Short Story #255: Babylon Revisited by F Scott Fitzgerald

Title:  Babylon Revisited

Author:  F Scott Fitzgerald


Photo of F Scott Fitzgerald. Image source:
Charlie visits the "American" Ritz bar in Paris, partly relieved and partly surprised to find none of his friends there from before.  He briefly recalls those earlier days when lives a lavish life, enjoying the profits of the stock market.  Charlie chats with the bartender and who chats him up about his past.  Charlie's been in Prague doing some business.  They recall a mutual friend of the bar who no longer comes around after running up an exorbitant bill.  Later in the conversation, Charlie explains that he's in Paris to see his little girl for a few days.  He leaves the bar and travels through the city recalling memories and how his life used to be.  He arrives to visit his daughter and she is happy to see him.  She is in the care of his sister-in-law and her husband who are less than happy to see him.  In their discussion, he tells them things are going well.  They tell him that things have been good in Paris with the millionaires gone and that Honoria (the daughter) has been well.  It's also hinted that Charlie has a bit of an alcohol problem as it is mentioned that he only permits himself one drink a day.  After dinner, he continues to wander the city to casinos, shows, and other places he regularly frequented before.  Some, he goes into and others he just passes by.  Some things are closed, others have different crowds, and some just no longer interest him.  In his reflecting, he admits that it was his carefree and expensive living that cost him his wife and loss of parental control of his daughter.  The next day, he meets up with Honoria again.  They playfully chat and discuss what they are going to do that day.  He wants to do anything with her that day and desires to get to know her in full.  Eventually, Honoria asks why she doesn't live with him and wonders if it has to do with mommy dying.  He tries to side-step the issue and then is interrupted by past friends.  He brushes off their invitations since he is with Honoria and they realized that he is sober to their surprise.  He manages avoiding setting a specific time and place for them to get together.  He continues on the adventures with his daughter.    While driving home, he asks his daughter about her mother and asks her about how happy she is.  He drops of his daughter.  Later on, he meets with his sister-in-law, Marion and her husband.  He explains that he wants to settle down and take Honoria to live with him.  They are skeptical and he talks about how he has things under control but just taking one drink a day.  The conversation goes on long and Charlie tries to refrain from acting angry as Marion continues to call out the events of the past that killed his wife while he was in a sanitarium.  The conversation goes back to the larger goal and Charlie confesses that he fears losing Honoria's childhood.  Despite it being emotionally hard for Marion, she finally acquiesces to the request.  He awakes the next day feel happy at first but then fell into sadness, reflecting on the death of his wife.  He realizes he must he must focus on the present and not overwhelm himself too much with emotion.  He calls upon the sister's husband to determine when is the best time to pick up and the husband says any time is fine but the sister would for the time being still retain legal rights.  He confirms details with the husband and goes back to his hotel where he finds a note from one of the people he ran into the other day when he was with Honoria.  It gives him a moment to reflect but he quickly comes to the conclusion of letting the past go and his daughter is the future.  He arrives at his sister-in-law's house and she says that he would have to wait until Saturday before she'll let Honoria go.  He accepts this.  Shortly after this, a door-bell rings. Charlie's friends from before stumble in, insisting on chatting up.  It's clear they are drunk and wild.  They explain they came to invite him to dinner.  Despite Charlie's protests, they make a ruckus that increasing displeases the sister-in-law.  Finally, they leave but not without cursing out Charlie.  The sister-in-law leaves the room, clearly angered and upset.  The husband goes to check on her and comes back and starts to hint that she is not going to give Honoria over to Charlie.  He leaves in anger about the whole thing.  He ends up at the bar at the Ritz where the story began.  He calls the husband later and the husband says that the wife isn't feeling well and that Charlie will have to put it off for six months.  He returns to the bar and pays for his drink and leaves.  His last thought is a belief that his wife would not have wanted him to live alone. 


I rather liked this tale.  In many ways, if captures elements of The Great Gatsby but through a different lens.  It is after the party has ended (the economic bust of the late 1920s) and Charlie is recognizing what the years of excess really cost him.  Like Gatsby, he wasted his life on the wrong things and now wishes nothing more than to get them back.  

Short Story #255 out of 365
Rating: 4 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  7/23/2014
Source:  The short story can be found at this website.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.

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