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You know how it is there early in the morning in Havana with the bums still asleep against the walls of the buildings; before even the ice wagons come by with ice for the bars? Well, we came across the square from the dock to the Pearl of San Francisco Café to get coffee and there was only one beggar awake in the square and he was getting a drink out of the fountain. But when we got inside the café and sat down, there were the three of them waiting for us.
We sat down and one of them came over.
"Well," he said.
"I can't do it," I told him. "I'd like to do it as a favor. But I told you last night I couldn't."
"You can name your own price."
"It isn't that. I can't do it. That's all."
The two others had come over and they stood there looking sad. They were nice-looking fellows all right and I would have liked to have done them the favor.
"A thousand apiece," said the one who spoke good English.
"Don't make me feel bad," I told him. "I tell you true I can't do it."
"Afterwards, when things are changed, it would mean a good deal to you."
"I know it. I'm all for you. But I can't do it."
"I make my living with the boat. If I lose her I lose my living."
"With the money you buy another boat."
"Not in jail."
They must have thought I just needed to be argued into it because the one kept on.
"You would have three thousand dollars and it could mean a great deal to you later. All this will not last, you know."
"Listen," I said. "I don't care who is president here. But I don't carry anything to the states that can talk."
"You mean we would talk?" one of them who hadn't spoke said. He was angry.
"I said anything that can talk."
"Do you think we are lenguas largas?"
"Do you know what a lengua larga is?"
"Yes. One with a long tongue."
"Do you know what we do with them?"
"Don't be tough with me," I said. "You propositioned me. I didn't offer you anything."
"Shut up, Pancho," the one who had done the talking before said to the angry one.
"He said we would talk," Pancho said.
"Listen," I said. "I told you I didn't carry anything that can talk. Sacked liquor can't talk. Demijohns can't talk. There's other things that can't talk. Men can talk."
"Can Chinamen talk?" Pancho said, pretty nasty.
"They can talk but I can't understand them," I told him.
"So you won't?"
"It's just like I told you last night. I can't."
"But you won't talk?" Pancho said.
The one thing that he hadn't understood right had made him nasty. I guess it was disappointment, too. I didn't even answer him.
"You're not a lengua larga, are you?" he asked, still nasty.
"I don't think so."
"What's that? A threat?"
"Listen," I told him. "Don't be so tough so early in the morning. I'm sure you've cut plenty people's throats. I haven't even had my coffee yet."
"So you're sure I've cut people's throats?"
"No," I said. "And I don't give a damn. Can't you do business without getting angry?"
"I am angry now," he said. "I would like to kill you."
"Oh, hell," I told him. "Don't talk so much."
"Come on, Pancho," the first one said. Then, to me, "I am very sorry. I wish you would take us."
"I'm sorry, too. But I can't."
The three of them started for the door, and I watched them go. They were good-looking young fellows, wore good clothes; none of them wore hats, and they looked like they had plenty of money. They talked plenty of money, anyway, and they spoke the kind of English Cubans with money speak.
Two of them looked like brothers and the other one, Pancho, was a little taller but the same sort of looking kid. You know, slim, good clothes, and shiny hair. I didn't figure he was as mean as he talked. I figured he was plenty nervous.
As they turned out of the door to the right, I saw a closed car come across the square toward them. The first thing a pane of glass went and the bullet smashed into the row of bottles on the showcase wall to the right. I heard the gun going and, bop, bop, bop, there were bottles smashing all along the wall.
I jumped behind the bar on the left side and could see looking over the edge. The car was stopped and there were two fellows crouched down by it. One had a Thompson gun and the other had a sawed-off automatic shotgun. The one with the Thompson gun was a nigger. The other had a chauffeur's white duster on.
One of the boys was spread out on the sidewalk, face down, just outside the big window that was smashed. The other two were behind one of the Tropical beer ice wagons that was stopped in front of the Cunard bar next door. One of the ice-wagon horses was down in the harness, kicking, and the other was plunging his head off.
One of the boys shot from the rear corner of the wagon and it ricocheted off the sidewalk. The nigger with the Tommy gun got his face almost into the street and gave the back of the wagon a burst from underneath and sure enough one came down, falling toward the sidewalk with his head above the curb. He flopped there, putting his hands over his head, and the chauffeur shot at him with the shotgun while the nigger put in a fresh pan; but it was a long shot. You could see the buckshot marks all over the sidewalk like silver splatters.
The other fellow pulled the one who was hit back by the legs to behind the wagon, and I saw the nigger getting his face down on the paving to give them another burst. Then I saw old Pancho come around the corner of the wagon and step into the lee of the horse that was still up. He stepped clear of the horse, his face white as a dirty sheet, and got the chauffeur with the big Luger he had; holding it in both hands to keep it steady. He shot twice over the nigger's head, coming on, and once low.
He hit a tire on the car because I saw dust blowing in a spurt on the street as the air came out, and at ten feet the nigger shot him in the belly with the Tommy gun, with what must have been the last shot in it because I saw him throw it down, and old Pancho sat down hard and went over forwards. He was trying to come up, still holding onto the Luger, only he couldn't get his head up, when the nigger took the shotgun that was lying against the wheel of the car by the chauffeur and blew the side of his head off. Some nigger.
I took a quick one out of the first bottle I saw open and I couldn't tell you yet what it was. The whole thing made me feel pretty bad. I slipped along behind the bar and out through the kitchen in back and all the way out. I went clean around the outside of the square and never even looked over toward the crowd there was coming fast in front of the café and went in through the gate and out onto the dock and got on board.
The fellow who had her chartered was on board waiting. I told him what had happened.
"Where's Eddy?" this fellow Johnson that had us chartered asked me.
"I never saw him after the shooting started."
"Do you suppose he was hit?"
"Hell, no. I tell you the only shots that came in the café were into the showcase. That was when the car was coming behind them. That was when they shot the first fellow right in front of the window. They came at an angle like this "
"You seem awfully sure about it," he said.
"I was watching," I told him.
Then, as I looked up, I saw Eddy coming along the dock looking taller and sloppier than ever. He walked with his joints all slung wrong.
"There he is."
Eddy looked pretty bad. He never looked too good early in the morning; but he looked pretty bad now.
"Where were you?" I asked him.
"On the floor."
"Did you see it?" Johnson asked him.
"Don't talk about it, Mr. Johnson," Eddy said to him. "It makes me sick to even think about it."
"You better have a drink," Johnson told him. Then he said to me, "Well, are we going out?"
"That's up to you."
"What sort of a day will it be?"
"Just about like yesterday. Maybe better."
"Let's get out, then."
"All right, as soon as the bait comes."
We'd had this bird out three weeks fishing the stream and I hadn't seen any of his money yet except one hundred dollars he gave me to pay the consul, and clear, and get some grub, and put gas in her before we came across. I was furnishing all the tackle and he had her chartered at thirty-five dollars a day. He slept at a hotel and came aboard every morning. Eddy got me the charter so I had to carry him. I was giving him four dollars a day.
"I've got to put gas in her," I told Johnson.
"I'll need some money for that."
"It's twenty-eight cents a gallon. I ought to put in forty gallons anyway. That's eleven-twenty."
He got out fifteen dollars.
"Do you want to put the rest on the beer and the ice?" I asked him.
"That's fine," he said. "Just put it down against what I owe you."
I was thinking three weeks was a long time to let him go, but if he was good for it what difference was there? He should have paid every week anyway. But I've let them run a month and got the money. It was my fault but I was glad to see it run at first. It was only the last few days he made me nervous but I didn't want to say anything for fear of getting him plugged at me. If he was good for it, the longer he went the better.
"Have a bottle of beer?" he asked me, opening the box.
Just then this nigger we had getting bait comes down the dock and I told Eddy to get ready to cast her off.
The nigger came on board with the bait and we cast off and started out of the harbor, the nigger fixing on a couple of mackerel; passing the hook through their mouth, out the gills, slitting the side and then putting the hook through the other side and out, tying the mouth shut on the wire leader and tying the hook good so it couldn't slip and so the bait would troll smooth without spinning.
He's a real black nigger, smart and gloomy, with blue voodoo beads around his neck under his shirt, and an old straw hat. What he liked to do on board was sleep and read the papers. But he put on a nice bait and he was fast.
"Can't you put on a bait like that, captain?" Johnson asked me.
"Why do you carry a nigger to do it?"
"When the big fish run you'll see," I told him.
"What's the idea?"
"The nigger can do it faster than I can."
"Can't Eddy do it?"
"It seems an unnecessary expense to me." He'd been giving the nigger a dollar a day and the nigger had been on a rumba every night. I could see him getting sleepy already.
"He's necessary," I said.
By then we had passed the smacks with their fish cars anchored in front of Cabañas and the skiffs anchored fishing for mutton fish on the rock bottom by the Morro, and I headed her out where the Gulf made a dark line. Eddy put the two big teasers out and the nigger had baits on three rods.
The stream was in almost to soundings and as we came toward the edge you could see her running nearly purple with regular whirlpools. There was a light east breeze coming up and we put up plenty of flying fish, those big ones with the black wings that look like the picture of Lindbergh crossing the Atlantic when they sail off.
Those big flying fish are the best sign there is. As far as you could see, there was that faded yellow gulfweed in small patches that means the main stream is well in and there were birds ahead working over a school of little tuna. You could see them jumping; just little ones weighing a couple of pounds apiece.
"Put out any time you want," I told Johnson.
He put on his belt and his harness and put out the big rod with the Hardy reel with six hundred yards of thirty-six thread. I looked back and his bait was trolling nice, just bouncing along on the swell, and the two teasers were diving and jumping. We were going just about the right speed and I headed her into the Stream.
"Keep the rod butt in the socket on the chair," I told him. "Then the rod won't be as heavy. Keep the drag off so you can slack to him when he hits. If one ever hits with the drag on he'll jerk you overboard."
Every day I'd have to tell him the same thing but I didn't mind that. One out of fifty parties you get know how to fish. Then when they do know, half the time they're goofy and want to use line that isn't strong enough to hold anything big.
"How does the day look?" he asked me.
"It couldn't be better," I told him. It was a pretty day all right.
I gave the nigger the wheel and told him to work along the edge of the Stream to the eastward and went back to where Johnson was sitting watching his bait bouncing along.
"Want me to put out another rod?" I asked him.
"I don't think so," he said. "I want to hook, fight, and land my fish myself."
"Good," I said. "Do you want Eddy to put it out and hand it to you if one strikes so you can hook him?"
"No," he said. "I prefer to have only one rod out."
The nigger was still taking her out and I looked and saw he had seen a patch of flying fish burst out ahead and up the stream a little. Looking back, I could see Havana looking fine in the sun and a ship just coming out of the harbor past the Morro.
"I think you're going to have a chance to fight one today, Mr. Johnson," I told him.
"It's about time," he said. "How long have we been out?"
"Three weeks today."
"That's a long time to fish."
"They're a funny fish," I told him. "They aren't here until they come. But when they come there's plenty of them. And they've always come. If they don't come now they're never coming. The moon is right. There's a good stream and we're going to have a good breeze."
"There were some small ones when we first came."
"Yes," I said. "Like I told you. The small ones thin out and stop before the big ones come."
"You party-boat captains always have the same line. Either it's too early or too late or the wind isn't right or the moon is wrong. But you take the money just the same."
"Well," I told him, "the hell of it is that it usually is too early or too late and plenty of time the wind is wrong. Then when you get a day that's perfect you're ashore without a party."
"But you think today's a good day?"
"Well," I told him, "I've had action enough for me already today. But I'd like to bet you're going to have plenty."
"I hope so," he said.
We settled down to troll. Eddy went forward and laid down. I was standing up watching for a tail to show. Every once in a while the nigger would doze off and I was watching him, too. I bet he had some nights.
"Would you mind getting me a bottle of beer, captain?" Johnson asked me.
"No, sir," I said, and I dug down in the ice to get him a cold one.
"Won't you have one?" he asked.
"No, sir," I said. "I'll wait till tonight."
I opened the bottle and was reaching it toward him when I saw this big brown buggar with a spear on him longer than your arm burst head and shoulders out of the water and smash at that mackerel. He looked as big around as a saw log.
"Slack it to him!" I yelled.
"He hasn't got it," Johnson said.
"Hold it, then."
He'd come up from deep down and missed it. I knew he'd turn and come for it again.
"Get ready to turn it loose to him the minute he grabs it."
Then I saw him coming from behind under water. You could see his fins out wide like purple wings and the purple stripes across the brown. He came on like a submarine and his top fin came out and you could see it slice the water. Then he came right behind the bait and his spear came out too, sort of wagging, clean out of water.
"Let it go into his mouth," I said. Johnson took his hand off the reel spool and it started to whiz and the old marlin turned and went down and I could see the whole length of him shine bright silver as he turned broadside and headed off fast toward shore.
"Put on a little drag," I said. "Not much."
He screwed down on the drag.
"Not too much," I said. I could see the line slant up. "Shut her down hard and sock him," I said. "You've got to sock him. He's going to jump anyway."
Johnson screwed the drag down and came back on the rod.
"Sock him!" I told him. "Stick it into him. Hit him half a dozen times."
He hit him pretty hard a couple of times more, and then the rod bent double and the reel commenced to screech and out he came, boom, in a long straight jump, shining silver in the sun and making a splash like throwing a horse off a cliff.
"Ease up on the drag," I told him.
"He's gone," said Johnson.
"The hell he is," I told him. "Ease up on the drag quick."
I could see the curve in the line and the next time he jumped he was astern and headed out to sea. Then he came out again and smashed the water white and I could see he was hooked in the side of the mouth. The stripes showed clear on him. He was a fine fish bright silver now, barred with purple, and as big around as a log.
"He's gone," Johnson said. The line was slack.
"Reel on him," I said. "He's hooked good. Put her ahead with all the machine!" I yelled to the nigger.
Then once, twice, he came out stiff as a post, the whole length of him jumping straight toward us, throwing the water high each time he landed. The line came taut and I saw he was headed inshore again and I could see he was turning.
"Now he'll make his run," I said. "If he hooks up I'll chase him. Keep your drag light. There's plenty of line."
The old marlin headed out to the nor'west like all the big ones go, and brother, did he hook up. He started jumping in those long lopes and every splash would be like a speed boat in a sea. We went after him, keeping him on the quarter once I'd made the turn. I had the wheel and I kept yelling to Johnson to keep his drag light and
reel fast. All of a sudden I see his rod jerk and the line go slack. It wouldn't look slack unless you knew about it because of the pull of the belly of the line in the water. But I knew.
"He's gone," I told him. The fish was still jumping and he went on jumping until he was out of sight. He was a fine fish all right.
"I can still feel him pull," Johnson said.
"That's the weight of the line."
"I can hardly reel it. Maybe he's dead."
"Look at him," I said. "He's still jumping." You could see him out a half a mile, still throwing spouts of water.
I felt his drag. He had it screwed down tight. You couldn't pull out any line. It had to break.
"Didn't I tell you to keep your drag light?"
"But he kept taking out line."
"So I tightened it."
"Listen," I told him. "If you don't give them line when they hook up like that they break it. There isn't any line will hold them. When they want it you've got to give it to them. You have to keep a light drag. The market fishermen can't hold them tight when they do that even with a harpoon line. What we have to do is use the boat to chase them so they don't take it all when they make their run. After they make their run they'll sound and you can tighten up the drag and get it back."
"Then if it hadn't broken I would have caught him?"
"You'd have had a chance."
"He couldn't have kept that up, could he?"
"He can do plenty of other things. It isn't until after he's made his run that the fight starts."
"Well, let's catch one," he said.
"You have to reel that line in first," I told him.
We'd hooked that fish and lost him without waking Eddy up. Now old Eddy came back astern.
"What's the matter?" he said.
Eddy was a good man on a boat once, before he got to be a rummy, but he isn't any good now. I looked at him standing there tall and hollow-cheeked with his mouth loose and that white stuff in the corners of his eyes and his hair all faded in the sun. I knew he woke up dead for a drink.
"You'd better drink a bottle of beer," I told him. He took one out of the box and drank it.
"Well, Mr. Johnson," he said, "I guess I better finish my nap. Much obliged for the beer, sir." Some Eddy. The fish didn't make any difference to him.
Well, we hooked another one around noon and he jumped off. You could see the hook go thirty feet in the air when he threw it.
"What did I do wrong then?" Johnson asked.
"Nothing," I said. "He just threw it."
"Mr. Johnson," said Eddy, who'd waked up to have another bottle of beer "Mr. Johnson, you're just unlucky. Now maybe you're lucky with women. Mr. Johnson, what do you say we go out tonight?" Then he went back and laid down again.
About four o'clock when we're coming back close in to shore against the Stream; it going like a mill race, us with the sun at our backs; the biggest black marlin I ever saw in my life hit Johnson's bait. We'd put out a feather squid and caught four of those little tuna and the nigger put one on his hook for bait. It trolled pretty heavy but it made a big splash in the wake.
Johnson took the harness off the reel so he could put the rod across his knees because his arms got tired holding it in position all the time. Because his hands got tired holding the spool of the reel against the drag of the big bait, he screwed the drag down when I wasn't looking. I never knew he had it down. I didn't like to see him hold the rod that way but I hated to be crabbing at him all the time. Besides, with the drag off, line would go out so there wasn't any danger. But it was a sloppy way to fish.
I was at the wheel and was working the edge of the stream opposite that old cement factory where it makes deep so close in to shore and where it makes a sort of eddy where there is always lots of bait. Then I saw a splash like a depth bomb, and the sword, and eye, and open lower-jaw and huge purple-black head of a black marlin. The whole top fin was up out of water looking as high as a full-rigged ship, and the whole scythe tail was out as he smashed at that tuna. The bill was as big around as a baseball bat and slanted up, and as he grabbed the bait he sliced the ocean wide open. He was solid purple-black and he had an eye as big as a soup bowl. He was huge. I bet he'd go a thousand pounds.
I yelled to Johnson to let him have line but before I could say a word, I saw Johnson rise up in the air off the chair as though he was being derricked, and him holding just for a second onto that rod and the rod bending like a bow, and then the butt caught him in the belly and the whole works went overboard.
He'd screwed the drag tight, and when the fish struck, it lifted Johnson right out of the chair and he couldn't hold it. He'd had the butt under one leg and the rod across his lap. If he'd had the harness on it would have taken him along, too.
I cut out the engine and went back to the stern. He was sitting there holding onto his belly where the rod butt had hit him.
"I guess that's enough for today," I said.
"What was it?" he said to me.
"Black marlin," I said.
"How did it happen?"
"You figure it out," I said. "The reel cost two hundred and fifty dollars. It costs more now. The rod cost me forty-five. There was a little under six hundred yards of thirty-six thread."
Just then Eddy slaps him on the back. "Mr. Johnson," he says, "you're just unlucky. You know I never saw that happen before in my life."
"Shut up, you rummy," I said to him.
"I tell you, Mr. Johnson," Eddy said, "that's the rarest occurrence I ever saw in my life."
"What would I do if I was hooked to a fish like that?" Johnson said.
"That's what you wanted to fight all by yourself," I told him. I was plenty sore.
"They're too big," Johnson said. "Why, it would just be punishment."
"Listen," I said. "A fish like that would kill you."
"They catch them."
"People who know how to fish catch them. But don't think they don't take punishment."
"I saw a picture of a girl who caught one."
"Sure," I said. "Still fishing. He swallowed the bait and they pulled his stomach out and he came to the top and died. I'm talking about trolling for them when they're hooked in the mouth."
"Well," said Johnson, "they're too big. If it isn't enjoyable, why do it?"
"That's right, Mr. Johnson," Eddy said. "If it isn't enjoyable, why do it? Listen, Mr. Johnson. You hit the nail on the head there. If it isn't enjoyable why do it?"
I was still shaky from seeing that fish and feeling plenty sick about the tackle and I couldn't listen to them. I told the nigger to head her for the Morro. I didn't say anything to them and there they sat, Eddy in one of the chairs with a bottle of beer and Johnson with another.
"Captain," he said to me after a while, "could you make me a highball?"
I made him one without saying anything, and then I made myself a real one. I was thinking to myself that this Johnson had fished fifteen days, finally he hooks into a fish a fisherman would give a year to tie into, he loses him, he loses my heavy tackle, he makes a fool of himself and he sits there perfectly content, drinking with a rummy.
When we got in to the dock and the nigger was standing there waiting, I said, "What about tomorrow?"
"I don't think so," Johnson said. "I'm about fed up with this kind of fishing."
"You want to pay off the nigger?"
"How much do I owe him?"
"A dollar. You can give him a tip if you want."
So Johnson gave the nigger a dollar and two Cuban twenty-cent pieces.
"What's this for?" the nigger asks me, showing the coins.
"A tip," I told him in Spanish. "You're through. He gives you that."
"Don't come tomorrow?"
The nigger gets his ball of twine he used for tying baits and his dark glasses, puts on his straw hat and goes without saying good-by. He was a nigger that never thought much of any of us.
"When do you want to settle up, Mr. Johnson?" I asked him.
"I'll go to the bank in the morning," Johnson said. "We can settle up in the afternoon."
"Do you know how many days there are?"
"No. There's sixteen with today and a day each way makes eighteen. Then there's the rod and reel and the line from today."
"The tackle's your risk."
"No, sir. Not when you lose it that way."
"I've paid every day for the rent of it. It's your risk."
"No, sir," I said. "If a fish broke it and it wasn't your fault, that would be something else. You lost that whole outfit by carelessness."
"The fish pulled it out of my hands."
"Because you had the drag on and didn't have the rod in the socket."
"You have no business to charge for that."
"If you hired a car and ran it off a cliff, don't you think you'd have to pay for it?"
"Not if I was in it," Johnson said.
"That's pretty good, Mr. Johnson," Eddy said. "You see it, don't you, cap? If he was in it he'd be killed. So he wouldn't have to pay. That's a good one."
I didn't pay any attention to the rummy. "You owe two hundred and ninety-five dollars for that rod and reel and line," I told Johnson.
"Well, it's not right," he said. "But if that's the way you feel about it why not split the difference?"
"I can't replace it for under three hundred and sixty. I'm not charging you for the line. A fish like that could get all your line and it not be your fault. If there was any one here but a rummy they'd tell you how square I'm being with you. I know it seems like a lot of money but it was a lot of money when I bought the tackle, too. You can't fish fish like that without the best tackle you can buy."
"Mr. Johnson, he says I'm a rummy. Maybe I am. But I tell you he's right. He's right and he's reasonable," Eddy told him.
"I don't want to make any difficulties," Johnson said finally. "I'll pay for it, even though I don't see it. That's eighteen days at thirty-five dollars and two ninety-five extra."
"You gave me a hundred," I told him. "I'll give you a list of what I spent and I'll deduct what grub there is left. What you bought for provisions going over and back."
"That's reasonable," Johnson said.
"Listen, Mr. Johnson," Eddy said. "If you knew the way they usually charge a stranger you'd know it was more than reasonable. Do you know what it is? It's exceptional. The Cap is treating you like you were his own mother."
"I'll go to the bank tomorrow and come down in the afternoon. Then I'll get the boat day after tomorrow."
"You can go back with us and save the boat fare."
"No," he said. "I'll save time with the boat."
"Well," I said. "What about a drink?"
"Fine," said Johnson. "No hard feelings now, are there?"
"No, sir," I told him. So the three of us sat there in the stern and drank a highball together.
The next day I worked around her all morning, changing the oil in her base and one thing and another. At noon I went uptown and ate at a Chink place where you get a good meal for forty cents, and then I bought some things to take home to my wife and our three girls. You know, perfume, a couple of fans and three of those high combs. When I finished I stopped in at Donovan's and had a beer and talked with the old man and then walked back to the San Francisco docks, stopping in at three or four places for a beer on the way. I bought Frankie a couple at the Cunard bar and I came on board feeling pretty good. When I came on board I had just forty cents left. Frankie came on board with me, and while we sat and waited for Johnson I drank a couple of cold ones out of the ice box with Frankie.
Eddy hadn't shown up all night or all day but I knew he would be around sooner or later, as soon as his credit ran out. Donovan told me he'd been in there the night before a little while with Johnson, and Eddy had been setting them up on credit. We waited and I began to wonder about Johnson not showing up. I'd left word at the dock for them to tell him to go on board and wait for me but they said he hadn't come. Still, I figured he had been out late and probably didn't get up till around noon. The banks were open until three-thirty. We saw the plane go out, and about five-thirty I was all over feeling good and was getting plenty worried.
At six o'clock I sent Frankie up to the hotel to see if Johnson was there. I still thought he might be out on a time or he might be there at the hotel feeling too bad to get up. I kept waiting and waiting until it was late. But I was getting plenty worried because he owed me eight hundred and twenty-five dollars.
Frankie was gone about a little over half an hour. When I saw him coming he was walking fast and shaking his head.
"He went on the plane," he said.
All right. There it was. The consulate was closed. I had forty cents, and, anyhow, the plane was in Miami by now. I couldn't even send a wire. Some Mr. Johnson, all right. It was my fault. I should have known better.
"Well," I said to Frankie, "we might as well have a cold one. Mr. Johnson bought them." There were three bottles of Tropical left.
Frankie felt as bad as I did. I don't know how he could but he seemed to. He just kept slapping me on the back and shaking his head.
So there it was. I was broke. I'd lost five hundred and thirty dollars of the charter, and tackle I couldn't replace for three hundred and fifty more. How some of that gang that hangs around the dock would be pleased at that, I thought. It certainly would make some Conchs happy. And the day before I turned down three thousand dollars to land three aliens on the Keys. Anywhere, just to get them out of the country.
All right, what was I going to do now? I couldn't bring in a load because you have to have money to buy the booze and besides there's no money in it any more. The town is flooded with it and there's nobody to buy it. But I was damned if I was going home broke and starve a summer in that town. Besides I've got a family. The clearance was paid when we came in. You usually pay the broker in advance and he enters you and clears you. Hell, I didn't even have enough money to put in gas. It was a hell of a note, all right. Some Mr. Johnson.
"I've got to carry something, Frankie," I said. "I've got to make some money."
"I'll see," said Frankie. He hangs around the water front and does odd jobs and is pretty deaf and drinks too much every night. But you never saw a fellow more loyal nor with a better heart. I've known him since I first started to run over there. He used to help me load plenty of times. Then when I quit handling stuff and went party-boating and broke out this swordfishing in Cuba I used to see him a lot around the dock and around the café. He seems dumb and he usually smiles instead of talking, but that's because he's deaf.
"You carry anything?" Frankie asked.
"Sure," I said. "I can't choose now."
"I'll see," Frankie said. "Where will you be?"
"I'll be at the Perla," I told him. "I have to eat."
You can get a good meal at the Perla for twenty-five cents. Everything on the menu is a dime except soup, and that is a nickel. I walked as far as there with Frankie, and I went in and he went on. Before he went he shook me by the hand and clapped me on the back again.
"Don't worry," he said. "Me Frankie; much politics. Much business. Much drinking. No money. But big friend. Don't worry."
"So long, Frankie," I said. "Don't you worry either, boy."
Copyright 1937 by Ernest Hemingway
Copyright renewed © 1965 by Mary Hemingway
Copyright 1934 by Hearst magazines, Inc.
Copyright renewed © 1962 by Mary Hemingway