shades of Hemingway / part 13, it’s getting very near the end

I remember feeling damp and bone chilling cold as I moved through the darkness that engulfed the Key West Cemetery.  Occasional light cast eerie shadows as I walked in low lying fog towards an old brick crypt with gabled roofs and arches.  It seemed the closer I got the more I felt I was being pulled back by my shirt tail.  I struggled forward towards the vault and some misty shroud of light.   A large black crow was perched above and he “caw, caw, cawed” as I approached.  Then as I came in full view of the vault the black bird changed into a parrot and gave me a sideways look.

“You’re the Devil.”  he spoke, head bobbing. “You’re the Devil… the Devil… you’re the Devil.”

“I’m the Devil?” I asked, “Why am I the Devil?”

Hem stepped out of the shadows along with a salty, seafaring looking character fresh out of Robert Louis Stevenson’s,  Kidnapped. 

“You’ve betrayed our trust, Sport.  You’re going to send it back and do nothing.”

Other forms roamed the perimeter, just out of the realm of light, murmuring… whispering… crying in the shade.  All the souls there in that graveyard awakening and accusing, pointing their fleshless, sinewy fingers at me.  The parrot hobbled to the edge of his perch then fluttered to the shoulder of the gnarly looking ships mate, bobbing his head.

“You’re the Devil.” 

“I didn’t betray anything!  No one knows I’ve met with you or talked to you!  They’d think I was crazy!  This whole thing was just a huge mistake!”

“You and me, Sport… from the begining it was you and me.  But you listened to him and now you’re mind is made up.”

“Hem…  him is you!  Ring is you!  We’re only trying to preserve Papa’s name and legacy!  Your name and legacy!   It wouldn’t be the same otherwise!”

Hem’s face was drawn, thoughtful and sad.  He began to drift back into the shadows.

“The same?  I told you, Sport… I should’ve been buried here.  What is wrong with being different?  Why not change… adapt?  We could have been something, you and I… we could have been unstoppable… you could have been my successor,  there might have been a Hemingway revival…”

“You’re Ernest Hemingway! you don’t need a successor or a revival!”

“The Devil.” said the parrot.

“The Devil.” said Hem, shaking his head, turning away in disappointment.

“The Devil.” whispered the crowd of souls, swaying in the cool night air.

The parrot became a crow again as he leapt from the shoulder of the buccaneer, who was shaking his fist at me and snarling. 

“The Devil.” the chant grew louder. “The Devil!”

The crow squawked  and flew directly at me.  I ducked, turned and began to run away, stumbling over roots, thatch and grave markers.  I could hear the flapping of wings above me, but instead of one bird now there were 3, then 5, then a dozen cackling overhead.  I kept running until I tripped and fell… feeling myself floating in mid-air…

                                                               _______________

I sat up in our bed at Marrero’s, Annette was there beside me weeping.  I tried to console her…

“What’s wrong?”  I asked, wanting to put the brakes on the dream that left my heart racing.

“You left me!” she is sobbing.  “You left me here with nothing!”

“No, sweetie, I’m here… I haven’t gone anywhere!”

“No!  You left me here! You left me with nothing!  You’re the Devil!”

She began pounding her fists at my face and chest.  I rolled out of bed and stared at her in disbelief.  Annette wasn’t herself, she had turned into Enriquetta Marrero.

“You’re the Devil!  you left me here with nothing!”

I ran out of our room and bounded down the stairs.  I went to Keith and Laura’s room then pounded on the door.  Laura answered the door standing there in the nude, her eyes were rolled back inside of her head. 

“Father!” she said and ran back inside.  I looked in the room.  Keith was naked, jumping up and down on the bed, Laura climbed up and joined him.

“Play with us, Father, play with us!” they chanted.  My friends had become possessed by the ghosts of Francisco Marrero’s children.

“No!” I shook my head, “stop it! Hem! leave them alone, Hem!”

“Play with us! you’re the Devil!  play with us!  You’re the Devil!  play with us!  play with us!”

I shot outside to the veranda with my blood pulsating through my eardrums.  I looked in my hand and found I had left our room with Hemingway’s shoehorn clutched tightly in my fist.  I knew I couldn’t wait until morning to return it to the study at the estate.   I had to go back right then if I was to restore my sanity and return my life to any sort of normalcy.  I figured I could just throw it over the wall that fenced in the yard and be done with it.

I went out to the street and jumped into the rental car.  I u-turned and sped up the street towards Whitehead, my brain throbbing with the events of the past few moments spinning my thoughts uncontrollably.  I pulled up on the side of the estate, got out of the car and made it to the sidewalk.  I paused and looked down at the memento, the initials EMH clearly visible from the street light further down Whitehead St.

“You havin’ second thoughts, Sport?”

I looked up and saw Hem sitting on top of the wall, eased back like he had been stargazing. He smiled at me.  I took a step and made ready to hurl the shoehorn with all my might, defiant… sure of my decision.

“It won’t work, you know.  Throwing it away like that.  You have to return it.”

I stopped, pulled my arm down and looked at him.

“What do you mean?  I am returning it, this is where I got this damn thing!”

“No, Sport… you took it from my study, remember?  You have to take it back to my study.”

“This is a trick, you’re trying to make me keep it longer… you want me to change my mind.”  I raised my arm again, drawing  back… making ready to pitch the shoehorn and all that came with it over the wall.

“Okay, throw it then… see if it makes any difference.  The yard man will find it and give it to his supervisor who’ll in turn give it to the curator.  He’ll have to authenticate it, research and file it, then make a report to the trustees of my estate … it’ll take a long time to get it back to the study, if at all.  You might never rid yourself of these shades, Sport… at least… not going about it that way.”

I pondered that for a brief second.  I wasn’t sure if I was being set up or not.  But my bleary eyed thinking reasoned that Hem might have a point.  I knew I couldn’t go through the front gate, it would be locked and there would be security, perhaps even a night guard.  I looked up at Hem again.  If I could scale that wall…

I went back out into the street and got into the electric car, put it into gear and backed up a few feet.  I got a slight running start forward then jumped the curb, crossed over the sidewalk and eased up to the wall, parking parallel to it.  I got out, went to the rear, tucked the shoehorn into the back of my pants.  I climbed up onto the roof of the car which put me only a few feet from the top of the wall.  I stepped over and hoisted myself up easily then sat down next to Hem, my feet dangling over the opposite side.

“Very good, Sport.  I knew you were a bright boy the first time I laid eyes on you.”

I nodded solemnly, wanting to thank him but said nothing.  I began to ease myself down and looked Hem in the face just before I dropped… he was smiling that smile, the same as from the begining… when he had stepped out from the bathroom in his leather slippers… a disarming smile that left me wondering if this would be the last I would hear of  the shades of Hemingway.

I landed in the grass and rolled over to absorb the impact of the fall.  I got to my feet and started brushing myself off then made a move towards the carriage house.  It took me less than a half a dozen steps to trigger the alarm…

   

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