Friday, August 26, 2011


Press play for some mood music

Havana, 1953.

I told her there was nothing worse than waiting for the hurricane. And this phone call.

She ignored me. Cracking her gum, she bopped around the room and looked for her beach towel.

"You comin'?"

I shook my head and blew her a kiss. She shrugged her shoulders, blew me a kiss and slammed the door. Suddenly the room was quiet. That glorious kind of quiet that almost hums. But man, the air was as heavy as my great Aunt Millie after Thanksgiving dinner.

I paced, played with the radio, and discovered a young musician named Tito Puente. The sweat now dripped down my neck. Even though it was barely noon, I was dying for some whiskey -- something from Kentucky. The way I felt, I'd even go for some of that rotgut hooch mixed with Passaic River sold during Prohibition. But all they seemed to have down here was Rum. Tons of it. To me, the swill tasted like coffin varnish.

But there was a storm coming and it was all I had.

* * *

Three hours later, I couldn't see a hole in a ladder. She'd been at Cafe' Sunburn all afternoon and trotted back into the bungalow looking like a ripe Jersey tomato.

"Did you fall asleep in the sun?" I asked.

She told me instead of tanning lotion she rubbed on some Cuban paprika to get some color. I'd say it worked.

"Whatcha doin'?" she asked.

I pointed to the phone. It meant that I was still waiting for the phone call that would bring me to him.

General Fulgencio Batista.

The magazine wanted me to find his human side. Whatever that meant. A dictator was a dictator any way I sliced it and this Clyde's tale was a common one: Seized power in a military coup, banned elections and followed up with right wing policies.

I was instructed by Esquire to specifically ask him about a charismatic young revolutionary named Castro and what's being discussed in hush-hush circles as 'The Movement.'

She noticed the music and started to bob her head. We were dime grinding a few minutes later when the phone rang.

I was expecting The General but instead, it was Castro's people. They, too, wanted to talk to me.

Before I left the shack, I couldn't help but notice the storm clouds roll in. I wiped the sweat off my brow and took one last swig of the rum. By now, it tasted like that Kentucky nectar.

"Will you be back for dinner?" she asked.

I assured her that I would be and kissed her on her head. "Here's hoping that Castro's not such a bad guy..."

Music: Tito Puente & His Orchestra - Timbalero


  1. Well, you had me dabbing my neck with the heat, and thinking he might just not be back for dinner if he didn't ask the right questions.

    You paint a very vivid picture with your words!

  2. One of my favorite closing lines in recent memory, Anthony.

  3. Nice atmosphere - the approaching storm. Very well done. Loved the bit about coffin varnish.

  4. Excellent story! You painted a vivid picture, and left us hanging as to whether he'd make it back for dinner or not.

  5. Wow, some fantastic similes in this one. You're good at those regardless, but the varnish and Aunt Millie were wonderful.

    Atmospheric, wry and are a storyteller.

  6. Apologies for my absence of late, buddy. Will try harder.

    As ever, a fine piece of writing. Love your style and the mood you can create in so few words. Excellent.

    (P.s. Still waiting to see your name in the in-box at The Flash Fiction Offensive.)

  7. Great descriptions, you put me right there. I call that good writing. Really like how you did the setting too, so true to the time. Your characters come to me as real people.

  8. Ah, Tito Puente did it for me (saw him and his band in concert once, even). I'm from south Florida, and recognize so much of the authentic cultural feelings here - one of the best word-pictures I've read.


  9. Sweet imagery here. Love the "I couldn't see a hole in a ladder" line. Took me there to that heaviness before the heavens loose their load. Peace...

  10. Wonderful~I thought I was reading something from Hunter Thompson or his ilk~~masterful, evocative writing!


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