Papa arrives

And, speaking of “Papa,” did you ever see such a “Proud Papa” look? But, that’s how I feel. From June 2012, when it sort of announced itself to me, to today, when I get to hold it in my hand for the first time, is not the usual nine months that a prospective father waits, but nine years. But, like a human baby, worth the wait.


Papa’s Trial: Available now

My favorite photo of Ernest Hemingway

Papa’s Trial, now available in both print and electronic versions. (with my deepest thanks to my friend Chris Nelson of SNN Publishing).

Short link for the print version:

For the ebook version:

For those who came in late, and don’t know what the novel is about:

Reliving that life

July, 1961. Ernest Hemingway, the world’s most famous writer, has just used his shotgun to get himself out of a life that had become insupportable.

Only… apparently death is not the end.

Apparently death and life have rules and possibilities he hadn’t suspected. And here he is on trial, required to examine his life as it looks from the other side, after the fact, not only from his point of view but also from those he interacted with.

His wives. His parents. His friends and adversaries. Everyone he touched in sixty years of intense living. His loves and almost-loves and sometimes-loves. His fellow authors, his publishers, his rivals and his mentors. He will confront them all.

In the course of the trial, he looks more closely at his achievements and failures, in the art he created and the people he touched. Mostly, he is faced with absorbing the impact of a life that stretched so far in so many directions: writer, voracious reader, connoisseur of fine art, fisherman, hunter, raconteur, warrior….

How well did he make use of his opportunities and talents? Who was he, and what did he do? What did it all mean? And how might it all have worked out differently?

No easy job, examining such complexity. But what he learns, how he changes, will determine where he goes from here.

Hemingway was the greatest writer America has yet given to the world. Papa’s Trial tells the story of his life, as it appeared to him and to those around him. Even long-time Hemingway devotees will find themselves looking at him in a new light as they consider what his life was, why it was that way, and what it might have been.

Chapter 28: The Verdict

He hadn’t smoked since he was a kid, but now he wished he had a cigarette. He wished he had a drink. He wasn’t moving, but it felt like he was pacing. “What if they find me guilty?”

“Guilty of what?”

I don’t know! You’re my representative here. Don’t you know?”

“Do you remember, when you were first coming out of your confusion, I told you we couldn’t discuss what comes next until your trial ended? The situation isn’t any different. It isn’t over till the jury comes back.”

“And you can’t tell me anything about anything.”

“I suppose we can talk about this: What did you learn?”

“It hasn’t organized itself. I guess I won’t know until I think about it.”

“That’s probably what’s holding up the jury. Maybe they’re waiting for you to decide what it all means.”

“Is that what you think?”

“So what did you learn?”


Mary, and Pauline, and his mother. Funny that they would sort of clump together in his mind like that.

Dad. Grandfather Hemingway.

Skiing in Austria. Spain. Good old Karl Thompson, out in Africa, embarrassed about bringing in better heads, and he couldn’t stop from competing even with him. Why was it that he had to compete all the time?

He’d pushed away his early Paris friends, nearly every one. Why was that? Gertrude and Scott and the Murphys and even Archie MacLeish. Dos and Katy and his sister Carol, and what was he trying to be, anyway, papa all the time.

But — Ezra and Joyce and Link Steffens. Max. Coming down with jeeps in ’44 to see if Sylvia was okay, and liberating the rue de l’Odeon.

Putting the words on paper in the early morning heat at the Ambos Mundos in Havana, in the days before Martha found the Finca.

Rene, and Sinsky, and the Black Priest, and Wolfie and Gregorio and Thomason and the embassy and government gasoline.

Hunting in the high country in Wyoming and Montana and Idaho. The Spanish Sierras. Eland and goats and lions in Africa.

China Rot and sixteen kinds of plague, and dysentery on the safari. The snows of Kilimanjaro and Harry Walden.

Mr. Bumby and the Mexican Mouse and Gigi. Did any of them ever know how much he loved them? Why is it that none of them came to testify? Maybe they weren’t asked?

Where were Jane Mason and Ava Gardner and the Kraut? Where were his sisters, and his hero Anson Hemingway in his Civil War uniform, or Uncle Tyley?

One true sentence. The whole thing was so intimidating, but if he could write one true sentence, he could build another on it, and see.

He returned his attention to the defense attorney. “What did I learn? It’s what I said. It’s a good world and you can find good things in it, if you pay your way. But what stays with you as much as anything is how you are with people. Everything else is just furniture.”

“What about craftsmanship? What about competition, and achievement?”

“They’re there too. It’s like when you’re in a great romance, you’re still going to want to enjoy other things. Thank God I had my writing. You have to have that inner world, too. But it’s no life without people.”

The defense attorney smiled. “I think the jury is coming in.”


“The defendant will rise and face the jury.”

Like making that speech to the writers, all over again.

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, have you reached your decision?”

The foreman stood up. “We have, your honor.”

“Then please tell him whatever it is that you have decided to say.” Sensing his surprise, the judge said, “As you were told earlier, Mr. Hemingway, this is not material reality, and so certain features of this trial are different from what you might otherwise expect. You may proceed, Mr. Foreman.”

“Thank you, your honor. Mr. Hemingway, we the jury were tasked with weighing your life in light of the evidence and your testimony and your reactions. It is my charge to present our findings in such a way as to meet your understanding. Nothing here is said in a spirit of condemnation.”

That sure sounds like good news coming!

The foreman was apparently incapable of smiling. “No one enjoys having his life judged by another. These initial remarks were an attempt to relieve your anxiety.”

All right.

“Mr. Hemingway, if we were to put the jury’s opinion in terms of innocence and guilt, we would find you innocent in some respects and guilty in others. But the very idea of guilt and innocence was a problem throughout your life. So was the very idea of judgment. Judgment may imply condemnation or merely discernment. The former meaning, we would suggest, made your life more difficult than it might otherwise have been. Discernment was essential to your task, but the difficulty was to discern clearly. Now, Mr. Hemingway, you are not obliged to accept the jury’s observations or follow the recommendations, but you should bear in mind that this is the most disinterested advice you will ever receive.”

“I understand, and I appreciate it.” Apparently the reassurance was sinking in. He could feel the nervousness abating, replaced mostly by curiosity.

“First observations. You had a most fortunate and productive life. We realize that you think your life was an artistic success and a failure in personal relationships, but we would say that both judgments are too sweeping. Your relationships were not devoid of love, and support, and satisfaction on both sides. Your artistic life was not unaccompanied by traits and incidents that were unfortunate.”

There was a brief pause.

“You see how you were expecting condemnation? No one ever condemned you nearly as continually, habitually, and automatically as you condemned yourself – which of course tempted you to condemn others. So the jury’s first observation is that your perfectionist standards, although they made your great achievement possible, left you in private despair because you could not live up to them.”

True enough.

“But Mr. Hemingway, no one could! The jury’s first recommendation is that you remember, in the future, that ideals cannot be achieved, only lived toward. If in the future you pursue impossibly high ideals, recognize that an ideal that can be attained is not an ideal but a practical goal.”

“And as to my artistic life?”

“Again you are waiting for criticism, perhaps condemnation. But your life was an artistic success. Perhaps your public persona, perhaps even your writing itself, was only a way to bring you unforgettably to the public eye. It has been said more than once in this trial that people came to perceive you as a model of a life lived to the full. That model – even more than the specifics of the things you wrote about, and more than the artistic revolutions you carried out – is the legacy of Ernest Hemingway.”

He felt like laughing. All that work, all that striving, and they were telling him that his career was incidental to the creation of a public persona.

“Your stories and your style of writing, and the attitudes and values you espoused, did affect your times. But a life takes time to be understood, and it is said that a great man’s shadow lengthens with time. You need not fear that you will be forgotten any time soon.”

Well, it would be nice to think that at least some of his work would achieve that. What had he been striving for, after all, but immortality?

“The jury’s second observation, and recommendation, concerns your use of alcohol and other mood-altering substances.” There, for the first time, the foreman showed the ghost of a smile. “We aren’t going to say, `You shouldn’t drink,’ and we aren’t even going to say, `You shouldn’t have drunk so much.’ We do know who we’re talking to! But we would suggest that you consider this. It may be true that alcohol gave you more than it ever took from you, but is it possible that by careful management you could have received more of the benefit and paid less of a price? We mean, specifically, that the essence of your life and work was control, and alcohol loosened that control, over time.”

“I take it you think it hampered my ability to write, but actually I was careful about that.”

“We were thinking more about how it lessened your ability to be you. It is true, you mostly preserved your gift. But, Mr. Hemingway, think back to so much painful testimony from people who cared about you. Did drinking increase your self-control? Did it strengthen you for the trials of life? Did it give you greater patience, more tolerance, fewer causes for remorse?”

“I thought you said you weren’t going to say I shouldn’t have drunk so much.”

“I am saying, on behalf of the jury, that it would have been better if you had been more aware of the effect of too much alcohol over too long a time. We do realize that alcohol can be a valuable resource for a writer, the spark that reminds you of the greater life beyond what is obvious. The sheer number of creative artists who use alcohol testifies to the fact. But can’t a valuable tool be misused, and turned into a detriment?”

“You may not remember how it feels to be trapped. Sometimes in the material world, the only way you can get out of the tyranny of the present moment is a good drink, or more than one.”

“Mr. Hemingway, on behalf of the jury, let me ask a rhetorical question. When you traveled to that other country in your mind, when you spent a morning writing, were you trapped in the tyranny of the present moment?”

“No, I was free, but you couldn’t necessarily call that feeling in whenever you wanted to.”

“But when it wasn’t there and you were writing, you didn’t let yourself turn to drink to get there. So how did you do it?”

He shrugged. “I just kept at it, I guess. I worked at it. You can’t just work only when you feel like it.”

“That is precisely our point. When you had to get to that other place, and you could not do so by using alcohol, you did it by willpower. What might your life have been like if you had done that at other times?”

“But I liked drinking. It was one of the things I enjoyed doing when I wasn’t working.”

“No one is saying there was anything wrong with enjoying yourself. We say, merely, that a good ladder may make an awkward crutch.

“Let us pass on to our third and final set of observations and recommendations. It seemed to us that you were happiest when you trusted in life. We recommend that you cultivate trust. How much good did it ever do you, all that worrying about whether you would be able to succeed, whether you would find love, whether you would retain access to that other dimension where you found your inspiration?”

“It seems to me if I hadn’t done all that worrying, and working, and concentrating and keeping my eye on the ball, my life wouldn’t have been anything like what I was able to make it. I would have wound up a reporter in Kansas City, maybe, or a real estate agent in Chicago.”

“Mr. Hemingway.” There was something faintly reproving in the foreman’s expression. “You have told yourself a story about your life and success, and you have told it to yourself for so long as to accept it as true. Would you now please intend, in the way you have done previously during this trial, and ask for the truth about your life’s success?”

“All right, I’m willing.” He did, and again things changed, and changed in a sudden instant of understanding. “I wasn’t born to fail, was I?”

“No, Mr. Hemingway, you weren’t. No one is, it’s just that different people’s lives are shaped to present different challenges and opportunities.”

“Yeah, I see it. It was up to me, but, I wasn’t ever working alone the way I thought I was.”

“You could choose well or badly, and you could make your road smoother or rougher, but you were fashioned to live the life you led. There wasn’t any reason for you to worry so much.”

“Yeah, but how was I supposed to know that?”

“Who was it who said, `My luck, she is running good’?”

“Sure, and that was right after I was damn near killed.”

“But you believed in your luck, in the same way you believed in your talent. And, you knew things. How could you know things, like knowing that a woman you had just met was going to be your wife?”

“Hadley, you mean.”

“And later Mary. Your life was shot full of luck. You were always in the right place at the right time, and it had nothing to do with planning, calculations, worrying about who was stabbing you in the back or dropping the ball at Scribner’s. Next time, relax a little, and trust more. You can still work just as hard, you just don’t have to think you’re all alone.”

He stood there absorbing the idea.

“And by the way, Mr. Hemingway, on behalf of the entire jury, congratulations. You had a hell of a life.”


The judge acknowledged the jury foreman with a nod. “The court thanks you for your careful attention and thoughtful consideration.”

“That was it? A few remarks, a little advice?”

“That was it. Did you expect them to find you guilty as charged? Their function was to hear what you made of your life, and tell it to you so that you could hear it. Whether you take advantage of their advice is up to you.”

“Um, your honor, since you bring that up –”

“Of course, Mr. Hemingway. Naturally, you wish to know what is in store for you. I am about to tell you.” The judge’s energy changed, as if until this moment half his mind had been elsewhere. “It should be obvious that there is no reason to offer advice unless you have a future in which you would be able to choose to accept or reject the advice. You live, and you will continue to live, everyone does. But which form of life you choose determines where you go from here.”

“Can we review the options again?”

“Certainly. One, judgment followed by heaven or hell. Two, another immediate 3D life. Three, observing the physical world from here. Four, life centered here without much reference to the 3D world. Five, moving on from here, leaving Earth behind forever.”

“Can we review the options a little slower?”

The judge smiled. “Yes. First option, judgment followed by heaven or hell. Some people cannot accept that their life is over unless they experience judgment and sentencing.”

“You mean they accept being condemned voluntarily?”

“Like you, many people fear being judged, but some prefer that the decision be out of their hands. Since that’s what they will accept, that’s what they get, life after life, until they change their minds.”

“I’ll pass.”

“A second option is another immediate 3D life. Some do that, moving rapidly from one 3D life to another, searching for their ideal of perfection.”

“They reincarnate.”

“You can look at it that way.”

“Do they remember the life they just came out of?”

“Not usually, it would be too confusing. How do you get oriented into one time and place when you are living half in another?”

“So I wouldn’t remember being me?”

“The part of you that was embodied wouldn’t, no. The rest of you would.”

“And presumably that embodied part has experiences and makes decisions, and all of that changes a person. Would it change the rest of me as well?”

“You would find yourself receiving continual feed from the new life; it’s difficult to predict what kind of effect that would have on you.”

“So I might change as the result of choices that are out of my control. Not so sure about this one. And the other choices?”

“A third option is to stay here in the non-physical realm, still oriented to the earth. In other words, you would be aware of 3D life, but would not be subject to being changed by what happens.”

“Watching the party from a knothole in the attic floor, you mean?”

The judge smiled again. “That’s the first time I have heard it put it that way, but yes.”

“I don’t think so. Another option?”

“You could choose to remain in the non-physical, but instead of concentrating on what is gong on in the 3D world, you would spend your time creating whatever you wish to experience.”

“Create just by using my mind, you mean?”

“You envision, you create, and when you wish to alter it, you alter it, just like that.”

“So I create what I want to experience, but if I don’t like what I do, I can rip it up and try again.”

“You continue to create, yes. You create, observe, create some more, for as long as it amuses you.”

“Creation without toil. How did Yeats like that option?”

“If you choose this path, you can ask him yourself.”

“That’s a lot more choice than I thought I was going to have. And what was the last one, again?”

“You could remain in the non-physical but move on to other realms and other ways of being.”

“If I took that one, would I remember who I am?”

“You can’t expect to move to other realms and remain as you are. If you mean, would you still be Ernest Hemingway, the answer is, mostly not.”

He thought about it. “Big decision. Is it ever possible to change your mind and choose another door?”

“Of course. Nothing is satisfactory forever. You can always choose again, right up until you choose to move on to another realm – which will present its own choices, of course..”

“Okay. In that case, it’s easy. I choose creation without toil. As hard as I worked on earth, it’s going to be a pleasure to spend a while creating without all that effort.”

“Very well,” the judge said, “that’s your choice. I can assure you as you begin this next phase of your life, everyone in this courtroom wishes you only the best. And you have my best wishes, as well.” The judge struck the bench with his gavel. “This proceeding is completed, and court is adjourned.”

Nick was still there after the others had disappeared. “Nick, thanks for standing with me. It helped. I wish there was some way I could repay you.”

Nick said, “Who says there isn’t? You can teach me what you know about art. You can teach me to fish.”

He beamed. “It’s a deal. Count on it.”



The little boat was pitching in the moderate sea that was running. It was the Gulf Stream as he remembered it, a late summer day as he remembered them. There again was the blue, blue sky, the cumulo-nimbus clouds towering over the purple water. And he was on the Pilar, which was young again as he was young again.

Choose the age you want to be, they had said. Choose where and what and who. Create it as you wish it, or recreate it as it was. Be what you were or what you wanted to be or what you wish you had been. And of course that went for anyone else who came to visit.  Ed Hemingway and he had chosen to be about the same age, and so they were in their mid-thirties together, standing as equals, together in mind and sympathy as they had never been able to stand in physical life.

There would be other days – an endless series of other days, he hoped. He would go out with all the friends who never knew him as he was on the Gulf. Sylvia, for instance: He looked forward to seeing how Sylvia would like the endless sea, the towering unmarked sky. Maybe she would want to fish, maybe she wouldn’t. Either way, they’d have a good time. But this first day had to go to the man who had taught him to fish, all those years ago.

“Got to get Walter and Nita out here again,” he thought, “and Gregorio. Once they’re safely dead, I mean. And meanwhile I’ll have Max, and Mr. Josie, and Charlie, and so many others. God, it’s wonderful! Nobody ever loved the world more than I did, and here it is again.”

He helped get his father strapped into the chair. He got the lines out, baited. His father was holding the unfamiliar deep-sea rod with the confidence of a life-long fisherman, his hawk-sharp eyes filled with anticipation.

“Be ready, dad,” he said. “It’s nothing like trout fishing. We could get a strike at any time, and with any luck at all, one of them might be enormous.”

“But you aren’t determining what or when,” his father said, repeating.

“Nope. It’ll be more fun if we just take what comes.“ He glanced around the cockpit, making sure that everything was as it should be. “It’ll be unpredictable, just the way it was on earth. You’re going to love it.”

Not the end


Chapter 27 “What If” part 2


Away, and back.

“Signing with Scribner’s didn’t put me in the public eye, it just introduced me to the inner circle. Dorothy Thompson, say, Don Stewart. That didn’t make me a household word. And after The Sun Also Rises was published, and my name started getting out there, still that was people talking about the book, really. People had no idea what I looked like, or how I talked, or what I did for fun. You get the distinction?”

“Yes. But then, let me rephrase it. How did you manage the sudden leap into the inner world of published authors?”

“I soaked it up like a desert plant in the rain. I was still only in my twenties, but it seemed to me like I’d been a long time on the outside looking in.”

“And what if that hadn’t happened? Suppose you had signed your contracts, maybe gotten drunk alone, and then had sailed back to Europe? What then? Did you explore that?”

“I did.”


“You’re talking about a different life, a different man. The young man that I was then was so tremendously attractive! He lit up a room, and he was able to entirely captivate people when he gave them his full attention. They loved me, couldn’t get enough of me.” A sheepish grin. “Either that, or they couldn’t stand me. But in those days mostly people loved me.”

“All that energy, all that enthusiasm.”

“Sure. It was just like with Ezra or Sylvia, people were delighted to welcome me into their crowd. And, like I say, I was damned glad to be allowed in.”

“So are you telling me no alternative scenario existed? That you were always going to be welcomed gladly into the tent?”

“It isn’t the kind of thing you could get away with saying in life, but yeah, it’s pretty much true. My life was always going to be lived on stage, whether I liked it or not.”

“Even if you hadn’t left Hadley for a rich wife?”


There was a pause.

“You know, in life, or on earth, or however you’d say it, that would have gotten you a punch in the mouth.”

“I told you before, consciousness here isn’t constricted in time and attention, so there isn’t the pressure that makes things explode. But what about the question? Why not go take a look?”


And back, not so quickly this time, not so smoothly.

“More complicated than you thought, Mr. Hemingway?”

“Shut up.”

“Does this interfere with the story you got used to telling, Mr. Hemingway?”

“It does.”


“You know goddamn well. I’ve been thinking that Pauline broke up my marriage and broke my dream of succeeding as a writer accompanied by my true love and our son.”

“So how do you see it now?”

“Look, I wasn’t wrong. It’s just –.” Nick waited him out. “I never thought, really.”

“Probably worthwhile to spell it out, Mr. Hemingway. It will clarify.”

“Well, Hadley was eight years older than me, I wasn’t making allowances for how much of a strain it was for her to keep up with me. She started getting to be middle-aged after she became a mother. I never realized – Paul Mowrer did, I guess – that Hadley couldn’t keep up with the life I lived. I burned my candle at both ends, and at first, she did too, and thrived on it after all those years of being treated as an invalid. But it was getting to be too much for her. When Pauline didn’t break us up, we went one of two ways. Either Hadley stopped being my playmate, or her health broke down. Neither way were we really happy.”

“Your marriage bonds loosened, shall we say?”

“Having a good time, are you? I was still in love with her. But I was young, I lusted for younger women,

they were available. Is it any big surprise we’d go our separate ways, married or not? But still, leaving Hadley for Pauline broke my life in two. I knew it was a mistake, and it led to so many more mistakes! If I hadn’t left Hadley, my career would have been sounder, better grounded, more human.”

“In what way, Mr. Hemingway?”

“Don’t you already know?”

I know probabilities, yes. But do I need to keep telling you, it’s in your voicing it that you make it yours. The very talking of it leads to deeper insights. Think about your wives and money, for instance.”

“Well, what about money? The Sun Also Rises was going to bring plenty in royalties, certainly plenty next to what Hadley and I were used to, and it was going to come more predictably than the checks we used to get from the Star. Probably if we had stayed in France we would have moved to a better neighborhood, but we wouldn’t have been moving to the right bank to be with the rich people. But probably we went home in all the versions, sooner or later. France got too expensive, once the franc recovered, and by 1926 I was finished with Europe anyway. I was a long safe way from Oak Park.”

“Long enough that you could have gone back to visit?”

“If I was still married to Hadley? Yes. But in any case, we were coming back to the States.”

“So where did you move to?”

“That seems to depend.”

“New York? Chicago?”

“No, not a big city. Now I needed to live someplace wilder, not so settled, somewhere unspoiled, someplace open and free, where we could hunt and fish. Mostly we went out West – Wyoming, Idaho, Montana.”

“Not Key West?”

“I think Hadley and I could have been happy in Key West, but mostly we lived in the West. Sometimes Hadley and Bumby and I would winter in New Orleans, or Santa Fe, or we’d drop down to Mexico. And of course the life we lived was different from the life I lived with Pauline, because I had Bumby right there, a son to teach things to. That boy certainly did love to fish!”

“But if you never lived in Key West –”

“Then I never wrote To have and Have Not. I never saw Sloppy Joe’s, was never found there by Marty, and so I was never influenced by her urgent politics. I didn’t throw myself into the Loyalist cause, never went to China in ’41, which means I never did any undercover work for the Treasury Department. During the war. And so on. My whole life was different, like I said. I wrote A Farewell to Arms, but it wasn’t exactly the same book. I still had to kill off Katherine, but not by childbirth. I wrote two novels set in the West.”

“So you and Hadley staying married is one decision that did affect everything. I take it you never declared yourself a Catholic.”

“No, and I didn’t spend 20 years in a Catholic Spanish-speaking country. Different life entirely, just like not being wounded in 1918. Not only no Pauline, but no Marty, no Mary, and no going off to the wars, no deep-sea fishing, no Q-Boat.”

“But also no For Whom the Bell Tolls, no Old Man and the Sea.

“I never said it was all gain, just it was a different life. And this doesn’t even talk about the good sound work I did in that life, or our trips to Spain and France, or the new friends we made and the friends we kept.”

”So let’s stay with what did happen when you broke up with Hadley and married Pauline. Let’s say you moved to Key West. What if your father hadn’t killed himself?”


It was like a blow to the face. Odd, that.

Nick was watching him closely. “You never did get over it.”

“No, not even now, and it’s strange, you know? You would think it would be different, now I’ve talked to him and seen he’s alive, or as alive as I am, anyway. You’d think it would change how I feel.”

“You might think that, until you realize that once you’re out of the three-dimensional world, we aren’t constricted in the same ways. Instead of thinking of ourselves as one version that changes as we go along, here it’s more like there is a different version of us for every part of our life: There’s a young Hemingway, a teenage Hemingway, and a 60-year-old Hemingway, and all the rest. In 3D, we don’t sort out like that, because we’re in one body that holds it all together. But here, you could meet yourself at different stages, in different years.”

“You make it sound like being dead is going to be fun.”

“It can be, among other things, yes. But you see, you just experienced your feelings around your father’s suicide, and you can see they are as alive as you are. You will find that they are sharper than they were in life. Most things are.”

“And the needle is stuck in the same groove forever?”

“Not quite forever. But you will find it not so easy to change what you feel, what you are, now that you’re out of the crucible that 3D restrictions create. That’s what 3D life is for, changing by choosing. This life is about other things.” He saw that Hemingway had no words ready. He said, “So go. Suppose your father lived to see 1929, and maybe many years thereafter.”

When he returned, Nick said: “Well?”

“I guess Dad killing himself was one of those things that were meant to be, like my getting wounded in 1918. Even when he didn’t kill himself in December, it usually wasn’t much later. He just ran out of road.”

“Like his son?”

“Yeah, like me. Sometimes the Florida real estate mess cleared up, so he wasn’t going broke, but how was he going to get back his health?”

“Again like his son.”


“Perhaps in ways you still haven’t realized.”

Puzzled: “Such as?”

“In the months before you shot yourself, what was the biggest thing obsessing you, other than your declining health and your inability to write?”

“I’ll be damned! You’re right, I never thought about it. Is that why I was sure I was going broke?”

“You tell me.”

“I will be damned.”


For  a moment, Nick honored Hemingway’s mood. Then: “It’s hard to watch someone you love and be unable to help in any way. But what about the times when he chose to live instead of die? How did that affect your life?”

“It isn’t so much what it did as what it didn’t do. It didn’t convince me that he was a coward, or that my mother was not only bossy but deadly. It didn’t convince me that that I was going to kill myself.”

“Say all that,” Nick said calmly. “What were the longer-term effects?”

“I didn’t follow it that far,” he said shortly.

“Because –?”

Restlessly: “I don’t know, maybe it didn’t seem worthwhile. I mean, it’s just the path not taken.”

Nick waited him out.

“It made me uncomfortable somehow.” A moment’s brooding. “Somehow it was making me feel guilty, I don’t know why.”

“One more indictment, in a life that had given you plenty of experience with guilt.”

“I guess so.”

“And do you have any real reason to be feeling guilty that your father ran out of road, as you put it?”

“No!” A long hesitation. “Or maybe yes, a little. I could have been a better son. I could have kept in touch. Could at least have let him see his grandson.”

“And would that have saved him, Mr. Hemingway?”

“Everybody’s on his own in life. You can help others only so much.”

“Then is it possible that this is the lesson to be drawn here? That your father killed himself but it wasn’t your fault?”

Stiffly: “I never thought it was.” He faltered. “At least, if I did, I wasn’t aware of it.”

“Of course you weren’t aware of it. That’s the whole point of all this, as I keep telling you. So if you are satisfied, let’s move on.”

“All right. It’s funny, it feels like a knot just got loosened.”

“That’s the hope. Tell me, what if you and Pauline had never settled in Key West?”


That took a while! Or seemed to, in a realm without any way to measure time. He returned thinking about consequences.

“Surprised, Mr. Hemingway?”

“Yeah, I was. As far as I can tell, moving to Key West was maybe the third most important thing to happen to me, after July 8, 1918 and leaving Hadley for Pauline. So many things hinged on it.”

“And you hadn’t ever suspected?”

“It’s like you say, the farther out you go, the more thoroughly everything changes.”

“What surprised you the most?”

“Well, you know, the first half of my life was so full, I had forgotten that it didn’t include deep-sea fishing. Until Charley Thompson and Joe Russell took me out, all I knew was stream fishing. Now all of a sudden there was this whole new world to learn.”

“And without it?”

“No learning the Gulf Stream. No trips to Cuba with Mister Josie. No Pilar. No articles for Esquire on the great blue river, and I guess no images of Hemingway as deep-sea sports-fisherman, that sold a lot of books. Plus, I wouldn’t have learned about the Keys and the conchs, the real life of a part of America that no one had ever written about.”

“No article for New Masses about the 1935 hurricane.”

“No, and no close-up study of the politics of revolution in Cuba, and no moving to Cuba. So many consequences. I lived in that town a dozen years. It was like looking at my life if I didn’t get wounded in 1918, all those possibilities, but no main pattern I could see.”

“Surely, there must have been something.”

“I don’t know where we would have wound up, but it sure wasn’t going to be Piggott, Arkansas. It wouldn’t have been a big city, either. So maybe, like with Hadley, Pauline and I would have wound up living in the West somewhere. Denver, maybe, who knows? But there just wasn’t a main alternative pattern. Key West was way more important than I had realized, even, because it was a place I could assemble my mob for fishing trips. Can you imagine if I had tried to get Max to visit me in Havana?”

“And even Havana wouldn’t have been in the cards without Key West, would it?”

“No, probably not. I’ll tell you, this one was a surprise. I guess even after the fact, it can be hard to see your life in the right proportions. I hate to admit it, but I’m liking this. Now where?”

“You mentioned Esquire. What if you and Arnold Gingrich hadn’t come to your agreement to write for his new magazine?”

He grinned. “I had to. That’s how I financed the Pilar.

“Yes, but suppose you hadn’t.”

“We went over this ground in the trial, remember? I said without Pilar, Key West would have become too small for me, and without the safari and without the Esquire articles, my pubic image might not have gotten so out-of-control. Let’s talk about something else.”

“Fine. Then let’s talk about your ‘Panic’ article and its effects, looking at it as the first link in a long chain of events. What might have happened without that first link?”

He considered the question thoughtfully. “Interesting. I never thought to look at it that way. Okay, let’s find out.”


In a body, he might have been frowning.


“Oh, it’s just I was realizing how little I understood of what was going on, what my life was moving toward. You think you’re doing a thing for one reason, and it turns out that you’re doing it for many reasons. And the train you thought was taking you one place was really taking you someplace else entirely. I write an article about what I saw on Matacumbe, and how unnecessary it was, and I send it to New Masses because they want it and they’re the only ones likely to print it. I call it ‘Panic,’ but they, for their own reasons, title it ‘Who killed the vets?’ and of course most people think that’s my title, because most people don’t realize that journalists don’t usually get to write their own headlines.”

New Masses was using you.”

“I never expected anything else. But what I didn’t think about was the FBI noticing, and even the NKVD. All the political lemmings noticed, of course, all the lefty bandwagon-jumpers. Suddenly they’re all assuming I am something that I am not. So on the one hand I am this pleasure-seeking hard drinking playboy, and now I am also this Johnny-come-lately sympathizer to the leftist cause, finally becoming aware of class warfare. Quite a straddle.”

“So how did your life change if you didn’t write that article?”

“No, you can’t draw straight lines in life the way you’re wanting to. Without the article, the other links in the chain still exist. I was still going to meet Marty and drift leftward. I was still going to cover the Spanish Civil War and get put on Hoover’s watch list. I was still going to come to the attention of the Russians.”

“So this is another of the main lines of your life that aren’t easily deflected?”

“Seems like it. Seems like some things, if you don’t come to them one way, you come to them from another direction.”

“And you examined what happened if you didn’t get put on the FBI’s watch list?”

“I did, and that was very interesting.” Bitterly: “Their vendetta cost me, and it cost the country.”

“Now, you know that isn’t balanced.”

Grudgingly: “Okay, no. It wasn’t the FBI alone, and it wasn’t my article by itself. Anybody who supported the Spanish Loyalists got tarred with the same brush. We called ourselves ‘premature anti-fascists,’ after a while, kind of a bitter joke. We were all considered politically untrustworthy. So, yeah, even without Hoover’s vendetta, maybe I wouldn’t have gotten into the OSS. But it was so stupid! When it came to understanding France, and knowing how to deal with the French, who had more to offer than I did? You’ll notice, they were happy to use me when it came to taking Paris.”

“Colonel Bruce was.”

“And you think he didn’t clear that with his superiors? But it had to be deniable, because I was officially a correspondent, so I had to lie about it and they had to pretend to believe my lies.”

Nick let him brood for a long moment, until he said, “Let’s look at something less depressing.”

“Then why don’t we look at your life if you had worked for OSS instead of pretending to be only a war correspondent?”

He brightened. “Good idea!”


He returned shaken. “I had no idea!”

“Far-reaching consequences, sometimes. Things you never would have considered. So how did you experience it?”

“Well, in the versions where I had been with the Spanish Loyalists, it wasn’t easy to overcome the suspicion. But my Crook Factory work with Spruill Braden helped, because that was running an intelligence network on nothing, and Braden himself said it was helpful. And I told them about using Pilar as a Q Boat, so they could see I understood the need for discipline. They decided to give me a try and hope for the best. But they were always waiting for me to get the bit in my teeth, so I was careful to keep my head down. They thought I would want to perform feats of derring-do, and they were always waiting for me to suggest it. But hell, my son was in the OSS! He was the right age for parachuting behind enemy lines, I wasn’t.”

“So how did it turn out?”

“Being with the OSS let me do on a large scale what I did on a tiny scale on the road to Paris. I knew France. I knew Europe and Europeans. I knew how to piece together bits of information to make a larger picture. And, if it happened that there was occasion to lead some parties, as might easily have happened, where’s the harm in it? This time, I wasn’t a correspondent, I was part of the army.”

“So what did you find so surprising?”

“I’ll tell you. When I was with the OSS, I wasn’t with Buck Lanham’s bunch, getting shot to pieces in the Hurtgen Forest. So, at the end of the war, no combat fatigue. This time, when I came home from Europe in 1945, I wasn’t dealing with all those emotional time bombs. And I came home honored for my contribution. I’ll bet in a lot of those versions, I am going to keep on going for many more years, just because I didn’t incur the damage I did in real life.”

“Any drawbacks?”

“You’re always going to have drawbacks. I didn’t spend the fall and winter with Buck and the 22nd, for one thing, and I didn’t get any first-hand combat experience, or anyway not much. These were powerful experiences and I would hate to have missed them. But, they didn’t come free.”

“No. So your postwar life was very different?”

“I guess you’d have to say I was different. What with China in 1941, then the Crook Factory and the Q-Boat in 1942-43, then the OSS through the end of the war in Europe, I hadn’t written anything since For Whom the Bell Tolls. But this time I had been doing officially recognized intelligence work. So instead of trying to write a series of novels, I wrote one novel about the Q-Boat and another one set among OSS men in France in 1944. Smaller-scale ambitions than this time, but more likely to be fulfilled.”

“One more what-if. In real life, you got into trouble for supposedly playing war when you weren’t supposed to carry arms. What if instead of lying about what you had done, you had owned up to it?”

“They would have kicked me out of the European Theater. Sent me home. That wouldn’t have been so bad in a way, because what was ever going to be as bloody marvelous as that July, August and September? And I’d still have my memories of my time with the 22nd, and I would have missed Hurtgen Forest and wouldn’t have had any idea how bad it was.

“But, you know, I had to lie about it. Bruce and the OSS and the brass were desperate for me to lie about it. Bruce had given me objectives! The brass knew damned well where some of their intel was coming from, and they were glad to have it, but they had to turn a blind eye. I couldn’t tell the truth without causing them a lot of trouble. So , like I said, I lied and they pretended to believe me. And you know what? I think that’s about as far as I want to go with what-if.”

“You don’t want to look at your postwar life with Mary?”

“I don’t think there would have been a life with Mary. That all hinged on our meeting in London, and if I was with the OSS, I wouldn’t have had  time to kill waiting for the invasion. I would have been up to my eyes with the advance work. But anyway, no, there’s no point.”

“Then let me suggest one last what-if, late in life but important. Those two successive airplane crashes in 1954. You lived the version where the crashes left you badly injured. But there were two other possibilities, either no crash at all or a crash that killed you. What of those two paths? Care to look”

“Yeah, I do, now that you mention it.” Off again.


And, for the final time, he returned to this no-place, this interruption-without-context.

“You oversimplified. Lots more things could have happened than just the extremes. Let’s say I got killed, either when Roy hit that power line or the next day in the botched takeoff. ‘Dead. Papa killed at 55, still carrying full sail. End of story.’ Would have saved everybody a lot of aggravation.”

“And is that your considered opinion, that it would have saved trouble?”

“After a full seven years of dealing with the effects of those injuries? Yeah, it is. And they were in addition to concussions, and undiagnosed combat fatigue. All that deterioration Hotch was talking about: Could have skipped all of it.”

“It would have made your life a tidier adventure story, certainly. But what about its effect on you, here, as you came over?”

He shrugged. “If you are asking me, would I regret the years I would have missed, what was there to miss? Seven years of progressive loss of control over my own reactions? I could have skipped all that without regret. The other extreme was more interesting. I suppose you already know, without those crashes, chances are I’d still be in 3D, going strong. I always burned my candle at both ends, all my life. I aged quicker than most people. But it was only after the crashes in 1954 that I suddenly began getting old. Continued pain will do that to you, just the pain by itself, not to mention the effects of all the things causing the pain.”

“Or the effects of the ways you may be tempted to self-medicate.”

“Fine. Booze probably didn’t help. But what else did I have? Anyway, without those injuries, I don’t know how my life ends, but I don’t think it’s over yet. Nothing was going to bring back Charlie Scribner and Max Perkins, or the years I lost to politics and warfare, and there wasn’t any way to undo the results of bad decisions,  but the accidents cost the world my second safari book, and I’m sorry about that, because I was doing some good thinking in those African nights. It seems to me I saw a nice companion volume to Green Hills of Africa. Another thing: Without the accidents, I still had time, and I still had the energy, to shape up the two projects I had been juggling since the war. In some versions I did, and in some I didn’t. It’s too bad, because nobody else can finish them for me.

“That second crash cost Mary all that exposed film – hundreds of shots she was planning to use for her article for Life magazine. Cost me my health, cost me several years of good working time. Cost me a place of honor at JFK’s inauguration, when he invited Faulkner and me to represent achievement in American literature. He was a fan, you know, from the time he was a kid.”

I knew. I wasn’t sure you knew.”

“Oh yes. In good health, I would have enjoyed it..” Briskly: “Enough post mortems. Where do we go from here?”



Chapter 27 “What if?” part 1

Chapter 27: What if?

He and the defense attorney were alone. They were – where? Nowhere. Not only no courtroom, no  hospital room, no room at all, nor any outdoors scene. They might as well have been standing in a pea-souper such as he had seen in London.

“So, now what? We stand around waiting?”

“Not exactly. But we are finished pretending to judge you. The whole charade was to help you to see your life more clearly.”

“And you aren’t my defense attorney any more, I take it.”

“Never was. You can call me Nick Adams.”

“Nick Adams, right.” He smiled. “All right, Nick. So, your current function is –?”

“You can think of me as a friend.”


The man wanted him to ask; he waited him out. Nice to have the shoe on the other foot for once.

“You don’t want to know what to expect next?”

“What I expect is that you will get around to telling me, sooner or later.”

“Nick seemed to repress a small internal smile. “I must say, I like your attitude. All right. We just took a fast look at the life you lived, some of the highlights. The process isn’t over until you look at the life you didn’t live. The negative space in the picture, you might say.”

“Sure, `The path not taken.’ Thank you Robert Frost. How, exactly?”

“Instead of trying to explain it to you, let’s just do it. Think of any moment of your life that you’d like to relive. Imagine it vividly, the way you did in 3D life. Then, as things unfold, change them. If you turned left, turn right. Or go straight on, or stop, whatever you want. Change things; see what happens.”

“Okay.” He paused. “Start at birth, I suppose? Or, work backwards?”

“Start where you want to start. Beginning, end, anywhere in the middle, it doesn’t matter. Everything connects.”

“No particular guidelines?”

“You might begin with whatever wells up unbidden.”

“Huh. Okay.” He closed his non-3D eyes, and he instantly knew. When he reopened them, there he was, wounded, helpless, in pain, being carried on a stretcher in the middle of the night. He wasn’t looking at the scene; he was immersed in it. He had forgotten the noise of the shells, the concussions. He was being carried to the first-aid station, and a shell hit close enough to drop his stretcher-bearers, and him, to the ground. The men arranged him back on the stretcher and picked him up, apologizing in Italian and with their eyes.

He was both in the scene and observing it, an odd bifurcation. “July 8, 1918,” he said.

Nick was nowhere to be seen, but he heard him say, “Feel free to go back before the shell hit. Or have it miss you.”

“I can do that?”

“Of course you can. That’s the point of `what if’ scenarios. How does your life change if you never get wounded? Ask to see some consequences.”

“We’re going to be here quite a while, then!”

“No need for detail, just get the highlights.”



He returned to wherever it was.

“So what happened?”

“What I expect you know happened. My life began to play out, a rapid sequence of things, like riffling a deck of cards. Is this supposed to be what would have happened, or just what might have happened?”

“We aren’t dealing in certainties, here, Mr. Hemingway. It isn’t like there was only one possible path. At any moment of your life, the rest of your life is more decisions, and every decision means another choice, opening up new paths and closing others. The more decision points you pass, the more indefinite is the path beyond. So what changed when you didn’t get wounded?”

Everything changed! It wasn’t even my life anymore. I didn’t spend six months in the hospital listening to wounded veterans. Never met Chink. Never met Agnes. Didn’t have a first love in Italy. I didn’t go home on the Giuseppe Verdi, didn’t get interviewed by the New York paper or by Oak Leaves, never talked to any civic groups, Therefore, I never met Mrs. Connable, and never spent the winter in Toronto hanging around the Toronto Weekly Star offices, and so I never got to become one of their free-lance feature writers. Since I was never a wounded war veteran, I didn’t have a year’s worth of insurance payments to tide me over while I tried to learn to write, so in some versions I gave in and went to college, and in others I got my job back at the Kansas City Star, or I found some kind of job in the Oak Park area – that is, Chicago.”

“Did you meet Hadley?”

“That seems to depend. If I went to college or went back to Kansas City, no. If I stayed in Chicago until Hash came up to visit Katy, maybe yes, depending on what I was doing. But even when I did meet her, I wasn’t the same person, and often enough we didn’t really click. Without July 8th, I wasn’t the same person. I came home safe and sound and boring and bored.”

“On the other hand, without it you didn’t spend years being afraid of the dark, or pulling scrap metal out of your leg.”

“True. Still, without it, I don’t see how I would ever have gotten to Paris.“

“Ready to try again? Leave July 8 as it was, and change something else.”

“Okay. That was almost fun. A hell of a lot better than listening to people attack me.”

“Is that your impression of what they were doing?”

“Let’s do some more.”

“A suggestion? You may want to go about your examination systematically. Perhaps begin at the beginning.”

“All right.” And off he went again, this time all the way back to his childhood.


“And what did you find?”

“I guess I was always going to be a writer. I wrote for the school paper, I was editor of the literary magazine. Maybe I could have decided to go off to college. It wouldn’t have been so bad. It would have been fun, because I would have made it fun. I would have put together a mob there, same as I did everywhere. By the time I was old enough to enlist, I would have had a year of college, and that would have made a difference, later. Even if I had gone into the ambulances, like plenty of other college guys, I would have had a better idea about college, what it had to offer.”

“You wouldn’t have been afraid of college men.”

He winced. “Since you put it that way, okay. But I would have been just as harsh on their shortcomings. It’s just, I would have seen them more clearly.”

“And you wouldn’t have come across the Kansas City Star’s style sheet.”

“That’s true. But even in what I wrote in high school, you can see my style emerging. You can’t tell, really, what would have happened.”

“Did you look to see what would have happened if you had stayed in school and missed the war entirely?”

A decisive shake of the head. “That was never going to happen.”

“Your defective eyesight guaranteed that the Army would never have taken you.”

“I would have found a way, one way or the other. I might have wound up in a different unit, and maybe wound up in France instead of Italy. All kinds of things might have been different, but I wouldn’t have stayed home.”

“All right, I think you have the idea. Look at your life as you didn’t live it.  If you find things you want to talk about, we can do that – I’ll be here – or you can just keep exploring. It’s up to you.”

“And how long do we go about it?”

“Until you get tired of doing it.”

“Could go on forever.”

“It isn’t like we’re on the clock here. It’s really up to you. Just go until you’re finished.”

“Okay, I get it. I suppose I’ll see you whenever.” He turned his attention inward, waiting for a question to surface. It didn’t take long.

“What if you hadn’t become friends with Bill Smith?”

“Well,” he thought, What if?”


In the short term, nothing much changed. He was still spending his summers by the lake, still working the farm at his father’s long-distance direction, still enjoying the woods and the water and the town and the freedom from the schoolyear’s discipline. And there were other boys to pal around with: He always knew how to draw people to him, and he always liked having a mob to do things with. But – he realized – a little way down the road, without Bill, no Katy! Without Katy and Bill, no sharing an apartment with their brother Y.K. Without Y.K., no introduction to Sherwood Anderson, no meeting others of the Chicago Renaissance like Carl Sandberg, plus he probably would have gone to Italy as he planned, instead of Paris. And if he hadn’t been in Paris, could he have met Dos? Even if he had gotten to Paris, how could he have hoped to meet Pound, and yes, Gertrude, without Anderson’s letters of introduction?

In fact, without Bill, and therefore Katy, how would he have met Katy’s best friend Hadley Richardson? And if he hadn’t fallen in love with Hadley, would he ever have gotten to Europe at all?

He shook his head. It was like learning that he had spent all his life walking on the thinnest of ice, never realizing that it was only his forward movement that stopped it from cracking and breaking under his weight. “Hairbreadth Harry,” he said.

“You bet.” The thought came to him. “It’s a good thing we were good skaters.”


“You think you just happened to be in the right place at the right time, over and over again?”

“Well, when you put it that way, maybe not.”

“You bet, maybe not. And the more you look, the more you’ll see. You thought, what if you’d never met Hadley, but what if you had met her, and on the same night you did meet her, but the two of you hadn’t clicked?”


There they were in Y.K.’s apartment, and Katy was introducing her friend from St. Louis, but the evening didn’t work. Katy’s Chicago crowd didn’t warm to her friend and sweep her into their circle. Hadley, on her part, didn’t open up and show her sense of fun. She had played the piano, but formally, classically, not swinging into the wild jazz tunes that made them realize that they were young and alive. Even the liquor didn’t help; everyone remained polite, restrained. He had stood there admiring her long red hair, but wishing it wasn’t all so awkward. He got out as soon as he decently could, and kept his distance from her for the rest of her visit.

“But it never could have happened that way,” he said. “We were meant for each other. We hadn’t been talking for ten minutes before we were both feeling it.”

A half-heard voice: (“And if that first ten minutes hadn’t happened? If she had had a cold, or you had? If she had been too shy to let her real self show, or you were too boisterous and self-aggrandizing? Plenty of ships pass in the night. What if you had been two more such ships?”)

If he had still been in a body, he might have felt a shiver.

“If you can’t admit it here and now, when and where will you ever be able to do so?”

“Who says there’s anything to admit?”

“You know there is. If you don’t admit it, if you can’t, then God help you.”

“All right! I admit it! I would have been lost.”

“What would you have been missing?”

“Hadley’s warmth! Someone to love, someone to love me.”

“Someone to hold you in the darkness.”

Reluctantly: “That too.”

“At age 21, without Hadley, what were you, Mr. Hemingway?”

It was humiliating to admit it, even now.

“Oh come on! Who are you posing for?”

A sigh, or its non-3D equivalent. “Nobody, I guess. Myself, maybe.”

“Yes, and what’s the pose for, Mr. Afraid Of Nothing?”

He knew. “I needed her. I needed somebody, and thank God it was her.” Blurting it out: “I couldn’t be alone.”

Silence. After a moment he felt constrained to break it. “Well? Nothing to say? No snide comments?”

“I was letting you sit with the realization.”

“Like I didn’t know it!”

“Yes, but now you have admitted it. It makes a world of difference to admit something. It frees you. Why do you suppose that you were repressing that particular realization, Mr. Hemingway?”

“I don’t know that I did. Didn’t I say that a man alone hasn’t got a fucking chance?”

“Yes, you did. Is this what you meant by it?”

Reluctantly again: “No.”

“We know you think we’re beating you on the head with all this, and we know you think we enjoy it, but we aren’t, and we don’t.”

“Meaning we can move on?”

“Meaning exactly that. Suppose you hadn’t had those introductions Sherwood Anderson gave you.”

“My God,” he said. “Is it possible I could have lived in Paris and never met Sylvia?”


He wouldn’t have thought so, but the longer he looked, the more unsure he became. Without Anderson to steer him there, would he have even known that Shakespeare and Co. existed? Sylvia wasn’t famous in 1921. She wasn’t yet the den mother for the lost generation. Sylvia had introduced him to Joyce, and had helped him meet Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein.

Anderson himself had found her shop essentially by accident, and had introduced himself to her only because she had placed his book in the window. Suppose he hadn’t gone down that street. Suppose she hadn’t placed Winesburg, Ohio in the window?  Suppose Anderson hadn’t come home to tell young Hemingway he had to go to Paris, and had to see the following people?

“No. I would have found her. As soon as Hash and I got ourselves set up, we would have been prowling the streets to see what we could see. We would have found her, sooner or later.” But the worm of doubt persisted. For one thing, who had helped the young Hemingways to find a place to live but Lewis Galantiere? And how did Galantiere know of them except via Anderson?

“Dammit!” But there was no blinking the fact: It was Anderson’s letters that had opened the way, time after time, putting him into touch not only with the established writers but the important ones, the coming ones. He couldn’t help counting them out like a litany: Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, and then Ford Madox Ford and the sub-editorship of “the transatlantic review,” by which he became known before ever getting a word published between boards.


“It didn’t all come from Anderson’s letters,” he said defensively. “Plenty came out of my work with the Toronto Star.”

“Nobody would suggest otherwise,” Nick said mildly. “It was your inquiry, after all.”

“All right,” he growled. “And if you wanted the point made, it’s made. I owed Anderson, and I repaid him badly.”

“That may be your point, it was not mine. Mine was merely that you see how much hung on what look like improbable coincidences. You know the Smith family, so you come to stay at Y.K.’s. Y. K. works with Anderson and so he brings him home and the older established writer and the younger would-be writer hit it off. The older writer goes to Paris, happens to see his book in a bookstore window, and so happens to meet Sylvia Beach and happens to meet important literary people she knows. Then he happens to return to Chicago mere days before the younger writers is to sail for Italy, and persuades him to try Paris instead, and offers letters of introduction. That’s a good deal of concatenating ifs.”

“Yes it is. I was lucky.”

“Whatever luck is. Would you like a suggestion? Why don’t you see what your life would have been like if you had gone to Europe on your own, instead of working for the Star?”

“I don’t need to go anywhere to tell you that. It would have changed everything. I wouldn’t have come to the attention of Bob McAlmon, for one thing, which means Three Stories and Ten Poems almost certainly wouldn’t have been published, since it was his idea. But that wouldn’t have been the biggest change. When the Star started sending me to write features about the conferences, that’s when I met the foreign correspondents and became a member of that club. And without all that, I wouldn’t have learned cablese, which had an enormous effect on my writing, and wouldn’t have met Lincoln Steffens, for another, a good guy who taught me a lot. That all came from working for the Star.”

“Then where do you go from here?”

“Let me free-associate, see what surfaces.” Within seconds: “Gertrude and Spain. Never thought of that. She’s the one who got me interested in bullfights. That’s probably why I went to Spain in 1923 with McAlmon and Bill Bird.”

“But suppose you hadn’t liked bullfighting? Plenty of Americans didn’t.”

“Not like it?”

And he was off again.


Spain. Heat. Light. Dust. Color. Wine drunk from leather flasks. Tourists, yes, but tourists as drops in the sea of Spaniards. Medieval uniforms. Churches. Wooden carts older than could be counted.

And the tastes! Every day was a feast, and it didn’t matter how simple the fare was, or how quiet the meal.

And then, the corrida itself, another world, self-contained, outside of time, living in its pageantry and tradition. The horses and the picadors, a shock. The three acts, sensed but not yet understood. The moment of the killing, in all its intensity. Good killings and bad, good cape work and bad, brave   matadors and cowardly, skillful or merely tricky. Or was he overlaying all that he had learned onto that first eye-opening summer?

“And behind the scenes, Mr. Hemingway? What was happening?”

“Happening with me, you mean? I had come home. I belonged there; I don’t know how I came to be born in the United States. How could I not have liked bullfighting? That’s like imagining I wouldn’t like Spain. I was born head over heels in love with Spain, only it took me 20 years to get there. If I hadn’t gone in 1923, I would have gotten there sometime. If Gertrude hadn’t pointed me toward bullfighting, somebody else would have, or I would have found it on my own. It was like writing, it was part of me, and it would have come out one way or another.”

He stayed with the feeling, not putting it into words but living it, feeling it as precious to him. And Nick let him stay with it.


At length he said, “This procedure of yours has its uses. Why didn’t we start off this way, instead of going through all that trial business?”

Nick laughed. “Whose idea was it, after all? Or, not your idea, exactly, but it came out of what you are. You were primed to be judged and condemned. We played along until you opened up to other possibilities.”

“It sure didn’t feel like it!”

“How could it? As soon as you started to see through it, we were free to do other things.”

“But I didn’t see through it.”

“If you’ll go back and look, you’ll see that you were changing what you believed, behind your own back.”

“If you say so. What’s next?”

“Before you go too far, you might want to look at a different kind of ‘what if?’ What if Agnes had never sent you that Dear John letter?”

He shook his head decisively. “That was always going to happen, it’s just I didn’t realize it. She wasn’t in love with me, she was more in love with being in love. She was having fun in Europe. She probably wouldn’t have come home even if I had found a good job right away. And how much chance was there of that happening? To get started on a career takes time. It always does. There was never a path that she wasn’t going to write that Dear John. Let’s look at something else.”

“Then what about your return to Canada in 1923?”

If he had had a body, it would have grimaced.  “That goddamned Hindmarsh. But it wouldn’t have mattered if Hindmarsh had dropped dead. There is no way I was ever going to be able to write in Canada. Toronto was a damned dull town, and my youth was ticking away. Hash and I were going back to Paris, and the only question was how long would it take. But, you know, timing matters, sometimes. If we had waited too long, some doors might have closed, and then what? Getting back when we did was as important as getting there when we did in the first place.”

“You returned to Paris in 1924 with nothing to live on but Hadley’s inheritance. That was taking a chance. Suppose you hadn’t taken that chance?”

“Suppose we had played it safe, you mean? Don’t know. Don’t even want to know. I didn’t go into that life to play it safe.”

“What’s that? I didn’t quite hear you.”

“Yeah, very funny. So you’re saying my life did have a plan after all.”

I didn’t say it, you did.”

“Yeah, but I didn’t know I was going to say it.”

“That’s how you know it’s real. And after all, you can’t say the facts contradict the statement. When did you ever play it safe?”


“So there’s your pattern. Where did the pattern come from? Was it chance, or was it your character? And if it was your character, how different is that from saying it was your destiny, like burning your candle at both ends?”

“All right, I get the point.”

“If your life hadn’t gotten you to Paris the first time, you wouldn’t have gotten Three Stories and Ten Poems and in our time into print. And if you hadn’t returned in 1924, how would you have met F. Scott Fitzgerald, who had come across them and become a believer in your star?”

“And without Scott, maybe no Scribner’s, I get it. I should look at what if Scott hadn’t liked my books?”

“Or if you hadn’t met, or if you hadn’t hit it off, yes.”


He would never forget the meeting at the bar. Okay, erase it. He was elsewhere, or Scott never showed up. For whatever reason, their paths never crossed, they never met.

“Except,” he muttered to himself, “we would have. Scott would have kept on until we did. He could be a persistent bastard. But, let’s say we never met.”

It wasn’t like his days were empty. He was writing, he was working well. He and Hadley and Bumby were a family, and a pretty contented family, at that. And for intellectual company he had Sylvia and Gertrude and Dos and Ford and Ezra – no, Ezra had moved to Italy by then. But still, there were letters between them, back and forth. He had had so many friends, so many activities and interests. Without Scott’s disruptive presence, life flowed as it had been flowing.

Only –

He returned. “I don’t know how to think about it,” he said. “I had a good life, and I would have thought you can’t miss what you never had, but – maybe you can. It was like soup without just the right spice to bring it to life.”

“Are you saying Fitzgerald lit up the scene?”

“Until he got to be too much of a drunk, yeah.”

“And as you know, you had the same effect on others. So is looking at your life without Fitzgerald like looking at other people’s lives without Hemingway?”

“What’s your point?”

“It’s just a comment.”


“What about the career consequences?”

“If I hadn’t met Scott? Maybe none. It’s interesting. Scott was pushing Max to contact me even before he and I met, and if we had never met, he still would have been pushing him. It wasn’t a matter of him liking me as a person, it was about him wanting Scribner’s to have all the coming authors.”

Delicately: “Did you look at what would have happened if you had submitted The Sun Also Rises and Fitzgerald hadn’t been there to tell you to cut the first few pages?”

“Actually, he didn’t tell me to cut them: He showed me problems with them. Cutting them entirely was my idea. And all right, it was important. Without that fix, sometimes the book flopped, sometimes it did so-so, but it didn’t make the splash it did in real life. So, I owe him that, and that was one time he made a difference editorially. But after that, he never quite got what I was doing, so his advice wasn’t worth much.”

There was a silence, in which the sentence reverberated.

“Okay, I got it, that was ungracious.”

“It was worse than ungracious. It shows that you still haven’t looked closely enough at your relation to him. You admit that he made an important difference, then you feel obliged to devalue it, to say in effect, ‘What have you done for me lately?’ Why is that?”

“I thought we were done with psychoanalysis. We’re doing ‘what ifs,’ right?”

“Then, what about celebrity, Mr. Hemingway? You no sooner signed up with Scribner’s than you found yourself partying with people you had only read about. Suppose you hadn’t made that sudden leap into prominence?”

Chapter 26: The Life He Led

The defense attorney was addressing the jury.

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, obviously the facts of the defendant’s life are not in dispute. However, facts require interpretation, and that is what I will attempt to provide. After I conclude my remarks, the defendant will speak to you directly, and then it will be for you to decide, and for the judge to make his recommendation.

“The externals of his life are soon told. Born into an upper middle class family with Midwestern values, he inherited his mother’s artistic disposition and his father’s scientific and nature-oriented disposition. He inherited his mother’s imperious will and his father’s precarious mental stability, hence he entered life both strongly motivated and ultra-sensitive. Perhaps you will agree, an ideal background for one who was to be among the most successful and insightful writers of his time.

“In the short space of a dozen years, from age 18 to age 30, he went from being a cub reporter to being a world-recognized master of fiction. During this time he married Hadley Richardson, they moved to Paris, they had a son, and he worked at learning to write fiction. The same period saw him leave his wife and marry Pauline Pfeiffer.

“Between the wars, he authored five books and Pauline and he had two sons, then this marriage too broke up. He moved to Cuba, married Martha Gellhorn, and spent the war years hunting submarines and covering allied operations In Europe after D-Day. After the war, with Mary, wife number four, he worked for years on a vast project most of which he never brought to completion, although he did win the Nobel Prize for Literature. His last years were marked by physical and mental illness, and recently he took `the family exit,’ as he called it, killing himself, and finding himself here, wondering what comes next.”

He thought, That’s not a very long summary, for a life that was always so full. The defense attorney overheard the thought, of course, and perhaps his eyes twinkled in the fast glance he spared him.

“Those are the externals. But we are concerned with the corresponding internal facts, and perhaps first among these is his struggle with conflicting ideals. What happens to a sensitive boy who attempts to hold two ideals, each quite sincerely, that cut against each other? The ruthlessness required to pursue an ideal of excellence may carry over into other parts of life where it conflicts with other values. When it came to writing, Ernest Hemingway did not compromise. He was ruthless in his self-criticism and relentless in his continual experimentation, learning as long as he was able to learn, never relaxing his standard, continually raising the bar higher. He competed against other contemporary writers, against his own limitations, against the masters, and against the invisible limits of the craft.

“Sylvia Beach said she and James Joyce saw Ernest Hemingway as a religious man, Is there not something religious in his day-by-day practical devotion to the ideal of truth, of beauty, of excellence? His life in the physical world is over, and cannot be re-created. But what remains is what he accomplished, internally, in his hard life – and here I refer not to his written works, but to his success in a lifetime of holding together so many inchoate and conflicting potentials. This was his achievement, and it was a solid achievement.”

The defense attorney paused, perhaps to gather his energies, as a horse gathers itself before jumping a hurdle.

“The case for the defense could summarized this way: Ernest Hemingway’s life is an example of a life lived to the full. He was given a spirited team of horses to ride, and he rode them even when they wanted to carry him in opposite directions. He was given great opportunities, and improved upon them. He was given great abilities, and developed them continuously. He sometimes failed to do what he knew he ought to do, and sometimes did what he knew he ought not to do, but he did not fail to live, and to bring to his life as much joy and intensity as possible.

“Ernest Hemingway was one of those people – and they are few in number – whose presence was always noticed. Someone said that he sucked the air out of a room just by entering it. He was instantly the center of attention, not because of anything he did, but because of what he was. And, at the same time, for other people his presence in a room, or his very mention in a conversation was a provocation to attack. Was this because he was a famous writer? A deep-sea fisherman? An aficionado of bullfighting? Was it because he wrote for Esquire magazine and went on safaris and got involved in impromptu boxing matches? I don’t think so. I think it was because he had something that people found irresistibly appealing, the appeal we experience in the presence of wholeness, more alluring than glamour, than success, than fame or riches or beauty. Despite his failures and mistakes, despite his character flaws and his sins of omission and commissions: wholeness. Someone said that greatness is reaching opposite extremes at the same time. This, he did. He was so many men in one. Let me list a few of them.”


“If you want the key to Ernest Hemingway’s inner life, think of just one phrase: the tension of opposites. You will all remember the many types of men you knew in life. Look how many types Hemingway embodied.

“A master story-teller, above all. Who was a better story-teller than Hemingway?

“A voracious reader. Hemingway absorbed uncounted works of fiction and non-fiction, leaving a library of more than 7,000 books in his home at Finca Vigia.

“A connoisseurs of the visual arts. From Hemingway’s earliest days to his last, he haunted museums and befriended painters, knowing how to distinguish quality.

“Someone with an ear for the musical heritage of mankind. Hemingway loved every musical art form from opera to symphonies to jazz.

“A student of the world around him, inputs wide open, thirsty for first-hand knowledge. A born teacher.

“An intense lover of nature, loving sea and sky, exulting in the wilds of Africa, mourning what America had done to its natural heritage.

“A skillful fisherman and hunter, intent on outwitting and out-maneuvering whatever animal he sought.

“A men with an appetite for the physical pleasures, whether eating and drinking, hiking, riding, skiing, even, as a very young man, playing at fighting the bulls.

“A man who could lead a soldier’s life, mastering its specialized knowledge, its privations, discipline, courage and intensity in Italy, in Spain, in the seas around Cuba, in France.

“A men’s men, always happy in male companionship, always wanting to assemble a mob, always organizing some complicated joint endeavor. A man who had friends among rich and poor, famous and unknown, and those who were for any reason simpatico.

“A lover and admirer of women, hungering for them, observing them closely, valuing their difference, needing their respect and admiration.

“A born leaders of men, always at the center of any gathering, always the prime mover.

“Some have instincts and perceptions that take them half out of the world. That was Ernest Hemingway, with his religious longings and his impossibly high ideals.

“To judge his life by the end of it would be the same kind of error made commonly on earth, where a man’s future is presumed to end at death. Instead, the future, as always, starts now.”

The defense attorney paused. “That is all I have to say. I now invite the defendant to address you directly.” And the defense attorney sat down, giving him a wink.


So now it was up to him. He felt the nervousness he had always felt when he had to make a speech.

“I cannot defend everything I ever did, The things I did when I knew I was doing wrong are the hardest memories to bear. I wish I could undo them, but of course I can’t. But I wanted to put that on the record before I tried to give you an idea of how I saw my life, what I thought I was doing.

“As a young man, I decided that in life you had to pay as you went along. It’s the philosophy I gave Jake Barnes in The Sun Also Rises. You pay for anything that’s any good, either by studying it or by experiencing it or by taking chances, or by just paying money. And all the way to the end, I still believed it, only at the end I didn’t have anything left to buy, and nothing to buy it with except money. For most of my life, I paid by working. I worked all the time, the way I read all the time. As long as I could work, I could enjoy life as it came to me.

“I never cared about some abstract definition of the meaning of life. I wanted to know, concretely, day by day, action by action, how to live.  I was living as best I could on my terms that I had set and accepted. That’s why I always planned my fun. That’s why when I learned something, I learned it. That’s why I was so intolerant of so many things and so many types of people that were phony or empty or were just pretending, or were dead at the core.

“I loved life, loved the world. Loved being part of it. Wanted to know everything, experience everything, describe everything. I lived a very rich life in a way that didn’t have anything to do with whether I had a dollar in my pocket. And everybody here knows that my life centered on my creating.

“I loved living in the physical world and I loved living in the imaginal world, and I felt at home in each. When you think of my life, think of a man standing at the boundary line between two worlds – the outer world that he shared with everybody else, and the inner world that was his own. Both worlds were very brightly lit, and in the best times of my life, I spent hours first in one world, then in the other. Hours, every day. If you don’t understand that one fact, you cannot understand my life.”

He turned from the jury and sat down.

The defense attorney said, “That was very well done, Mr. Hemingway. Your honor, the defense rests.”

“Very well. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you will withdraw and confer among yourselves, and return when you have reached a unanimous verdict.”


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.”


“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.”


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?”


“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?”


“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.


“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.”


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.


“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.”


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.”


“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.”


“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.”