Midnight Chat with Hemingway

Midnight Chat with Hemingway

Thanks to all of PELICAN BAY’s recent readers and supporters, for one evening I was able to sit next to Ernest Hemingway. My book was in the number two spot in the Literary Fiction/Sea Adventure genre on Amazon.

Hemingway, with his Nobel Prize-winning classic novel, “Old Man and the Sea,” of course, sat in the number one spot. Eternally in that number one spot, like a beautifully immutable fact.

When I fell asleep that night, I dreamed of a conversation with Hemingway at a moonlit, tattered café in Spain. Dreams are wrought of reality, and for the visionary, reality is wrought of dreams. I don’t know if the chat really occurred, but I feel that it did. Or as Hemingway put it at the end of “The Sun Also Rises,” “Isn’t pretty to think so.”

“I don’t believe it.”

“You should,” he said, his voice as tattered as the café.

“Why?”

“I’ve been waiting for you a long time.”

“Pardon me?”

“You know what I’m saying. Don’t make things difficult. That’s your problem, you make things too difficult. Say what you think.”

I was silent. He waited.

“Is it your poster on my wall?”

“Yes.”

“That picture of you in Life Magazine.”

“Yes.”

“That look you have in the poster, Ernest. Oh, uh, may I call you—”

“That’s fine. I’m just who I am.”

“In that poster it’s like you’re saying, ‘Come on. What are you going to do? Is that all you’ve got?’”

“Yes. You have to reach deeper than you think. You always have to reach deeper than you think.”

“Hmm.”

“And you have to say what you mean. And mean what you say.”

“I think I understand.”

“And you have to put every ounce of tension in the universe into every sentence.”

After a pause, “I don’t know.”

“Don’t know what?”

“If I deserve to be sitting here.”

“You don’t.”

“Pardon me?”

“There you go again.”

“What the hell do you mean? Oh my God, I’m sorry, I …”

“You’re finally starting to get it.”

“Why don’t I deserve to sit here?”

“Because you’re asking yourself if you do.”

We sat in silence. A full moon had risen and its light broke through my glass of red wine and painted my face with embarrassment.

“Well what about my work?”

“What about it?”

“Is it good?”

“There are two kinds of good. Literary good, and reader good.”

“Do I have both?”

“Maybe. But the mix may not be right.”

“I don’t understand.”

“If the mix is right, you’ll be back, and we’ll have these talks every night, if you’d like.”

“I would like that very much.”

“If the mix is wrong, never give up, but it may be a while before I see you again. Time won’t pass for me, but you might be a very old man when you return again.”

“Gosh I hope not.”

“It’s not for you to know. Just remember what I said before.”

“OK.”

We drank some more wine. The Spanish moon made Hemingway look immortally young.

“I love your work, Ernest. I mean, if it were not for “Old Man and the Sea,” I don’t think PELICAN BAY would exist.”

“You’re so full of shit.”

“What?”

Silence again.

“Ernest, where are we?”

“It’s time for you to wake.”

“But I have so much more to ask you.”

“Wake.”

“I don’t want to.”

“Remember what I told you.”

I awoke, and after coffee, I checked my Amazon rank and he was gone from the table.

Yours in literature,
J.G.C.

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