Tag Archives: Author: Eduardo Cervino

An Evening in 1964 Havana by Eduardo Cervino

 

Cuba

WITH the Cuban revolution in full bloom, and the deposed General Batista living in luxurious splendor amid European dictators of the time, the Castro brothers and their guerrillas force engaged in ridding the Island of all opposition. They did it in the name of the people. In time, Cubans will come to understand the code implicit in the rhetoric of the guerrilla force.

Traditionally many Native American tribe’s names meant The People, Us, Human Beings and the like. This inclusionary designation of their society indicated a subconscious acceptance of the value of human cooperation.  It was masterfully expressed in the motto Un pour tous, tous pour un (one for all, all for one) in the meeting between Catholics and Protestants in the 1618 Kingdom of Bohemia. Then, just as today, such noble ideals tend to foment disastrous consequences.

For the Castro guerrillas in the 1960’s and until today, the term The People had a narrow, less sublime interpretation. For them, THE PEOPLE referred to their supporters, their militias, and that part of the populace committed to serving the regime in exchange for privileges.

This earthbound, self-serving interpretation breeds resentment, division, and envy. It lowers the peoples’ essence until they become the masses, and a large portion of them devolves into a mob, and the mob turns into a sounder of swine wallowing in the mud.

In 1962, a friend gave me a copy of Animal Farm by George Orwell. After that I saw the animated movie. Dejected, I left the theater and rode home. I realized I was already a citizen of Orwell’s imaginary state. It scared me. Two years later, imagination and reality merged.

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The telegram arrived at the house on the second of April. I came home late. When opening the door, the grandfather clock’s gong marked the half hour past twelve. My sister Rita waited for me in the living room, listening to the huge vacuum-tube radio my mother had purchased before I was born.

“A soldier went around the neighborhood today delivering those envelopes,” she said without preamble, pointing to one on the mahogany table. “A small mob chanting political slogans followed him.”

“When was that?”

“This afternoon.”

I reached for and read my name on the manila envelope.

“Grandma and I heard the street noise from the dining room. All she said was, ‘bad news.’ Then we stood up and came to the living room.

“I looked out through the window, and recognized some of them. The soldier knocked at our neighbors’ doors. The mob quieted down and pushed each other to see who opened each door.

“Let’s go to the porch,” Grandma said, and we watched them come closer. The soldier was that red-haired guy you used to be friends with. Most recipients took the envelope and quickly shut the door; some acted nervously, except Rafael, our next-door neighbor.”

“What about Grandma?”

“You know her. She walked to the garden’s iron gate, looking at the soldier’s face like a general.

She said, ‘Good morning, Miguel.’ And smiled.”

Miguel and I had been friends since we were ten-year-old boys playing in the tree house in our mango tree. He dropped out of high school. I went on, but our friendship cooled. Now, at twenty-four, in fatigues and carrying a pistol, he had become a fanatical follower of the new strongman, regardless that he joined the rebel army after they won the war.

Rita continued. “He hesitated, and said, ‘Good morning. Here, take this and give it to him’. He didn’t even mention her name or yours, Ed.”

My sister clung to my arm. Together we ambled through the house in search of Grandma Josefina. colonial_havana

That day, I had worked until five in the afternoon. After that, I walked to the historical district, where four-hundred-year-old colonial plazas, palaces, convents, and military castles erected by the conquistadors, still stood. Massive, weathered wooden doors guarded the entrances to the moss-covered stone buildings. My favorite watering hole resided in the area.

Centuries-old cobblestones had been polished and grooved by horse-drawn carriage wheels. History’s ghosts prowled about me as I walked in shaded galleries supported by rows of stone columns and arches. On the Plaza Cervantes, pigeons refused to yield the road; the coo-cooing little beggars gathered around my feet.

Havana catedral

I plunged into the narrow streets beyond the plaza. Twilight shadows clawed their way up the walls. This evening, as in the yesterdays of my great-great-grandfathers, embracing couples inhabited the wide portals’ shadows.

I raised my eyes toward the still, cloudy sky. A seated, elderly, bronze-colored woman with a red scarf tied around her white curly hair stared at me from an ornate balcony.

She seems old and frail.

For a second, a flying bat distracted me. I looked at the balcony again. The woman was gone.

Old couples strolled the streets. They ignored the contemporary concrete sidewalks in favor of walking on the cobblestones that shared with them the scars of time. The balmy air wafting from the Bay carried the tang of the sea.

I can’t decide if I like that smell or not.

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At the watering hole and restaurant, one could always be sure to find a quorum for a lively interchange of ideas, as well as rumors proliferating around the city like cockroaches in the sewer. Not all members of the group were present each night. I had been coming in for years.

No one knows when these reunions had started. Over the decades, faces changed but the tertulia had continued in the same locale.

Of late, although no one had requested it, the conversation was conducted in low voice. The political atmosphere dictated prudence.

Calvert Casey, the writer, was speaking when I sat. “Today at the paper they brought a new guy. All written material must be approved by him before going to press.”

“No surprise in that,” responded Carlos, a well-known young actor. “Since the beginning of the year, all television and radio programs must have socially meaningful content. ‘Young worker denounces brother for Contra-Revolutionary activities and becomes hero of the people.’ That sort of crap. Where have you been?”

“Not watching television, that’s for sure,” Casey said.

Raul, an abstract painter, interrupted, “They removed some paintings from the National Gallery. Non-figurative works, and…”

Casey interrupted: “All of them? Including the contemporary room?”

“Of course not,” said Raul. “They left the work of the young friend of you-know-who.” He tapped his left shoulder with the index and middle finger of his right hand.

Fearful of mentioning names, the people had developed a sign language. This gesture indicated the shoulder pads of a particular commander in the armed forces. The high-level officer was rumored to be attracted to young males of mixed race.

Irma, a singer-dancer with a contagious laugh and waist-length hair, smoked a cigar out of the corner of her mouth. She was explosive in manner, delicious in appearance, and free of spirit. Her voice had made famous more than one composer on the island. She exuded sexuality, but only the few of us she had invited to her inner sanctum knew her mastery over the world of satin sheets.

She drew on her cigar, blew a smoke wreath toward the high ceiling, and watched the fan blades dispel it. The ritual was meant to gather attention so she could speak uncontested.

“The painter you are talking about lives in my building’s penthouse. It’s being renovated. The officer in question comes around.” She drew on her cigar again. “By the way, both are married.”

Amador, a young musician, changed the subject. “You have noticed that tonight no one is playing. It’s the first time in two years the musicians have missed their show.”

We all looked in the direction of the small stage. With a lonely guitar on the chair by the piano, its silence was a loud call to the customers’ ears. Many came to drink and listen to the house trio—guitar, piano, and drums—whose records sold all over the world and with whom Marlon Brando had shared raucous nights of drinking and bongo playing during his Havana escapades.

“What happened to them? Do you know?” I said.

“They escaped the island during the night after their last performance,” somebody in the group said. I did not see who it was, and did not care about how he knew.

“Lucky bastards,” I said.

Raul looked at me. “Shhh, not so loud; the waitress has been paying attention to our chat.”

I glanced in the direction. “She is young, maybe eighteen.”

“The younger they are, the easier to train as throat-cutters,” Irma said.

Casey continued. “I’ve heard the UMAP is rounding up dissidents and homosexuals. So just in case, it’s been a pleasure to have known you all.”

“I can’t figure out what the State Security department has to fear from homosexuals,” I said.

He lifted his glass; filled with mojito, above his head. He had consumed several of those and his voice was beginning to garble. He kept gazing at the century-old marble table of the venerable bar and restaurant.

“As you can see, I’m practicing to drink my hemlock.”

The marble table had her memories too: I’ve heard thousands of stories. Famous hands, from Errol Flynn to Meyer Lansky and Josephine Baker, have dulled my surface. The poet’s pen, the artist’s pencils, have rested on me. Novels and plays have been written on top of me, but now, all I hear is sorrow—no creative ideas, no passionate prose are discussed around me. The times are changing, and fear is all I hear.

“Time for me to go,” I said. “Goodbye.”

 * * *

Cuban Author Eduardo Cerviño Alzugaray was born in Havana, Cuba. His latest novel, Cuba the Crocodile Islandis based on real events in the life of the author, and for that reason this work is published under his real family name.

The characters’ names, except his own, have been changed to protect the identity of those persons still residing in Cuba. Although a few of those persons have passed away, they are still present in the author’s memory, some with enormous, and others as a significant part of his spiritual growth.

The author has traveled extensively throughout the US, Europe, and Latin America. He has lived in several countries, but his principal residence has been in the US since 1968. He resides in Arizona with his wife and writing collaborator, Les Brierfield. The author appreciates with all his heart the time you may dedicate to reading his work.

You are invited to visit: www.ecbrierfield.com

The Good, The Bad, and The Mexican By: Eduardo Cerviño

 

Secundino

Yesterday, by the time sunlight filtered through my office windows, I’d written the first three pages of a short story intended for this blog. Hunger made me stop and eat breakfast, which ended with a glass of grape juice.

As the burning star climbed a few degrees above the trees surrounding my home, the pale natural light began to turn golden yellow. The rays spilled over the treetops and awoke the Mexican bird of paradise on my patio. Its bright incandescent flowers opened up.

Warm light bathed me inside the dining room, passed through a stained glass partition, broke into a rainbow of primary colors, and tinted the carpet, the furniture and the wall

This time of the year, Arizona takes a breather from her customary hellish heat and turns into paradise.

I’d be a fool not to go out and enjoy the pleasant cool breeze.

Outside, the giant Saguaros and palm trees projected long striped shadows. I caught a fleeting glimpse of the cottontail rabbit family living under the cactus grove in my garden.

Overnight, yesterday’s clouds had melted into rain, and around my feet the morning dew created a shimmering blanket of liquid diamonds. Without a cloud in sight, the elegant palm tree canopies softly swayed against the sharp blue sky.

A cherry red Chevy truck entered my driveway. Secundino, the Mexican gentleman who has pruned my trees for the last eighteen years, alighted from the cab.

Buenos días,” he shouted, while removing his blue cap with a Ford decal. His broad smile showed two missing teeth.

Secundino’s onyx black hair is long and shiny with silver streaks over his copper colored ears. He walks straight and looks directly into one’s face with a determined stare. It’s not an arrogant look, but the frank open glance of a hardworking man whose ancestors built an empire with pyramids as majestic as the Egyptians built. Their capital city, upon a lagoon, rivaled The Serenissima Venezia.

“Don Eduardo, it’s time to trim the palms,” he said in the melodious Spanish accent from the state of Sonora. I have not been able to stop him from calling me “Don” Eduardo.

“That’s what they called my grandpa. Eduardo is enough for me.” I’ve said this to him lots of times to no avail. “Don Eduardo makes me feel older than I am.”

Each time he looked at me, bobbed his head up and down, and said: “Muy bien, Don Eduardo.”

“Okay, Secundino, go ahead. They are shedding leaves and pods over my neighbor’s gardens,” I said. We shook hands, and soon after he climbed up the sixty-plus foot high trunks and nestled himself among the frondose canopy. Enormous fan-like waxy green and brown fronds started flying over my head like free floating kites. I ducked for cover.

I watched with admiration. No one would believe he is seventy years old.

I started collecting the falling fronds, not because he expected my help, but because I, too, love the physicality of hard work, especially on a temperate day like this.

A passing SUV stopped by my house. I recognized the driver, a man past the prime of his life who lives facing the park a few blocks away and often walks his huge furry dog by my house. On occasion we chat if I happen to be outside. We have become more than acquaintances, but less than friends.

His house is opulent. An ample carport extends over the semicircular driveway. A second story overlook surveys the nearby mountains and palm trees in the back yard.

He joined me. Our conversation started with idle chat. We both kept talking with tilted up heads and eyes fix on the top of the palms and Secundino.

We grew tired of blowing air mindlessly. It was he who started talking about the politics of the day. At first his words went in one ear and out the other, until the underlying content of his words made them stay inside my head, like water rising up behind a dam.

As a child, Mother used to tell me, “Polite people don’t talk about religion, politics, or money.” Maybe that was the reason she was loved by so many people. She listened to me and everyone else with such intensity that we felt compelled to share with her our innermost worries. To Mother, time didn’t matter when she was consoling a human being. She engaged us in a Socratic conversation. We could talk to our heart’s content about our soul’s problems. She punctuated our diatribe with thoughtful monosyllabic comments, and suggestions. “Aha, I see, calm down, try to do this or that.”

Everybody left her side comforted, peaceful, and reborn. Needless to say, to my chagrin, I’m not like her.

This neighbor of mine kept talking faster than usual. He seemed agitated and started revealing his dehumanizing paleoconservative leanings. Something he said prompted me to ask, “Are you having business problems?”

My mistake. I had broken one of my mother’s politeness rules. His hate for the government in general, and President Obama in particular, spewed forth. His stereotypical political opinions increased the pressure against the imaginary brain dam inside my head.

“Doesn’t everybody these days? These unions are pestering me.” He stopped to light a cigarette, but could not stop venting his innumerable grievances against liberals, minorities, Muslins, and foreigners. I’m not sure if he made distinctions between legal or illegal ones. He loved the idea of a taller, longer, meaner wall at the Mexican border.

The man had fouled my morning, I wanted him to go away so I could decompress my head and reseed my thoughts with love.

“What can I do for you today, my friend?” I interrupted. “I want to get this done before noon.” I pointed at the fronds piling up at the foot of the palms.

“I saw what you are doing. The palms in my yard need pruning, too. I called the landscape company that takes care of my garden. But they said the palms are too high and they no longer can reach the canopy with their cherry picker. You think your guy can come by after he finishes here?”

I looked up and yelled in Spanish: “Secundino, do you want go to this cabron’s house and trim his palms later on?”

He was coming down from one of the palms. He stopped midway down the trunk and yelled back in Spanish. “Of course, Don Eduardo. Tell him thirty-five dollars each, and I can do them tomorrow early. I have two other jobs today.”

I said to my neighbor: “My Mexican friend says . . . and proceeded to translate Secundino’s words.

The man smiled. “Tell him I’ll see him tomorrow anytime.” He lowered his voice. “My landscapers used to charge me forty dollars.”

I felt relieved when he shook my hand and left. Secundino was now on the ground. He approached me while I was organizing fronds in manageable heaps.

“I guess the man doesn’t know what cabron means in Spanish,” Secundino said.

I had called my neighbor an old goat, to indicate to Secundino that he was not a good friend of mine. He understood and asked fifteen dollars more than he charged me.

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About the Author

Eduardo Cerviño Alzugaray, aka E. C. Brierfield, is the author of several novels and numerous short stories. His recent autobiographical novel, Cuba the Crocodile Island, is based on his internment in a forced Communist labor camp during the chaotic beginning years of Fidel Castro’s revolution. This is the reason why he published it under his family name, rather than his pen name.

A few of the characters’ names, except his own, have been changed to protect the identity of persons still residing on the island. Although many of the book’s characters have passed away, they are still present in the author’s memory. Some are remembered with enormous affection and others as a painful, if significant, part of the author’s spiritual growth, but none with rancor.

Thirty years after leaving the island, family issues brought the author back to Cuba.

While he stood in the Cathedral Plaza like any other tourist, a soldier approached him. After a few awkward moments, the officer identified himself as the lieutenant prominently described in this novel. His haggard appearance made him unrecognizable. He was inquisitive about the author’s life in the US. Satisfying his curiosity was a vindicating experience for the author. As the author attempted to pull away and continue his sentimental journey, the officer was reluctant to let go of his hand.

As an architectural designer, Eduardo has traveled extensively throughout the US, Europe, and Latin America. He has lived in several countries, but his principal residence has been in the US since 1968.

He resides in Arizona with his wife and writing collaborator, Les Brierfield.

The author appreciates with all his heart the time you have dedicated to reading his work.

You are invited to visit the author’s website:

www.ecbrierfield.com

To purchase Cuba the Crocodile Island, please visit

http://tinyurl.com/cubacroc

Caribbean Time Capsule By Eduardo Cervino

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Nothing lends a movie historical perspective like vehicles strewn along the street. An elegant horse-drawn carriage, a western stagecoach, or a few iconic American cars traveling across the screen allows our minds to time-travel.

When tourists land in Cuba, they enter a pictorial time capsule, where life has stood still for fifty years.

Havana is a living car museum. A 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air rolls by, followed by a 1957 Cadillac convertible, or a 1950 Mercury. Much older cars still roll the streets of Havana. Any of them might be freshly painted and flashy, like those in American collections. Others can barely hold their own weight. All still faithfully serve their owners’ needs due to inexhaustible Cuban ingenuity.

The streets are almost empty by American standards. Gone are the traffic jams that Cubans like me remember from the pre-Revolutionary 1950s decade.

A time capsule is buried so future generations can peek into the past and gain insight as they admire the official documents, coins, newspapers, and the like preserved inside. Havana is a different type of time capsule, a gigantic one you do not open. Instead, you enter it and observe people moving about you, like actors in a tropical adaptation of the German movie, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligary.

How charming! Tourists might say.

And there they go in one of those classic vehicles now serving as a taxi to visit the Cathedral Plaza, the first one built on the American continent, or eat in restaurants that a majority of Cubans can’t afford.

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They might stay in the mostly European-built new hotels or in old ones from the era of Meyer Lansky and his crime syndicate. Bed-and-breakfasts now flourish around the city, maintained by Cuban families desperate to earn dollars, the only currency with real value on the island. The Cuban peso has become valueless.

If the tourist is a man alone, chances are he is coming to enjoy the darker aspect of Havana. Prostitution is once again rampant for the same reasons that at the end of WWII, women and young men in Italy and Berlin traded sex for chocolates

City streets around the world are movie sets. They reflect the country’s history and folklore, while behind the façades each dweller is the star of their own distinctive play.

In Cuba, as in most countries under dictatorial control, the drama inside each home is the same: constant worry about survival, lack of food, and mistrust of one another. Despair about the future and lack of conveniences we, the Cubans outside the island, take for granted.

Families are stuck in the 1950s. Their refrigerators are falling apart, their furniture is old. Their houses’ interiors are dilapidated, unpainted for years, moldy. What is worse, roofs are in danger of collapsing on their heads.

The exceptions, of course, are those families of politically connected individuals, whose remuneration is not measured in terms of productivity to society but political loyalty. They have been allowed to confiscate the furnished mansions or ranches the old aristocracy left behind.

 Habana Malecon

In recent months, a great portion of the city became inundated. Water rose to waist height. Fourteen hundred buildings were terribly damaged and a few of them collapsed. For the unlucky residents, life took a turn for the worse. Repairing those homes in today’s Cuban workers’ paradise, with its systemic lack of construction materials, would be like a fairytale coming true.

These floods are a relatively new development in Havana; the enormous area in question includes the large neighborhoods of Old Town Havana, El Cerro, and Centro Havana. The residents had never seen this climate-related phenomenon before.

To Cubans, “climate change” is a reality, not a political football.

The city’s infrastructure, mostly abandoned by the government for the last fifty years, is a disaster. To repair it would cost billions of dollars. Until recently, electricity was constantly failing, and blackouts were a normal occurrence. This problem has been alleviated somewhat.

The potable water system is so old that neighborhoods like the one where I used to live receive water for a few hours during the night and people must store it for daytime use. Contamination is a continuous worry. A very small percentage of the people have access to the Internet.

Havana is a shadow of its former glory. The island population has more than doubled since 1959, while the nation’s mismanaged resources have dwindled. The only prosperous institution is the military.

Cubans are resourceful by nature. They make jokes out of tragedy and laugh when others would be crying. However, these survival strategies mask a sad existence tourists do not see, and the taxi driver will not show them. Why spoil a vacation?

Some tourists come to Havana imbued by romantic leftist political beliefs, and they will not submit to the stress of analyzing their cognitive dissonance.

To those I offer the following to consider. One third of the world population lives in extreme poverty, as defined by an income of less that $2 a day for a 20-day work month.

The United States has a monthly average of $3,200. The rest of the industrialized countries’ incomes vary. Some are higher, some are lower but all are at least 100 times the average Cuban income of  $20, yes, twenty dollars per month. A medical doctor in Havana makes $25. I know this firsthand, as some dear relatives of mine are medical doctors.

When I was a student of architecture in 1950s Havana, my salary as a draftsman was $160, at the time a respectable income. So, Cuba has marched backwards to the alluring rhythms of military anthems, noisy workers May First parades, obligatory attendance at public assemblies, and the wooing of platonic political speeches.

America’s newly developing policy toward Cuba is both welcomed and reviled by Cubans in the US and a large portion of American citizens as well.

Since the policy was made public, Cubans’ attempts to cross the shark-infested Florida Strait have increased by over 100%. By chancing the perilous sea voyage, those Cubans express their lack of confidence about future improvements in their daily lives.

They also are fearful of the US revoking the “wet feet dry feet” benefit only Cubans enjoy, thereby sealing the hole in the imaginary sugar cane curtain surrounding the island.

I predict that once the dust settles, nothing will have changed for the islanders, as long as the geriatric ruling class of the Castro brothers and their sycophants breathe under the majestic swaying royal palms.

Under President Obama’s version of the Cuba detente plan, the only beneficiaries on the island would be the political elite able to suck at the teat of the capitalist cow ninety miles to the north.

In the US, American CEO’s would have another money source to keep filling their already overflowing money pits. Caught in the middle as usual, the Cuban people would continue to live in a Caribbean enactment of George Orwell’s dystopian novella, Animal Farm.

 

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Born in Havana, Cuba, Eduardo Cervino (AKA E.C. Brierfield) lived through General Batista’s dictatorship, Fidel Castro’s revolution, and the period after the revolution from 1959 to 1967. Several attempts to leave Cuba during those eight years failed. In 1967, he moved to Europe and eventually came to the US. His last novel, Crocodile Island, is the story of one such effort. Eduardo is also the author of several other novels and numerous short stories. Please visit www.ecbrierfield.com

 

 

 

To care or not to care. Are these the options? by Eduardo Cervino

Jean Valjean

Jean Valjean

Whether it is possible for a fair, reasonable person to remain oblivious to current political trends in the US. Or to abhor the hatred and jingoism vomited by righteous porters of bibles and guns.

If this sentence strikes a chord, make no mistake. It’s meant to provoke you.

Can you pass beyond the cheap literary hook?

Can you share with me the outrage against those forked-tongued politicians, preachers and televangelists poisoning people’s minds?

What can I do to awaken empathy for the millions among us at the margin of society?

Are we becoming a nation of psychopaths?

A nation where puppets of the rich govern for the benefit of the rich.

A nation where legislators criminalize poverty, and police arrest good men who feed the hungry.

A nation so arrogant that it takes pride in bucking the trends of the industrialized world. Refuses free education and affordable health care for all. Reduces child welfare, increases control of women’s reproductive rights, and promotes inequality.

A nation that revives the discredited philosophy of Ayn Rand, thereby raising the pursuit of money to the level of a satanic cult.

A nation that tramples over honest but less fortunate citizens

The majority of Americans refuse to see that abstaining from voting allows the nation’s oligarchy to solidify its control over our system of laws.

We agree that congressmen are for sale to the higher bidder, like whores in a Wild West bordello. But our refusal to vote gets them re-elected by 13% of eligible voters.

How many legislators enter office possessing a moderate net worth and leave as millionaires?

Coolidge, the 30th president of the US, said, “After all, the chief business of the American people is business.” That canon served the interest of the entire people well.

Now, however, the avarice of the 1% has created despicable new sources of revenue. It has converted education of the nation’s youngsters into a business.

Have we forgotten that education is the foundation of the country’s future?

It’s no coincidence that incarcerated citizens in the US exceeds the number in other industrialized countries combined. Sweden has closed four prisons for lack of inmates. But in the US, prison construction is a growth industry more profitable than home building

Greedy CEOs have converted the pharmaceutical industry and health services into businesses dealing with life and death. It’s more accurate to say dealing with preserving the lives of those who can afford the best at the expense of hurting those who cannot.

The war on drugs is another profit center. A large sector of the armed forces pursues smugglers. Those resources could be allocated to rehabilitation of the users. This is crazy, the equivalent of trying to cut the supply and let the demand increase.

Millions of citizens have died of tobacco smoking. When was the last time you heard of anyone dying from smoking marijuana? Yet we subside the tobacco industry while resisting legalization and taxation of marijuana in most states.

Does all this sound to you like a successful, exceptional society or a failed one?

How can we fix the future if we believe things are perfect, contrary to all statistical evidence? In reality, we are number seven in literacy, twenty-seven in math, forty-nine in life expectancy, but number one in defense expending and religious belief.

By now you may say, complaints, complaints. What can we do?

We should start by removing the For Sale sign from the Capitol building. About 150,000 wealthy individuals in the country contributed the great percentage of money spent in the races in an effort to manipulate the uneducated masses. They invest billions of dollars to buy loyalty from senators and representatives.

The average legislator spends thirty to seventy percent of his or her time in office raising money for the next campaign. What do you think they give away in exchange for the money they receive?

Their yearly salary increase, or cutting taxes for the 150,000 donors?

Increasing regulations of the banksters and larcenous Wall Street speculators, or cutting the peoples’ right to heath care and education, children’s’ Head Start programs, and soldiers’ mental health care?

Please, my fellow Americans, teach your children to vote. Better still, take them with you when you vote. Stop the madness before we regress to the times of the pre-industrial revolution, if we are lucky, of those of Genghis Khan if not.

 

Eduardo Cervino was born in Havana, Cuba, where he studied art and architecture. The Castro revolution failed to deliver on its promises of freedom, prosperity, and peace. Eduardo refused the communist regime’s indoctrination. Instead, he voiced his opposition and ended in an agricultural forced labor camp. In time, he moved to Madrid, Spain.

To leave his loved ones hit him like a ton of bricks. The pain seeded his heart with an overwhelming desire to give a hand to the fallen and join any group dedicated to healing the hurting.

After arriving in the USA, he wrote his memoirs. Eduardo found great satisfaction in writing. In New York City, he renewed his painting career. Since then, he has combined painting, architecture, and writing to quench his curiosity and express his awe for life’s wonders.

He has traveled throughout the Caribbean, Latin America, Europe, and Canada. In the USA, Eduardo has resided in Havana, Cuba; Madrid, Spain; New York City, Denver, and Phoenix.

“Life’s ups and downs make it a marvelous experience,” he said. “But only if we cultivate an ever-growing circle of friends to share it with.”

http://tinyurl.com/cultofiona

PUMPKIN By Eduardo Cervino

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I KNEW that a family from a nearby city had converted a double-camber roof barn on the property next to us into a large, comfortable, open-plan home. As the conversion had progressed, I had sneaked inside several times after the carpenters ended the day’s work.
They built a large bedroom in the former hayloft, and added a terrace outside the rolling door once used to stow bales of hay into the loft.

THE rumble of the construction crane broke the silence. I went out to watch. The crane lifted the massive blob of a young man’s body from the bed of a red pickup and hoisted him up in the air. Neighbors from the adjacent farm gathered to watch the surreal spectacle.
A bird flew by the crane and escorted the boy through his short trip.

The operator deposited him on a bed on wheels waiting on the terrace. Afterwards, I walked back inside my house.

“I guess I will never have direct contact with that young man,” I said to my mother that afternoon.

That’s how he entered my life.

The local TV station had gotten a whiff of the situation and dispatched a film crew. They transformed a moment of privacy into bizarre entertainment news.

Now I knew who would occupy the bedroom under the heavy rafters of the remodeled barn. On subsequent mornings, the boy’s parents rolled him out to the open terrace where he basked in the sunrise.

Curiosity molded my behavior. My bird-watching binoculars allowed me to spy from my house window.

His pale face reddened the first day. His large blue eyes and pleasant expression kept me watching.

“Gee, what could make a guy like him smile all the time?”

I made up my mind to visit him.

FOOD was an inappropriate housewarming present. Flowers? A plenitude of them carpeted the fields following a bee-filled spring.

He could use my softball cap during his terrace escapades. It didn’t cross my mind that the pink color could be objectionable to him.

To go, I chose the short way through the field where my father grew pumpkins for Halloween. One stood out above all others. Destined for the annual competition, we touched, hosed, and admired it every day.

My father estimated its weight at six hundred pounds or more. On my way to the neighbor’s, its waxy orange skin attracted my hand as a magnet draws a nail.

I noticed the young man on his distant outside perch. I’d learned his name from the news program, Mario Hidalgo. I was sure he was observing me.

A hummingbird buzzed my ear and hovered midair, inches from my face. The iridescence of his feathers and vibration of his wings froze me in place. The bird took off as fast as he had come. My eyes followed the trajectory of his flight until he landed on Mario’s terrace.

“I’m Samantha Jones, from the next farm over. Welcome to you and your family.”

“How sweet. Thank you. How old are you?”

“Seventeen. Why?”

“No reason. Please come inside. I’m Anna, Mario’s mother.”

I thought she acted with the guarded courtesy of a protective parent, but she guided me upstairs and out onto the terrace.

“Mario, you have a visitor. May we join you?”

“Of course, Mom.”

“Hi, Mario. I’m Samantha. I live over there.” I pointed.

“I’ve watched you come and go to see that pumpkin. Want to hear something funny?”

“I guess so.”

“Tell her, Mom. Tell her my nickname.”

Anna hesitated, turned to me, and said, “Pumpkin.”

Mario let out a genuine, ponderous laugh. It shook the bed. His flesh rippled like Jell-O, and we laughed with him.

“Please sit if you want,” he said.

His mother offered me a chair, and I accepted after a quick look around the terrace. From his high-up nest, Mario could enjoy the expanded horizon like a child in a tree house.

Anna measured me. “What can I offer you, Samantha?”

A cup rested by Mario’s side, close to his hand.

“Whatever he’s having would be fine.”

“Coffee, black, no sugar?”

I nodded.

“I’ll be back. Make yourself at home, please. ” She took two steps backward before turning and leaving.

“How old are you, Mario?’

“A very old twenty.”

If something is not done soon, you will not reach thirty.

He smiled at me and waited. I had nothing to say.

With his eyes on my face, he extended his arm in the air. The gesture distracted me.

A hummingbird appeared, another one flew in, and both landed on Mario’s arm.

His mother returned. The birds flew away, leaving me speechless. She looked at me as if she understood my amazement.

“Hope I’m not disturbing. I just wanted to welcome you. Being our new neighbors and all.”

“Don’t mention it, please. We love visitors,” Anna said.

Mario interrupted. “Maybe the Universal Spirit preordained our encounter as he chose the paths for both our lives.”

Wow, what kind of talk is that?

Mario and I started talking about school, and his mother put down the tray with coffee and looked at me. She relaxed.

I hope she knew I wasn’t motivated by insensitive curiosity.

Mario talked nonstop, and I learned of his interest about school, which he could not attend. Anna and various tutors had home-schooled him. He was eloquent, his prose lyrical at times.

“Do you like poetry?” I asked.

He pointed to still-unpacked boxes strewn around the room. “My books: novels, poetry, and history.” He pulled a book from under the pillows and handed it over. “Tales of the Alhambra, by Washington Irving, 1851 Edition. Have you read it?”

I began to feel inadequate in his presence.

“No. Tell me about it.”

He explained the content and its connection to a poem written by Alexander Pushkin and an opera by Rimsky-Korsakov. This conversation challenged me, but I liked hearing it. It differed from the kind of talks I had with my friends in town.

“Take it with you. I just finished it for a third time. Reading is my way to travel. I do not get around much, as you might imagine.”

Mario’s constrained body couldn’t tether his vivid imagination.

He gave me a short rundown of his family, city dwellers not enthusiastic about rural communities.

Mario’s health had declined in the city. In their suburban home, the patio door in Mario’s room looked onto a barren, fenced yard.

His father purchased the small farm to let his son enjoy the outdoors, the stars, or the sun whenever he wanted.

When fall breezes undressed the trees, golden leaves carpeted Mario’s terrace.

“Don’t clean them, Ma.”

“It’s a mess out here.”

 

“But I like the crackle of leaves under your feet. I imagine I’m walking on them. They and the birds are my visitors.”

In fact, flocks of birds flew away from the terrace every time I visited him.

Mario’s magical relation with birds puzzled me.

He hardly moved, and they flew all day. But we never talked about it.

We read and discussed books together. By mid-fall, we were the best of friends, and I was in love—but not with him.

MY high school’s Halloween Parade Committee met in the library. We took charge of the school float design. We developed a concept, selected music for the school band, and chose costumes for the float riders.

Mario’s friendship had increased my confidence and improved my vocabulary. Now my opinions turned heads.

“We need lots of your father’s pumpkins for the float,” Francis, our treasurer, said. “I hope he gives us a decent price and we don’t have to buy them at the supermarket parking lot.”

I would have to stand on my toes to kiss him, I thought. He looks gorgeous in his football uniform.

Francis’ olive complexion, black eyes, mane of hair, and square jaw excited me.

“Would you talk to your father?”

“Talk about what?”

“Did you hear a word I said, Samantha?”

“Yes. The pumpkins.”

He neither encouraged nor discouraged my infatuation. However, he glanced and smiled at me more often than he did the other girls, except for Roselyn. With her long legs and resemblance to a movie star, she made me jealous.

One afternoon we got a tip about the competing school’s float. It was similar to ours, but already under construction.

“Everybody will say we copied them. You have to come up with a different idea,” the drama coach said and sent our brains into a spin.

THE same afternoon, I visited Mario. He commented about the big pumpkin in my father’s garden patch. “It’s bigger than me,” he said and laughed. “I’ve given it a name: from now on, she is Cinderella.” We grinned.

“Okay. Cinderella does look a lot bigger.” As soon as I said it, an idea popped into my mind.

“Mario, would you like to go to the parade?”

His laughter faded.

“Are you kidding me?”

“Not at all. Would you like to go?”

No answer, only a questioning stare into my eyes.

“I’m sorry I asked. I did not think it through.”

An awkward minute later, Mario spoke.

“I would. I would like to go to the parade.”

THE committee loved my extreme concept. Ideas flowed like chocolate syrup, and the next day I called Mario’s house to ask permission for the group to visit him.

Anna remained silent for a moment.

“Let me put you on speaker. Tell it to his father.”

“WHAT? Do you want to parade my son as a circus freak?” Mario’s father yelled when I explained. “The cheerleaders’ boobs are not enough excitement?”

“Calm down, please,” Anna said. “Mario can hear you.”

Mario’s voice came loudly over the phone, “Daaad! It’s about time.”

“About time for what, son?” yelled his father.

“To stop hiding me. Despite what you see, Dad, I’m a human being. I’m willing to go if they take me. Descartes once said, ‘I think, therefore I am.’”

“What does that have to do with this?”

“Oh shit, Dad, you should read a book once in a while. I’m sorry to shame you. Let them come here and talk.”

Anna came back on the line. “Samantha, you are welcome anytime.”

THE project moved quickly. Every day, I kept Mario in the loop. Sometimes others came with me. We laughed and planned every detail.

“We need insurance for me,” Mario said, “in case the crane splatters me on the ground. Like an egg falling from the nest.”

One day I came too early. Anna asked me to come back later.

“We are giving him a bath,” she said.

I had never thought about it. The images that flooded my mind sort of revolted me.

“I’m sorry about that,” I said. “I mean, I’ll be back.”

I left, walking faster than usual. I looked back at the house and caught Anna’s sad expression.

God, help me be a better person.

MARIO turned anxious as the day approached. He obsessed over the move to the float.

“When alone, I watch Cinderella from up here. That pumpkin is growing like a sumo wrestler. Just like me.”

I ignored the remark, but the pumpkin’s girth had increased. Mario, too, had added pounds.

“Can’t explain it, but I feel connected to Cinderella,” he said.

Halloween morning, we moved the float below Mario’s terrace. The float depicted a vine and carved pumpkins crawling up a hill amid girls in rabbit and bird costumes. Atop the hill was Mario’s place. The crane flew him from his bed to the float. He sat inside a customized orange sphere as big as Cinderella. His voluminous arms dangled over the curved sides. A microphone would allow him to engage the crowd.

We drove away from the farm. Mario looked at the pumpkin. “Bye, my friend. I know how it feels to be stuck. I will tell you all about it when I return.”

The parade route through our small town overflowed with spectators. Happiness permeated the afternoon.

The school band marched in front. The girls on the float exchanged quips with Mario. His cleverness gave them a harder time than they expected. People applauded. We heard no pity, no cruel remarks from the crowd. Francis and others from the football team rode on the float.

“Get on the team, Mario,” a man shouted. “They need help. They are playing like sissies this year.”

Mario was a town celebrity.

BACK at the farm, the crane carried Cinderella onto a trailer truck to move her to the fairgrounds the next day. The truck driver parked beside the house and near Mario’s terrace.
When we returned, the sun had declined over the evening’s edge. The crane operator lifted Mario up.

“Would you raise me as high as you can before taking me to my bed, please? Then shut off the engine and let me rest a few minutes in silence,” Mario said.

The operator complied. He leaned back in his seat, lit a cigarette, and grinned, watching Mario floating in mid-air.

In the early darkness, I thought a bird landed on Mario’s knee.

“How did you feel up there?” I asked later.

“Like a hummingbird with lead wings. I had an out-of- body experience. My mind connected with Cinderella on the trailer. She wanted to know what I did today.”

Almost everyone had gone home. I was alone with Mario on the terrace, releasing the lingering euphoria. We heard voices and I went to see. Francis and Roselyn were looking at the giant pumpkin. Then they sat at the end of the trailer, their backs toward Cinderella.

“It was nice to win first place, and we did not spend the entire budget,” Roselyn said, unaware their voices carried up to us.

“We were lucky that Samantha convinced that freak to go along for the ride. We couldn’t lose,” Francis said. Rosalyn leaned on his shoulder.

“She is so naive. She thinks you are in love with her.”

“It saved us almost three hundred dollars on the cost of the pumpkins.”

“Poor thing. She should look in the mirror,” Roselyn said. “My gosh, Samantha is at least thirty pounds overweight.”

“I know, love. The two of them could compete with this huge pumpkin.”

My eyes got glossy. I turned my face towards Mario. His eyes flamed with anger. His clenched fists yellowed, and his bed shook as he attempted to stand up.

I heard a snapping sound and looked down. The cinch holding Cinderella had broken, and she was rolling along the trailer’s bed. Francis and Roselyn turned around, looked at the pumpkin, and saw me.

Surprised, they did not move. Cinderella barreled down on them. They jumped to the ground, but it was too late. Cinderella vaulted from her bed and landed on top of them. I gasped, and looked away.

“OH my God, Mario. My father said Cinderella weighed fourteen hundred pounds.”

 

About the Author

Eduardo Cervino, AKA E. C. Brierfield, was born in Havana, Cuba, and has resided in the US since 1968. He has traveled extensively throughout the US, Europe, and Latin America working as an architectural designer.

He is also a painter and his oil canvasses have been exhibited in the US and abroad.
He has written and published several novels and numerous short stories. He resides in Arizona with his wife and writing collaborator, L. S. Brierfield.

www.ecbrierfield.com