Vignette:Of Silver Hair and Silver Jubilees

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Of Silver Hair and Silver Jubilees
Matanzas, Cerveran People's Directorate
9 November 1955

aul stood stiffly as the tailor measured him, moving his arms this way and that like a living mannequin and hmming to himself as he notated his booklet. Around him, a flurry of aides and planners moved like a colony of harried bees, checking and double checking lists and preparations.

"Comrade Director-General, the guest list for your review," the chief of staff, a man of about 45 by the name of Santos, said. Raul accepted it with his free hand, scanning over the list of party functionaries and bureaucrats absently before falling, with somewhat more interest, to the section of foreign dignitaries.

"It will be nice to see Wagner again; I'm told he doesn't travel much these days, what with his condition. Is he a confirmed yes?"

"Still touch-and-go after his most recent surgery, I'm told," the chief of staff replied. "Flying doesn't agree with him these days. Ritter and Klopp are confirmed though, and Ambassador Schafer of course."

"Ugh, Ritter," Raul replied. "If I have to hear that man prattle on about trains for another two hours I'll march right down to the PIDE building and denounce myself as a counterrevolutionary right now."

The remark drew a dry chuckle from the tailor and scattered others in the room, Santos among them. "That will hardly be necessary, Comrade," he replied. "I'll make sure we get someone else to entertain Herr Ritter for the evening's festivities."

On cue, the tailor finished up the last of his measurements and presented a sketch to the Director-General: a suit which rather resembled a cross between formality and a work uniform, with a row of buttons down the middle and four pockets, two on the breast and another two by the waist. The latest in proletarian formalwear, the man had declared it, and Raul had had to suppress a snort at the contradiction there. Still, he had to admit, it suited him far better than a tuxedo ever would. There were more appointments to be made, with speechwriters and masters of ceremony and so on and so forth, but a look from Raul to Santos said that he'd had enough for now and with an exchange of socialist pleasantries, the horde of planners departed, leaving only the Director-General and his right hand man. Overcome, Raul sighed.

"Something the matter, Comrade Director-General?" Santos inquired.

"You fought in the Revolution, didn't you Jairo? With my brother in the north, if memory serves."

"Yes, Comrade. I was with your brother Edwin at Colonia Nuevo Paraiso, when I was only 17. He was a good man, taken from us too soon. He turned this scared kid into a fighter, a revolutionary. I don't know where I would be if I hadn't gone over to his camp that day and heard him speak about the new future the Directivists were fighting for."

"Yes, the new future. Edwin was fond of that line. Tell me, Jairo, did you ever imagine in those dark days that it would come to this? Being fitted for suits and receiving foreign dignitaries at banquets while someone writes a speech for you full of economic statistics?"

"I beg your pardon, Comrade?"

"I wasn't made for this, Jairo. All the politics and high diplomacy and trappings of power. I was built for agitation and struggle, to write and inspire men to action and to lead them through hell and back. I knew how to win the war, but winning the peace...well, nobody ever tells you that peace is it's own battle, now do they?"

Jairo began to say something, something banal and congratulatory about Raul Garcia's twenty-five years of service to the People's Directorate. Exactly what he thought the man wanted to hear, surely. Raul couldn't fault him for that, but neither could he focus upon it. Twenty-five years. More, if you counted the years of struggle in the Junta, the spark that lit the fire of revolution in the young printer's heart. The revolutionary should never expect to grow old, yet here Raul now stood, with silver hair and a voice that coughed and rasped and joints that creaked, the paradox in the flesh. How many men had given their lives, their health, their youth, for this moment? What would they say, were they to see what their leader had become?

"There is nobody else, Comrade, that could have done so much for our Cervera in a generation as you have. We are forever in your debt."

If that is true, then the Revolution has failed, and my death cannot come soon enough, Raul thought. "You flatter me, Comrade, truly," he said instead. "Come, we have a meeting with the Supreme Council of State in twenty minutes. The work of the Revolution goes on."

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