Ernest Hemingway, Mary Poppins, Julius Kelp and Henry Jekyll walk into a bar.¹
Hemingway does what he’s been doing since before you got here and orders a whiskey and soda. The bartender points to the top shelf but is shooed down a level or two. He settles on an unremarkable mickey, but before he can pour it into a glass, Ernie snatches the bottle and lays it on the counter in front of him before claiming a stool. He won’t be leaving until it’s gone, so we can cut out the middleman.
Hemingway is overheard at the tail end of a spiel he imparts regularly on anyone who will listen. “…anthrax, malaria, pneumonia, dysentery, skin cancer, hepatitis, anemia, diabetes, high blood pressure, two plane crashes, a ruptured kidney, a ruptured spleen, a ruptured liver, a crushed vertebra, and a fractured skull. Wouldn’t you?” The writer laughs and takes another swig from the bottle.
Jekyll is leaning against the opposite end of the bar, which already has a lineup of his empty tumblers sitting on it. The busboy’s attempt to clear the glasses is thwarted by the increasingly disruptive patron who doesn’t appear to have any more use for them. Jekyll excuses himself to the bathroom and returns a minute later wearing a discordant snarl and resembling a different man. “Bring me another one, you fracking drillhole,” he slurs, seemingly directed at the bartender. “Put it on Jekyll’s tab.” He is not referring to himself in the third person – whenever he gets to this point, it’s only accurate to start calling him Hyde.
Julius had resigned himself to a dark corner of the room as soon as he got here. But he’s just finished his third martini and is starting to spout some stories. A cluster of enthralled customers is gathering around him, growing along with his confidence at every sip. “I have this buddy – you’d love him – we used to work together in the lab. Now this guy left me hysterical on the regular, and one day he challenged me to strut into a first-year psych classroom and — hold on, everyone. Does anyone else smell that interruption?”
The stench of a soiled man wafts through the room. Hyde puts up as much of a denial as he can muster, which is none. He willingly yells, “Fine, it was me. Go back to your —” before trailing off, not realizing no one was even accusing him directly. He slumps down in his corner booth and drifts off.
Mary giggles as she passes his table and wanders over to Julius, who goes back to regaling the regulars with acceptable half-truths. She finally removes her coat and hangs it over a chair before gently laying her umbrella at her feet. “Oh professor, that’s so nutty! Hee hee! This is nice. Isn’t this nice?”
“Nice?!” It’s Hemingway, who turned around in his seat solely to rain on the merriment and reign in the bacchanalia. “You don’t have a clue, missus! This frigger won’t shut up. He’s in here every night, starting out like a normie, keeping to hisself, and then forgets how to close his yapper long enough to pour any booze down it.”
“Let me buy you a drink, Ern,” Julius calmly offers. “Barkeep, two of whatever he’s having.”
The author feigns gratitude to the man he was disparaging seconds earlier, happy enough to get another whiskey soda for free.
The professor approaches the bar and puts his arm around the recipient of his kindness, diverting his attention so he can slip a mickey into his drink – a real mickey, laced with arsenic and, for good measure, a dose of plutonium. As lively as a bit of booze gets him, The doctor has no time for anyone telling him how to act, and even less time for anyone who tells his secret paramour, the lovely Mary, she’s clueless. Hemingway downs his drink in one gulp, unknowingly resigning himself to a certain, painful death, only minutes away.
Mary, herself reeling a little from Hemingway’s earlier rudeness, picks up her umbrella and sneaks up behind him. She stabs the pointy end straight through the author’s back, enough for the tip to press up against his chest from the inside. He gurgles blood and slinks down in his stool. Mary and Julius lock eyes and dash towards the door, neither one wanting to be around when the murder is complete.
Mr. Hyde, who was awoken by the commotion and began watching the scene play out from across the room, doesn’t like being left out of a fight, not the way he’s feeling now, anyway. He reaches into his inside coat pocket and retrieves a pistol, aiming it at Hemingway’s head. The poison is now starting to take effect, and as Ernest’s final thoughts involve trying to determine if he’s actually being killed by Julius or Mary, he now has to face down the barrel of a gun as well. Hyde shoots, and author brains scatter throughout the bar. The shooter runs out after the couple, leaving a now very dead man behind him.
Hemingway’s favourite anecdote involved telling the listener all the ways he’d almost died and how they lead to the drink. Now in Hell, he’ll need to amend the list to include the final three, all of which played a role in his ultimate death. “Well, devilman,” he’ll say, ending with his signature laugh, “over the course of my life, I was a victim of anthrax, malaria, pneumonia, dysentery, skin cancer, hepatitis, anemia, diabetes, high blood pressure, two plane crashes, a ruptured kidney, a ruptured spleen, a ruptured liver, a crushed vertebra, a fractured skull, AND a lethal dose of poison, a pointy umbrella stab through the heart, and a fatal gunshot to the brain. Wouldn’t you?”
¹ According to science, there are four types of drunks.