Boatload For Cuba
Albert was on board the boat and the gas was loaded.
‘I’ll start her up and try how those two cylinders hit,’ Harry said.
‘You got those things stowed?’
‘Cut some baits then.’
‘You want a wide bait?’
‘That’s right. For tarpon.’
Albert was on the stern cutting baits and Harry was at the wheel warming
up the motors when he heard a noise like a motor back-firing. He looked
down the street and saw a man come out of the bank. He had a gun in his
hand... a laser gun! He came out running, then he was out of sight. Two
men came out carrying leather brief-cases and bitchin' laser guns of
their own and ran in the same direction. Harry looked at Albert busy
cutting baits. The fourth man, the big one, came out of the bank door as
he watched, holding a laser gun in front of him, and as he backed out of
the door the siren in the bank rose in a long breath-holding shriek and
Harry saw the gun muzzle flash neon-red, laser beams of the same colour
flying everywhere! The man turned and ran, stopping to fire a laser beam
once more at the bank door, and as Albert stood up in the stern saying,
‘Christ, they’re robbing the bank. Christ, what can we do?’ Harry heard
the Ford taxi coming out of the side street and saw it careening up on
to the dock. There were three Cubans in the back and one beside the
‘Where’s the boat?’ yelled one in Spanish.
‘There, you fool,’ said another.
‘That’s not the boat.’
‘That’s the captain.’
‘Come on. Come on for Christ sake.’
‘Get out,’ said the Cuban to the driver. ‘Get your hands up.’
As the driver stood behind the car he put a knife inside and ripping it
toward him he cut the belt and slit his pants almost to the knee. He
yanked the trousers down.
‘Stand still,’ he said.
The two Cubans with the valises tossed them into the cockpit of the
launch and they all came tumbling aboard.
‘Geta going,’ said one.
The big one with the awesome laser rifle poked it into Harry’s back.
‘Come on, Cappie,’ he said. ‘Let’s go.’
‘Take it easy,’ said Harry. ‘Point that gun... that laser gun... some
‘Cast off those lines,’ the big one said. ‘You!’ to Albert.
‘Wait a minute,’ said Albert. ‘Don’t start her. These are the bank
The biggest Cuban turned and swung the laser gun and held it on Albert.
‘Hey, don’t! Don’t!’ Albert said. ‘Don’t!’
The end of the laser rifle flashed in a really brilliant way as the
lasers flew out of it, hitting Albert in the chest and going straight
through his back! Albert slid down on his knees, his eyes wide, his
mouth open. He looked like he was still trying to say, ‘Don’t!’
‘You don’t need no mate,’ the big Cuban said. ‘You one-armed son of a
Then in Spanish, ‘Cut those lines with that fish knife.’
And in English, ‘Come on. Let’s go.’
Then in Spanish, ‘Put a gun against his back! A laser gun!’
And in English, ‘Come on. Let’s go, or I’ll shoot you in the head. With
‘We’ll go,’ said Harry.
One of the Indian-looking Cubans was holding a laser pistol against the
side his bad arm was on. The muzzle almost touched the hook. As he swung
her out, spinning the wheel with his good arm, he looked astern to watch
the clearance past the piling, and saw Albert on his knees in the stern,
his head slipped sideways now. On the dock was the Ford taxi, and the
fat driver in his underdrawers, his trousers around his ankles, his
hands above his head, his mouth as open wide as Albert’s. There was
still no one coming down the street. The pilings of dock went past as
she came out of the basin and then he was in the channel passing the
‘Come on. Hook her up,’ the big Cuban said. ‘Make some time.’
‘Take that gun away,’ Harry said, not liking the prospect of having a
laser blast through his head. He was thinking, I could run her on
Crawfish bar, but sure as hell that Cuban would plug me with a laser.
‘Make her go,’ said the big Cuban.
Then, in Spanish, ‘Lie down flat, everybody. Keep the captain covered.’
He lay down himself in the stern, pulling Albert flat down into the
cockpit. The other three all lay flat in the cockpit now. Harry sat on
the steering seat. He was looking ahead steering out of the channel, to
yachts and the green blinker, out away from the jetty, past the fort
now, past the red blinker; he looked back. The big Cuban had a green box
full of laser clips and was replacing the one he discharged into the
side of the bank earlier (which it should be mentioned looked really
cool). The others were all looking astern except the one that was
watching him. This one, one of the two Indian-looking ones, motioned
with his laser pistol for him to look ahead. No boat had started after
them yet. The engines were running smoothly and they were going with the
tide. He noticed the heavy slant seawards of the buoy he passed, with
the current swirling at its base. There are two speedboats that could
catch us, Harry was thinking. One, Ray’s, is running the mail from
Matecumbe. Where is the other? I saw her a couple of days ago on Ed.
Taylor’s ways, he checked. That was the one I thought of having Bee-lips
hire. There’s two more, he remembered now. One the State Road Department
has up along the quays. The other’s laid up in the Garrison Bight. How
far are we now? He looked back to where the fort was well astern, the
red-brick building of the old Post Office starting to show up above the
Navy yard buildings and the yellow hotel building now dominating the
short skyline of the town. There was the cove at the Fort, and the
lighthouse showed above the houses that strung out toward the big winter
hotel. Four miles anyway, he thought. There they come, he though. Two
white fishing boats were rounding the breakwater and heading out toward
him. They can’t do ten, he thought. It’s pitiful. The Cubans were
chattering in Spanish.
‘How fast you going, Cappie?’ the big one said, looking back from the
‘About twelve,’ Harry said.
‘What can those boats do?’
They were all watching them now, even the one who was supposed to keep
him, Harry, covered. But what can I do? He thought. Nothing to do yet.
The two white boats got no larger.
‘Look at that, Roberto,’ said the nice-speaking one.
A long way back, so far you could hardly see it, a blast of steam rose
up out of a brief flash of a green light on the water.
‘They’re shooting at us with lasers,’ the pleasant-speaking one said.
‘For Christ’s sake,’ the big-faced one said. ‘At three miles.’
‘Four,’ thought Harry. ‘All of four.’
Harry could see the tiny explosions of steam rise on the calm surface
but he could not hear the whizzing of the lasers.
‘Those Conchs are pitiful,’ he though. ‘They’re worse. They’re comical.’
‘What government boat is there, Cappie?’ asked the big-faced one looking
away from the stern.
‘What can she make?’
‘Then we’re O.K. now.’
Harry did not answer.
‘Aren’t we O.K. then?’
Harry said nothing. He was keeping the rising, widening spire of Sand
Key on his left and the stake on the little Sand Key shoals showed most
abeam to starboard. In ten more minutes they would be past the reef.
‘What’s the matter with you? Can’t you talk?’
‘What did you ask me?’
‘Is there anything that can catch us now?’
‘Coast –guard plane,’ said Harry.
‘We cute the telephone wire before we came in town,’ the
pleasant-speaking one said.
‘You didn’t cut the wireless, did you?’ Harry asked.
‘You think the plane can get here?’
‘You got a chance of her until dark,’ Harry said.
‘What do you think, Cappie?’ asked Roberto, the big-faced one.
Harry did not answer.
‘Come on, what do you think?’
‘What did you let that son of a bitch kill my mate for?’ Harry said to
the pleasant-speaking one who was standing beside him now looking at the
‘Shut up,’ said Roberto. ‘Kill you, too. With... a laser, ’ he grinned
‘How much money you get?’ Harry asked the pleasant-speaking one.
‘We don’t know. We haven’t counted it yet. It isn’t ours anyway.’
‘I guess not,’ said Harry.
He was past the light now and he put her on 225 degrees, his regular
course for Havana.
‘I mean we took it not for ourselves. For a revolutionary organization.’
‘You kill my mate for that, too?’
‘I am very sorry,’ said the boy. ‘I cannot tell you how badly I feel
‘Don’t try,’ said Harry.
‘You see,’ the boy said, speaking quietly, ‘this man Roberto is bad. He
is a good revolutionary but a bad man. He kills so much in the time of
Machado he gets to like it. He thinks it is funny to kill. He likes the
smell of lasers charring flesh. He kills in a good cause, of course. The
He looked back at Roberto who sat now in one of the fishing chairs in
the stern, the crazily-powerful laser gun across his lap, looking back
at the white boats which were, Harry saw, much smaller now.
‘What you got to drink?’ Roberto called from the stern.
‘Nothing,’ Harry said.
‘I drink my own then,’ Roberto said.
One of the other Cubans lay on one of the seats built over the gas
tanks. He looked seasick already. The other was obviously seasick too,
but still sitting up. Looking back, Harry saw a lead-coloured boat, now
clear of the Fort, coming up on the two white boats.
‘There’s the coat-guard boat,’ he thought. ‘She’s pitiful too.’
‘You think the seaplane will come?’ the pleasant-spoken boy asked.
‘Be dark in half an hour,’ Harry said. He settled on the steering seat.
‘What you figure on doing? Shooting me with lasers?’
‘I don’t want to,’ the boy said. ‘I hate killing.’
‘What you doing?’ Roberto, who sat now with a pint of whisky in his
hand, asked. ‘Making friends with the captain? What you want to do? Eat
at the captain’s table?’
‘Take the wheel,’ Harry said to the boy. ‘See the course? Two
twenty-five.’ He straightened up from the stool and went aft.
‘Let me have a drink,’ Harry said to Roberto. ‘There’s your coast-guard
boat but she can’t catch us.’
He abandoned his anger, hatred and any dignity as luxuries, now, and had
started to plan.
‘Sure,’ said Roberto. ‘She can’t catch us. Look at those seasick babies.
What you say? You want a drink? You got any other last wishes, Cappie?’
‘You’re some kidder,’ Harry said. He took a long drink.
‘Go easy!’ Roberto protested. ‘That’s all there is.’
‘I got some more,’ Harry told him. ‘I was just kidding you.’
‘Don’t kid me,’ said Roberto suspiciously.
‘Why should I try?’
‘What you got?’
‘Bring it out.’
‘Take it easy,’ Harry said. ‘Why do you get so tough?’
He stepped over Albert’s body as he walked forward. As he came to the
wheel he looked at the compass. The boy was about twenty-five degrees
off and the compass dial was swinging. He’s no sailor, Harry thought.
That gives me more time. Look as the wake. The wake ran in two bubbling
curves toward where the light, astern now, showed brown, conical and
thinly latticed on the horizon. The boats were almost out of sight. He
could just see a blur where the wireless masts of the town were. The
engines were running smoothly. Harry put his head below and reached for
one of the bottles of Bacardi. He went aft with it. At the stern he took
a drink, then handed the bottle to Roberto. Standing, he looked down at
Albert an felt sick inside. The poor hungry bastard, he thought.
‘What’s the matter? He scare you?’ Harry said. ‘No sense to carry him.’
‘O.k.,’ said Roberto. ‘You got good sense.’
‘Take him under the arms,’ said Harry. ‘I’ll take his legs.’
Roberto laid the laser rifle down on the wide stern and leaning down
lifted the body by the shoulders.
‘You know the heaviest thing in the world is a dead man,’ he said. ‘You
ever lift a dead man before, Cappie?’
‘No,’ said Harry. ‘You ever lift a big dead woman?’
Roberto pulled the body up on to the stern.
‘You’re a tough fellow,’ he said. ‘What do you say we have a drink?’
‘Go ahead,’ said Harry.
‘Listen, I’m sorry I killed him,’ Roberto said. ‘When I kill you I feel
‘Cut out talking that way,’ Harry said. ‘What do you want to talk that
‘Come on,’ said Roberto. ‘Over he goes.’
As they leaned over and slid the body up and over the stern, Harry
kicked the laser gun over the edge. It splashed at the same time Albert
did, but while Albert turned over twice in the white, churned, bubbling
back-suction of the propeller wash before sinking, the gun went straight
down, short circuiting on the way.
‘That’s better, eh?’ Roberto said. ‘Make it shipshape.’
Then as he saw the laser gun was gone, ‘Where is it? What did you do
‘The laseramatolla!’ going into Spanish in excitement.
‘You know what.’
‘I didn’t see it.’
‘You knocked it off the stern. Now I’ll kill you, now.’
‘Take it easy,’ said Harry. ‘What the hell you going to kill me about?’
‘Give me a gun, one that fires lasers!’ Roberto said to one of the
seasick Cubans in Spanish. ‘Give me a laser gun quick!’
Harry stood there, never having felt so tall, never having felt so wide,
feeling the sweat trickle from under his armpits, feeling it go down his
‘You kill too much,’ he heard the seasick Cuban say in Spanish. ‘You
kill the mate. Now you want to kill the captain. Who’s going to get us
‘Leave him alone,’ said the other. ‘Kill him when we get over.’
‘He knocked the laser gun overboard! Laser technology costs a fortune in
this day and age (1937)!’ Roberto said.
‘We got the money. What you want a laser gun for now? There’s plenty of
laser guns in Cuba.’
‘I tell you, you make a mistake if you don’t kill him now, I tell you.
Give me a gun so I can fire lasers at his face.’
‘Oh, shut up. You’re drunk. Every time you’re drunk you want to shoot
people with impressive blasts of laser fire.’
‘Have a drink,’ said Harry looking out across the grey swell of the Gulf
Stream where the round red sun was just touching the water.
‘Watch that. When she goes all the way under it’ll turn bright green.’
‘The hell with that,’ said the big-faced Cuban. ‘You think you got away
‘I’ll get you another gun,’ said Harry. ‘They only cost forty five
dollars in Cuba. The have ones that fire any coloured lasers you want
(although blue definitely looks the snappiest). Take it easy. You’re all
right now. There ain’t any coast-guard plane going to come now.’
‘I’m going to kill you,’ Roberto said, looking him over. ‘You did that
on purpose. That’s why you got me to lift on that.’
‘You don’t want to kill me,’ Harry said. ‘Who’s going to take you
‘I ought to kill you now.’
‘Take it easy,’ said Harry. ‘I’m going to look at the engines.’
He opened the hatch, got down in, screwed down the grease cups on the
two stuffing boxes, felt the motors, and with his hand touched the butt
of the laser gun. Not yet, he thought. No, better not yet. Christ, that
was lucky. What the hell difference does it make to Albert when he’s
dead? Saves his old woman to bury him. That big-faced bastard. That
big-faced murdering bastard. Christ, I’d like to take him now. But I
better wait. He stood up, climbed out and shut the hatch.
‘How you doing?’ he said to Roberto.
He put his hand on the fat shoulder. The big-faced Cuban looked at him
and did not say anything.
‘Did you see it turn green?’ Harry asked.
‘The hell with you,’ Roberto said.
He was drunk but he was suspicious and, like and animal, he knew how
wrong something had gone.
‘Let me take her a while,’ Harry said to the boy at the wheel. ‘What’s
‘You can call me Emilio,’ said the boy.
‘Go below and you’ll find something to eat.’ Harry said. ‘There’s bread
and corn beef. Make coffee if you want.’
‘I don’t want any.’
‘I’ll make some later,’ Harry said.
He sat at the wheel, the binnacle light on now, holding her on the point
easily in the light following sea, looking out at the night coming on
the water. He had no running lights on. It would be a pretty night to
cross, he thought, a pretty night. Soon as the last of the afterglow is
gone I’ve got to work her east. If I don’t, we’ll sight the glare of
Havana in another hour. In two, anyway. Soon as he sees the flare it may
occur to that son of a bitch to kill me. That was lucky getting rid of
that laser gun. Damn, that was lucky. Wonder what that Marie’s having
for supper. I guess she’s plenty worried. I guess she’s too worried to
eat. Wonder how much money these bastards have got. Funny they don’t
count it. If that ain’t a hell of a way to raise money for a revolution.
Cubans are a hell of a people. That’s a mean one, that Roberto. I’ll get
him tonight. I get him no matter how the rest of it comes out. That
won’t help that poor damned Albert though. It make me feel bad to dump
him like that. I don’t know what made me think of it. He lit a cigarette
and smoked in the dark. I’m doing alright, he though. I’m doing better
than I expected. The kid is a nice kind of kid. I wish I could get those
other two on the same side. I wish there was some way to bunch them.
Well, I’ll have to do the best I can. Easier I can make them take it
before-hand the better. Smoother everything goes the better.
‘Do you want a sandwich?’ the boy asked.
‘Thanks,’ said Harry ‘You give one to your partner?’
‘He’s drinking. He won’t eat,’ the boy said.
‘What about the others?’
‘Seasick,’ the boy said.
‘It’s a nice night to cross.’ Harry said.
He noticed the boy did not watch the compass so he kept letting her go
off to the east.
‘I’d enjoy it,’ the boy said. ‘If it wasn’t for your mate.’
‘He was a good fellow,’ said Harry. ‘Did anyone get hurt at the bank?’
‘The lawyer. What was his name? Simmons.’
‘I think so.’
So, thought Harry, Mr Bee-lips. What the hell did he expect? How could
he have thought he wouldn’t get it? That comes from playing at being
tough. That comes from being too smart too often. Mr Bee-lips. Goodbye,
‘How he come to get killed?’
‘I guess you can imagine,’ the boy said. ‘That’s very different from
your mate. I feel badly about that. You know he doesn’t mean to do
wrong. It’s just what that phase of the revolution has done to him.’
‘I guess he’s probably a good fellow,’ Harry said, and thought, listen
to what my mouth says. God damn it, my mouth will say anything. But I
got to try to make a friend of this boy in case –
‘What kind of revolution do you make now?’ he asked.
‘We are the only true revolutionary party,’ the boy said. ‘We want to do
away with all the old politicians, with all the army. We want to start
clean and give every man a chance. We want to end slavery of the
guagiros, you know, the peasants, and divide the big sugar estates among
the people that work them. Bu we are not Communists.
Harry looked up from the compass card at him.
‘How you coming on?’ he asked.
‘We just raise money now for the fight,’ the boy said. ‘To do that we
have to use means that later we would never use, including firing
lasers. Also we have to use people we have to use people we would not
employ later. But the end is worth the means. They had to do the same
thing in Russia. Stalin was a sort of brigand for many years before the
He’s a radical, Harry thought. That’s what he is, a radical.
‘I guess you’ve got a good programme,’ he said, ‘if you’re out to help
the working man. I was out on strike plenty times in the old days when
we had the cigar factories in Key West. I’d have been glad to do
whatever I could if I’d known what kind of outfit you were.’
‘Lots of people would help us,’ the boy said. ‘But because of the state
the movement is in at present we can’t trust people. I regret the
necessity for the present phase very much. I hate terrorism. I also feel
very badly about the methods for raising the necessary money. But there
is no choice. You do not know how bad things are in Cuba.’
‘I guess they’re plenty bad,’ Harry said.
‘You can’t know how bad they are. There is an absolutely murderous
tyranny that extends over every little village in the country. Three
people cannot be together on the street. Cuba has no foreign enemies and
doesn’t need any army, but she has an army of twenty-five thousand now,
and the army, from the corporals up, suck the blood from the nation.
Everyone, even the private soldiers, are out to make fortunes. Now they
have a military reserve with every kind of crook, bully and informer of
the old days of Machado in it, and they take everything the army does
not bother with. We have to get rid of the army before anything can
start. Before we were ruled by clubs. Now we are ruled by rifles,
pistols, machine guns and bayonets... and laser rifles!!!’
‘It sounds bad,’ Harry said, steering, and letting her go off to the
‘You cannot realize how bad it is,’ the boy said. I love my poor country
and I would do anything, anything to free it from this tyranny we have
now. I do things I hate. But I would things I hate a thousand times
I want a drink, Harry was thinking. What the hell do I care about his
revolution. Fuck his revolution. To help the working man he robs a bank
and kills a fellow works with him and then kills poor damned Albert that
never did any harm. That’s a working man he kills. He never thinks of
that. With a family. It’s the Cubans run Cuba. They all double-cross
each other. They sell each other out. They get what they deserve. The
hell with their revolutions. All I got to do is make a living for my
family and I can’t do that. Then he tells me about his revolution. The
hell with his revolution.
‘It must be bad, all right,’ he said to the boy. ‘Take the wheel a
minute, will you? I want to get a drink.’
‘Sure,’ said the boy. ‘How should I steer?’
‘Two twenty-five,’ Harry said.
It was dark now and there was quite a swell this far out in the Gulf
Stream. He passed the two seasick Cubans lying out on the seats and went
aft to where Roberto sat in the fishing chair. The water was racing past
the boat in the dark. Roberto sat with his feet in the other fishing
chair that was turned toward him.
‘Let me have some of that,’ Harry said to him.
‘Go to hell,’ said the big-faced man thickly. ‘This is mine.’
‘All right,’ said Harry, and went forward to get the other bottle. Below
in the dark, with the bottle under the flap of his right arm, he pull
the cork that Freddy had drawn and reinserted and took a drink. Now’s as
good as any time, he said to himself. No sense waiting now. Little boy’s
spoke his piece. The big-faced bastard was drunk. The other two seasick.
It might as well be now. He took another drink and the Bacardi warmed
and helped him but he felt cold and hollow all around his stomach still.
His whole insides were cold.
‘Want a drink?’ he asked the boy at the wheel.
‘No, thanks,’ the boy said. ‘I don’t drink.’ Harry could see him smile
in the binnacle light. He was a nice-looking boy all right. Pleasant
‘I’ll take one,’ he said. He swallowed a big one but it could not warm
the dank cold part that had spread from his stomach to all over the
inside of his chest now. He put the bottle down on the cockpit floor.
‘Keep her on the course,’ he said to the boy. ‘I’m going to have a look
at the motors.’
He opened the hatch and stepped down. Then locked the hatch up with a
look hook that set into a hole in the flooring. He stooped over the
motors, with his one hand felt the water manifold, the cylinders, and
put his hand on the stuffing boxes. He tightened the two grease cups a
turn and a half each. Quit stalling, he said to himself. Come on, quit
stalling. Where’re your balls now? Under my chin, I guess, he thought.
He looked out of the hatch. He could almost touch the two seats over the
gas tanks where the seasick men lay. The boy’s back was toward him,
sitting on the high stool, outlined clearly by the binnacle light.
Turning, he could see Roberto sprawled in the chair in the stern,
silhouetted against the dark water. Twenty-one laser beams to a clip is
four bursts of white-hot light, five at the most, he thought. I got to
be light fingered. All right. Come on. Quit stalling, you gutless
wonder. Christ, what I’d give for another one. Well, there isn’t any
other one now. He reached his left hand up, unhooked the length of
belting, put his hand around the trigger guard, pushed the safety all
the way over with his thumb and pulled the laser gun out. It was now
ready to fire some sweet-ass laser blasts! Squatting in the engine pit
he sighted carefully on the base of the back of the boy’s head where it
outlined against the light from the binnacle. The gun made a cool
Bbbbzeeew sound and the red beam lit up the darkness. Before the slump
of the boy’s body fell from the stool he had turned and shot into the
figure on the left bunk, holding the flame-stabbing gun almost against
the man, so close he could smell it burn his coat; then swung to put a
burst of laser fire into the other bunk where the man was sitting up,
tugging at his laser pistol. He crouched low now and looked astern. The
big-faced man was gone out of the chair. He could see both chairs
silhouetted. Behind him the boy lay still. There wasn’t any doubt about
him. On one bunk a man was flopping. On the other, he could see with the
corner of his eye, a man lay half over the gunwale, fallen over on his
face. Harry was trying to locate the big-faced man in the dark. The boat
was going in a circle now and the cockpit lightened a little. He held
his breath and looked. That must be him where it was a little darker on
the floor in the corner. He watched it and it moved a little. That was
him. The man was crawling toward him. No, toward the man who lay half
overboard. He was after his laser gun. Crouching low, Harry watched him
move until he was absolutely sure. Then he gave him a burst. The laser
fire lighted him in red on the hands and knees, and, as the bolts
vanished towards the horizon and the sparks settled, he heard him
‘You son of a bitch,’ said Harry. ‘You big-faced murdering bastard.’
All the cold was gone from around his heart now and he had the old
hollow, singing feeling and he crouched low down and felt under the
square, wood-crated gas tank for another laser clip to put in his gun.
He got the clip, but his hand was cold-drying wet. Hit the tank, he said
to himself. I’ve got to cut the engines. I don’t know where that tank
cuts. He pressed the curved lever, dropped the empty clip, shoved in the
fresh one, and climbed up and out of the cockpit. As he stood, holding
the laser gun in his left hand, looking around before shutting the hatch
with the hook on his right arm, the Cuban who had lain on the port bunk
and had been shot three times through the left shoulder, two beams going
into the gas tank behind him and melting the casing, sat up, took
careful aim, and shot him in the belly. Harry sat down in the backward
lurch. He felt as though his stomach was on fire. His back was against
one of the iron pipe supports of the fishing chairs and while the Cuban
shot at him again and burned the fishing chair above his head, he
reached down, found the laser gun, raised it carefully, holding the
forward grip with the hook and blasting half of the fresh clip into the
man who sat leaning forward, calmly shooting laser beams at him from the
seat. The man was down on the seat in a heap and Harry felt around on
the cockpit floor until he could find the big-faced man, who lay face
down, felt for his head with the hook on his bad arm, hooked it around,
then put the muzzle of the gun against the head and touched the trigger.
The gun flashed brightly and made a charred mess out of the Cuban's
noggin. Harry put down the laser gun and lay on his side on the cockpit
‘I’m a son of a bitch,’ he said, his lips against the planking.
I’m a gone son of a bitch now. I got to cut the engines or we’ll all
burn up, he thought. I got a chance still. I got a kind of a chance.
Jesus Christ. One thing to spoil it. One thing to go wrong. God damn it.
Oh, God damn that Cuban bastard. Who’d have thought I hadn’t got him? He
got on his hands and knees and letting one side of the hatch over the
engines slam down, crawled over it forward to where the steering stool
was. He pulled up on it, surprised to find how well he could move, then
suddenly feeling faint and weak as he stood erect, he leaned forward
with his bad arm resting on the compass and cut the two switches. The
engines were quiet and he could hear the water against her sides. There
was no other sound. She swung into the trough of the little sea the
north wind had raised and began to roll. He hung against the wheel, then
eased himself on to the steering stool, leaning against the chart table.
He could feel the strength drain out of him in a steady faint nausea. He
opened his shirt with his good hand and felt the hole with the base of
the palm of his hand, then fingered it. There was a small patched of
completely scorched skin. I better lie down and give it a chance to
quiet. The moon was up now and he could see what was in the cockpit.
Some mess, he thought, some hell of a mess. Better get down before I
fall down, he thought and he lowered himself down to the cockpit floor.
He lay on his side and then, as the boat rolled, the moonlight came in
and he could see everything in the cockpit clearly. It’s crowded, he
thought. That’s what it is, it’s crowded. Then, he thought, I wonder
what she’ll do? I wonder what Marie will do? Maybe they’ll pay her
rewards. God damn that Cuban. She’ll get along, I guess. She’s a smart
woman. I guess we would all have gotten along. I guess it was nuts all
right. I guess I bit off too much more than I could chew. I shouldn’t
have tried it. I had it all right up to the end. Nobody’ll know what
happened. I wish I could do something about Marie. Plenty money on this
boat. I don’t even know how much. Anybody be O.K. with that money. I
wonder if the coast-guard will pinch it. Some of it, I guess. I wish I
could let the old woman know what happened. I wonder what she’ll do? I
don’t know. I guess I should have got a job in a filling station or
something. I should have quit trying to go in boats. There’s no honest
money going in boats any more. If the bitch wouldn’t only roll. If she’d
quit rolling. Me, Mr Bee-lips and Albert. Everybody that had to do with
it. These bastards too. It must be an unlucky business. Some unlucky
business. I guess what a man like me aught to do is run something like a
filling station. Marie, she’ll run something. She’s too old to peddle
her hips now. I wish this bitch wouldn’t roll. I’ll just have to take it
easy. I got to take it as easy as I can. They say if you don’t drink
water and lay still. They say especially if you don’t drink water. He
looked at what the moonlight showed in the cockpit. Well, I don’t have
to clean her up, he thought. Take it easy. That’s what I got to do. Take
it easy. I’ve got to take it as easy as I can. I’ve got sort of a
chance. If you lay still and don’t drink any water. He lay on his back
and tried to breathe steadily. The launch rolled in the Gulf Stream
swell and Harry Morgan lay on his back in the cockpit. At first he tried
to brace himself against the roll with his good hand. Then he lay
quietly and took it.
Have any suggestions of literary passages we can digitally remaster
with laser rifles? Drop me a line at:
Zeke (at) tittybiscuits (dot) com.