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By Anne Ching
Che Guevara Serna,
Baracoa, Oriente Province
Monday May 6
“A street fight which began last week as a struggle between groups of freelance smugglers over payments for shipments and arrests due to trafficking of cocaine to the U.S. has become a battle extending from the capital to over the American border. The chairman of the Habana syndicate has stated that he will attempt to deal with the violence, and Habana police and private enforcers are being deployed to Vedado as we speak. American police are also planning on crossing the border on 24-hour patrolling duty at the docks.
It is meant to maintain the blockade, according to the FBI chief. Captain José Castro, head of the PNRC’s La Habana division, says that the work of eradicating illegal smuggling is constant and requires international assistance. It does not only concern Cubans.
In Guantanamo, the leading syndicate of the area, the Oriente Syndicate is working to enforce stricter border laws and prevent illegal immigrants from Haiti, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic crossing the bay. In the last four months, the number of illegal immigrantshas increased. The government plans to house more of them in Guantanamo Bay detention camp. On that note, Tomás García, the PAU’s presidential candidate, plans to run on an increased border control and anti-illegal immigration platform.”
That was the news on Radio Rebelde this morning, coming out of the radio just above the sink on the kitchen counter in Celia and Fidel’s apartment. The radio was from Fidel’s mother’s house. He took it when he left home. He was fifteen. Just a year older than me.
They showed it on TV too on NNRC (Neuva Noticia Revolucionario Cubano, or New Revolutionary Cuban News). “Contracted enforcers working for casino owners and city police officers have been deployed to La Habana’s 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 this issue, a move which could lead to reforms.” The reporter was a yuma with a Habana accent.
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 when a smuggler asked him to pay his debt- and Celia and I’ve finished cleaning up the leftover food.
Celia’s making congrí for lunch and arroz con pollo for dinner. She and Fidel will talk about the broadcast tonight. I know that. Or maybe even tomorrow. She’s stocky and has dark brown skin and a black Afro. I’m brown too and I have an Afro too but I’m a little taller and lighter-skinned than her. Fidel’s black but Celia and I are mulatto. Celia’s part Indian. I’m a mulatto because of the stuff they did to me when I was born in the lab.
Tuesday May 7
This morning I was yelled at until I got up. It was hard because my legs were extra sore. I hate doing this. Also my asthma makes me tired enough to want to collapse on the couch.
After watching me take my pills with some water Celia called, “Ay, muchacho, I need you in the kitchen.”
I pulled the blanket up over my head and shut my eyes, trying to ignore the dawn chorus of tocororos and parakeets and waiting for her to leave. No luck for me. “Che. Come on.” Then a yell. “Che Guevara Serna!” My full name. Sounded like bullets. I’m Che because I’m almost exactly like a certain dead revolutionary. “Get dressed now and get out of there!”
I got up, put on my shirt and followed her into the main kitchen, where everyone except us and the other servants eat.
She’s the housekeeper and I’m the kitchen boy. I walked as fast as I could, almost running with a limp because of my club foot. My right foot’s smaller than my left and not as fast. “Don’t run, mi vida. You’ll fall.” she reminded me, squeezing my shoulder.
We made pastelitos. I lit the stove fire myself and mixed the flour and water for the pastry crust, shaped it and added the fillings Celia made. They had chicken with raisins inside. I was hungry and my foot hurt. I wiped my hands on a towel. Finally after a few hours we went back to our apartment with the food.
There’s five rooms in our apartment, like the bohío in the batey, or workers’ village in the fields that we lived in until I was six. Everyone there has a vegetable patch and a yard where they keep their animals. When we first came here, the first thing I noticed was the iron 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 the streets.
Fidel knows about them. He worked for some of the big smugglers. He said they have huge briefcases stuffed with $100 bills from America and computers and phones that are connected to video cameras. “I always tried to get in there, and when I managed to do it, the computers were always on. If they’re really good at smuggling, they can afford fancier houses.”
Some of them live in haciendas like here. “They have their own processing labs and curing sheds and houses in different parts of the island. Some are in the sugar business too.”
He delivered messages. Some other kids called him hijo de puta, because she was a jinetera and she didn’t know much about his father. Hijo de la puta is one of my favorite insults. It’s one of his too.
He and Celia taught me until the colonel hired Señor Mendoza to teach me most of my subjects. I was seven when that happened. Señora Johansson teaches me music and politics. When I was five, Celia made me sit down and gave me a sheet of paper and a pencil. Then she wrote letters and sentences in an exercise book and I traced and copied 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 everything else too.
When he joined us at the table in the kitchen, he was singing under his breath, He exclaimed,
“Damn it, if I hear I’ll See You In C-U-B-A 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 Tropicana. They don’t have to convince me to stay. Why would I leave? Me love mi patria, mi Cuba!” He sometimes gets a Jamaican accent when he speaks English.
He reached across the table for a pastry and bit into it as if nothing had happened. “Celia, these pastries are some of the best you and Che have made.” Then he picked up a mug of coffee and drank.
“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?”
“Well I don’t know.”
I was right. They did talk about the broadcast yesterday. And today’s broadcast. “How long will this go on? The president’s talking about declaring martial law.”Her voice had the same tone as when she saw or heard something important, He must be desperate.
“Well, I’m not looking forward to confirming my identity at roadblocks in front of officers and tanks.” He sighed.
Wednesday May 8
I’ve got extra homework from Señor Mendoza. I’ll concentrate on it instead of my baseball. Celia keeps flipping between stations. Something’s happening with Fidel too. He spent all yesterday morning after breakfast on the phone in their bedroom 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. 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 by dirigible.”
Today he said, “Fine. If that satisfies you and it’s what you want, I’m flying over there with the package and my gun for four weeks. And a case of my own.” He slammed down the phone.
He told me that before I was born, 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 killed.”
“No, I wouldn’t call it that. It ain’t blackmail, it’s the truth. They know me. I worked for the Caimanera Syndicate once.” After he said that the caller hung up.
“He didn’t even say his name.” Fidel spoke very fast under his breath. “Couldn’t even admit to what he’d done. Too scared I guess.” Then he said, “Facin’ up 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 will be consequences. They’ll hurt me more than they hurt you.”
This is code for “I’ll give you a lick.” It’s guaranteed to make me tense whenever he says that, because his licks hurt a lot, even
My butt burned for weeks the last time he gave me his belt. I was ten and it was because I hadn’t waited for twenty minutes before swimming after I’d had lunch.
“You could have drowned. Or at least gotten cramps. Especially because of your asthma. Do you realise how worried you made me? I should shove my foot in your ass.” He picked up that phrase from watching American TV.
He pulled me inside through the side door, led me down the hallway to our apartment, yanked my clothes off and dressed me in another shirt and shorts. I tried to pull away but he held my hand tightly. He let go of my hand and sat me down on a stool near our living room door.
Then I heard him unbuckle his belt and sit down on the couch. “Ven aca. Come here.” he said quietly. I felt an asthma attack coming on when I got up and walked towards the couch.
He rushed to the cabinet, took hold of my shoulders and gave me puffs of the inhaler.
Then he gripped both my hands and pulled me down on his lap. The belt swished down on my butt six times. After that he buckled the belt and sat me on his lap for a while. It smarted.
When we went out to the kitchen, Celia looked at me with an unreadable expression.
I think she could tell what had happened. Fidel just pulled up a chair and sat himself down.
I played with this train set they bought me. A few minutes later, Celia pulled me onto her lap in a chair in our kitchen and said I’d really worried them and Fidel didn’t want something to happen to me after I explained that I was hot.
edited 9th Dec '12 2:31:57 PM by MorwenEdhelwen
The road goes ever on.