Shades of Hemingway / Deja’ Voodoo – Part 2, A Cruel Cuban Irony

Author’s note:  This is a continuation of a series.  For more details see Shades of Hemingway and Shades of Hemingway / Medium Exposure

     As the island of Key West faded into the northern horizon I retreated below deck.  My thoughts turned to what little I knew of Cuban history and that was the Cuban Missile Crisis.  I recalled how our government had been embarrassed over the Bay of Pigs incident, where we planned and carried out a fruitless attack to over throw communism.  With the missiles of October a year and a half later, relations with Cuban dictator Fidel Castro would worsen because of those armaments supplied by the Soviet Union.  It was a political tug of war that would go on for decades.

     Che Guevara, one of Castro’s officers, taunted then President Kennedy by way of messenger after the botched attack organized by our CIA saying, ” Before the (Bay of Pigs) the revolution was weak.  Since then it is stronger than ever!”  Even Fidel boasted it was “the first defeat for Imperialist America.”  Che’s image is one of lasting endearment to the people of Cuba.  His face as recorded by photographer Alberto Korda is reported to be the most recognized symbol of the 20th century.  Even boxer Mike Tyson has Che’s likeness tattooed on his stomach.  But historians paint a different picture of the revolutionary hero that thumbed his nose at our president.  He is recalled to have been a brutal thug and murderer.  Che was a mercenary whose gun was for hire and legend was more the stuff of Hollywood than a cause for celebration as a symbol of freedom.  He ended many men’s freedom by taking their lives… or so says history.

     I was never much for politics and I didn’t really care who ran Cuba, but I knew by living in Florida that refugees made the desperate, 90 mile journey over the Straits of Florida often.  Dictatorships, no matter the locale, were generally not conducive to happy citizens.  I wondered how I would fair in this country that was not overly friendly to Americans, especially with no one except a police Sargent knowing who I was or why I was there.

     As I settled in a small stateroom below deck my mind traveled back to the beginning and  I recalled my first visit to Key West.  I thought about Keith and Laura and how our relationship began, meeting Keith as I had in a coffee house having breakfast, shooting the breeze over local politics.  We had wrestled with social issues far outside our scope of influence yet easily solved them with common sense and our own brand of practicality.  It turned out that Keith’s wife, Laura, had known Annette, my former girlfriend through professional association.  Keith was an independent contractor that traveled throughout the southern reaches of our hemisphere, from south Florida all the way through the Caribbean. eastern Mexico and parts of South America. 

     A former Marine, Keith had the lifestyle that made him affluent in multiple subjects and opinionated on many more.  A seemingly common and approachable man, Keith was in the enviable position to come and go as he pleased yet still managed to make a fairly comfortable living doing so.  I had never ventured out of the continental U.S. before and was enthralled with Keith’s stories of him and Laura visiting exotic locations just over the gulf waters.  It was his suggestion that Annette and I accompany them to Key West as a foursome that got me tangled up in this mess in the first place.

     And then there was Rachel, Robert Jordan’s sister.  Why did I feel this attraction towards her, other than the fact that she was beautiful, alluring, intelligent and mysterious?  I felt drawn to her and wary at the same time.  This whole ordeal was so topsy turvy that I felt like jumping off the boat and taking my chances with the sharks, except I probably could not have made the swim back.  My  good reasoning won out and I resigned myself to my fate,  still wishing I were back home in Ft Myers.

     Ring Lardner, Jr. had told me Robert Jordan’s killer was very close, but I didn’t feel any closer to exposing him.  Since initially having the dream that I had with Hem detailing my quest before I left Ft. Myers all things appeared the same.  Papa warned me about the kyklos tod mene’, the Cycle of the Death Moon, and the possibility of another murder taking place with me as the intended victim.  Hem had later warned me that everything was not as it appeared.  All three shades had given me bits of information but I couldn’t figure out where it all came together, how it all fit.  What was Robert Jordan, a rookie cop on bicycle patrol, involved with that made his death such a disruption to the spirit realm?

     I was sitting below in the stateroom of the yacht just out of sight of the wheel room and scanning the southern horizon up above the steps leading to the upper deck.  Suddenly two military gunboats appeared and began heading towards us.  Just as I reasoned they must be part of the Cuban Navy, Sgt. Garcia appeared and spoke reassuringly.

     “Do not be alarmed, Mr. Fiore.  The ship you are on is part of the fleet belonging to the Republic of Cuba.  Our protocol requires an escort into territorial waters.”

     “Then we must be getting close?”

     “Yes, we will be docking soon.”

     “I’m sure I’ll find out soon enough, but… how do I find Rachel and get us back to the States?”

     Garcia chuckles.  By that I am reminded that I am a complete stranger to these parts and customs.  I have no identification, no money, not even a pair of shoes on my feet.  Being snuck into his homeland to me seems a cruel Cuban irony considering most people want to be smuggled out.  Garcia pats my shoulder reassuringly, but I don’t feel comforted.

     “Soon, Mr. Fiore… all things will be explained to you.  Meanwhile, it would be best if you remain below until we have entered the port.  Our military is not as tolerant with Americans as the police force is… out of necessity, of course.”

     “Of course.”  I politely agree.

     Through the large portholes I can see a gunboat on either side of us sifting through the waters towards the unknown.  I do know that in my present state I am increasingly reliant on Sgt. Garcia’s good graces.  Recalling how I had berated his president while on the comforts of American soil, I tried to make amends as best I could by being inquisitive and friendly as we waited below deck.

     “Back there in Key West, they called you ‘Manolo.’  What does it mean?”

Garcia smiles and nods in recollection.

     “Are you a man of faith, Mr. Fiore?”

     “I believe in God.”  I reply, trying not to sound too defensive.  It had been a long time since my days at Sunday school and I really didn’t claim any religious affiliation.

     “Hmmm… but this belief, does it motivate you, guide you… serve as a protector for you?”

     “I get by…”  I’m trying not to sound put off by the questions but at the same time I want to be polite and sound genuinely receptive to the notion that I am guided by a higher power.

     “Manolo means, ‘God is with us’  Mr. Fiore, my men use it in terms of reference.”

     “They think you are God?”  I smile, amused and bereft of any restraint.

     Sgt. Garcia looks at me and studies my features for a moment.  The fact that I am belittling his countrymen doesn’t seem to bother him.

     “No, they know I hold no such claim to a deity.”

     “Then why do they need you as a point of reference, as you say?”

     Garcia looks ahead through the cockpit off into the horizon and the faint appearance of land.

     “We’ll be arriving at the Port of Havana soon, Mr. Fiore.”  He stands and turns to walk away from me and heads up to the open deck.  I fear I have offended him with my slight attempt at humor and I quickly reach for his arm to apologize.

     “Sgt. Garcia, I didn’t mean to cause offense…”

     Garcia turns to me and smiles slightly.  He places his hand over mine.

     “God is with us in our struggles, Mr. Fiore.  You must believe this in order to save your Rachel.”

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