Ernest Hemingway: A new conversation

Ernest Hemingway statue in Petoskey Michigan

It has been a couple of years, but your man-on-the-street has returned from a long vacation and a COVID break. The temperature in Downtown Petoskey was close to sixty-degrees, and smell of spring in the air. I plopped my chair in front of Ernie and began an enticing confab about the passing scene.

ME:       Ernie, you’ve been standing here now, well, going on four years, you ever see anything like we just went through?

EH:        Yes. Young man, right when we entered the Big War, people were dying right and left. Hell, Charlevoix had the police at their border.

ME:       What about when you got to Europe?

EH:        Blokes were dying in the trenches. Rows of bodies.

ME:       Your cane and suitcase, are you off on another adventure?

EH:        Yes. Writing. Writing is my adventure.

ME:       You liked it here. Why not stay?

EH:        Small. Too small. Bold and big is necessary to be a great writer. I want to write the world.

ME:       Your eyes are fixed on me. Is this disturbing after all these years?

EH:        First of all, you dolt, I’m a statue. Of course my eyes are fixed. Second, you use the word ‘this’ as if I’m supposed to know what you’re talking about. Be clear, man.

ME:       Is my conversing with you a disturbance?

EH:        People disturb me, in general. Action enlivens me.

ME:       Seriously, what do you remember of the Spanish Flu?

EH:        Ghastly.

Me:       More, if you don’t mind.

EH:        We spent more time on Walloon Lake and then I went to war. That’s what I remember. Took off into the woods by myself, too. Say, did people ever catch on that I was really on the Fox River and not the Two Hearted?

ME:       It took a while, but yes. But back to your perch, why here next to City Park Grill?

EH:        This building? It used to be The Annex. Good pool tables. Great hooch. Nice place. And you could catch the train outside.

ME:       No train anymore.

EH:        Nope.  But I do see strange boards with small wheels and young folk standing on top gliding along. Some crash into this tree near me. Some get close to me feet. They swear more than I ever did.

              And the dogs! Since when did they become like humans?

ME:       You don’t like dogs?

EH:        Love ’em, but blast it all, people think I don’t mind having them wet my shoes ten times a day.

ME:       Ernie, I gotta tell you, fifty degrees on a March 9th and barely any snow.

EH:        Yes. Winters are changing. I remember days in Oak Park and Chicago where the wind alone would freeze you. Bone chilling.

ME:       Climate’s changing, Ernie.

EH:        Is that what it is? You know, as a statue I pretty much stay warm. Can’t tell the difference except for the wind. Howling winds this past year.

ME:       Yes! We lost some magnificent trees in this park last year.

EH:        I could not turn my neck, but I wondered. I heard the saws. Right in front of me I saw the façade of that building blow away.

ME:       What’s your favorite memory of Petoskey?

EH:        Petoskey was my favorite memory. You could escape the doldrums of life in a small town. I could wrestle a hundred fish out of the rivers, come here, drink a few rounds, shoot some billiards, and sleep in a handful of places.

ME:       You miss being here?

EH:        I am here. Where the hell do you think you are sitting!?

ME:       You know what I mean.

EH:        I miss the world. Not sure if it ever misses me.

ME:       We do.

EH:        Good. I was a helluva writer.

ME:       You were.

EH:        Brevity. I miss brevity.

ME:       Me too.

EH:        People around me taking pictures and gathering for some type of photography with these weird handheld pieces of French toast, they yak and yak for hours. Never caught on with that.

ME:       It has been a pleasure talking with you, Mr. Hemingway.

EH:        You too.

ME:       Mind if I come back sometime?

EH:        Ain’t going anywhere.

ME:       Okay. I will head home and make sure this gets published.

EH:        You do that. Say hello to the world for me.

ME:       You just did.

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