A Man Named Sal

April 10, 2012
I sat, hunched over on a wobbly stool at the right end of the cheap, wooden bar table. I was nervous, but able to hide it. The only white man in this Cuban bar, and an American at that, I was just a little uncomfortable. Everyone knew I wasn’t supposed to be there. Even if they hadn’t noticed me yet, they still knew that another tourist was polluting their homeland with his presence. I wasn’t like any tourist though. I was a journalist, sent here to gather information regarding a man named Fidel Castro, whom a contact told me, was planning to lead a revolution to overthrow the Cuban President, Flugencio Batista. I didn’t believe it at first. Castro was a lawyer as far as I knew from the background check my contact did, he didn’t know the first thing about leading an army, let alone an entire revolution. I thought my contact was sending me on another one of those “Let’s-just wait-and-see” assignments. Why does this matter anyway, I thought to myself trying to calm my nerves while sipping cold beer out of a tall mug. At that moment a latino man approached me and sat down on the stool next to mine. He sighed, looked at me and nodded as to say hello.

The man was not too tall but well built. He had a military cap on him, covering his short but shaggy black hair. He ordered a drink, took one large gulp and sat it down.

“You look lost, Stranger.” He said to me with a light hearted tone among his thick latin accent.

“Ummm...” I trailed off not knowing what to say back without arousing suspicion.

“It is okay, I mean you no harm. How about something simpler, what is your name?” I gave him my name, stuttering halfway through. “Interesting, my name is Salvador, but please call me Sal.”

Sal turned out to be a friendly guy. We must have talked for over two hours before he finally asked, “So, why are you here instead of Havana where all the other tourists go?” A little tipsy I let my true intentions slip. “I’m a journalist. I’m supposed to find out about some guy named Castro.” Sal’s eyes widened as he nearly choked on the gulp of liquor he was attempting to swallow. After nearly spitting it out he finally asked, “Just what do you know if this man?” Fearful of making him angry, I told him what I knew. He sat there and absorbed the information with a curious look in his eyes. “Revolutionary, eh?” Sal chuckled while lighting a cigar. “Well I’ve never heard of him myself, but I’d back up anyone who would risk their life to stand up to that hack, Batista.”

“Do you know where I could find someone who knows of him?”
“I’m sorry, friend I don’t know this man, nor anyone who does. You won’t find anything in this town, It’s probably best you get on home.”

“Oh well. I guess your right. I better get back to my hotel before I pass out.” I laughed and so did Sal. We then said our goodbyes and he wished me luck covering my story which seemed never to materialize into anything more than speculation.

I left the bar and walked down a shady street leading into an alleyway. It had to have been two in the morning. There my heart started thumping. First slowly but then fast and out of control. I fell to my knees sweating profusely, gritting my teeth in sheer agony. My abdomen felt like it was being ripped open by a rabid dog. I threw up. Chunks of half digested steak poured out of my mouth as I struggled to catch my breath in vain. The stench was awful. The pain in my abdomen ceased but gave way to an unbearable headache that made every sound feel light it was ten times louder than it already was. I tried, but failed to get up, slipping on the puddle of red vomit beneath me, falling on my face breaking my nose and two of my front teeth. Now my face was a mess of blood and vomit that started seeping into my eyes which began to burn and sting as if they had just been attacked by a swarm of angry wasps.

I couldn’t move. My body was paralyzed in pain, I hadn’t the strength to even yell for help. I thought I was going to die. Fading into unconsciousness a shadowy figure stood above me. He apologized and then unexpectedly added, “You just knew too much, friend. It pains me to do this you were such a nice fellow.” He held a small bottle of Kerosene in his left hand and a lighter in the other. He then emptied the bottle onto me and threw the already lit lighter at my immobile corpse of a body. I instantly erupted in flames. The last thing I remember before waking up in the Santiago de Cuba hospital was his voice. It sounded so familiar.

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