When I Was Hemingway
Most writers hoard what is survival gear for most of us … words.
Bits and bobs, flotsam and jetsam, beginnings and endings, random jots of thoughts and perceptions and well-intentioned stabs at craftsmanship.
You never know when a scrap might be useful, when that discarded sentence, slightly retooled, will fit perfectly into a problematic paragraph. And, because you never truly know whether or not your beleaguered brain will ever be able to replicate something reasonably engaging, you hold on to those scraps as life-preservers, wards against the terrors of the empty page.
Likewise, many authors file first completed attempts away, storing first drafts under the literal or metaphorical bed only to emerge with them later, held aloft triumphantly, after said authors have already been published and their early attempts are suddenly notable.
I wish I could report that I’ve saved up a few incomplete manuscripts, but my first book was published and every subsequent book has been, too. However—because I wrote all kinds of things, from translations to original poetry to sonnets to screenplays, long before I decided to cast caution to the winds and actually become a working writer—I can offer a few oddities from time to time, particularly when I’m hitting deadlines on a Monday and scrambling in the dark. 😉
Today, it’s Hemingway. Or, rather, a Hemingway parody/pastiche, a single page of prose based on both subject and style of Papa himself. I wrote this many years ago for a “Bad Hemingway” contest, but, as fate would have it, missed the deadline. To have and have not, eh?
At least in writing Hemingway satire, I am in good company … Raymond Chandler did, too. Those of you familiar with The Sun Also Rises and Papa’s short stories should recognize the title and a number of lines. So, without further ado …
Big, Two-Hearted Harry (Part I)
It was late and the room at Harry’s Bar and Grill was already smoky with the regular crowd when Jock walked in. He sat across from the rummy and pretended not to notice him as the rummy was always hard up and wanting Jock to spot him.
Jock nodded and watched Harry make the drinks. Harry ran a good place, a tight place, a place where a rummy could come and have a clean corner, a well-lit haven. A clean, well-lighted place where a rummy could forget his cojones had gotten blown off in the war.
“Your drink. Lady Breck’s been waiting for you.”
Jock liked Harry. He liked the way Harry poured the absinthe. He liked it the way Harry ran a tight place. He liked it how Harry understood about the rummy and could talk about the important things. He liked it about the scar on Harry’s arm. He liked it how Harry’s tattoo danced when his muscles twitched. He liked it when Harry bent over. Liking that made him feel funny.
“Hello old chap.”
It was Breck. Lady Breck was damned attractive. Her short hair fell boyishly off a chiseled face. Her tight sweater did nothing to hide the curves of a body built like a sleek-hulled yacht.
“I thought you were waiting for me.”
“Oh darling, I’ve been so miserable. I have been waiting, but I couldn’t help tromper-ing you with that white hunter. It’s the way I’m made.”
“That damned red-faced Williams? You didn’t have to do that.”
“Oh darling, don’t be difficult. I’m all yours now. My one true love. But oh darling, I’m so miserable.”
“Don’t talk like a fool.”
“You’re right. You know I feel rather good. I feel rather good not tromper-ing you with the bull fighter. I could have, you know. You chaps left me alone for an hour. I had everyone except Manuel and the rummy. Poor old rummy.”
“You should feel good. Let’s go upstairs.”
They kissed. Breck pulled away. “Oh darling, I’m so miserable. That rummy and I could have had such a damned good time together.”
Jock took her arm. “Yes”, he said, “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”