The big boys battle it out with words.
December 19, 2015
AT THEIR WEEKLY WRITING GROUP in the land of eternal repose, Hemingway, Faulkner and Robert Parker were at it again.
Rock, paper and scissors determined the reading order: Hem, Parker and Faulkner. This week’s prompt was “The Hill.”
Hemingway liked to stand when he recited.
-The drought had parched the limestone silt to powdered chalk where the rebels lay propped against granite boulders. Enrico crossed himself before he began the assault up the hill. Behind him, four soldiers cowered as they awaited appointments with the .50-caliber machine gun that commanded the ridge.
Enrico bent at the waist, his rifle in his right hand, a camouflage cap pulled over his forehead, as he ran up the rise. White splotches of dust from the bullets traced a path from the automatic weapon to his body. He writhed in pain and died without a whimper, alone on the rocks.
His compadres forsook him, choosing the comfort of retreat rather than a hero’s death. They thought if the battle ever became theirs, they would see to it that their countrymen never forgot Enrico and the hill of death.-
Faulkner made a few notes on his copy of the piece.
“Don’t you ever get tired of war, Hem?” he said.
“I’ll stop writing about it the day the last shot is fired,” Hem huffed as he took his seat.
Robert Parker adjusted his glasses before he began to read. He didn’t know why he still had to wear glasses in heaven.
-The college boys hatched a plan to roll the president of the college’s house with toilet paper and paint their girl friends’ name on the sides of the building with cans of black spray paint.
“I’ll buy the beer when we get back,” Joey said.
“How do you spell Charlise’s name?” Ronnie asked. He went steady with Charlise.
“What do think we are dictionaries?” Frank asked.
“I’ll wing it,” Ronnie said.
At one o’clock in the morning, they loaded into the bed of Sammy’s Ford F150 and rode to the foot of the hill. They could see the president’s home that sat like a light house on the highest spot in town.
Right after Sammy killed the truck’s lights, campus security arrived on the scene.
“What you boys doing out so late?” Deputy Lester asked.
“All night study session,” Ronnie blurted out.
“Geography, I think,” Ronnie said. “By the way, officer, do you know how to spell Charlise?”
“Yeah, you spell it ‘get your asses back to the dorm,’” he said.
Sammy started the truck and Deputy Lester watched them until they rounded the corner out of sight.
“I’ll still buy the beer,” Joey said as they boys adopted a new plan.-
Parker stopped reading.
“That’s it?” Hem said.
“Short and sweet is how I roll,” Parker said.
“If you like short and sweet, Parker, you will love this piece,” Faulkner said. He wore a hound’s tooth sports jacket over a starched white shirt, a thin paisley neck tie, his gray hair pasted to his scalp with Brylcreme.
Hem poked Parker. “He must have a hot date lined up after the meeting.”
“The type of girls he dates didn’t make it up here,” Parker whispered back. “And the good-looking angels already have him on their watch list.”
Hemingway snickered while Faulkner fumed. He straightened his tie.
-On the hilltop, a citadel of desire spent, Cleophas Winnie reclined in the green clover, its tiny shamrocks dew-damp, watching the diaphanous cirrus clouds circling as ospreys on the wing, her musings taking her to the valley of pubescent despair, longing unsated, its didactic lust beckoning her away from the heights as she closed her eyes, her thoughts on the satyr and his conquest.—
“What about that was short and sweet?” Parker asked.
“It’s only about sixty words,” Faulkner said. “I counted them.”
“But, it’s all one sentence,” Hemingway said.
“Philistines,” Faulkner said as he tapped his pipe on the table, stood up and marched out the door.
“Kind of snitty, isn’t he?” Parker said after Faulkner left.
“The first round’s on me tonight,” Hemingway said as he helped Parker out of his chair.
“Make mine a double,” Parker said.
Stephen Woodfin is the author of Next Best Hope.