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Saving Hemingway

Traveling back in time to save my hero

By C C FarleyPublished about a year ago 19 min read
Saving Hemingway
Photo by Andy Beales on Unsplash

As a 21-year-old aspiring writer, I had always known that I wanted to create stories that would last. The only problem was that I tended to create stories in my mind at work, which often made me at odds with my serving job.

I was let go from my job after a customer filed a complaint about me serving her a cola instead of the black coffee she had requested, with no sugar. Despite my boss giving me a previous warning for being late after getting lost in a Hemingway story during my break, the customer's complaint was the final straw.

You see, Ernest Hemingway is my hero. I read all his books and short stories when I was 13 years-old. There was something about Hemingway that I loved. Perhaps he spoke of a time where everyone was well mannered, stylish, exciting, romantic and intriguing at the same time. I also admired his style of writing in short, brief sentences – his stories often resonated with me.

Many times, I would envision Hemingway as my mentor, and in my imagination, we would engage in lengthy Facetime conversations about the intricacies of writing, exploring the quirks and subtleties of the craft. In other mini Facebook messenger chats, Hemingway would take the lead, sharing his insights and wisdom, while I diligently took screenshot notes.

On this day, I had just gotten fired once again and was sleeping on the couch, when I heard a loud commotion in the basement.

“My father,” I thought to myself as I hurried down the basement.

I found my father, 65 years old, sitting on the hardfloor, with a happy yet bemused expression on his face.

“I think I did it, Sammy!” my father, a retired physicist, said. He pointed out his latest experiment: there was a leather chair strapped to various electrodes and a large machine.

I'll never forget this day.

For years, I had watched my dad disappear into the basement after work and on weekends, his hammering and saw dust filling the air as he worked on another project. I had assumed he was building a table or a bookshelf, never suspecting that he was actually fiddling with the very fabric of Einstein’s law of time and space and other theorists like Newton.

I told him gently that I thought he was off his rockers, and needed to take a break. But my father looked at me as though he was struck by happiness that he hadn’t felt in a long time, since mother died of Covid a year ago.

He stood before me, his eyes agog, and his speech stuttering as he repeated various mathematical formulas that were unfamiliar to me. His hands shook with excitement, and it was as if he was trying to convince himself more than anyone else. I could sense the intensity of his obsession and I, too, remembered my similar obsession to finish writing a short story without so much of a bathroom or coffee break. Obsessions seem to run in my family. My friend had an obsessive need to collect boyfriends –but that’s another tale.

Anyway, my father rambled on, scribbling equations and diagrams on scraps of paper, lost in a world of his own making. It was both thrilling and unnerving to witness my father's single-minded happiness over a breakthrough that he had worked on for years.

"It's a fascinating algorithm that involves the manipulation of space-time curvature," he explained. "But in simpler terms, it involves the creation of a wormhole that allows you to travel back in time."

I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I laughed and my father looked disappointed that I seemed to be mocking him.

“If this works, send me back to the time of Hemingway,” I said, knowing that my dad knew my fascination for this writer.

My father took me gently by my shoulder and sat me down in the chair. He put the straps on snugly.

“Sammy, when you get there, know that I will be watching you on my Iphone,” he pointed to an app. “Keep this phone in your pocket at all times, and when you want to come back. Click on the side of the watch.”

I shrugged my shoulders –thinking that my dad needed to see a doctor to check on his mental health. To humor my father, I told him I wanted to meet my favorite writer in Cuba.

It was no secret to everyone who knew me that I felt that Hemingway’s untimely death in his early sixties could have been prevented. I told all my friends that if anyone could reach out to him and stop him from his early demise, it was me.

When I sat on the chair, I felt that nothing would happen and I would only hear loud bangs, and the machine would flicker out like a dying washing machine. After all, my dad’s time machine was also made of parts that included bits of a discarded clothes dryer, a vacuum machine, empty soda cans, 5 kilos of used coffee grinds, and a secret ingredient that involved a laser beam.

Hello Cuba

By Alexander Kunze on Unsplash

The machine gurgled and I felt my head spinning faster and faster. My whole body shook and I felt myself lifted off from my seat briefly, before it rested on the chair. The whole thing may have lasted for a few minutes before everything went dark and smoky.

When the smoke cleared, I found myself on a cobblestoned street leading to a bar that had a cocktail flashing neon light. Where was I?

An old man with a beard lifted his Panama hat, and pointed to his paint brush and paper. He asked me whether he could paint me. I opened my mouth, and before I knew it, I was speaking Spanish. “No gracias. Mas tarde,” I said.

“Muy buen”, the old man said, adding, “What are you doing in Cuba, young lady?” in Spanish.

I remembered my reason for being here. “Where can I find senior Hemingway?” I asked, hopefully.

“Over there” the old man said, pointing to the bar. “Muchas gracias,” I said.

As I opened the door to the bar in Cuba, I looked around and saw a middle-aged man sitting at the bar, drinking a mojito. He looked just like the picture of the writer: mustachioed, dapper, and luckily, alone. I thought to myself how grateful I was to be there, thanks to my dad who made it possible for me to try to save Hemingway.

With boldness, I walked up to him and introduced myself. "Mr. Hemingway, may I talk to you for a moment?"

My target lifted his eyes slowly and looked vaguely interested.

“What is it? What do you want? Can’t you see that I am busy?,” Hemingway said as he waved to some patrons.

I was momentarily off guard, but I remembered my mission. It took every ounce of courage in me to blurt out that I was from the future, and strictly there to save him from a tragic outcome.. He politely listened to everything I said, starting from my dad’s invention in his basement, and his discovery of a time travel wormhole, his applied studies of Einstein and Newton, and my determined effort to save him from an early death.

While I talked, he ordered a Daiquiri and wrote down a few things on his notepad.

“Well?” I said finally. Hemingway rested his pen, and said, “What do you want me to do, my angel from the future?”

I told him that it may be best for him to find alternative ways to relax.

Hemingway threw back his head and laughed.

“You have no idea, do you, dear?, ” said Hemingway, adding, “I am a sick man. I need this tonic to take away my pain.” He pointed to his back, and his legs. “Without drink, I cannot live,” he said finally.

My phone suddenly beeped and I realized that I had received a text message from my dad.

The message said: “Press the button now! I am unable to get you back if you don’t. My worm hole configuration just collapsed. I am using honey, now but it's being eroded by an internal bug that I need to fix. Come here, or I can never get you back!”

I looked at the message, then at Hemingway again.

“Mr Hemingway, you are a national treasure! You cannot do this to yourself,” I said.

The writer got up and he seemed to be impatient with me. “I am leaving now, Missy. Got to go back to write. My publisher is pounding on my door, as we speak.” His tweed jacket brushed by me but as he did so, I grabbed his sleeve impetuously.

“Sir, come with me. Come to my time! You must live a long life,” I said, looking into his deep, brown eyes.

I tried another tactic. “I know I sound like a crazy chick, but you got to believe me! I am from the future, and things that you haven’t seen have happened. There is so much you don’t know.”

“Strange lady, go find a husband to take care of. Why do you call yourself a member of the poultry family? “ Hemingway said, walking outside the bar.

The sun was shining brightly, focusing on the face of my hero. I couldn't help but notice that his features were more weathered than they had appeared in the dimly lit bar. Deep lines etched his face, extending to his brow bone and reminded me of the long dry lines on the drought stricken California hills. Despite his relatively young age of 45 years, he seemed like a tired old man, carrying the weight of a lifetime of good and stressful experiences.

I tried my best to make him realize that I was from the future. I said, “Mr. Hemingway, during my time, women are equal, thanks to the Me2 Movement, and women who have spoken up to gender role hypocrisy and misogyny. Women do not need to be housewives anymore! There are women leaders in every profession, and they have top roles in the political government.”

He frowned at me and said nothing as I continued to reason with him.

“Come with me! “I begged, “I really want to save you from yourself and make you safe.”

Hemingway stopped walking and looked into my eyes, “Well, howdy do. If I am drunk, then hit me. But if it is real, I believe a man can go to the moon, just joking of course, my friend. Let’s have a little adventure then. Show me the way,” he said, sarcastically.

I took this as a green light. I smiled and said, “Don’t worry, Mr. Hemingway. I am as real as my house is on Givens Road. And yes, man did get to the moon –you died long before that happened. Hold onto my shoulder and I will press this!” I showed Hemingway my Iphone and his eyes grew big.

Before he could grab my phone, I clicked on the two buttons on the side of my phone, and my body shook wildly and went transparent. I looked to my left, and Hemingway was also turning gray and almost transparent. His body was shaking wildly, too.

We were both slowly disappearing before the eyes of an old Cuban woman walking her chihuahua, who suddenly dropped her bundle of corn ears in fear. Before I could say, “ Dios Mio!” a plume of gray and purple smoke took over the cobblestone streets of Havana and we both vanished.

Back home

By Nico Smit on Unsplash

My father was ridiculously happy when he saw me, and hugged me tight. Then he noticed Hemingway.

“What did you bring him for?” he said, releasing my arm.

I explained to my father as gently as I could that I desperately wanted to save Hemingway and wanted him to have a long life. My father nodded and then looked at Hemingway, who looked around the basement in astonishment and curiosity.

“So it is true,” he said, “I thought your daughter was insane, but she had this strange idea to save me from myself. Please give me a drink.”

I offered Hemingway a cola which he looked at with disgust. My father understood what Hemingway wanted and offered him a shot of whisky neat, which he quickly accepted.

Over the next hour and a half, my father patiently explained to Hemingway how he was able to create a machine to go back in time, and he had used many test subjects, like ants, moths, and frogs except humans. I was his first human subject to go back in time, and he feared that he would never bring me back. He also stated that the machine was not fully functional and was losing power because of an internal defect. Due to a supply chain issue, the part he needed could not be purchased online.

He had to bring me back before the machine died. Now he could not guarantee that Hemingway could ever go back.

Hemingway appeared thoughtful and somewhat skeptical about the concept of time travel. In an attempt to persuade him, I searched the Internet for evidence and stumbled upon a passage from Ernest Hemingway's biography. It detailed his mysterious disappearance from Cuba in the 1930s after leaving a bar with a young woman. The article mentioned that his wife offered a large reward for his safe return, but he was never found. It went on to state that to this day, there are still theories as to the reason for his disappearance, including rumors of sightings in Canada where he supposedly worked as an elementary school janitor and other sightings of him working as an Elvis impersonator in a Legends show in Vegas.

I showed Hemingway what I discovered on the Internet, and he became angry.

“So now you want me to pass my time in your world, “ Hemingway said quietly. “Have you thought about my family? My wife and my life?”

I looked down at the cement floor of the basement quietly. My father said, “My daughter means well. She wanted to save your life and it's well known, you will die young.”

Hemingway sat silently, deep in thought – his hand on his head.

“You tell me that I belong here in your world. You want to save me, but what if I don’t want to be saved? Do you know every man has to live his life the way he or she wants it? Even if I was to live a short life, do you not think it is better to live with someone who loves you, than to not experience love at all?”

When he spoke, I felt ashamed and could only say a few words which I felt could not help the matter. “I didn’t think too much. Technology is so fast moving. I had no idea that you would be troubled by all of this.”

My father looked at Hemingway and then he sat down. He said, “She meant well. What have I done? Why couldn’t I leave well enough alone” My father began to suddenly cry, and Hemingway was moved.

“Old man,” Hemingway said, “You are trying to play God, but when Man does things out of vanity, there is no humanity to this at all. You should have left me to my fate. I need to go back to my family. Please try to find a way.”

I resisted the temptation to correct Hemingway for not being gender neutral and instead, stood up and ran to my father.

“Can we? Please, dad, can we bring him back?”

“I don’t think so, sweetheart, “my dad admitted. “ I have tried but there is no more strength in me to do it.”

Hemingway seemed disturbed by my dad’s admissions. “Then you are no more a scientist than I am a writer. I wrote a story about the likes of you. It’s called the Old Man and the Sea."

My father looked up and something seemed to stir in him. He turned around and went back to this computer. He demanded both of us leave the basement at once while he tried to figure some things out.

Over the next few weeks, while Hemingway slept on the couch, my dad worked feverishly to fix the internal bug on the time machine. By day, I explored the city with Hemingway, and showed him the latest inventions, fashions and newsworthy topics, such as the war in Ukraine and other issues.. I explained that last year, my Aunt died of Covid and many more people have been victims of the virus.

He often looked pensive when I talked about the Ukraine-Russia war, and the pandemic. Once I heard him mumbling to himself as he read news stories on the Internet, and said, “I covered some wars as a reporter and I have seen the brutality of men and machines. Did these men die in vain? Why does war keep happening?”

Other times, he talked in his sleep, blurting out the names of his wife and family members.

On one occasion, we sat drinking tea one evening at the kitchen nook.

I admitted to him that I didn’t have a boyfriend yet, but saw many of my friends have conflicts with their significant others. It was odd to me but sometimes he spoke to me as though I was a character in one of his novels.

“Love is a funny thing, my friend. It's like the sun and the rain - you can't have one without the other. And when the rain comes and takes your sunshine away, you can't help but miss it more than ever. It's the same with love. When your loved one is gone, the heart aches and longs for their return. But it's that absence that makes us appreciate them even more when they're back in our arms. That's the beauty of love, isn't it? It teaches us to appreciate the moments we have with our loved ones and to never take them for granted. But death is altogether different"

I thought of my mother, and other relatives, like Eugene, Aunt Flo and Uncle Bart that I have lost. He noticed my newly formed tears and said, “Everyone faces love and loss some day. The most important thing that can never be taken from us is our memories. If you hold fast to that, your loved ones will live forever.”

Hemingway was impressed with the advances in science as well as the latest explorations of space to places like Mars and beyond.

He turned his attention to my father and leaned in and spoke softly.

He said,“Tell your father that he must always approach science with the best intentions for the betterment of humanity. Science is a powerful tool that can change the world, but it must be wielded with care and responsibility. As a writer, I know the impact of words, and as a scientist, your father must understand the impact of his creations. We are all connected in this world, and our actions have consequences that ripple far beyond our own existence. So, please, tell him to use his knowledge wisely and with the utmost respect for life. Every creature is here on earth for a reason."

I nodded my agreement, but I knew that my father was stubborn and he would only do what his mind wanted. My father was vain and he had a collection of various prizes he had won for science and other scholarly awards that he hung throughout the house.

Launch Day

February 14, 2023.

My dad ran upstairs to the livingroom and excitedly proclaimed that he had finally fixed the time machine. It would be able to send Hemingway back.

Hemingway was, of course, happy and thanked my dad for his effort. He was no longer angry at me for taking him to my time period and said he learned a lot from the experience.

However, my dad explained that once Hemingway arrived back to his time period, he would not retain a memory of what happened. It was part of the process to prevent him from being declared mentally unsound and perhaps put away on psychiatric drugs for the rest of his life. Hemingway was fine with that.

We said our “goodbyes” and my father promised to destroy the time machine because he no longer wanted to “play God” and felt that his inventions caused more pain than it was worth.

“For a moment, I almost let you lose your whole family,” my father admitted. I was surprised that my father had an epiphany about how his invention had nearly caused a human tragedy.

Hemingway shook hands with my father, and gave me a warm hug before he took his seat on the time machine chair. My father entered a few calculations on his computer, then hit the “enter” button. The chair around Hemingway began to fill out with smoke and in an instant, he had become transparent and disappeared.

My father was resigned to the prospect of destroying his beloved machine and felt it prudent to take it all apart the next day. I offered to help him and promised to wake him up the first thing in the morning. As my father shut the computer, a new message arrived in his email. It was a message from Hemingway which read:

“Dear Professor:

When you read this, I will be in my own time and place, enjoying life with my family. I know your daughter wanted to extend my life, but it cannot be done this way. I thank her for trying. I must live my life my way –wrinkles and all. We all have to find our own ways and if it is my fate to end up in a bad way, then so be it. I do not want to know my future!

My family members would be so worried about me. The more I leave them, the more I miss them. I cannot live my life without them, just like you cannot live without your daughter.

Being loved is so important. If there is anything that I want you to know, it is this: there is nothing bigger or better than love itself. You must love something –it doesn’t have to be a person. It can be a thing. Love what you do. Love yourself. Love something bigger than yourself. Help the world. Do something good. Your pandemic has taught me how small the world is. Everyone is interconnected.

Do not destroy what you love. Find a way to stop what you think is evil. Do good.

Yours Sincerely,

E. Hemingway.”

When my father showed me the email, my heart quickened with excitement and hope. I knew that my father would now be pausing his intentions to destroy his beloved time machine. Hemingway told him to do good. Would this mean that my father would try to go back in time once again? Would the next time be to try to stop the pandemic, or some other major event?

A new adventure had begun.

The End

Short StorySci FiHistoricalAdventure

About the Creator

C C Farley

I loved reading at an early age. Writing is also a passion and I love writing, reading, and spending time with my pets.

I also love photography, independent film making, travel and writing.

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  • Antoinette L Breyabout a year ago

    very engaging story

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