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Today's Story by Robert Haydon Jones

“This is Jimmy, the Recon Marine who showed you pussies what hunting is all about!” He laughs. They don’t.

The Love Wizard

Guido Monte and I have been friends for a long time. I first met him in the elegant, bare-bones bar at the Connecticut Hunt Club, where my Dad used to play Polo. To be honest, I thought he might be a service person grabbing a quick drink rather than a Member. He’s wearing a coat and tie, but Guido is built like one of those wiry big league middle infielders you see in the replays hurdling take-out slides. He talks like a tough Italian guy from New Jersey.

It turns out Guido does his leaping for the New York City Ballet. He’s married to the daughter of the President of the Hunt Club. We are both fish out of water at this bar, which is basically a service bar for the restaurant, with a few stools primarily for the convenience of people waiting for others to join them for the meal. It is a great place to string together a dozen drinks in pleasant surroundings with no one looking.

I am just out of the Marine Corps and finally done with a string of surgeries. I still need a cane – and some of the plastic surgery they had done on my face is still resolving. This tends to draw conversation I don’t want. I’m an alcoholic and righteously addicted to Dilaudid.

I just want to be out some place nice where I can look at women, get stoned and be left alone.

The women who come to the Hunt Club are generally from the top of the white, Anglo-Saxon food chain. They tend to be slim. Their faces have good bones. Their teeth are white, small and even. They have long, narrow feet. Their laughter is easy and musical.

Most appear serenely settled and content. But there are a few who quietly radiate discontent. I enjoy looking at all these fortunate women  – but it is the radiators who draw my special interest.

To put it simply, although they look much the same as the others, these women seethe with a life force the others lack. They are not settled. They are not content.

They are, as my Dad used to say, “Trouble with a capital T.” I am drawn to them.

I soon discover Guido and I have this taste in common. I’ve been gazing at a particularly fetching radiator, who has just been shown to a table with a much older man I assume is her father. It’s easy to see she’d much rather be elsewhere.

I’m wondering if I could figure out a way for her to be with me – when I look up and meet Guido’s eyes just looking up from the same table. I can see he’s wondering the same thing I am – and we laugh simultaneously at finding each other out.

We started talking. We had a lot in common: we were drawn to trouble since childhood; we had been altar boys and were off religion; we loved women and baseball; we loved booze and drugs; we were brawlers; we pissed off a lot of men; we attracted way too many horny married women.

Guido told me his name and it rang a distant bell for me – he saw it ring and said  he was Guido Monte, the ballet-star guy. I nodded and he looked at me to see if  “ballet-star-guy” was a problem for me. It wasn’t.

So that’s how we met — decades back when we were both in our prime. We became regular drinking companions – once or twice a week – on weekends at the Hunt Club – or during the week at the New York AC or The Racquet Club.

I liked him.  I was having a lot of trouble with my life but he let me be. A few months after I met Guido – we went camping for a couple of nights right after the World Series at a state park a few miles up Route 7. We fly-fished by day and talked and shared silence under the stars hard by a waterfall at night.

My wife had asked me, please, please, move out – and the fact was I was still more comfortable sleeping on the ground than a bed. But I was missing my three sons big time. I needed to breathe. Guido was a big support – he had two daughters my son’s age – he asked if there was anything he could do – and I told him he was doing it.

About a year later, we took a trip to South Dakota to hunt elk with some friends of Guido’s. The idea was to shoot the elk from blinds on their trails at dawn. I ended up stalking some of the hunters – coming up behind them and laying the cold barrel of my rifle on their necks. It did startle them – and when they jumped up and yipped I laughed and laughed heartily some more. I did it again the second morning – and Guido’s tough, rich, tenderfoot, friends were very, very pissed and spooked by me.

So, Guido and I broke away and rode our horses out toward the Black Hills and a case of beer our guide said he had stashed in a stream maybe three hours out. Darkness jumped us about half way through the case. So we camped. I lay back after we ate and looked up. The stars hit me hard. I missed my wife and sons.  I missed my Marine buddies. I missed my Mom and Dad. I missed God. I got very sad and very fearful. I guess you could say I lost it.

I cried a little and then I started to blubber and couldn’t stop.  I babbled a lot. Guido had a fifth of Scotch they fed me – that’s how they got me back – passed out and lashed up cross wise on my horse like a dead guy.

Guido collected me at the motel the next morning. The other guys had gone. No elk. I was glad. Guido bought me a pitcher of Bloody Mary’s and some eggs and sausage for breakfast. After I steadied down a little, he told me not to feel bad about what had happened. He said he and the guide had been touched as men by my wailing.

He told me he would never forget my grief and my fear.  He thanked me for my service in the Marines.  He said he missed his parents. He said he was very fearful too – because he was getting too old to dance. He said he also missed God.

So, fast-forward 30 years. I’m clean and sober for 26 years.  I’m married to my second wife, Anne, for 28 years. I’m close to my sons from the first marriage and to Anne’s two sons and daughter. By now, I have 11 grandchildren – two grandsons in their early twenties.

I see Guido once in a while at the Hunt Club. At the Holiday Party, the Labor Day clambake and some times at competitions. Guido has 10 grandchildren – he tells me he never could keep up with me. He tells me he has a pretty good second career going as a Staging & Choreographic consultant for ballet companies far and wide.

Once he waves me over to his table and introduces me to six old guys he is drinking with. “This is Jimmy, the stalker”, he says, “the Recon Marine who showed you pussies what hunting is all about!” He laughs. They don’t.

So, I’m surprised when he calls me yesterday and asks me to meet him in the bar at the Hunt Club at 5pm.  “I really need to talk to you,” he says. “The Diet-Coke is on me.”

When I walk into the bar, he’s already there with his McCallan’s.  A Diet Coke is up on the bar waiting for me. There’s just us two and Jack, the barman, who is busy doing setups for the upcoming dinner crowd.

“You don’t know how much you changed my life,” Guido says, before I can even mount my stool. “Out there by the Black Hills that night – you passed out – but me and the guide – we had to bear it all the way on that long ride back. The pain, the grief, that yearning, that longing. But by the time we got back we realized you had helped us feel okay about ourselves – that you had said our say for us even though you were crazy and a pain in the ass.“

I kept silent. “My fear and sadness had made me feel freaky and weak”, he said.  “I never felt that way again. From that night on, I honored the yearning and the longing. That changed everything for me. I owe you big time.”

I didn’t say anything. I didn’t know what to say. “Listen,” he said,  “I want to tell you about something truly wonderful. My granddaughter, Elizabeth, she grew up in Seattle with my daughter Nancy and her husband, Bill. She graduated Summa Cum from Reed. She got a PHD in Chemistry from UCLA. But she is so shy she never meets anyone. I mean she’s attractive enough – I think she’s actually got a kind of hot body. God, are you allowed to say stuff like that about your own granddaughter?”

“No, it’s not allowed. Put your hands behind your back. You’re under arrest!”

“I won’t go quietly.

So, she’s so shy, she sees no one. She coops with a microscope at work and with a Kindle at home. When I visit her, I see the sad, sad, loneliness on her, I see an Old Maid forming for sure. I can’t bear it. But I don’t know what to do.”

“So, what do you do?”

“I pray. I haven’t prayed a lick for forty years even though I was sad missing God like I couldn’t really help believing in God. I get down on my knees and I say ‘Please, God, I beg you to help Elizabeth find a good man.’ I said this over and over 49 times twice a day for 49 days.”

“What happened?”

“Well, on day, 49, Elizabeth goes to meet a girl friend for lunch at the Woodland Park Zoo – only her friend never shows. She ends up sharing a table with a guy, who is a physics PHD from Harvard out for an interview with Boeing.  The guy gets hit by a lightning bolt – and so does Elizabeth. They are getting married in June – and I want you and Anne to be there. It never would have happened without you.”

“Well,” I say, “this is great – but I don’t know what I have to do with it.”

Guido smiles. “I knew you might feel that way. That’s okay. I just had to thank you. You’ll come to the wedding?”

“Sure”, I said, “We’ll come. But do you really believe your prayers had anything to do with it?”

He pauses – and takes my right hand in both of his and looks into my eyes.

“Jimmy, do you miss your parents?

Are you sad about your dead buddies?

Do you miss God?

Jimmy, if I can’t believe in this – what can I believe in?”


Robert Haydon Jones lives in Westport, CT with his wife, Alice.


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