Spring 2009, Volume 6

Fiction by V. L. Zamora

La Dialéctica VS The Old Men

"¡Tu no sabes lo que es una revolución social!" My great-uncle, Luis yelled it defiantly in his older brother's face. He waved a finger in the air, emulating his favorite revolutionary, Fidel. "El campeón contra el imperialismo."

My abuelo laughed boldly in his younger brother's face, "What I don't know, is who the fuck this asshole in front of me is. Where is my brother who drinks and dances and grabs titties and used to laugh at comemierdas like the ones you have become?"

This would go on until their viejo would tell them to both shut the hell up or one of them ended up with a bloody lip.

It was the same all over La Habana in those days. Brother versus brother. Ideology versus fear of change. They never found common ground. So, when white doves were released over the revolutionary plaza, abuelo spat and Luis wept. When the party nationalized the universities, Luis quickly joined the student union so he could secure his future in the revolution. When the party nationalized the bus service, abuelo pissed on the floor at work so the communist janitor would be reminded that his future in the revolution hadn't changed.

In 65' abuelo could no longer take the sugar cane fields and the forced labor at construction sites or the look on his daughter's faces who were too young to understand that their bellies ached because tio Luis wanted a better tomorrow at the price of today. There was no future for non-party members. He took all of his belongings, which the state had already claimed as theirs and exchanged it for a stoic glance and a "toma gusano" and most importantly the permission for them to leave the already decaying paradise.

He arrived in the windiest of all American cities to gawk and stare in awe at the fantastic things he saw. He still struggled to feed his family. The work was no less labor intensive and he couldn't understand the things people said. He had no one but those he loved most. But, he pushed on and worked; kept his pay for himself. He bought TV's and houses and cars and microwaves and the things that are taken for granted in a society of entitlement; the things that no one back home had; the things Luis pointed to as evidence of the "Yankee materialism" his brother had fallen victim to.

The phone calls were an especially happy time for abuelo. His brother would insist, "vamos para adelante" and he would counter, "yo también... in my new Impala." His daughters had children, "Los Americanitos," the first born and his pride burst forth and spilled out through the garbled phone lines and kisses came to them all through the letters that had been screened for counter-revolutionary content.

He made small fortunes off investments and insurance settlements and property and lost them all just as quickly as he had gained them; Luis warned him of the fast and loose nature of capitalism and he would snap back, "at least here I can roll the dice". All the children grew up and out and he lost abuela and the TV became his best friend and he stopped smoking cigars because of the black spot on his lung and it was time to put the bullshit of 40 years aside.

The tears streamed down his creased cheeks and he begged Luis for forgiveness and told him he would have traded it all back, the years of toiling and consuming and struggle just to be by his brother's side once more, to smell the salt air one last time, to be buried in his homeland.

He vowed to live long enough to piss on Castro's grave and cursed the revolution that had torn them apart and cursed himself for not believing in it. Luis swallowed hard through his own tears and said, "¿Cuál revolución? Esto es una mierda."

BIO:  V. L. Zamora is a Chicagoan in exile, living in the South Bay. He lives with a woman, a man-child, and two silly animals. He is currently working on his MFA at UC Riverside in the Creative Writing Department. He also freelances for the Latino lifestyle magazine, Café and more of his writing can be found at www.vlzamora.blogspot.com