Original fiction by Cristina García
Illustrations by Roman Muradov
CNET Technically Literate presents
Cuba's King of Batteries
by Cristina García
Illustrations by Roman Muradov
“I can’t go,” Ernesto whined. “Mami will worry.”
When Joachim translated the remarks to his men, there were belly laughs all around but nobody lowered their guns. And so, Ernesto was taken prisoner. Later, he learned that the Germans had wanted to prevent him from reporting them to authorities and endangering the lives of other U-boat crews in the Caribbean. Why didn’t they kill him then? The answer was simple, Joachim explained, turning his palms upward like a priest. After losing three men at sea, they needed the extra help.
It wasn’t easy for Ernesto to adjust to living onboard. The noise was infernal, for one thing, and he turned green from seasickness, staggering around like a borracho. The submarine was seldom still—rocking, swaying, rolling, swinging, listing. Ernesto banged his head on pipes, fell off the aluminum ladders, slammed into hand-wheels, bulkheads, every manner of protrusion. The crew nicknamed him Blutergus for all his bruises. Claustrophobic, he felt as if he were trapped in the neck of a bottle.
The humidity inside the submarine—even for an islander like him—was intolerable. Moisture trickled along the steel hulls into the bilges. His clothes were clammy and never fully dried. Everything was slimy, wet, rotting, including the food. Ernesto managed to eat between the extremes of the U-boat’s lurching, gulping down moldy bread with rancid butter and jam, willing himself to ignore the taste, washing down the mess with strong coffee. Thank God, at least, for the coffee—and an occasional can of peaches or pears (Ernesto had tasted neither in Cuba).
Ernesto grew keenly interested in the fifty-ton storage batteries that kicked into gear whenever the vessel submerged.
After life on the U-boat, Cuba seemed surreal to him.
But this time, he promised himself, he wouldn’t hesitate. He would willingly go.
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About the Author
Cristina García is the author of six novels, including: Dreaming in Cuban, The Agüero Sisters, Monkey Hunting, A Handbook to Luck, The Lady Matador’s Hotel, and King of Cuba.
García has edited two anthologies, Cubanísimo: The Vintage Book of Contemporary Cuban Literature and Bordering Fires: The Vintage Book of Contemporary Mexican and Chicano/a Literature. Two works for young readers, The Dog Who Loved the Moon, and I Wanna Be Your Shoebox were published in 2008 and a young adult novel, Dreams of Significant Girls, in 2011. A collection of poetry, The Lesser Tragedy of Death, was published in 2010.
García’s work has been nominated for a National Book Award and translated into fourteen languages. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Writers’ Award, a Hodder Fellowship at Princeton University, and an NEA grant, among others. García has taught at universities nationwide. Recently, she completed her tenure as University Chair in Creative Writing at Texas State University-San Marcos and as Visiting Professor at the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas-Austin. She lives in the San Francisco Bay area.