|photo from John F. Kennedy Presidential Library|
I buy that photo of him. My uncle frowns.
"I guess he was a good author, but why
did he have to kill all those animals?"
It's true. That house is full of gazelle horns
and portraits of him and strung-up marlins.
"I can't think of a single reason,"
I say. Then there are the portraits of wives
like trophies as well, the women in books,
the badly portrayed nurse in Farewell.
"I'm not even sure I like his novels,"
I say, "I just like this picture."
Uncle Lew frowns, says, "It's good. Looks like him."
I think of Hemingway, flawed every way,
but loving cats, the ceramic Picasso
cat overlooking his bedroom, its heart
a glazed sloppy valentine on its chest.
I think of the ceramic urinal
Papa salvaged one night from Sloppy Joe's
laid out and redecorated, converted
into a drinking fountain for all those
cared-for twelve-toed cats and their descendants.
Back home Lew feeds his many neutered cats.
"I've got Hemingway beat. How many'd he have?
Twenty?" And across the street Joan says,
"Those aren't Hemingway's cats. And why do they
make such a big deal about Hemingway
drinking at Sloppy Joe's? Hell, I drank
a lot right here." Lew says, "Everyone
who knew him says he hated the cats,
that people threw them into his yard
just to torment him." I start feeling sick.
Picasso's gift sculpture was a cruel joke
on his rival jerk at Gertrude Stein's house.
The urinal was a cruel joke on cats.
I imaged what Papa imagined the cats were drinking.
"I feel like a fool for buying that picture,"
I say. Lew and Joan look satisfied.
"It's okay," Lew says. "Now you know the story."