Saturday, September 20, 2014

Inspired by Hemingway

For some reason, I'm thinking about something I wrote in school a few years ago. We were asked to read Hemingway's A Clean Well-Lighted Place and I decided to continue the story.

This is why I don't write for a living?

Sergio walked home slowly, listening to the crunch of the fallen leaves as they crumbled under his shoes. He had trouble distinguishing one sound from another, but he could hear perfectly well when it was quiet. He found that it was better to pretend he was deaf so that people wouldn’t engage him in unwanted conversation. Besides, he couldn’t risk talking to the waiters in case his secret slipped out.

A small animal scurried across his path, anxious to stay in the shadows and out of his way. He opened his gate and fumbled the latch as he tried to close it behind him. After concentrating for a moment, he managed to carefully close it. As he walked toward the house, he left a trail of footprints in the heavy dew; each one offering proof of his existence, and measuring the burden that he carried every moment of his life.

He could see the outline of Anna’s head in the flickering light of the lamp as he opened the door. She was up late tonight, he thought. Leo lifted his shaggy head at the sound of the opening door; wandering up to the old man, sniffing his hand and licking it. Sergio stroked Leo’s
head absently. Satisfied, the dog curled up at the woman’s feet and closed his eyes again.

“You’re early,” Anna said, turning her head toward him with a welcoming smile.

“They seemed eager to close up tonight.”

“How was he?”

“I got the impression that he wanted to tell me something.”

“You should think with your head, not with your heart.”

He sat down beside her and cradled her head in his arms. He could smell her familiar scent and feel her warmth as he matched the rhythm of her slow breathing.

“They think you are my niece, not my wife.”

“Well I am twenty years younger than you, and you didn’t invite anyone to the wedding.”

“Yes, but you are wiser than I’ll ever be.”

Anna smiled, nestling her head against Sergio’s bony chest. It was the only place that felt like home to her. How she wished that she could ease his pain.

“They think that I tried to kill myself.”

“As if you would ever choose to leave me,” she smiled again.

“I wish that I could tell him.”

“You can – he would forgive you – you didn’t have a choice.”

“I lost that right when I gave him up for adoption.”

“You were poor and you needed all of your time and what little money you had to care for Elizabeth.”

“No Anna, I don’t have the right.”

She sighed, wondering how many times they had discussed this topic, and how many times they would return to it. She knew that she could never accept the situation. He had to tell his son the truth eventually. Every night, he went to watch Carlos working in the cafĂ©. The drink helped him dull some of the pain. She knew that he wanted to tell him, and that he didn’t know how. He’s almost 80, she thought, it has to be soon or he won’t have the chance.

*   *   *                                                                                               

Carlos walked home from the bar, humming softly to himself. He was thinking how he understood why the old man liked to sit in the shadows, but close to the light. It was as if he wanted to be near people without being noticed. Carlos knew that he liked that same feeling, although he wasn’t sure why. Maybe he was just getting old? He reached the house and went through the gate, carefully closing it behind him, wondering why he did that when there was nobody in the house to wake. He shrugged and opened the door. The light from the streetlamp leaked into the dark room, casting his elongated shadow onto the wall. He heard a scampering sound from within and felt a wet nose nuzzle his hand.

“Hello Aries, did you miss me?”

Carlos closed the door on another day and made his way to bed.


  1. The last time I read Hemingway was in 1968 in Paris lying across a tiger skin in a small apartment overlooking the Seine, a year before the Students' Revolution (the author James Jones was also living in the same neighborhood at the time, and went on to write his 'Merry Month of May' loosely based on a true story. A few years later in Ireland, my American mother-in-law was to give me as a gift Hemingway's last book which I never read. What I remember of one of our greatest American authors in contemporary history, was his clarity of style. He seldom used a redundant word, and perhaps that is what makes you the fine writer that you are.

    1. I enjoy twists so much that I would even want to put one into a short story. Hemingway seems like a fascinating character. He was one of the best things about Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris. I remember reading The Crook Factory by Dan Simmons, in which Hemingway was a character. Highly recommended (as is anything by Dan Simmons).

  2. Hemingway was an extraordinary individual apparently, not only as an author, but as a person in his own right who was hardly afraid to take risks. Subject to deep depression, he would not be easy company and subject to mood swings. Writers can make for particularly difficult spouses (Charles Dickens apparently was a near monster on the domestic front), and as Orwell says the face of an author as a rule, is different from the individual. In reading, he is able to usually detect the face behind the writing. When it comes to twists, here I have a partiality for Truman Capote.

    Looking forward to seeing Woody Allen's Midnight - read about 50 pages of The Da Vinci Code (?) before skimming, understanding that it might be a great success, and today Simmons continues to produce great stories with a well-deserved and increasing amount of admirers.

    Here J.G. Farrell is my new love, and about to take up one of his surrealistic novels on colonialism. His letters and journal excerpts are fascinating, and difficult to read towards the end. One has a sense of growing foreboding, because he reader knows he was taken at the young age of 43 by the sea in a fishing accident. His last letter to his publisher the day before, is ominous - a happy content man, elusive and much loved by women with many friends, he had already won the Booker Award and was working quietly on another manuscript. His sudden death and the testimony of the witness who was to see this accident, made one feel as one had lost a friend. A ghost of the Present looking back at his footsteps, as he develops into a great writer about to come into his prime. A great loss to contemporary literature today.

  3. You would probably love Midnight in Paris, with the background you have.

    Dan Brown wrote The Da Vinci Code. Mr. Simmons is a much better writer. Here's his website:

  4. 20 years ago the now elderly grand-daughter of Matisse, Jacqueline, invited an aunt of mine and me to the ballet. You were so funny at 7 in Paris when we were all having dinner in a small bistro and you announced in English to the waiter at once that you wanted a 'Drumstick'! Later the widow of Max Ernst, an artist in her own right, Dorothy Tanning also close to my aunt whom I didn't remember, approached me about the forgotten 'Drumstick'. Perhaps these grown-ups were having trouble making their mind up over the merits of the rabbit casserole or the coq au vin :) More important, thanks for clarifying these two authors and planning to check out shortly this website on Simmons.