E_ditorâ€™s note: This is the ninth installment of the fiction story â€œInside the Hollow Sun.â€ The story will run in Verve throughout the semester._
I had a message from Wendell the next time I checked my email. He told me about himself: a professor of English, 52 years old and an avid fisherman. He also said he had wanted a Hemingway implant a few years back. He ran out of the hospital 10 minutes before his appointment.
Over the weeks following my Ketchum trip, Wendell and I messaged constantly, talking about the things weâ€™d read and about each other. He couldnâ€™t have been busy since we exchanged as many as four messages a day. I, on the other hand, had nothing to do with my days except find ways to waste them.
He asked me why I chose the Hemingway implant, and I told him because I read â€œHills Like White Elephants,â€ and I never stopped thinking about it. I asked him why he chose to not get his, and he said that no one with an implant had written anything he hadnâ€™t read before. I asked him more about that, but he never addressed my question. Greg and Elizabeth called often, but I would answer sparsely, and then even more rarely, Iâ€™d meet them for lunch or coffee. For the most part, I just wanted to stay home.
Dr. Clermont ended up changing my appointment time to the end of his day, so he would have extra time to work with me. He wanted me to write again. I could tell he was disappointed with the Ketchum tripâ€™s results. I was the same mess that had gone there in the first place, but I agreed to start a journal. I was supposed to write in it daily, and Dr. Clermont didnâ€™t care what I put in it. He just wanted me to be writing something, anything.
After one session, I found Elizabeth waiting outside Clermontâ€™s office.
â€œItâ€™s been awhile,â€ she said. I stayed quiet. â€œAll right,â€ Elizabeth started. â€œI think youâ€™ve had enough time to sulk. Iâ€™ve been giving you space, but this is getting ridiculous. What have you been doing?â€
â€œNothing,â€ I replied.
She sighed. â€œHarrison, why are you doing this to me?â€ I paused and thought about it. â€œHarrison?â€
â€œElizabeth,â€ I said. â€œI am not doing anything.â€
â€œOh, really? You arenâ€™t doing anything? You might want to think about that a little more. Avoiding me? Avoiding Greg? Youâ€™ve been an ass ever since the trip.â€ I walked past her and without responding. â€œHarrison, where the hell do you think youâ€™re going?â€ Her voice echoed behind me as I stepped onto the elevator.
A couple weeks later, I was trying to write in my journal when the phone started ringing. I ignored it, but the phone rang again after the first call, and then a third time after that. I checked the caller ID: Elizabeth. I waited after the third call, and sure enough, the fourth one came. I took a sip from a bottle of whiskey before answering.
â€œHey,â€ I said.
â€œHarrison,â€ she said. Her voice was frail. â€œYou need to come down here now.â€
â€œItâ€™s Greg,â€ she said. â€œYou need to get down here now. Weâ€™re at the hospital.â€
Fiction writer Justin Goodfellow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.