The great pig setPete double hauled the ten weight Sage fly rod, producing a textbook tight loop, shooting the sparkling green fly sixty feet into the incoming Atlantic water. The morning was clear, the air still. Behind the Moro castle, a stone sentinel that for centuries has guarded Havana’s rich seaport, the red sun hovered, tinting the low smog haze lingering over the city. Standing on rocks protecting a crumbling seawall, his flip-flop shod feet precariously gripped the algae-covered surface of the sharp coral boulders.Pete stepped smooth and sure with the coordinated gait of an athlete. He was a good-looking man, mid forties, taller than average, tanned deep by the sun. He worn a pair of tan Patagonia shorts and a tee-shirt hosting the bearded face of Che across the front. To the west the air was clear over the plateau rising in the distance. The shoreline shone lush green outlined by a snow-white zigzagging beach meeting the cobalt blue of the ocean. A low rising sun reflected golden on the hills illuminating large, dark cumulus clouds billowing over the Gulf Stream. Black Frigate birds, fixed wing boomerangs rode the updraft of the towering hills. Overhead, a flight of gray-white Gannets fly in their v-shaped fighter-squadron formation, headed out to sea. Appearing from nowhere, a school of Jack Crevelle rose, riding the small swell of the channel. Pete executed a long pickup, tapping the kinetic energy in the rod, which shot the fly into the center of the channel, ten feet in front of the cruising Jacks. Dropping the rod tip, he stripped the line, then again, causing the fly to dart in the water, mimicking a scurrying minnow. The leading fish charged the fly, its yellow body flashing in the clear water. Pete carefully threaded his way down the slippery surface left wet and slimy by the low tide. Raising the rod high, he bent and grabbed the Jack’s tail in front of the fork, avoiding the small sharp spines on either side. “A fish with its own handle,” he said to no one. He climbed the crumbling seawall, its protruding rusty re-bar jutting out like bones of a rotting carcass. Only then did he notice the young boy, probably ten or so, standing on the grass. Barefoot, clad in a pair of tattered shorts he watched, silently grinning. His smile flashed white, gleaming in the morning light, in sharp contrast to his spice colored skin, dark eyes and black curly hair. Pete set the fish on the concrete next to the boy, reached into his pocket, took out a small pair of needle nosed pliers and began extracting the hook. The fish grunted and flopped in protest to the alien environment, triggering a giggle from the young boy. Pete removed the blue bandana from around his neck, wrapped it around the fish’s tail as protection from the spines, and offered it to the lad. “Para mi?” asked the boy, a questioning look twisting his young face. “Para usted y su familia.” replied Pete. Placing the boy’s hand around the bandana wrapped tail; his young arm sagged with the unexpected weight. Pete guided the boys other hand under the fish’s belly for support. “Muchas gracias poppie.” said the boy, turned heavy with his burden and made for the main road. The boy looked back only once as he walked away, a labored smile across his happy face. Pete sat down on the wall, reached into his small tackle pouch and retrieved another bandana, wiped the sweat from his forehead, removed his sunglasses and cleaned them. Already hot, it would remain so until an afternoon sea breeze or a late rain shower broke the stifling spell of the early summer tropic heat. Throaty sounds from a small engine interrupted the morning silence. Fito rounded the corner of the long empty road on his home made motorbike and squealed to a stop beside the young boy and his fish. Pete reached for a cigarette, lit it and turned his attention to the north staring out across the calm sea in the direction of Key West. Wonder how many people have died trying to cross that little stretch of water over the last forty-five years, he pondered. People riding homemade rafts, patched inner tubes, small leaky crafts, most not sea worthy enough to cross a small lake. And most recently smugglers in overloaded speedboats, piloted by inexperienced money hungry men. Under the cover of darkness they run dangerously fast, racing with their profitable human cargo striving to reach Florida, before detection by the United States Coast Guard. Fito powered up, his cheap reflective sunglasses with their mirrored blue tint, personified a hustler image. “Good morning Marlboro Man.” Pete chided. “Good morning to you my friend. The boy is so proud of his fish. He feels like a big man taking it home for his mother to cook. Can you catch one for me?” Pete ignored the request. “Do you know him?”” I know his family. His father left on a raft three months ago and no one has heard from him since then. His mother is a friend with my wife. She has a hard time now with no husband. Because she did not report him, the Government took her job and made her a non-person. She no longer receives her food ration, it is very hard.” “How does she get by?” “Her family shares their food and their house with her and the boy, but it is very hard. Today, the fish will help, tomorrow who knows?” Pete sat down on the wall and began disassembling the four-piece rod, stowing it in the soft cloth protector. He wondered how long the boy’s family could survive on the four hundred dollars this rod sells for.Fito urged,” You’re not going to catch me a fish,” “It’s a Jack, Fito. They taste like shit.” “I can cook it and make it taste good. I learned how in cooking school.” “Not this morning, but I will buy you breakfast, and speaking of breakfast, what are you doing up so early?” “I came to find you. I stopped at the house and the Senora told me you had left early with your fishing things, so I came here. I am a good detective, no?” “Oh yea, you’re a regular Sherlock Holmes.” Pete teased, “Took the clues, man leaves early in the morning on foot with his fishing rod, let’s see, he must be heading for the water. Yea, that’s it. I’ll find him at the nearest body of water. You’re a regular Magnum P.I.””I know of Sherlock Holmes Pedro. But I do not know this Magnum, who is this?” asked Fito, always anxious to learn anything regarding the states. “Don’t worry about it. What did you want so badly you’d wake up this early on a lay day?” Pete asked, referring to today’s non-fishing day in the Hemingway Marlin Tournament schedule. The two men began walking, Pete carrying his gear and Fito pushing the motorbike, heading down the long empty road. “So, why are you here?” Pete re-asked. ” Ted ask me last night what he could do to repay the peoples who have been so good to him on this trip. I told him he could sponsor a pig roast if we get started early to buy a pig.” “And just where do you suggest we find a pig, my imaginative friend?”The short, crew cut Cuban pointed west in the direction of the high plateau. “We can buy one in the mountains, in Pinar Del Rio, not far from here,” ” That’s not a bad idea, not bad at all. Let’s grab Travis.” “What about breakfast?” Fito hated missing a chance to eat at the buffet.Pete increased the pace,” We’ll grab something on the boat.” Fito stopped, turned the gas valve on the bike and kicked the starter twice, then a third time. He cursed in Spanish and began pushing the bike. When it reached what he deemed sufficient velocity he hopped on, released the clutch and the tiny engine sputtered to life. “Come and ride, “he said, sliding forward onto the gas tank making space for a passenger. Pete veered away, “Fat chance my Cuban compadre. I’d rather fly over the Snake River canyon with Evel Knievel.” “Come on, it will be faster than walking” Fito insisted. Pete reluctantly took a seat on the bike, flattening the rear tire under the extra weight. Fito gunned the engine, released the hand clutch and the overloaded Tonka toy crept along the road, slowly gathering speed. Travis reclined in the polished wood fighting chair mounted on the back deck of the large yacht, drinking a cup of coffee and smoking a cigarette. The overloaded motorbike appeared, weaving erratically across the grass toward the boat. Next to a short leafed coconut palm, a marina guard stared transfixed at the bike, being drastically over steered, veering first one way then another. Pete planted both feet on the grass and stood, exiting the rear of the careening cycle. In its lightened state, the bike surged ahead just missing the startled guard and crashed into the tree. Fito tumbled sideways off the bike, rolled across the grass and stopped just short of the canals edge.Standing, Travis laughed, “You guys look like a monkey trying to fuck a football, catch anything?” “Just a Jack” Pete answered. Both men ignored Fito sitting in the grass rubbing his head. Focusing on the bike, he raised his voice and ordered,” Fito, get that thing outta here. It’s leaking gas and if it blows up and damages the boat we will all be in the shit.”Travis followed Pete into the Main salon.” Everyone still crashed out?” “Yea, things got a little ugly after you left the house last night. The power went out and we had to call an electrician to work on the fuse box. He was drunk and almost burned down the house, which really pissed fat Henry off. For a minute it looked liked they were going to mix it up. Ted got mad because the air conditioning was off. You know how it is. About two o’clock this morning everything got straightened out, typical Cuba” He poured them both coffee and began rummaging thru the cabinets looking for food. “Let’s get some breakfast.” Travis suggested. “I was going to but Fito wants to go up into the mountains and buy a pig for a cookout. Some idea Ted came up with, one of his inebriated flashes of brilliance.” “A pig? You’re shitting me right?” Fito walked in and Travis turned his attention to the Cuban. “What the fuck is all this about a pig?” Fito collapsed on the leather sofa, rubbing the knot hidden under his crew cut.” Ted wanted to do something for the peoples and I said we could sponsor a pig roast for them.” Where the fuck we gonna get a pig and who’s gonna cook it?” Travis demanded. “We can buy a pig in the mountains and my father will cook it, is not a problem.” “Is not a problem is right ole boy. I’m not going off on no wild goose chase with you in the mountains looking for a pig for Christ sakes. I’m in the middle of a Marlin tournament. I’ve got things to do here on the boat” “Oh, come on,” Pete said,” It will be a hoot. Besides, if the boss wants a pig to feed the peoples, then we need to find him a pig to feed the peoples” Travis shrugged sensing he was backed into a corner, not liking it. But, if the boss wants a pig, he’d better make sure he gets a pig. Pete grabbed a bottle of rum, two boat glasses, a couple of key limes and started for the door.” What about breakfast?” Fito asked. Pete handed him the bottle, returned to the galley and came out with a bagel, a frozen stick of Philadelphia creamed cheese and a plastic knife. “Here you go.” he said, “You can eat in the car” The three piled into an antiquated green Plymouth doing duty as a private taxi and headed out the marina gate. Travis and Pete sat in the expansive rear seat of the old touring car carefully avoiding the sharp points of protruding broken springs. Fito sat in front, futilely attempting to slice frozen crème cheese with a plastic knife. Having no success, in desperation, he took a bite out of the bagel and then one of creamed cheese, chewing slowly, letting the mix take place in his mouth. They sped east out of Santa Fe along the coast road past cleared fields and scattered pockets of livestock. Blowing thru the cars open windows, the ocean air was cool and refreshing. Traffic was sparse. A few trucks lumbered towards Havana overloaded with people hitching rides and the occasional bus, their windows revealing a mass of humanity crowded shoulder to shoulder. The terrain rose in elevation as the old touring car headed west thru cattle pastures past smaller and smaller homes, shacks, set back, connected to the main road by a trail of red earth and a single power line. Banana, mango and avocado trees surrounded the shabby dwellings and most had livestock pens or a horse or cow tethered in the shade of a tree, grazing in a patch of new grass. The car followed a single lane asphalt road over the invisible boundary line of Pina Del Rio province and into the foothills of the Cordillera de Guaniguanico range, climbing higher into the green mountains. Travis and Pete sat silent in the rear seat sipping Havana Club Rum with lime while Fito and the driver kept up a constant flow of conversation, often heated, about the direction of their destination. Arriving at a crossroad devoid of road signs, their banter reached a fever pitch. Fito insisted they continue straight ahead while the driver stubbornly argued for a taking the road to the left. “I knew this was a bad idea,” Travis moaned.” Now we’re fucking lost.” Toward them rode a very old man astride a gaunt but proud stepping roan horse, loping with a gait that revealed a Spanish bloodline. Fito spotted the approaching caballero, stepped out of the car and hailed the old man. The Cuban cowboy’s skin resembled dried leather, aged by a life spent in the relentless sun. He rode ramrod straight across the asphalt, reined his mount up just short of the idling taxi and pushed the straw hat back on his head, reveling a set of clear dark eyes. Lines in the old man’s face were furrows, deep trenches excavated by age and etched by time. The skin on his hands looked ancient but his eyes responded brightly to Fito’s questions. In florid speech and with magnanimous gestures he spoke, waving everything except the machete strapped to his belt.Fito thanked the old Cubano and offered him a dollar. The man touched a hand to his straw weaved hat and adamantly refused. Waving the American currency Fito repeated the offer, trying to make the old man understand that the money was from the Yankees and was the least they could do for his help. The old cowboy refused again, bade them good luck and reined the lean proud horse into a high stepping trot down the cane-lined road. “Stupid Campiso”, Fito opened the taxi door and took his seat once again. ”Just because the government teaches them to read and write does not give them brains”. Pete watched the old man trotting over the rise and out of sight. “I guess money isn’t important to a true revolutionary.” “Money is not important to the old fool because he is happy to live in a dirt floor shack like a farm animal,” Fito judged, shook his head, settle against the passenger door and sunk into an unusual silence. Travis, sensing Fito’s anger prodded, ”I thought the object of the revolution was to free people like that old man, make them less dependent on the American dollar. Isn’t that what Che had in mind?” Travis decided to let the man sulk. He knew it wouldn’t last, never did. Again they rose with the roads elevation as it narrowed and wound snaking through forest of mahogany and Cuban pine, across streams and gullies cut into the mountainside by runoff, then choked with tropical undergrowth. Flowers filled the countryside, scenting the air and coloring the land, creating a holy garden as if the earth was striving to show man the inexhaustible abundance of her fertility. Travis and Pete rode silent, awed by the islands natural splendor. Deeper and deeper into the lush mountainous interior they rode, each bend in the road revealing another vista of the rich cane filled valleys below. The driver slowed for a narrow bridge, its concrete and steel construction marred with signs of deterioration. Below, a brownish stream rushed over and around boulders, their sharp edges worn smooth by generations of flowing water. The stream disappeared over the edge of a rock precipice and reappeared hundreds of feet below in the valley, where the current slowed into a meandering river. Pete had finished pouring two more rums when the driver turned down a narrow dirt road and the car descended toward a rusted tin roof shack. It sat in the shade of giant banyan with aerial roots reaching earthward from four large limbs, anchoring the massive base of the old tree. The shack sat elevated on wooden pilings. Rough-cut lumber steps reached for its faded yellow door. Chickens scratched for worms and grubs in front and under the house, many with small chicks emulating their mother’s motions. Two bantam roosters, multicolored as peacocks postured, feathers flared in protective bluffs, then scurried beneath the house, herding their charges away from the approaching auto. A child’s face appeared in the pane-less window, disappeared and was replaced by the bearded face of a man. When the front door opened a potbellied farmer wearing faded military trousers cautiously emerged. Halting on the top step, he stood surveying the unfamiliar car. Fito greeted the man whose gaze remained fixed on the two Americans in the rear seat. One small child, then another appeared at the door. Cautiously stepping onto the stoop, the eldest took refuge behind his father, peeking around his leg at the strangers. Fito opened the car door and spoke to the farmer who seem to relax a little, but remained on the top step. Pete got out of the car and the child retreated behind the trouser leg of his father. Turning, the farmer picked up the young boy, cradled him in the crook of his arm and began to descend the steps, pausing on each one, listening intently to Fito’s proposal. Finally reaching the bottom step, he shifted the boy to his left arm and took Fito’s offered hand with his right. Their conversation continued until the farmer turned and led the way around the side of the shack, pointing out a crudely constructed pen set in a clearing down the hill. Fito called to Pete and together they followed the barefoot farmer down a narrow path tramped thru waist high weeds.Inside the pen an assortment of hogs, including a full-grown sow with a recent litter of piglets and several shoats of varying sizes grunted at the party’s approach..” How much money do you have Pedro.” Fito asked. “I’ve got about fifty dollars on me. Is that enough to buy a pig?” Fito laughed,” For fifty dollars you could buy all the pigs Pedro, just give me five.” Fito handed the farmer the bill, shook his hand and the barefoot man turned and made his way back up the path, the child starring back over his shoulder. “Where is he going?” Pete asked. “He sells the pigs Pedro. He does not catch them. Which one do you want?” “What do you mean he doesn’t catch them, pay him more money” “It is not the money Pedro. That is the way it is done.” Fito explained. ”O.K., how hard can it be? How about that spotted one.” Pete said, pointing out a black and white shoat weighting about fifty pounds. Travis staggered up to the pen beginning to show the effects of the morning’s rum.” What now boys?” he asked.Pete sat on a sun bleached limestone boulder imprinted with the remains of long dead sea life. “I guess we’re going to have us a pig set,” At the appearance of the farmer, the small herd crowded the trough, pushing and nudging, jockeying for position in anticipation of the coming meal. They examined every inch of the wooden channel with their sensitive snouts, then smelled the air searching for the tale tell aroma of food. When the farmer and his son departed and they were left with just the strangers, the old sow snorted and caution crept into the small herd. The wise old sow addled away from the feeding station toward the far side of the enclosure, keeping a watchful eye turned in the direction of the men at the fence. One by one, the others of her clan took the cue, dispersing to the far edges of the enclosed space. Pete removed the laces from his tennis shoes.” We’ll tie its feet together with these when we catch him.” Rising, he hopped over the top rail of the low fence and sank calf deep in the soft combination of mud and pig shit.”O boy, this is going to be fun.” he said and began to slosh after the snorting, grunting pigs. Travis attempted to hop the fence, caught his foot on the top rail and fell head first into the foul smelling mud. Fito burst out laughing at the sight of the half-drunk captain mired in pig shit. “Get your ass in here Fito, this was your idea!” Travis yelled struggling to his feet, half his face blackened with the foul mess. Pete had the selected pig cornered but the big sow blocked his path.” Travis, come around this side. I’ll try to get behind the sow and chase the spotted one toward you.” Feeling cornered, the old sow bolted from the trap knocking Pete into the mud. Fito, reluctantly having decided to join the fray, climbed the fence just as the sow charged. Believing the irate pig was attacking, he promptly vaulted back over the fence and out of the pen. “I told you to get your ass in here.” yelled Travis “That pig wants to eat me,” cried Fito. “Then that makes you even. Get in here!” Travis screamed. Fito again climbed the rail and sheepishly sidled down the fence line keeping a watchful eye on the nervous sow. She had gathered her liter and was shielding them in the opposite corner of the pen. All the pigs were spooked. Darting from one side of the pen to the other, they anticipated each move of the intruders and stayed just out of reach. Numerous times over the next half hour, the spotted shoat was cornered, grabbed and seemingly captured. In each instance the small swine managed to dodge or squirm away, leaving in its wake mud covered would be captors. Finally, the farmer appeared at the corner of the pen. When the spotted pig ran close, evading another bungled lunge, he reached over the top rail with a five-pound sledgehammer and struck the shoat between the eyes. The pig collapsed in the mud and the farmer turned and ambled up the path toward his shack. “Well shit” Pete leaned over and took in a breath.” What took him so long?” “Tie him up quick before he comes to.” yelled Travis. “I can’t” replied Pete” I lost my shoelaces in the mud. Let me have yours.” “I wore flips flops,” answered Travis. Adamantly refusing to part with his, Fito reminded Pete how hard shoelaces are to come by in Cuba. The unconscious, untied shoat was heaved over the fence, lugged up the path and deposited into the expansive trunk of the Plymouth. “We need to go to my house first.” Fito said, as they drew near to Marina Hemingway. “Bullshit,” Travis said,” take me to the boat right now.” Fito turned to make his point but the look on the drunken captain’s face said reason was futile. The driver turned the old car into the marina entrance and slowed for the routine inspection at the guard gate. Pete heard a grunt from the trunk and hoped it was imagined. Smiling and friendly the guard approached, caught a whiff of the cars odor and backed away. He made a remark to the driver and began to question Fito who was already offering a canned explanation of why the two Americans looked and smelled like losers of a mud-wrestling match. The guard seemed to be enjoying the explanation until he heard the snort coming from the trunk. All hell broke loose. Snorts from the trunk increased in frequency and the rear of the car shook and reverberated with bumps and squeals. The guards face turned serious, then threatening. He called to the shack and was immediately joined by two fellow sentries. Fito leaped out of the front passenger side door and as he passed the rear window whispered, “He thinks we have girls in the trunk Pedro” He joined Fito, the three guards and the driver gathered behind the Plymouth staring at the bouncing trunk lid, shouting incoherent orders and attempted explanations. One did not have to be fluent in Spanish to know that the guards wanted the trunk lid opened and they wanted it opened now! Whatever possible explanation Fito and the driver were serving up was going nowhere and the guards, hands on holsters, were becoming more and more insistent. Frustrated, the driver reluctantly pushed the trunk button and stepped back allowing the lid to rise slowly on its own. Long ago, the spring of the trunk’s lid lost the power to compete against the forces of the earth’s gravitation pull and after rising an inch, surrendered and stopped. Conversation ceased, everyone stared at the now silent trunk. Time seemed to freeze in a twilight zone moment. Only the beads of sweat oozing from the pores across the foreheads of the waiting men confirmed life continued. The guards pondered what kidnap victim awaited. Fito pictured the cane field he would spend the rest of his days toiling in. The driver prematurely mourned the loss of his beloved Plymouth, while Pete mentally sounded out several explanations as to why they were being evicted from Cuba. Even the pig inside the trunk hesitated to set in motion the cycle of events that would determine their futures. Only Travis still functioned. Sitting in the shaded back seat, he drained his glass, looked into the open cooler and shouted at the top of his inebriated lungs. ”Hey, we’re outta ice!” Alarms sounded, thunder clapped, the earth restarted its rotation. The trunk lid flew open as the pig, smelling freedom, burst from the confines of its dark prison and lunged into daylight. A startled guard drew his weapon and fired, missing the pig but killing the rear tire of the touring car. Fito dove for cover behind a hedge of decorative croutons. Pete took off in pursuit of the pig, who unfamiliar with the neighborhood, dashed into the marina gate instead of heading for the unfenced balance of Cuba. One marina guard set off chasing Pete and the pig. Demanding an explanation to why his car had been shot, the angry driver accosted the trigger-happy sentry. The third guard scurried back to the quite security of the guard shack. Travis seemingly oblivious to the crisis filled his glass with Havana Club rum and drank it down without ice. Inside the walled compound a small gathering, American and Cuban, lingered in small familiar groups, sipped rum drinks, bathed in the aroma of roasting pork. The bouquet drifted across the clear pool filled with splashing, happy cocoa colored, sugar fueled children. Powered by an endless supply of candy, they raced and dunked one another under the watchful eyes of relaxed parents. Three marina guards, minus uniforms, cold beers in hand, welcomed the taxi driver and his wife. Parked down the street, his beloved Plymouth set, sporting a new left rear tire.The police chief, the commodore and their wives sat together casually in the shade of the thatched palapa roof. On the chief’s wrist sat a freshly acquired Casio sport watch and the foursome sported new polos in an array of vibrant tropical colors, the yacht’s name embroidered over the left breast.Ted sat listening to two young men describing in limited English, the tale of the chase and capture of a black, spotted shoat. Communicating more with gestures than words, they described the pig’s confused final headlong plunge into the marina pool.Travis held court, basking in the glow of victory, first place in the just finished Hemingway Marlin Tournament.Pete sat with Fito’s wife Mariposa and her friend, the mother of a ten-year-old boy. In his hand a letter he would mail on his return to Key West tomorrow. Penned neatly on its front, the name of the woman’s husband and a Miami address. Recently released from a Bahamian detention center, he was living with a cousin in Hialeah and working in a restaurant on Calle Ocho.