I was sitting outside of a bar in Key West Florida. It was August, it was hot. The bar was on the beach where there was lots of sand and water. In the water I saw dolphins and waves. The dolphins jumped and the waves waved.
My glass was empty. The waiter walked up to my table. “More absinth miss?” He asked. “No, I better not.” I put my hand over my glass “I read somewhere that it can cause hallucinations and nightmares. Just some ice water please.” I said. He put and empty glass in front of me, tipped his picture of water over my glass until it was full, at that time he stopped pouring.
A man I did not know walked up to my table “No one in Key West is to stop drinking alcohol while they are conscious, you know the rules Manuel!” said the stranger to the waiter. “Don’t make me repeat myself; did you hear me? Don’t make me repeat myself, it’s annoying.”
“I’ll drink to that”. I said and held up my ice water, then put it to my lips and drank. It was cold. I set it back down on the table. “I just finished a book where everyone repeated themselves over and over……drove me to drink!”
“Sorry Mr. Hemingway” said Manuel “she said she wanted ice water, so that’s what I gave her”. A cat ran by, it was fast. “Meow” it said…..it was orange. “But you know the rules Manuel, you know the rules.” Said Mr. Hemingway “I know the rules Mr. Hemingway, how could I not? You tend to repeat yourself continually….it must be all the absinth…..” muttered Manuel.
“What did you say Manuel?” Asked Mr. Hemingway “Nothing….” said Manuel. “Bring the lady some Champagne right away!” said Mr. Hemingway. Manuel walked away towards the kitchen.
“Who are you?” I asked the man I did not know. “Hemingway…..you wouldn’t happen to be related to the writer, would you? His book The Sun Also Rises was the book I was just referring to; I don’t remember ever being quite so bored. On the bright side, I think it did wonders for my blood pressure.” I said.
Dressed in worn khaki shorts and a Hawaiian shirt with one too many colors, he stood there at my table and squinted at me, sweat rolling down the side of his face into his gray beard. It was hot. He set his drink down on the table, hard, and pulled out a chair and sat down. “May I sit?” he asked as he put his dirty bare feet up on the table as he tipped the chair back. “Sure, you’re already in the chair. Besides I don’t think it will be long before you fall on your ass.” I said, I drank some water, it was cold. “Language! I’m Ernest Hemmingway the guy who wrote that boring book” he put his feet on the ground and the chair dropped down with a bang. He put his right hand out to shake mine. I stared at it for a while then took it. “Stephanie. Hey, I don’t want to come across as insensitive but aren’t you dead?” I asked “Really? I don’t feel dead….at least I don’t think I am.” Said not dead Ernest “Damn! Absinth lives up to its reputation. “I said and smacked the left side of my head with my left hand. My head was hard.
“Manuel!! Where’s that champagne? “I shouted in sheer panic. “So” Ernest picked up his drink and drank the whole thing in one gulp. “I am one the greatest American writers, if not the greatest, everybody says so. And you…..” he paused and pointed his finger at me using the same hand that still held the glass, the melting ice clinked “you didn’t like the Sun Also Rises?” he asked and set his glass down. “I know, I heard the same thing, that you were one of the greatest American writers, so imagine my surprise that I didn’t love it like the rest of the human race. In fact, I really didn’t like it AT ALL! Please don’t hurt me.”
Manuel walked back to the table caring the bottle of Champagne and two glasses. He sat the glasses in front of us and went about the task of opening the bottle. “Thank god your back Manuel, I think I’m hallucinating. I hope champagne helps things to normalize.” The bottle said “pop”. “It won’t help because you are not hallucinating.” He said and poured the Champagne, he turned and walked off. I picked up the glass and drank, it was bubbly….and cold.
“What else didn’t you like about my book?” Asked Ernest “I’m really not comfortable telling you to your face, but, alright” I said “I found all the characters aimless, unlikeable, drunkards that didn’t have any idea what to with their lives but travel about the world constantly drunk….which doesn’t sound all that bad on the surface, but it was so not interesting.” I said “they were so excruciatingly boring that I couldn’t even care enough about them to remember who was who.” I said “it felt like it would never end, but when it did end the only thing that I liked about it was the fact that it was over…..finally. No big payoff ending. ” I sighed and finished off my Champagne, poured myself and Ernest another glass.
“Wow. Sorry you hated it. I suppose you can’t please everyone.” He said. “I’ll by you dinner to repay you for putting you through that”.
“That’s not necessary, but I could eat. I must bathe first.” I said. “Well sure, it is hot after all.” He said “Yes, I must bathe you understand? One cannot dine without bathing first, so you will have to wait until I bathe.”
“I must bathe. I must bathe. I. must. Bathe.” I said.
“Now you’re just making fun of me.” he said.
“Yup……I will make you suffer the way you made me suffer.” I smiled
“Great. I look forward to it.” Said not dead Ernest. We rose to our feet, steadied ourselves and stumbled off into the sunset.
Also reviewed on shelfinflicted