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2005 Imitation Hemingway Competition

winner first runner-upsecond runner-up



Da Moveable Code

Paris could be very fine in the winter when it was clear and cold and they were young and in love but that winter of 1924 they quarreled badly and she left for good. Paris, the city of light, turned dark and sodden with sadness. But it was still a damn fine place and he hated to leave it so he sat in the cafés all day and drank wine and thought about writing clean short words on bright white paper.

He preferred Café des Amateurs, on the Place St-Michel. The waiters in their long aprons respected him and he did good work there, defeating them all in the arm wrestling and the drinking and the dominoes and the boxing. They told him timeless stories of love and cruelty and death. That was good, because his Michigan stories had dried up, his jockeys and boxers had worn out, and sometimes he worried his oeuvre might be over.

One afternoon in late autumn two gypsies came into the café, a ragged old man and his daughter. She carried a crystal ball between her arms. They went table to table telling fortunes. Soon they came to him. Dark eyes stared at his palm, then into the ball. Two fair arms well cradled it in her lap.

“Guapa, I am not one for whom the ball tells—” he started, but she put a finger to his lips. She studied his face. Her dark eyes were like deep forest pools where trout the color of pebbles hang motionless in the cool flowing eddies, waiting for the good larvae, the tasty larvae. Sun-burned, confident, loving eyes the color of the sea. He wrote that down.

“Inglés, my ball shows what you must write.”

“Americain.” It was like saying hello to a statue. He wrote that down, too.

“Picture this,” she started, “First I see a corpse in the Louvre, by the Mona Lisa. A gruesome ritual murder. The police suspect you, an obscure professor. You flee, through the Tuilleries, then across the river.”

“Into the trees?”

“Murders in churches, arcane symbols and codes, Opus Dei, Swiss bankers, split-second escapes, powerful sects …”

“Powerful sex?”

She paused. “I see a mysterious redhead at your side.”

“Powerful sex?”

Her eyes found his. “I see a major motion picture.”

“No,” he shook his head earnestly. “Not now. I must master the art of narration in the best and simplest way. Lean hard narrative prose.”

She rolled her eyes, sunburned eyes. “Isn’t it pretty to think so …”

“I write terrific stuff here, guapa” he said, writing that down. “True sentences. Not the words above the urinal.”

“Don’t call me guapa, Papa.”

“Drop the Papa, guapa.”

“Whatever,” she sighed and turned to the ball again. “Try this, loser Americain. An old fisherman loves baseball. He catches a big fish, but sharks eat it.”

He slapped her hard across the ear. It was a good ear, sunburned and confident. And just like that, the old man and the seer disappeared.

Gary Davis ,an aging cardiologist in Evanston, Illinois, was born and raised near Hemingway’s hometown of Oak Park. His previous publications have all been medical, except his submission to last year’s Imitation Hemingway Competition, which was first runner-up and appeared on HEMISPHERES’ Web site. Since this year’s win, he’s been toying with the idea of growing a beard and fishing Lake Michigan for marlin.



A Mutable Feast
By Bill Alewyn

At 18 you become a war hero, get drunk, and fall in love with a beautiful Red Cross nurse before breakfast. Over absinthes you decide to go on safari and on your first big hunt you bag four elephants, three lions, nine penguins, and are warned never to visit the Bronx Zoo again. Later, you talk about the war and big rivers and dysentery, and in the morning you have an urge to go behind a tree and get it all down on paper.

You dream about your lost youth and then you fly up to Michigan to look for it. With an 8-inch trout in hand, you think about manhood, and impotence, and washing your hands. After lunch you fly to Madison Square Garden for a three-round exhibition match with Truman Capote. Capote’s a rummy, and soft, and you finish him off late in the third round. In the afternoon you take the train to Pamplona and follow the bulls in the fading light. You follow too closely and are encouraged to change your socks. It is a good, clean bullfight and you are presented two ears, two feet, and a tail you take to dinner. Between the paella and the wine a tear rolls down your cheek because you are proud to be a man, one who is not impotent, and it is a good tear, and a good tail, and good paella, and a good, clean pinot noir. But always you must write and so you take your tail to Paris where the light and the exchange rate and your credit are all very good.

But “Une Génération Perdue” and Paris depress you because you don’t speak French and you take the noche tren back to Madrid for the Revolution. The Revolution ends badly and you take the treno mattino to Venice where, in the fading light, you have an affair with an heiress twice your age and three times your weight. The affair ends badly and you blame it on the light. In the afternoon you write a book—one of several that week—about the war in Spain, the women in Italy, and the olives in Greece. The book is not an immediate success and you starve until dinner.

Literary life makes you fat. You wear a GOTT MIT PIGGY belt and think of the great DiMaggio in his vertical pinstripes. You count your words carefully and cut out all fatty modifiers. You have only wine and onions for dinner and shadow box a swordfish for dessert. Later, you chase down a German submarine and sink it with your breath. People not even remotely related to you start calling you “Papa.” Concerned with paternity suits, you grow a beard and think about becoming Father Christmas instead.

Later, at 19, you sit in the darkness of your room and write about the metaphors of your misspent youth.

Bill Alewyn is a student at Arizona State University and has been a runner up in previous Imitation Hemingway Contests. “It’s a great honor to be chosen first runner up in this year’s contest even though by now I’m beginning to feel a little like Richard Burton at the Academy Awards.” Or as Papa once said, “Ma chi t’ha pagato?”



The Old Man and the Seafood
By Ribs Sherman

He was an old man who ate fish alone at Gulfstream in the Century City Mall and he had gone eighty-four days now without eating tartar sauce.

In the old days he would go to Harry’s in the old Century City Mall and have tartar sauce and enter some writing contest but these were not the old days. These were young, baby days.

“I would like to take the great DiMaggio fishing.”

“Okay, would you also like an iced tea?” asked the perky waitress.

Que’ va.”

Que’ va back to you,” she flirted.

In the first forty days a boy had been with him. But after forty days the boy’s parents told him to get a job because watching an old man eat seafood sans tartar sauce was not a proper vocation. The waitress returned with his Albacore.

“How do you feel, fish,” he said. “I feel good with this new stent and my arteries are on the mend.” The old man looked up to the waitress. “This fish is my friend.”

“I bet he is.”

“I wish I had some salt. Colerstol mala.” He used the feminine when speaking of his high cholesterol and treated all his maladies like women. Last week he gave a cashmere scarf to his sweet hypertensiona.

“Here you are,” said the waitress and put the salt shaker down and he grabbed it with his arthritica hand.

“A man can be destroyed by salt but not defeated.”

“Oh my God, I totally know what you mean because I’ve been trying to get an agent for the longest time and it’s been such a struggle and sometimes I feel like I’m beaten down but I won’t give up, you know? Anyhoo, enjoy your meal.”

He salted the albacore and then cut six wedge shaped strips. He picked up a piece of the fish and chewed it. Even with all the salt he wasn’t satisfied and caught the waitress’ large eye.

“Perhaps just a little tartar sauce,” he pleaded.

“I have some right here, Hon,” and she dropped off the mayonnaise and pickle delight. He licked some salt off his cramped hand and shot the tartar sauce down his throat.

The ambulance hurried him to the Cedars of Sinai. He insisted on this hospital because he feared the Medical Center of UCLA and the Foundation of Kaiser. Oy vey, Kaiser was an old Cuban mantra.

Finally the old man woke in the Intensive Care Unit. He had a successful emergency quadruple bi-passo.

“Tartar sauce,” he groaned to the boy who was standing bedside.

“I know. You get well old man and we will eat together again.”

“What will your family say?”

“I do not care. You will teach me to not eat tartar sauce and I have much to learn about not eating other sauces as well.”

The old man fell asleep and the boy was sitting by him watching him. The old man was dreaming about the eggs of Benedict without the hollandaise.

Ribs Sherman actually won this contest but has generously placed himself third to inspire and boost the other two finalists’ dreams and ambitions as his stature as a satirist could ascend no higher nor would he have any use for airfare to Italy because he has always found that country too Italian. Ribs Sherman is upset that his second runner-up status didn't even win him a hat. He would have even been very happy with an engraved pen (blue ink) or a balloon (red plastic).