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"Right now? I'll tell you. A blank page. Sentences that sound just like other sentences, that sound more and more like bullshit the more time passes. Sentences that aren't truth. Stories that aren't stories really, but just outlandish ideas, because I can't seem to think of stories that should be written anymore. My back. My ankle. Taxes. Alimony. The fact that my sons are all grown up and aren't terribly interested in me any longer. The fact that Paris and Spain and Africa and the wars are all behind me, and what's in front of me looks dull and unchallenging. A world that doesn't understand the meaning of concision and restraint and nobility. A readership that thinks I write the way I do because I'm charmingly emotionally impacted, as a man. Critics whose pitifully paying profession compels them to whip at me like they would an old mule for shitting in the barn. Friends I've insulted or offended while soused and can't figure out how to apologize to. Other people, not friends, who aren't insulted or offended no matter what I do. And a friend's body, in an expensive wood box I paid for, with a hole in him no one can explain, and a strange but lovely Cuban woman in my house that wouldn't be here, it seems, unless Peter was murdered and unless that killing was more than just a dock fight between crooked drunks. That's a problem."
"Do you miss any of your old wives?"
"Your three previous wives."
The fun Hemingway was having had begun to abate somewhere in the middle of his monologue; still headsore from sleeping on that wretched skiff, he was getting tired and antsy, and that was cutting into the gimlet-fueled sexual tension.
"Hadley. I miss Hadley. What I can remember."
"Maybe write about her."
"I have been. Bits and pieces. I think I miss being that young more than I miss her. But don't worry about what I'm writing — there's another problem I've got, being surrounded my whole livelong day by fishermen and bartenders and cops and Cubans and hookers and wives and bureaucrats and lushes who all think they should tell me what I should fucking write about."
"That's not too much of a problem."
"No, of course it isn't."
"Well, Hemingway, in any case, if your problem is not women, then it is a bigger, deeper thing."
"If I knew I was going to be psychoanalyzed today, I'd've stayed in bed."
"Not alone, I trust."
"Very much so. What's Galko's big business in Cuba?"
"He has lots —"
"I know, lots of business everywhere, nobody could possibly say. What I mean, what was so different or important this time?"
"With Cuthbert, you mean? You think Cuthbert worked for Galko?"
By now he was rebounding, he'd had enough gimlet to make virtually any situation buzz with congeniality.
She paused. "Hemingway, I would've thought it was obvious. I'm here to get information from you, not the other way around."
"Really. What could I know?"
"That's the question, big fella. What could you know?"
This pull-my-daisy crap would've tried Hemingway's patience under normal circumstances, but today he was juiced on it. Could've bantered with this rangy elk of a woman all day.
"So, Galko's interested in my investigation."
"You brought it to his house, and he's still cleaning up after the schoolgirls."
"He's got staff for that. Admit it, admit that Galko knew why I was there the moment I appeared. Admit that I scared him. Which is admitting that he knows something about Cuthbert."
The woman had exhausted her resources, and suddenly, imperceptibly, slouched.