02 December 2009


I'm reading a novel by writer and movie director John Sayles, Los Gusanos. Sayles is one of my all-time favorite directors and screenwriters -- his talent for visual and written story-telling is nuanced and finely-crafted. He researches his subjects deeply, and creates genuine and credible characters. There is a common thread of social consciousness running through much of his work.

The novel focuses on the members of several generations of Cuban-Americans, living in or near Miami. They form a rich and colorful tapestry of humanity and culture.

One of the older characters, Serafin, participated in the CIA-planned Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in April 1961. Through a combination of agency ineptitude and political intrigue, Cuban security knew of the impending invasion. Cuban military forces soundly defeated the anti-Castro invaders, aided by the mysterious withdrawal of promised U.S. military support for the mission.

The following passage is a flashback memory of Serafin, one of the invasion brigade's survivors. It is not for the squeamish.

"....Serafin had thought about bullets and dying in training camp but he wasn't ready for the way the men came apart. They were men like him and when the bullets or the shrapnel hit they tore apart. They were men like him and they tore, hunks of cloth and meat and blood and gristle ripping off into the air, spilling out onto the ground. Men were hit in the face and their heads exploded, nose and teeth driven back through their skulls. When the firing lifted Serafin could feel the ground still shaking, but it was his body trembling uncontrollably. One of the men with a rifle was spitting blood as he had bitten part of his tongue off without knowing it during the fighting and there was nothing moving out on the road.

"Here were heaps of soldier left lying on the ground. Smoke. Nothing moved. Then the shadow of something crossed over Serafin and he looked up to see vultures, dozens of vultures floating overhead, wheeling lazily around the open ground, cautious at first, then flapping in to roost on what was left of a body, one by one, till the road was glistening black with them."

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