General Fiction posted January 14, 2020

This work has reached the exceptional level
an adjective-free story in the style of Hemingway

The Man and the Sea

by Mark Valentine

No adjectives allowed Contest Winner 

Death hung heavy in the air. Buzzards circled in the sky and a bell tolled in the distance. Santiago knew it tolled for him. La muerte viene, Santiago thought as he motioned to the bartender.

“Cerveza. por favor.”

“Si, Señor”, replied the bartender. The bartender knew and respected Santiago.

Santiago looked out the window as he waited for the beer. The bar was by the harbor. Further out in the ocean, marlins and tarpon ran, but Santiago knew he would not fish today. No, today he would die.  

He would not try to flee from fate. Whatever must be, must be, he thought. He would have thought it in Spanish, but Doris Day had beaten him to it. ¡Qué lástima!

He had once made love to Doris Day on a beach in Cuba. That was in 1954. Before the revolution.

He thought about the beach and Doris Day. The bartender brought him a beer and he drank. He thought about men who drink beer with fruit in it. They are not men. They cannot die for they have never lived.

Santiago did not know what form death would take, only that it would come. A bull, he thought, or perhaps a shark. He had seen “Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!”, and knew that sometimes sharks flew through the sky and bit off the limbs of the citizenry. He could see the obituary: “Santiago - A Farewell to Arms”. The pun made him smile, though the thought of an obituary reminded him that he lacked a surname.  

But of course, sharks do not fly, and bulls do not live in Key West. Santiago left the bar without having died. On the way home, he met a woman who looked like Doris Day, circa 1954. They made love. Later that spring, he died of syphilis.


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