a hundred stories Boccaccio didn’t tell either
Have you ever read the Snows of Kilamanjaro? It’s by Ernest Hemingway. Maybe you’ve read it because it’s one of those stories that is so damn terrific they make students read it in school. And Hemingway is so easy to read that you might have read it in junior high or graduate school.
If you don’t know: In this story there is a writer in Africa who went hunting but gets a nasty scratch in the bushes. He gets gangrene. This is a lousy fucking way to die. He fights with his rich wife while he’s getting worse and worse. His leg is rotting and it stinks.
Since he is a dying writer he thinks about all the stories that he didn’t write yet. He describes many of them in short little paragraphs. My favorite is the one with the retarded young man who shoots the neighbor that came to take some hay that wasn’t his to take. The retarded boy was told to take care of the ranch. So he kills the guy and lets him freeze. In the spring they take the young man to jail. He doesn’t understand why. I think that’s a damn fine story and he couldn’t have made it better by making it eight pages long instead of eight sentences. There are many stories like this and I think it’s brilliant. Hemingway was brilliant.
I’m not dying like that writer was in the story, and Hemingway was when he wrote The Old Man and the Sea. I’m being evicted maybe. My fiancée dumped me by e-mail and left me with a phone bill I can’t pay. I can’t seem to get a job. No one wants to publish my new book or my last book or my first book; or my poems either. I’m living in a new city where I don’t know anyone and I’m thinking about a lot of sad things that happened a long time ago because I haven’t done that since they happened.
I’m not dying, as I said, but I wish I were. I think about suicide all the time. I have two guns. One is big enough to rely on. If I were going to do it I could say I was dying. I’m not dying. I’m just really sad and thinking about suicide. Hemingway died by suicide. I don’t blame him a bit.
I thought I would be like Hemingway’s writer dying in Africa and put down the stories I wish I could die before I get a chance to write. I have a hundred of them. Stories I’ve heard that were so good they must true. Stories I made up completely because the world needs make believe to keep it strong in the face of evil. Stories about myself that are changed enough to make them good fiction and then some. I admire that story of Hemingway’s so much. I wanted to do it justice in my own way while I felt like I was going to die. Maybe it could be the opposite. In his story, the man thinks he’s being rescued, but he’s just dying. Like in An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge. Maybe I can think I’m not really dying and I really will. Irony is sometimes enough to make a story work. I have hundreds of stories I want to write before I die.
Right now the only one I can think of is this one. I guess it makes sense. I want to die. The writer in the story didn’t.