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Authors: Barry Gifford

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Writers

BOOK: Writers
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BARRY GIFFORD

SEVEN STORIES

N
EW
YOR
K •
OAKLAN
D

 

 

Copyright
©
2015
by
Barry
Gifford. Drawings by Barry
Gifford.

a
seven stories press first
edition

“Spring
Training
at the Finca
Vigía”
was published in the magazine
Zyzzyva
(San
Francisco)
No.
93
,
in
the
Winter
2011
issue.

“After Words” (“Palabras después”) was published in the magazine
Nexos
(Mexico City) in the January
2015
issue
.

“The Last
Words
of Arthur Rimbaud” was originally published in a
limited edition by the Bancroft Library Press (University of California,
Berkeley,
1998
).

All rights reserved.
No
part of this book may be reproduced, stored in
a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means,
including mechanical, electronic, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without
the prior written permission of the
publisher.

Seven Stories
Press
140
Watts
Street
New
York,
NY
10013
sevenstories.com

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication
Data

Gifford,
Barry,
1946
-
[Short stories.
Selections]
Writers
/ Barry Gifford. -- Seven Stories Press First
edition.
pages cm
isbn 978-1-60980-649-1
(hardback)
1
. Authors--Fiction. I.
Title.
ps3557.i283a6
2015
813'.54
--dc
23
2015006307

Printed in the United States of
America

9
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1

These plays are fully protected in whole, in part, in any form, under the Copyright Laws of the United States of America, the British Empire, including the Dominion of Canada, and all other countries of the Copyright Union, and are subject to royalty. All rights, including professional, amateur, motion picture, recitation, radio, television, and public reading are strictly reserved. All inquiries should be addressed to the author's agent: Matthew Snyder, Creative Artists Agency,
2000
Avenue of the Stars, Los Angeles, CA
90067
.

 

 

For
Dan

 

 

Author's
Note

These pieces are intended to be read as stories as well as
performed as plays. They are portraits of writers in wholly imaginary or
relatively realistic moments in their lives.
I've
taken liberties,
certainly, with what in several cases has passed for biographical
information. The facts are to be found in what they
wrote.

—
b.g.

 

 

Contents

SPRING TRAINING AT THE FINCA VIGÍA

[Ernest Hemingway and Martha
Gellhorn]

ONE NIGHT IN UMBERTO'S CLAM HOUSE

[Jack
Kerouac]

THE PITH HELMET

[B.
Traven
and John
Huston]

IXION IN EXILE

[Albert Camus]

ALGREN'S INFERNO

[Nelson
Algren]

THE LAST WORDS OF ARTHUR RIMBAUD

[Arthur
Rimbaud]

SERIOUS ENOUGH

[Jane
Bowles]

THE CAPTIVE

[Marcel
Proust]

THE TRUE TEST OF GREATNESS

[Herman
Melville]

FAREWELL LETTER

[Charles
Baudelaire]

THE NOBODY

[Emily
Dickinson]

AFTER WORDS

[Jorge Luis Borges and Roberto
Bolaño]

MUSIC

[James Joyce and Samuel
Beckett]

 

 

SPRING TRAINING AT THE FINCA VIGÍA

 

 

 

CAST OF
CHARACTERS

Ernest Hemingway
,
American
writer

H
ugh Casey
and
Kirby Higbe
,
pitchers for the
Brooklyn Dodgers

Martha
Gellhorn
,
Hemingway's
wife, also a writer

Manuel
,
Hemingway's
right hand man

Two Men
in the darkness

SETTINGS

The
Finca
Vigía,
the
home
of
Ernest
Hemingway
and
Martha
Gellhorn,
outside
Havana,
Cuba,
in
1941
.

The Floridita, a bar in
Havana.

PRODUCTION NOTES

The
time
of
year
is
early
spring.
The
Brooklyn
Dodgers
baseball team is in training for the upcoming major league season and
two of their players, pitchers Hugh Casey and Kirby Higbe, have
become companions of the forty-two-year-old author of
The Sun Also
Rises
and
A Farewell to Arms
, among other
books.

 

 

SCENE ONE

It is just after ten thirty p.m. when
CASEY and
HIGBE,
led
by
HEMINGWAY,
storm into the house through the front porch
door and mill about in the livingroom like
lions or tigers driven by the lash of a whip into
a cage. Each of them stalks the room
warily for a long time, as if they—even
Ernest—
had never been in it
before.
They
are
all
more
than slightly
inebriated.

CASEY

So this is your domain,
hey,
Ernie? Where you do your
drinking.

HIGBE

Call him Ernest, Case. He told us he don't like people callin' him Ernie.

HEMINGWAY

Wherever I am is where I drink. I'm here now.

HIGBE

So are we. We're all three of us here in Cuba.

CASEY

That's
right.
Higbe's
right.
What're
you
gonna
do
about
it,
Ernesto?

HEMINGWAY

Might I offer you gentleman a libation?

HIGBE

I thought there was only Cuban women in Cuba.

HEMINGWAY

What's he talkin' about?

CASEY

What're you talkin' about, Ernesto?

HEMINGWAY

I'm offering you bums a beverage.

CASEY

Hell, yes, Hem, we'll take you up on that offer.

HIGBE

Up and up!

hemingway
goes to his wet bar and pours whiskey into glasses for each of them, hands out the drinks

HEMINGWAY

The regulars at the Havana Gun and Country Club surely
appreciate your patronage, boys, but
I'm
not certain
they've
got
enough doves to last you until the end of spring
training.

HIGBE

Us country boys are sure as shit some sharpshootin' sons of bitches, you bet.

HEMINGWAY

Hig, I wish I had eagle eyes like you, but I inherited my eyes
from my
mother.
I
would've
been
better
off
having
had
an
eagle
for
a mother
than
the
one
I
have.
Her
character
is
as
fucked
up
as
her eyesight.

HIGBE
and
CASEY
can sense
HEM
INGWAY
's
mood shift at the mention
of his mother. They all drink
harder.

HEMINGWAY

Come on, Case,
let's
put on the
gloves.

HEMINGWAY takes down two pairs of boxing gloves hanging by their laces from a hook in one corner of the room, tosses a pair to CASEY. As the men are pulling on and lacing up the gloves, assisted by HIGBE, Hemingway's wife, MARTHA GELLHORN, enters. She's a dirty blonde, Barbara Stanwyck type, tough and sassy, not terrifically beautiful but attractive and smarter than the men, including her husband, who knows this and hates her because of it. She swiftly and accurately appraises the scene.

GELLHORN

Good
evening,
children.
I'll
be
damned
if
I
can't
hear
the
third
sheet fluttering in the
wind.

CASEY

Evenin',
Missus
Hemingway.

HIGBE

Evenin',
missus.

HEMINGWAY

You
can dispense with the formality, boys. Señorita Gellhorn
don't
cotton to the marital terminology. Martha, my esteemed
opponent is
none
other
than
Mr.
Hugh
Casey,
presently
a
pitcher
for
the Brooklyn Dodgers. Serving as second for both of us is
Mr.
Kirby Higbe,
also
of
the
Brooklyn
team,
and
noted
author
of
what
has been appropriately dubbed the high, hard
one.

HIGBE

Don't
listen
to
him,
missus—I
mean
ma'am.
I
ain't
no
author.
I'm
a pitcher, like Case.
It's
what they call my numero
uno.

GELLHORN

Your
Spanish
is
very
good,
Mr.
Higbe.
But
don't
worry,
I
listened
to
Mr.
Hemingstein once, and that was
enough.

CASEY

I know what you mean. Ol' Ern knows how to convince people
in a
hurry.

HEMINGWAY

Cut
the
crap,
Case.
Hig,
get
us
out
of
the
clinches
and
keep
the furniture out of our
way.

GELLHORN

Pardon my asking,
Mr.
Casey,
but
aren't
you in
training?

CASEY

You
know,
ma'am,
I
always
pitch
better
when
I
have
a
few
the
night before.
It
always
gives
me
a
guilty
feeling
out
there,
and
I
bear
down a little
harder.

HIGBE

That's right. Our general manager, Mr. MacPhail, once asked Case with a month to go in the season if he could hold out and Case told him, Larry, if there's enough whiskey left, I can make it.

HEMINGWAY
and
CASEY
begin
boxing.
GELLHORN
leaves the room.
The
two men hit each other hard and
often.
HIGBE
scurries around in a futile
attempt to preserve lamps, chairs and
other stationary
items.

Later.
HEMINGWAY
and
CASEY
,
exhausted, drop into armchairs.
HIGBE
unties their gloves and pulls them
off.

HEMINGWAY

How
many times you go down, Case?

CASEY

I
don't
know.
Six or seven, I
guess.

HEMINGWAY

You
count the knockdowns,
Hig?

HIGBE

Yeah,
six, seven maybe if it
weren't
for him
landin'
on the
settee.

HEMINGWAY

Never
for
more
than
a
second
or
two.
You
knocked
me
down
twice, Case.
You're
a tough
fella.

HIGBE

I'll say he's tough, Ernest. One day last September the Cardinals was poundin' Hughie pretty good and Durocher stomps out to the mound to get him. Had me warmin' up. I'm ready to go, about to leave the bullpen, but I see Case and Leo jawin' for a while, then Leo walks back to the dugout. I never saw so many batters hit the dirt as after that. Case musta hit eight or nine.

CASEY

Ten.

HIGBE

They beat us nine to one. Back at the hotel, I asked Case why
Leo left him in.
Tell
Hem what you told me,
Hughie.

CASEY

It
looked like the game was lost
anyway,
so I asked Leo to leave
me in
and
I
would
teach
those
Cardinal
hitters
a
lesson
they'd
never forget.
Told
Durocher
I'd
put stitchmarks on their sides and
backs so they
wouldn't
dare dig in against me again. But my fastball
ain't
nothin'
compared to
Kirby's.
His heater sounds like a freight
train
comin'
in.

HEMINGWAY

I
heard
a
sound
like
that
once.
It
was
on
the
front
in
the
war.
When I woke up, two Italian soldiers were dead and a third was
screaming. I picked him up and carried him back to a medical tent
while the
Jerries
kept
firing
their
machine
guns.
I
got
hit
in
the
ankle and then the knee, but I managed to crawl the last ten yards to
the tent. When I got there the third soldier was dead and my
kneecap was
blown
off.
The
doctors
fished
out
a
hundred
or
more
pieces of shrapnel from my leg. Three months
later,
I limped out of
the hospital with a metal kneecap.
Couldn't
walk without a cane
for almost a
year.

HIGBE

Me'n
Case
put
a
few
boys
in
the
hospital,
usually
from
throwin'
the spitter, which
ain't
easy to control, but even we
can't
compete
with a machine gun.

CASEY

You
win, Ernesto.
Let's
drink to
it.

HEMINGWAY
rises with difficulty,
goes over
to
the
bar,
opens
a
new
bottle,
puts
out three clean glasses, and
pours.

HEMINGWAY

Fire
when
ready,
gentlemen.

***

SCENE
TWO

Midnight at the Finca Vigía.
HEMINGWAY
stands on the front porch of the house wearing only a pair of khaki shorts and sandals. He is holding a shotgun, which he points into the darkness.

HEMINGWAY

Come
on,
you
cowards!
Come
into
the
light
where
I
can
knock
you on your asses.
I've
shot and killed leopards in less light by just
the glint off the cinder in their
eyes.

GELLHORN
comes out onto the
porch wearing a nightgown and
slippers.

GELLHORN

What is it, Ernest? Who are you going to
shoot?

HEMINGWAY

Thieves in the night, Martha. Gutless creeps who call
themselves rebels to justify stealing from people
who've
worked goddamn
hard to get what they
have.

GELLHORN

I
didn't
hear
anything.

HEMINGWAY

They
don't
have the nerve of jackals.
You can't
hear
'em
or see
'em
until
you
feel
their
hands
in
your
pockets.
Some
terrorists,
these boys. Afraid of the trip
wires.

GELLHORN

What trip
wires?

HEMINGWAY

Shhh. I
haven't
installed them yet. Manuel is bringing the
explosives tomorrow from Matanzas. Had the ordnance shipped
from the
Dominican.

GELLHORN

I
won't
allow it, Ernest. Someone will get
hurt.

GELLHORN

You're
right about that,
sister.

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