POSTCARDS FROM CUBA: facts of life (and death)

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For Jorge. Who most definitely does not have fleas.

You’ll be able to listen soon. Audio production on this postcard went sideways, but I didn’t want to delay sending the text out any longer. I hate breaking my own deadlines. 🙂

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In the meantime… read:

I.

On the way to Market 70—they say, the best stocked supermarket in Havana—we step over a…

Flora: “What is that?”

Jane: “Um, I dunno. A dead something or other.”

Cinder: “It’s a chicken. Well, half a chicken. Look, it’s still got its feathers on.”

Flora: “That’s terrible! That’s awful!”

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Friend to and lover of all animals, even the gross ones, Flora’s been extra-sensitive since the dead cat incident of the previous week (don’t ask) and I see her teetering on the edge of tears, and so…

Jane: “Sweetheart, you know all the chickens we eat were once people…”

…ok, that came out wrong…

Flora: “What?”

Cinder: “You mean we’re cannibals after all?”

Ender: “Chickens are people?”

So what I meant to say is…

…but they know…

…and the point is…

Flora: “I think we’re going to be vegetarian for the rest of our stay in Cuba.”

Cinder: “What, you’ve got something against eating meat that used to be people?”

I’ve always wanted them to eat more lentils.

I just didn’t think it would happen in such a traumatic way.

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II.

Cuba’s stray cats and dogs—and the occasional free range chicken—cause Flora constant angst.

Firstly, “Because they are so cute!” and I won’t let her touch them… or bring them home.

Jane: “Look, ooh, aaah, all you like, but don’t touch them.”

Flora: “But why not?”

Jane: “Because I don’t want you to get fleas. Or lice. Or mange.”

Flora: “Mange?”

On cue, a mangy dog runs up to us.

Jane: “Mange.”

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Secondly, because stray cats and the occasional free range chicken do not co-exist peacefully, and there are the feathers, and the not-fully consumed corpses…

Flora: “Why can’t they just live in peace?”

Cinder: “Don’t think of it as a dead chicken, Flora. Think of it as well-fed cat.”

Jane: “Not helping.”

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Thirdly, because they keep on wandering into traffic…

Flora: “Mom, there’s a dog just running down the street—look, he’s running in-between the cars, there is so much traffic, he will die, we have to call someone!”

I try to convince her that Havana dogs know how to safely cross streets. They clearly don’t—but the drivers don’t seem to speed up and aim for them the way they seem to do for pedestrians, so their chances of survival are good. Plus…

Jane: “We haven’t seen a single carcass, right, honey? So you know they must be all right?”

Why, why did I say that?

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III.

So. Since you’ve asked.

The dead cat incident .

We see a carcass.

Cat, I think.

Not fresh. Been there for days.

Right outside a nearby hotel. Well, not right outside. On the other side of the street. I suspect if it was on the hotel side of the street, it would get cleaned up. As is, it’s far enough away that the hotel disavows responsibility.

Flora freaks.

We avoid the place for days. When we come back…

Cinder: “Cat’s still there. I guess Havana doesn’t have a road kill department.”

Jane: “You’d think the vultures would take care of it.”

Flora: “You are so mean! I can’t believe I’m related to you!”

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IV.

Our landlord has two little dogs, and a beautiful sleek cat that roams the neighbourhood during the day and sleeps in his bed at night.

Ender: “Do you think Jorge has fleas?”

Jane: “Um… probably not.”

Cinder: “Mom? You know how if we die in Cuba in a horrible taxi accident, Dad will never forgive you?”

Jane: “Yes?”

Cinder: “If I get fleas, lice or mange in Cuba, I will never forgive you.”

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That’s fair.

Jane: “Then don’t touch any dogs or cats.”

Ender: “Or Jorge?”

Um…

Jane: “Just wash your hands a lot.”

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