"I can't wait to see you."
"I can't wait to see you, either,
babe, when can you come over?"
"But what about . . . ?"
"Don't worry, he'll be in bed soon. How 'bout after ten, ten thirty?"
"Great. Can't wait."
"Me neither. Mmmm, kiss."
I returned to the sofa and sat down next to Elián. "I Still Know
What You Did Last Summer" was on HBO.
"Time for bed soon," I said.
"I do not want to go to bed."
"After this is over, it's bed time."
"I am not going to bed."
"I Still Know What You Did Last Summer" ended and a promo came on. Glimpses
of naked breasts and glistening buttocks, eager voices and giggling. "Stay
tuned for a new episode of 'Real Sex,' next, only on HBO!" Elián's
eyes grew wide.
"O.K., Elián, movie's over. Time for bed."
"I do not want to go to bed."
"C'mon Elián. It's way past your bed time."
"I want to watch this show."
"It's for grown-ups. Time for bed."
"I am not going to bed. If you want to go to bed, you can go to bed.
But I am not going to bed."
"I thought you said he was going to bed."
"I did. I thought he was."
"So what are you saying?"
"Hold it down, he'll hear you."
A voice came from the inside the door. "It is all right. I am used to
the sound of many people outside. It does not bother me any more."
"So what are you saying?"
"He doesn't want to go to bed."
"Well what now?"
"I don't know. I thought he'd be tired. I don't think I can make him
go to bed if he doesn't want to."
"I'd better go."
I blinked my eyes open in the morning light. The alarm hadn't gone off.
"OK, Elián, turn off the TV and let's get dressed. You'll be
late for school."
"I am not going to school."
"What? I thought you liked school. Don't you remember how much fun you had
at your old school? I heard all about it on TV."
"I do not want to go to school."
"Elián, everyone goes to school. The bus will be here soon, and
then I'm going to work."
"I am not going to school. You go to school if you like, but I am not
going to school. They have there a spanking machine, and they also punish you with
a drill that is on fire."
"They --wait. First of all there's no such thing as a spanking machine,
that was on an old 'Leave It To Beaver,' and it was just a joke. And it's
a 'fire drill,' not a drill that's on fire, that's what Bart told Lisa
to scare her before her first day of school on 'The Simpsons.' Where did
you hear all that anyway?"
"I have learned much in a short while."
The phone rang. It was Elián's great uncle in Miami. Collect.
"I have told you that my name is Lázaro."
"Right, right. Sorry."
"We will be coming to pick up Elián tonight."
"I don't think he wants to go."
"What? That is impossible. He knows he is supposed to come back today."
"I know, Lorenzo, but he says he doesn't want-"
"I have told you that my name is-"
"Now listen. We are glad that Elián has had a nice visit, but
it is now time for him to return to Miami. His surrogate mother Marisleysis
misses him very much."
"Well, maybe he'll change his mind when he sees you and MaryAlice, but
I'm pretty sure he-"
"Her name is not MaryAlice. It is-"
"Sorry, sorry again. How's she doing?"
"She is much better, thank you. Through the grace of God it was again
nothing serious, and she is to come home from the hospital today. Now,
please, tell Elián that we miss him very much, and that we will
come to pick him up this evening."
I turned away from the phone. Elián
was still on the sofa, caught up in "Major League II: Back to the Minors."
"Elián, your great uncle is on the phone. They're coming to pick
you up tonight."
"Do they yet have HBO?"
I turned back to the phone. "Do you have HBO yet?"
"What? HBO? This nonsense must stop."
I turned back to Elián.
"I don't think they have HBO."
"Then I am not going to go."
The phone rang again. It was the Cuban Interests desk inside the Swiss
Embassy. I was on speaker phone.
"Oh, hi, Juan Miguel, you alone? Just kidding . . . No, he's still here
. . . Well of course, that would make me just as happy as you, but you
know what he said . . . Come again? . . . Now that's just plain not fair,
I don't even know what 'psychologically oppressing' means . . . That's
fine with me, just tell me what time you're coming by . . . Yes, what time
you're coming . . . What? I don't see why . . . I can't, my car's in the shop
. . . Well I don't know what you heard back in Cuba, but my shop doesn't
have loaners . . . Well if you can't you can't . . . all right, hold on,
I'll get him.
"Elián, your father . . ."
Elián was on the sofa, transfixed. It was "Pokémon."
"I don't think Elián can come to the phone now. Can you call
I stopped off on the way home from work for a pizza and a two liter
bottle of Coke. I opened the door to the roar of the
crowd as Stone Cold Steve Austin, forehead bleeding profusely, extended
both middle fingers to Vince McMahon. There was a flash of fireworks and
"The Godfather" appeared on the entrance ramp accompanied by his scantily-clad
"hoes." He led the audience in the MCI Arena in a chant of "PIMPIN' AIN'T
Elián had found the remote.
"There are many good shows on today" he said. Then I saw what he had
in his hands. It wasn't the remote. It was a pistol, a big, black-finished
"Elián! Where did you get that gun?!"
"I do not remember. An angel gave it to me?"
"Oh cut it out Elián, you know very well an angel didn't give
you that gun."
"The nice people in Miami said that an angel saved me from harm in the
sea. Why could not this angel give me a gun if I wanted one? They have
seen the Virgin Mary in many places around my uncle's house. No one saw
the Virgin Mary there before I arrived. Do you not believe in angels?"
"That's not the point. Kids your age shouldn't have guns."
"Many children have guns. I saw on the televison about a boy my very
age who had a gun of his own. And he can even bring his gun to school!"
"Elián, put that gun down now. You're acting like a bad boy."
"I am a good boy. The tall lady on the television who came in the private plane to see me
said that I am a bright, wonderful, and charming boy.
Everyone says that I am a most wonderful boy. It is the only thing
they agree on. I have been on the cover of 'Newsweek' and all of the newspapers. Have you?"
I didn't have a quick answer.
"I want to eat some pizza."
"Not until you put down that gun. I don't want you getting it all greasy
from the pizza." Elián set the gun aside and I put the pizza box
down on the coffee table.
"When will the show called 'South Park' be on the television?"
"It doesn't come on."
"My cable system doesn't have Comedy Central."
"What does that mean?"
"It means 'South Park' doesn't come on. I know, it sucks."
"It's not fair. Let me put on one of my videotapes, it'll explain everything.
It's this great show about two kids that's not on anymore. They'd probably
like 'South Park' too. Have you ever heard of 'Beavis and Butt-head?'"
"No . . ."
I put in the tape and we ate our pizza.
"How's your pizza, Elián?"
"Mmmm, it is very good. Only in America could things be so wonderful,
do you not think?"
"That's what Don King says."
"Who is Don King?"
"Relax. All in good time. All in good time."
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