Cuba Libre:

Total posts: [40]
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1 MorwenEdhelwen7th Jul 2012 04:30:54 PM from Sydney, Australia
Aussie Tolkien freak
OK, this one is a science-fiction novel set in Cuba, and the concept is "They cloned Che!" (Actually, he's an artificial human chimera)

Edited. Thanks Wheezy!

Cuba Libre

Monday May 7

Today the radio in the kitchen was turned to Military and Presidential Radio Cuba, the government’s official news show on RHC-Cadena Azul. “A street fight which began last week as a struggle between groups of freelance smugglers over containers and arrests for shipments of cocaine across the U.S. border has become a battle extending from parts of the capital to the Florida Keys, including Vedado. The chairman of the Havana syndicate has stated that he will attempt to deal with the violence, and Havana police and private enforcers are being deployed to Vedado as we speak.”

It was on TV too on PLAN (Pan Latin American News). “Contracted enforcers working for casino owners in Havana and local police officers have been deployed to the Vedado district in order to deal with the escalation of last week’s street disturbance. The president and the Commissioner for Narcotics Trafficking want to assure you that everything will be under control and that a presidential address is planned for later this month to discuss certain policy issues concerning the average Cuban.” The newscaster sounded like a gringo.

Right now I’m writing in this journal because Fidel’s gone out- maybe because of his call this morning about his friend Pedro being shot at the club- and Celia and I’ve finished cleaning up the leftover food. There was beans and rice, for lunch, and chicken and yellow rice for dinner. Celia and Fidel will talk about the broadcast tonight. Celia’s already looking worried and tense.

Today’s Señora Valverde’s twenty-fourth birthday. She got extra fanmail because she’s a famous actress and model. I’ll take my satchel off the counter and keep this book in it. Then I’m going out to the courtyard, looking out near the fields and bohíos. The one we used to live in is nearest to the house. I’ve been waiting to practice my pitching all week. I couldn’t because it rained.

This morning I got up at three. I’m used to it, but it’s still hard because my legs are sore and I’m always out of breath. I keep an inhaler in my satchel. “Ay, muchacho, I need you in the kitchen.“ I pulled the blanket up over my head and shut my eyes, ignoring the street food vendors outside and waiting for Celia to leave. No luck. “Che. Come on.” Then a yell. “Che Guevara Serna!” My full name. Sounded like bullets. “Get dressed now and get out of there!”

Better get up now, Che. I got dressed. Then I followed her into the main kitchen, where everyone except us and the other servants eat. She’s the cook and housekeeper. I’m the kitchen boy. I walked as fast as I could, almost running with a limp because of my club foot. “Don’t run, mi vida. You’ll fall.” She reminded me. She squeezed my shoulder.

We made pastelitos. I lit the oven fire myself and mixed the flour and water for the pastry crust, shaped it and added the fillings Celia made. I was hungry and my right foot hurt like hell. I wiped my hands on a towel. Finally after a few hours we went back down the corridor to our apartment with the food.

There’s four rooms in our apartment, like the bohío we lived in until I was four. When I was four and we first moved in here, the first thing I noticed was all the bars on the windows and how big this house is. It’s as big as some of the houses that the smugglers have. I’ve seen them on TV and around the streets.

Fidel knows about them. When he was a kid, he used to do work for some of the big smugglers. He said they have huge briefcases stuffed with $1000 bills from America and computers that are connected to government websites. “I always tried to get in there, and when I managed to do it, the computers were always on.” He had to deliver messages to stores and clubs and bars. The syndicate paid for his baseball lessons and high school because his mother couldn’t afford it.

He and Celia taught me before I had tutors. Celia used to sit me down and give me a sheet of paper and a pencil. Then she would write letters and sentences in an exercise book and have me copy them. She also gave me a dictionary and I had to look up the meanings of the words and write them down. She taught me math, geography, science and history too.

When he came in and joined us at the table, he was singing under his breath. He exclaimed, “Damn it, if I hear I’ll See You In C-U-B-A again one more fucking time, I’ll go crazy! Does the tourism commission have to keep showing that commercial? I’m sick of hearing about dark-eyed Stellas, panatellas and trips to Havana. And seeing footage of shows at The Shanghai Theater and the Montmartre. They don’t have to convince me to stay. ” He reached across the table and picked up a pastry and bit into it as if nothing had happened. “Celia, these pastries are the best you and Che have made.”

He reached across the table and picked up a pastry and bit into it as if nothing had happened. “Celia, these pastries are the best you and Che have made.”

“Gracias, Fidel. Irving Berlin was right about that, at least.” Celia said. She laughed. Fidel kissed her. She complained about his beard. “Why don’t you shave it off? It scratches.” “Because I like it. You don’t really want it to happen, do you?”

edited 11th Sep '12 2:43:48 PM by MorwenEdhelwen

The road goes ever on.
2 MorwenEdhelwen7th Jul 2012 08:30:03 PM from Sydney, Australia
Aussie Tolkien freak
Anyone interested in commenting on CL?

edited 8th Jul '12 3:08:53 AM by MorwenEdhelwen

The road goes ever on.
3 MorwenEdhelwen8th Jul 2012 07:53:47 PM from Sydney, Australia
Aussie Tolkien freak

Tuesday May 8

I’ve got some extra worksheets from Señor Mendoza, the teacher. I’ll concentrate on them instead of my baseball. Celia keeps flipping between stations. Something’s happening with Fidel too. He spent all morning after breakfast in their bedroom on the phone and checking the answering machine. His calls have gotten longer. Sometimes I can hear him yelling. “Listen here, you idiot. I know about the money, but do you want to get me killed? Pedro was shot because he pissed off the wrong man. Now he’s in hospital. You’ll get the pesos in the case. I’ve got everything else you want packed in too. And there are pockets. You can hide coke in there, transport it over the border to America with the package.”

He told me that before I was born or came to live with them, someone, a man, kept calling and leaving messages on the answering machine. He wouldn’t stop until Fidel said he could report him to the police. “¡Pendejo! I could have you arrested, or even taken out.“

“No, I wouldn’t call it that. It ain’t blackmail, it’s the truth. I can get contractors on my side as well. They know me. I worked for the Caimanera Syndicate once.” After he said that I heard a click. The caller had hung up.

“He didn’t even say his name.” Fidel spoke very fast under his breath. “Can’t even confess to what he did. Too scared I guess.” After that he said, “Confessing to what you’ve done is important, Che. I’m not going to be mad if you tell me the truth. But if you lie to me, and then I find out, I won’t like it. It’s dishonest. If you do it, there’ll be consequences. They’ll hurt me more than they hurt you.” This is code for “I’ll give you the belt.”

My butt burned for weeks the last time he took his belt off. I was ten and it was because I hadn’t waited for three hours before swimming after I’d had lunch. “You could have drowned. Or at least gotten cramps. Did you realise how worried you made me?” He pulled me inside through the front door, led me downstairs, yanked my clothes off and dressed me in another shirt and shorts.

Then I heard him taking his belt off. “Come here.” He said quietly. I sucked my breath in and made myself walk closer. I knew what he was doing. It was a last resort when I did something serious.

He gripped both my hands and pulled me down on his lap. The belt swished on my butt six times. It smarted for weeks. After that he buckled the belt and held me on his lap for a while. When we went back down Celia looked at me with an unreadable expression. I think she could tell what was going on from the look on Fidel’s face. He just pulled up a chair and sat himself down. I played with this train set they bought me.

Several Minutes Later

Spent the last few minutes doing my lessons. The Valverdes’ kids, Juancito, Isa, Miguelito and Consuelito, have tutors- paid for by their mother. Señora Valverde gave me this diary. It’s a brown notebook with blank pages. I’m lucky. I can read and write.

edited 11th Sep '12 1:27:24 AM by MorwenEdhelwen

The road goes ever on.
Aussie Tolkien freak
Anyone have comments?
The road goes ever on.
Aussie Tolkien freak
Monday May 14

This afternoon the señora was in the kitchen, talking to Celia. Her hair was in a chignon and she wore her blue dress. She looked like she used to in magazines and movies but tired and worried. Celia was in a dark red dress and her white apron and cap. “Celia, could you make sure the back gate stays open? If someone wants to see me, they can get in through there. No point taking a risk.”

“Yes, señora.” Celia turned away and picked up a saucepan. She put it on the pile and took a towel to wipe the mojo sauce off her hands. “Ask Fidel when he‘ll be ready to come with me.”

Celia pushed open the door and left. Her footsteps thumped along the corridor to our quarters. “Fidel!” Fidel got up from his chair and walked to the door. “What do you want, Celia?” he yelled. Something clunked. She yelled back, “La señora wants to know when you’re ready to go with her to the studio!” He said something.

Then she came back. “He’s ready in five minutes.” she told the señora. Celia looked over at me. Oh crap. She tossed a pair of gloves onto my side of the sink. The steel wool scratched my hand under the glove.

I sponged the fourth bowl. The basin was stacked with dishes and utensils. I have almost as many calluses as Celia. Some of them have been there since I was six. A lot of them come from hauling the rope up and down to fetch water. Celia boils it when we drink it so none of us get sick. I’ve worked almost as soon as I could walk. Celia’s 33 now.

edited 25th Aug '12 3:55:59 AM by MorwenEdhelwen

The road goes ever on.
Aussie Tolkien freak
Have done some editing on this.

Wednesday May 16

I’m sitting on my bed. There’s a pile of worksheets on the table. Señora Valverde left me a note and a package. The note is here in an envelope with “Che” on the front. I’ve pasted it here on this page and have stolen another envelope to put notes in.

Saturday May 13

Dear Che, I’ve got something to tell you about how and why you were created. I’ll explain it later when I get back. Too complicated to explain in a note. Love, Señora Valverde.

edited 11th Sep '12 1:28:36 AM by MorwenEdhelwen

The road goes ever on.
7 Madrugada14th Aug 2012 07:55:39 PM , Relationship Status: In season
Interesting. I want to re-read carefully, and I'll comment a bit later. I like the concept, though.
...if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you for it.
Aussie Tolkien freak
@madrugada: You like the whole "Che Guevara is Cloned" bit? Thanks! I got the idea for this because a) most of the cloning historical figures stories I know seem to be about Hitler and Jesus. b) There aren't that many alternate history stories aimed at the YA market.

edited 15th Aug '12 3:35:04 AM by MorwenEdhelwen

The road goes ever on.
Aussie Tolkien freak
And c)There aren't many books set in Cuba aimed at the YA market, or many books dealing with banana republics aimed at the YA market.
The road goes ever on.
10 Madrugada16th Aug 2012 02:58:54 AM , Relationship Status: In season
I like that concept, and even more, I like the idea of telling it from the clone-kid's POV.
...if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you for it.
11 MorwenEdhelwen16th Aug 2012 03:45:31 AM from Sydney, Australia
Aussie Tolkien freak
@madrugada: Thanks.
The road goes ever on.
12 MorwenEdhelwen20th Aug 2012 08:17:48 PM from Sydney, Australia
Aussie Tolkien freak
Here are more extracts:

Sunday May 20

A few minutes ago I smelled mashed potatoes and chicken from down the corridor, which made me hungry enough to get out of bed. I’ve been in here for nearly the whole day, just staring up at the ceiling. I always do that when I’m tired or bored. And I didn’t want to do much.

I hobbled out of the door and out of our quarters and shuffled into the kitchen up to the table. Celia was in her black dress with patches on the skirt. Her dreads poked out of the cap. The food was cooking on the fireplace. Her ring stood out. It was a gift from Fidel.

“Celia?” She looked up. “What?” She sounded surprised, because I haven’t talked to her seriously in a while. Then she said, “There you are. I’ve been waiting for you to get out of your room. What’s wrong, chiquitito? You didn’t eat much all day.” She wiped sweat off her forehead and walked over to touch mine. “You haven’t got a fever.”

“I’m fine. Just been thinking about something.”

She pointed to the bowl of peas. “Sit down. Could you shell these?”

“Yeah, sure.” I sat down at the stool and picked up the knife. She looked at me. “Can you tell me about it?” I swallowed. My mouth was dry. I didn’t know if I wanted to. “The señora left me a note.” My voice broke last month.

“She—What? Where?” “In an envelope. It’s in my journal. Apparently she’s going to tell me why I was created.” Celia paused and sang along to “?Quien sera”, the old mambo song on the radio.

Then she looked directly at me. “Oh Dios mio. Now?“ She hugged me. “I love you very much, mi vida.” She stroked my curls and let go of me. She’s stocky and dark brown, with a black Afro. I’m brown and I have an Afro too but I’m a little taller than her. Fidel’s black and darker than me. I started shelling. In two minutes I reached the second row of peas. I slipped the shell off and put the knife on top of the bowl. I glanced at her. “What do you mean?” My voice broke a few days ago. She sighed. “I don’t know. I didn’t want you to find out.”

She didn’t want to tell me what I was either. When I found out, she was upset. But that might have been because of what happened. I was four. There was a knot in my stomach. I remembered one day when Celia and Fidel had to go to the big house together and I stayed home. Like that kid in a movie I saw once.

Mostly Fidel stayed at home with me. At first I didn’t mind, but one day I ran as fast as I could to the front door. “Don’t go! Don’t go!” “No,” Celia said. “You have to stay here alone for a bit. I’ll buy you sugar cane. I promise.” She hugged me. “Don’t you like sugar cane?”

I do. But then I didn’t care. I tried to throw myself around her legs. “Why?”

“Because we need to work. We’re not abandoning you. Just stay here for a while.” She led me in and shut the door behind me. I heard the key turning in the lock and stared around at the boxes piled up the corner. Fidel labelled the toolbox with the words DON’T TOUCH! There were DON’T TOUCH and KEEP OUT labels everywhere. He was probably going there to talk to Colonel Valverde about me.

A while later, I heard footsteps. I opened the door to Celia and Fidel’s room, climbed up on the ledge and pushed open the window. Juancito yelled out, “Che!” He was standing in the middle of the vegetable patch holding a stick and some rocks. “C’mon.” “Wait.” I put my leg out. “I’m coming down.” I moved my legs down the ledge and stepped off in front of the door. “Where’s my rock?” “Here.” He tossed a brown rock with black edges into my hand. “You’re Red with me. Come on.” I followed him to the end of the patch, near the edge of the field. “We got ‘em from there.”

We all ran and looked at each other, waiting for the game to start. As soon as Juancito ran out, I gripped my rock and dashed in front of María, Juancito’s cousin who was there for two weeks and the captain of the Blue team. She grinned and aimed a rock at me. As she reached into her arsenal I threw mine in front of her. It hit her chest. “Gotcha!” One landed on my arm and left a white scratch up to the back of my hand.

In the middle of the game, someone (I think it was Ricardo, a big kid from up the street) aimed a rock at my face. Then something else hit me on the head and back and I threw rocks back at them. The last thing I remember was hearing yells before everything turned black.

I woke up to hear people talking about that thing that lives with Celia and Fidel. For two months I lived in a basement room with iron bars and slept on a straw bed with wood shavings and newspapers. My old toys from the bohío were the only familiar thing. I kept crying. It was the first time I wasn’t in the same place as Celia or Fidel. I always heard them talking in the kitchen or the next room. When Celia was out, Fidel was there checking his bolita ticket. Socorro, who was a maid here, said I wasn’t Cuban. And she always glared and yelled at me. “You’ve got a tattoo because you’re a clone cut out of a rabbit. That’s why you’re in here, because you’re defective.” She hit me when I cried and put chains on my arms. She brought me food three times every day and wouldn’t let me out. I used newspapers to pee and had bruises over my legs. I asked her when I was going to live with Celia and Fidel again. She said I wasn’t. “You’re so ungrateful. I could throw you out into the streets. They’ve spoiled you. This is no more than you deserve.” she hissed right in my face. Eventually Fidel and then Celia heard about it from Juancito. It must’ve been when he and María were spending a morning with me. We talked and Juancito asked me if I was staying. He said, “Mami said I can play with you even if you’re a clone.” I found out María was a really good Scrabble player. I remember she wore braids and had blonde hair and green eyes.

After that Fidel came and then he carried me outside to the bohío. “Mi amor,” he said to Celia, “look at Che.” He let go of my hand and slowly pulled up my shirt. She gasped. “His ribs are poking out. And his legs are all bruised. What happened, Fidel?” “She didn’t give him much food. I checked the table in the storeroom when I was up there. The last thing he ate just before I took him was arroz con frijoles. The bowl wasn’t all that full. There was hardly any rice at the top. But he finished it. Hasn’t talked.” He started to pull my sleeve up. I grabbed his hand.

“Ow!” he cried. “That hurts!”

“Sorry.” I said. He let go and I pulled it down. “He was cuffed, mi negra.”

“Oh, mi hijo.” Celia murmured. “I can’t believe this. My God. They told me she was taking care of him.”

“It wasn’t just you. I thought he was in good hands too, after he skinned his knee like that. There was a bandage- she did that at least. That’s one thing I can thank her for. But everything else…” Then she put cream on my bruises and gave me warm water and sugar cane juice to drink. Fidel told me they were sorry for letting someone do that to me. “I love you, mi querido. It’ll never happen again.” I flinched as he put up his hand. He reached around my shoulder and hugged me. “What’s happened, Che?” I told him it was nothing. He gave me an “If you say so” look.

Then he tucked me in and kissed me goodnight. “Fidel, what does defective mean?”

“What?” He stopped straightening my covers and looked hard at me. “Nothing. I just wanted to know.” I stared at his face.

“It means bad. Not perfect.”

“What’s a clone?” His expression changed and his lips went tight. He swore. “Someone exactly like someone else.” “I’m a clone.” You’ve got a tattoo because you’re a clone.

“Yes.” he said.

“Socorro said I was born out of a rabbit. ”

He swore again. “She’s right.”

I asked him who I was cloned from. He said, “Che Guevara.”

“Who’s that?” I’d heard that somewhere before. On the street when I was walking with him. An old lady in a purple dress with a face like a roadmap stared at me. She went over and reached out to touch me. “You look so much like Che. You can’t be—“ Her mouth was frozen in a shocked expression.

I didn’t really hear the rest, because then Fidel walked up and said, “Come on,” and pulled me away, muttering something about me being easy to spot.

“He lived a long time ago. He fought against Batista and put Fidel in power. In the 1960s we became communist because of him and Fidel.”

“I look like him, don’t I?”

“Yes.” The way he said it made it clear it was more than looks. “Your face, your brain. And your height.” He and Celia walked down the corridor to their room. So I wasn’t an orphan. I didn’t have parents at all. I was designed—based on someone else.

Later on I found out his real name was Ernesto. That explained why Celia sometimes called me Neto, even though my name‘s Che, not Ernesto. I remembered the first time I saw a photo of Che Guevara. I’d been looking at the wall in their bedroom from my cot on the floor when I noticed it. I looked at it for a long time, because it looked like me. Celia said, “You’ll look like that when you’re older. If you decide to grow a moustache and beard.” She laughed. “Like Fidel.”

Then I asked her why I wasn’t white like Che. She said, “Everything, every animal and plant has stuff in it. Instructions for the way it looks. How tall it is. Eye color. Skin color. They made it so that you had other stuff in you that means you look different. You feel things differently too.”

I must’ve stayed inside for days, because the last thing I remember was the door closing and not being able to see. Then I screamed and screamed because I thought I was back in there. I remember someone holding a cup to my mouth. It might’ve been Celia. “Drink this.” It was milk, but tasted funny. When I drank it, I fell asleep right away.

I could just hear Fidel asking her what was in there. “I put morphine in it. To help him sleep. He’s got night terrors, which he never had before. She traumatised him.”

The next day Celia told me I’d slept through three days.

“What did you do to Che? He’s black and blue and hasn’t been able to eat for a few days.” That was Fidel. He was yelling, which meant he was really mad.

“It had three meals.”

“He did. But there wasn’t enough food.”

Celia interrupted just as she started to say something. “When Fidel was there he saw Che with chains on his arms.” “It might have escaped. That’s the only way to control a clone that can think. I don’t know what Colonel Valverde was thinking.”

She said something about being a burden. Someone closed the door. Celia’s voice carried down the corridor. “You estupida—how dare you? The boy isn’t an animal. He cries at night now. And he hasn’t talked since last week. He sleeps in our room because he can’t be on his own any longer. ”

The next day she was gone. Fidel told me she’d been fired. Celia asked me to go to the big house kitchen with her, because I had a new job. That’s how I became kitchen boy. From then on, I went to the house with them every day and came home at night.

edited 13th Sep '12 1:20:20 AM by MorwenEdhelwen

The road goes ever on.
13 MorwenEdhelwen21st Aug 2012 09:19:14 PM from Sydney, Australia
Aussie Tolkien freak
I'm posting very small snippets as I'm in the middle of editing this and actually hope to get it published (the purpose of the thread is critique, not "Hey read this!")

edited 25th Aug '12 4:11:18 AM by MorwenEdhelwen

The road goes ever on.
14 MorwenEdhelwen24th Aug 2012 10:46:37 PM from Sydney, Australia
Aussie Tolkien freak
I've just edited these.

Monday May 21

Got appetite back yesterday. Celia’s happy. Today I asked Fidel about me.

“Che? What you doing here?” Fidel asked in English. He took out his gun and put it back in the closet with the glass window. He’s supposed to look after me along with Celia. His job is to protect me. He punched the numbers into the combination lock with his left hand and saw the expression on my face. He’s black, darker than Celia and me and he has a beard. “Something wrong, muchacho?” His face had the same look it had on the seventeenth.

I put my satchel down next to me and asked him whether he thought I was human. “Of course.” He sounded surprised. “You’re human and have a soul. You think about things like this, you have your own personality.” I hobbled over to his and Celia’s bed and sat on the end of the mattress, facing the altar where he keeps his statues and pictures of the orishas and saints. Celia’s orisha statues and pictures of the saints are there too. The Virgin of Regla is next to Yemaja, with bowls for the offerings. Celia’s already filled one with melaço, molasses.

I glanced at a ring on his right hand, which he got when he was younger, a little older than me. “Why ask me this?”

I told him what I heard from Celia. “We argued about telling you.” he said. I knew she wanted to protect me. He wanted to tell me as soon as possible. I heard them talking when I was trying to sleep and ignore my sore legs. Mostly it was about the melons and plantains in the patch, or who would take the horse and cart to market. But one night, after my first and last week at school, it was different. I’d asked Celia about me in the afternoon as we were walking back across the fields. When I was five I heard them talking when I was trying to sleep and ignore my sore legs. Mostly it was about the melons and plantains in the patch, or who would take the horse and cart to market. But one night, after my first and last week at school, it was different. I’d asked Celia about me in the afternoon as we were walking back across the fields. Stuff about how they got me. “Why do I live with you?” One of the boys I’d met asked me why I called my parents by their first names. When I said Celia and Fidel weren’t my parents, he asked

“What happened with Che?” Fidel asked. Celia sighed. “He knows it now.” I tried to shut my eyes. The room was blurry, looking out from under the blanket. I heard them through the door into the kitchen. She was stacking up the pans.

“He asked me a question.” she said.


“Just how we got him.” I sat up under the pillow. Fidel lowered his voice. “So, what did you say? You told him—?”

“I didn’t lie, Fidelito. I said—“ Her voice trailed off. ”You were given to us when you were born, to keep you safe.” Fidel- what’ll we do if he hears the rest from someone else?”

“Explain it. We’ll wait until it comes up.”

When I was seven, I was fidgeting outside our bohío, sitting in the doorway under the thatch roof and trying to talk to Celia. “Wait a minute.” she said, taking hold of my hand and lifting it back down to my side. “Move out of the doorway. You could get hurt.” I pushed myself away and sat on the ground.

She was talking to a man with a bracelet on his arm with a star. He probably had a tattoo on his back like mine, which says Patent #234567 Made in Cuba. I didn’t understand what they really meant until I found out I was a clone. Celia said, “You have a tattoo because it helps people know who you are.” When I asked Fidel why I had to wear a bracelet he said pretty much the same thing. Then I thought maybe he and Celia didn't wear theirs because they didn't need to. He rubbed his arm and winced, then noticed me and looked closely at me for a while. I looked at the lamp. It was filled with oil. He asked Celia something. Celia looked back at me. “He’s a special case.” she said. “Of course.”

I limped over to her. “What does that mean?” She turned around and pushed me gently. “Go inside, mi vida. I’ll tell you later.” When she kissed me goodnight and tucked me in alone, because Fidel was still up at the big house, she told me that normally I’d work in the fields. Or shoot guns, because I was different.

Last week I eavesdropped on the colonel and the señora in the study upstairs. I was cleaning the landing. My satchel was lying next to me as I scrubbed the wood floor with a yellow cloth soaked in soapy water from a red bucket. My knees hurt from kneeling. Colonel Valverde pulled out a chair and sat down. Then he got up again and half-closed it. “So you can do it? When, Eva?”

She paused and pushed her chair away. I heard her open the cigar box, take one out and strike a match, so I moved a few inches away. “As soon as our Presidente Cabrera agrees to an interview, I think. Which should be in two weeks, if Marina’s call this morning is any indication. She told me their secretary gave me a ten-o’-clock slot. Ten PM. Just great.” Her voice sounded sarcastic. “But then, they have a charity benefit for wounded soldiers coming up. She asked me if I was coming. I’m the First Lady’s friend, of course I’ll be there. So will you, Juan. You're deputy chief of the army, after all.”

Then I heard my name.“Do you think you can get—“ “Che to help? I don’t know. Maybe. He’s still only fourteen. Nearly fifteen.’

He interrupted her. “You realise the elections are coming up? If Cabrera decides to let them happen.” Then she said something about Fidel and giving me target practice. I’m still thinking about the president suspending elections. “If Cabrera decides to let them happen.” I can’t imagine anyone else taking El Presidente’s place.

Wednesday May 23

The president’s address was today. He was in his army uniform with the flag on the shoulder and medals on his chest. His guards stood on both sides of him on the lower balcony of the Presidential Palace. Celia brushed her hair out of her face and put the wooden spoon down on the edge of the sink. She turned towards the TV. Our leader gripped his microphone, almost hiding his moustache. The crowd cheered around him. Shouts of “Viva Cabrera! Viva Cuba!” filled the air. At the bottom of the screen were the words “Live from the Presidential Palace.”

“My fellow Cubans, I am addressing you this week on issues which have been on my mind since they were brought to my attention.” There was a bump in the background. He switched it off and on again, then cleared his throat. “The recent attacks on the businesses owned by our American allies and on our tourist industry have made me even more aware of the fact that our country’s foreign relations and economy are in danger from the opposition, who want a Cuba where the poorest guajiros work for smaller wages than are paid by Americans, increasing poverty and unemployment. The majority of tourists to this country are American, Canadian or British, and spend millions of pounds and dollars in the cabarets, casinos and nightclubs here every winter.

-Just realised how appropriate this format is, given who the protagonist is cloned from.

edited 6th Sep '12 3:10:52 AM by MorwenEdhelwen

The road goes ever on.
15 Madrugada25th Aug 2012 04:35:25 AM , Relationship Status: In season
I like the taste of it, Morwen. I think you've done an excellent job of capturing the ramble-y-ness of a child's thinking, the non-linear-ness of it, and the and the (to an adult) unpredictability of what the child feels is important.

...if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you for it.
16 MorwenEdhelwen25th Aug 2012 04:38:43 AM from Sydney, Australia
Aussie Tolkien freak
@Madrugada: Thanks. BTW, why do you seem to be the only person commenting here whenever I post? Not that I don't appreciate your comments- I'm just wondering. Is anyone else interested?

edited 25th Aug '12 5:44:12 AM by MorwenEdhelwen

The road goes ever on.
17 MorwenEdhelwen28th Aug 2012 07:42:16 PM from Sydney, Australia
Aussie Tolkien freak
Here's another extract:

Saturday May 26

Finally opened the package. It was wrapped in brown paper and sealed with yards of tape. There was a note in Fidel’s handwriting: The señora asked me to give you this package. You’re ment to open it soon as you red the note. Fidel.

P.S. She wants you to tell me your decision. Don’t know why she can’t ask herself.

I found a carrier current transmitter and a new blue spiral-bound notebook. She came back this morning. I had the biggest argument I’ve had with an adult. “Good morning, Che. How’ve you been?” My chance. I cleaned my hands on the towel and hobbled out of the kitchen. Celia told me to scrub the floor of all the crumbs. Some of them were dropped by Miguelito and Consuelito.

I cleared my throat. “I’m OK, señora. How were your broadcasts? I’ve been thinking about your note.” I glanced at her. She said, “They were very difficult to set up. We had to search around for a place we could use. Ended up using the back room at Ballyhoo.” So that’s what the background noise Celia kept hearing in the middle of the conjunto’s song was. I overheard her and Fidel talking about it.

“Why did you leave me a note?” I asked, struggling to keep my voice down. I couldn’t stop myself from yelling a bit. “Couldn’t you have told me earlier? As in talked to me? What about Celia or Fidel?” She stared at me for a bit. “I left you a note because there wasn’t time.” I opened my mouth, but she interrupted. “And I didn’t think it was right to talk to you about it before now, because it might confuse you.” Her voice sounded soft like Celia’s did when I was small and she told me stories. Fidel told me stories too. Once he told me a story his mami, Abuela Lina, heard from her mother, who was from Jamaica. It was about the Blackheart Man. She used to tell it to him and his brothers and sisters. He said if you go out alone and don’t be careful around strangers, then he might find you and take your heart out. Abuela Lina, his mother, heard about it back in Jamaica when she was a kid in Linstead. “But Fidel, he can’t be in Cuba,” I said.

“Maybe he is. Jamaica isn’t that far away from here. ”

He also told me about when he was a kid, and how he grew up on the streets of Guantánamo. People called him names like hijo de la puta.

edited 6th Sep '12 1:32:01 AM by MorwenEdhelwen

The road goes ever on.
18 Wheezy30th Aug 2012 10:57:40 AM from South Philly
(That Guy You Met Once)
I hope I'm not being too caustic, but I'm not sure how I feel about it on the first read-through.

One one hand, the concept is very good - and original - and it seems like you've really shown your work. I commend you for that. I also like the line "Full name, like bullets."

On the other hand...

Aside from the fact that he's cloned and had an abusive past, Che seems to be The Everyman, and most of the other characters are kind of flat and tend towards Dull Surprise (not the facial expression, but the general attitude). The writing's very beige and full of sentence fragments that would be less awkward if combined into actual sentences, but since it's a journal written by a kid, it's appropriate, I guess.

Also, the pacing is very slow. Not much besides people making food and talking about the vague possibility of unrest takes place until we find out about the clones, and even then, that just leads to them talking about their pasts instead. If this is just a Slice of Life, than I suppose that's OK, but even still, I think a little more should be going on to get us interested in the characters. (And yes, you can do that without action sequences.) However, if there's going to be an overarching plot, and we're taking this long to get to it and just trying to carry the audience with the promise that It Gets Better, that might be a disaster when it comes to retaining readers.

Also, about The Reveal, it honestly seems to come right out of nowhere. I kind of wish you'd spent a little more time building up to that.

A few minor notes:

If they didn't want the clones to be noticed by the government, you'd think they wouldn't have named them after the originals.)

arroz con frijoles, beans and rice, for lunch, and arroz con pollo, chicken and yellow rice, for dinner.

Just my opinion, but since I'm assuming the entire story is supposed to be English-sustituting-for-Spanish, I don't think some of the Gratuitous Spanish is necessary.

edited 30th Aug '12 11:04:05 AM by Wheezy

19 Madrugada30th Aug 2012 02:57:26 PM , Relationship Status: In season
Slow? I don't think it's slow at all. So far he's given us less than five pages. Five pages of setting and character establishment is nothing on the scale of "slow".

edited 30th Aug '12 3:04:40 PM by Madrugada

...if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you for it.
20 MorwenEdhelwen30th Aug 2012 03:05:59 PM from Sydney, Australia
Aussie Tolkien freak
@Wheezy: Thanks, any tips on fleshing out the characters and making the pacing faster? And yes, there is an overarching plot. Because I don't want to write something that is basically "Blah, blah, blah, cloning, ordinary stuff, blah."

Shown my work: Thanks, that's one of the best compliments I've ever had. Are you referring to Cuban culture or the historical element about the Bay of Pigs Invasion?

The cloning is actually part of the gangsterism in the political landscape. Clones are used in the military, in fields and for organ donation.
The road goes ever on.
21 MorwenEdhelwen30th Aug 2012 03:06:34 PM from Sydney, Australia
Aussie Tolkien freak
@Madrugada: It's "she".

edited 30th Aug '12 3:06:49 PM by MorwenEdhelwen

The road goes ever on.
22 Wheezy30th Aug 2012 04:39:24 PM from South Philly
(That Guy You Met Once)
[up][up][up] True. I didn't know it was only the equivalent of five pages. It looked like much more because it was divided among more posts.

[up][up] Cuban culture, mainly. (And their media.) I'm only here for a minute, but when I get back later tonight, I'll re-read it and work on giving you some advice.

edited 30th Aug '12 5:20:48 PM by Wheezy

23 Madrugada30th Aug 2012 07:34:35 PM , Relationship Status: In season
[up][up] Oooops. Sorry about that. I'll try to remember from here on out.
...if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you for it.
24 Wheezy2nd Sep 2012 12:25:28 AM from South Philly
(That Guy You Met Once)
I'm not exactly sure...

I use Action Prologues for a lot of my stories - in fact, I'm going add one to the final version of one of my own scripts I've been told starts kind of slow - but I know they're not for everyone. Even though I rarely start my own stories with a "protagonist wakes up and goes through a normal day sequence, I've seen them pulled off extremely well, so it might just be a matter of tweaking.

I like it more on my second read-through. This is a common problem for me: usually, my first time reading something, I have a hard time taking in everything going on, so I'll be more impatient and critical of things like minor wording and pacing issues. But one thing I did notice on both my first and second readings was that cutting back on the tendency to include details that not only don't relate to the plot, but don't say anything about the characters or setting at all - like the fact that they had a lot of firewood, or that Che puts his shirt on over his head, like everyone else - would make it flow better.

I can't think of any specific things to say to you to make the series as a whole better, so maybe I'll try my hand at re-wording part of it in a way I think it'll flow better, and we can see if it helps.

Today, the radio in the kitchen was tuned to the government’s official news show on RHC-Cadena Azul. On the TV in the living room was PLAN - Pan Latin-American News.

The sound echoed down the hallway to our quarters at the back of the house. “Private mercenaries working for casino owners have been deployed to Vedado alongside government troops and contracted corporate enforcers in order to deal with last week’s street disturbance. The president and the Commissioner for Narcotics Trafficking want to assure you that everything will be under control, and that a presidential address is planned for later this month to discuss certain policy issues concerning the average Cuban.”

The reporter sounded like a gringo. Celia and Fidel will talk about the broadcast tonight. Celia’s already looking worried and tense.

I’m writing in this journal now because Fidel’s gone out and Celia and I have finished cleaning up the leftover food - rice and beans and rice for lunch, chicken and yellow rice for dinner.

Today’s Señora Valverde’s twenty-fourth birthday. Being a famous actress and model with dyed blonde hair and light brown skin, she always gets a lot of fan-mail, and today she got even more than usual.

When I'm done writing this, I’ll take my satchel off the counter and put this journal in it. Then I’m going out to the courtyard. It’s the rainy season, so I’ve been waiting to practice my pitching all week.

This morning, Celia woke me up at three. “Ay, muchacho, I need you in the kitchen.“ I pulled the blanket up over my head and shut my eyes, trying to ignore the street vendors shouting outside and waiting for her to leave, but no luck. “Che. Come on.” Then a yell: “Che Guevara Serna!”

Full name. Like bullets. “Get dressed now and get out of there!”

I dragged myself out of bed and got dressed, then followed her into the main kitchen, where everyone except us and the other servants eat. I tried to move as fast as I could, but the limp my club foot left me with made it too hard. “Don’t run, mi vida. You’ll fall,” Celia gently scolded, squeezing my shoulder. She’s the cook and housekeeper. I’m the kitchen boy.

We made pastelitos for the Valverdes’ breakfast and some for ourselves. I lit the oven fire myself and mixed the flour and water for the pastry crust, shaped it and added the fillings Celia made. I was hungry and my right foot hurt like hell.

After a few hours, we finally went back down to our quarters to eat. Celia says I’m old enough to drink coffee now, so I had a cup with my small meal.

We have four rooms, just like the bohío we used to live in until I was eight, only it’s in someone else’s house. When we moved here, the first thing I noticed was how big the house is and how there were black iron bars on all the windows.

Fidel joined us at breakfast. When we noticed him singing under his breath about wine flowing, he exclaimed: "Damn, it's stuck in my head!" Then he started to mutter to himself. “I swear, if I hear 'I’ll See You In C-U-B-A' one more fucking time... The tourist board just keeps repeating that commercial over and over all day! I’m sick of hearing about dark-eyed Stellas, panatellas, and all the shows at the Shanghai Theater and The Montmartre.” He lowered his voice during the last few words, then his tone changed. "But they don't need to convince me to stay here. No need to leave the country. Yet."

Then, as if nothing happened, he reached across the table, picked up a pastry, bit into it, and said: “Celia, these pastelitos are the best you and Che have ever made.”

edited 2nd Sep '12 12:46:02 AM by Wheezy

25 MorwenEdhelwen2nd Sep 2012 03:14:22 AM from Sydney, Australia
Aussie Tolkien freak
@Wheezy: Thanks. BTW, would you mind being my beta reader? (I noticed you live in Florida, where the majority of Cubans live in the US. That's probably how you can tell if someone's Shown Their Work or not.)

edited 2nd Sep '12 3:27:35 AM by MorwenEdhelwen

The road goes ever on.

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