IN HEMINGWAY COUNTRY

I realized these people in Horton Bay have no appreciation for what Hemingway accomplished.

Mrs. Wyn smiled.
"Can you believe, we had a busload of 50 women in here just last week all the way from Louisiana?"
I could believe it. The next year, that same group might head out for Oxford, Mississippi, to see where William Faulkner lived. Or perhaps they've already been there.

"How long have you owned the store?" I asked.
"Just four years," she said. "Came here to retire. I never knew much about Hemingway. I still haven't read his books. But I've read some of those articles on the wall about him by now."
At this point, a man with a slight swagger and the self-confident air of the small-town hustler walked in and took a seat at the end of the counter.

This would be John Arntwell, the town jester. He was, he explained without being asked, the chairman of the upcoming Fourth of July parade.

Arntwell knew all about Hemingway. Arntwell is a Horton Bay native and had owned and run this very store for 15 years.

"Tell you the truth," he said. "I don't enjoy reading him. Never did. I know all about the legend. He lived here summers when he was growing up.

"His father was a doctor from Chicago, and they built a place down on Wolloon Lake. And I read the early stories about his growing up here in Michigan. I just never liked them, and that's a fact."
Arntwell said that we should come back to Horton Bay for the parade. "It's the greatest event of the year in these parts. We expect to have 14,000 spectators. They come to see the Horton Bay Triangle. This is one of the great mysteries of the country. We have the only Dumpster that wasn't searched for Jimmy Hoffa's body. Some people think Amelia Earhart disappeared here, too."

Arntwell would have been a good character for Hemingway to study. There is more to Arntwell than I had time to study, but Hemingway would have gotten him down right.

Hemingway knew best of all how to create a poignant mood. He would have searched beneath Arntwell's shell and found the broken pieces.

Here, for example, is how he ended the story of the brief attraction between the young blacksmith and the waitress.

Jim comes back from a hunting trip with friends, and they all get drunk in the store. Jim takes the waitress down to the pier. She is afraid to go, but she wants him to fall in love with her:

"Don't Jim," Liz said. Jim slid the hand further up. "You mustn't, Jim. You mustn't." Neither Jim nor Jim's big hand paid any attention to her.

"I got to. I'm going to. You know we got to."
"No, we haven't, Jim. We ain't got to. Oh, it ain't right. Oh, it's so big and it hurts so. You can't. Oh, Jim, Jim. Oh."

Then Jim falls asleep, trapping Liz underneath him, the dead weight of his body crushing her on the planks.

Liz works her way out from under Jim's body. She walks to the edge of the dock.
Hemingway writes:

There was a mist coming up from the bay. She was cold and miserable and everything felt gone. Liz started to cry. . . . Then she walked across the dock and up the steep sandy road to go to bed. A cold mist was coming up through the woods from the bay.

"Up in Michigan" was Hemingway's first published story. He wrote it and several others in a rooming house in the nearby town of Petoskey upon his return from World War I.

According to his biographer, Carlos Baker, the story dealt so graphically with sexual intercourse and near-rape that Hemingway was forced to publish it in the Toronto Star rather than in this country.

But Baker leaves no doubt that Hemingway was writing about his own early experiences with women.

In fact, Hemingway's second story, "The End of Something," seems to be a continuation of the relationship between the young blacksmith and the waitress.

Only this time, the two characters are called Nick Adams and Marjorie. This time they are sitting on a blanket on shore waiting for the moon to come up:

They sat on the blanket without touching each other and watched the moon rise.
"You don't have to talk silly," Marjorie said. "What's really the matter?"
"I don't know."
"Of course you know."
"No, I don't."
"Go on and say it."
"It isn't fun anymore."

He was afraid to look at Marjorie. Then he looked at her. She sat there with her back toward him. He looked at her back. "It isn't fun anymore, not any of it."

Hemingway may be out of style. But that doesn't diminish his stature. It's our fault we don't appreciate him. Christina the Lawyer and I ate lunch in the old general store. It served hot dogs that cost $1 each. At the edge of the counter, there were little guidebooks written by locals that you buy and read about Hemingway's time at Horton Bay.

They seemed a poor substitute for the real thing. I didn't buy any.

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