Posted on Sun, Feb. 24, 2008
By CARL HIAASEN
ADay in the Life of a Retired Dictator:
7:30 a.m. For breakfast it's my usual bowl of Mueslix with plantains.
Then I call Raúl to get the latest numbers on the sugar cane crop, which
haven't improved by one lousy hectare since yesterday.
8:15 a.m. Another fancy gift basket arrives from Hugo Chávez -- more
mixed nuts and taffy, which I can't possibly eat because of my stomach
issues. Why does Hugo not remember?
9:00 a.m.-9:20 a.m. I write several peppy new anti-American slogans and
read them to Raúl over the phone. The one I like best is ``Down With
Imperialist Butt heads!''
Wouldn't that look fantastic on a banner plane flying back and forth
along Varadero Beach?
Raúl says he'll think about it and get back to me. He seems somewhat
preoccupied these days, but I understand. Running a revolution is hard work.
9:45 a.m.-11:45 a.m. Boy, am I hooked on Sudoku! Such a simple game, yet
so challenging. Those Japanese are amazingly clever -- how did they ever
lose the war to those shiftless Yanqui worms?
11:50 a.m. Another ice-cold bedpan! Immediately I phone Raúl to demand
that the offending nurse be locked up as a political prisoner.
Twenty-five years in Guanajay sounds about right.
Raúl's secretary says he's at lunch with several big-shots on the
Central Committee, but she promises he will call me after his regular
It's good that my little brother is treating his body well. Carrying the
beacon of socialism in the Western Hemisphere can be very grueling and
stressful. Look what the job did to me!
Noon. You've gotta be kidding. Steamed cassava for lunch, again?
I'm so sick of fiber I could scream. The nurse threatens to spoon-feed
me like an infant. I offer her my villa in Cienfuegos in exchange for a
toasted media noche and a beer, yet she refuses!
There was a time when such a handsome bribe could make miracles happen.
Where is the revolutionary spirit?
1:15 p.m.-1:40 p.m. I dash off another hard-hitting column for Granma
and e-mail it to the editor. He says he's not sure that the citizens of
Cuba want to read 1,500 words about the value of milk quotas, because
milk quotas are somewhat unpopular.
''Then change it to meat quotas in the column,'' I tell him.
``If you insist.''
''And here's another idea for the newspaper,'' I say, ``a daily Sudoku
puzzle! Our communist youth will go wild for it.''
``Yes, Mr. President.''
Everybody still calls me that. I don't mind at all, though it's starting
to bother Raúl.
2 p.m. From the window of my hospital room I have a grand view of a
towering billboard bearing my own image.
''Viva Fidel!'' the billboard proclaims, which isn't very original but I
have no intention of complaining, secure as I am in retirement and my
new role as elder statesman.
Who cares if the paint on the billboard is peeling and faded, or if a
raucous flock of gulls roosts upon it from dawn to dusk, decorating my
iconic beard with their unsightly droppings?
Still, I might mention this to Raúl. His massage must be taking longer
than usual, for he hasn't responded to my earlier calls.
3:15 p.m. What exciting news! According to the latest sales figures from
the tourist shop at the Havana airport, Fidel T-shirts are now
outselling Ché T-shirts for the first time since my brave revolutionary
comrade perished in the jungles of Bolivia.
I will, of course, donate my cut to the revolution.
3:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. The hospital staff is gathered to hear my daily
four-hour speech. Today's subjects are American aggression in the
Mideast, American interference in the Third World and American
exploitation of Asian labor.
Mysteriously, I fall asleep halfway through my brilliant oration, which
I never used to do when speaking at the Plaza de la Revolución. I'm
fairly certain that one of the nurses slipped an Ambien into my mango
smoothie, and I intend to tell Raúl of my suspicions, if the little
twerp ever calls me back.
10:45 p.m. Finally the phone rings, and guess who? Mr. Likely Successor
''Did you forget about me, Raúl?'' I inquire sharply.
``Of course not, Fidel.''
I tell him about the day's busy events. He promises to remind Chávez of
my dietary restrictions, change the plugs in the banner plane, banish
metal bedpans from state hospitals, repaint the billboard outside my
window, remove all sea-gulls from the island, increase production of
Fidel T-shirts at the silk-screen factory and investigate my nurses for
possible connections to the CIA.
''Good night, mi hermano,'' I say. ``Long live the revolution!''
Looking out the window, I can see the lights of Havana sparkling (except
for isolated power outages) from Miramar to El Malecón. My old warrior
heart feels warm and full.
Or possibly it's just acid reflux.