Cuban Term Paper Crisis
By Kurt Kitasaki
I never assumed landing a plane on Fidel Castro’s ocean front mansion would’ve kept me from being expelled from college.
As a senior at a private Florida college, my professor of Cuban Studies had threatened me with expulsion because I failed all his exams. Despite my pleas he wouldn’t relent. So, I proposed that if he wouldn’t fail me, I ‘d write a report explaining the secret to Fidel Castro’s political stamina. He agreed, after peeling me off his back like a wet overcoat. His enthusiasm surprised me, since he rejected my previous paper titled, “The Cuban Cigar: Why it goes better with red wine.”
Walking out the door, my enthusiasm waned. How could I write a paper explaining how one individual has held onto power longer than eight U.S. Presidents?
A day later I saw a hundred Cuban-American activists marching on campus shouting anti-Castro slogans. Agonizingly, I decided to skip my physics class to have a talk with these extremists.
I tried probing their thoughts for information about the dictator. All I heard were Spanish swear words punctuated with , “El Diablo!” I learned a few flew harassment missions over Cuban airspace. With the same technique I used on my professor I convinced them to allow me to fly on one of their missions. The only difference is they needed a crowbar to peel me off their backs.
What a reference! What tenured professor could claim they flew over communist airspace to gather research?
As we took off in the plane, I saw my hopes of academic survival lift off through white mists of cob-webbed clouds. My guide, a Mr. Rodrigo Rodriguez carried a backpack filled with leaflets to drop on the island country. He started chanting the phrase, “El Diablo! El Diablo!” like some indigenous war cry. The pilot, a Mr. Julio Lopez, was a more stoic individual, who likewise hated Mr. Castro, and judging by the jerking motions of the plane, despised flight school just as much.
Before I became airsick we saw the meandering island. Rodriguez grabbed a handful of leaflets tossing them out the window. They fell , scattering like oak leaves during the Fall.
Suddenly I heard the sound of flying metal through the air. Looking out the window, I saw a Cuban MIG passing by. And then another, streaking faster!
“Don’t worry, they’re just trying to scare us!,” said Mr. Rodriguez. Seconds later one plane fired its machine guns, hitting the plane in the back, sending smoke in all directions. We spun out of control.
Lopez regained control; we were horizontal, headed inland . Through the radio we heard the Communist pilots celebrating. I could pick up the cheers of the two airmen with the sound of salsa music in the background. One screamed, “Cojones! Tenemos Cojones!”
Our break- neck speed was cushioned by a strong gust of a sea breeze which caused the plane to lift about 300 feet from the ground. Like a wounded butterfly, we glided a few hundred yards before landing on the top of a flat-roofed mansion. Our cheers and back slapping soon ceased when we realized only one person in Cuba who could afford a house that large.
We looked down 20 yards below us. There he lay, next to his swimming pool; lounging back in his beach chair, a cigar just fallen from his mouth. A margarita in his left hand, and wearing nothing but a pair of ghastly looking yellowish-green Bermuda shorts which made us all throw up.
After being interrogated for hours, I became singled out from my fellow co-defendants. I soon found out why as I was thrown the dictator’s office. I tried convincing him I had no hostile intentions. I told him I only needed information on why he had been able to stay in power so long. No doubt, I pleaded, because of his good looks and hip fashion style.
I was immediately forearmed in the back of the head by his chief of security General Juan Valdez Cohiba Ruiz. Puffing on his cigar, the dictator explained to me that his propaganda minister had worked out a plan to exploit my all-American blonde hair blue-eyed looks to the world. Remembering the story of their young Cuban boy who had been rescued off the shore of Florida, they hatched a plan. They would use me as a pawn to promote their pro-communist views. They made up a tale of how I was rescued at sea while my mother and I were trying to escape Florida to live in Marxist Cuba.
As for my two partners, their looks proved useless, they were put to work harvesting tobacco leaves for 16 hours a day. For weeks they would languish in the hot sun, muttering “El Diablo, El Diablo.”
The staged propaganda stunt did not go off without a hitch. They first published in their newspapers that a 22- year- old “boy” was found by a Cuban fisherman drifting in a inner tube. “His mother is feared dead, but the boy said his mother’s goal was to bring him to Cuba in order to live in a country that would preserve her Communist principals,” the article stated. They announced I would be living in the custody of a man they stated was my 23rd cousin’s 5th uncle.
To film footage of me being rescued they drove me to the ocean. The General along with several soldiers began to dunk my head in the water. After coughing up seaweed , I complained I had salt water between my ears. So the General dislodged it with a few more forearms into the back of my head. They ordered a local fisherman to drag my obliterated frame out of the waters. The announcer for the film crew described the rescue. He spoke in Spanish and then began dubbing in the English translations, saying, “And here we see the young boy being rescued from the accident. He is now in a place that will look after his needs. A land of prosperity. A land that doesn’t have soldiers who forearm you in the back of the head, or force you to harvest tobacco for sixteen hours a day.”
I felt a little dizzy due to the salt water lodged into my brain so I can’t tell you with accuracy how my staged interview with Dan Rather went. The Dictator thought it would show the world my stay was of my free will. Via satellite, I sat in a dark room with General Ruiz out of camera sight, to the left, with his forearm cocked in a threatening manner.
The first question Rather asked was how was I doing. Obviously I have to tell him I’ve never been better. Looking into the camera he inquires, “Is it possible you are being coerced by the Cuban regime to make false statements?” I looked into the camera saying, “Of course not.” ( I couldn’t believe this wooden Indian could even suggest there was the slightest chance I wanted to be there.)
He started showed clips the propagandists took of me at, “Cuban Disneyland.” They remembered how the little boy was spoiled at Disney World, so they thought it would be beneficial to do the same. The only problem; they didn’t have any amusement parks in Cuba. So they put me in an inflatable raft, inside a sewer tunnel, claiming I was on the, “It’s a Small World” ride. Even more humiliating they couldn’t find any Mickey Mouse costumes so they took a dead five foot sewer rat, hung it off a meat hook, and made me pose with it, trying to pass it off as the mascot.
“I must say, Mr. Banks, that photo of you in the raft looks suspicious.”, Mr. Rather suggested. “Oh really, in what way?” I asked. He responded, “It doesn’t look like you’re at Disneyland. It appears you’re in a sewer tunnel.”
“I’m having the time of my life.”
“That tunnel looks way too dark.”
“That’s because they deregulated the electrical industry, they’ve been having problems.”
“When did they do that, Mr. Banks?”
“But Mr. Banks there seems to be no water in the tunnel either.”
“They deregulated that also.”
He then flashed the photo with the rat. “Surely Mr. Banks you can’t claim to say this is Mickey Mouse.”
“Why would you doubt it?”
“It looks like a dead sewer rat.”
“Oh, I think he just drank too much tequila that day.”
“Mr. Banks. Could it be possible that you were a passenger on that plane that was shot down, and not someone who was trying to seek asylum here with your oppressed mother?”
“Dan. I’m here on my own free will.”
(Of course I’m being forced against my will you wooden Indian!)
“You claim your mother drifted away during a hurricane towards the South Pole. However, I recently spoke with a woman who claimed she was your mother. She showed authentic documentation. And she also wanted me to say that she wants you to bring back that Beamer you borrowed for Spring break.”
“Sir, that’s impossible, the last time I saw my mother she was in an inner tube on a hundred foot tidal wave. Unless, you interviewed her at Antarctica.”
“Mr. Banks, I have to sign off, but I have one more message from your Cuban studies professor. He wanted me to tell you in light of your present situation, he is considering giving you a pass/no pass option for your class.”
He went off the air. Despite the fact I did everything right General Ruiz decided to give me a couple more forearms to the back of the head. The next day he dragged me into the dictators office. His reports showed the propaganda stunt did not even convince our current President, which says a lot. On his wide screen television the President of the United States gave a speech to the Cuban government. After stumbling with his words for two minutes he said, “This is not about cojones. This is about shooting down a civilian aircraft. And detaining an American citizen, along with two registered voters. Errr....ahh...I mean detaining three American citizens.” Most people felt the President showed a lot of authority during this speech, the only problem was that he was sitting on his dads lap when he made is comments.
The Dictator screamed, “Why can’t people believe someone would want to live here! Look at the beautiful landscape! The nice warm weather!” He pulled off his shirt revealing his tan. (I prayed he wouldn’t unbutton his pants to reveal those ugly Bermuda shorts. My prayer went unanswered.)
General Ruiz interjected, “I told you we should have launched him off SCUD Missile and said he’s on the Space Mountain Ride.” “That’s too expensive.” the dictator replied.
He paced around his stiff oak desk with a lit Montecristo #2. He brought me to the window overlooking a thousand acre tobacco plantation. “So you wanted to write thesis on why I’ve been here so long?” he enquired. Pointing to Rodriguez and Lopez who were in the field straining in agony, lifting bales of tobacco he explained, “There’s your answer. See how happy they are.”
“Yeah they look like they won the lottery.” I replied. The dictator explained, “They’re happy because they’re being told what to do. They’ve been out there for a week, and they only complained once. And that was about food.”
I asked, “So they don’t like the food your giving them?” General Ruiz forearmed me across the head, sending the spit spraying from my mouth like a defective shotgun. “No idiot! They would like to have some!”
The dictator brought his face within inches of mine, puffing a giant cloud of Montecristo in my face. He lectured, “Senor Banks, you made big mistake coming here.” Holding the cigar in his hand he suggested, “You should have done your paper on why this goes better with red wine.”
I tried explaining that our armed forces would be sent in . The dictator scoffed, “Your military is a joke.” He produced a scrapbook filled with headlines of military disasters. He pointed to headlines of an accidental embassy bombing, explosions on Naval ships, pilots crash landing, etc. The Dictator laughed, “With enemies like this who needs friends!”
He came in close and blew another cloud in my face saying, “We don’t fear your people. Let me tell you secret, half the rifles soldiers carry have no bullets.” He pulled out a box of obtuse cigars, “Now you know what we do with our rejects.”
General Ruiz pulled out a article about the submarine that recently sunk the fishing boat off the coast of Hawaii and said, “Now here’s one I don’t believe. It must be some trick. I know your military is incompetent, but this is ridiculous.”
The dictator received a report from the propaganda minister on his phone. Minutes later he said, “Senor Banks, I know the problem. Our film needs to be more authentic.
The next day they decided to create a more accurate made for DVD re-enactment. They still used the dead rat, but put a cigar in its mouth and dressed it up with a pair of the dictator’s Bermuda shorts.
The footage at sea would be more difficult. They put me on a forty foot boat, with a dozen soldiers. Before we sailed the Dictator gave the General a pat on the back, and blew another cloud of Montecristo in my face.
Ruiz ordered the boat to stop 2 miles off the coast and unlocked my shackles. He then lectured me on how pathetic the U.S. armed forces were. He grinned saying, “After film becomes success we have no need for you. You may join friends harvesting tobacco. You look stronger, maybe you work for eighteen hours instead sixteen.”
“Thanks, it gets hot out there in those fields. Do you think your boss can loan me a pair of his Bermuda shorts?”
I saw his anger. So before he had the chance I beat him to it and forearmed myself in the back of the head. He instead gave me a left hook to the abdomen. Knocking me to the floor. He pulled out a revolver. I knew I never should’ve insulted the Bermuda shorts.
I felt the boat violently shake. The crew screamed, “Vamanos! Vamanos!” Then something emerged from the water knocking the boat over, sending everyone into the ocean. Coughing up seaweed, I saw a black-gray nuclear-powered submarine, rising in a vibrating motion. What a clever idea, they staged an accident to save me, to avoid any conflict!
I looked across at the General with his bloated carcass, he was treading water, trying to stay afloat, with a octopus stuck to his face. Well, what do you think of our military now you idiot.
Minutes later, through my saltwater singed eyes, I felt a large arm pull me into a motorized boat. Immediately, the soldier said, “You look familiar. Aren’t you that kid that likes to go white water rafting in sewer tunnels?” The crew laughed.
I entered the submarine, walked to the admiral and said, “Great work Sir! You saved my life!”
“No problem son. By the way can you tell us where the Gulf of Mexico is? We were on our way there for an exercise, but our radar broke, so we submerged to find our location.”
He pointed to General Ruiz who they detained in handcuff, still with the octopus stuck to his face. “That’s one scary looking guy. I think now I know why we haven’t been able to overthrow their government.”
Ruiz shouted, “Por favor! Remove this off my face! I can’t breathe!”
I compassionately obliged by forearming him across the head until we reached the shore.
After I made it back to Florida, I alerted the press about my two associates who were later released after the publicity. When I saw them they looked like contestants in a Mr. Universe contest, after lifting tobacco leaves for 16 hours a day. In other words they looked like they had been released from prison.
Then it hit me; the answer to my thesis. I’m sure they knew all along. So when the day came to deliver my presentation I asked Mr. Rodriguez to help deliver my speech.
He stood next to me in class with no notes. My professor announced, “Mr. Banks will now present his thesis on why Fidel Castro has been able to stay in office for so long.” I motioned to Mr. Rodriguez, who walked over to the podium, cleared his throat and said, “He’s an ass!”
The thesis was so persuasive, I not only received an A in the class, the faculty on Cuban studies threw out all other dissertations regarding the dictator’s success at staying in power, and replaced them with that one sentence.
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