Harry and Jorge
Harry Smithers thought he know what sweating was. A long walk in the wet Havana heat was just about as sweat inducing an action as one could take, in his opinion. Yes, Harry Smithers thought he knew sweat, but of course he hadn’t really the slightest idea. Harry dabbed his brow all the way down Bolivar street until he reached Los Olivos at which point he found it necessary to begin soaking liquid out of his dark brown goatee and mustache. Finally, he reached the air conditioned haven of La Reina De Corazones bar establishment and stepped gratefully inside. The fans seemed to dry him instantly, but the juices evaporating off his brow were soon replaced with another, cooler, more nervous sort.
Harry froze at the door. The object of his distress was sitting not a hundred feet away staring at him from over his Tom Collins. Harry made for the door but was cut off by the man’s voice.
“Hey Harry!” It was the kind of jovial voice that cut through the babble of a crowd with ease. Harry’s hands were still grouping weakly for the door but now they stopped and slumped to his sides, defeated. At this point, Harry was truly appreciating what it meant to sweat. The man started to say something but was drowned out by a base player and singer who had begun to serenade the patrons with an up-tempo version of Chan Chan. Instead, the man ushered Harry over to him with an agitated beckoning of the hand. He did all this while downing his Collins in one heroic gulp.
Harry swallowed quietly to himself as he waded through the crowd of inebriates. Well, I’ve stepped in it now, he thought. Fuck, I thought old Jorge would be away for a few more years. Boy was I wrong! I wonder why he’s so happy to see me. Must be a ruse. Or he could be drunk. Either way, watch your step Harry!
“Long time no see Harry!” Jorge was all grin, his ponytail wagging happily from side to side.
“Hey, hey, Jorge!” said Harry meekly, “Long time…” he thought better of this choice of words and trailed of awkwardly.
“What’s that?” said Jorge.
“Nothing, nothing I…”
“Well anyway, have a seat!” Jorge patted the bar stool so hard it let out a little puff of dust. Harry sat. Maybe he is drunk, he thought.
“Que Paso mang? How many years its been? Like two righh?” Jorge paused and looked at Harry pointedly.
“Yes, yes, about two years, that’s quite right” said Harry over enthusiastically.
“Of course, it could have been longer but you know old Jorge has friends in all kinda places, ehhh?” Jorge laughed and Harry chuckled uncomfortably with him.
“So you’re not sore about the incident?” Harry followed this with a cough for emphasis. It ended up sounding entirely inappropriate.
“No, no, don’t worry!” Jorge was banging the shot glass that had replaced his Tom Collins on the bar and eyeing the bartender murderously.
“Shot of Tequila for me ang, maybeee…a shot of bourbon for my friend!” The bartender scurried away.
“No, no…Jorge never holds a grudge…very long…” he added the “very long” bit with disturbing nonchalance, “I hab always said, ‘A mang gotta doo whata mang gotta do’ righ?” Harry nodded as he was jabbed vigorously in the ribs by Jorge.
“You know I always admire a mang who is willing to do what he gotta do, you know? It took some cojones to do what you did. I like a mang with cojones!” Jorge chose this moment to slap Harry squarely on the back. His timing was not ideal as Harry had decided just then to down his shot of bourbon. Violent, coughing ensued, bourbon sprayed onto the bar. Jorge kept right on slapping saying things like, “There, there.” and “Easy there partner” attempting a Cuban John Wayne.
When Harry had recovered Jorge ordered a pair of, as he put it, “How you saay, Long Island Iced Tea?”
Jorge rose abruptly, opened his wallet and placed a few bills on the bar.
“So, what do you say we take a leettle walk Harry my boy?” This sounded like a perfectly horrid plan, but Harry went along with it and before he knew it he was back in the sultry Havana air griping a tall glass of “Iced tea” and sweating like an ox.
They strolled for a time down Los Christianos and then turned down La Playa headed in the direction of the waterfront.
“So how’s life treating you? You still working for the DA or what?”
Harry took another sip of his tea; it was cool and soothing on his throat.
“Oh that’s going great! I’ve been promoted to senior detective!” Jorge’s eyes lit up at this.
“Hey, hey, hey! Big mang Harry making a name for his self, great, great…” He tailed off, but not before giving Harry a few hearty left hooks to the shoulder. Harry smiled. He probably just wants to do a little business with me. Well, we’ll see, we’ll see. Harry to a long quaff of his tea and chuckled lightly.
“So, how’s the wife these days,” Jorge decided it was time for another round of playful elbows, “ehhhh?” Harry laughed, “She’s great like always.” Jorge was beside himself with giggles.
“You know she always reminded me of a cute little Colombiana I had a few years back,” he giggled, “So roun’n soft and brown you know?” Harry nodded.
“I’ve always said you are a looky mang, Harry!”
“Are you kidding, she’s the lucky one.” The joke fell flat.
“No, no, you are a very lucky mang to have such beautiful wife.”
They walked in silence for some time. Jorge finished his tea and retrieved a slender cigar which he proceeded to light. This operation took him a good five minutes, but he eventually got it going
“Never can take too long to light a cigar! I hab always said!” Sage words, thought harry snidely. Harry had just about reached the end of his tea. Jorge quickly caught on to this and without a word of warning he made a beeline for a stand across the street that was selling beer and soda. Cars screeched and horns sounded. None of this really bothered Jorge. Harry staggered across after him eyeing the motorists daringly. By the time he reached the sidewalk Jorge had already order beers.
“Hey Harry, I thought you would never make it!!” Harry laughed groggily.
“So, speaking of Colombia, did I ever tell you abou the time I was kidnapped by Pablo Escobar?” The beer vender looked shocked and crossed himself for good measure.
“No, I don’t believe you did.” Harry guffawed as they resumed their stroll sown La Playa.
“I’m telling you it was no laughing matter.” Jorge gave Harry a very serious look at which they both cracked up.
“No, but seriously, I was in the deep shits mang!” Harry was fairly hooting with laughter. They had reached the waterfront and were now walking through a throng of beach goers and bicyclists.
“So I was in Colombia on some business right. I was staying in a leettle hacienda outside Bogata, jus me and like five other guys. So I’m jus going to sleep one time ang all of the sudden there are like fifteen putanos crashing down the doors ang the next thing I know I’m in a jeep going berry fass down the road. We are driving pretty much all night when they put the, how do you say blindfold on me. So they could not let me see…” Jorge struggled for a second.
“The way they were driving?” offered Harry drunkenly.
“Exactamente!” Jorge took a slurp of his beer. They crossed the road and were now making their way down a flight of stone steps to the beach. Jorge led the way gesticulating wildly with the beer, Harry swayed after him.
“So Pablo says, ‘why are you giving me so much trouble Jorge? I just want to do good business? Jus tell me the names of your associate’s ang we will go into business together’ Aye but thay Escobar is a real sly muchacho, I knew better than to tell heeem!”
Harry was dying of laughter. The story was obviously ridiculous.
“So they tortured me. Oh they put me through a very bad time. But I was berry tough. You know why I hate ants so much?” Harry had no idea that Jorge hated ants and also how it was relevant to the story.
“You are wondering this aren’t you? Why I am hating the ants to much?” I’ll tell you, its because of the tortures I hab from Pablo Escobar.” Jorge stabbed the air emphatically with his beer bottle.
They had reached a quiet stretch of beach. Jorge sat down with a contented burp. Harry did the same albeit not nearly as gracefully.
“But you know Pablo is a good mang. Good business man. After he had killed my men he sat down ang smoked some few cigars ang in the end we hab made nice leettle deal. I would agree to do some jobs for him in Cuba and he would set me free.” The story ended abruptly and Harry waited for it to continue.
Presently, a barracuda boat pulled up alongside the beach. It revved its engines and shot up onto the sand about a hundred yards from where he and Jorge were sitting. Five men got out and began sprinting up the beach in their direction.
Over the revving of the engine he could hear Jorge, “Hey, hey, big man Harry, tell Pablo jello for me, keeses!!”
The Bottom of the boat was like a frying pan. Over the revving of the engine he could hear Jorge, “Hey, hey, big man Harry, tell Pablo jello for me, keeses!!” Harry was, of course, sweating profusely by now.
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