The next morning, after having a pleasant bath at an almost deserted beach – the cool and tame water felt so good soon in the morning, provoking a healthful chill in the column that wakes one up, with languor, for a new day –, I was searching for the Complete Angler and the house of the famous writer, following with my memory the precise indications of the appearance and also the drawings in a new map of the Bimini that they had given me at the hotel.
I reached the place by noon, after having taken an invigorating breakfast side by side with three local fishermen and having been lost for a pair of times, the second of which intentionally, so that I could observe other attractions on the islands.
The tourists knew exactly why they were coming and where they could find what they were looking for, as a swarm of numerous bees searching for the most precious pollen: they were aligning outside and preparing themselves patiently to enter the house, in an orderly line that was still meandering some good five hundred meters along the outside wall.
There were entire families coming, with lap babies on who desperate mothers threaded colorful caps and dark eyeglasses at the same time that they were trying to still their cry to the cost of sugared ice creams, there were also coming adolescents carrying full packages of fried chicken smearing the hands that they would clean later to the curtains of the house-museum, there were finally coming collectors of all the unknown manuscripts and personal objects on which Hemingway had some day, still that per brief seconds, placed his hands.
At my front on the row, a gentleman was holding with a very white cloth napkin a glass on his hand: he wanted to show it to the one responsible for the museum because he guaranteed that “mister Ernest” had left there, on that crystalline and translucent surface to the strong tropics sun by the tenth-second hour of the day, his precious fingerprint – holding the glass with two fingers only for it’s tiny stem, the collector told me that he intended to demand a sturdy reimbursement to the responsible authorities in order to be able to leave that valuable exemplar in a show window of the museum.
At this moment I felt a certain pity because the ghost didn’t leave any visible marks of fingers in the objects where he touched; it only seemed weird to me that the man was handling such a delicate glass on his hands and not a quite massive and manly container, destined preferentially to receive whiskey, but I didn’t verbalize my doubt because I intended to be discrete and didn’t want to hurt my row neighbour’s feelings.
Half an hour later I passed through the gate with the ogival arc, followed the stroll that tore the garden and entered in the Compleat Angler with much bad-humour – my feet were frankly killing me. Two American tourists were seated at the bar with huge mugs of beer mollifying in front of them and a Dutchman squeezed between the two was voraciously eating the content of a small peanuts bowl: they were speaking about The Old Man and the Sea, exchanging ideas and collating divergent opinions. «These turnips – I thought –, besides invading a space that does not belong to them, still they manage to get empty all the bottles that they can at the bar, as well as the deposits with the malt provisions».
I sat down at a table a bit distant from them and asked the waiter for a gasified water – which I knew that wouldn’t be missed by anyone afterwards –, then I took off the summer shoes that I had put on that morning, I folded the hotel map in a fan form and, with a sudden enthusiasm, I observed all the details related with the Bar that I would absolutely need to know. I flung a kind-hearted last look to the space at the exit, as one who abandons home comforted in a certain way.
«So, this one is the house» I thought uneasy when entering the museum. There were all the personal objects that I had never seen before and already knew in detail, in a compound of dusty solemnity and animals murdering hymn: several writing instruments mixed with firearms and old papers, stern candelabra with marks of bullets on their supports, what I did not know if they were daggers or giant sized, sharp open-letters instruments; numerous dead animals with their eyes opened were observing us frightened on every nook of the house and, as an aside remark of almost impressive vivacity, there were those greasy stains left by some adolescent fingers in the shady curtains. «Kentucky Fried Chicken» I murmured amused, while launching an abetter look towards the couple of German tourists who had entered the leaving room with me; two just-arrived pairs of Japanese visitors circulated moreover through the office, denoting a discrete and reverent curiosity.
Immersed was the house, due to its enormous opened shutters, in a superb white light, only once in a while tinted by the tenuous shadow of the high palm trees dancing in the wind. I did not delay myself in that place beyond the time necessary to glimpse once again the ghost’s face blinking a sapphire eye at me, roguish, in the antique cupboard mirror (I didn’t have the courage not to repay the courtesy...) and to observe all the details related with the House which I would absolutely need to know.
I’ve moved off the hotel that same night, just as I had forecasted: I lodged in a more modest place, without a private bathroom, and in a different island from that one where the house-museum could be found. I woke up very early in the next morning to visit the Sloppy Joe's Bar, a must-place which the ghost had advised to me without any doubt: once inside the bar, I could not discern more than one hundred tourist heads, as busy clicking the photographic machines around them as withdrawing the present locals quietness, who they insistently massacred with derisive questions about a bearded American who had passed there in the last century’s thirties decade, when most of the people there wouldn’t surely even be born yet.
This scenario both saddened and galvanized me – by filling my heart with an incredible anger that was increasing all day long, helping me so that I could later satisfy, without vacillating for a brief second, the sordid wish the phantom had asked me for. I’ve spent the whole afternoon on the beach taming the ire as I could and sinking my legs in the spume of different tides; I bought a ticket aboard the passage boat to the following dawn and waited for the sun to quench his flaming hairs on the Atlantic Ocean, on a vibrant party.
I then went to get the luggage to that humble hotel and brought them to a boarding house even worse, in the city where the house-museum was placed, having the caution of lodging myself under a fake name in a ground floor room, and paying in advance for the sleeping night. I did not undo my suitcases; I locked the room door on the inside and immediately jumped out to the street through the room’s front window, which I left opened in the lock.
I was sauntering relaxed down the sidewalk relishing the night coolness on my face and bearing a small backpack, in the interior of which I was carrying six conserve cans and used yoghurt bottles, full with gasoline, a box with six matches inside and two fuses of six meters each one (following to the scratch the ghost indications, the number six was imposed thanks to superstition, wisdom or any other reason still unknown to me).
It was not difficult to accomplish successfully the plan, neither to return the boarding house, get the luggage on my hands and leave in that same daybreak on board of the passage boat to a luxurious golf course planted amidst the Caribbean Sea, thus taking advantage of what was still left to me of that exceptional vacation package.
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