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15TH April 2020

Cuba - Culture - Good Story - Havana Culture - Legends and tales - Timeless - Timely

Shelter(ed) Day 14 – Back to Havana


Chapter 14- Some Big Fish

 

 

Illustration- Pilar Boat Scene with Poppa, Brando, and the BTH Gang- Ermitas Blanco- Havana.

 

 

 

We can talk now. 

No one for miles, but blue marlin.

And shark. 

Marlins and shark. 

The Pilar’s owner was among the pioneers of blue marlin angling, using natural baits rigged to skip and swim, sometimes combined with an artificial lure or skirt to make “skirted baits” or “bait/lure combinations.” He found that it worked well along the eastern seaboard of the United States, and in the Bahamas, Caribbean, and Venezuela. 

“Welcome aboard the Pilar,” he began, “the best marlin boat in Cuba.” He extended a hand to the lady and let the rest settle in.

As he cast the line to the trailing dock, he started in again with his “Old Man and The Sea” monologue: 

You know, blue marlin are aggressive fish, he told his guests: Jorge, Finn, Nina and someone who passed as a deckhand but looked strangely familiar to the Americans — at least those with Netflix subscriptions. 

The Pilar was still in the no-wake zone of the harbor, so his stories were still audible above the engine noise.

“Blue marlin respond well to the splash, bubble trail, and the action of a well-presented artificial lure,” the captain continued. 

“But besides the shape, weight, and size of the lure head, the length and size of the leader used in lure rigging also influence the action. I fish my lures at speeds of 7 to 9 knots. I once caught a 1,000 pound marlin at 9.5!”

“By the time I landed it here in the Pilar, I swear to god it was no more than 500. You see, when the marlin tire, the sharks come ‘applecore’ them, ripping the meat right off the tired beast.”

“You can’t get them aboard fast enough.That’s why I have this tommy gun to shoot the sharks as they approach. It happened again in the last Hemingway Fishing Tournament, and my catch was disqualified.” 

“You see friends, in Havana, everyone takes his bite,” said Papa, as he surveyed the lines against the otherwise calm water. 

It was near silent then, except for the soft purr of the twin diesel engines and the lapping of the water against the deep crimson of the Pilar.

“Now, explain to me how this time travel works, and how I can be of help,”  as he got to the real business at hand.

Jorge, Nina, Finn, and Papa gathered around the livewell in the center of the boat and opened beers. Marlon the deckhand kept back, playing softly as they spoke.

Jorge started. “I travel back and forth in time between now and 2017.”

“I get to 1957 by driving a certain car- a ‘57 BelAir- along the Malecon until a wave crashes the sea wall and soaks us, and the fusebox. The salt water interacts with the fuses and cause the time rift to happen. That’s why there are so many ‘57 Bel Aires in Havana- I keep bringing them back!”

“I’ve even opened up a taxi company so I can watch over the cars in case I ever figure out how to get them back to 2017. Which is the other tricky part- travelling forward in time is only done- as far as I can tell- by filling a room I have in Havana Central with cigar smoke while setting this humidor timer to a date in 2017.”

“The key is these Tesla fuses that Nicola gave my grandfather as a gift for helping him out. My grandfather only used one, so I have dozens left. But that’s not many, and I’ve tried to stay conservative. I’ve never travelled anywhere but here. And I’ve never been able to reverse- engineer the things, so when they’re done, that’s it…”

Jorge went on, revealing that the time-travel did something to his internal organs. This was the cause of his internal bleeding, not easily treatable in Havana in 1957. He had to be back in 2017 to get treated. Plus, he needed to recruit other travellers to hang out in 1957 and others to come forward with him. 

Sooner or later, everyone would have to choose where to stay, or else risk serious health issues.

“So who’s on to you, kid?” Marlon suddenly chimed in, after hanging back until then. 

“Well, there’s always Sal. He’s basically a snitch. He’s been on me at the Nacionale, The Riviera, the Trop, god knows where else. He sells his information to the mob, and probably tries to resell it to BRAC, the tabloids, and whoever else is buying. He’s got a web of informants. And he knows Genetta and Snowball very well.”

“Then there’s Vinnie. He seems to be assigned to my tail by the mob. He was there at the Nacionale, but missed us at the Trop and the Riviera, though no doubt Sal filled him in later. He was the starter for the race around the Malecon, but I think that was more Lefty telling him what to do. He seems harmless, though he carries two pistols.”

“And BRAC must know at least as much as Vinnie and Sal, maybe more. They are the most paranoid force on the planet, working for the most paranoid guy, the Generalissimo. If they had an inkling of the power of these fuses, they would certainly want them. But more than that, they’d want to know how to use them. And they’re pretty preoccupied with other threats…”

Which is why I must mention the July 26th’s movement. They are so adept at hit and run feats that cause alarm and doubt about the Generalissimo’s control; the Trop bombing a few years back being one example. The July 26th Revolutionaries are too dis-organized at this point to focus on figuring time travel out. They would want to keep it from the general’s hands of course, but I don’t think they have the capacity to believe let alone imagine what power it holds. 

“And of course, I have no guarantee that someone else from the future doesn’t have a few fuses, as well. That would cause a lot of mayhem. And any of them would be happy to kill any of us to get answers.” 

“So why not steer clear of them all?” [Marlon asked]

“I would, except they owe Finn and I [$4.750,000] from the bets on last night’s race!”

“You’re kidding.”

“No, I’m not.”

“So, how you gonna collect from Lefty, what, [$4.750,000]?,” Marlon burst in, every bit that tough guy from the docks.

“You wanna hear my philosophy of life? Do it to him before he does it to you. Go see him before he hatches a plan to screw you.”

“Yeah, Lefty will go to Lansky. The Generalissimo will also be involved. They’ll try to cut you an in-kind deal, anything to avoid coughing up all that cash.” Papa said.

“You don’t want all that cash anyways, you’ll be one of the biggest fish in Havana… You’ll be robbed, like the sharks do the marlins,”   Papa added.

“I’d trade at least half of it for protection,” Marlon offered. 

“Maybe a home in Vedado and some cane or tobacco fields out in Vinales or something. I guess it depends on who you think will prevail in the Revolution, if there really is one coming. Oh, maybe you already know.”

“Take whatever they offer you. If you clear a million, that’s probably good. Take what they offer. But do your best to buy what’s most important in this town: protection. Don’t bother with Vinnie or even Lefty for these numbers. Get in front of Lansky, maybe at the racetrack.” 

“Normally, you’d have no leverage with a guy like that. But you have those fuses, and that may give him pause as to what you could do.” 

“Collecting near $5,000,000 from the mob. In Havana. In 1957. I can’t wait to see how this one works out,” Papa concluded.

“Now tell me this,” Papa continued, “If you’re not a time jumper much longer, who are you going to use?”

“Good question. Clearly, this stuff will kill me,” answered Jorge. “And I need to get back to 2017 for the treatment.” 

“I’ll come back”, Nina volunteered.

It was the first time she’d spoken since boarding the Pilar. But she’d been thinking about how she missed 2017… and wasn’t completely sold on 1957 as a place she wanted to stay forever. She’d be happy to get back to the present and her social media. Maybe Page Six would finally respect her photojournalism. 

“But I’d like to go with you to the doctor, Jorge, to know the risks, before I decide”, she added. 

Jorge was relieved. Nina was someone that maybe he could come to trust. And she had attraction for both periods, so she might be good for a few “jumps.” She was sharp, charming, resourceful. Her looks could get her into places she needed to enter, and out of places that she needed to escape. But most of all, he felt he could trust her. 

Finn had different feelings. Despite hooking up with Nina on the way down to Havana, and all around Havana that first day, it was no secret he’d since fallen for Genette. Finn and Nina had worked it out in a way that only “friends with benefits” could. But now he was experiencing a different feeling, almost like a protective big brother.

“How will you teach her how to use the fuses?,” he quizzed Jorge.

“And how many jumps did you make before you started to notice the side effects?”

“And what does the doctor in 2017 think?”

Jorge did his best to answer these slightly bizarre questions: the side effects of Time Travel are not in many brochures or medical journals.

“Well,” said Finn, “I guess that means I stay here to look over things when you guys are ‘out of town.’ So I better learn the systems, in case something goes wrong or someone comes back who we don’t expect.”

“And,” he continued, “if you’re sending someone back with Nina, how about you find someone who can help us control millions, hedge the mob, dodge the Generalissimo, and not end up poor, bitter and waiting tables back in Miami?!” 

“Sounds like a plan,” said Jorge. “In the meantime, let’s keep our distance, aside from our little scrap-paper notes. Otherwise, we shouldn’t hang out, except maybe on the Pilar.”

“Agreed.”

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. The lines whizzed out the back like a speedboat had snagged the lure. Marlon and Papa sprung to the chair and began setting the lines for a long, exiting marlin catch.

And the sharks circled hungrily, waiting for any sign of weakness.

~~

Prefer to read the whole Book One? Here is the Table of Contents, with links.

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