I, Hemingway, am directing Robert Benchley in his last movie, “Don Of Agriculture;” it’s 1945, and the war is over, tuxedoed, beyond the herd. A big, splashy film with lots of “numbers” will move us into common-denominator predication. Waking Robert, “Don,” for the day’s “shoot,” I finger the pencil-thin “stash” that I’ll give him for the assignment.
“I am leaving after this picture,” Don announces, his eyes bugging out at me. “Print that.”
“Is it a matter of getting tired of fertilizer?” I ask, figuring that I’ll lighten the mood.
Don, knighting me with his cigarette holder: “I’m feeling a lot of ager right now. Roots!”
We discuss the 40 acres and a male that he was promised, the last Ice Age collapse; he sweeps the western horizon of his field with a cavalier hand, probably his, from one of those director chairs with his name on the back in black crayon, spills martini in the morning twilight and sings, “They take that. They take America! Jose’, can you see?”
Animals have been overwhelming Don’s cultivation efforts. “The Sahara,” he intones slowly, majestically, pointing at HIS freshly-tilled cinematic farmland, which he paid somebody else to ready, way before 1949. “Niger, Britain, Scandinavia? Sunrise?”
Don, the Comrade Secretary Minister Of Agriculture, quips that he can do nothing about the herds. He must allow his livelihood and life’s work to be destroyed. He refuses to pay protection money and is selling his land, abandoning agriculture. A hunt, then, ends it all.
“I’m the Salvador Dalai Lama,” he crustily proclaims. “You want grass. Further, you desire death on arrival, a mice and men. I have sent in over 250 complaints; it’s ‘Heart Of Darkness.’ You’ve had good faith and need possession; you’re through with cat-and-mouse games, miss good dogs: to hell with all livestock! Buy, develop acreage. Sit by, watch while your work and the labor of your fathers is destroyed? Deny! Stand guard over God’s Perfect Soil! Be not simply a security force but a new movement. Big finish.”
Secure land, expand operations, teach. Here come beasts of burden, armed. We’ll need night vision goggles, an all-terrain vehicle and a new hoe. Let us also need to choose an expansion direction. I’m all for going west. Who’s with me? Don? Go(o)d Mr. Benchley?
He’s getting coffee. “Tired of fighting, being courageous, winning, defeating enemies,” I hear him offer from around the giant green union Thermos. “Make jokes,” he says, dancing back, “like ‘willing and Abel.’ Atomic Bomb’s in my cup. Go away, Busby. Oz has spoken, Ozymandias. I was funny, before marriage. A jockey, Ol’ Glory and the personal as idea, politically, form, farm our mourning sun.”
Don pours concrete over us, plants a few flowers, declares, “Very well.” I can get him work as a blackjack dealer in Puerto Rico, set him up at a beach casino. I expire; Benchley laughs, carves a life-sized petroglyph of the Statue of Liberty into our remains.