The Hemingway I met was in 1959 on the southern beaches of some foreign locale. He would sit in the window of a house that didn’t belong to him and all day long he would drink from a cheap glass and smile at pretty girls in frilly bathing suits. Sometimes they would mouth something sarcastic and he would laugh like he didn’t understand and somehow the joke was always on them.
I knew nothing of the man’s works and I knew nothing of his life. He was a name I had heard and a personality I enjoyed. He took me to parties and he laughed and he drank and he was the most interesting man I had ever met. People looked at him even as he was doing nothing and the town was always at the table.
It’s days or more later and I’m alone at a cafe when a face I’ve seen around several times but still the face of a stranger takes me aside and speaks to me in hushed tones. I shrug off his words and I shrug off those of the next man to say them, but it isn’t long before I can’t shrug them off anymore.
People would say to me he’s a liar.
“Hemingway is a liar?”
They would say he’s a cheat and a thief.
“Hemingway is a cheat? Hemingway is a thief?”
No. You’re not getting it.
“He is not Ernest Hemingway. That man is a bad man.”
It’s a party like any of the dozen others, the hundred others I’ve found myself in on this island of turmoil and beauty. Hemingway is laughing and he is telling stories that don’t belong to him. He is looking at me and he is raising a glass.
I put my hand on his shoulder and I squeeze like an old friend. I smile into the bearded face of a man I don’t know. I put my knife in his ribs. I push and I feel cloth tear and flesh tear and something else underneath. His eyes grow wide and they grow distant.
And I wonder, will the real Hemingway’s eyes grow wide when I stab him? Will they grow distant?
Craig Rodgers is the author of stories that have appeared in Juked, Heart of Farkness, Chicago Literati, Not One of Us, and others. He has an extensive collection of literary rejections folded into the shape of cranes and spends most of his time writing in North Texas.