Two seamen carried Lord Nelson down through the smoke to the cockpit with infinite care, Captain Hardy following close behind. The buckle of Hardy’s shoe clattered against the deck as he walked, severed by a splinter blasted from the taffrail by the Redoutable’s broadside.
In the muffled din of the cockpit, Nelson offered a thin smile. “They have done for me at last, Hardy. I am shot through the backbone. I am dead.”
“Please to be quiet, my lord,” said Doctor Beatty, shearing away the broadcloth of Nelson’s full dress jacket. “Nothing is certain,” he added, though his voice said otherwise.
“I fear now I must leave Lady Hamilton,” said Nelson a few minutes later. “I am a dead man.”
Lieutenant Burke knocked at the door. “Beg pardon, my lord. I came to tell you victory is ours. The enemy is decisively defeated.”
“Pray let dear Lady Hamilton have my hair,” whispered the admiral.
The Battle of Trafalgar was fought west of Cape Trafalgar, Spain, between Cádiz and the Strait of Gibraltar. The outnumbered British fleet, under command of Admiral Horatio Nelson, soundly defeated a combined force of French and Spanish ships. This victory established British naval supremacy for more than a century.
The downside was that the British lost their greatest naval hero when Nelson was shot through the shoulder by a sniper as he walked the quarterdeck with his friend Captain Thomas Hardy.
The eyewitness account of the Victory’s surgeon provided the events from which this story is taken:
The ball struck the epaulette on his left shoulder, and penetrated his chest. He fell with his face on the deck. Captain Hardy, who was on his right (the side furthest from the enemy) and advanced some steps before his lordship, on turning round, saw the Sergeant Major of Marines with two seamen raising him from the deck; where he had fallen on the same spot on which, a little before, his secretary had breathed his last, with whose blood his lordship’s clothes were much soiled. Captain Hardy expressed a hope that he was not severely wounded; to which the gallant Chief replied: ‘They have done for me at last, Hardy.’ – ‘I hope not,’ answered Captain Hardy. ‘Yes,’ replied his lordship; ‘my backbone is shot through.’
Nelson’s famous last words “Kiss me, Hardy” do not appear anywhere in this account.
Rosita picked up the smooth stick from outside the door and carefully pared the black mud from her feet before she stepped inside, the mended nets drying on the scaffold Ronaldo made for them before the sickness had left him an invalid.
She set the bucket of cleaned shrimps on the stone hearth, then poked the remains of the fire in search of a live coal. She was lucky and found one right away; in the rainy season, she often had to resort to their worn flint and steel.
“What have you brought us, my White Rose?” said her grandfather, leaning on his cane.
“Shrimps,” she said. She did not say the rest.
No fish meant nothing to trade for beans and salt and flour. No fish meant that once again they would eat shrimp gleaned from the tidepools.
“In Havana,” said her grandfather for the hundredth time, “Camarones are considered a luxury. We are lucky tonight!”
Ah, Cuba. I steeped myself in research a few years ago while writing my (still unpublished) novel Miramar, which takes place in Cuba during the 1957-58 revolution in which Fidel Castro, Frank Pais, Camilo Cienfuegos, Huber Matos, and many others overthrew the dictator Fulgencio Batista’s corrupt regime and threw out American corporations (including the gangsters Meyer Lansky and Santo Traficante). Like every other Cuban revolution, it was only partially successful. As always, the poor suffered the most. They still do.
The Cuban revolutionary poet José Martí said: “We light the oven so that everyone can bake bread in it.”
Martí penned the most famous poem of the 1895 revolution, I Have a White Rose to Tend. This brilliant work was adopted by Castro’s M-26-7 as their own.
Cultivo una rosa blanca, En julio como en enero, Para el amigo sincero Que me da su mano franca. Y para el cruel que me arranca El corazón con que vivo, Cardo ni oruga cultivo: Cultivo la rosa blanca.
Note: In the 1980s, El Salvador’s bloody civil war pitted leftist revolutionaries against the alliance of countries, oligarchs, and generals that had ruled the country for decades—with U.S. support—keeping peasants illiterate and impoverished.
More than 75,000 Salvadorans were killed in the fighting, most of them victims of the military and its death squads. Peasants were shot en masse, often while trying to flee. Student and union leaders had their thumbs tied behind their backs before being shot in the head, their bodies left on roadsides as a warning to others.
A character in this vignette is based on a real person, Roberto D’Aubuisson, the infamous leader of the death squads who ordered the assassination of Archbishop Óscar Romero. The real D’Buisson died in 1992, but with monsters such as he, one can never be sure.
After two decades of relative non-interference, the United States quietly began funding and equipping elite paramilitary police units in El Salvador accused of extrajudicially murdering suspected gang members.
Since George W Bush’s term in office, successive US administrations have provided tens of millions of dollars in aid for Salvadoran military and police in support of the government’s “Mano Dura” (“Firm Hand”) security program.
Dick and Mike sit at the kitchen table playing two-handed rummy. Dick is drinking whiskey. Mike is drinking beer. He grunts every so often when he lays down his cards, but other than that they aren’t talking.
The phone rings, making all of us jump.
Margaret goes to the wall and picks up the receiver.
“Flahertys,” she says, exactly in the way we all had been taught to answer this phone. “Margaret speaking.”
I wonder if she does that at her own house.
“Yes,” she says, and hangs up. “That was the coroner. We need to go pick up dad.”