Hemingway Drank Shots

We have a few patron saints in the Gutter. And you better believe Papa is one of them.

Do yourself a favor and read this fucker twice. There's a lot of shit going on here beneath the surface.

Hemingway Drank Shots by Rob Pierce

Papa and I drank shots and held shotguns. Hunting, like coffee, was a morning thing. When enough animals lay dead we returned to our cabin and drank whiskey. We had done our work. Foragers would retrieve the bodies; all we would see would be cleaned, cooked, and seasoned.

Papa frowned at the table.

“To your island,” I said, and raised my glass. Papa raised his as well, perfunctorily perhaps, but the glasses clinked together just the same. “We eat well,” I said, “we drink as much as we want, and there are women.”

Papa shook his head, as though that were not enough. I did not know what more there could be.

“I create worlds,” he said, his voice low. “In this one, there are few people, and everyone is happy. What’s interesting about that?”

“I like to be happy,” I said.

Papa nodded. “I write pages,” he said, “and those worlds are interesting. But aren’t they all the same world?”

I didn’t know what the fuck he was talking about. I shrugged politely and drank.

“I’m active,” Papa said, “and I’m creative.” He spoke slowly; this wasn’t like him. “But no matter the woman, no matter the story, I’ve done it all before.”

His words made no sense to me. “We hunt,” I said. “We drink. Later we eat. Then, the women.”

Papa looked at me like I’d said nothing. Papa drank left handed today. His right hand gripped the barrel of his shotgun. Perhaps he’d never let it go.

“There’s a world in here.” He tapped the side of his head with an index finger. “A world we don’t want to know. We don’t even know how to get there.”

Papa talked like that sometimes. He was a smart man, and he could hold his liquor, but sometimes he let it get to him. Papa grinned wide, his bared teeth yellowed and cracked. His beard beneath was large, as was his body beneath that. The beard was graying, perhaps the body softened as well.

“Papa,” I said, “there’s places not to go.”

“That’s where I’m going,” he said. “And I’m going alone.” He flipped his hand backward at me like a whiskbroom. “Leave now,” he said.

I had my own bottle of whiskey in my room, so I didn’t need him. I just usually liked the company. But if he was going to be like this…. “Yeah,” I said, got up with my glass and walked away. I stopped at the door. “Is this the night you’re really going to do it? Because I’m not coming back to see you if you kill yourself.”

“Then you should stay,” Papa said.

“It’s always so dramatic with you,” I said. “I know you’re a writer, but I’m not a page.”

“That”—he cut back his drink to a sip—“is fucking poorly phrased.”

I returned to the table where Papa sat. I glared down at him. “You don’t get to judge that, Papa. I know sometimes you get confused about which one’s you and which one’s God, but God’s worlds ain’t just created on a page. They mean something.”

“You do want me to shoot myself, don’t you?” Papa said. His tone seemed to come straight from his barrel chest, but he smiled. “I know I’m not God, don’t worry about that. I’m fucked up on a human scale. God must reach levels of madness we can’t imagine.”

“Spoken like a true atheist.” I sat down across from Papa. He drank, didn’t argue. “I don’t want you dead, Papa.”

He finished his glass, his grin broadened, and he poured himself a refill. “You’re a little late,” he said. “Don’t worry, though. I won’t kill myself because I’m lonely. Or even because I’m alone. I’m willing to do it right now.”

Papa lifted his shotgun and turned it so its barrel nearly touched his mouth. “A shame I can’t do this and drink at the same time,” he said. “I could go away happy. So happy.” He looked like he would laugh but there was something wrong with his face. I stared at it and he pulled the trigger. There was an explosion and the face was no longer there to stare at. I rocked back in my chair, toppled to the floor. I lay below the table, faced what was left of Papa, all too close now, and always too far away. 

Rob Pierce writes genre fiction that he considers literary, because he fails to see the difference. His fiction has been or will be published in Flash Fiction Offensive, Shotgun Honey, Yellow Mama, Revolt Daily, Swill, The Rusty Nail, The Big Adios, and Bicycle Review, among others. His editing skills are on display at Swill (www.swillmagazine.com).