Hemingway in Parts

“Is it possible, or madness, to think that a narrative could begin with no plot, with not even a single character developed, and grow into an actual thing, a real story? Or would I be better served renting a roomful of monkeys with typewriters?,” Jack mused, nursing a Pernod.

“This old man is going to need a big river also full of tequila sunrises to have this sea of madness and to hold it.”

Okay, scratch that, he wasn’t nursing anything. He was slugging them back. One after another, until his flat prairie syllables slurred out onto the polished wooden bar.
“So you want to make something happen out of thin air, just by asking obtuse questions and answering them as if you were Hemingway?” Lady Ashley parried, flicking off a long cigarette ash.

“I dunno,” Jack said. “All I know is if I don’t get my pickled ass out of here and take in some fresh air that Pernod is going to make me a puking stiff until morning and quite the hungover one after that.”


“So, Jacky boy,” she offered. “Your idea sounds nuts, n’est pas? To pose questions through your characters as dialogue and have that serve as raw copy for your novel.”
She eyed him with a languorous look, her eyelids fluttering like fizzy gin.
“Is there anyone else who could pull off such a stunt?,” she slurred with a wry grin. “Anyone, Jack?”

“Jack?”


Jack, meanwhile, had of a sudden become lost in remembrance of the war. He could travel wherever, drink crazy amounts of booze, waste himself on women willing to indulge his skewed manliness, but the war stuck jammed up inside him.
The piercing sounds like a punch in the gut, seared in the memory. The rotten putrid smell of shit and dead bodies. The sight of the blood and carnage in the age of the roaring hot howitzers, mustard gas and machine guns thudding into human limbs, smashing bones and exploding horseflesh. The broken bodies and shattered souls of the wounded and dying. All it took was the sound of a passing carriage on the cobblestone to trigger the deluge of memories and feelings.
Another shot of Pernod.


“God this stuff is rot!,” Jack spat out, the bitter jab of alcohol stabbing his brain pan and stifling by force the spasms of his id, the scaly, writhing lizard that moaned of retribution and terror in its primal lair at the base of his addled skull.
“So I guess that’s it, Jacky, yes? Question and answer, darling. Keep it simple and straightforward,” she prattled on as Jack’s already droopy face melted ever lower into his elbowed palms.
“Mon dieu,” he despaired. “When will she stop?”
“This old man is going to need a big river also full of tequila sunrises to have this sea of madness and to hold it.”
“Jack,” she snapped her fingers in front of his nose. “Did you hear me?”
“Of course, dear,” he partly lied with a smile but not so much as to reveal his building ennui. Or whatever.


“But do you really think my reporter’s style of clipped, tightly edited phrases devoid of descriptives and laded with noun-verb construction and polished syntax can be replicated by a mere monkey with a latte, even one in front of a typewriter overlooking the plaza, or, if no monkeys are available, a marginally employed copy editor with an English major from a state university known for its animal husbandry and chemical engineering departments?”


“Uh, she said, what?”


“Didn’t you not hear me?” Jack murmured, his fluid face now floating sideways as if a passing cloud. Shifting, halting, dispersing. The nose here, fixed, the eyebrows, migrating left, leaving the eyes drifting slowly away like an ocean liner casting off from the dock, ship’s horn blasting.


Jack remembered the brown hills of Spain. The gnarled olive trees dusky green stretching to the far horizon. Leaving Chamartin station in Madrid, the ducknosed bullet train flying across the open spaces of clear Iberian sunshine.
“Smooth ride, those bullet trains. Big windows. No seams in the rails, as I was told. Extruded, maybe?” The vast plains of Castile, Burgos rushed by in the foreground. Crossing the river at Miranda de Ebro. Slower and slower until finally arriving in Bilbao.