Tony Talks Back

Mainly, it was Miss Lavinia Thornton who taught me to love Dolores Morgan.

– Like hell it was, Tony says. Tony thinks he can see through anything and everything these days.

– Keyword equals mainly, I tell Tony.

– No way Mr. Faulkner. Key words, plural, equal Lavinia Thornton equals poor, black maid who works for, more key words here, Dolores Morgan equals rich woman of many sorrows. You are so full of shit, Allen, but whatever keeps you moored in pseudo-Faulkner-land, go for it.

Tony thinks he’s my alt. It’s fashionable enough these days to have one or two alts for yourself. Some even have, like, fourteen of them. But actually being one? All on your own? Tony believes he’s setting a trend that will soon push him onto the cover of GQ.

I have no idea why I allowed Tony to sub-let the spare bedroom in my rented bungalow on Quiet Street anyway. The idea, for me, was to work fewer hours at the cafe in town and have more time for my leisurely pursuits.

But… it just hasn’t worked out that way.

At first, I tried to be nice. Obviously, Tony was on the ropes financially. Not only had his wife and pit bull left him, but his bulldozer was repossessed, too. By some very rough-looking Romanian guy who did not wear a banker’s suit; who just one day pounded up the seashell driveway in greasy coveralls and those heavy black logger boots that add three inches to your height and ten pounds to your ankles. No nonsense. At. All. Like he owned the place. Just drove the Caterpillar straight down the driveway and clean out of sight. Since this was Tony’s only transportation, I took pity and said sure, you can stay another month if you have to.

Dumb. Just so fucking dumb.

Tony has now been here –  surprise, surprise – another five months. In which time he has revealed himself to be a literary critic of the very highest order, I assure you.

I tried to tell him that the story about Dolores Morgan was important, not just literarily, but also politically. I mean, how often do you stumble onto someone whose gay escort was used by a military contractor in order to blackmail McGeorge Bundy into pushing the Vietnam War during his time in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations?

Ronny, Dolores’s Cape Cod escort during the summer, and really her only local pal to speak of, first met Mac when they served together under Admiral Kirk – Sicily in ’43, then 1944 in the English Channel, right at the very middle of things as Operation Overlord developed. What stories Ronny could tell after a few drinks on Dolores’s porch overlooking the Atlantic!

Turns out, as he later confided in me, a third officer burst in on him and Mac one afternoon in private quarters just after the war had ended – with a camera! Once out of the darkroom, those 8×10 glossies were stored for over two decades in a wall-safe behind an unsigned Matisse. Had it not been for Ronny, there may well have been no war in Vietnam. That alone is worth whatever first sentence the storyteller wishes to start out with.