On First Drafts

While cleaning up the office this morning, I saw a pile of handwritten notebook paper. My first thought was that it was from some of my early work on “THOD.” But when I picked the papers up and started reading them, I discovered it was something else entirely.

It was a partial first draft of “Santora.”

When I got the call to write my chapter of Potato Moon, the increasingly pointless round-robin parody of the Twilight series Peter David is hosting on his website, I had in mind what I wanted to do — an Ernest Hemingway parody. I hadn’t been following the story as it developed, I wasn’t inclined to catch up, I didn’t know jack about Twilight and its sequels, so my natural inclination was to punt — write something completely random and disconnected. My first instinct was to take a word salad spam and submit that; why take something pointless seriously? I’m not sure when the idea of a Hemingway parody entered my consciousness, but it may have been because of a review of the complete A Moveable Feast in The Atlantic.

At some point, then, I started scribbling out my ideas for a Hemingway parody. I didn’t use these when writing “Santora,” however. I wrote words down, set them aside, and forgot about them until today. And I wrote “Santora” very rapidly — it was 2,500 words, produced in about three hours, entirely in Notepad.

For history’s sake, however, here is the first draft of “Santora,” as I wrote it out longhand, with a pen that bled through the paper.

I thought of that summer in Paris. The city was gay as the Parisians celebrated their liberation from the Germans. There were parades in the streets and flags flying from the buildings. These were good days and we hoped they would never end.

I met him in the bar. He was a big man, the American. He was a writer. He had fought in the seen action in the last war and he talked spoke of those days with sadness and fervor. He drank red wine, and his bottle was never empty and I thought in the early hours of morning that he would not have the stamina to go on drinking but he surprised me in the Parisian night. He offered me wine but I did not take it. I told him I did not drink wine and he said that every man should drink wine.

We spoke of many things that summer and it was the conversation of the potato that I remember most.

“I like bullfighting I have gone to Spain many times and I have watched men enter the ring and look the stare down the bull. These men have no fear. They know a single death awaits them and yet they continue to place their lives in harm’s way. It is a savage sport and it is an honorable sport.

“Ten years ago I saw Senor Mendoza was renowned as the greatest of the bullfighters. I had seen him many times and we dined that spring. We drank late into the night and we talked of wine and women and the bulls. These were good days and they should never have ended. Mendoza was not just a fighter. Mendoza was an artist in the ring he was lyrical like a poet.

“I watched Mendoza die. He lost his footing, he fell to the ground. The bull charged him and Mendoza was trampled. No one knew what had caused Mendoza to fall. Some thought there was a bright flash in the stands as though people were sparkling in the spring sun. We would never know.

“I returned to my villa and I drank red wine with my friends. We would be sad this night, but we would return tomorrow. Mendoza would have understood. Mendoza would have approved. A woman came and she rubbed my head and we drank wine together and it was good.

The first page ends here. The second page takes place in the middle of the first page.

Instead I drank vodka. It was Russian, made of potato, and it burned as it went down. I wondered why a bar in Paris should have Russian vodka and the American laughed at my naivete.

“The Germans drink vodka, too. They are a hard people, the Germans. They fight and they love and they drink. Perhaps they have captured a distillery in the Ukraine or the Belarus. They can get their vodka from there.”

“You do not drink the vodka.”

“I do not drink the vodka. I prefer the wine. France produces much wine and it is good. The Germans should have kept the wine.”

“You do not believe in the war.”

“I have seen war. War is not good.”

Without reading “Santora,” I can see the general beats of the Hemingway section’s beginning are here. The phrasings are different, I know, and there are some turns of phrasing here that I like.

I don’t know if Potato Moon is still ongoing. I was surprised it was still running as late at Shore Leave in mid-July. (I could pop over to PAD’s website and check, but I can’t be arsed. It did reach the point where I figured out the WordPress RSS feed syntax to exclude the Potato Moon posts from my RSS reader.)

I, however, enjoyed writing “Santora.” It was fun. Contrary to popular belief, I do not write like Hemingway on a regular basis. No, I try to write like Fitzgerald. ;)

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