Hernando and Carmen Busto walked to the table where Rolando and Maria Fuentes were sitting. Hernando backed his wife's chair out slowly, allowing her to take her seat. He then proceeded to seat himself to the left of Rolando Fuentes.
"Good evening, Rolando. Good evening, Maria," he said cheerfully.
"Good evening," they both chimed in.
Hernando Busto was the arrogant, enigmatic, and very wealthy owner of Cuba's largest magazine publication, Cuba Today.
"How are you, Maria? How's Miguel doing?" asked Carmen.
"We're both fine," answered Maria Fuentes a little tersely.
Maria didn't care much for Carmen Busto. She was always spending time at the country club, gossiping continuously about anyone who wasn't present with her at the time. She was so self-absorbed that she didn't pay much attention to anyone except herself. Maria thought the old saying "she loves to hear herself talk" fit her to a tee.
"So, Rolando how's business?" asked Hernando.
"Well, it's down a little bit. All the riots and civil unrest haven't helped. You would think that more people would want to buy newspapers to fi nd out what was going on. I just can't fi gure it out."
"My business is down substantially too, and for the exact reasons you mentioned. People's desire to find out what's going on is eventually superseded by the necessity for survival. Even the small amount it costs to buy a paper or magazine goes instead for the basic food staples like cornmeal, bread, and flour. It really isn't hard to figure out. As a matter of fact, it's quite alarming, don't you think?"
"Oh, quit being so melodramatic Hernando," interjected his wife. "Business will pick back up. It always does."
"No, my dear, I think this time it's different. Batista has lost control of things and Castro could take over and install a communistic government at any time."
"Oh, whatever, Hernando. Just go and get me something to drink. I don't see a waiter or waitress anywhere."
"Yes, my dear," he said, as he got up slowly from his chair.
"Rolando, would you like to go with me?"
"Okay. What do you want to drink, Maria?" he asked his wife politely.
"A glass of red wine would be fine, dear."
With that, they both left to retrieve the drinks.
"Sorry about my wife, Rolando, she's just being herself."
"That's all right, Hernando, you don't have to apologize. Not to change the subject, but have you heard any rumors about Castro taking over in the next few days and Batista stepping down or possibly leaving the country?"
"Well I didn't want to say anything in front of the ladies, but Castro's takeover is imminent. I have it from some rather good sources that it could even be tonight. His forces are encamped around much of the perimeter of Havana, and they're within days or less of capturing Guantanamo Bay."
"You're kidding!?" sputtered a shocked Rolando Fuentes. "I knew things were bad, but I didn't think we were at death's door. If Castro takes over, it could be our death knell." Rolando Fuentes felt the bile rising in the depth of his stomach, ready to spew forth from his mouth in a disgusting fi t of fear. His legs felt weak and rubbery. Had he stuck his head in the sand for so long that it might be too late? It was common nature for people to look away from anything that might be unpleasant or life-threatening. Was that what he had done? Suddenly, though, he regained his composure, willing himself back to reality. Until one was six feet under, it was never too late, he thought to himself. He had always averted the bad-weather circumstances in his life. This time would be no different. Feeling somewhat better, he ordered the drinks.
"One scotch neat, make it a double, and a glass of your best merlot," he said firmly to the bartender. Tonight, he would drink his scotch and smoke his cigars, momentarily forgetting the dire circumstances that surrounded him. He would ring in the new year with a smile on his face and a kiss with his wife. Whatever life would bring him tomorrow, he would deal with it then.