This was another Hemingway Bad Writing contest entry (like The Hills Will Be Killing Me Tomorrow posted in an earlier blog). Ernest was an expert in revealing the ‘nothingness of life” objectively, using common words, settings, and characters. Many of his ‘people’ were neither highly decadent nor highly moral. As a writer, he seldom revealed his own point of view. He wrote with an economy of language and precision, and a subtle injection of tension. He made it look so easy!
A light rain fell that made everything grey but had potential for turning squid-inky. I saw him weaving at the bar rail, at my regular, beer sudsy, stale smelling bar. But there was nothing regular about this man. I drank slowly for a change, observing him fade in and out of my vision. After two more rounds, he sidled over and told me to sit down. There was a quality in his voice that made me want to laugh and obey.
“My name is Cosmos,” he said, “Barkeep, give her another glass, and a drink. Or do you want to share mine?”
It sounded like a rhetorical question, but I answered anyway. “No, I’d like a separate ass, er glass. Thanks,” I mumbled. I hoped that would tell him everything he needed to know. I wasn’t much for expressive words, which ran like so much mascara after a damn good cry. As if he cared anyway.
Outside the rain picked up its down beat. He watched it fall and I watched him watching it fall. Then we watched each other drink another round. I noticed sometimes he frowned. At least, I think he was frowning. I was carrouselling round the peripheral vision of my mind–neither the bar nor the booze was helping to define this potentially brass ring encounter.
Finally, I broke the weathered silence, “Does the rain disturb you or do you dislike the beer?”
“No, but sometimes I think I see…” His voice trailed off like the end of a tiring day.
Just like that I knew what it was he didn’t say. He must think he saw death out there in the mist—rain pellets that reminded him of bullets or jagged flashes of lightning that looked like death’s sickle. And he drank because he was afraid or it was just too painful to contemplate the reality of death.
“Yeah, sometimes I think I see…” he repeated, “little rainbows, little rainbows in the rain.”
Abruptly, he grabbed my arm. “There are too many colors,” he hissed, his breath a match stroke away from igniting. “I don’t want the colors to get wet.” Then he laughed, a funny, awful laugh that echoed in my brain like a amphitheater scream chorus.
I shivered and sighed. A single conga line of tears careened down my cheek, not unlike the drops of beer escaping over the side of his mug—his beer mug. Then it all got fuzzy again.
I gulped down the last bit of alcohol. I didn’t know how to keep the colors dry or the rainbow intact. I thought his colors would certainly run if laundered in hot water. I didn’t know why I should even care. Impulsively, I swayed to my right, hoping to grab the man’s hand. But it was gone, and so was the rest of him. I paid my tab and wandered indifferently into what was left of the night.
“Somewhere, somewhere colors and men don’t fade…” I howled, flailing my arms skyward. With neck extended, I caught a few drops of acid rain on my tongue. I sank down onto the curb to wait for a taxi, or did I root around in my bag for keys? Anyway, in the oily puddle in front of me, an iridescent rainbow grinned at me, and then the rain resumed in earnest. ###
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