In Michael Atkinson's novel Hemingway Deadlights, out this week from St. Martin's Press/Minotaur Books, the celestially famous burly-man fiction king finds himself reluctantly and drunkenly investigating a drinking buddy's murder in Key West, just a couple years after his Nobel, and gets tangled up with Cuban lowlife, Hungarian mobsters, and the Cuban revolutionary movement...
They ran out of gas, after delicately backtracking in the dark for only ten minutes. They woke up at sunrise, bobbing and tossing, miserable as dehydrated lizards, but they didn't get back to shore until just before noon, after a Coast Guard boat finally sidled alongside their drifting vessel, berated the two men for being such goddamn fools, talked Hemingway up about The Old Man a bit too much, and then gave them a few gallons of gas. No one mentioned the chase or the shootings — Rick assumed Hemingway would if it were the intelligent thing to do, and Hemingway decided not to, certain that a mere patrolman could and would do nothing but shuttle the case right back to Squiccarini, who's already decided to ignore it. If Hemingway wanted to persist in this, which he had to admit was what it was, he had to go his own way — and he did want to, sensibly or not, more than ever, an effect being shot at has on a certain type of person, the kind that as a schoolkid smiled at sadistic teachers after getting slashed with a steel-edged ruler.
So now Hemingway had a sunburn to go with his ankle, bum back, throbbing kidneys, and scabby knuckles. Mary's gonna be pissed off.
Back on Whitehead Street, he needed a bath, and had one, and it was good. It wasn't quite as good as the bath he had had in Milan, with Agnes that nurse from Chicago, damn he still thought he'd missed the express letting that woman go, or letting her slip away, or escape, God only knows, but the bath, in Milan, was triumphant, in a big alabaster tub alone on an empty ward, only him and her and his first erection since Schio, over three weeks later which is an eternity without an erection when you're 19, warm water, a bottle of zubrowka, and though it was technically his second experience between a woman's legs, the first a beery late-night high school tramp dalliance he couldn't quite remember, this was really his initiation into the feverish secrets of intercourse, the boggling instant when you realize a woman wants you to touch her where she's moist, the lost feeling of doing something unconsciously, skin on skin, membrane on membrane, with a beautiful woman who if you were to be standing aside and watching her do this would compel you to, as the kids say, whack off. And he'd never forget it, though of course 19 was too young to have held on to Agnes even if he could have. He would've eventually moved on in his jumping-trains-at-night way, and so she was probably better off as it was. She would be, what, 63 now? He hoped she'd married a nice doctor.
He got hard now in his bath, thinking, but it didn't last, and he wasn't comfortable enough with his plaster cast hanging over the edge to take care of it anyway. He wasn't frustrated, but was once Marisol simply walked in — why wouldn't she want to fuck the world's most famous writer? what better option does a semi-literate Mexican woman with an illegitimate kid, working as a maid, have? — and told him he had a caller at the front door. Who?