Archives for posts with tag: fable

Still Genesis 4: 1- 25

Cain Destabled

“Nod” — a tuneless song (thanks, JC)

Well, you wonder why I’m marked and walk this way,
Why I never work a job more than a day,
And why my laughter sounds like someone else’s moan
Well, there’s a history to the scars that I have borne.

I wear my marks for the poor and beaten down,
Living in the hopeless, hungry victims’ side of town,
I have them for the prisoner who misunderstood her crime,
But stays because she’s a consort of her times.

I wear the mark for those who never read,
Or listened to the words the Maker said,
But I heard the words he spoke with love and charity,
Back then, you know, He was talking straight to me!

And I’m doing what I can in tattered clothes,
As I walk on rocks and feel them in my toes
Though I’m haunted by the wicked sound of skull bone being cracked
Every time a person shouts at me “Get back!”

I wonder if my questions will get old,
Unworthy me or a universe so cold?
I wander Nod just fixed on what there might have been
If a judgment never came to Mom or two young men.

So, I wander for the women who have died,
Believing that the Lord was on their side,
I wander for another hundred thousand castes who cry,
Never told or knowing why they’re cast aside.

But words won’t make things right, that much I know,
Like Mother’s ambushed innocence or Abel brought so low,
And not until I justify what is wrong and what is right
Will I ever see my shadow as my light.

Oh, I’d love to sing a rainbow every day,
And know that there’s a fairness to the game that’s being played,
‘Til then I’ll wander solo, scarred image on the sand,
‘Til God’s a little fairer, I’m the bitter, angry man.

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Still Genesis 4: 1- 25

Cain Destabled

“Nod” — a tuneless song (thanks, JC)

Well, you wonder why I’m marked and walk this way,
Why I never work a job more than a day,
And why my laughter sounds like someone else’s moan
Well, there’s a history to the scars that I have borne.

I wear my marks for the poor and beaten down,
Living in the hopeless, hungry victims’ side of town,
I have them for the prisoner who misunderstood her crime,
But stays because she’s a consort of her times.

I wear the mark for those who never read,
Or listened to the words the Maker said,
But I heard the words he spoke with love and charity,
Back then, you know, He was talking straight to me!

And I’m doing what I can in tattered clothes,
As I walk on rocks and feel them in my toes
Though I’m haunted by the wicked sound of skull bone being cracked
Every time a person shouts at me “Get back!”

I wonder if my questions will get old,
Unworthy me or a universe so cold?
I wander Nod just fixed on what there might have been
If a judgment never came to Mom or two young men.

So, I wander for the women who have died,
Believing that the Lord was on their side,
I wander for another hundred thousand castes who cry,
Never told or knowing why they’re cast aside.

But words won’t make things right, that much I know,
Like Mother’s ambushed innocence or Abel brought so low,
And not until I justify what is wrong and what is right
Will I ever see my shadow as my light.

Oh, I’d love to sing a rainbow every day,
And know that there’s a fairness to the game that’s being played,
‘Til then I’ll wander solo, scarred image on the sand,
‘Til God’s a little fairer, I’m the bitter, angry man.

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There was once a young Marielito with wondrous olive skin.  His eyes were jet black and burned with an inner fire.  His shoulders were broad and his waist narrow.  His teeth were large, white and straight.  He was tall and stood with a pride some whispered bordered on arrogance.  But this was a slight misrepresentation. El Rey de los Marielitos, as he was called, lived on the side of Hialeah west of Palm Avenue.  His followers, La Pandilla Oeste, gathered offerings from local businessmen, and dealt in illicit powders and herbal medications, carnal social services, and the occasional wagers and loans.  El Rey and his cadres as one worshiped a scar-faced god of local legend, a product of cinema based loosely on the Capone of Chicago mythology.

An older but nearly as regal man led a following with similar interests in the land east of Palm Avenue.  They worshiped an ancient God spoken of only in the dark shadows of night.  The god’s name was Bautista and his central concept was flagrant consumption.

The Chief of Police in Hialeah, Chief Juevosagre, was fond of chasing the two groups around and shaking them down for remuneration.  He presented the activity to local businessmen as crime control and enlisted their money and time in his pursuits.

The businessmen were not ignorant, having seen many of these same activities in pre-Castro Cuba.  So they decided upon a plan to limit their losses.  They hired a bounty hunter of their own to track down as many members of both sides of the Palm Avenue syndicates as humanly possible and deliver them to the Chief, thus effectively emasculating the Chief’s protection racket.

The bounty hunter was ex-CIA and very well-connected and good at his commissioned job.  In a matter of weeks he had locked up in various warehouses across the city a great number of both of the pandillas.  He then went to the Chief and invited him to visit at any time to take in as many or few criminals as needed for that week’s news media release.

The Chief, delighted by the convenience, visited often, gathering huge numbers of suspects one day for a front page spread, and deciding upon fewer arrests other days to maintain a plausible balance.  As time passed this new system came to cost both sides of the Avenue a great amount of money in bail and bribes to release their followers from holding cells.  In this way, the Chief recovered and even surpassed the money lost to the no longer necessary protection of the businessmen. This new arrangement hurt both pandillas deeply financially; but more importantly the great pride of the criminals was injured. So the two powerful leaders decided to meet to talk things over.

On a beautiful, breezy day at the now-defunct Hialeah horse track, El Rey de los Marielitos and his counterpart met over mojitos and contraband Cojiba cigars.  “Padron,” El Rey said. “Many of our people are being incarcerated at great expense to us both. We look bad and recruitment is down. Que pena! Suppose we break through this bounty system and work directly with Chief Juevosagre?  We can offer him as many people as he needs to perpetuate the myth of his greatness, be rid of this hideous bounty hunter, and reduce cost overall, with greater control over our own affairs which have been so disrupted by unexpected arrests.”

The leader of the east side syndicate agreed. “Es una idea con cojones, Capo,” he noted. So a lottery was set up to serve the needs of the Chief and cut out the bounty hunter who was found one night with a mint leaf sprouting from a hole in the side of his head.

El riesgo da vida as it was called continued flawlessly for a long time with the names of all involved in either organization in the lottery box and at risk for being chosen. One day, however, the name of the mistress of the east side leader was chosen at random and she was to be offered up.  Chief Juevosagre had always had an eye for this young beauty and he was eager to take her into his protection for at least one night.  The woman pled her case to her lover who, unbeknownst to her, had taken another mistress more resembling his own wife when she had been younger.  Thus was the innocent woman surprised to hear her lover say “Your number is up.  You go as the rest. Es el riesgo da vida, mi amor.”

Shocked, the woman rushed to the west side and begged El Rey for mercy.  “You are a victim of Latin passion,” he told her.  “I will take your place in the lottery for the sake of divine mercy.” Here is the mysterious wonder of the wicked. In his heart he felt he carried many of the dark scars of sins against his own wife.  He was, after all, un Latino con machismo. This noble gesture of personal sacrifice gave him the illusion of contrition, compensation and repentance.

And so, on the appointed night, Chief Juevosagre was duly appalled to find El Rey and not a beautiful and vulnerable young woman waiting for him in a motel room beside the Miami River off Okeechobee Road.  El Rey, tired of the abuses of the Chief and feeling he could work more effectively with a certain Captain Caribineros who could easily be promoted through election to Chief, dispatched Juevosagre with a single blow from a sugar cane machete.

A controlled war erupted between local law enforcement and the two syndicate groups.  One day the pandilla leaders met again for umo y refrescos.  The leader from the east said “I never saw such kindness and mercy as you showed my ex that night.  Nor such gall and blood-lust you presented the old Chief. You have revealed to me a softer and more subtle side of leadership. Suave, muy suave.”

“Until now,” replied El Rey, and promptly shot his rival between the eyes with a small bore .38. “The good deserve better,” he told the corpse, tapping gently the long ash of his cigar to drop it in the gathering pool of blood.  “And the bad deserve much worse than they get.”

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Gomez, Mata, and the Caribineros brothers worked as officers in the Hialeah police force; Gomez and Mata rode together in patrol car 2785 and Primo and Segundo in 1681.  On patrol one night in the warehouse district of west 72 and 16th avenue, the two cars passed each other, circled the block, then came to an idling stop alongside one another, Gomez in one and Primo Caribineros in the other driving.  The warehouse in front of which they were parked was filled with small, expensive electronics.  Applying the least bit of ingenuity, the bay door could be opened and the place looted by local kids.  In less time than the police could respond to the warehouse blaring burglar alarm, the uniformed men had the most valuable and compact of the merchandise packed into the patrol cars’ trunks and were heading west to the undeveloped sections of Hialeah recently annexed west of the expressway.  Out in the dark, with the lights of the city illuminating the eastern horizon, they decided to divide the loot.  But Primo wanted more for himself and the next day secretly went to Mata and said:

“You have the power to take Gomez out.  Set it up.  If you do this you can take his part of the money, another two hundred thou.  This is the chance of a lifetime. Tomalo.

Mata needed the extra money for his pregnant wife and Dominican girlfriend, as well as his growing fascination with steroids.  Two weeks later, on a robbery-in-progress call, Mata fell, tripped, and inadvertently pushed his partner into the line of fire of those two Chino punks and their 38’s.  At the Gomez funeral much was said about friendship, hard work and family.

The next day over patstelitos del carne and cortaditas and the Carretica restaurant, Primo said to Segundo Caribineros “Gomez is dead.  Mata has his share, twice what we received.  I’m not sure we can trust him.  Hermano, let’s take the whole bundle for ourselves.”

So the Caribineros brothers went to Mata with a plan to double everyone’s money with one big score of Ecstasy tablets which they could dump off on a teen dance hall operator at a big profit.  Mata turned over his part of the cash and the Caribineros headed to a motel room on the beach to decide the best way to invest the lucre.

When they arrived, Primo made a phone call to Mata’s wife and anonymously informed her that she might have a problem with her husband’s wandering eye.  This would bring Mata months of trouble and disable him from attempting to regain his money. In the room overlooking the sparkling pool and swaying palms, Primo turned to his brother and said:

Imbecil.  I am strong like our father and I set this up to get us to this point.  From now on, you do as I say or you end with no cut at all.”

No joda,” Segundo said.  “I’m not your servant. I have a sense of right and wrong, como papa, and I know what we did was wrong.  That gives me strength.  I’m willing to do time for the crime. I’m not afraid of exposure, and I’m not afraid of you. You, however, live a paranoid existence and that makes you weak.”

The brothers argued most of the night, drinking heavily and nearly coming to blows.  In the morning, they were burned out, so they invested the drug loot in some short term money markets and went back to work.

But work was now days filled with silence and disinterested law enforcement. Finally, their father, Chief of Hialeah Police Sangre Caribineros called them into his office for a sit-down. The Chief had his thumb in all the pies, and he had also gotten the two boys hired despite their lack of true qualifications for the job. So it was natural for his hijos to speak openly with him.  He listened to the two squabble for a while, and finally said:

“This is the way of the badge: Segundo, you’re doomed to think you can make a difference for the good and still make a profit.  Primo, you know it’s all rotten and you owe nobody nada.  These are the two faces of experienced law enforcement necessary for the balance of enforcement.  The believer in a vague concept of justice will remember to peek into the rule book every once in a while, so that the occasional collar sticks in court and doesn’t get thrown out on some procedural mierda.  But the believer in ruckus, apuro, and corruption, that is the man who can think like the enemy, because he has essentially become one.  The money and power?  El premio? Soldier’s pay to me.  Think like a criminal and keep on eye on proper procedure, and you will be the best team this department has ever had. That will make me a proud Chief and father. Un gallo orgullos! But you will never get along, you two, because good will always fight corruption, even in a man himself, because, if he stops, he will be lost.  And your patrol car will go from being the best enforcement vehicle on the road, to an armed gang car, for a gang of two.  That, the department doesn’t want to happen and will take steps against.

“So go out and be who you are.  Share the profits.  Don’t mess with any more of my officers in your extracurriculars, and kick me back a taste, un sabrosito, now and again.  Let the system work for you.  God knows how hard we all work for it.”

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One night, Espuma and Junio Church, two great rivals for singing fame and the affection of all women, found themselves escaping their wives and families in the same night club in the heart of Hialeah.  Both men, in an effort to lighten such burdensome responsibilities, had focused their attentions on a young Latina of exceptional beauty and smoldering, dark eyes. The innocent girl was overwhelmed by the two luminaries and did not know with which to lay her trust and affection, Junio with his suave maturity, bright smile and receding hairline, or Espuma with his pompadour hair and handsome ego.

“I cannot decide between you,” she protested as she felt pulled on either side by the men at her table and the third bottle of champagne.

“I have an idea,” said Junio.  “We’ll sing for you.  The man who is most sincere in his song, you choose to give your full regard.”

Deliciosa!” the beauty cried with delight.

“I’ll go first,” Junio said.

“No,” protested Espuma.  “I am the better singer.  I will go first and there will be no need for the viejo to sing.”

“Perhaps you are right,” said Junio with that dazzling smile.  “You are young, good-looking and may have the better voice.  You go first and maybe save me the embarrassment.”  With that, he took the woman’s hand in his and gave it a warm squeeze.

Espuma rose to his feet with the gravity and posture of a matador.  “I will be right back.”

Half an hour, five slow dances and two more bottles of France’s finest later, Junio said “This place has become tedious.  Let us go for a cafecito on Calle Ocho and see what the world has to offer.”

“But Espuma,” the beauty reminded.

“Oh, he’ll be another twenty minutes in front of the mirror.  He is legendary for his preparation.  In the meantime, life is passing us–you and me–by.  Let him enjoy himself while we enjoy one another.”

The beauty insisted they wait just a while longer, but, when ten more minutes had passed with no sign of Espuma, who was indeed deep in concentration before the bathroom’s gilded mirror, she raised her last glass with a sultry “Salud,” drank deeply and took Junio’s arm.

They began with cafecitos, then continued dancing in Coconut Grove, sipping powerful mojitos while nestling in a dark leather booth surrounded with green palms.  Kisses turned to embraces more passionate than dance moves and Junio suggested they fly to Europe and take dessert in Paris while the moon shone down on them through the girders of the Eiffel Tower.  In no time they were airborne in Junio’s private jet which crossed the Atlantic in a blink.  Paris was followed by warm sangria and lovemaking on Junio’s private yacht upon whose deck the beauty awoke one morning to the soft lapping of waves and warmth of a golden Spanish sun just off the coast.  With a long, luxuriant stretch and yawn, she drank in the glorious moment and disrobed for a bit of sunbathing, to the delight of the king of Spain who hovered not far off in his helicopter, binoculars held to his face with one hand and a cell phone in the other.

“This is your finest conquest, Junio,” the king said. “She is exquisite beyond words. Sabrosa. I cannot thank you enough for calling me and sharing in this way.”

“I am your servant, my king,” Junio responded into his phone from the cabin of the yacht.  “And it was all made possible by the ego of that conceited fool Espuma.”

“He does have nice hair, though,” replied the king.

“Yes, and knowing that is what won me amor.”  Then his tone changed as he said “You’ll forgive me now, your majesty.  I must call my wife and tell her how much I miss her.”

“Of course,” said the king.  “You are a fine husband.”  He waved his right hand and the helicopter pilot tilted his cyclic control stick to circle incrementally closer.

(Thanks to ginas-whimsy-art.blogspot.com for my unauthorized inclusion of a beautiful piece of art in the above digital collage.)

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A certain widowed guajiro who had made a meager living growing oranges in his twenty acre grove happened to exist during the time of the great Florida canker scare.  The state government had figured out a way to pay back its greatest political contributors by creating an all out attack on a minor disease of citrus—canker.  This harmless disease blemished the skin of the fruit but did in no way affect the sweetness within.  As the citrus industry depended almost exclusively on the juice industry to dispose of its oranges, the canker was of relatively little negative commercial impact.  Nevertheless, state money flowed into the pockets of chosen landscapers to eliminate all citrus trees from homeowners’ yards and from small groves (an extra benefit to the cutting was indeed the reduction of small competition), and to the giant company Mart Mart which held exclusive rights to the vouchers with which homeowners who had been affected could buy non-citrus foliage. The farmer lost all his trees in a massive controlled burn one night and day (a process which itself spread the airborne disease for miles around).  And, since his was a commercial grove, his infected trees were declared of zero commercial value, annulling any claim he would normally have to insurance or remuneration.  The farmer was almost broken by the tragedy.

For days after the burning, he drank rum and coffee and cursed the land.  Yet he could feel the eyes of his dead wife on him, judging him, scolding him for his weakness. One day he awoke and made a pot of black coffee without any rum chaser. He rented a back hoe and dug out the stumps of his burned trees and then kept digging until he had dug ten great ponds which he filled with fish.  The fish he grew out and sold to nearby Oriental markets.  The widower had found a way back. He felt his wife smiling with him.

One day the local code and zoning agent stopped by and told the farmer that the ponds were illegal.  The city wanted to develop the area and the ponds would threaten the water supply.  Nothing was further from the truth scientifically, but the city like the state cared more for progress and payola than truth. They condemned the farm again.

Now the man was finally broken.  He could hear his dead wife weeping. He declared, “At my age, I can no longer cultivate myself. La vida. Ya me no gozarlo… Que no puedo ganarse la vida la tierra. I’ll make a grave of it then.” One starry autumn night, he tied his ankle to a large rock and threw both it and himself into the largest of the ponds and drowned.

A wealthy developer filled in the ponds and converted the land into tract housing under the name Ten Lake Estates.  Every year on Halloween, the farmer’s howls and screams of anger can be heard in the high wind that swirls through the landscaped trees before rising to the now barren harvest moon.

 

ImageAbuelita Ramirez lived in one of the flat-roofed duplexes built in Hialeah during the 1950’s for American GI’s who had returned from WWII and were in need of affordable housing to start life over with a family after the horrors of war. Abuelita acquired the house with the money she had received from the federal government upon arriving in the 1960’s from Havana. American foreign policy has ever been kind.  Between the federal money and the assistance of the well-established Cuban American community Abuelita, with no job to speak of, became a property owner with a steady supply of food stamps and welfare checks.  America was truly the land of milk and honey. The kindly old woman was determined to spend her remaining years passing her blessings on to those less fortunate.

She began with Emmanuel LeCouer, a young Haitian man who was on the eve of being returned to Haiti because he was black and, according to American foreign policy, blacks did not suffer and if they did it was probably their fault and they should just shut up, stop complaining, and fix their problems themselves. Abuelita agreed with American foreign policy in its general application, but on a personal level she felt there was room for ethical wiggle. After all, Emmanuel had worked in Abuelita’s neighborhood for ten years, mowing lawns, weeding, hauling trash, fixing cars, painting houses, delivering packages, and helping anyone with anything sometimes without wage of any kind. All the Cubans in the neighborhood agreed that, for a black, Emmanuel was a fine young man. He paid rent and lived peaceably in the tin shed of the man who ran a chain of Cuban supermarkets. Emmanuel sent every extra cent he earned to his impoverished family who scratched out a living in the open-sewered streets just outside of Port au Prince.

When news spread that the INS had gotten wind of Emmanuel’s whereabouts, the neighborhood was saddened through their common exile sympathies, shocked that Emmanuel had not gone through proper channels to attain residency status, and reluctant to turn over such a fine young man and inexpensive jack of all trades. So Senor Claret, the local lawyer, set up the legal framework to have Emmanuel adopted and thus saved from his just desserts. When a likely foster parent for the Haitian youth was being considered, Abuelita saw her opportunity and was adamant about her being the proper choice. “After all, you wouldn’t actually want Emmanuel to be adopted by a family with their own children. Think about the children. Think about the rumors that would naturally circulate over a young black man living in a house with a young mother, even if she were his adoptive mother.” Abuelita made a strong case and her cause was taken up. Within four months, Emmanuel could come out of hiding and move into his new home. There he thrived and flourished, working harder and for less money than ever.  The neighborhood was proud of their great charity and cunning. They felt more like true Americans than ever.

Years passed and Emmanuel grew, went to school, graduated and began college.  He was even more determined to make something of himself and help his dwindling, suffering family back home.

Angel del Carajo was the next needy person Abuelita Ramirez took in. He was also the last. Angel was seventeen and new to America by way of the flotilla of boats known as the Mariel boat lift, on the one side a flooding of Florida’s shores by suffering Cubans, on the other a purging of Cuba’s prisons of malcontents and seditionists. Angel had been a street kid in Havana, hanging out on the Malecon and hustling young girls and boys to hungry European tourists, and dealing in contraband when possible and lucrative. American dollars were the highest goal of a street hustler’s alchemic activities. Angel knew America well before America ever knew the first thing about Angel.

Abuelita had heard Angel was a petty criminal, that he was a wild street kid, that he had no respect for authority, and that he had never worked an honest day in his life.  But Abuelita also knew, as did the entire Cuban community, that all those bad traits were the fault of Fidel Castro. Abuelita took Angel in, gave him Emmanuel’s bedroom (Emmanuel was relocated to the utility room at the back of the house),  fed him café con leche and pastelitos de carne every morning, gave him some folding money for cigarettes and bus fare, and encouraged him to look for gainful employment. Angel went straight to Hialeah race track, the legendary gathering place of the greatest horse gamblers and hustlers in not just south Florida, but the entire eastern Estados Unidos. Walking down the mile-long, landscaped, royal-palm-lined track entrance with a cool breeze blowing in from the lake roiling with long-necked pink flamingos (he wondered how good they would be to eat given that their color came from a diet of pink shrimp) Angel knew he had found heaven, with Abuelita his frail, loving, moneyed, and worthy (for now) fairy godmother.

Angel fit in to the American way of life quickly; he lied, gambled, drank, whored and stole.  He dealt contraband music and food stamps. He lived fast, stayed out late and fell deeply into what is known as the wrong crowd. He began snorting cocaine and soon moved to the greater and more gripping high of crack cocaine crystals which he smoked in his own shiny crack pipe emblazoned with a tiny Cuban flag. He would tell people, and it was true in short bursts of a few minutes throughout a twenty four hour day, that the crack made him think more clearly and work harder and faster. But thinking clearly and working hard and fast for a few minutes a day before euphoria takes over will not sustain the funding needed by a crack addict. Soon Angel was stealing from Abuelita.

First he took little things to sell: a watch, some old earrings, a gold locket. Then he moved to larger items like the lawn mower and television. One day he cleaned the entire closet of all Abuelita’s clothing and sold it for eight dollars at the Hialeah/ Opa Locka flea market.  Abuelita, in her innocence, believed at first that she had misplaced the missing items. Then, in her naivete  she intuited that Emmanuel had appropriated them. “Blacks don’t understand morality,” she explained to herself.  But the flow of lost items continued even after she had called INS to have the corrupt Haitian deported (oh, how it broke her heart to have to give up on the ungrateful boy). Finally, she could think of nothing but to ask Angel for help in discovering the cause of what had now become a dire erosion of her ability to live. Even her mortgage payment was at risk as somehow her government checks were disappearing as well.

“I am down to my gold jewelry,” she told Angel over coffee and pastries.  “Gracias a Dios that I have them hidden and no one knows where.”

Angel’s right eyebrow rose in interest and concern, or perhaps it was merely the first needy twitch of the day. “If no one knows the location of your heirloom gold,” he said, “how will it be found if, God forbid, something tragic should happen to you?”

“That’s not what I meant,” Abuelita replied. “I’m not concerned over my passing, but my living, and yours. The gold, as valuable as it is, is our last resort if we can’t find and stop whoever is stealing our income and property.”

“Yes,” Angel agreed. “How will we live?”

“Though now you bring it up, perhaps I should tell at least one person about the location of the gold. Just in case.”

“Just in case,” Angel repeated.

“But I know no one closer than you and Emmanuel,” Abuelita continued. “And who would tell a secret to a negrito, even if he wasn’t already deported?”

“No one would share with a black,” Angel agreed. “At least no one with common sense.”

“So,” Abuelita said with a smile of pride on her face, “I pass on this information to you, just as if you were my grandson.”

“It is an honor, Abuelita.”

“Below the shrine of San Lazaro–”

“In the front yard?”

“Yes. Below the glass case on the back is a small drawer.”

Angel had risen and stepped away before Abuelita finished her description. The gold jewelry, enough for three days worth of crack cocaine, was in Angel’s pocket before Abuelita even realized he had left their conversation.

Sadly, that night, Abuelita died in her sleep of asphyxiation, as though somehow the feather pillow had gotten irrevocably situated over her nose and mouth and she, elderly and frail, was unable to dislodge the pillow before her breath ran out. She was listed as having died of natural causes, though suspicions were whispered of agents of Fidel Castro having some hand in the whole tragic affair.

Angel, in his grief, spread his wings so to speak and flew to New Jersey to serve a penance of three years before returning a very thin and emaciated addict burning with the undiagnosed virus that would take him to his own grave within another three years.

end