A Farewell to Ernest ©

They spelled Ernest wrong



In the mornings I would go down to the café for coffee where the girl knew my face and knew I took the coffee black. Hadley and Bumby slept late in those days, but later, after Bumby woke, he and Hadley would come down to join me and we would breakfast in the café and watch the pink tourists glow and carry their things out to the beach. From our room in the hotel next to the café we could look down onto the tables beneath the trees in the courtyard outside the café. Our room was on the third floor and looked out over the gray ocean. The ocean was always gray in that part of the country, but the gray made the blue sky that much richer. In the late afternoons Hadley and I would sit on the balcony outside our room and watch the same, now reddened, middle-aged tourists with their fat-bellied children struggle inland with their family’s vacation supplies in tow. They loaded their surplus into steaming station wagons parked below us in the hotel’s parking spaces. In these late afternoons, Bumby would nap on the bed in the room. Hadley would read in the chair next to mine on the balcony. Sometimes she would read a magazine or open my mail that came into the hotel. I would often write and drink Armagnac poured over iced water. The girl from the café would bring the Armagnac up after I phoned down and asked for her by name. Maybe her name was Marita. I don’t remember her name now, but I knew it then, and I remember liking it. I drank the Armagnac for my health but it did not hurt the writing either. If, while opening the mail, Hadley found a check, she would playfully toss it onto my writing and smile with pride. She would tell me again how proud she was of me and how glad she was for us and for all the money coming in. The checks would always have been deposited already but Hadley liked to think of the checks as trophies that signified an accomplishment. My latest book was in its second printing and an advance had come for the next book. I had a good feeling about my next book. The publisher liked it as well, but it is always difficult to predict how well a book will sell. It is always best to think about such things as little as can be allowed. But it is not always easy to think infrequently of a nice dream. Hadley liked to think the money would last forever, but I knew it could not and I had to start writing again. The short stories came easiest, but in those days, writing the stories made me feel like a whore to the literature. Now I see that it is the short story that is my craft and the novel is best left to better writers such as James and Scott. It was always better to compliment another writer in your own writing, because to compliment another writer in person was considered an insult. We still went under the system, then, that praise to the face was open disgrace. Maybe that has changed with a new generation, but that is the way it was with our lost one.

I no longer have Hadley or Bumby, but I still have the writing and the drinks. Some days I have more drinks than I have writing, but Catherine is understanding. I tell her easy reading is damn hard writing. She laughs. Catherine laughs easily and often. Some days I think I love her, some days I know I do not. Catherine is wise to this and to this she is also understanding. She tells me she loves me and says it is not because I am a writer that she is with me. I believe her. But it wouldn’t matter if I didn’t. Maybe some day I will write about the garden of Eden Catherine and I live in; a garden where it is only the two of us, one loving the other, the other unloved. Although this is mostly untrue, it is how I will write it, because I must write what I know. I know I can never be lonely with Catherine. No matter how cold and rainy the weather is outside, each morning the spring in Catherine’s eyes beats back the cold rain so that it seems it will never arrive. It is unnatural to think the rains will never come, and frightening to think that Catherine’s love may someday fail and let the cold rains come close. When the rains finally come in, I understand it will be because I have failed her. I would stop the rain if I could, but I can not. Someday I am likely to let the cold winter rain destroy our garden. Until then, I still have Catherine, my writing and my drinks – Catherine has no one. Afterwards, I too will have no one and Catherine will have, for what it is worth, only my writings.