Contributor: Chris Sharp

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“Papa, I was just accidentally coming up with the name of that salmon you pulled out of that little brook the other day with your fingers. It was the General Patton brook salmon. That’s what you called this salmon, Papa. Remember?”
Mary’s drinking is revolting, Hemingway said in his head, as he liked to do when he was writing. Without pencil or typewriter in front of him, he was in the writing habit inside his brain anyway, chronicling Mary as he had done for their last safari together following that crazy Pauline in “The Green Hills of Africa.” Mary was a good wife with a big heart and loyal to him and she was also the biggest imposter and the littlest fool he had ever known in his life.
“Mary,” he said to her. This fourth wife had become such a Hemingway imitation that he thought of her caged in parenthesis on one of his rough drafts.
“But I know why you wrote about about Georgie so derisively, Papa. Georgie Patton was a terrible bully to you in France when you were only trying to serve your country and write about the war.”
“Thank you. Now go in your room Mary and stay in there.”
“Go into my little room like a little child.”
“That may be your charm, Mary, to be a little child.”
“Oh Papa, you understand the people you write about so well. Can you just spare a little understanding for your wife, too?” she said. But compliantly she back-pedaled out of his cabin and started closing his door for him. “You know so much about animals, Papa. You know how desperate an animal is when they try to talk to you.”
“Then why don’t you stop being an animal?”
She only glared at him as she vanished into the door.
Hemingway’s own forest cabin was looking more like the real Arles room that Van Gogh sat in than ever. It was that Dutchman’s doing to make him so crazy, that little Vincent boy who had burned himself up in his own artistic integrity and then finished himself with his gun because nothing else would stop the artistic radiation in him.
Hemingway’s twelve-gauge shotgun Old Boss leaned in the corner waiting for action, out from hiding in the basement. Once Old Boss had been in the hands of his father, Dr. Clarence, as he was known to his backwoods patients. During a safari vacation once Dr. Clarence finished off a great old elephant the hunting party had named Perry. Today, when Hemingway squeezed his eyes shut tightly, he saw the elephant’s dying eye one more time shining right on the darkness underlying everything else.
Now the ghost of the young Agnes Von Kurowsky was in his cabin also, entering as she did so mysteriously and silently as she had moved into his Italian hospital room over four decades go. Impossible to believe his faithful war nurse had been replaced by an old woman nearly seventy years old. Yet Agnes had never given any indication she had ever aged beyond her twenty-five years tallied when she had first met him on the Austrian front.
Her long blond hair was all tied up in the back according to the rules of the Red Cross, so that her womanly aspect couldn’t spread germs among the wounded in the Milan Soldier’s Hospital. Few men had been wounded in so many places as the nineteen-year-old Hemingway. Agnes’s idea of treating him was to shut in his body so no one would see it, step up into his bed and spread herself all over his wounds.
Agnes had a style of her own. As she lay over his body, she pulled at the bands holding her hair in the back and suddenly her blond hair would drop over his face like a tent, turning into a shelter where his face would share an absolute privacy with hers. It is the one time in his life when he felt totally safe.
“What are you doing, Agnes?”
“Checking you out, Hemingway. Want to be sure the Austrians didn’t pull the plug from you having good children like you should.”
“But look, Agnes, the sun also rises.”
“Don’t even say it. Obviously, you’re more than okay. What a shame if you weren’t. You certainly have a duty to father a child as cheeky as you are, Hemingway.”
She had disappeared with this statement immediately, because his time travel expired whenever he had lapsed into referring to anything that happened after 1919. That was when the beautiful Agnes had vanished after writing she intended to marry some Italian lieutenant she met somewhere.
As Hemingway had picked up Old Boss, there was an energized but tricky thought in his mind. He decided he was going to kill someone who was not himself. But then by the time he had reached the closed door of Mary’s room, losing all of his breath not just with his movements but the panting of his heart, he had pushed two shells into his double-barrel Old Boss and resolved to kill the first person he saw, even if that was going to be himself.
The “bang” sounded sort of Chinese. He would like to have told his friend the General Vinegar Joe Stilwell how Chinese this dying sounded when death was right in your face talking to you. At once he felt his life had been so twisted with words even his death had arrived as a word.
As a bottle-fly flew over the body, it witnessed that the great writer’s upper face had been blown off, leaving only the famous white beard alone.
Mary was out the door and screamed. “Oh Papa, why, why, why?”
The bottle-fly could not answer Mary’s question but buzzed and observed everything until at the end of the day he had also died.

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Chris Sharp has short stories published in the archives of Daily Love, Linguistic Erosion, Yesteryear Fiction and Weirdyear, as well as under Google: “Short Stories by Chris Sharp.” His new book “Dangerous Learning” is distributed by Barnes & Noble.
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