Wednesday, August 26, 2009

When Push Comes To Shove

Denise had been at her job for nearly fifteen years. When she started, it was just herself and the boss’s wife supporting a then half a million-dollar company. Now a decade and a half later, at close to seven million, she managed six others and had seen a lot of changes. She was even introduced to clients as the General Manager a time or two by the owner himself. But as time tells all, when a title is just a title it means little.

Over the years Denise had watched newly hired superstars get cars, expense accounts and perks too numerous to count. Outlay of cash was never in question if it were to ease their efforts; make their divisions more profitable. However, each time she would ask for upgrades in software, a new computer for one that had long ago outlived it’s usefulness it was like pulling teeth. She watched one or two of the other managers get compensated with “at cost” work around their homes. She had the company do work on her new home, that she paid for and after 13 years and 3 different attempts to resolve the issue of her front steps, they continued to pitch and sink and were now unusable. Was it a small thing? Yes, but small things over time add up.

On one occasion she had taken her car to a garage for inspection. The mechanic told her it would not pass. This was broke, that needed to be replaced etc. the entire bill would be around $2,700.00. She hadn’t been having trouble with her car and was suspicious. She brought it home and talked to her husband, who was usually less than supportive but on this occasion said he would take it to his mechanic and see what was going on. The outcome was significantly different. $2.45 for a new bulb and a turn or two of a wrench to tighten up the O2 sensor. She was enraged.

In restaurants it was her husband that was chatted up by the maĆ®tre d’, if she dined alone she was stuck at a table in the corner by the kitchen. Taxi cabs, forget about it. She stood in the rain more times than she could count while the other guy got in the cab sporting a condecending grin.

The ultimate insult was when her husband left her for someone else. During her divorce he had the nerve to ask why she was surprised, afterall the other woman was a huge success in her field and she was no more than a glorified secretary and was obviously, after 15 years was never going really make anything of herself. That was the crushing blow, the catalyst of things to come.

Still groggy from the the anethesia a line from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein came to mind. “When I found so astonishing a power placed within my hands, I hesitated a long time concerning the manner in which I should employ it". Sliding a hand under the hospital sheets for the first time, Dennis touched himself down there and smiled. Now he had his future firmly in his grip. His new job starts on Monday.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Comeuppance

At this intelligence, in which he seemingly evinced little interest, Mr. Bloom gazed abstractedly for the space of a half a second or so in the direction of a bucketdredger, rejoicing in the farfamed name of Eblana, moored alongside Customhouse quay and quite possibly out of repair, whereupon he observed evasively: "Everybody gets their own ration of luck, they say."

Four bodies had already been found. Weighted down, wrapped in sheets, their throats garroted by a burgundy ascot and dumped in the harbor. Judging from the condition of the women they had been there for some time. It would take time to identify them but Bloom’s instincts told him they were some of the missing prostitutes.

Across the channel at the end of the pier Mr. Bloom could see his nemesis Horace Blackstone III. Horace had always lived his life to suit himself and his dark pleasures. He had enough money to buy his way out of trouble. Drunk and disorderly, petty larcenies were just a few of the offenses skirted, all bought off with daddy’s money. This time would be no different, Horace thought smugly.

Bloom looked up just as another body was deposited on the pier. Cheryl Morgan, this one was still in good enough shape for him to recognize. She was a pretty girl and much to young to have ended up at the bottom of the harbor. She had no family, no one to morn her death; she was just another prostitute who paid for her sins with her life. When Bloom looked back to where Blackstone had been standing he had evaporated along with the mornings mist.

Mr. Bloom walked into the Haberdashery on Gold Street. He had a hunch. The ascot was of an exceptional quality and fabric. It wasn’t off the rack. Although the ocean water and rotting flesh had degraded the fabric he hoped Mr. Singer could identify it and more to the point who it had been made for. It was mere moments and Mr. Bloom had his answer. Stuffing the soggy ascot in his pocket he walked straight to Blackstone’s Brownstone. The maid informed Bloom that Mr. Blackstone was not in nor did she know when to expect him. Bloom turned away from the door and walked back along the waterfront. Something was off. He scanned the ships in the harbor, not sure what he was looking for. Just then the clipper Lucks Lady sailed out from behind the Eblana. Standing on the bow was Horace, smiling from ear to ear giving Bloom a vigorous wave. Blackstone was getting away with murder. But what he didn’t realize, due to his grandstanding, was that he was only inches away from the bow of the frigate Comeuppance. The jolt sent Blackstone tumbling ass over teakettle, catching him as he tumbled in the bowline. Now it was Blooms turn to grin. Blackstone swung, hung by the neck, bouncing against the sides of the boat. Luck sure is a fickle mistress.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Torcedores

Since the age of eleven Lucho had worked in the factory hauling tobacco leaves off the carts as they pulled up to the dock. Now at seventeen, with his newly discovered talent he had ascended the ranks and had been given the title of Torcedores, expert cigar roller. It was a big deal. Many of his relatives worked there too, his father, two uncles and three brothers, all just laborers. All of them, with the exception of Lucho belonged to the Federacion de Grupos Anarquistas de Cuba and fought against the Caudillo, Gerardo Machado. It wasn’t that Lucho didn’t believe in the cause but he had seen first hand the some of the “accidents” of those who did belong. In his own way he thought of himself as a talisman, being the only one not in the Federacion and being the owners favorite Torcedores, so far his family had escaped any overt retribution and he wanted to keep it that way but he also wanted out. Out of the mediocre existence that his family had lived in for generations but most of all out of Cuba.

Each evening Lucho would walk to meet his best friend outside the gates of his home. They would make their way down to the cantina where they would entertain the rest of the patrons. Lucho played his guitar while his friend would croon for the ladies. There they thrived. He and his friend were complete opposites on the outside. Lucho came from humble factory workers, his best friend the son of the Mayor of Santiago. Lucho was not what some would call attractive but he was no slouch either, he could pass in the daylight. His friend on the other hand always had a bevy of beauties buzzing around him. On the inside though, the playing field was far more level. It was their love of music that erased their socio-economic differences and made them equals. It was also their desire to find a better life that kept then tight. They spent hours talking about the what if's.

Lucho would never forget that morning in June 1934, the day the factory burnt to the ground. An "accident" was the official report. As he walked towards the charred remains the air was thick with smoke; pungent, acrid, it smelled of Machado. At that same time, three blocks away the Caudillo’s men arrested the Mayor, stripped him of his office and stole most of their property. The family it was reported was being deported.

Lucho ran the three blocks to his friend’s home just as the gates swung open. He ran straight into the front end of the Mayors Cadillac V-16, which knocked him on his ass, nearly knocking him out. His friend, his best friend, the one he thought he might never see again, stuck his head around the open back door with a smile a mile wide. Not a word passed between them, just seconds. Lucho scrambled to his feet and jumped in. He would write his folk on the way to Miami.

Pulling his Coconut Fedora lower on his forehead Lucho, Desi and the rest of the band walked onto the stage and the crowd erupted. But with the passage of the years Lucho Abril Marroquin was to tell himself that of all the instructive experiences of that morning the most unforgettable had not been either the first or the second accident but what happened afterwards.