Thursday, April 9, 2020

"Ernest and Bill"

One rainy day in early April a big guy wearing a trench coat and a fedora came into the bar and took a stool. He had a salt-and-pepper beard and he looked to be about fifty.

“Can I help you?” said Bob.

The bearded man pointed at the hand-painted sign above the mirror.


“You really brew your own bock beer in the basement?”

“Sure do.”

“Okay, I’ll take a flyer.”

“Eight-ounce glass, twelve-ounce schooner, or imperial pint.”

“Would you be offended if I started off with just a glass?”

“Not at all.”

“Okay, I’ll try a glass.”

Bob got him a glass of bock from the tap.

“That’ll be a dime.”


The stranger took out his wallet and put a ten on the bar.

When Bob brought him his change the man said, “Hey, this is pretty good bock. It reminds me of the bock I drank back when I was young, skiing in the Harz Mountains of Germany: cold, rich, thick, and strong. With notes of the native spruce trees and peat bogs.”

“Glad you like it.”

The big man pointed to Bob’s ring.

“Marine corps?”

“Twenty years.”

“The fighting leathernecks.”


“Got nothing but respect for you guys,” said the big man. “Hemingway’s the name. What’s your name, pal?”


“Pleased to meet you, Bob. Ernest is my first name.”

“Pleased to meet you, Ernest.”

“Maybe you’ve read my some of my books. Ernest Hemingway?”

“Oh, right, yeah, I’ve heard of you.”

“Ever read any of my stuff?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Well, anyway, your bock is really good.”


Just then a little guy in a tan raincoat and carrying a black umbrella came in the joint. He folded up the umbrella and looked around. He was fifty or so, he had a thick moustache, and he wore a Panama hat on his head. He walked over to where Ernest Hemingway sat.

“As I live and breathe,” said the moustached man.

“Jesus Christ,” said Hemingway. “Wild Bill! Sit down, buddy. I don’t believe it.”

The moustached man climbed up on the stool to the left of Hemingway, and hooked his umbrella on the edge of the bar.

“Hey, Bob,” said Hemingway, “want you to meet an old friend of mine – Bill Faulkner.”

“Hi, Bill,” said Bob.

“What’re you drinking, Bill?” said Hemingway.

“What’s that you got there, Ernie?”

“It’s the basement-brewed house bock, really good.”

“Okay, I’ll try one, and a shot of bourbon. You got any Cream of Kentucky, Bob?”


“Then I’ll take a glass of your house bock and a shot of Cream of Kentucky, on my father here.”

“Ha ha,” said Hemingway, “same old Bill. Hey, Bob, give me another glass of bock too, and I guess I’ll have one of those Cream of Kentuckys myself.”

“Excuse me,” said Philip, who was sitting to Hemingway’s right. “I couldn’t help but overhearing. But – Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner?”

“How come I get second billing?” said Bill.

“Ha ha,” said Hemingway.

“Heh heh,” said Philip. “This is such an honor to meet you both. My name is Philip.”

“Hi, Philip,” said Hemingway.

“Pleased to meet you,” said Faulkner.

“Such an honor,” said Philip. “I think you two gentlemen are probably our two greatest living American authors.”

“We won’t ask which one is the greater,” said Bill.

“Ha ha,” said Philip.

Bob came over with the two glasses of bock, and he poured out two shots of Cream of Kentucky.

“Hey, Bob,” said Bill. “Give Philip there whatever he’s drinking, on me.”

“Thanks, Mr. Faulkner,” said Philip. “I guess I’ll take another Manhattan, Bob.”

Philip had an almost full Manhattan in his hand, but he lifted it up, drained it, and put it down.

“So you’ve actually read our stuff, Philip?” said Hemingway.

“Oh, of course I have,” said Philip. “My God.”

“What’s your favorite?”

“Of your books, Mr. Hemingway?”


“That’s a hard one,” said Philip.

“I agree,” said Bill. “That’s a very hard one. But I’ll give you a tip. It probably didn’t come out any sooner than twenty years ago.”

“Ha ha,” said Hemingway. “Very funny. Go ahead, Philip, what’s your favorite?”

“Wow, gun to my head?”

“Gun to your head.”

“Okay, I’m going to say The Grapes of Wrath.”

“Oh, wow,” said Bill.

“I loved that book,” said Philip. “It was just so moving. And, like, a really trenchant study of the poor working classes of our country.”

“Oh, wow,” said Bill, again.

“Do you agree, Mr. Faulkner?” said Philip.

“Oh, absolutely,” said Bill. “Grapes of Wrath. Magnificent novel.”

Bob came over and poured out a fresh Manhattan for Philip.

“Out of here, Bob,” said Bill, and he shoved a ten forward on the bar.

“Thanks, Mr. Faulkner,” said Philip. He picked up the Manhattan and drank half of it in one go, then sighed. “But you know what’s my favorite of your books, Mr. Faulkner?”

“I’d love to know,” said Bill.

The Great Gatsby,” said Philip. “Amazing novel.”

The Great Gatsby?” said Bill.
“Ha ha,” said Hemingway. “Ha ha. Ha ha ha.”

{Kindly go here to read the “adult comix” version in A Flophouse Is Not a Home, illustrated by the illustrious rhoda penmarq.}

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