My Father’s Childhood (Part II)

By Osmel Almaguer

My father and his dog
My father and his dog

There were other occasions in which the handouts were not so advantageous for my father. Those were times in which he found himself being taken in by families that were low-down, low-spirited, unfriendly and even abusive.

In those days, children were generally the victims of daily abuse on the part of adults in the Cuban countryside, meaning that my father’s case was neither unique nor even the most outstanding.

Nonetheless, it is what happened to him, someone who I love so much for being such a good person and for having given me so many things invisible to the eye. That’s why it hurts me when he recounts the story of what he experienced in the house of a gentleman named Salinas.

There, he was slapped around almost every day, in addition to being picked on, verbally maltreated and made to work as if he were a grown man.  He was only seven years old, an innocent little boy who only wanted to play – like every kid that age.

Salinas was an old man, over 60, which in those times and conditions was a lot to say.  He was bitter, abusive and unfair, like at dinner time when he would give my father only a half of a boiled egg and half a banana, also boiled.  It seems this old man thought my father was his slave, because I don’t see any difference between what I’m telling and what I studied about life under slavery.

One day my father disobeyed Salinas, who chased him but my father managed to escape.  After several hours, when it had gotten dark, he came back to the house of the old man, who pretended that he had a thorn in his finger.  When my father came closer to help him, Salinas gave him a tremendous clubbing on his forehead with an enormous mahogany cane of that he used for supporting himself.

My father fell to the kitchen floor like a sack of potatoes, unconscious, without anyone there to help him.  He awoke in the morning with a lump on his head and a splitting headache.

Now, when my father repeats this story, he always says, “That blow still hurts, but more than the hammering with the cane, what hurt most was how he deceived me.”