xxviii: Return to the City
Throughout the winter of 1944-45, O'Neill was too ill to do anything at all. He told a friend just before Christmas that he hadn't done any work in a long time. There was much to do, but somehow he could take no interest in writing plays. His mind was often occupied with thoughts of destruction and death. He reflected on how closely related to the times was his play Lazarus Laughed, when death and "the meaning or meaningless of life" were so close to us. He compared "the murder, madness and death realism of Tiberius and Caligula" to Hitlerism. But in the spring the mood of defeatism in the world changed -The Allies already had their enemies on the run, and O'Neill was cheered sufficiently to think about the production of his plays.
Lawrence Langner took A Moon for the Misbegotten, The Iceman Cometh and A Touch of the Poet back to New York. But first he stopped in Hollywood to look for actors and actresses -- particularly for "an Irish giantess." He and O'Neill were in accord that A Moon for the Misbegotten should be the first of the three plays to be produced after the war was over, then The Iceman Cometh, and later A Touch of the Poet. Although O'Neill was still weak and traveling conditions were difficult and getting worse, he made the decision to cross the continent. Carlotta was able to obtain space on an eastbound train through the press representative of the railroad.
She had been put to a great deal of difficulty to obtain the tickets; then, just a few hours before train time, O'Neill suddenly changed his mind. It is not really known why he did not return East at this time. Perhaps he did not feel well enough to undertake the long train trip. At any rate, Carlotta was unable to secure reservations for them again until the latter part of 1945.
The end of the war in Europe did not impress O'Neill as much as the end of the war in the Pacific. He was well enough on August 14 to take part in the V-J Day celebrations in San Francisco. Later, in New York, he took pleasure in recounting details of the hysterical and wildly celebrating crowds.
In October, 1945, Carlotta was able to obtain train reservations on her own, at the end of the month they arrived in New York, where they took a housekeeping suite of rooms at the Hotel Barclay. They tried to keep their arrival a secret, but a reporter for The New York Times learned that O'Neill was in town and asked him for news of his future plans. O'Neill said he was in New York "only for a brief stay" and that he was not contemplating the production of any of his plays.
One of the first people O'Neill got in touch with was his elder son, who was living in New York. Father and son had kept in communication with each other by mail. Eugene junior was only thirty-five, but he was already considered an authority on the disputed Homeric authorship, a field full of controversy. He had taken his doctorate in Greek at Yale and had become an assistant professor there. His father's publishers, Random House, had brought out two volumes of Greek plays translated by him and Whitney Oates. The only flaw in an otherwise impressive record was his marital career -- there had already been three marriages, all ending in divorce.
In 1944 he had drifted down to the Village, where Shane had welcomed him. But the pattern of their childhood roles persisted; Shane remained the kid brother and Eugene always "took over" when he was in a social group. Physically, Eugene was taller and huskier than Shane. He had inherited the melodious voice of his grandfather, James O'Neill. Sporting a Vandyke beard, he cut an impressive figure in any of the many circles in which he moved, even in eccentric-hardened Greenwich Village.
"Eugene didn't talk to you," Marc Brandel has said, "he lectured you. He was always talking to Shane about 'our father.' The idea was that Shane should not do this or that on account of 'our father.'"
Marjory Straight was amazed at the difference in the two sons. "I was awed by his knowledge, humbled by my own ignorance. I became one of his great listeners," Marjory has said of Eugene. She was fascinated by his behavior with girls. "It was as if," she said, "he wooed and maintained his manhood by his talk of books. He would hold a girl's hand with Dryden, embrace her with Proust, and kiss her sweetly with John Donne."
Eugene, apparently, did not feel his name to be a burden. "Eugene junior would walk into a room," Joy Nicholson, a young actress and director, has said, "practically announcing he was the son of the great O'Neill. It seemed to me, at the time, that he was perfectly adjusted to being known as the son of Eugene O'Neill."
Eugene junior had tried desperately to get a commission in the Navy but had failed because of his allergies. Then he was drafted, only to be turned down by the Army doctors because of a permanent injury he had suffered in his bicycle accident at fourteen. He took this rejection very hard and stepped up his drinking, which was already impressive. During the war he took a leave from Yale to work in a cable factory in New Haven.
As the war began to draw to a close, Eugene dreaded more and more going back to teaching at Yale. He wanted a broader audience for his talents. He had thought of going into newspaper work, or into the theater, or perhaps the new television industry. His father sent him to see his old friend, Art McGinley, who was working as sports editor of the Hartford Times. McGinley sent Eugene to the manager of Station WTIC in Hartford, where young Gene got a job as an announcer. He had insisted that he wanted the job on his merits and did not want to exploit his father's name. Nonetheless, the publicity announcement of his employment said that "the playwright's son, under the name of Gene O'Neill," was working for Station WTIC.
The wartime Greenwich Village that Shane lived in and to which Eugene junior had come was much altered from the Village of the 1920s, of candlelight poetry readings, and of Edna St. Vincent Millay. It was rough now and brassy, filled with men in uniform, and at night it tended to be honky-tonk. Young people -- both men and women -wore blue jeans. Few of them were concerned with contribution to the arts. In O'Neill's day there had been some kind of honest enthusiasm for art in the Village, in particular a struggle for the creation and recognition of American art. Now futility was the fashion. Nothing mattered except the moment. Nothing was worth believing in. There was talk of Kafka and Sartre. Or there was no talk, just raised eyebrows, shrugs of shoulders, gestures, and the question, "Are you hep?" Drinking was getting to be slightly old hat, too. There were other things -- Benzedrine, for example. You could buy an ordinary Benzedrine inhaler at a drugstore, remove the wick, soak it in water, and drink the solution. It gave you a "charge."
Then there were "sticks of tea" -- marijuana cigarettes -- which drifted down from Harlem at anywhere between twenty-five cents and a dollar a cigarette, or reefer. "Tea" parties were held in apartments after the bars closed. Shane was invited to such affairs. He liked the sensation, he liked the release from the misery and depression always hounding him. "It was a social thing," Shane has said. "It was a thing you did with others. I started it because everybody else seemed to be doing it. I didn't want to be different, to be a wet blanket." Perhaps it made him feel he belonged.
"Tea" stepped up a devotee's enjoyment of jazz. It enabled the musician himself to break loose from reality into a world of ecstasy. Shane tried a few musical instruments and found that he could play them naturally. His colleagues in his new world of "tea" and jazz tended to be more or less ineffectual personalities. Other things they had in common were broken homes, domineering mothers or fathers, and vague desires -- which were seldom acted upon -- to take some part in artistic creation.
The smoking of marijuana followed a kind of ritual. The reefers were passed around and Shane, with the others, would inhale noisily, taking in air with the smoke. He would hold the smoke in his lungs as long as possible, to get the full effect. After the second or third reefer, would come euphoria -- the feeling of well-being, of being "real cool." Time always slowed down; it seemed that Shane could hear and feel and enjoy every note of the music on the phonograph.
The feelings of those who were smoking were entirely passive. Nobody danced or made sexual overtures. Their talk was about "tea" and where to get it. Marijuana smokers felt superior to ordinary people, who were "squares."
"We all smoked marijuana in those days," Marc Brandel has said. "It was the thing to do. The idea was to get yourself feeling anything but natural. The thing is, most of us outgrew it. Shane didn't."
Shane and Marjory were still together; but "sometimes," she wrote in her journal, "I think we are enemies." A friend invited them to come to her cottage on Martha's Vineyard. "Come," wrote the friend, "it will give you a chance to find each other." Shane was for going. "I've always lived by the sea -- like father. He always takes a house beside the sea. It makes me feel almost at home. I know what I think when I hear the waves. Let's go and consolidate our forces."
They went. They settled in the friend's cottage, and walked along the water's edge, picking up shells and driftwood. In the evenings, Marjory sketched while Shane and the friend played gin rummy. Shane read a great deal. One night he read something aloud to Marjory, a passage from Thomas Wolfe Look Homeward, Angel:
"If a man has a talent and cannot use it, he has failed. If he has a talent and uses only half of it, he has partly failed. If he has a talent and learns somehow to use the whole of it, he has gloriously succeeded and won a satisfaction and triumph few men ever know."
They talked of their future. "Let's just stay here and not worry," Shane said. "But we must do something, Shane," Marjory answered. A letter came for Shane from a friend. "Am staying here in Provincetown," it said. "Lots of jobs here on fishing boats. The men are all drafted. The pay is good. Come soon."
Shane told Marjory that he would get a job on a boat and she could stay in Provincetown and paint. No more Greenwich Village. The wheel was coming around, in a strange way, to a full cycle in his life. Provincetown was where his father had married his mother, and where Shane had been born in the home of a Portuguese fisherman.
The alarm went off at five o'clock to enable them to catch the early morning ferry to the mainland. Shane was in one of his death sleeps. Marjory shook him. He woke momentarily, long enough to rain the little glancing blows with his fists which always shot out from him when he was awakened. She dressed and packed, meanwhile calling him from time to time. He sat up as she was about to leave. She said she would go ahead and try to delay the ferry for a few minutes to give him time to get aboard. He nodded.
At the dock she waited with her suitcase until the passengers were all aboard. Then she walked up the gangplank and found the captain. She said her husband would be there in a few minutes and would he delay the ferry a little? Together, she and the captain stood at the ship's railing looking at the now-empty pier. Soon, the whistle blew. Bells sounded. The engine rumbled in the hold.
Just as the captain was telling her that he couldn't delay the ferry any longer, Shane came hurrying up the pier, carrying the little blue canvas suitcase which held just about everything he owned in the world. Then, suddenly, he turned around and walked in the direction from which he had come. "Never mind, Captain," Marjory said. "I guess there is no need to wait." She watched the pier grow smaller and gradually disappear.
Shane was unable to remember quite what went on in his mind when he turned around that morning on the pier. His seemingly impulsive decision may have altered the course of his life. Marjory returned to the city. She left Greenwich Village and moved uptown. Recognition as an artist came rapidly. Her life with Shane was over.
Shane lingered on the island for several days. He would hold life in suspension -- perhaps forever. He continued to read Thomas Wolfe at night by kerosene light. Which of us has known his brother? Which of us has looked into his father's heart? Which of us has not remained forever prison-pent? Which of us it not forever a stranger and alone? During the day he walked by the edge of the sea.
When Shane returned to Greenwich Village from Martha's Vineyard in the spring of 1944, he moved into Marc Brandel's apartment at 149 West Fourth Street. One of his poems, Brandel remembers, was built around the line, "People don't care." Why Shane continually felt so alone puzzled Brandel. Shane had many friends who were devoted to him. He had a group to which he could feel he belonged -- the friends who still gathered in the Old Colony. One of them was Cathy Givens.
Cathy, who became Shane's wife, was, like him, a rebellious child. She was an extraordinarily pretty girl, with a slightly disdainful and insolent look about her, who had been educated at private schools. Her presence in Greenwich Village indicated no overpowering artistic drive. Cathy and Shane were astonishingly alike physically, seeming at first glance almost like brother and sister. Thin and Irish, she resembled Shane also in a lack of competitiveness. Both seemed indifferent about their very survival; but still, Cathy wanted a husband, a home and children, and she got them.
Cathy lived with another girl in the Village and worked as a saleswoman at various department stores. Shane took a job at a window display studio run by Tommy Rowland and her husband, Dick. Most of its employees were young people who lived in the Village and wanted to be painters or sculptors. There were no regular hours and little supervision. Employees came and went as they pleased, simply signing in and out. Shane discovered that he possessed an unusual talent for making things with his hands. He improvised striking papiermâché figures of horses. He also made figures of horses and dogs out of straw. In his notebook, at this time, he wrote these lines:
On the morning of July 31, 1944, Shane, Marc Brandel, and other friends gathered at the Old Colony, before setting out for Norwalk, Connecticut, where Cathy was staying with her mother. Cathy had been brought up as an Episcopalian, but the marriage service was performed by a justice of the peace. Shane gave his occupation as merchant seaman, his age as twenty-four. Cathy's age was twenty.
By the end of the afternoon, Shane and Cathy were back in New York, drinking at the Old Colony and receiving the congratulations of their friends. Shane wrote to his mother in Hollywood that he was married. He did not write to his father because he assumed that his father, having severed his relationship with Oona, had also severed ties with him.
Later in the evening of their wedding day, Cathy and Shane remembered that they had no place to stay. Marc Brandel suggested that they stay at his apartment, while he would stay with a friend. A few nights later, Cathy and Shane shifted to the apartment of another friend. Their gypsy honeymoon continued for several weeks. They stayed wherever they could find a haven. One evening in the San Remo café, they chatted with Jimmy Light's ex-wife, Susan Jenkins, an old friend of Agnes and Gene's from their Provincetown days. She was now married to William Slater Brown, a writer, World War I ambulance driver, and the "B" of E. E. Cummings' The Enormous Room. She had not seen Shane since he was a little boy in Provincetown and was upset to learn that he was just married and had no place to live. They could have, she said, an apartment she had been using as a stop-over in New York. It was in the southern part of the Village at 49 King Street. Gratefully, Cathy and Shane moved there that night.
" Shane looked like a miniature edition of his father,". Brown has said. "Both he and his wife seemed homeless and forlorn. Shane was growing a little mustache like his father's. Later, when I came to take my things out of King Street, I noticed he had a newspaper color photograph of his father among his belongings. I could tell he worshiped his father. I had the feeling that he was trying to emulate him."
Early in 1945, Cathy and Shane decided to go out to the West Coast. Agnes wrote that they could visit her in Hollywood. They lent their apartment on King Street to Eugene junior. Shane and Cathy were in California well into the spring. Oona and Charlie Chaplin had them to dinner a number of times and invited them to parties. Shane thought Oona seemed very happy.
"I liked Chaplin," Shane has said. "He told me so many things that interested me. One day, at the beach, we were watching some people off in the distance. He showed me how much you can tell about people and what they're saying and thinking from just watching their movements. You don't have to hear what they're saying. Chaplin made me understand how to show character in pantomime. It was interesting. I learned a lot."
Shane did not look up his father in San Francisco.
When Shane and Cathy returned to New York late that spring of 1945, they moved back into their King Street apartment, and Eugene rented another in the same house.
Young Gene was shocked, as were so many of those close to O'Neill, when he saw his father in New York that fall of 1945. His father's eyes startled him, and he recalled that someone had once said that O'Neill's eyes looked like "the crow's nest of his soul." Now his forearms were shaking almost as violently as his hands.
Barrett Clark, who visited him at about this time, was also "shocked" at his appearance. O'Neill seemed gaunt and shrunken, and his hands trembled so violently that he had great difficulty lighting a cigarette. This was clearly not nervousness alone," said Clark. "He has told me in his letters of long and strenuous attacks of illness, but I was not prepared to see a man who looked as though he should be in a hospital."
O'Neill told his elder son that he had stopped writing because he no longer could use pen or pencil, and he could not abide a typewriter. Dictating to a secretary was also out of the question. "Imagine," he said, "trying to dictate a play like Mourning Becomes Electra!" At the moment, he was trying out a dictaphone.
Six physicians had examined O'Neill in an attempt to find out what was ailing him. Three of them diagnosed his illness as Parkinson's Disease, which Generally affects the use of the muscles, causing tremor and weakness. The other specialists said the illness was not Parkinson's Disease, and there was talk of its being some hereditary nervous ailment. O'Neill now recalled that his mother's hands had trembled. Coffee helped steady his hands at times. He was puzzled as to just how much the trembling had to do with his nerves.
Yet in many ways, Eugene noticed, his father seemed happier than he had been when he had seen him in California. He showed his elder son bound copies of his plays which had been sent to him from all over the world. Days Without End, he said with a grin, was banned in Soviet Russia because officials thought O'Neill was an apologist for the Catholic Church. The talk turned to the recent war. Eugene told his father the Navy had rejected him because of his allergies and the Army would not have him because of the injury to his head. O'Neill didn't say anything for several minutes. Then he remarked, "You have escaped now, but it will get you in the end."
Later, commenting to a friend on the significance of the remark, Eugene said, "I think it was that Greek thing in him -- the idea that the Furies always catch up with you. The Greek tragedies, the concept of fate in the Greek sense, had a tremendous influence both on his work and on him."
Eugene told his father that he was living in Greenwich Village, under the same roof as Shane. O'Neill said, "Tell Shane to call me. I'd like to see him."
Shane and Cathy had not even known that O'Neill was in New York and were surprised when Eugene dropped into their apartment one evening and said, "Our father is in town. He says to call him." Because Cathy was in her final month of pregnancy, it was agreed that it would be better if Shane went up to see his father for the first time without her.
Shane's reunion with his father took place several weeks before the birth of his baby. They had not seen each other for five years. When he returned from dinner with his father and Carlotta at the Barclay, he was laconic in his descriptions of the meeting. "We got along well together," he told Cathy. But they were still shy with each other. As the playwright Russel Crouse, one of O'Neill's friends, has said, "Gene seemed deeply attached to Shane -- in a detached way -- if you can picture that. I don't know how else to express it."
Shane too was shocked at his father's physical appearance. Although Shane's own hands sometimes shook, they didn't shake nearly so much as his father's. Carlotta had been nice, Shane said, and was interested when he told them that Cathy was soon to have a baby; he had explained that this was the reason he had not brought her along. Carlotta asked Shane what arrangements he had made and what hospital Cathy would go to. O'Neill said he was anxious to meet Cathy.
On November 19, 1945, Shane telephoned his father that Cathy had given birth. It was a boy, he said, and they had named him Eugene, for his grandfather. They neglected, however, to add the descriptive III, both being rather vague about such matters. O'Neill was pleased and said he would like to see the baby. A day or two later, Carlotta called on Cathy at French Hospital on the lower West Side, bringing a china figurine of an angel, a pretty plant, and a big box of candy. Cathy was impressed with how fashionable, how stylish, Carlotta was.
"She talked a mile a minute," Cathy has said. "She was very anxious to know exactly where Agnes was. She said it was important that Gene and Agnes should not meet. In fact, that was the reason Gene had not come down to the hospital with her to see the baby. Also, she said he was not well. She said if I met Gene I must make sure and not mention Agnes. It would be embarrassing. It might upset him."
Carlotta called later at King Street and brought a complete layette for the baby. She again explained that Gene was too ill to come.
"We had a nice long talk," Cathy remembers. "She said that the important thing in life was to have ideals. She was obviously uncomfortable about our cold-water flat and its meager furnishings. She said that it was important for a young couple to stand on their own feet. She said she was having Shane and myself up for dinner soon so I could meet Gene. Again she cautioned me not to mention Agnes."
About three weeks later, Cathy and Shane were asked to dinner at the Hotel Barclay. Shane was working uptown at an electrical-fixture factory and arrived before Cathy. When Cathy knocked on the door to the O'Neill apartment, she heard Carlotta saying, "Easy now, Gene, take it easy." O'Neill opened the door. He seemed "very calm, very gracious." Also, Cathy noticed, very shy. He did not kiss her.
"My immediate impression of him" Cathy has said, "was that here was a very elegant man. I'd sort of expected the old sailor, the saloon guy I had read about. He was extremely well-dressed and had an Old-World air about him. He was very gallant, had beautiful manners.
"I'll never forget his first words to me. I was especially surprised because of Carlotta's repeated cautioning. He looked me over and then, smiling, and looking directly into my eyes, said, 'Why, you look just like Agnes.' Carlotta and I were both somewhat taken aback."
O'Neill, after inquiring about the baby, asked Cathy what books she enjoyed reading. She said she liked the works of Yeats and Edna St. Vincent Millay. At some point in the evening O'Neill remarked that Cathy reminded him of Emily Dickinson. Later the talk turned to jazz. Shane remarked that he liked the music of Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman. O'Neill said that he had a complete set of Goodman records and they would play some of them soon. He turned out to have an extensive knowledge of jazz. Carlotta took the view that jazz was "savage" music and Cathy asked her what she meant.
"She replied that jazz was the music of Negroes," Cathy remembers, "and that they go by their instincts. She did not believe jazz was true art. None of us commented much on her views of jazz."?
It was a pleasant dinner served in the O'Neill's suite by a hotel waiter. Carlotta chose a special wine, but O'Neill only sipped at his glass. He was "in temperance," as he called not drinking. Carlotta said that drinking wine with one's meal was the only civilized way to drink and appeared to know a good deal about French wines. Carlotta gave Cathy a Chablis of a "very good year" to take home.
Shane saw more of his father that winter of 1945-46 than he had since O'Neill left Bermuda in 1927. O'Neill was doing no writing, and for the first time in many years he had time to spare. Shane told him he was still interested in writing.
"In a way, I don't think my father wanted me to write," Shane has said. "For years, during my visits with him, I had tried to talk to him about learning how to write. He didn't seem interested. He always tried to discourage me. I think it was because he thought I'd be happier if I did something else. He said it was a hard thing being a writer.
"We got to talking about writing when he said he had seen some short stories in the Daily News signed by a Shane O'Neill. I told him it was not me. Then I remember, another time, he said, 'Of course, if you want to write you will write regardless of what I tell you. If you really are a writer, you will write regardless of anything. Nothing will stop you.'"
One evening, while father and son were playing some of O'Neill's jazz records, Shane became unusually articulate. He spoke of what the modern jazz composers were trying to do, the difference in the various kinds of jazz, and what some of the more progressive musicians and composers were up to.
"I was quite surprised," Shane said, "when suddenly my father said, 'Why don't you write about jazz music?' He said he found the things' I was telling him very interesting and that I had told him a lot of things he hadn't known. Actually he knew a great deal about jazz himself and had one of the finest collections of jazz records I had ever seen."
O'Neill reminisced with Shane a good deal that winter, talking about his past life, his parents and Jamie, about going to sea, about the early days of Provincetown Players. He said he did not have much money. Shane should understand that he would not be able to leave him much in his will. Actually, he said, what he was leaving him was embodied in the separation agreement he had made with Agnes at the time of the divorce. Shane would get half the proceeds from the sale of Spithead if and when it was sold. So, he said, in a sense, Spithead would be his legacy.
On Monday morning, February 11, 1946, Shane went uptown, as usual, to the factory where he worked. Cathy got up a few minutes later and went over to look at the baby. He was sleeping on a pillow which had been placed at the bottom of a bureau drawer. Like his grandfather, this Eugene O'Neill was spending most of his early days in a makeshift crib. The baby looked much too still. Cathy touched his forehead. It was cold. Quickly, she picked up the baby and ran to Leroy Street, two blocks away, where her sister Gogo lived. Gogo telephoned Shane and told him to come at once to St. Vincent's Hospital. At St. Vincent's, doctors pronounced the little Eugene O'Neill dead on arrival. The baby's body was taken to Bellevue, where an autopsy was performed. The verdict was "Postural asphyxia from bed clothes. Accidental." The baby's age was listed as two months and twenty-four days.
O'Neill did not attend the funeral of his namesake -- Shane afterward was told that his father had not been well enough. Eugene junior was out of town. Agnes and Oona, who were on the West Coast, talked to Shane on the telephone. It was Agnes' idea that Shane and Cathy should go away for a while. She wired to Harry Weinberger and asked that Gene give the couple enough money to go to Bermuda; he could deduct it from her alimony, she wrote. O'Neill agreed.
The night before they left for Bermuda, O'Neill had Cathy and Shane in to dinner. " Carlotta was ill," Cathy has reported, "and there were just the three of us at dinner. I noticed that Gene, as I was calling him by that time, seemed more relaxed than when Carlotta was with him. Shane and his father did most of the talking," and they talked mostly about Bermuda. O'Neill spoke of how much he had loved Spithead, and of the times that he and Shane had had there."
The young couple sailed for Bermuda at the end of February. They stayed in the cottage next to the big house at Spithead, and for four months they enjoyed a vacation and a welcome respite from their problems. O'Neill paid for their passage and sent them a hundred dollars a month while they were there; and he deducted the whole amount from Agnes' alimony.
When they returned to New York they took a room in a hotel just off Washington Square. They didn't want to go back to the apartment where little Eugene had died. O'Neill, meanwhile, had moved from the Hotel Barclay to an apartment somewhere in the East Eighties. He was in the middle of the long and complicated arrangements for the casting and production of The Iceman Cometh.
Shane was unable to find a job immediately and, in a few days, he and Cathy found themselves without funds. On top of this, Shane came down with a bad case of flu. He did not know exactly where his father was living, for O'Neill and Carlotta had checked out of the Barclay without leaving a forwarding address. Cathy and Shane knew they were still in town, however, because O'Neill had granted Earl Wilson, a syndicated columnist, an interview. Wilson did not reveal O'Neill's address but described the scene of the interview as "the sun-sprayed patio of a high-up apartment in the east 80's -- an apartment rich with 10,000 books."
Cathy obtained O'Neill's unlisted telephone number from one of the cast of The Iceman Cometh. The first time she called, Carlotta answered and told Cathy flatly that O'Neill did not want to see her or Shane. There was no explanation. The conversation was not pleasant and Carlotta terminated it. Cathy called a second time and Carlotta was highly indignant. She said she had explained that O'Neill did not want to see them. Finally, after several more calls, Carlotta told Cathy that O'Neill, even if he wished, couldn't come to the phone because he was taking a bath. According to Cathy, she heard O'Neill's voice in the distance saying, "I'll talk." It was obvious, Cathy has said, that he was very annoyed.
"How did you get this number?" he asked her.
"A friend told me," she answered. "I can't tell you -- it isn't any of your business anyway."
"What do you want?" O'Neill asked.
"Shane is not well," Cathy told him. "He has the flu. We need help."
"All right," O'Neill said, "I'll send Aronberg down in the morning." Winfield E. Aronberg had succeeded the late Harry Weinberger as O'Neill's lawyer.
That evening friends of Cathy and Shane insisted that they come to their apartment for a steak dinner. Although Shane was still feeling shaky, he was also hungry and went along. Just before they left for dinner, another friend, named Seymour, dropped by to welcome them back to the city. He had had a few drinks, he said, and was dead tired. Cathy told him to lie down on their bed and take a nap.
While they were gone, Aronberg arrived with a physician. The lawyer had never met Shane and he assumed that the man on the bed was the patient. The doctor told him to take his shirt off and listened with his stethoscope to Seymour's breathing. Finally, the doctor gave the groggy Seymour a shot of Vitamin B. This did it. "I'm not Shane," Seymour said.
The affair was reported to the manager the next morning. Somehow he got the impression that there was something sinister about two men coming into a room at that hour. He told Shane he and Cathy would have to leave the hotel. Just then Aronberg called up.
"What did you do a terrible thing like that to your father for?" he asked Cathy. "Gene asked me to go down there and help Shane. He thought he was sick and dying. I come down with the doctor and Shane isn't even there."
"And what's the idea," Cathy replied, "of you two coming down here looking like a couple of toughs? So tough that the manager has thrown us out of the hotel!"
Though the incident possessed certain comic elements, it ended in anything but comedy. For this was the last communication of any nature between Shane and his father.
O'Neill, always an uneasy father,
was gradually achieving his release from the role. First Oona, now
Shane -- and yet he probably could feel that that release was being
forced upon him by his children.
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