Like Baseball

Antonio was always happy when the Americans came. He liked the way five or six of them piled their large bodies out of Fausto’s broken down little Fiat that had trundled them out from Havana, and the way they gazed around his little 12-acre farm as if it was 112. He liked the way they gazed respectfully at his pigs and how the ladies blushed when he picked poinsettias and presented them with a deep bow. He liked the American’s white teeth and the bright colors of their shirts with the little alligators on them and their sturdy, thick-soled shoes, their booming laughs and their earnest expressions.

Orfelina wasn’t as crazy about them as he was. “They’re too loud,” she complained. “And they’re too happy all the time. It’s not natural.” But she stood beside him nonetheless at the end of each visit, her stout legs planted firmly and her hands resting on her little round belly, every inch the steadfast campañera, slyly observing how many American dollars were being slipped to her husband before the Americans piled back into Fausto’s car and drove away.

It was much better than when the Russians used to come, certainly much better for Fausto, since the Russians didn’t trust Cubans, much less their rusting American cars, and always had their own driver and their own shiny, blocky black car. Most of them had been well trained in Spanish before being sent from Moscow so they could help nip capitalist conspiracies in the bud, so there was no chance for Antonio and Fausto to poke fun at them. Their clothes were all browns and grays. They sweated a lot in the hot Cuban sun, and Orfelina said they smelled of garlic. They asked difficult questions about crop quotas and five year plans. They never offered any money. Yes, it was much better with the Americans.

The arrangement with Fausto stretched all the way back to when Antonio had first returned to Cuba from working in the Soviet Union, more than thirty years ago now. During those long, cold six years in Moscow, he had been in charge of maintaining the little Fiats, like Fausto’s, in which the Cuban delegation had zipped around Moscow, and he had come back home knowing everything there was to know about Fiats. So it was Antonio who had shown Fausto how to pull the choke out too fast to make the Fiat backfire as it bounced up the dirt road to Antonio’s farm. That was the signal that at least one of the Americans understood Spanish. If there was no backfire, it was safe for Antonio and Fausto to freely trade observations between them about the Americans, mostly about the women.

“I’m sure the one in the blue shirt has very beautiful tits,” Antonio would say.

“He says he’s very proud of that mamey tree over there,” Fausto would then tell the Americans in English. Then, to the Americans’ appreciative murmurs, Antonio would scramble up the thick tree trunk and pick several of the fruits to bestow on his guests by tossing them down to Fausto. “Like baseball!” Antonio would shout, and the Americans would smile and laugh.

All Content ©2018 Norman Powers