Editorâ€™s note: This is the seventh installment of the fiction story â€œInside the Hollow Sun,â€ which will run in Verve throughout the rest of the semester.
We all got up early the next morning. Elizabeth showered while Officer Burling and I drank coffee. The TV was playing the news on a low volume, and Officer Burling watched it while I studied the view outside the window.
Bald Mountain dominated the view. Trees were in full bloom from the summer weather, and they littered every hillside on the mountain. The town itself was small, but it felt comfortable. I could live here, I thought to myself as I sipped my coffee.
By the time the news ended, Elizabeth and I were ready to go. Officer Burling downed the rest of his coffee, and we went out to the car. It took us a little while to find the cemetery despite the GPS unit in the car. I sat with clenched fists as the minutes passed us by.
â€œSwear it should be right over here,â€ Officer Burling muttered.
â€œTry going left up here,â€ Elizabeth said. I nudged her arm and she smiled.
Officer Burling stopped the car fast and turned around. â€œYou shut the hell up,â€ he said. Then he took off again, continuing his whispered speech.
We finally made it to the cemetery, realizing that weâ€™d already passed it. Officer Burling pretended to ignore this fact. We all got out and approached the entrance: a black metal arch. Elizabeth held my arm as we walked underneath it. Officer Burling stayed a few yards behind us.
â€œSo here we finally are,â€ Elizabeth said.
â€œYeah,â€ I replied. â€œFinally.â€ We followed the cemetery path as it began to loop. I had pictured a statue in my mind, maybe of Hemingway in a boat, or just him standing in some dignified position. I scanned the area and only saw pine trees between the numerous tombstones. Two large pine trees stood out on the path. As we walked up, I looked down at the markers.
Two granite grave markers laid flat on the ground. One had the name Mary Hemingway on it, but the other belonged to him. I crouched next to it, and Elizabeth did the same. She stretched out her hand and traced it along the grave marker. I decided to do the same.
â€œYou know what,â€ Elizabeth said.
â€œWhat?â€ I asked.
â€œIâ€™ve never actually read any Hemingway.â€
â€œNot a page of it,â€ she said.
We both crouched in silence for a moment, until I started laughing. I couldnâ€™t stop. I donâ€™t know why I did it, but Elizabeth didnâ€™t seem to mind. Eventually my laugh started sputtering into something else. It sounded like hiccups until I felt tears. I began to sob.
Elizabeth tightened her grip on my arm and sat me down as I cried and gasped for breath. I couldnâ€™t remember the last time Iâ€™d done this.
â€œNeed a minute?â€ Elizabeth asked. I was still crying too hard to respond. She stood up and called to Officer Burling. He came up and guided her away from me. I clenched my bandaged wrists and cried harder than I could ever remember. I, Harrison Knapp-Hem, was sitting six feet above what remained of Ernest Miller Hemingway.
Fiction writer Justin Goodfellow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.