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TALES FROM THE CARIBBEAN

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The delay at Key West went from bad to worse when the Captain discovered a deep crack in his aluminum mast. Most of the lesser stress cracks were near the masthead, or the mast step, but the worst one was at the top spreader.

"This will not do," complained the Captain, "Especially with the weather turning ugly."

"Golly Pop, how come we didn't see that crack when we dry docked at the New River Marina?" asked Dave.

"I saw it," insisted the Captain, "It was only about an inch long then and it wasn't this deep, but now it's deeper and it runs almost to the masthead. We could have it welded but then it would break on either side of the weld. This mast is fifty years old and that sudden blast of wind that hit us back in the "Straights" must have severely torqued it. We had better order a new one and it might as well be fabricated from carbon fiber—the less weight above deck will be a big improvement in the Flying Circus' performance. We'll send this one to Miami and after they fabricate the new one they can sell it for scrap."

"The whole process will probably take a month and cost us 8 or 9 thousand dollars. With a low-pressure cell forming between here and Havana it isn't safe to leave port anyway so we can rent an air-conditioned place to stay, or perhaps see if Big Jesse can rescue us." Dave was already on his cell phone to Jesse.

"Jesse, Dad wants to know what your schedule looks like next week?" We're stuck in Key West waiting on a new mast, and it will probably take at least a month, but we can still get to the Grand Cayman Islands, if your company's plane is available."

"Right now," explained Jesse, "I'm meeting with a new accountant, but I'll call you back after the meeting."

Jesse forgot to flip the switch on his desktop and disconnect the phone so Dave overheard him telling his accountant about his family's history. It was a story Dave had never heard so, he continued to listen even though, he knew it wasn't proper.

"Well sir," exclaimed Big Jesse, "Originally my family lived in France. They loaned the King money for a war against England, but when it was over he wouldn't pay us back. The financial scandal that followed insinuated the King was no longer solvent and was bankrupt, so, he granted us the land in Pike County, KY, of course, that was before the Louisiana Purchase.

In a secret agreement in 1800, Spain ceded Louisiana to France causing suspicion and fear in the United States because Napoleonic France was an aggressive military power with a Navy and America's western settlers depended on the Mississippi River for commerce.

Late in 1802 the right of deposit in New Orleans, granted to Americans by Spain by the Pinckney treaty of 1795 was withdrawn. Although Spain soon restored the right of deposit, the acquisition of New Orleans became of paramount importance. On April 11, 1803, the French Foreign Minister, Maurice Talleyrand opened negotiations for the Louisiana Purchase and surprised Robert Livingston, America's Minister to France, by asking him what the United States was willing to pay for all of Louisiana?

Bargaining began in earnest the next day when James Monroe arrived in Paris. On April 29th the U.S. envoys agreed to pay a total of 15 million dollars to France for what was later known as the Louisiana Purchase.

Jefferson's scruples about the constitutionality of the purchase were overcome partly because of his fear that Napoleon might change mind (as intimated in reports from Livingston) and by the overwhelming public approval of the Purchase. The U.S. senate ratified the purchase on December 20th and the U.S. Flag was raised over New Orleans on 20th of December 1803. That 15 million dollar purchase encompassed all of the land that extended from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains and from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada and it doubled the size of America.

The new accountant let out a labiodentals (uttered with the participation of lips and teeth) fricative (a consonant characterized by frictional passage of the expired breath through a narrowing of the vocal tract).

"Of course," added Jesse, "some members of my family remained in France, but they later fled to Germany to avoid Napoleon's wrath after they continued to call the King a deadbeat."

"Yes, indeed," exclaimed Jesse, "my family has known its share of hardship and suffering. My grandfather on my mother's side died in a concentration camp at Auschwitz during World War Two."

"In the gas chamber?" inquired the accountant.

"No," admitted Jesse. "He fell out of a guard tower."

Dave quietly disconnected the call, so Jesse wouldn't hear him laughing, but to think Jesse's grandfather was a Nazi, tickled his funny bone.

The Captain was on his cell phone talking to a mast fabricator in Miami and they assured him they would take care of everything including shipping, but they couldn't get started until the old mast arrived at their shop. The Captain called the Teamster Union's business agent next and promised him an undisclosed amount of cash for the Teamster's widows and orphans fund if he expedited the trucking of his sixty-foot mast from Key West to Miami. The Captain winked at Dave as he invited the business agent to Key West for a night on the town.
The Captain's cell phone rang and it was Big Jesse.

"Captain, I hear tell you got a problem down there," chided Jesse.

"We do indeed," said the Captain, "The mast on the Circus is cracked and it'll take us about a month before we can get a new one and get underway again. Is there any possibility that your pilot could pick us up next week and fly us to Grand Cayman Island?"

"Well, sir," said Jesse, "I could spare the plane next week, but I'll need it on Monday to attend a hearing in Washington D.C. I still need cigars before I go to Washington so, I'll have my pilot plan a trip from Key West to Mexico City and then to Havana and then to the Grand Cayman Islands. But you'll have to return to Mexico City before you fly back to Key West in order to keep the government off our back. Leave a suitcase of cigars on the plane for the politicians and I'll have my accountant charge the expenses to the "Clean Coal Environmental Company." After the mast business was taken care of Dave's Dad showed him around Key West and they took a trip down Memory Lane.They stopped at the Full Moon Saloon for a cold beer with the locals and the captain explained more of Key West's intriguing history. He told Dave about Mel Fisher finding the Spanish treasure ships and how his son lost his life while diving on the wrecks and how the Federal government seized his treasure and his museum.

The federal prosecutor brought in a dubious witness who testified the gold escudos in Mel's museum were counterfeited. The prosecutor attempted to cut a deal with Mel by offering him a guilty plea to a lesser charge if he testified against an old friend and fellow treasure hunter. Mel told the prosecutor to take a flying kiss at his hemorrhoids and after his lawyer called in a more reputable metals expert who testified the escudos in his museum were, in fact, not counterfeit. Mel Fisher beat them—he was allowed to keep the treasure and his museum and the prosecutor was left with a feather in his butt.

Dave's favorite author was Ernest Hemmingway and he too once lived in Key West. They bought a new Conch Republic flag for the Flying Circus before they headed for a residential section and rented a house from an old friend of his Dad's. After they rested and ate something prepared for them by a Cuban woman, they took a shower and waited for the Teamster's Boss to arrive. Being stuck in Key West was turning out to be a barrel of fun, but the thought of all that money not being in the bank remained heavy on Dave's mind.

After the business agent arrived their first stop was Sloppy Joes, but there was a long line waiting to get in so, the captain shoved a wad of cash in the bouncer's hand and he found them a table next to the Caribbean Band. The Captain ordered a round of drinks for the house. The bartender said it would cost him 1,000 dollars so he ordered two rounds for the house and counted out 20-100 dollar bills and gave them to the waitress. Dave had never seen this side of has Dad, but he had heard stories before--he braced himself for a wild night.

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John Stark
About This Author
The author of the "Tales from the Caribbean" fictional column. He attended school at Waynedale Elementary, Maplewood, Elmhurst HS in the Waynedale area. John had 25 years of professional writing experience when he passed away in 2012.
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