<i> Here is the the winning entry in the 10th International Imitation Hemingway Competition, by Dave and Diana Curtin of Newport Beach. : </i> : In Another Contra

The man loved Harry’s. He could always get what he needed at Harry’s. Too bad Harry’s Bar was a world away and he was wounded and weary and would walk no farther. The man was going to settle for the stinking seaside bodega and that was bad and he would hate himself later. He spat in disgust--carefully downwind, as the Patagonian gypsy had taught him--then he kicked in the front door.

The man, whose name was nondescript, unslung his maquina and placed it on the bartop, gently, as if it was asleep and he wished not to wake it. It was his favorite machine gun. They had been together for years. Men who knew of guns and subordinate clauses said that when the gun was fired, it leapt and twisted with the iridescent violence of a taildancing black marlin, yet it was not nearly so slimy.

“A good and fine weapon, senor. Who is its maker?” The barman reached for the gun but recoiled when it growled at him.


The man eyed his host warily, wondering if he took Visa . “My weapon is a Deus X, model 20.”

“Ah, a Deus X maquina. A miraculous and convenient device, eh?” The barman looked like a fat weasel, the man thought to himself. “Si, many villains have been foiled, many conflicts resolved with one of these doozies, have they not, senor ?”

“You’ve got a hell of a breath,” the man replied. Be careful, the man said to himself. This cabron speaks with a sadness you have heard before. It is badness. It is the sadness that comes before they quit or they betray. It is the sadness before the big sell-out.

The barman smiled his weasel smile. “Perhaps you would like to buy my cafe, senor ? For you, nada down. Nada y nada for six months and included are all the wild game trophies on the walls. I ran them all over myself, and not with a filthy automatic transmission. All the sporting way, with stick shift.”

The barman’s words were lost as the cafe echoed with the sounds of killing. “This day is the worst,” said the man. “The poor bastards keep dropping like flies.”

“But senor, they are flies. It is the mosca frita, my bug zapper.” The barman fought back his weasel tears. “They seek the light. That is their downfall.”

“I seek the light also,” said the man. “As long as it tastes great and is not too filling.”

The two men in overcoats at the end of the bar scowled and fingered their violin cases. “Did you heart that, Al?” the one not named Al said. “We got ourselves a bright boy. He says he seeks the light, just like a real bright boy. Know what we do to bright boys?”

“Aw, don’t get sore,” said the man. “Finish your bevo and go easy on the repetitive wordplay. I have a headache already. I got it when I brought the little gorillas down to the beach to teach them manly things and instead the lousy wimps want to build sand castles!”

“Oh, senor ,” groaned the barman. “They will surely become the worst kind of mososos--Sandy Kneestas!”

It was too late. They had found him and they came at him shrieking their horrible whining cries--Uncle Murray, we’re hungry! Uncle Murray, we’re sunburned and we want to go home! He felt the gun jump in his hands, the barrel climbing with each burst. It was an excellent watergun with new batteries and he was soaking them good. They tore at his ankles. He turned to the barman. “Will you help us?”

The answer came from under the bar. “Of course, senor. Take my Audi. Please.”