This is the two hundred twenty fourth fable of Hialeah. You may say it never happened.  You may say it had to have happened.  You will be right.

Early in the 1960’s, Andrew, the son of Mayor Amos Myland, was spending one cold January night carousing in his new sports car.  The Mayor was a butcher who had risen to the heights of local government, a man feared by most while loved by many, surrounded by sycophants, yet one who remained humble enough to step back into the butcher shop down the street from Hialeah city hall and get elbow deep in blood to hack up two pounds of prime rib and wrap it in white paper for elderly Mrs. Sothern’s family get-together. Being the son of such an accomplished man was a heavy burden. Andrew strutted and bluffed and bullied his way through city hall by day, and at night drank and inhaled a variety of elixirs for the wounded soul, while he chased an endless line of young women whose status in society, either ethnically or financially, always assured their submission to Andrew’s position as heir to a man of power. One such woman, the nineteen year old daughter of the Mayor’s mansion’s black maid, rode with the son this cold night, alarmed at his excesses but overwhelmed by his show of wealth and the bravado which comes from a life lived free of accountability.

With his right hand on the woman’s warm thigh, Andrew reached for his golden cigarette lighter with his left hand, the while flying down a darkened patch of Hialeah’s Red Road at ninety seven miles per hour. Normally, the expensive sports car drove true to its driver’s intentions, the tight steering staying on course even when temporarily without hands holding the wheel.  However, no car can resist reacting to obstacles on the highway, and the sports car was not an exception, jumping, as if weightlessly, upon impacting a small red-cheek turtle which had emerged from the nearby canal and was pursuing its eternity across the pavement in the dark.  By the time the Andrew dropped the lighter and snatched the steering wheel, the car had completed its high-speed hop and spun three times, tumbling over a railing and into the dank waters of the canal.  Luckily, Andrew was able to scramble in the wet murk through the windshield which had been broken by the young woman’s head’s impact upon it, and rise from the depths to the surface, almost clear-headed, almost refreshed with the exhilaration of the moment.

None of the carefully selected police officers who were dispatched to the scene was happy to be there.  Truth would have to be bent. Consequences would have to be avoided.  There would be a price to pay for this cover up, but it would be paid in the after life. No, these enforcers of the law, normally ethical, moral men and women, were not happy to be on this accident scene.

The dead young woman’s mother was inconsolable. The Mayor doubled her salary and gave her a month off paid to deal with her grief. It was such an outrage, Myland had told his sobbing maid, a travesty of God’s justice that her daughter had been walking alone along Red Road at that time of night, innocent as a lamb, only to be struck down by a drunken Cuban man who fled the scene like the cowards all Cubans were.  A heinous crime such as this would not allow the great butcher Mayor to sleep until the perpetrator had been caught and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

The dead young woman’s father was a tall, powerfully built man, a laborer in the city’s road crew, who had doted on his only daughter. His grief was profound and gnawed at him. After patiently enduring a lifetime of the penalties committed by American society on his race, a lifetime of objectified cruelty, humiliation, denigration, focused hatred and deferred respect, an invisible man in the land of the free, his sorrow for his daughter’s death turned bitter, festered from a sagging, brooding thing into a silent rage. A drunken Cuban man had killed his daughter, he told himself over and again, although the whole city knew the dirty secret, the awful truth of her death.  Even the father in the unenlightened abyss of denial knew who was truly responsible. But the Mayor’s son may as well have been God himself.  No black man could rise up against the Mylands. No man could rise up against God. A drunken Cuban man had killed his daughter. The great butcher Mayor had said, and the grieving man’s wife wanted so to believe. The big black good man swallowed a bitter truth with gin and sour grapefruit juice. Each swig burned like glowing coals and summoned the whispering snake wraiths of hell to poison his mind. A drunken coward of a Cuban.

Outside the La Habanita bar the deranged father stood, finishing a few last gulps of yet another bottle, his eyes red, a slight sway to his otherwise solid and imposing stance. Any man who leaves this bar will be a Cuban man, he thought.  Any Cuban man who leaves this bar at two thirty in the morning will be drunk. “A drunken coward of a Cuban will pay for my daughter,” he whispered.

Manuel did not drink. He swept La Habanita and moved the kegs of beer and washed the glasses from six o’clock until two thirty, five nights a week.  The rest of his days were filled with college classes and a love of baseball.  He was a slim young man who struggled with English. As he left work and walked toward his rusting little car in the parking lot, he was wondering how he could build up the nerve to ask out a shy freshman with pretty brown eyes in his ESOL class. When the massive black man approached him from the shadows, Manuel was alarmed. But his dignity and those pretty brown eyes watching him from his imagination did not allow him to run off immediately, and that would have been solely what would have saved him from the train wreck of a seething, sweating giant who moved so fast for his size, wielding the empty bluish bottle like a hammer up and down over and over until the glass was only bloody shards on the ground or splinters embedded in the young man’s skull and deeply in the closed fist of the weeping man who buried his heavy knee into Manuel’s chest to beat him well beyond an unmoving pulp. Gasping with anger and spitting tears from his lips, the killer cried “Drunken coward Cubans. You killed my little girl. You and everyone.”

Three bullets from La Habanita’s owner’s thirty eight revolver had no effect on the killer, perhaps merely bringing forth more tears of anguish, but the fourth bullet took away part of the forehead and some of the fevered brain within and felled the raging man and his black sorrows, and all the wrongs of the world died with him.

The officers in charge of the case declared that Manuel had indeed been the driver of the car which had taken the young girl’s life. Her father’s revenge was seen as understandable for one of his kind but of course far beyond the limits of law. Thus, two second degree murderers were lowered into the ground in separate, modest ceremonies on the same brisk but sunny South Florida day.

The man responsible for the young girl’s death having been punished, Mayor Myland closed the case and slept soundly again. Lucky Andrew, also, was once again free to pursue peace of mind in a new sports car, with a new young girl by his side, using new artificial means of mood enhancement, speeding through the streets of Fort Lauderdale, in the next county north, in order to avoid any further political embarrassments to his father, at least for that year.

A month after the burials of the twin killers, the Mayor’s desolate maid, widowed and childless, was relieved of her employment, as a prudent measure to ensure that she herself could not revert to tribal violence and endanger anyone within Myland’s sphere. A Christian woman capable of unfathomable forgiveness and toughened by mere living to a knot of mahogany, she took in small sewing jobs and did odd meal preparations for various functions, scraping out a meager subsistence to outlive every person involved in this tale. It was almost as if she would permit no one to be left behind, forgiven but not forgotten.