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Hunting a Tiger In Africa, by Ernest Hemingway
A literary parody from a new collection, The Satanic Nurses.- March 11, 2003
This story, which I found behind a filing cabinet in a maintenance closet at Esquire magazine, is believed to be Hemingway's last unpublished work. It concerns an ill-fated safari the author took to the African Congo in November 1957, when he was thought to be in the middle of a five-day drunk at the Ritz Hotel in Paris. I have left the text exactly as Hemingway wrote it, except for occasional routine corrections of spelling, grammar, punctuation, structure, and narrative. I also changed the title from the author's original, less poetic "African Tiger Piece—Crap—Do Not Publish."
The mornings were thin and dry and the purple sky hung low off the green hills. We had been camping out on the plains for three weeks looking for the tiger and we had not yet found it, but the room service had been very good. Every morning we had eggs and bacon and ham and beans and brioche and Mary had Cafe au lait and I had pernod with pernod, and they were wonderful breakfasts. We'd lie in bed and make love in the morning and then have breakfast again and then listen to Miss Piaf on the radio. This morning was no different from the other mornings except that I had an extra pernod with pernod and Mary ate her brioche with a spoon instead of a fork and then she looked at me severely.
"You're not going hunting in that, are you?"
"I was planning to, yes."
I changed into my grey Brooks Brothers suit with the fine weave and my Oxford shoes. We looked for the tiger, the one with my name written on it. There were no tigers but there were elks and giraffes and gazelles and we shot all of them. If you want to kill an animal you have to respect it and then you have to love it and then you have to kill it. It is not easy to kill a thing you admire so much, but as the homosexual writer Oscar Wilde said, every man kills the thing he loves.
It was then on the plain in the middle of the tall grasses that I saw him standing, tall and majestic. It was an old lion but it had Mary's name on it. Why someone would write "MARY" on the side of a lion is anybody's guess, but there it was and there was nothing to do, Mary had to shoot it. I handed her the gun. She aimed and fired. She missed the lion with her name on it and shot the lion with my name on it. It was a bigger lion because my name is a bigger name, and it went down heavily.
"Sorry, Hem, I shot your lion."
"It doesn't matter."
"It does matter. I know you're upset."
"Forget it. It was just a lion."
"But didn't you want it?"
"No, it doesn't matter, let's go back to the camp, I have to pee."
At the base camp I found the men's room. There was only one urinal, made entirely of ivory, and Scott Fitzgerald was standing at it, staring down at his genitals. "Hey, Hem," he said in his slightly girlish voice, which worried you, until you thought about it, and then it worried you even more. "Do you think my penis is too small?"
"It's fine, Scott. Zip up and go home to your wife."
"But doesn't it look small?" He squinted down at his equipment, and then he squinted some more. Then he stopped squinting.
"You're looking at it from a bad angle," I told him. "It's fine. Go home and make love to your wife. Put a pillow under her ass. Just get out of the way, I have to piss."
Fitzgerald got out of the way. I stepped up, unzipped, and started pissing. I thought of how the elks piss--always standing up and holding their penises tightly with their front hoofs. I thought of elephants pissing, lifting up a hind leg like a large dog. Then I thought of the lion with my name on it, how Mary had shot it and how it would never piss again.
· · ·
We had lunch in a little place called Chez Mitzi, not far from Mount Kilimanjaro, around the corner from the Place Vendome. I had a pernod with a whiskey and Mary had a camembert milkshake, which she said was not so good. Afterwards, coming out of the revolving doors, Mary caught one of her fingers on the edge of the door, and I said there was nothing to do in a case like this, we'd have to deal with it. It was a long way from the base camp and we'd never get a cab now, not with the rain like it was. We couldn't leave her there because then the wild game would get her or maybe the hat check girl. It was best to deal with it now, quickly and surely as things had to be done.
"It's only a bruise, Hem. Just give me a Band-Aid."
I knew she was being brave and the best thing would be to put her out of her misery and shoot her as we had done with poor little Bumby when he fell off his tricycle in Cuba. It was a tough thing to do, but not as tough as not doing it, and as with Bumby it had to be done. I took my Wesson double-barreled shotgun and shot Mary just behind the left ear. It was a clean shot and she went down heavily like the old lion with my name on it.
· · ·
It is a Zulu custom that what you kill you have to eat. It is a good custom. I dragged Mary back to the base camp and we cooked her up with an Alfredo cream sauce. It tasted like chicken. The Zulu chief thanked me and gave me a teenage Wakamba love slave called Iris Grendale. She was black as the African night and she said she'd just finished her freshman year at Vassar and was working as an intern at Glamour magazine or maybe it was Mademoiselle. It didn't matter. She had high cheekbones and high breasts and an expense account. All she talked about was shopping at Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf-Goodman and B. Altman and Bloomingdale's, and I told her I didn't much care for shopping and then I told her to shut up. We went into her tent. All over the walls were pictures of Mr. Presley and Mr. Brando. We made love, quickly and severely, and then I left to go out hunting again.
· · ·
I walked several hours on the plains. The light was turning grey as the sun was going down over the green hills of Africa, and I saw a large, heavy animal peeing majestically with its hind hooves holding its proud penis. It was not an African tiger, it was a marshelt, which looks more like an African tiger than an African tiger does—if you don't know what an African tiger looks like. I let it go. I felt bad about having shot Mary after she shot my lion and eating her with the Zulu doctor, but it was the way of the jungle and it was what you had to do. And what else could you do anyway? And then there was Iris Glendale. And besides, there was a party in Tent 11B.
· · ·
When I got back to the base camp Marlene Dietrich was standing at the billiard table and she was up 900 dollars. The Zulus were brave, majestic people, but they were not good billiard players. The Kraut looked over at me.
"I heard what happened with Mary."
"Just as well. She was a lousy cook."
The party was getting very crowded now and someone started a conga line. I stood by the side of the tent and watched the young people enjoy themselves the way young people do. The witch doctor, whom the local natives had taken to calling "Bully Willis" after he won the middleweight boxing championship in Chicago in 1926, asked me what I was doing in the Congo.
"Hunting a tiger," I told him.
"There are no tigers in Africa," said Bully.
I thought about this for a while, and then I thought some more, and then I stopped thinking.
"In that case, Bully, just give me a double Scotch."
"Right you are, Papa. Coming right up."
J.B. Miller is the author of a novel, as well as several plays and screenplays, has written for The New York Times and Salon.com, and once thought he saw W.H. Auden outside the firehouse on West Third Street. (It turned out to be someone else.) "Hunting a Tiger in Africa, by Ernest Hemingway," is excerpted from Satanic Nurses and Other Literary Parodies, copyright 2003 by J.B. Miller. Excerpted with permission from St. Martin's Press, LLC. Buy The Satanic Nurses at Amazon.com
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