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Authors: Harry Turtledove

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You nod to your crew. “Well, boys, we did it,” you say. “Now we go home.” For, you realize, this is the end of it. Publicity will mean you can never take the
Pilar
U-boat hunting again. Reporters and newsreel cameras will come down on you like vultures onto a dead cow. You will have to tell them something. You do not intend to tell them too much. You want to write about this yourself, after all—and to get paid for writing about it.

“Right, boss.” “Sure thing, boss.” “
Sí, Señor
.” Everyone on the boat talks to you the way Josep did. You are a hero to the crew. They are heroes, too, though they may not feel it yet. If they did not shoot straight and fast when you gave the word, you could not have done what you did.

You are greeted as heroes when you come into Havana. Guantánamo must have spread the word. Tugboats blow their steam whistles. Fireboats shoot streams of water high in the air. American and Cuban Navy officers come aboard. They pound you on the back. They shake your hand. One of the Cubans quietly slips you a shot of rum. It is some of the finest you ever drank. It slides down smooth as mother’s milk, then explodes like a frag in your belly.

As soon as you go ashore, the reporters jump on you. Flash bulbs pop as fast as a Tommy gun can fire. Movie cameramen grind away. You give them as much of the story as you want to let other people write. They want more, and more, and more yet. Soon, you almost wish you never set eyes on the U-boat.

Almost.

“What kind of medal will the Navy give you for this?” one of them asks.

“I didn’t do it for a medal. I did it because I hate Hitler,” you answer, which is true enough. They write it down. You are not even sure the Navy
can
give you a medal. As you told the j.g. in Guantánamo, you are not in it. It would be nice if they could, though.

You drink your way through the night. In the morning, you feel exactly like death. They give you the hair of the dog that bit you. It was one big, mean dog. The hair warms you up to death warmed over. They pour you onto a C-47 and fly you to Miami. It may be an Army transport, but it has rum on it. By the time the landing gear hits the runway, you feel amazingly lifelike.

More reporters. More newsreel cameras. You give the same spiel you gave in Havana. You give as much of it as you can remember, anyhow. You look manly. You smile. You shrug. “We were in the right place at the right time,” you say. “Anybody who goes out hunting U-boats needs some luck on his side. We had it.” Heroes do not brag. They do not need to. What they have done speaks for them.

The Navy puts you on a train to Washington. You sleep well in a Pullman. You have had plenty of practice. And there is a club car on the train, even if the dry Navy put you on it. You get to Washington the next day. You are just fine when you do.

Still more photographers and reporters meet you at Union Station. It is almost in the shadow of the Capitol. The flashbulb barrage seems brighter in the gloom than it did in Havana. When you blink, green-purple blotches cloud your sight.

A vice admiral also meets you at Union Station. He pumps your hand up and down like a man working a jack to fix a flat. “Congratulations, Mr. Hemingway!” he booms. “You have done your country proud. And you have done the Hooligan Navy proud, too.”

You like him better for that. “Thank you very much, sir,” you say, and you sound as if you mean it.

Then damned if he does not pin a gong on you. It is the Navy Distinguished Service Medal. “This medal is given for exceptionally meritorious service to the government in a duty of great responsibility,” he says. “It is awarded to persons in the Navy and the Marine Corps. It has also been given to officers in the Royal Navy. Because of that, we decided a skipper in the Hooligan Navy should be eligible to win it, as well.”

Except for a blue enamel circle, the body of the medal looks like a goldpiece. There is a gold star with an anchor on it above the body. The ribbon is sky blue, with a vertical gold stripe. But you do not care what it looks like. It could be a Blatz bottle cap with a ribbon of silver paper from a stick of Wrigley’s Spearmint. You care about what it means.

“Thank you, sir,” you say again. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Doing what I did was my privilege. And it was my pleasure.” The reporters write it down. Their pencils scritch across their notebooks. You give good copy. You always have. You always will.

The vice admiral whisks you away to a studio. They want you to record a spot for buying war bonds. You ask if you can fiddle with the script before you read it. They let you. They had better! It sounds a lot better once you go through it. You give good copy all kinds of ways.

Then they take you to the White House for dinner with the President and the First Lady. Dinner with photographers, too, of course. Martha is friends with Eleanor Roosevelt. They write back and forth. Eleanor has personality, no doubt about it. But she is as homely and dumpy in person as she is in photos. For his sake—for the country’s sake—you hope Franklin gets some on the side.

He says, “You had to be crazy to pull a stunt like that. It may have worked, but you had to be crazy to try it. That’s my professional judgment, Mr. Hemingway.” He was assistant secretary of the Navy during the last war. His professional judgment is worth something.

“I may have been crazy to try it, Mr. President, but it worked,” you answer.

FDR likes that. He laughs. His cigarette holder twitches. Then he gets back to dinner. It is nothing special. The lamb has been cooked to death. You hope he gets some decent chow on the side, too.

They take you up to New York so you can tell your story on the radio. Once you have told it three or four times, it might as well have happened to somebody else. But while you are there, you make a book deal to tell it properly. After
For Whom the Bell Tolls
, you are hot. You get a fat advance. And the hat-check girl at your hotel is frisky in the sack.

By then, other news starts to crowd you out. The war makes sure there is plenty of other news. The publicity machine has done what it can with you—and to you. It spits you out and lets you go.

Go you do, gladly. Back to Cuba. Back to your life. Back to your wife.

No man is a hero to his valet. You do not know who said that. You do not even know if it is true. But it sounds as if it ought to be true, which is nearly as good.

You also do not know whether no man is a hero to his wife. You soon know too damn well you are no hero to Martha. She is even angrier now than she was before you sank the U-boat.

You do not want an angry woman at Finca Vigia. You want a woman who will give you a proper hero’s reward—and never mind the hat check girl. The hat check girl was for the fun of it. Yes, Martha takes you to bed. She knows it means something to you, although it has never meant so much to her.

The two of you are still in bed together, though, when she starts in on you. As soon as you roll off her, she says, “Good Lord, Ernest, you must have been out of your mind.”

“What?” you say irritably. You did not mind when the President made cracks like that. But your own temper always catches fire from the sparks she strikes. “Can’t you at least give it a rest till we’ve both had a cigarette, for Christ’s sake?”

“No.” Still naked, she sits up. Looking at her, you remember why you had to have her. One hell of a lot of woman there. One stubborn bitch, too. You ground down your other women till they suited you. Martha does not grind down. She grinds back. “It was bad enough when I thought you were playing games out on the ocean.”

“I told you I wasn’t,” you growl.

“You tell people all kinds of things. And sometimes you mean them, and sometimes you’re full of crap. I don’t think
you
always know which is which, so how is anyone else supposed to?”

“Games.” You say it again. It rankles, like a burr under the saddle.

“Games.” Martha repeats it, too. Her voice drips scorn. “Fishing games. Drinking games. Men’s games. Little boys’ games.”

“I told you I wasn’t.” You repeat yourself one more time. “I was hunting U-boats in the
Pilar
. And I caught one. I caught it, and I killed it.” Now you echo her: “Little boys’ games? I ought to bop you in the nose for that.”

It is not easy to quarrel when you have just made love. It is not easy to quarrel when you have not got a stitch on. The two of you manage, though. You make it look easy, in fact.

Martha aims her forefinger at you like the barrel of a Tommy gun. “Yes, little boys’ games.” She echoes you echoing her. “And you must have thought so yourself.”

“Oh? Now you read minds?” you fleer.

She fleers right back: “Not much in there to read. But if you weren’t playing boys’ games—if you didn’t think you were playing boys’ games—how come you took Patrick and Gigi along on your stupid patrols?”

That brings you up short. Your two sons did sail on the
Pilar
. They had a hell of a time. So did you. But would you have let them come aboard had you known you would find what you were looking for? For you were in danger of your life when you lay alongside the German U-boat. And your boys would have been in danger of theirs.

“Boys have to turn into men sooner or later,” you say. “The way you turn into a man is to do the things men do.”

There are also things you do not say. Gigi—born Gregory—can be a little devil when he feels like it. And he feels like it too often to leave you easy in your mind. You sometimes even worry he will wind up a fairy. So anything you can do to help straighten him out, you do. With some coaching from you and some natural talent, he has become quite a skeet shooter, for instance.

“The way you turn into a dead man is to follow where your father leads when he doesn’t know where the hell he’s going,” Martha says furiously. “You can give me all the garbage about manhood you please. The truth is, you didn’t even think about the chance you were taking.”

Is that the truth? What is truth, anyway? You laugh at yourself. Pontius Hemingway! What Martha says may be some of the truth. You do not think it is the whole truth.

Martha cares nothing for what you think. She jumps out of bed and starts throwing on clothes. “What are you doing?” you ask.

“What does it look like I’m doing? I’m leaving, that’s what.” She snaps snaps and buttons buttons. “When you aren’t here, I miss you. I tell myself you can’t possibly be as big a son of a bitch as you acted like the last time we were together. Then we get together again, and there you are—a revolving son of a bitch, all right.”

“What’s a revolving son of a bitch?” Like a marlin, you cannot help rising to the bait.

“Somebody who’s a son of a bitch any way you look at him,” Martha answers with relish. “Somebody like you. You want to break me, the way you break all your women. Only I won’t stick around for it. This was coming, sooner or later. We both know it. It may as well come sooner. It may as well come now.”

You have walked out on your share of women before. Maybe on more than your share. Wives and others—you are not always fussy. But now a woman is walking out on you. You are not so used to that.

It makes you mad. It makes you want to haul off and deck her for real. Hitting a woman, though, will get you talked about the wrong way. It is not the kind of thing heroes do. Even if they do not, they sure must be tempted to.

So you do not slug Martha, not with your fist. You saved that for the Nazi sailor. One hell of an uppercut it was, too. You slug Martha with words instead. “You phony, pretentious bitch!” you say. “You were always in it for what you could get, weren’t you? Your ambition brought you here, and you’re just as ambitious going away. Well, go on, then. If I never see you again, it’ll be too goddam soon.”

Beneath her tan from the fierce Cuban sun, she goes pale. “I loved you,” she says. “I did. For a little while, I think you tried to live up to what I thought of you. Being a bastard’s easier, though, isn’t it? And I was handy to keep around when you needed someone to copulate on. No more. Not with me. You may be a hero, but you’re still a prick—and a small one, at that. So find somebody else.”

She strides out of the bedroom. A good thing, too, or you
would
loosen some teeth for her. The front door slams half a minute later. Hero or not, you are here by yourself—except for the servants, and they do not count.

For now, you are. But a hero can always find somebody else. Not right now. You are sated right now. But pretty soon. When you feel like it. You lie back in the mussed bed. It should not be long.

“Cayos in the Stream” copyright © 2013 by Harry Turtledove

Art copyright © 2013 by Gregory Manchess

Well, I think I have all the Hemingway out of my system now, honest. Actually, "The Running of the Bulls" was in my head since the 1990s--just hadn't figured out how to make it work (assuming I did). This one came faster. When I discovered through Martha Gellhorn's letters that Hemingway really did go U-boat hunting, I wondered what would have happened had he caught one.

What Martha Gellhorn said about Hemingway while they were married and after they were married were two rather different critters. Having been through a divorce myself many moons ago, I'm shocked--shocked, I tell you!--that such a thing could happen. I doubt anything so trivial as sinking a U-boat could have patched up their relationship.

I owe Patrick more than the usual author-to-editor debt on this one. Always a privilege working with him. 

                                    H.T.

BOOK: Cayos in the Stream
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