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.
“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.