Thursday, September 1, 2011

A True Story


This is a true story. In the Summer of that year, we were coming home from a camping trip. It was late at night, and the sky was awash with the constellations. As we drove on through the mountains, we smelled smoke, and a little further on we saw light on the horizon. Then a fireman in a yellow coat running along the shoulder motioned us to the side of the road. “We’ll have to hold you here for a while until we know that it’s safe to pass,” he said. We pulled over to a point at the edge of a huge drop off. In the distance, we could see the raging red and orange flames silhouetted against the blackness, as the smoke got thicker, acrid and stinging to the nose. My parents turned on the radio to kill time. They were playing a Glenn Miller tune when the announcer suddenly broke in, saying “it was reported today that the American novelist and short story writer Ernest Hemingway was found dead in his home in Ketcham, Idaho.” In my memory, this happened when I was about five years old, but I was 13 on July 2nd, 1961, when Hemingway committed suicide with a shotgun in the mouth. Also, my brother has not yet been born, but this can’t be because he was born on October 16, 1960. The forest fire was real. After an hour or so, the fireman told us to go ahead, the danger had passed because the wind had shifted away from the road. In my mind these events will always be connected, despite the random, meaningless conjunctions between my childhood and the death of a great American writer. I remember my parents, speaking with reverence about it. A small piece of their history had broken off and passed into eternity. I was too young to understand, then, but eventually I would.


J said...

Hemingway's exit visavis shotgun seemed dark and tragic to me for years but now I think it was probably justified--he was sick--from alcholism, cancer, other ailments. Probably mentally ill as well. Same for HS Thompson. Not pretty, and perhaps...selfish (considering his family, etc) but for those afflicted with extreme pain or uncurable disease or ...great loss (ie unending poverty, or..imprisonment), suicide may be a type of resolution, and should be a legal option. Ergo,, though realize there are the usual ethical conundrums--the ..suicidal losers on Golden Gate should be talked out of it (don't they have counselors for that now?? and an official line probably--take a number, chump!) some point, it's their right. Really, prisoners facing life sentences and so forth should be given the option of a painless exit, IMHE.

Curtis Faville said...


We're in total agreement here.

I would only add that Hemingway's personal code of honor rather obliged him to take the neat exit. He felt he had nothing left to give, and there would be no dignity in being bedridden, or incapacitated. He'd been an active physical man all his life. He couldn't imagine not being so.