Reads: 85

If Simmons had ever taken the time to wonder what a “surfer dude” might look like during post-surf retirement, then Jimmy was the answer. Still reeking of California and comfortable with slang from the Nixon Administration. He needed shoulder length hair to complete the effect, but—like most older men—was content to cut it back to stiff bristles of iron gray. He had a half-hearted, ironic smile but used the handshake to pull Simmons close—patting his new acquaintance on the back, as if to assure Simmons that everything was going to be fine—even if Simmons was going to turn down whatever request was going to be placed on the table.

‘Great to meet you, man. Don’t run into that many Americans over here.’

‘I think a lot of Americans might want to move in,’ Simmons observed. ‘But it seems expensive.’

Jimmy nodded. ‘Sure. Not the Lost Generation scene anymore. Oligarchs and oil money.’

Dumas had begged Simmons to wear anything but jeans. So he was back in a suit—minus the tie. Dumas was in a black dress with a hem down to the floor, but a slit that rose up to her thigh. Sensitive about her height, as usual, she was in ballet flats. And Jimmy sat down in jeans whose patches obviously had a history, a black shirt with a little bit of a ruffle, open to the white hair on his chest, and—visible through the open neck—the Eye of Ra suspended on a silk cord.

With the wine already open, the meal started with fresh oysters, and in the “getting acquainted” part—before anyone mentioned the reason for their meeting—Simmons found himself haunted by the voice. Jimmy wasn’t one for long sentences, but it was a voice that Simmons knew he’d heard before.

Familiar. Although not right away. And he found himself becoming a little impatient with Alex’s teasing smiles: waiting to see if he could guess—or if she would have to tell him in the end.

Small talk about life in Paris continued until the fish course: when Simmons finally had his epiphany—and when Dumas knew that he knew.

It didn’t take a great sense of body language to see the change in his manner. The sudden knowledge hit him like a blow to the head. But still, he placed his fish fork neatly next to his plate before sitting back in his chair and looking at the two conspirators in astonishment.

‘No way!’ he exclaimed, after being wordless for a few seconds.

‘No fucking way!’ he repeated.

Dumas glanced at Jimmy with a quiet look of triumph. ‘I said he would guess before too long. But I believe I also told you he would have many doubts.’

Jimmy just shrugged. ‘And why not? All official. All on Wikipedia. All the dates. And even the movie has me dying—'

‘In 1971!’ Simmons interrupted.

‘July the third,’ Jimmy recalled. ‘Just before the fireworks, the hotdogs, the parades and all that all-American shit.’ He turned to Dumas. ‘This is the second time I’ve had this fish, I think.’

‘It’s really excellent isn’t it?’

‘Let me have this lady’s number later.’ He turned back to Simmons. ‘Now and then I try to have a real meal. Have some people over. Fire up a couple and maybe listen to what’s new. But I’m not much in the kitchen. Any of the old girlfriends could tell you.’

Simmons ignored this chatter, since it was clear that they were just teasing him.

‘What happens in the movies hardly ever happens in real life. I know that much.’

‘No argument from me,’ Jimmy replied, still amused.

‘It is, in fact, very difficult to fake your own death and still keep everything you had before,’ Simmons insisted.

‘Well—nobody said it was easy. And I sure the hell couldn’t have done it alone. My name’s not on the place upstairs. You won’t see it on the mailbox. And I got help from bankers. Because of the money flow, you know? What they call the “residuals” are still coming in: because the LPs are still selling, man, if you can believe that. Never been out of print—’

‘I believe it! I have all of them—’

‘—and I appreciate it, for sure. Thanks for not going bootleg. And they still get radio play: all those tunes that me and Ray and Johnny and Robbie just cooked up to pass the time. Just for something to do. A bunch of kids bouncing around, trying to make a living, and now we’re fucking icons, man. I go over to the grave, sometimes, you know—’

‘And have a good chuckle?’

‘I don’t know what you mean by that. I never wanted to hurt anybody.’

‘I made the pilgrimage the other day’ Simmons recalled. ‘It’s in the tour guide. Stood around with a bunch of people all thinking the same thing. Jim Morrison. Dead at twenty-seven. What a tragedy. What a waste. In fact, what a joke. What a fucking joke, right? What about all those people?’

‘What about them?’

‘Seems like they deserve an explanation.’

‘Don’t see why. I didn’t want to be ruled by the crowd. That was never the plan. I deserved a life and I didn’t want the life they wanted for me. But I cut a little slack for guys like you, since basically you fucking don’t know what you’re talking about. Only a few hundred people in the world do—and maybe some of them would back out of the whole fame and glory business if they could. Like being at the bottom of the ocean. You just get crushed. I panicked, in a way. Although not all the way. I finally had to do something. And that’s the wild part: none of that was planned. I never planned to disappear forever. Just for a while.’

‘Let’s get back to basics first,’ Simmons suggested. ‘Did someone find you dead, or didn’t they?’

‘They found me. But I wasn’t dead. I wasn’t walking toward the light. Just really close to it. And then, on the spot, just kind of a strange joke—we started paying people off, and getting the right papers, and I got a disguise going, and I got the fuck out of Paris. What everybody kept telling me I would have to do. Get out of Dodge. Get out of sight. Find a place where no one would know my face.’

‘Which was nowhere!’

‘Jesus, I wasn’t that famous. No social media then. I ended up on this sheep farm in Spain—walked across the border, just like they did in World War II. Friend of a friend of a friend knew about this place, and I showed up one night and the shepherd—nice old guy—no English at all—shows me to this little house—’

‘Who did he think you were?’

‘Told him I was “Guy Lombardo”.’

‘Give me a break!’

‘First name that came to mind. I wasn’t even disguised anymore, but this guy was so far away from the world that he just shook my hand: “I hope you will have a pleasant stay, Mr Lombardo.” In Spanish, of course.’

‘And did you have a pleasant stay, Mr Lombardo?’

‘A rough first month,’ Jimmy recalled. ‘If you’d given me a drug test the first day I got there the paper would’ve said: “this guy’s a walking pharmacy”. Loaded up with everything. So that was Job One. To get tethered back to the ground. To see what the world might be like without the chemical carnival. You know, when the band was big, I never had to look for shit. I would just say what I wanted and someone would put it in my hand—just to be my friend for a few minutes. Feels good at the time, but not a healthy situation, all in all.’

‘Cold turkey?’

‘It wasn’t like I was going to ask my friend, the shepherd, for anything. People say it’s like dying. But really, it’s like a bad case of the flu, and—if you’re determined to get it over with—it’s over in not too long. Another funny thing about it was, when I came back down to earth, it really didn’t seem like I had anything more to say. Music wise, I mean. After everything snapped back into focus, I’d take these long walks through the hills and think that the songs should be coming. But they just didn’t. The whole songwriting experience I’d known before—just not there. The river that had never been dry before dried up. So you could say that was the second big thing, after getting sober. The possibility I had to face that it had all been the chemicals talking. Not Jim Morrison at all. And then the third big thing: I started hearing I was dead. Unbelievable! Our crappy little plan had worked! I was free—if I wanted to be. But I always thought, you know, that I could step back in after I took care of some other business. I came back to France and did all the things you need to do to make yourself into somebody else, you know, as far as the money—and the passport. And then I started to travel. Something the ultra-famous guy would never have been able to do. With the band, I couldn’t go out for cigarettes without a riot. But that all changed, and I went where I wanted to go in peace. Machu Picchu. Angkor Wat. India, for a while, even though I didn’t understand what the Beatles got out of it.’

Simmons challenged him. ‘And not a peep from anybody? Nothing?’

‘How could I be Jimmy Morrison? Jimmy Morrison was dead, man! Couple people said I looked like him. That happened sometimes. But who’d be crazy enough to do anything about it? Because Jimmy Morrison was dead, and everybody knew it.’

They were well into the entrée—a fantastic Beef Wellington—by the time Jimmy thought that he had covered all the bases, even though Simmons had plenty of questions remaining.

He started to ask the next one, but Jimmy signaled that they were going in another direction. ‘And finally back to Paris: where it’s been a great life. Where I could just be a kind of aspiring poet who occasionally gets something published—but otherwise just lives a quiet life off to the side.’

‘So why talk to me? Why take this risk?’ Simmons wanted to know.

‘I’m getting the serious chatter from the doctor now, and he says the end is in sight. I don’t want to spend that last time here. Months. Maybe a year. No offense to Paris, but old men love familiar things and—from the beginning—L.A. was my muse. The soul of my soul. People seem to love or hate the place. But I’ve never really been far from it, in terms of the spirit, you know.’

‘It could have been that the music didn’t come from the drugs at all,’ Simmons ventured, thinking out loud. ‘It could have been just a time and a place.’

Jimmy nodded.

‘It’s crossed my mind. Once I’m back in that landscape, maybe I’ll get back on that soapbox—even though the music scene’s changed so much, man. We didn’t know how easy we had it. There’s a million people recording now. Sliced up into little tiny markets. So who knows what might happen once I get there. But the main job is to get a trust established. Some way I can give money to causes I think need money, and—to get that done—I need to claw back money from all the countries where I, and the band, have money. We’ve got royalties all over the place, and the record companies haven’t exactly been helpful in sending it over—although I’ve been comfortable with what I’ve been able to get. I need a bird dog to go get that cash, so I can give it away, and end my life thinking I did something more than just drop acid and fuck girls whose names I didn’t remember.’

Simmons played with a fork for a few seconds before responding.

‘You might have to blow your cover if you want to get that money back.’

Dumas and Jimmy exchanged a look. ‘My legal advisor says that I might not.’

‘I am looking into it,’ Dumas explained.

‘But, if that’s what I have to do,’ Jimmy continued, ‘it would probably just be a part of being back in L.A. anyway. Lots of people know me there. Although a lot more of them are dead.’

‘But that will take time,’ Simmons objected. ‘And I know that foreign courts take time—’

Jimmy didn’t share his urgency.

‘Just asking you to do what you can do. Your legal counsel is right here, and ready to go, and I’m easy with the idea that the job will take longer than I have left—’

‘Wait a second…the job? What job?’

‘What the fuck do you think we’ve been talking about?’

‘A job? Not just a favor?’

‘You’d have to do it full time. No question about that.’

‘Moving to L.A.?’

‘Why not here in Paris, since this is where the lawyer is? And you’ve got the whole apartment here. First thing you could do is sell that place upstairs for me.’

Simmons looked from one conspirator to the other. ‘So—everything nice and tidy.’ He turned to Dumas. ‘Maybe some hint during our late-night conversations that you had something life-changing in mind?’

‘There is no pressure—’

‘From your point of view—’

‘—just something to consider,’ Dumas continued. ‘And might not be forever. Just something to ponder, and then decide while we are waiting for your friends—’

‘They’re not my friends!’

‘—while your associates are making their arrangements to return home.’

‘Home,’ Simmons repeated. ‘Where my job is.’

‘But where your heart is?’ asked Dumas.

~~~

The table went silent when the cook brought in the Grand Marnier soufflé. The fragrance filled the room, and Jimmy made a big deal of kissing the round little woman’s hand in a very theatrical way.

Sitting back down, Jimmy looked at the plate with a kind of awe.

‘Maybe I don’t want to know this woman better. She might end up killing me too soon.’ Understanding Simmons’ confusion, Jimmy looked across the table. ‘What we’re talking about—this job—it’s something that’s on the table, like this dessert. Something to think about. An idea I had…we had, actually, since Alex knows how much I want to get all this done.’

‘You have walked in at exactly the right moment,’ Dumas added. ‘We have gotten along so well—and I believe working together would be fun. If you return to Chicago, you are back to being a member of the chorus while the spotlight always rests on someone else. Never on the Leadership Track—’

‘Because I don’t want that,’ Simmons insisted.

‘But, before you declare your decision, be sure that what we propose is not what you want. So many things have worked out so well. You would be your own master. You would learn more about me—about this wonderful city—your income would not suffer. You would receive a percentage of the amounts you recover.’

Simmons looked across the table at Jimmy. ‘A percentage?’

‘To be negotiated,’ Jimmy cautioned. ‘But definitely have a seat at the table. Record companies do everything in their power to make sure people like me don’t get our money. You’ll be mixing with some real assholes.’

‘Well,’ Simmons laughed, ‘I know what that’s like.’

~~~

Jimmy made an early night of it.

‘That’s another thing about old guys,’ he muttered, at the door, ‘you stop seeing so many dawns come around. Although you generally have a lot less to regret after a night is over.’

A handshake for Simmons, a chaste kiss on the cheek for Dumas, and Simmons felt he had a right to be slightly annoyed with his legal counsel after all the earnest discussion.

That feeling followed them into the bedroom—and then out to the terrace, where he sat alone, watching the city, sometime between midnight and dawn. Alexandrine, who’d been asleep until she noticed the empty space in the bed, came out to join him in her night dress—her hair still pushed down on one side, but still looking something like an angel appearing out of the dark.

An angel who seemed worried by Simmons’ bitter tone.

‘You said you had a surprise for me,’ he finally muttered. ‘Boy, did you ever.’

‘My love is not a light-hearted romp. I am not the kind of woman to mess around. “Mess around”? Is that the phrase?’

‘That is the phrase. But you’re deeper water than even I thought.’

‘My life is serious. I must be serious. Jimmy himself might tell you. In a way, all the life we have is a fast flight through confusion and decision. Joy and regret. And then it is all at an end—faster than we could have thought possible.’

‘But this is too fast to be possible. Now it seems like I’m supposed to drop everything I ever thought was going to happen, just based on one conversation.’

‘But consider the logic of it all. And the resonance of it all. I can see that you care for me. It is in your touch and in your look. Not everyone goes to Normandy with me, Richard. Not everyone is admitted to my life. Very few, as I told you. We cannot know what is good forever. But, for now, this feels so comfortable—and so right. You would not be a little cheese anymore. You would be the big cheese. Is that the phrase? “The big cheese? The biggest cheese?”’

‘With all my safety net behind me—’

‘But not bored to death,’ she reminded him. ‘As you have said. Now what skills you have would be seriously tested. Be your own master. Master of your own time. Travel not just for fun, but for a reason. For a good cause. I believe that Jimmy does want to make a difference in the world, and we can help—while we can see if this relationship blooms…or if we will always just be friends.’

‘I can’t,’ Simmons sighed. ‘I can’t, Alex.’

‘Cannot accept.’

‘Can’t decide. We’re traveling too fast. Too much, tonight.’

‘Well—it is something “on the table”. Is that the phrase? There, if you wish to pursue it, and without a deadline. There is no other candidate. We feel that Destiny has delivered us the right man, and we hope you will agree.’

‘But is Jim serious when he talks about the end of his life? How do we know he’s not pulling the same stunt again?’

‘Because I trust him. I have known him for years, as a friend, and something has happened. He has spent forty years here in Paris, thinking about the time that he was at the center of attention. And writing down his thoughts.’

Simmons gave her a long look. ‘Meaning what?’

‘Meaning that we would be handling manuscripts of work that no one has ever seen. Written in his own hand. Poetry. Some of it very good. And his own report of his life—to be published after his death. If a publisher can be found.’

Simmons laughed out loud: ‘If a publisher can be found! Let the cash registers ring! Money, money, money. Money everywhere I look. I’ve never been afraid of money before. So what am I afraid of now, Alex?’

Dumas took his hand.

‘If you need to return to Chicago with your associates, that would not be an issue. But, when he asks you again, I believe you will need to give him a decision. If you decline his offer, then I would be working with someone else, since he is determined to do as he says.’

Simmons signaled that he was done with the topic by staring out at the city.

‘An entirely different feel to this place, this time of night. All the world asleep.’

Dumas smiled. ‘There is still quite a bit going on, if you know where to look. Tell me: would it be too much to think about just being a boy and a girl again now—before your friends—’

‘They’re not my friends. You’ll see the dynamic between us when we pick them up tomorrow.’

‘Not your friends. I apologize…again. But would you consider my proposal? Just the two of us? Looking for something to do before dawn?’

‘I think that’s an outstanding idea. Before the chicks get here. And, I’ll tell you, it was tough focusing when we were messing around earlier.’

‘I could tell that your mind was elsewhere.’

‘Catches you by surprise when the dead come back to life. Especially the famous ones.’

**********

Thanks so much for reading this far. I hope the journey was enjoyable. The final chapters of this narrative - including Richard Simmon's decision - can be found in the Amazon versions of the book: available in both electronic and printed versions. Just go to the Amazon website and search for the title.


Submitted: May 10, 2022

© Copyright 2022 NateBriggs. All rights reserved.

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