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by Michael Alan……

Dear Ernest,

I thought of you the other day as I drove down Whitehead Street and nearly ran over a family of tourists. They had stepped out from between the parked cars to take pictures of your house. Your brick wall is still there. I always like to speculate about the wall. Was it to keep the tourists out as you worked? Now it keeps them in. It also keeps in the cats. I bet you would never have thought they would name a type of cat after you, but it wasn’t the African lion. Too bad. By the way, no one lives in your old house anymore. It is a tourist attraction. Remember when you wrote in “To Have and Have Not” that they were going to starve out the Conchs to make room for tourists? Turns out you didn’t have to worry about the Conchs. They ended up being a lot smarter than you thought.

In case you come back, you’ll need to know that Sloppy Joe’s moved a block away. You’ll see it — if you can fight your way through the cruise ship hordes on any given day. You’ll be glad to know that writers are still here. Some of them have been pretty damn good, too. Speaking of the Conchs, you’ll be glad to know they are pretty much over the cruise ships. They voted against widening the ship channel. It’s something, but I guess the door isn’t completely closed on that issue. You could still get Pilar in and out, but you would have to get over your habit of shooting sharks. You probably learned your lesson that time you shot yourself in the legs.

I am writing because I am sure that you have been very busy, what with settling into Heaven and all. I imagine it takes some time to re-connect with family, parents, children, wives, ex-wives and so on. It could take quite a while to balance it all out. It’s funny, but when I think about it, you felt the same way about Key West as the rest of us. You get caught up in the place. You feel so much at home that you become a little possessive. You are surprised by how welcome and at home you feel. Even though you believe you are choosing Key West, somehow Key West is choosing you.

So, because you have been out of touch for a while, I will bring you up to date. That way when you check back in, you won’t be too surprised. One thing to watch out for though — because it could seriously freak you out — is July. You might see a bunch of guys dressed like you running around town. It is weird, but I guess it’s the price you pay for fame, kind of like all those literary parodies. Then again, nobody writes parodies unless you have a style. I guess there is comfort in that. You had a style.


by Michael Alan

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