Hasty Ruminations

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Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Bad Hemingway

For some time, I participated in a group on Yahoo about Ernest Hemingway. Actually, it was a group of us who enjoyed the "bad Hemingway" parodies which show up from time to time. We wrote a progressive story, a few paragraphs each, in a manner similar to his style. It was a lot of fun, but it died. Slowly, sadly.

Now there is a program-driven Bad Hemingway story generator. Enter a few parameters, and let 'er rip. It can be interesting:

Bad Imitation Hemingway.
It was late afternoon. So this is how it is, this is how it always happens in the late afternoon. Damn your late afternoon. With my last 50 Euro I purchased some true and honest vermouth; I took a pull from the bottle. It was good. It burned my mouth and felt good and warm going down my esophagus and into my stomach. From there it went to my kidneys and my bladder, and was good. I remembered then when I last saw Faulkner who was still a damn fine writer. It was in Milano and we looked out the windows at the swale and drank vermouth in the late afternoon. It was late afternoon and had been late afternoon for some time.

Try it yourself, and let us see your results!

Now, having whetted your appetite (I hope), here is a passage I wrote as Vladimir Hemingway, of our parody of “Old Man and the Sea”. We are on a fishing boat, at lunch time, before the encounter with the Marlin:

The captain heard the sad and knowing and resigned laugh from the galley, and he knew that the savory and oddly familiar smells from the cooking meant strength for the crew. But his meal would be meaner, from the sea, for that is where the captain drew his strength for the ultimate battle with the Great White Marlin. He called Gustavus to him, the man with the voice of a boy whom the Italians called castrati but whom he sometimes called Elian in his dreams. "Bring me one of the tins, Gustavus. El Pollo del Mer."

Gustavus went to the captain's cabin, and stifled a wretch as he entered for that is what first mates with delicate noses do. He found the wicker basket with the tins, and brought one out. Tuna, packed in water. He saw that the expiration date had passed years ago, and he knew that was good, for the tuna may be the chicken of the sea, but it is an honorable fish, showing almost human compassion for its young, and it is right and good that the tuna should expire before being packed in water into the small tin. He regretted that they had no more of the wonderful mayo for the tuna, called il Whip Miraculoso by Sister Carmelita Appelonia de Francisco, but that is the way of the men of the sea. He took the captain's sharp knife and the tin up to the bridge.

The captain had moved to the main deck, near the drums with their sinewy lines of strong Columbian hemp. He found one with almost forty fathoms of line still attached. A lot of the other line was gone, replaced with the dark black ash covering his toes and the cucaracha clips littering the deck where his crew had dropped them last night. Perhaps that was why Gustavus had such a high voice, he thought idly, but then got to work. The drum must be ready when the Fish returns, so that the sharp harpoon thrust straight from the shoulder into the glaring bright sun's reflection on this mare tranquilitatus to pierce the Fish, would.

He laid out the line, and coiled it quick and true into a coil. He placed it on top of the drum, called el Bouy del Piscatore by the Spaniards and the Cork with a Fork by the dull Anglos. He reached down to clear the line from the bottom of the drum when Gustavus arrived and, not seeing the captain, bumped into the drum as the ship took a lurch in the mostly placid but momentarily choppy sea, which is the way of the ships of the sea. The line tightened on the captain's hand, cutting it. Gustavus saw the blood, and dropped the tin and the knife and rushed to the leeward side of the ship downwind of the captain, and lost his lunch overboard, for the sight of the blood had transported him back to the day of the waking of the bull. The reaction was always the same, and violent, and short lived. It refreshed him, but reminded him to order his hamburger well done and to avoid ketchup. He also involuntarily bent forward a little at the waist, but that would pass.

The captain went to the windward side, and kneeling carefully washed his hand in the ocean and held it there, submerged, watching the blood trail away and the steady movement of the warm water against his hand as the ship moved. It reminded him of simpler days, when his sainted mother would call to him through the bathroom door and say, "Are you playing in the water again? Let someone else have a chance, for the sake of Pete."

The captain would have liked to keep his hand in the salt water longer but he was afraid of another sudden lurch by Gustavus and he stood up and braced himself and held his hand up against the sun. It was a small cut, but it was in the working part of his hand. He knew he would need both his hands before this was over and he did not like to be cut this early. It made things too slippery.

"Now," he said, when his hand had dried, "I must eat the small can of tuna. I can open the can with this knife and eat it here in comfort."

He knelt down and found the can of tuna where it had fallen and drew it toward him keeping it clear of the coiled lines. He held the can to the deck with one hand and cut into the top of the can. He pried out chunks of the meat in wedge-shaped pieces with the knife. When he had cut six chunks he spread them out on the wood of the gunwale, wiped his knife on his shirt sleeve since he still had no trousers, and lifted the empty tin and dropped it overboard.

"I don't think I can eat six," he said and drew his knife across one of the chunks. He saw that his left hand was cramped from coiling 240 feet of hemp and cutting into the tin, and he looked at it in disgust.

"What kind of a hand is that," he said. "Cramp then if you want. Make yourself into a claw. It will do you no good." Such comments would normally cause a small crowd to form, because a man of the sea seldom talks to his own hand in such a way. But the crew knew to keep their distance from the captain, especially after seeing Gustavus still green to the gills. The left hand, in response to the captain, drew up into a tight, painful claw.

Come on, he thought and looked down into the dark water. Eat the tuna fish now and it will strengthen the hand. It is not the hand's fault and you have been many hours thinking of the marlin fish. Eat the tuna now.

He picked up a chunk and put it in his mouth and chewed it slowly. It was not unpleasant, but it lacked the flavor of the mayo. Chew it well, he thought, and get all the juices. Next time, perhaps some celery.

He ate another chunk. He chewed it carefully and then spat out a bone. "How goes it, hand? Are you getting stronger?"

Gustavus watched from a distance, knowing that the captain should eat a banana loaded with potassium to ease the cramp, but knowing also that the bananas were stowed below near the bulls and banana does not go well with tuna in a tin. He knew that it was the captain's way to talk to his hand.

The captain took another full chunk and chewed it. It is a strong tuna, he thought. I was lucky to get him instead of sardines. Sardines are too oily. This is hardly oily at all.

Be patient, hand, he thought. I do this to strengthen you, for we will all fight the great fish together. For that is our way, and you will know it when the sun is low and I give the order, "All hands on deck".

He straightened up, wiping his good but cut hand on the necktie of the unkempt Whore Edguardo holding his stump-leg thing in place, where his trousers would be if he were wearing trousers.

-Vladimir Hemingway


  • At 12:53 AM, Blogger Meredith said…

    I love it. Absolutely love it!

    But I really enjoyed For 'Whom the Bell Tolls'. I wrote a book report over it in 7th grade and got an A.

    Still, this was some funny stuff, even by your high standards!

  • At 3:34 AM, Blogger Greg Finnegan said…

    Thank you very much, Meredith! It is delightful that you "got it"! I would love to see your book report. I am sure that you had some insight even then that made your teacher smile!


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