and said he was really sorry – but hoped Andre would understand and they could stay close.

They did stay close. Jimmy made sure of it. He and his squeeze of the moment saw Andre and his wife, Greta, often — for drinks and dinner – and they went together to theatre and parties.

Greta was from London, a Polish Jew, who had escaped the SS as a child on literally the last train out of Warsaw.  She looked like a gypsy. She had a BBC accent and was very bright and very sad. Andre treated her horribly. He had stopped running around and had fallen hard for a famous, very young, Swedish model. He had set her up as his mistress in a duplex in the 70’s off Park Avenue.

Andre was away with his model when Jimmy took Greta in Andre’s bedroom. To his surprise, Greta behaved as if she had never had good sex before. She told Jimmy she loved him – like girls did then after you had sex with them. But Greta was no girl, she was a woman – her older foreign body had started to go – in fact, that stirred him.

Jimmy spun it out icy cold. She bought him expensive things. She said she loved him, it had never been like this. The standard stuff that women said in those days. He was dating two young beauties but he made sure he kept Greta on the string. He wanted Andre to find out…but he spun it out – to grind it in maybe – and then suddenly he didn’t want it any more. It repelled him. He stopped. He did not return her calls.

Two months later, Jimmy called to invite Andre to the Giants game. She answered. He asked to speak to her husband. “Jimmy,” she said, “my husband is dead.

Greta said Andre had died a week before. They had argued. Greta had confronted Andre’s mistress. The young model had promised Greta she would stop seeing Andre – she agreed he was much too old for her.

Andre was enraged. He bolted into the bathroom with a bottle of Pernod and locked the door. She knocked and banged but no response. 3 hours later, Greta called 911. It was too late. Andre had gulped 40 Quaaludes and chugged the Pernod. There was no note.

Sorrowful, leaden, days followed. Greta prepared to return to England. Jimmy tried to give her support. But he had no heart for it. The night before she left, they tried sex, but it was no good, they stopped almost right away and lay in stark silence. He had not seen her since.

Now Greta was an old woman with a furrowed face and snow-white hair. There was a glitter in her eyes Jimmy didn’t like. What was it she was holding?

“I lied to you, you bastard”, she said.

“Andre knew about us — that’s why he killed himself. I told him all about us. I told him I loved you more than I had ever loved anyone — that you gave me sex I had never even dreamed of. I hated him with that girl but I wanted you more than I hated him. I figured he would leave and then you would come.”

O’Hara felt like he had been kicked in the stomach. “No”, he groaned.

“Yes” she said loudly. “Yes! He loved you too. You got us both, you bastard.”

“No”, O’Hara said again – he was bent over like he was trying to get his wind.

He had done something terrible, no question. Like she said – a double terrible, even though he had stopped because it felt wrong. It was way too late by then.

Greta stood up. She was holding a small photo in a black metal frame. She handed it to O’Hara. “That’s you and me, Jimmy, at the Oak Bar – Andre took it. Did you ever see a woman look so happy?”

Greta walked past him toward the parking lot.

“Keep it to remember us by”, she said, not looking back. “You got us both. See how that plays for you the next time you sing in church.”

Jimmy watched her down the path and into a limousine. Then she was gone.

When Jimmy got home he showed the photo to his wife and told her the story. She said the woman looked very exotic – and very, very happy. And that he looked mighty happy too.

“God, Anne, he said, “I did a bad, cold wrong – I’m horrified but it was so long ago; I’m a different person; it’s hard for me to connect the dots.”

“Well, Jimmy”, she said, “Maybe there are no dots to connect.”

“Thanks for that, pretty lady,” he said. “You know, I’ve been thinking. Andre was a Basque, who could never keep quiet – and a terrific writer. It just doesn’t figure he didn’t leave a note.”

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  1. Posted March 13, 2010 at 1:13 am | #

    Henry James, Frank O’Hara never left us. This has the understatement of James plus the punch of O’Hara wrapped in one package. Fantastic.

  2. Posted March 13, 2010 at 9:24 pm | #

    People don’t use the phrase “skylarking” enough anymore. My favorite line: “See how that plays for you the next time you sing in church”. It’s what one of Bukoswki’s woman would have left him with before driving off with his pants. Or it’s what a Jim Thompson dame would have muttered before putting a few slugs in the hero and stuffing a pillowcase full of cash.
    Morale of the story: Stay inside, as close to the remote as possible, at all times. Let your old lady walk the pooch. She’s the one who pets it anyway.
    Nice job.

  3. Posted March 26, 2010 at 1:34 pm | #

    I was so glad this story did not end with a killing which would have been cliche.Wilde said that each man kills the thing he love etc Greta did it so elegantly she killed the past . Great tension here splendid descriptive writing and evocation of wasted anger in the past
    Theatre lore is you should never put a gun on stage unless you intend to use it you put that piece of tradition to bed here . Well done

  4. Posted August 1, 2010 at 3:24 am | #

    Terrific confessional story, but in my opinion Jimmy gets let off a little easy. If it was me, all I’d get from my wife at the end is a Looker’s look, leaving me to to judge myself…and that’s what I fear most.

  5. Posted August 4, 2010 at 8:28 pm | #

    When love is good, there’s nothing better. When love goes bad, there’s nothing worse. Can feel the shards of love torn hearts — guilt, remorse, no forgiveness, revenge, helplessness, rage, anguish…a savage, touching story about the wreckage of failed love.