This is the epilogue to a novel I wrote when I was 22 years old, titled A Weekend in Managua. I think at 22 it was quite possible I was insane. It’s still some of the funniest stuff I have ever written. Enjoy.
“Muy bien, jefe, muy bien!”
Awakened abruptly by that weird cacophony of sounds and shouts, my first conscious thoughts engulfed me with a panicky mélange of elation, fear and confusion. I was elated because I was no longer in the Nicaraguan Secret Police prison. This I knew without opening my eyes because the foul, rancid smell and the crying, screaming and pleading voices—the only sensory perceptions I had of the place while constantly blindfolded—were gone. I was frightened because I didn’t know where I was…if not in the prison, then where? I was confused because I had no memory of how I got from there to here. Plus—as if things weren’t already fucked-up—that weird sequence of sounds and shouts, echoing loudly in whatever room I was now confined, was the goddamndest thing I’d ever heard, too weird for my panicked mind to process coherently.
No blindfold! This thought caused me to open my eyes eagerly without regard to the damage that sudden light exposure might cause. Luckily, it was fairly dark, with only a tiny sliver of light entering the room from a door that was slightly ajar. My eyes adjusted quickly to my surroundings: I was lying on a small cot, which was the only furniture in the room; I was not restrained by any means; I was alone and relatively safe; and I was wearing a jumpsuit made of a papery fabric like a disposable hospital gown. It was the first time I’d seen anything since…since…shit, I had no idea how much time had passed since my last conscious thought, so I didn’t know what day it was, what month it was, what year it was—it could have been the fiftieth century AD for all I knew.
I rationalized my situation: Maybe I only dreamt my Nicaraguan adventure and I’m really in a loony ward, chocked full of psychotherapeutic drugs. The first sign of psychosis is usually delusional thoughts, after all. My experience in Nicaragua was so surreal, so fucking weird…it could have been a psychotic delusion, couldn’t it? No, no, no! It wasn’t! It wasn’t! I screamed inside my head. The memories were too vivid. Too goddamn real.
PSSSSSSSSST-SPLAT! “Steeeeeee-rike!” “Very good, chief, very good!”
I realized as my panic and confusion subsided that one of the voices was shouting in Spanish. The “hissing-splat!” sound was a mystery. Judging from the Doppler Effect the sound emitted, I realized that the sound was moving parallel to the left side of my supine position, somewhere outside the room but close. The voices were also close.
I arose slowly from the cot, my head numb and woozy, my extremities tingling…how long was I unconscious? My legs and back ached like a bitch as I stood. I nearly fainted from the head rush I received when I stretched.
PSSSSSSSST-SPLAT! “Steeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee-rike three!” Clap-clap-clap-clap-clap! “Very good, chief, very good!”
I peered warily out the door—no guards were in sight, thank God. I opened the door and got hit by the bright, blinding, midday sunlight. I staggered back into the room, rubbing madly on my eyes as I nearly stumbled backwards over the cot. It took about a minute for my eyes to adjust. Even then, I was still half-blind.
The door opened to a large, roofless courtyard. I still couldn’t see very well but did notice large lumps that I guessed were people standing in the courtyard. I heard voices speaking rapid-fire Spanish. They weren’t Nicaraguans, who speak a slow, drawling Spanish like Georgians speak English. Nope, these were either Cubans or Puerto Ricans.
“Señor Palmer!” shouted one of the lumps to me. The voice sounded familiar…no way, it wasn’t who I thought it was…no way! Yet… I staggered toward the voice like a blind man, moving forward slowly, my hands feeling the air in front of me for hazards or obstacles.
One of the lumps came toward me quickly. It grabbed my arm. “Señor Palmer, it is good to see you among the living,” the lump said to me.
“Bright…cannot see…too bright,” I mumbled incoherently in Spanish.
“Carlos, bring Mr. Palmer sunglasses,” the lump said back to the other lumps.
A tiny lump approached us. “Carlos? Is that you?” I asked the tiny lump.
“Si, compañero,” the tiny lump replied.
He grabbed my hand and placed a pair of sunglasses in it. I put them on—and immediately wished I hadn’t. The big lump was Fidel Castro, the one and only Fidel Castro, who was clad in a New York Yankee uniform. A massive stogie protruded from his smiling mouth. The little lump was my midget friend from the Managua YMCA, good old Carlos, formerly of the wrestling tag team los diablos pequenos, the little devils. He was wearing a little umpire’s uniform—mask, chest protector, shin guards, everything.
The other lumps were Marvella, Spike Ortega, and Pepe—the twin midget brother of Carlos—and Milt, my best friend. I nearly fainted from both surprise and relief; surprise because of whom I saw, relief because I was not psychotic.
Nicaragua happened! Sonofabitch!
“Please, please, sit down, my friend,” Castro said to me with compassion and concern. He led me to a wood bench and eased me down until I was seated.
When he was satisfied I was comfortable, he walked back to the others. I sat silently as I looked over at them. They were whispering to each other, peering over at me every few seconds. Milt grinned at me. Pepe winked. Spike gave me a thumbs-up. Marvella, looking fabulous in a black leather mini-skirt and blue silk blouse, flashed me a lascivious tongue wag.
“What the fuck is going on!” I shouted. “Where the fuck am I! Someone talk to me!”
The entire group rushed to me as if I were an infant in need, suffocating me with loving hugs, back pats, and kisses. Marvella sat on my lap and French-kissed me for about ten seconds. Spike kept hugging me. Pepe and Carlos hopped on the bench and stood next to me, grinning. Milt just stood in front of me with a glum expression on his face, unable to look at me.
“What happened…one minute I’m in prison…the next I’m…” I looked around. All I saw was the courtyard. Milt and Spike blocked my view deliberately. “Where am I?”
“Cuba,” replied Marvella. “You are in Cuba. We are so happy you are awake!” Her Southern belle twang was gone, replaced by flawless, accentless Spanish. Goddamn, she was Cuban!
“How…how did I get…I was in prison. How did I get out?”
Castro laughed and sat on the bench next to me. He put his arm around my shoulder. “My best little spies in the world rescued you…my avenging midgets,” he said as he pointed to Carlos and Pepe. “You do not remember?”
“I remember I was going to be executed by the Sandinista government for some trumped-up shit I didn’t do. I remember being chained to a wall and being beaten. I remember being kidnapped by the CIA, the Contras and the fucking Sandinistas. I remember being used for everyone’s evil schemes. I feel used…used, used, used!”
“But?” Castro inquired almost hungrily.
“But I remember just about everything except being sprung from prison.”
Pepe shrugged at Castro. “Chief, we may have used too much tranquilizer on him…he is a very excitable boy. We didn’t want him to ruin our beautiful escape plan by freaking out.”
“It is difficult to get the dosage right, Chief,” interjected Carlos.
“No matter, my little spies, he is going to be fine.”
“So…you guys all work for Castro?” I asked. Spike, Marvella, Carlos and Pepe nodded. I glanced at Milt. After a few morose moments, he glumly nodded, slowly and deliberately, not looking up at me the whole time. I felt my heart sink. “You too?” I shouted. Milt just gazed at his feet. The traitor!
“These are my best spies and my Praetorian Guard,” Castro said. “I reserve them for special jobs. And you, my dear Palmer, are very special to me.”
“You were using me as much as the others were using me, right?” I sneered.
“Sadly, yes. In fact, much more so. You were the protagonist in my little Greek comedy”
“Why? I’m just a two-bit Marxist writer for a two-bit Marxist magazine…look at me! I’m a loser. This trip to Managua was supposed to make me an important writer, but I ended up becoming caught in a tangled web of lies, espionage, evil plots and backstabbing bullshit. Why me, Mr. Castro, why me? What did I do to be everyone’s stooge? Why was my life turned into such a shit sandwich? Why did you do this to me?”
Castro grinned, bent forward, and elbowed Marvella to move a bit, then kissed me on my cheek, his bushy beard tickling my cheek.
“Ho-ho-ho! I’ll tell you why—because you make me laugh. I have been reading your articles for years…my God, a Communist with a sense a humor! You are a scream, my boy. And I love you for it.
“I’ll tell you why I did it: I am so isolated, surrounded by ass-kissing sycophants and boot-licking courtiers. I am bored! Lonely! The goddamn puto Russians want to control me, the Chinese have no sense of humor, and Americans keep trying to kill me…I have only my laughter to keep me from taking out my pistol and blowing off my head. So…so in order to amuse myself, I create havoc everywhere. You just happened to be my pawn this time. But…my spies kept you safe, did they not? You were never in trouble.
“So tonight we will share an excellent meal, then we’ll retire to my screened porch, sip good rum and smoke my finest cigars…and you will tell me your story. And I will laugh. Afterwards Marvella here will make love to you, and tomorrow morning you will be secretly taken by boat to Barbados, where you’ll catch a flight home to Boston, safe and sound. You will have your story to write about what you experienced; I will read it and have another laugh. That is all…”
“Fuck you, Castro!”
“Ho-ho-ho! I love this boy!” he chortled, hugging me. “Spike, get Palmer a beer and a bowl of black beans and rice. He looks terrible.”
While Spike dashed off for my food and drink, I looked beyond where he had been standing and blocking my view of the courtyard. The realization of what I saw nearly made me vomit: tied standing to pole was a young man, his face a bloody pulp. Baseballs littered the ground around him.
I leered at Castro. “What the fuck have you done to that man?” I implored, frightened, pointing a shaking finger at the man on the pole. Castor sighed as if bored.
“Oh, another dissident. I’m practicing my slider on him.”
“Jefe was once a big league prospect,” Carlos added. “The New York Yankees regret never having signed him to a contract.”
Marvella, who had been silently hugging me throughout this conversation, kissed me again. Pepe grinned. Carlos patted my back. Castro slid his hand down my back and pinched my ass, a jocular act that implied we were good buddies and pals—compadres por la vida, friends for life. Milt refused to look at me, the traitorous fucker.
So these were my heroes, my saviors…my life really was a shit sandwich if these maniacs were on my side. I felt ten degrees worse than incredulous—I felt mega-ultra-magna-motherfucking incredulous. I felt pathetic. I felt used. Mainly I felt like a nut-scratching, boogar-eating, knuckle-dragging moron.
And I wished I were psychotic; hell, I prayed I was. I wished my adventure had been one big, weird, dopamine-induced delusion of the paranoid schizophrenic variety. I wished I would wake up in my comfortable psycho ward bed to the smiling face of a pretty nurse—Marvella would do nicely in that role—who would inject a massive dose of Haldol in my ass.
But I looked over at the bloody pulp of a dead man on the pole—Castro’s pitching practice target—and then I looked back at my heroes and my saviors, who stood grinning at me lovingly as if I were the prodigal son returned home to feast on the fatted calf. In that brief moment of immense revelation I knew damn well this was too weird for a delusion, that reality was definitely more bizarre than any schizophrenic’s paranoia could produce.
Therefore, I wept. I wept not for me, but for the crazy world in which I lived. I wept and wept and wept. Then I had that dinner with Castro. I had the rum and cigar with him in his screened porch. I told him my story. I watched him laugh. Afterward I screwed Marvella as if I was possessed with the combined spirits of Don Juan and Ron Jeremy. I went home.
No one will believe my story, but so what? It happened. I’m no wiser than when I began, nor do I have any wisdom to impart upon others. All I am able to conclude is this: like the title of the film starring Spencer Tracy, Buddy Hackett and Jim Backus, it’s a mad, mad, mad, mad world. And perhaps I’m the only sane person. Then again, maybe not.
I’ll never leave America again, however. You can bet on that.