The International Writers Magazine: Ghost Writer

The Mirror
John Whalen

t stared back at me from behind a confusion of old mattresses, throw pillows and bed frames, an old wood framed mirror. It had clearly once been attached to a bureau but now sat orphaned in obscurity in the back corner of the Goodwill in Chehalis, Washington. End to end it was about three by four feet, weighed at least fifty pounds and was just what I needed to fill in the blank space on the wall of the rear bedroom (aka my office).

The wall my girlfriend kept pestering me to mirror so as to give the small room a "sense of more space". As if anyone would be fooled by a trick of mirrors into thinking the room larger. Even a near-sighted cat could figure out that it was an illusion but the price was right so for twelve bucks I asked the "backroom man", Julio, to help me with it to my car.
"Karamba!" Muttered Julio as we lifted it down from the loading dock and onto the rear ramp of my mini-van. "I be glad to see this go." He said in a broken accent.
"Ha, why’s that?"
"This mirror es mala suerte. How you say? Jincs?"
"Si, es jinxee."
"How so?"
"Well ever since the man bring dis here from his shop we have mucho problemos."
"Si. Oh you think me loco but in my country we have many of dis tings. Fantasmas, diablos, chupacabras. It is well known to us."
"What sort of problems?"
"Tings moving, heavy tings too like furniture and crates. Lights that go on and off by themselves, doors unlocked, racks turned over. Every morning we have to clean up dee mess and every morning we find dees mirror in the corner behind the mattresses like it was hiding. Ees suppose to be up in the front window because it is a collector’s item.
"Collectors item?" Jack knew the mirror was at least sixty years old or more but certainly no collector’s item.
"Si, eet belong to some famous writer. I do not know name."
Famous writer? I was really intrigued now. As a small-time writer my curiosity was piqued.
"Who did you say donated this?"
"Mr. Burgess from dee pawn shop down the street, the Ace of Diamonds Trades and Pawn."
"Thanks Julio" I said as I handed the worker two bucks for his trouble and jumped into my van for the quick trip to the Ace of Diamonds.

I found Mr. Burgess behind the counter, the display case an assortment of old watches, jewelry and guns. Hanging from the ceiling was every type of guitar known to man and the walls were covered with stereos, clothes, horns, hats, tools and TV’s. In one corner was a section devoted to heavier furniture like bureaus. There was even an old pinball machine, a nickel to play. Price: $1500.
"Hi. You Mr. Burgess?" Burgess was an old cager dressed in overalls, he looked like a farmer, which was not surprising as so many in this part of the state did. Been in the pawn and antique business for over sixty years they say. He was officially retired but couldn’t stand sitting around at home so had opened up this shop about eight years before. He didn’t really care whether he made money so was therefore generous with both his time and his prices.
"Who wants to know young fella?"
"Oh sorry. I just bought a mirror from the Goodwill and they said that you knew something about it. Just a second I’ll go out to the car to get it."
"No! You needn’t do that! I know which mirror you mean. You got time for a story?"
I nodded that I did as Burgess motioned me over to an antique divan displayed on the floor. He drew up a seat in an old rocker.
"That mirror came from a bureau set once owned by Ernest Hemingway. Got it on a trip to Ketcham, Idaho a few years back. Picked it up for a hundred, sold it for five (hundred)."
"Someone gave you five hundred dollars for an old dresser that was allegedly owned by Hemingway?"
"Not allegedly. I got proof. Take a look at that picture frame on the night stand beside you."
My attention was drawn to where he was nodding and there was a framed, autographed photo of Ernest Hemingway sitting in a rocker in what was obviously a log cabin. He appeared to be about sixty years old, the age at his death.
"Take a close look at the bureau in the background."
Indeed there was a strong resemblance to that mirror and mine right down to the five lathe-turned cosmetic dowels.
"Yeah I suppose they could be the same but there may have been many of these styles produced…" Before I could finish my remark…
"Look at the chair Ernie’s sitting in." He used Hemingway’s first name as if they were old friends.
I looked closely and then looked back at the rocker that Mr. Burgess now occupied. They were the same.
"Wow, I see what you mean!"
"Yeah I picked up a lot of Hemingway’s furnishings on that trip. The old man that owned the cabin where he shot himself was selling off everything. Didn’t know what it was worth. You did know that Hemingway blew his head off?"
Every writer, every American of that day knew that Ernest Hemingway had committed suicide with a shotgun in one of his favorite hunting lodges in Idaho.
"Yes I knew that."
"Coulda gotten a lot more for that bureau if it weren’t for that mirror."
"Whaaat? What does that mean?"
Burgess looked surprised at himself as if he had just given away the secret nuclear codes for the defense of the free world.
"Oh no you never mind that. How about some tea?"
Not wanting tea but refusing to leave without answers I automatically answered.
"Yes, please."

While the old man was in back brewing up tea I rummaged around the area and found numerous items either about Hemingway or possibly owned by him. There was a portable Royal typewriter with a case that was monogrammed EH and seemingly first additions of some of his works. I looked at the photo again and the Royal was plainly visible on a small writing desk under a window. Also the inscription on the autographed picture was, Mi General Castro, Viva La Revolucion! Sous Amigo, Ernest Hemingway.
I heard the clattering of the tray and looking up quickly like a schoolboy caught doing something wrong, I quickly placed the photo back on the display table.
"Ah I see you figured out the autograph. Castro and Hemingway were great friends you know. They went fishing together. Ernest (again familiar) was planning on seeing him soon and had that photo made for him but by 1961 all mail and travel service was cut to Cuba."
"You mean this may be Hemingway’s final autograph?"
"Probably. Close to last anyway."
"I see that you have an old typewriter…" Before I could finish he anticipated me.
"Yeah, that’s his. Wrote his last novel on it, the first of what was to be his trilogy on World War II, Fields in the Stream.
"Yep. Started the second one on it too, didn’t have a title yet. There’s speculation that there may be a copy of it around somewhere. ‘Man tried to buy that Royal from me a few years back just to get the ribbon off to see what was written on it. Offered me $2500. I said no! Not for any amount of money! I’m not gonna desecrate his memory. Nope. This stuff will go to those that deserves it, people who loved Hemingway and his work: students, teachers, writers. I don’t want some Hollywood tycoon or university museum to get what ought to belong to a person to use and enjoy. I don’t have a lot of years left and I want to make sure this stuff goes to the right homes."
"Well what about the mirror? Why did that end up at the Goodwill?"
The old man stared at me suspiciously for nearly a full minute before his frank and short answer.
"It was haunted that’s why."

That was it. Burgess shifted his eyes away as if waiting for me to pose another question. I didn’t. The silence broke him. "The folks I sold the bureau to returned with claims that it was keeping them up at night. They said they heard the sound of typing and could smell cigars and whiskey at all hours. Items displayed on the bureau top would be missing in the morning and perhaps not found for days and in the oddest places, like the freezer. They discovered though that if they covered the mirror with a drape the phenomenon would cease."

My mouth dropped agape but I remained silent. Burgess looked at me without surprise and continued.
"They kept the dresser but gave me the mirror back at no cost just to get rid of it and I sold it again for fifty dollars but that couple too brought it back. Seems the mirror didn’t want to stay where it was placed. I had trouble with it too. I sometimes found it propped up against the door in the morning as if trying to keep me out. Its a full thirty steps from its usual space to the door. I’m not a superstitious or a religious man but I know what I know and I knew I had to get rid of that mirror. I’m not saying it’s haunted for sure, I just don’t want to know. Did I tell you that Hemingway shot himself in that small cabin? The owner said that there was hardly a spot that didn’t have blood and brains on it. Yep, a shotgun can cause a devastating wound."
I remembered the brownish spots I had seen on the mirror before buying it. Could it be?
"Imagine. A great mans brains, the sum total of his life splattered all over an object. Makes you wonder if the item really could pick up part of his essence?
I asked Burgess to name a price for the photo and especially the typewriter.
"The photo?" He aahed. "Maybe we can talk about that some day. The Royal? I don’t think you can handle that machine. I just don’t know you well enough yet and I only want those able to handle the special condition of the items to have them. You say you’re a writer?"
"Yes, I’m trying."
"Then we’ll see what you write for us but for now I will hang onto those other items. Don’t worry, they’re safe with me. I’m not goin’ nowhere."

Although I had many more questions I excused myself and promised I’d return to visit with him again. He really seemed to enjoy the company. It didn’t look like he did much business.

The drive back to Olympia was not without incident. I had driven this section of I-5 many times and never had a serious problem but on this trip my car coughed and sputtered, blew smoke and was just generally cantankerous. I was also nearly involved in three freak collisions including one in which a truck lost it’s load of stuffed animal toys all over the freeway. It looked like the Saint Valentines Day Massacre at Toys Are Us.
I made a mental note to myself to see my mechanic as soon as possible even though the car ran much better as I drove into my apartment parking space. I left the mirror in the back thinking I would retrieve it the following day.

The night was cold as I sat at my computer hacking out this same old trash that my on-line publisher asked for. I was writing for a western site that showcased old style dime novels. I wrote several under different pen names but really they were all the same. One was Sgt. Mac, a marine whose adventures spanned most of the twentieth century. There was Trooper Moran, another sergeant, this time in the 10th Cavalry (Buffalo Soldiers) in the old southwest and Chippewa, the story of a half-native frontiersman torn between two worlds. Not Pulitzer material, strictly formula. Just a way to turn a buck.

I usually write late into the night and at about 11PM I heard a car alarm sound out in the lot. I didn’t have an alarm so I knew it wasn’t me but I checked anyway and saw nothing. The alarm was intermittent for the next hour until there was a knock at my door. It was Dennis the building super.
"John You gotta come shut off your alarm, I’m getting lots of complaints."
"Dennis, I don’t have an alarm."
"Look! I know your car. Just come down." He was insistent. I grabbed my coat and followed Dennis down the stairs safe in the knowledge that he had the wrong guy. Outside I could here the commotion more distinctly. It was more than just a horn, it sounded as if the car were being pounced upon by an elephant. Imagine my surprise when I turned the corner and it was! No, it wasn’t being pounced by a real elephant of course but perhaps an invisible one. They car was jumping up and down on its chassis like those old Chevy’s in the low rider parade in San Jose. It’s lights were flashing on and off and the horn blowing.
I turned to Dennis but all I could feebly say was…
"I don’t have an alarm system."
"Well for a guy who don’t it sure is an effective one."

As the super stood back I cautiously approached the car but the commotion ended before I reached the door. I turned the key just to satisfy the super but knew that it had nothing to do with the problem.
"As long as I got you here can you help me carry the mirror in? Someone may have seen it and tried to break in causing the alarm" I lied. I think I had figured out the problem but didn’t want to believe it.
"Anything to get back to bed." He replied.

We took it up to my apartment and I placed it in my office on the floor for the time being. It lay behind where I sat at the keyboard and I could feel unseen eyes boring into the back of my head: The eyes of Hemingway? I shook off the ridiculous notion.

Sleep was slow in coming that night, the first night with my new "friend". I was excited by the thought of owning one of the great man’s possessions and at a great price! I coveted the opportunity to purchase his typewriter and autographed photo too. I needed to convince old man Burgess that I was "worthy". What did he say? "We’ll see what you write for us" ? I have to prove myself for this pawnbroker/antique dealer to sell me something? What type of businessman does that? I tried to put aside the thoughts racing through my mind and get some sleep.

I dreamt vividly that night, something I don’t do often. I was in a war. There were images of artillery shells exploding, screaming aircraft, smoke, the death cries of the wounded and I could smell it all too. I awoke that next morning with the odor of cordite and burned flesh in my nostrils. After taking my morning piss I looked into the bathroom mirror and was surprised to find soot on my face! I don’t have a fireplace and I couldn’t explain how it got there. I searched the area around my bed and found nothing.

I looked again at my new prized possession and saw that it needed not just cleaning but refinishing. There were indeed brownish stains on the wood frame of the mirror and something dark-red on the glass itself. On the latter I tried scraping it off with a putty knife. I thought it was spilled paint. The spots would not come off. I debated whether to clean it further. Antiques are supposedly best left in the condition they are found. It would have more value with the blemishes, not that I would ever sell it. Of course I really needed that autographed photo with the bureau in the background to even claim that it belonged to Hemingway. I put those things out of my mind and set outside for some daily chores. A struggling writer doesn’t make much money but does get to set his own hours. I would write later that night. I think I had a chapter of Trooper Moran due.

That night I wrote like I had never written before. Besides a chapter of Moran I also wrote two chapters of Sgt. Mac and started another on my long neglected Luftwolfen stories. I was on fire! The sound of the splashing of my big fat fantail Spot, in the aquarium brought me to the realization that it was dawn. I fed the fish and went to bed. I slept all that day again dreaming vividly of what were clearly images of World War Two. Upon awakening I went back to the computer and hammered out more drivel all day. This schedule was repeated nightly for over a week. As always I sent it in electronically to my editor.
The mirror?: It remained where I had first placed it on the floor of my office just a few feet behind my head. It was too heavy for one person to lift and affix to the wall and I had grown increasingly solitary, hadn’t seen anyone in over a week. I only left the house once late one night as I had run out of food. I drove to Mega Foods at 3AM and bought my usual items, however when I reached the frozen pizza section I loaded the cart with as many as possible. I wasn’t a big fan of pizza but for some reason I got twenty-four of them.

I returned to my routine of writing all night but with one change: I now felt a strong urge to drink, something I did little of. Being in a package-store state I went to a local bar owned by the Longshoreman’s union, The Brotherhood, and ordered bourbon one night, rum another. I also began smoking cigars, not any cigars but expensive Cubans. I was fifty years old and had never smoked. This became part of my schedule; take a break from writing at twelve, go to the bar and down as many cocktails as possible in two hours then return home and write all night. I not only wrote my usual stuff but also experimented with new characters and story lines. I sent in as many items in one day as I used to in a week. My editor, who usually only contacts me via e-mail, phoned one night.
"Jack? How are you feeling?"
"I’m fine of course. What the Hell do you want!?" I rarely cursed but then again I also wasn’t a drinker….until I bought that mirror.
"Uh, well I’m concerned about you and curious."
"Curiosity killed the cat!" I yelled into the phone for no known reason.
"You’re bothering me. What the fuck is it!?" I was surprised by my own remarks. I really wasn’t getting enough sleep and my stomach was churning with a combination of whiskey and pepperoni.
"Well John, we have been pleasantly surprised by both the volume and quality of your recent work."
"What was I before, you asshole, a fucking hack!?" I couldn’t believe my own attitude and remarks.
"Uh, uh…well John…I’m just concerned."
"Concerned about what, that I’m writing too much too well?"
"No, no…."
"Then why the Hell are you bothering me?"
The editor broke in with a firmer voice. "John we have enough material for a years worth of issues for all of your serials. Don’t send us anymore for awhile. In fact I recommend that you take a vacation. You sound stressed."
I momentarily had a vision of beaches, palm trees, dark-colored women and rum, lots of rum. My voice magically changed from anger and irritation to a mellow tone. I responded half out loud
"Yeah, Cuba is beautiful this time of year."
"What?" my editor asked. "Did you say Cuba? You know that’s off limits and I don’t want to have our lawyers spending money getting you out of jail for a lark."
"Well if that pinko Kennedy would get his head out of his ass and realize that Fidel is a hero we wouldn’t have this problem!"
"Kennedy?" He queried with no response from me. "Why don’t you try Jamaica instead?"
"Maybe I will when the British leave!" I slammed the phone into its cradle and went down to The Brotherhood for a drink.

I continued writing for another week though not sending them in to my magazine. While sitting those long hours at the PC I would often feel someone watching me and in the reflection of the aquarium I thought that I saw the face of an older man in a graybeard leering at me. I saw this in the mirror a few times too. It was disturbing enough that I began putting a towel over the fish tank and turned the mirror, still on the floor, to the wall. When I would awake each day it was turned back around.

I finally got my next door neighbor, a young college kid, to come over and help me mount it to the wall about fifteen feet behind my desk. It was actually a handsome piece and did in fact make the room seem larger. The next day it was off the wall and leaning against my desk! I got another friend, a carpenter from The Brotherhood, to come over and he fastened it with numerous four-inch brass wood screws right into the studs. I was satisfied that if the Earth ever came to an end that mirror would be found by some future archeologist still attached to that wall. The next day it was back leaning against my desk. An investigation of the wall showed that it had been intentionally gently removed. The brass screws were lined up neatly on the desk, balanced up-ended like soldiers in revue.

I returned to The Diamond Pawn and Trades to see Mr. Burgess. It had been three weeks since I had met him and I wasn’t really certain what I wanted, except of course for that portable typewriter. I had started my writing career with one of those and then moved up to an IBM Selectric when those were the top of the line machines. Still, writing was tedious on those devices as compared to today’s word processors but I longed for a manually operated one again.

Old man Burgess was seated in the Hemingway rocker reading an original copy of FOR WHOM THE BELLS TOLL when I walked in. He looked up and without flinching said
"How’s it going Ernie?"
At first I thought he was pulling my leg. I sat down on the divan.
"I’ve been reading your latest stuff in the magazine. Your characters are sharper, edgier, more interesting. You are a good writer!"
"Thanks Mr. Burgess." (I still didn’t know his first name). "I’m not sure why I’m here…."
"I do son and it’s yours."
"What’s mine?"
"Why Hemingway’s typewriter of course. I kept it for you while your writing improved as I knew it would."
"Thanks but how could you have known that?"
"Why, because you’ve had the mirror all this time that’s why."
Without responding to that and excited by the prospect of getting the relic I asked
"Really? How much?"
Burgess looked at me over the top of his glasses seemingly perplexed by my question.
"How much? I don’t think you understand. It’s yours. You deserve it. There is no price."
Like a child on Christmas who had just received a gift from his goofy Uncle Zeke I grabbed the typewriter off its display and rushed out the door. Old Burgess cried after me.
"I expect to read that second part of your unfinished trilogy soon!"

His words rang hollow in my ears because of my excitement at receiving such a prize. It didn’t occur to me until I was on the road home that he was confusing me with the great man himself. I momentarily thought him a crazy fool and felt bad about taking advantage but I had perhaps the greatest typewriter in history: a 1952 Royal Traveler, original price: $9.95. My car never ran so well as I flew home.

I immediately set the typewriter up on my desk, pushing the Compaq PC aside. After opening the case I ran my fingers across the keys, the keys that he touched. The keys that pounded out The OLD MAN AND THE SEA and who knows what else. I was mesmerized. I slipped in a sheet of paper and began writing. It was 4PM and before I knew ten hours had passed. I was exhausted. Without proofreading or even removing the last page I shut off the light and went to bed in my clothes. I dreamt again of WW II and stirred a few times thinking that I heard the clickity-clack of the keys banging on the old machine in the office. When I awoke late the next day, after having my coffee I wandered back into my office ready for another night’s work and curious to proof read what I had written the day before. Funny that I couldn’t remember but then I was drunk again the previous night.

I was surprised to see the Royal with its cover back on, ready to put away. I had sworn I left it off as I had not finished. Sitting neatly stacked next to it were four-hundred pages of a novel of war and love in battle-torn Italy. I read, hypnotized by my own creation and wondering where I got this latent talent. Was it the booze, the mirror, the Royal? If so I should have started drinking sooner. I sealed the manuscript in a manila envelope and sent it to Doubleday, New York. This wasn’t the sort of work that my normal publisher printed.

As I awaited a response I quit writing altogether. After all I was months ahead on my novellas for the web and I had just written my first and if I do say so, great novel. I spent most of my nights at The Brotherhood getting drunk, grabbing young ass and just generally being obnoxious. I grew fatter and sported a graybeard.

One day I found myself pulling into the parking lot of a gun shop in Tacoma. I wandered around not certain why I was there. I was drawn to the used shotgun rack.
"Can I help you?" The clerk asked.
"Do you have a Remington 880?" I found myself asking though I didn’t know what one was. In fact I knew nothing of guns and didn’t hunt.
"Oh yes by chance I have two."
He showed me the first one. It was beautiful in it’s own way. I ran my hand along its full length as if feeling a young woman’s body for the first time. I put my fingers into every slot, every inset, every nook and cranny, just grinning with delight.
"What year was it manufactured?" I asked as if I had a purpose.
"Let’s see", said the clerk as he pulled out a catalogue and checked the serial number.
"Oh no, that won’t do!" I said. "Do you have one constructed before 1961?"
The clerk looked at me mystified. "Well I have an inferior quality one of the same make."
He pulled it down off the wall rack. It’s barrel was rusted and it’s stock dinged and cracked from years of misuse and neglect.
"This one was made in 1956 but for just a few bucks more the other is a better buy." he advised.
"I’ll take this one!" I pulled out the cash (for some reason I no longer used credit cards) and laid out the price, $130.

I took it home and began cleaning. I cleaned and rubbed all night until it shined like new. I honed out the barrel, re-oiled the chamber and rubbed metazoline all over its body, my own body titillated with an obscene pseudo-sexual delight.
The following day I got a call from New York. It wasn’t Doubleday but a lawyer representing the Hemingway estate. They wanted to know how I had come across the manuscript.
"Why I wrote it of course."
"Come on Mr. Whelan, we both know better."
I had no idea what he was talking about.
"Excuse me?"
"That’s right. Most people don’t know this but Hemingway was about halfway through the second installment of his untitled trilogy about World War II. You wrote word for word that part and somehow managed to finish it as well. My client desires to know two things: where did you find the unpublished beginning and more, where did you get the ending? No ending has ever been found."
Astounded, I responded "Look I don’t know what you’re pulling but I wrote that whole thing. If it sounds like Hemingway, I’m flattered but I wrote it!"
"Mr. Whelan I’m afraid that Mr. Hemingway’s estate will have to sue you plus we have been given an injunction by the New York Supreme Court to prevent any further publication house from seeing it. You are hearby ordered to cease and desist."

Click. The call was terminated. I fumed over this turn of events and needing some answers I jumped in my car and raced down the thirty-some miles to Chehalis and the Diamond Pawn and Trades to see old man Burgess. I found his storefront empty, well not exactly empty, there was a Starbucks there now. I was quite certain that it had not been there a few weeks before. I asked the barrista how long they had been open.
"About a year." The cute little thing responded.
"That can’t be!" I shouted. "I demand to see Mr. Burgess!"
"I don’t know who you are mister but I am going have to call the police if you don’t leave, you’re disturbing our guests."
I looked around at the yuppies and wanna-be’s drinking their mint teas and chocolate lattes with cell phones glued to there ears sitting at laptops as if they were heads of states or crown prince’s of Arabstan.
"Don’t give me that shit!"
I turned to the crowd and yelled accusingly,
"Hell there isn’t a single one of ya worth the clay God made you of! I’m twice your age and could kick the crap out of any two of you at a time! Damn. You don’t even know how to drink. Real men drink whiskey not some sugary watered-down coffee!"

A cop arrived in the doorway as the crowd of young techno-punks and Generation X, Y and Ze’ers ran for their lives, baby strollers and Golden Retrievers (those great hunting dogs humbled with neckerchiefs tied about their necks by their prissy owners.) running with them.
"And another thing. Real men don’t put scarf’s on good huntin’ dogs!" I shouted after them.
As the room cleared the mature cop closed in on me slowly.
"I know what you mean fella. Hell I wouldn’t want my dog to be caught dead dressed up like a sissie’s poodle. I also prefer a good stiff drink over a cup of $3 coffee. Why don’t we go across the street to The Lumberjack Bar and have a snort?"
"Why thank you sergeant." I said. "You know that place reminds me of a joint I used to go to in Key West. Had a dartboard that we used for target practice with our pistols. I was the undisputed champ in 1954, ‘55 and ‘56. Won with the Luger I took off a dead Kraut."
"That’s fine shootin" said the sergeant who upon reaching the sidewalk sucker-punched and cuffed me before I could react.

I was taken to the small station for interrogation and a cooling down period. They thought I was drunk because I stilled smelled of booze from the night before but hadn’t had a single drop that day. After a few hours they released me. As I was signing out I asked the sergeant, who had lived in Chehalis his whole life, what happened to Diamond Pawn.
"You mean old man Burgess’s?" He asked.
"Yeah that’s it! I must’ve been on the wrong street."
"No, Starbucks is where it used to be. Mr. Burgess died about five years ago and that storefront sat empty all of this time."
Not wanting to spend anymore time in jail or worse, be sent to the nut house, I demured.
"Oh I see." and went on my way.

When I got home there was a message on my answering machine from my editor at the magazine. He said that because of the controversy involving my new manuscript (it was all over the newspapers) that he didn’t wish to print any of my novellas again: Not Sgt. Mac, Trooper Moran or the others. My income dried up over night.

I began drinking heavier, having more dreams but not writing. I kept seeing an old man in a beard in the mirror glaring at me and thought I could hear him.
"You’re a hack, a loser! Give it up! I wouldn’t use your writing to wipe my ass!"
I started pawning and selling my belongings off one by one to pay my rent and bills. I was down to only a few items: a mattress on the floor, the mirror, typewriter and shotgun. I couldn’t part with those. I fell behind on the rent. In my dreams I kept hearing Hemingway and others, Shakespeare, Tennyson, Twain, Forrester, Stevenson, Poe, all saying the same thing:
"You’re no good!" "Give it up." "You’re an insult to our art." "Do it! You know you want to!"
I awoke in a sweat from the sound of banging at my door.
"Who is it?" I shouted.
"The sheriff. We have an eviction notice."
I felt sick to my stomach. I turned to the mirror and saw the great man’s image again. With a smile and a knowing look I followed his eyes across the room to the corner where the Old Remington sat. I knew instantly what he was silently suggesting. I took a few steps over to it. The pounding continued at the door. There was a bottle of whiskey out on the kitchen counter. I took a swig. Then I picked up the shotgun.

© John Whalen - February 2006
Olympia, WA

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