Ernest Hemingway was born (one hundred and) sixteen years ago today. In honor of the occasion, you are cordially invited to his Sweet 16.

It’s an overcast day. You’re at a small Spanish café. You sit at a table, waiting for the birthday boy. When you order, you tell the waiter you’re there for your buddy’s Sweet 16. “A big one,” he says. “A small one too.”

You don’t know quite what he means. You nod. There are hills in the distance. Their shadows look like hands. Long hands. Reaching hands. A shadow falls across from you. You look up and there he is.

“Hey buddy. Thanks for inviting me. Happy sweet 16!” you say. He looks at you as he takes a sip of his drink. You wonder where he got it. Before you can ask, he says, “Sweet. I knew a girl who was sweet.”

“Oh, is she coming too?” You feign surprise, not wanting to spoil anything. He always did call you — what was it? A second-rate matador.

“She’s gone,” he says. “She was beautiful. She wasn’t sweet.”

“Oh. Um. I’m Sorry. Yeah, exes can be rough, but we don’t have to talk about that on your birthday.”

Under the table, you text his ex. Jumping out of a cake seemed like a nice surprise at the time, it might have been a bad call. Abort mission you start to type, but you pause. White elephants you type instead. Take the elephants away!

WTF?? she texts back. What does that even mean? You ignore her and put your phone away. No wonder they didn’t last.

The waiter brings him the cake you ordered. “Your friend said it was your birthday.”

“All men grow older,” he says to the waiter. “No matter how young and strong and true. I’m young and strong, though not as young as I used to be.”

“It’s a nice day for it,” the waiter says.

He swirls his drink in his glass. “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”

Under the table, your foot nudges the “Happy Sweet 16!!!!” balloon. You had been waiting for the right moment to spring on him out. Now, you hesitate. Maybe that was a bad call too.


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