Chapter 25: End Game

“In 1951 came two significant deaths. On June 28, Grace Hall Hemingway. On October 1, Pauline Pfeiffer Hemingway. Please give the court your reaction to these two deaths, if you would.”

“You say `if I would.’ Do I have a choice?”

Bluntly: “No, Mr. Hemingway, you don’t. That’s what this trial is about: facing your past. During life in three dimensions, you put it off as best you could, but here you are out of time, in both senses of the word. Here, you tell the truth. You don’t escape into unconsciousness. You can’t forget, can’t rewrite, can’t even sleep. Start with your mother.”

“We’ve already been through this.”

“No, actually, we have not. Your mother testified about your life as a boy, and you testified about how you had seen her role in your life. Now I ask you to remember your reaction when you learned that she had died, and, before you say anything, do yourself the favor of reliving, rather than leaving yourself at the mercy of the way you remembered.”

He sank into the memories, returned.

“And was it as you thought, Mr. Hemingway?”

He was angry now. “You know it wasn’t.”

“Tell the court what you learned.”

“I learned what you knew I’d learn, nothing. It wasn’t a matter of learning, but of letting the memories back in.”

“Exactly. And what did you discover?”

Oddly, it was difficult even here.

“Mr. Hemingway, you might think of it this way: The greater the difficulty, the greater the difficulty being overcome.”

“Yeah. Thanks.” But, there was something in that. “I was, what, nearly 52. My father had been in the grave more than 20 years, and I was still holding a grudge on his behalf, I suppose. So when I hear that she’s dead, I don’t expect it to affect me. I had had my casualties, plenty of them, and I’d gone on okay.”

“Yes, Mr. Hemingway, we know. You hired out to be tough.”

“Is that supposed to be funny?”

“You tell me. You’re the one who used that line, and over-used it. You’re the one who made a fetish of being able to take it without it affecting you.”

“I was willing to support my mother financially, it was a small price to pay to gain control. Beyond that, I didn’t want anything to do with her. So when I heard she had died, I thought, `Well, that’s that.’ I thought that would be the end of it.”

“But it wasn’t, of course.”

“No. instead, all these memories came flooding in, memories from before I left home.”

“Happy memories, Mr. Hemingway?”

“But I didn’t want them! I fought against them. Kept them as quiet as I could. I bottled it all up, pretended it wasn’t there, and went on with my life as if it didn’t affect me.”

“As we said, you hired out to be tough.”

Exasperated: “That could get tiresome, you know!”

Softly: “Yes, Mr. Hemingway, it could, couldn’t it. So tell the court about the memories that came flooding in.”

“Like she said on the stand, there was a time when we were a happy family. We kids got a lot from both our parents, and in taking dad’s side I forgot the things my mother did for me.” A sudden reverse, out of irritation: “But she really did drive me crazy with her pretensions and her oh-so-artistic disposition, and her half-assed mysticism.” Another reverse: “But I suppose she did the best she could. I wasn’t that great as a parent myself. She took us to the Art Institute of Chicago, and operas, and concerts. I suppose she’s the one who introduced me to the world of books. She taught us what she knew. That’s what I remembered.”

“And is that all, in the way of specific memories of your mother?”

“You’ve been telling me that the point here is that I remember. You know I did. I can’t see why I have to spill my guts when you know anything I’m thinking anyway.”

A pause. “Very well. Three months after your mother passed over, so did your wife Pauline. Kindly tell the court how you received that bit of news.”

Gritting his teeth, in effect: “My feelings were complicated. I had loved Pauline, and at the same time I resented her. You know all that. All the time we lived together, I appreciated her, and I was exasperated by her, and I felt more and more stifled by the life she wanted us to lead. The point is, our relationship was always complicated, even at best. And when I got involved with Marty, and Pauline saw that we were breaking up, she got spiteful and vindictive. Did everything she could, to make my life difficult. Tried to tie me hand and foot financially. And even later, after I had divorced Marty, when our relationship evened out, it was never what you could call level. Any little thing could start us going again.”

“Such as the bad news about your son Gregory.”

“All right. I’m not going to rehash every damn thing that happened. The point is, you asked me how I felt when I heard she was dead. I was still mad from our long-distance argument the night before. I still blamed her for Gregory’s problems. But it was too much to bear.”

“Spell this out carefully for court, if you would. You may find it important.”

The equivalent of a deep breath. “After a while they found out she had a tumor in her brain that probably killed her by pumping out massive amounts of adrenaline. But even before I knew that, as soon as I heard she was dead, I knew it was because we had been fighting. Don’t know how, but I knew. I killed her.”

“Which was too much guilt to bear. So you buried it.”

“That’s exactly what I did. How was I supposed to live with that?”

“And what effect did that have on you, Mr. Hemingway?”

“I don’t understand the question.”

“You thought you knew you had killed her. So you suppressed the knowledge. What effect did suppressing that knowledge have on you?”

He didn’t know, and then he did. “It numbed everything.”

“Of course it would. You didn’t make the connection, I take it.”

“No.”

“So, one last question and we can leave the subject. When Mary accused you of not feeling anything, or of hiding behind a mask of stoicism, what was your reaction? I don’t mean what did you say to her, I mean, how were you affected?”

A new slant. He hadn’t thought to look at it that way. “I was angry, of course. She didn’t understand, and I couldn’t make her understand.”

“Because?”

A revelation. “Because I didn’t understand either! If I didn’t know what I was feeling, how could I know why I was feeling it?”

.2.

“Mr. Hemingway, in 1953, you and your wife left Cuba for Europe and then Africa. Did you have a good time in Africa?”

“Until the airplanes dropping out of the sky, sure. Marvelous time, as good as twenty years before.”

“Did you find that your interests had changed, vis a vis 1933-34?”

He was puzzled for a second. “Oh, I get your point. Yeah, this time I wasn’t interested in collecting trophy heads. I was past all that. I still shot for the pot, and I shot the animals that preyed on the natives’ cattle, and we put a tremendous amount of thought and effort into Mary getting her lion, but mostly I liked just letting it all absorb me again. The animals, the land, the people, it was all so beautiful, and so fragile. Civilization hadn’t quite ruined everything yet.”

“You didn’t feel that you needed to prove you were as good a shot as ever?”

“I didn’t have to prove anything. I had enough trophies at home.”

“Then why did you try to go native? Shaving your head, patrolling in the moonlight armed only with a spear, pretending to be engaged to marry a native woman. What was that about?”

“Didn’t we go over this already? Part of me really, really didn’t like what the world was becoming, and wanted to go back.”

“But that way out was never really open to you, was it?”

“No.”

“So tell the court, how did your safari end?”

“You know how it ended. Mary and I were sightseeing in a light plane that hit a wire and crashed. We were rescued the next day, and Mary and I got into another plane that was going to take us back to civilization to fix us up, and that plane crashed trying to take off.”

“You made light of your injuries in public, but in fact they were severe.”

“More so than I knew, yes. Obviously I knew I had a concussion – my head was actually leaking cerebral fluid – but I didn’t know that the liver, kidneys, spleen and even the sphincter were damaged. Plus I had some pretty bad burns. Got a chance to read my own obits, though, that was interesting. But the second crash worked me over so I never did make up all the ground I lost. I became an old man.”

“When you returned home, you were made a member of the Order of Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, were you not? And then in October came the Nobel Prize. Proud moments, surely.”

“Well, under the circumstances, they didn’t really mean anything. Batista’s government was looking for anything that would give them a fig-leaf of legitimacy. I wouldn’t let them give it to me in an official government setting. And as to the Swedish thing –.” Aggressively: “And you know I’m not just posing, here.”

“We’ll concede the sincerity of your position.”

“If prizes weren’t political, they would mean something. But that kind of prize comes for only one of two reasons. Either they give it to you for some political reason of their own, or they give it because they have to, because you’ve outlived and outworked so many non-entities they already gave it to, it’s embarrassing them. They said this time I’d written about an uplifting subject and an admirable man – as if Spain and Robert Jordan weren’t enough. So, like I say, it didn’t mean much to me. Plus, the award destroyed what was left of our privacy. We wound up living under siege, and we had to get away on the boat if we wanted to be alone.”

“Fortunately, you had your work.”

“Yes, but you can have good conditions to work in or bad ones. I was writing about Africa, and then I had to set it aside in 1955 to help with trying to film The Old Man and the Sea.’ Waste of time. And when I was able to get back to writing, I couldn’t get back to the Africa piece. I wrote a few stories about the war in Europe, instead.”

“And in 1956 you returned to Europe.”

“I did. Paris and Spain and back to Paris. Saw some good bullfights in Spain.”

“All this time you were still plagued by ill health. Did you not spend 60 days in bed, at one point?”

Metaphorically he waved the topic aside. “I never found it paid to discuss casualties. I already told you, those plane crashes took it out of me. What’s the point dwelling on things that can’t be helped?”

“Let us summarize briefly, then. When you returned to Cuba from Paris, you worked on different manuscripts at different times.”

“I did. Sometimes I went back to work on my African novel, sometimes I worked on a story I called “The Garden of Eden.” Never finished either one. If my head had stayed good, maybe I could have, I don’t know. Anyway, I didn’t. I also worked on a memoir of Paris and Hadley, and I got that more or less finished.”

“Then on Dec. 31, 1958, Batista fled Cuba.”

“I was in Idaho for the winter. Certainly was glad to see the old bastard go. But I had a premonition right away that this wasn’t going to work out for me. The U.S. government had been in bed with Batista for so long, relations with the rebels were going to be strained. I figured our government was likely to put pressure on the Cubans, and it wouldn’t take much for the revolution to become anti-American. Even if the Cubans were willing to make an exception for me, how was I going to be able to stay there? So I bought a house in Idaho. If I got kicked out of Cuba, I wasn’t going to end up living in New York.”

“You spent a good part of 1959 in Spain and, in fact, you celebrated your 60th birthday in Spain.”

“Yes, an extravaganza that Mary organized. She was a great organizer. Can we just skip the whole thing about how I behaved toward her?”

“Yes, we can. Do you know why?”

“Because you already have enough for an ample indictment?”

“Because you are aware of your actions and their consequences. All right, in July, 1960, you left Cuba by the Key West ferry to return to Spain to acquire more material for `The Dangerous Summer.’”

“And that was the last I saw of Cuba. You know how I had Jordan say he was learning quickly at the end? Well, at the end I was losing quickly: my health, my strength, my mental stability, the finca, Cuba. It wasn’t long before I was losing my sanity, and when I ended it, I was in the process of losing my freedom. The times were never good, but these were the worst I ever saw.”

“A few questions about your friends, Mr. Hemingway.”

He sighed. “Go ahead.”

“It was observed that the kinds of people you included in your `mobs’ changed over time.”

“My friends were whoever it was that I liked. I was continually assembling floating communities of people. If my mob changed, it was because I was always changing. Some years I might not be the same person six months running. With each change, naturally I’m going to attract different individuals. I made my community as I went along. But every physical community I ever had was destroyed for me. Paris in the twenties. Key West in the thirties, Cuba in the forties and fifties.”

“Allow me to suggest this, then. Perhaps your friends experienced you as a magnetic field evoking parts of their personality that they never saw otherwise. Would that not make you very attractive, almost regardless what you did, and would it not perhaps sometimes make them feel like hangers-on?”

“Which would make them resent me, maybe not even knowing why. That’s an interesting idea.”

“Some people call that kind of attraction charisma, and charisma can’t be fabricated, or earned, and it isn’t accidental. It is a gift from the gods.”

He felt for his reaction to it. “It wasn’t anything I did consciously. But it’s true, there was something about me. People seemed to be drawn to me.”

“Then try out this thought. Perhaps charisma comes with wholeness. Does it seem true to you that the charisma people experienced from you may have resulted from your feeling and expressing your connection to the whole world?”

He started to shy away from the question. “This isn’t the kind of thing –“

“I know, Mr. Hemingway. But you can’t really plead your limitations here. Did you, or did you not, exude a charismatic presence during most of your life?”

“If I did, it went away.”

“Yes, it did, after the airplane crashes.”

“I worked hard to come back from my injuries, but my friends were mostly gone, and my enthusiasm, and my confidence. By the time I got to Idaho, my body was failing, and there I was with five more bulls to kill. You want to know about my friends. Can I call a couple of witnesses?”

“Proceed, Mr. Hemingway.”

“I call Gregorio Fuentes.” And presto, there he was, even though he remained alive and well in the physical world.

.3.

“Gregorio, mi amigo, how are you?”

“I was sad,” Fuentes said, “but now I see you and I am happy again. You are healthy, you are whole.” He was speaking Spanish, but everyone in the courtroom understood what he was saying.

“And that is how it will be with you as well.”

“God willing, not for many years. I believe you, but I can wait.”

They shared a laugh and he wished they had a drink they could share, as they had for so many years.

“Gregorine, tell the court how we worked together.”

“It was very simple. You hired me to take care of Pilar, and that is what I did.”

“And anything that needed to be done, you knew how to do it.”

“I had been many years on the ocean. That is no place to have to depend on another to do for you.”

“But I did depend on you, Gregorio. If I needed you to pilot, you could do it. If I needed you to take a long watch, steering, you could do it. All through the time we went looking for U-Boats, you cooked for us, you kept the ship running well – you did everything.”

“It is as I said, at sea a man needs to be able to depend on himself.”

Mi amigo, you observed me over many years. Will you tell the court how I was with the fishermen and the common people in all that time?”

“You were a great favorite, the rich Americano who caught big fish and often gave the meat to the poor, the fisherman who gave away even the shark liver, a powerful medicine. The man who paid the best wages and treated those who worked for him like family. Children and dogs know a good heart, and all children liked you.”

“If only it had been true of women!”

A dry chuckle. “There, you had as much as you could accommodate, I think.” He shook his head severely. “But you allowed yourself to believe too many stories of a man’s bad luck. Some who were without worth took you to be a silver mine.”

He laughed. “Never mind, Gregorio, it didn’t matter, I had plenty.”

“It is never good to encourage those who will not do for themselves.”

“Mi amigo, thank you. I look forward to seeing you here when you are finished with the body.”

“Again I remind you, I am in no hurry.” And Fuentes was gone, back into a life that would not remember this visit.

“If I may call another witness, your honor, I wish to call my majordomo, René Villereal.”

“You may.”

.4.

René was as he must be in the physical world, just a little past thirty, not much older than the last time he had seen him. His face was shining with happiness.

Mi hijo cubano.” And that’s how he thought of him, his Cuban son.

“Papa.”

“You heard the same rumors about my dying, too, eh?”

René’s eyes were shining. “Miss Mary called me to tell me.”

Yes, Mary had loved him too.

“René, this is a procedure examining the life that I led, and I have asked that they let you tell them certain things. I should explain to them that you and I were friends since I first moved to the Finca in 1940, when you were 10 or 11 years old. When I was away at the war, you were a faithful caretaker even though you were a boy. You were careful in everything you did. You served me so faithfully and well that I made you chief of all the servants when you were only 17. Over many years, you never failed me. And you know we loved you, Miss Mary and I, and Miss Martha before her.”

“I do know, Papa. And you know that I and my parents and my brothers and sisters loved you as well, and Fanny, mi esposa of many years. You may be sure, also, that my children will be raised to remember you well.”

“René, what can you remember of our years together?”

“I remember every single thing that ever happened, ever since you came to the house as the new owner and told us children that now we could play in your yard and take the fruit that had fallen and we would not be chased away. You said, only do not throw stones at the trees to bring down the fruit.”

“I believe you do remember everything. Your memory is everything mine used to be. René, you knew the life of the servants. Were they content in their positions?”

René’s serious face took on something of Gregorio’s expression: “Always some people are discontented with their position. But no one had reason for complaint if he was careful and did  the job he was paid for. No one paid better wages than you did, and no one treated his employees better. Everyone knew that. Everyone knew that a job with Papa was a thing of importance, was a thing of good fortune. Papa, I may say more?”

“Say what you please, René. That was always our way, wasn’t it?”

“When my child died, you attended the funeral at the back of the procession, and you did not come into the graveyard for the burial. I knew these things, and I knew why. You gave work to many people, and you helped others to find work elsewhere. My own father you helped get a good job, when I was still a boy and would not eat in your house for shame because I knew my family was hungry. You did many kindnesses, and you did not want people to know about them, but we knew. And you never treated anyone differently because he was black instead of white. There are many reasons why you were loved, Papa.”

His heart was full. Mil gracias, Rene, y vaya con Dios.”

.5.

Turning his attention to the judge: “And as you see, I had many reasons why I loved Cuba and its people. That’s really all I want to say.”

“Noted. Is the prosecution nearly concluded?”

“Nearly, your honor. If the court has no objection, I propose to provide a fast summary of your final months, rather than elicit the information through testimony.”

“This time, your honor, the defense has no objection.”

“Proceed.”

“You left Cuba for the last time in July, 1960, and spent the fall in Idaho. Your mental and physical health had begun to fail even before your final trip to Spain, and in November, 1960, you agreed to a stay at the Mayo Clinic, in Minnesota.”

“Yes,” he growled. “Big mistake. But by then, Mary was calling the shots.”

“Look carefully, Mr. Hemingway.”

He did. “Okay, not entirely. She wanted me to go to Menninger’s, but she knew I’d never agree to it.”

“You were taking an assortment of medicines, whose side-effects when combined were unknown. Your moods were increasingly irrational. Your fears were overwhelming your sense of reality. Agreed?”

“Yes, I suppose so. I see it, now.”

“Mayo administered shock treatments.”

Grimly: “They certainly did. Try adding shock treatments to a history of concussions and see what you get. For one thing, I lost my memories.”

“They said the memories would return.”

“They said they thought they would return.”

“By January they were convinced that you had improved enough to be discharged. You returned to your home in Idaho, but by April your weight had dropped to a little above 160.”

“Yes, and in April the CIA put a bunch of rebels ashore at the Bay of Pigs, and I knew that I would never be able to return to Cuba. I was ready to kill myself – I had the shotgun out and was ready to load the shells –  but I let Mary and George Saviers talk me out of it. They put me in the hospital for the weekend, and as soon as I got out, I tried again, a couple of times, but I still didn’t have any luck.”

“You were returned to the Mayo Clinic against your will.”

“Yes I was, and I got to experience more shock treatments, which was fun. I was in the end-game anyway, but now I’d lost everything.”

“Nonetheless, within a matter of a few weeks, you succeeded in persuading the doctors that you were cured.”

“Well, sure, that’s what those shock treatments were supposed to do, wasn’t it? Change my attitude. Fine, if that’s what they wanted to believe, that’s what I’d give ’em. What would you have done? I was fighting for my life, here!”

“Fighting for a chance to die, you mean.”

“My life had become insupportable. Mary saw it, she just couldn’t admit it in public. When you have had a full life and much of it was very fine and you know that you will never again be clean and whole: Why not step through the doorway?” A pause, then, humorously: “Not as final as I thought, as it turns out.”

.6.

“Last point, Mr. Hemingway. Psychologist Carl Jung said that `The foundation of all mental illness is the unwillingness to experience legitimate suffering.’ In thinking about your last days, do you agree with that statement?”

Interested: “I never happened to hear that. Never read Jung, though I heard about him, of course.”

“You might be interested to know that he died less than a month ago, on June 6.”

“Anniversary of D-Day. Huh. What was your question?”

“Do you think that your own mental illness was caused by your unwillingness to experience legitimate suffering.”

“I suppose you’re going to tell me.”

“You know the rules. What you struggle with becomes yours. What you are given is only hearsay.”

“Okay, but you’re going to have to give me some help, here. What does he mean by legitimate suffering?”

“For our purposes, I think we may take it to be the result of allowing yourself to know what you have done.”

“In other words, the process we’ve been going through right here.”

“The less introspection in normal life, Mr. Hemingway, the greater the need for it thereafter.”

“Swell.” He waited for clarity. “I suppose it’s saying mental illness stops you from seeing clearly. If I could have observed my own inner weather the way I learned to observe weather at sea, how different my life would have been! Is that it?”

“Your life would still have had problems, but they would have been different problems.”

“I can see that as I aged, my mood-swings got more violent, and I was taking the mood as an accurate reflection of the world.”

“Naturally. If you refuse to see your shadow side, you distort your experience of reality. If you do it long enough and consistently enough, you become ever less able to respond appropriately to circumstances, because the circumstances reported to your conscious mind are distorted. You can reach a point of no return, because incoming reality is so different from how it is perceived. Can you see why you had to blame certain situations on other people?”

“It would have been too painful to admit. My actions weren’t living up to my ideals.”

“And that was part of the price of those ideals, you wound up disenfranchising parts of yourself that didn’t measure up.”

“You’re saying I couldn’t see myself or my life straight, and so I got farther and farther off course.”

“Let’s say, you found it too painful to see the past as it had been, so you walled yourself off from reminders. If you had seen yourself more accurately, you would have seen those around you more accurately. It would have relieved the anxiety, the paranoia, the depression.” Intensely: “But this was all tied in to your idealization of yourself. That was how you created yourself, and how you held yourself to impossibly high standards of craftsmanship that you did largely achieve. But that same high standard guaranteed that you are never going to do good enough or be good enough to satisfy yourself. Hence the bragging, hence the anxious competitiveness.”

“So on the one hand, I was an example of wholeness, and on the other hand I wasn’t, and my life spun out of control.”

“You are being sarcastic, but that is not so wrong a statement. One might almost say that your problem was caused by your attempt to live an impossibly high ideal. Nothing wrong with that, provided you realize that you won’t be able to live your ideal to your own satisfaction. Nobody can. You needn’t feel compelled to come to some sort of judgment.”

“I thought that’s what we were doing! What’s a trial, if it isn’t a judging?”

“Mr. Hemingway.”

“Yes, your honor??”

“This process has nothing to do with acquittal or conviction. We do not deal in innocence or guilt. It certainly has nothing to do with reward and punishment.”

“Then I don’t understand what we have been doing.”

“Everyone reviews his life in the 3D world upon completing it, but not everyone experiences the review as a trial. For you it was a appropriate format, because it conforms with that you expected – dreaded – if only unconsciously. For someone else, it would be wildly inappropriate.”

“So it’s a sham?”

“Not at all. A dramatization, perhaps, but with very real consequences.”

“Then –”

“We’re nearly at the end. You will see. There is no need for the prosecution to summarize the criticisms that could be leveled: You will have done that internally.”

“Ad nauseam.”

“Yes. Well, we will listen to the closing argument for the defense, and then the jury will retire to deliberate.”

“But not a verdict of guilty or innocent. So –?”

“You will see. Is the defense prepared to deliver its summation?”

“We are, your honor.”

“Proceed.”

 

One thought on “Chapter 25: End Game

  1. Very compelling stuff. I think I once read Old Man and the Sea but I wasn’t a Hemmingway buff. Nonetheless this material and approach to life review are very interesting.

    When is the book available? Thanks 😊

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