Aphelion Issue 294, Volume 28
May 2024
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Operation Rugido Ratón

by D.H. Richards

"Passaporte, por favor."

The man gave the policeman a puzzled look.

"Do you speak Spanish?" the policeman tried again.

"Oh, uh, ummmm poco?"

The policeman grunted, but did not smile.

"Passport Please."

"Uh, uh, sure." The man fumbled to fish out his blue passport from his shirt pocket.

"Here on vacation or business?" The policeman asked briskly. Wally Spivitz looked around vainly for someone in his group.

"Uhm, vacation."

"First time to Cuba?"

"Yes, first time."

"Are you alone or with a group?"

"A group, I mean, a group of us are here. A travel group."

"Are you in charge?"

"No, there's a girl. I mean a lady."

"Does she have your license?"

"My what?"

"Your travel license. You need a license to come into the country."

"I… have no idea. I mean, uh. Oh, thank god. Lisa!?" Wally waved frantically at a very attractive young woman wearing a tan blazer. She smiled ,but then turned her mouth down when she saw the policeman. Wally stood by, trying his best to look helpful, as Lisa, his tour guide, and the policeman fired back and forth in rapid Spanish. Her look was stern, but when she turned to Wally she forced a smile.

"No worries, Mr. Spivitz," her light Latina accent was strangely reassuring.

"Please, Wally."

"Wally. This happens, not a big thing. He tells me once you find your bag he will give you your passport back. If he asks you anything just give him an honest answer." Her voice lowered as the man turned to talk to another police officer. She smiled a secret smile as she brushed her long black hair out of her face. "He's just showing off. Probably his superior is over there somewhere. Just put up with it for five more minutes. We'll be on the bus, with a mojito in hand, in ten minutes. Ok?"

"Uh yeah sure."

Wally stood there, in the Havana airport, a small bead of sweat dripping down the back of his neck as hundreds of people milled around the large carousel. Just play it cool for a few minutes, Wally told himself.

It was more like fifteen, but sure enough, Wally found his bag, the policeman asked a few more questions and then suddenly slapped the passport back into Niles' hand and grunted.

"Enjoy your stay in Cuba," and quickly walked off to grill another likely looking yanqui.

"God bless you, Lisa." Wally said as he climbed up the steps into a air conditioned tour bus, He grabbed the cup out of Lisa's extend hand and quickly sipped half of a very tasty and calming mojito.

"Sorry about that." Lisa smiled. "Like I said, not big deal. He was showing off probably. Everyone else here and ready to start exploring Cuba?" Lisa asked, flashing her best smile to the group of mostly elderly Americans.

Walter made his way to the back of the bus and sat down to the only other person he had met yet in his travel group, Ken or Kenneth, something like that.

"Welcome to Cuba, eh buddy?" The guy raised his glass.

"Jesus Christ what a place," Niles said as he drained the last of his drink.

The bus pulled out of the airport and lurched down the road into Havana.

"So if you don't mind me saying so, you seem a bit young to be on the old people's tour." Niles looked around, true enough, most of the "students" on the study tour probably had Grandkids in college themselves. He laughed.

"I'm 55, old enough. I've waited a long time to come to Cuba. When I heard you could join one of these educational tours I jumped."

"55? Well, if you say so. I just turned 70 myself, but I doubt I looked like you do when I was 30."

"Clean living, my friend... Lisa! Any refills before we get to the hotel?"

* * *

Wally Spivitz was the model tourist. He "ooh'd" and "ahh'd" at the elaborate but decaying colonial architecture around every corner of old Havana. He gamely tried to Samba at the Casa de Trova in Trinidad. He never complained about the running toilet or stuck closet door in his sparse but clean hotel room. He declared the cigar he smoked on the model farm the best he'd ever had, which was the truth; he hated cigars. He snapped dozens of pictures at the cathedral in Remidios, awed by the gilded alter. At every turn, Cuban waiters and hotel maids smiled tight smiles as he gamely tried to speak Spanish, to which they almost always answered in fluent English. He even flirted with Lisa, who he was sure was a government agent. As he told Kenneth, or was it Kenny, in a slurred voice one night after a few too many Cuba Libres; aren't ALL the tour guide government agents?

Then, somehow, it all went south in Pinar Del Rio.

* * *

It was in Pinar del Rio that Wally made his move. He had been biding his time, waiting for the right moment. Based on his information, he was as close there as he would ever be. All I have to do, he told himself as he packed a small bag, is to slip that curvaceous minder Lisa. Moments later there was a knock at the door. He shuffled over and cracked the door slightly.

"Yes?' he croaked, closing his robe "Is that you, Lisa?"

"Yes, Mr. Spivitz. Are you ok? I came as soon as you called."

"I am so sorry, Lisa. I seem to have picked up some sort of stomach bug. I think it was that ham and cheese sandwich I got yesterday in the square…"

"Mr. Spivitz, I warned you about street food. Do not worry, I can have them send up some soda water and lime. You sit tight here today and join us tonight if you feel better."

"Thank you, Lisa. I feel better already." He managed a weak smile.

Five minutes later he sipped at the soda water and lime as he changed back into a pair of suit pants and a white long sleeve collared shirt. He slicked his dark hair back with some gel and added the last touch, a pair of sunglasses. He put his bag into a smart briefcase, left his room and hopped out the back hall window and down into the alley in the rear of the hotel.

In his mind he could see the town map laid out. He made a right turn at the street and a block later another right. He came to a smaller square, busy with trucks, people, and not a few horse drawn taxis. He went up to one of the newer European import cars, one with a driver leaning up against the hood.

"Hey, you. My driver is nowhere, I need a ride out to the new resort," he gestured down the street as he continued to speak in fluent Spanish to the driver. "Can you take me there or not?"

The driver eyed him with suspicion. "I'm not a taxi mister. Call your agency contact, yell at them."

Wally scowled. "Don't you think I did that first? Look, I am to meet my manager from the home office in Madrid at 10 am. There's 20 CUCs in it if you take me to the site. I can argue with Habenoux once I'm there, you don't even have to stick around."

The man sat up, smiled, and opened the back door. Wally slid in. Within 20 minutes they were at a large dusty building site where a large resort was, in fact, being popped up. But Wally had no intention of sticking around there. He instructed the taxi to drop him off near the edge near several large dump trucks. Wally pressed $40 into the man's hands and the man shrugged, put the car in reverse and sped off, leaving Wally standing near the truck and the front gate.

Wally took advantage of the dust and confusion of trucks to slip behind a shed. There he quickly shed his suit and donned clean but worn looking jeans and a tight t-shirt. With a baseball cap and cheap sunglasses he looked the part of an average Cuban. The last detail was to ditch the briefcase and instead use the beat up old backpack he had stuffed inside the briefcase. He emptied the briefcase's contents into the bag and then carefully hid the case under the brush next to the shed.

Minutes later he was walking down the narrow dirt road leading from the worksite, dodging the occasional truck. No one thought to look twice at him, just as he wanted.

It was a long two-hour walk, but eventually he got to a small town at the end of the road. The road had turned into what was barely a dirt track. The town itself was hardly there--a few cinderblock houses, some zinc sided out buildings and a run down brown brick building in the center with faded paint announcing "Hasta La Victoria, Siempre." No one was out. The town could have been deserted.

Wally went to the first house on the left, a dull grey affair with one wooden framed window, shuttered against the noonday sun, and a wooden door, in need of a paint job. He knocked on the door. From inside he heard movement, then a cautious, "Si?"

In perfect Cuban Spanish Wally responded, "Could you spare some water for a soldier of the revolution?"

The small voice inside got closer to the door. "I would spare my life for the revolution."

"Then you are lucky, all I ask for is water in a small cup."

Suddenly the door swung open. A buxom black haired beauty not more than 20 stood before him. She looked up at him, smiling.

"Walter?" He nodded. "Here." She handed him a small glass of water, Wally guessed she wanted to make sure of the charade in case anyone was spying on them from the other houses.

"Go and wait in the green truck. The driver can take you to where you need to go. Go, wait."

Wally saw a beat up lime green truck, circa 1955, sitting by the house. He went over and climbed in the passenger side. About five minutes later a tall weather beaten lanky man with a shock of tousled black hair stumbled out of the house, the woman not far behind, fixing her hair. She ran over and leaned into the cab. She smelled slightly of rum and chocolate.

"Ramon can take you, but be careful, say nothing. Will you come back baby? I can make it worth your time!" She giggled slightly.

"Probably not muchacha, I normally don't go back for seconds." Wally responded with a smile. She gasped and glared. Just then the man came around to his side.

"Out, Comrade." Wally momentarily panicked.


"Out, Comrade, in the back. See this?" Ramon waived a piece of paper. "It says I have one ton of tomatoes, but nothing about some fat farmer. I don't want any trouble from no one. You sit in the back between crates. I'll tell you when to jump out."

Wally sulked to the back.

Half an hour later, over what had to be the bumpiest road in all of Cuba, Wally felt the truck stop and heard a loud thump.

"Hey! Pasian! Out, Campasino." Wally carefully extracted himself from the teetering tomato crates and jumped down. A split second later the truck took off, leaving him behind in a cloud of dust.

Wally was pretty sure the surly driver had just ditched him nowhere. However, as the dust settled and he scanned the horizon he saw just barely the glint of sun off the top of a metal shed over a distant hill. He had arrived at the right spot it seemed. He quickly scrambled across the scrubby field and over the low hill.

He came to a fence. From his backpack he pulled out a small black box with a wire. He lightly touched the wire near the fence, the black box was silent, and the light did not blink. So then he pulled out a pair of small wire cutters and went to work cutting the fence in several spots until he had a big enough hole to squeeze under. He then carefully arranged the cut fence so that, from a distance, it looked like it was still whole.

Carefully he made his way forward until he got to some out buildings. He dropped behind them and settled in until nightfall.

As dusk gathered he ventured out a little around the building he was behind. All day he had heard distant voice and lots of motor vehicles but nothing that he could put his finger on. He got into a position behind several barrels from which he had a clear view of the main road through the middle of the compound. Wally quickly got out a headset from his bag. He scanned the area, seeing no one near, just the passing trucks, he flipped the set on and grabbed a pair of binoculars.

"Come in, Hornet, this is Mojito. You there, Hornet?" There was a brief crackle of static.

"Reading clear, Mojito. What's your 20?"

"Inside the target, Hornet."

"Good. See anything?"

"Yes. I see the trucks. And I see the payloads. I think I can confirm them as… wait. Oh my God? What on earth…"

"What is it, Mojito? What do you see?"

"I... I can't confirm it but, sweet Jesus."

"Missiles, Mojito?"

"No, not even, I swear to God they look like--"

Everything went black.

* * *

Wally came to with an ache in his head. The room was empty except for the chair he was in and a low light bulb, fluorescent Wally noticed. He also noticed he was tied to the chair. Crap.

"Ahhhh, our guest is coming too. Hola, Comrade Wally, beveinedos a Cuba! I am Captain Fernandez. I hope our patrol did not hit you too hard."

"I'll live. I think…"

"Of course you will senior. We're not savages here. Besides, you are really like a guest of honor now."

"I saw what you're doing at this base."

"Wonderful! And just in time too. Congratulations. You are amongst the very few people that know about this glorious new Cuban endeavor. Unfortunately, for you, in a few minutes we'll switch on a live feed and everyone in the world will know."

"You've got to be kidding me. You think that a dinky rocket is going to get the world's attention?"

The man smiled. "So, you know your hardware I see. Mr. Spivitz, if that is your real name, it is much, much more than just what you saw. We have big plans, or exactly, not plans but big happenings as they say no? Multiply what you saw by a hundred and seventeen times. 117 rockets staffed with people. Yes, Cubans, Mr. Spivitz, not dogs or pigs, people. Over one thousand brave revolutionaries ready to give their lives, if necessary, to the final solution for Cuba over the Yankee imperialists. You see, Mr. Spivitz, Cuba is going to send revolutionaries to the moon!"

"What on earth are you going on about? Those damn things won't get 10 feet off the ground, and if they do how on earth does Cuba have the technology to run them?"

"Mr. Spivitz, again, we are not savages. Of course the rockets will work, they are tested after all, by none other than NASA itself. You see, several years ago there was an item in the papers about how the computer technology used to launch the first mission to the moon would have all fitted on one of today's cell phones. This got our beloved leader thinking. Why reinvent the wheel, when the US has already sent men to the moon. The technology used in the late 1960s is practically sold in toys today. It was all there, right before us. All we had to do was invest a lot of time and effort and certain resources, whose shortages we could assign to the Bloqueo, naturally. It was not easy, but nothing is for us Cubans, no? So we worked day and night for the past five years. And here we are, on the precipice of a launch of 117 Cuban rockets to the moon!"

Wally laughed. "The moon! Seriously? That's it? What the hell you gonna do with 1000 Cubans on the moon? Have them wait in line to get back?"

"Very funny senior. Of course not. We are nothing if not industrious, Spivitz. There are plenty of minerals to be mined up there. Our force of 1000 will build shelters and a landing base, while some will start mining. In about 60 days a second batch of 2000 will join them and from there regular monthly ships will go back and forth. Cuba will, of course, lay claim to the moon. Even if it were able, the US won't be able to get anyone up there for a year so. By then, it will be too late."

"Of course not. You know damn well if you launch anything we'll have missile up your ass so damn fast…"

"Please Mr. Spivitz, such language! We are not worried about your missiles. Why do you think we are going global with the news? What sort of government will shoot 1000 people out of the sky? I mean, if it is being shown on live feed, of course. In over 100 locations right now there are people with simple laptops who will launch all the ships at once. Even if you were able to scramble the jets in time, which you will not, you could not get all 117 at once. Ahhh, yes, it is time. Roll in the TV, I want our guest to witness history in the making."

A small color TV was wheeled in on a cart. The assistant plugged it in. Through a slightly static picture Wally could see a talk show in progress. After about a minute it was interrupted by graphics and a stern looking newscaster came on. He explained that the Cuban Government was launching a glorious new phase of socialism and that they were cutting to the control center.

The TV showed a large room filled with computer monitors and hundreds of busy looking young people earnestly studying the screens. Wally looked at the Captain. The Captain smiled sheepishly.

"Yes, it is not real, Mr. Spivitz. Forgive us our theater, but it was felt that this is more impressive looking."

"I thought so…"

"No, no, no, Mr. Spivitz, you misunderstand, the launches are all very real. It is just that we thought this looked more official than some guy standing out in a field with a laptop and a huge rocket next to him. The theater of the revolution, is how I believe you would say it in English."

"This will never work--the US will never let this happen!"

"Take a look Mr. Spivitz, look at the clock, 20 seconds left. We have already gotten away with it. We have beat the Yankees back to the moon and we will finally prevail over the forces of imperialism. Plus, we wuped your sorry butts big time!" With this Fernandez gave a large laugh.

"Now, I am sure things are pretty hectic back home eh? But here is your phone back. Call your friend the hornet, I am sure he will be glad to hear from you. Tell him that when the dust settles we are interested in doing an exchange with you, one to five is a good trade I think, no?"


© 2013 D.H. Richards

Bio: Mr. Richards is currently a professor at a small liberal arts college and writes on the side.

E-mail: D.H. Richards

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