Back To Havana’s Sewers

Ariel Glaria


HAVANA TIMES — I had decided not to write about Pancho again, but, on the night of Thursday, October 8, Pancho confirmed everything I’d been told.

On Tuesday, Tabaco, his oldest assistant, went to get him for a job. “He chose the sewer himself,” Pancho explained to me. “He’d already planned on it.” Tabaco did not want to let Cucaracha in on the action, but he neglected the fact he had long set his eyes on the stop and told his buddies about it a million times while prowling Havana’s drain pipes and sewers.

The drain was to one side of a bank in Old Havana. Cucaracha showed up with a crowbar. They quickly lifted the lid.

It was a quick job. After hoisting up the third bucket, the assistants began to make their way up. A slip-up by Pancho ended up spilling a bit of muck on Cucaracha’s head. Tabaco was behind him, trying to keep up. “It seemed to me he was hiding something,” Pancho said, barely opening is mouth (a habit he acquired after losing his teeth).

The water in the drinking bottle was barely enough for Cucaracha to wash his ears and face. Then, he spilled the beans. Tabaco had found an ingot and stashed it between his legs.

The first thing Tabaco saw when he stuck his head out of the drain were Pancho’s eyes. But he had the ingot in his hand. It was true. One could read him immediately, even when covered in a thick, black mud. Pancho put it in the cart. The heavy ingot sank into the collected excrement. They quickly covered it up and didn’t stop until reaching Centro Habana.

They arrived at the parking lot on San Jose St, where there’s a faucet and everyone knows Pancho. Cucaracha grabbed the ingot. A thin streak of water was all that was coming out of the faucet, but it was enough to wash away the hard crust covering the piece. A green surface began to be seen beneath the black crust. Then a gray surface revealed itself and continued to be grey when what turned out to be paving stone was completely clean.

Tabaco didn’t know whether to cry or run away. In silence, under the hot, 11 am sun, the three began to dig into the muck they’d collected. Pancho looked at me, fuming. “We didn’t find shit,” he said.

Angel read what I wrote in Havana Times about his uncle some months ago. When he read this post, he made the same remark he did back then: “I would have told this story better.”