Sweet Jimmy

Hollywood Forever Cemetery was the last quiet place in LA. Once. A hundred people were crowded around a grave. Laying flowers on it, sobbing. An old lady wearing a bandana …

Illustration by Rolli
Illustration by Rolli

Hollywood Forever Cemetery was the last quiet place in LA. Once.

A hundred people were crowded around a grave. Laying flowers on it, sobbing. An old lady wearing a bandana lifted her arms up.

“Come back, Marilyn,” she said. “Come back.”

I got out of there.

Across the street from Hollywood Forever was another cemetery. I’d never noticed it before. There wasn’t a sign or anything.

I walked through the gate.

Nobody had mowed the grass in fifty years, I don’t think.

I could hear something like leaves blowing around.

A woman was on her hands and knees. Ripping out the weeds around a headstone.

James Wilson

“Sweet Jimmy”


She wiped her nose with her hand.

“You never met a gentler kid. You never dreamed of him. When Sweet Jimmy was seven and I was twenty-nine, on my twenty-ninth birthday, he wrapped his ball glove in the funny pages. Just to have something to give. I told him—Jimmy, you don’t have to do that, I’m happy just to have you. But I don’t need it, he said. I’m not ever going to be a ball player. Why do you say that? I asked him. He looked at me funny. Turned his head funny, smiled. Said, Mama, I’m going to be a star.

“And when next month came by and next month and next year, he still wasn’t an astronaut or a cop-to-be. A star. Always.

“When Sweet Jimmy went to Hollywood . . . When Sweet Jimmy went to Hollywood . . .

“The first time I called him, there was something different. In his voice. Something. I wasn’t sure. I thought . . . he was tired, or something. I didn’t say anything. I love you, Jimmy, I told him. Take care of yourself. He laughed. Don’t worry, Mama, he said.

“Next time I called, it was still there. Whatever it was, was still there. It was stronger. He seemed quieter. What is it, Jimmy? What’s wrong? Nothing, Mama. Jimmy, what is it? He laughed. It’s nothing, Mama. He laughed, but . . . he wasn’t laughing. Don’t worry, Mama, he said. Jimmy? Don’t worry.

“One night I called him and there was no answer. The next night, no answer. Next week, no answer.

“I packed my bags. Drove out to Hollywood. Three days, it took to get there. 1316 Palm Sway. Number six. No answer. I pressed the button again. No answer. An hour later, I pressed it again. Yeah? said a voice. Jimmy? I said. No, the voice said. Danny. I just moved in. Oh, I said. You . . . know anything about Sweet Jimmy? Never heard of him, he said.

“I drove around Hollywood, all day. Half the night. For days and nights after. The police . . . They were looking too. A few times, my heart jumped up. But it wasn’t Jimmy. It never was Jimmy.

“And it isn’t like you’d picture. Hollywood. When the light’s just right, it’s like you’d picture. And when it isn’t . . . It’s dark, Hollywood. Even in the day. There’s something—it’s got a dark heart. There’s something monstrous about it, you can feel it. Even when the sun’s beating down, people smiling. You can feel it. It’s there. There’s something. It’s there. Right on the edge of your eye.

“The Hollywood sign. It’s white teeth. It’s pretty. But it could eat you up.

“Jimmy . . .

“I got the call. One night. In the middle of the night. They found him. They found Jimmy. In the cemetery. They found him in that place, I won’t even say its name. They found him there. In a tree.

“That place. I won’t say it. Don’t even say it to me. That place, across the street. Don’t you say the name. I asked them . . . would they let Sweet Jimmy stay there? Could I keep him there, could I bury him there? Could Sweet Jimmy stay there? I’m sorry, they said. He’s not a star. But he’s Sweet Jimmy. He’s—not a star. I’m sorry.

“Not a star . . .

“Jimmy . . .

“Jimmy . . .

“You never met anyone so gentle.”

The lady pressed her forehead against the headstone. She kept it there a few minutes. I almost walked away.

“Permethrin. I found that out, after. From the coroner. He’d drunk Permethrin. A whole litre, before. They kill cockroaches with it. Permethrin.

“Jimmy . . .

“Why’d you go?

“Why’d you ever go? ”

She sat back up. She pulled out a last handful of weeds. She stuffed them into a bag.

She stood up. She wiped her nose on her arm. She wiped her hands on her pants.

“Mary-Anne,” she said, holding out her hand.

It was dirty. I shook it.

I felt dizzy. I felt messed up. I got out of there.

There was only one other person at the bus stop. An older woman. Wearing a bandana.

I sat beside her anyway.

She smiled at me.

“It’ll be alright,” she said. “She’ll be alright.”

I looked at her.

She touched her necklace.

“I’m psychic,” she said.

“The bus is coming,” she said. “Any minute now.”

“That’s nice,” she said.

“What? ” I asked.

She touched her necklace.

“A young man,” she said. She pointed. “Crossing the street.”

“I don’t see anyone,” I said.

She smiled.

“He’s crossing the street. Walking . . . right through that gate. A woman. She’s waiting. On the other side. She’s—taking his hand. They’re walking along. A young man. A handsome young man. And . . . Marilyn.”

I got up.

“The bus!” said the woman.

I didn’t care.

I ran back into the cemetery. I had to tell Mary-Anne.

Rolli (rollistuff.com; @rolliwrites) is a writer and cartoonist from Regina. His most recent story collection, I Am Currently Working On a Novel, was long-listed for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award and short-listed for the High Plains Book Award. Rolli’s cartoons appear regularly in the Wall Street Journal, Reader’s Digest, Adbusters, and other popular outlets.