By Mei Mei Arms, IV Form
Get Well Soon: Dialogue in the Style of Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants”
Editor’s Note: The purpose of this creative writing assignment in IV Form Writing Workshop was to build a better comprehension of implicit and explicit facts in writing pieces and to become acquainted with a specific creative writing style. Students chose to emulate the writing style of one of three short stories read in class: “Harrison Bergeron,” “Hills like White Elephants,” or “Cathedral”. Students were expected to employ the same literary devices that the authors of the original short stories used. Those who chose to imitate “Hills like White Elephants” were expected to convey a message without directly stating it.
The room held flowers, cards, balloons, bears, and stale air. The flowers had long since lost their sweet aroma to the cruel hands of time. Cards sat unread. Those shiny stiff “get well soon” balloons still bobbed halfheartedly in a corner by a window. Along the bed sat bears, tens of them, their kind bead eyes meant to make you feel some sort of happy, but were left collecting dust with sorrow on their machine stitched faces. A father and son sat in two plush chairs alongside of a bookcase, filled with dead flowers. This moment had been a long time coming, more than a year.
“She wouldn’t like that you left this here for so long,” the son said. “When are you planning to move it?”
“Like I haven’t thought of that everyday for the last year,” the father replied.
The two sat in silence.
“You know, I never meant to upset you.”
“I wasn’t ready to let her go.”
“Well, she’s gone,” the son said.
“I can see that,” the father said, looking his son up and down for the first time.
The father got up and walked out of the room. A few moments later he returned with an armful of picture frames.
“How am I supposed to look at you when all I see is her,” the father said, throwing the frames on the bed, defiling the stack of bears.
“I’m still here.”
“It’s not the same.”
“It could be, let me explain.”
“You and your mother just made this snap decision,” he took a breath and shook his head, “then when she pulled the plug on treatment I just couldn’t handle it. I’ll never understand.”
“If you’d just let me explain things.”
“Now’s not the time.”
They stood in silence.
The son ran his fingers along the glass of a frame.
“I remember this,” the son said, thumbing the pasta that spelled out “Sam’s 5th B-day”, a picture of a smiling child and their mother.
“I miss that.”
“I do, too.”
The two sat in silence looking through the pictures. They laughed and shared their first real moment in a year.
“Take a look at this.”
An old photo of a little girl playing in puddles on a rainy day.
“You know, your mother always thought girls ought to learn to play in the mud.”
The two knelt by the bed in silence.
“Dad, can I please say something to you?”
The father did not respond.
“Mom and I spent a lot of time talking about what came next, and whether or not you can believe this, she was happy with the decision.”
“Why didn’t you talk to me about it? You could have given me some time to adjust and time to accept it.”
“We knew you wouldn’t have let it happen.”
“Yeah, you’re right. How’s San Francisco.”
“Oh, it’s really great Dad.”
“Why didn’t you come home?”
“I didn’t think you’d want me back. When Mom was getting sicker, and her driving that distance with me to see the doctor became unrealistic, getting an apartment in the city made sense. Plus you made it pretty clear how you felt about the whole situation. I just thought it was best if I didn’t come back.”
“We could have found a doctor here.”
They moved back to the chairs and sat in silence.
“Do people know about ‘her’?”
“Do they know about me?”
“Those who know about ‘her,’ know about you.”
“What was the change like?”
The son thought deeply about the weight of the question.
“Well, it was lonely at first. After Mom died, I didn’t have anyone to talk to. I was in uncharted territory without a clue as to what I was supposed to do or feel. It took a few months to start to feel comfortable. People stopped questioning me as frequently, then finally the questioning stopped. I started to make friends, and I met someone.”
“Did you tell….”
“I know you must be surprised.”
“Why are you here?”
“I came for Mom’s ring.”
“What do you mean no.”
“I know what your mother said and she’s gone now so it’s up to me to make these big decisions and I am saying no.”
“Like Mom being gone changes anything. You wouldn’t have wanted to give it to me, and Mom would’ve told you how small minded and useless your intolerances are. ”
“I don’t believe in this and I can’t condone it by giving you the ring.”
“She told me this would happen, she told me if I didn’t take it while she was alive you’d never give it to me. But if you don’t want to give it to me, fine, you live with the guilt.”
The son got up, grabbed his jacket off the paisley chair, slammed the front door, got into his car, and drove away.
His father turned towards the window and watched his son drive out of his life. Then he stood up, walked to the bookcase, grabbed an orange medicine bottle, and left the room. He then walked into the bathroom, opened the bottle, poured the contents into his hand, fiddled with the antique ring, and dropped it down the drain.
Mei-Mei Arms is a IV Form day student from Southborough, MA. She plays Varsity softball and is an avid artist.