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Havana Rebound ©

Travel to Cuba is off limits to U.S. citizens. The United States put an economic embargo on Cuba back when U.S. cars had giant fins  and candy bars cost a nickel. The embargo is still in effect.  You can’t go to Cuba without a license.

Prof. Zimmy Tarbox, a professor of entomobugology at Letongaloosa Community Junior College where I teach, got a license from the U.S. government to give a paper at  an annual Bugological Symposium in Havana. Zimmy  avoided all the government rigmarole by bamboozling a bureaucrat in the government licensing office. He got his license to travel to Cuba in less than 24 hours.  Two days later he was sitting at a sidewalk café on the Malecon sipping Perrier water. The Malecon is a boulevard that swings along Havana’s sea wall near the city’s colonial center.

“Well if it isn’t the infamous cockroach enthusiast,” said a melodious woman’s  voice from behind him.  Without turning Zimmy Tarbox said, “Kate Billingsly, England’s  premier pond scum skimmer, I had a feeling you’d be here.”  The two bug scientists had been friends since graduate school.  Now, in Havana,  they shook hands and Kate Billingsly sat down.

“Where are you staying?” she asked.

“I’m at the Hotel Havana Libre.”

“Me too,” she said.

Zimmy  signaled the waiter, and said “Let’s take a walk,”

The two strolled down a sidewalk along the sea wall. Bicycle riders and bike rickshaws rolled passed them on the Malecon.  Lovers  hugged and kissed on top of the five foot  wall. Dozens of other people stood at the wall casting fishing lines into the bay.  The two chatted  about Billingsly’s world renowned research on water skeeters and  Tarbox’s groundbreaking work on cockroach larvae.  Both were scheduled to present research papers  at the conference.

As the two stood at a curb, a bicyclist sped up, braked to a stop, and thrust a folded newspaper into Zimmy’s hand, then sped away.

“What was that about?” asked Kate.

Zimmy unfolded the tabloid newspaper—that day’s edition of Granma, the mouthpiece of the Cuban Communist Party. A message was printed on the front page in large block letters with black magic marker:   It said “Back  booth, Hotel Libre bar 5  p.m. Both of you.”

Kate and Zimmy looked at each other.

“Looks like CIA” said Kate.

“Or MI-6” said Zimmy.

At five p.m. Kate and Zimmy were sitting side by side in a back booth in the darkened bar behind the lobby of the Hotel Havana Libre.  A few minutes passed, then  two shadowy figures slid into the booth across the table from them.

The two wore buttoned up beige  trench coats, but the woman had on a haut couture turquoise wide brim Preakness hat that was definitely not  spy code dress of the day, and the man wore a black GG fabric baseball cap with black leather trim.  The hat definitely  put him outside  the spook uniform  dress code..

The man spoke intensely  to Kate in  an English accent.   “Your paper on water skippers breaches British national security.  We have purged it from your laptop. We’ve installed  an acceptable version of the paper in its place. You’ll  present that version. This conversation never happened.”

The man pulled down the brim of his baseball cap,  slid out of the booth and walked away.

The woman pulled her wide brim of her  Preakness hat  down and leaned across the table toward Zimmy.  She hissed: “The Castro government is dying to get the data in your  cockroach study.  The U.S. Department of What’s Good for America has designated your paper top secret.  You can’t present the paper, in fact you can’t ever read it again.  We’ve installed a new version on your computer. Give that.”

The woman slid out of the booth and disappeared.

Kate and Zimmy looked at each other.

“Same old same old,” said Kate, and shook her head.

“Yeh, just like the Mogadishu  conference last year,” said Zimmy.

“I assume you have a back-up  version of your paper  saved on a secret memory stick,” said Zimmy.

“That I have,” said Kate.

“Me too,” said Zimmy.

:They never check,” he said

“I know,” she said.

They slid out of the booth and Zimmy leaned down and kissed Kate  on the cheek.           “Good luck with your presentation,” he said.

“You too,” she said.

“See you next year in New Delhi.”

“Right,” he said.                                     -30-

 

 

Dr. Larry day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co

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Kaybe’s Trick or Treat©

Hello,

If you are looking for my November column, this is it. Yes, I am celebrating Halloween in November!! Move over Tom Turkey!! I write for The Kaw Valley Senior Monthly and it just so happens that with printing and mailing schedules, this month’s column landed on doorsteps and in inboxes on Halloween!! It was only fitting I write a spook-tacular piece so goofy it lasts ’til Thanksgiving.Enjoy!!

Early one Halloween night I was nursing a soft drink in a back booth at The Enchantment.  That’s a dingy roadhouse north of here. I was on my second bottle of pop when Kaybe rolled up.

KB 11.2 (Kaybe for short) is my alien friend from outer space.  He  looks like a giant tuna fish can. Erector Set arms sprout from the curved sides of his body. Three spindly legs drop from the flat underside of his stainless steel torso.  He has ball bearing wheels for feet, and three sensor-eyes wave at you from the ends of floppy antennae on the top of his lid.  Kaybe eats drinks and communicates telepathically.

No one at the Enchantment even looks up when Kaybe rolls in.  If fact, some of the patrons, including Harry the Hulk and his diminutive pal Miniature Mike, are also aliens from outer space.   So is the waitress, Four Finger Fanny.

Kaybe gave me a telepathic “hi,” and joined me.

“Kaybe, where’ve you been?” I asked.

“Doing some business in a galaxy far away.”

“Well I’m glad you’re  back.  Let me buy you a drink. Fanny, please bring Kaybe a Sarsaparilla.”

Just then four costumed customers walked in and sat down at a booth near us.  There was a green-faced witch wearing a pointy black hat; a short, potbellied Frankenstein monster with a realistic looking bolt in his neck; a realistic looking Chewbacca, and an aging Princess Leia.

With all three eyes, Kaybe  stared at the newcomers.

“What galaxy are they from?” he asked.

“Those are earthlings,” I said. “It’s Halloween. Those folks are just wearing costumes.”

“Is it some kind of holiday?”  Kaybe  asked.

“Yes.  It used to be called “All Hallows Eve,” and was started to honor the dead.  Nowadays children dress up in costumes and go door to door saying  ‘Trick or Treat’ and hold out sacks.  People give them candy. After people put candy in their sacks, the kids run to the next house.  They go all over the neighborhood gathering sacks full of candy.”

“The folks in that booth over there look pretty old to do trick or treat,” said Kaybe.

“Halloween has evolved, and now adults celebrate Halloween too. They put on costumes and go to parties, or out to bars and restaurants.

“WOW!”  said  Kaybe.  The words appeared  telepathically in capital letters in my head. “That sounds like fun.  I’ve always wanted to go around town and see the sights, but the way I look I’d cause a fuss.  Tonight   I can roll around and no one will think anything about it.”

“Hey guys,”   Kaybe communicated telepathically with Harry the Hulk and Miniature Mike and three strange-looking aliens in the bar. “Let’s go trick or treating.”

“Will you be our guide?”  Kaybe asked.

“Of course.  Parents take their kids trick or treating. The parents stand out on the sidewalk while the kids go up to the doors.”

“You want to go trick or treating, Fanny?”  called Miniature Mike.

“No,” she called back.  “I’m still on duty.  Beside my feet hurt.  But you can take my truck.”  Fanny tossed me the keys.  “It’s the old blue pickup in the back corner of the parking lot.”

I boosted Kaybe into the passenger seat, and the others jumped in the back of the truck.  I drove by a supermarket and picked up trick or treat sacks for everyone.  When we got there, my neighborhood was awash with goblins, ghosts and phantoms.

My alien friends were  shy at first, but Kaybe encouraged them.

“Come on guys. This will be fun.”

At the first house, I stood out on the sidewalk.   Harry the Hulk put Miniature Mike on his shoulders and marched up and rang the bell. Kaybe and the other aliens crowded on the steps behind him.

A woman came to the door.

“Trick or treat,”  said Harry the Hulk.

“Wait just a minute,” said the woman.  “George,” she yelled, You’ve  got to see this. These are the best costumes I’ve seen all night.”   -30-

Dr. Larry Day is a retired foreign correspondent and KU J-School professor. He is now the author of countless short stories and the author of Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia. http://www.daydreaming.co

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