Cover image for Outcast
Title:
Outcast
Author:
Latour, José, 1940-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : W. Morrow, [1999]

©1999
Physical Description:
295 pages ; 22 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780060184889
Format :
Book

Available:*

Library
Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Status
Central Library X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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Summary

Summary

Son of a Cuban mother and a U.S. laborer stationed on the island before the revolution, Elliot Steil is a down-and-out teacher in Havana. But hope resurfaces when Elliot is offered a "once-in-a-lifetime" chance to escape by a mysterious visitor who claims to be his late father's friend. When the stranger suddenly turns from savior to assassin, Elliot's odyssey to find his betrayer lures him into a web of corruption he thought he had left behind.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Elliot Steil sat on a backless bench in the shady public park, rested his left ankle over his right knee, slipped off a well--worn tasselled loafer, and began massaging his foot. A couple of minutes later, he gave the same treatment to his right foot, then finally placed both heels on the cement walkway and wiggled his toes as he held the marble slab on which he sat. Trying day , Steil reflected. His coffee and sugar supplies had simultaneously given out two days before, and breakfast had consisted of forty grams of stale white bread washed down with a glass of cold water. A few minutes later, he had found his bike's rear tire punctured. He spent seventy--five minutes waiting for a bus, and at 10:02 a.m. punched his card at the Polytechnic Institute, where he taught English, two hours and two minutes late. Lunch was a meagre, poorly seasoned mixture of rice, insufficiently cooked red beans, and overripe tomatoes. The teacher had left the building at 5:00 p.m., pondering if he should walk home or waste more of his free time on the almost non--existent Havana bus system. The scheduled 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. blackout and pending household chores led him to cover the eight kilometres on foot. When riding the bus or his bicycle, Steil frequently forgot about the problematic metatarsal bones he had inherited from some unknown ancestor. His orthopaedic inserts for the regular shoes he bought at stores became ineffectual after a forty- or fifty--minute walk. Steil sighed and lifted his gaze from the walkway. Two approaching teenagers cut short their exchange of buzzwords to glance at him, then looked at each other, grinning broadly. The lanky, blond boy in dirty high--top sneakers and oversized shorts, carrying a basketball under his arm, pressed his nostrils closed with his fingers. "Whaddaya know? Shoulda brought my gas mask," quipped the taller, light--skinned black kid as they passed Steil. Both youngsters bent over in a series of hiccups and moans, meant to be laughter. Six or seven steps farther on, their merriment subsided, and they slapped each other's palms -- first at shoulder, then thigh level -- before returning to their conversation. Steil -didn't resent the comment; in fact, he smiled in amusement, certain that his feet were odourless. After twenty years of teaching high school, he had grown used to teenagers' ways. What troubled him was the poor Spanish the kids were speaking. How could they effectively learn a second language when they mis-pronounced and clipped their mother tongue? Every school year the number of students who spoke proper Spanish dwindled; the ones who did were almost exclusively girls. Boys with above--average writing and communication skills swept everything under the rug to avoid being ridiculed unmercifully by their male peers. The blond boy dribbled the ball proficiently with his left hand, talking to his companion as they sauntered away. Steil put his loafers back on and resumed his long walk. One hour later, just after rounding the corner of his block, Steil was spotted and surrounded by kids babbling excitedly about a gleaming new car and a tourist. Knowing that pain and exhaustion made him lose his temper, he patiently tried to extricate himself from the gang. But the children kept blocking his way, jumping and yelling that the americano had given them chewing gum. Steil stopped dead in his tracks and glared at the children angrily, imposing silence. "Okay, Lemar. What's the matter?" "An americano is looking for you. He came in that car," the boy said, pointing straight ahead. "He gave us chewing gum." For a moment, Steil was too surprised to react and kept his gaze fixed on the nine--year--old undisputed group leader. "Fine, thanks a lot. Now get Excerpted from Outcast by Jose Latour All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Elliot Steil sat on a backless bench in the shady public park, rested his left ankle over his right knee, slipped off a well-¡worn tasselled loafer, and began massaging his foot. A couple of minutes later, he gave the same treatment to his right foot, then finally placed both heels on the cement walkway and wiggled his toes as he held the marble slab on which he sat. Trying day, Steil reflected. His coffee and sugar supplies had simultaneously given out two days before, and breakfast had consisted of forty grams of stale white bread washed down with a glass of cold water. A few minutes later, he had found his bike's rear tire punctured. He spent seventy-¡five minutes waiting for a bus, and at 10:02 a.m. punched his card at the Polytechnic Institute, where he taught English, two hours and two minutes late.
Lunch was a meagre, poorly seasoned mixture of rice, insufficiently cooked red beans, and overripe tomatoes. The teacher had left the building at 5:00 p.m., pondering if he should walk home or waste more of his free time on the almost non-¡existent Havana bus system. The scheduled 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. blackout and pending household chores led him to cover the eight kilometres on foot.
When riding the bus or his bicycle, Steil frequently forgot about the problematic metatarsal bones he had inherited from some unknown ancestor. His orthopaedic inserts for the regular shoes he bought at stores became ineffectual after a forty- or fifty-¡minute walk.
Steil sighed and lifted his gaze from the walkway. Two approaching teenagers cut short their exchange of buzzwords to glance at him, then looked at each other, grinning broadly. The lanky, blond boy in dirty high-¡top sneakers and oversized shorts, carrying a basketball under his arm, pressed his nostrils closed with his fingers.
"Whaddaya know? Shoulda brought my gas mask," quipped the taller, light-¡skinned black kid as they passed Steil.
Both youngsters bent over in a series of hiccups and moans, meant to be laughter. Six or seven steps farther on, their merriment subsided, and they slapped each other's palms - first at shoulder, then thigh level - before returning to their conversation.
Steil ¡didn't resent the comment; in fact, he smiled in amusement, certain that his feet were odourless. After twenty years of teaching high school, he had grown used to teenagers' ways. What troubled him was the poor Spanish the kids were speaking. How could they effectively learn a second language when they mis¡pronounced and clipped their mother tongue? Every school year the number of students who spoke proper Spanish dwindled; the ones who did were almost exclusively girls. Boys with above-¡average writing and communication skills swept everything under the rug to avoid being ridiculed unmercifully by their male peers.
The blond boy dribbled the ball proficiently with his left hand, talking to his companion as they sauntered away. Steil put his loafers back on and resumed his long walk.
1 hour later, just after rounding the corner of his block, Steil was spotted and surrounded by kids babbling excitedly about a gleaming new car and a tourist. Knowing that pain and exhaustion made him lose his temper, he patiently tried to extricate himself from the gang. But the children kept blocking his way, jumping and yelling that the americano had given them chewing gum. Steil stopped dead in his tracks and glared at the children angrily, imposing silence.
"Okay, Lemar. What's the matter?" "An americano is looking for you. He came in that car," the boy said, pointing straight ahead. "He gave us chewing gum." For a moment, Steil was too surprised to react and kept his gaze fixed on the nine-¡year-¡old undisputed group leader. "Fine, thanks a lot. Now get back to whatever you were doing." Steil peered at the pearl-¡grey Toyota Corolla parked at the curb, right in front of his apartment building. It had tourist plates, and behind the steering wheel sat a dim figure. Exhausted, the teacher approached the driver, placing his hand on top of the car and stooping over. A man in his late sixties looked up, his bushy eyebrows rising for an instant and his lips parting in surprise.
"Looking for someone?" Steil asked.
"Thank God," the driver said. "Nobody seems to understand English around here, except for 'gimme.' Yes, I'm looking for Elliot Steil." "That's me." The stranger's blue eyes glinted with excitement. He tilted his head and smiled fleetingly before getting out of the car and extending his hand. The door clicked shut on its own.
"Dan Gastler," he said. "Glad to make your acquaintance." "Pleased to meet you. Er... is there anything I can do for you?" "The other way around." "Pardon?" "I've been retained to do something for you. Can we talk in private?" His accent sounded familiar to Steil. Georgia, maybe? "Oh... sure, sure. This way, please. Just a minute. Roll up the window and lock the car." Steil's apartment building had been erected in 1924, and the old red bricks showed where plaster had fallen away. The small Otis elevator was out of order, so the two men took the neglected stairway to the third floor. Steil led the way through the right side of a U-¡shaped hallway and past three doors before inserting a key into the lock of apartment 314.
The teacher hastily retrieved a soiled shirt draped over an ancient green armchair, picked up a kerosene lamp with a blackened glass chimney that stood on a coffee table, and kicked a slipper under the matching armchair. After switching on a sixty-¡watt bulb, he deposited the lantern on the kitchenette's drain board and threw the garment into a dark bedroom where disorder reigned. Steil closed the main door, opened a window overlooking the street, and motioned Gastler to a couch.
"Please, sit down, Mr. Gastler."

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