Uncle Cleveland liked the long, black cigars. Hand-rolled. He could care less if it actually came from Havana. I have several memories of my dear Uncle hanging from a miniature replica of his Mohammed Bridge in the greenhouse, cigar crunched between his simian teeth, while he growled, "I can get just as good a cigar from some pretty bitch in Ybor City than I can from Fidel's purgatory."
He inhaled then exhaled the heavy smoke from his flat, forward nostrils. I saw the beginnings of tar buildup in his ever-present mucus.
"Boy, pour me another glass of Sanity and Reason."
I left my respectful distance, crouching and brushing through ferns and flowers so dense with color, they painted my face with lush residue. Approaching Uncle Cleveland, the stench of refuse, human shit, animal sweat, cigar smoke and alcohol enveloped me. I did not gag because I loved and respected my Uncle.
A liter bottle of Banana Likker stood on a glass table beneath the replica, shadowed by my Uncle's swaying burden. The neck of the bottle towered over a carefully manicured banzai tree in the center of the table. I unscrewed the cap of the Likker and raised it to him.
Uncle Cleveland hung from one of the main girders of the miniature bridge by his left hand. The muscles and tendons in his arm throbbed. As usual, he wore rust-covered overalls and an old Yankees cap. "Never the Giants," he had once said. "They play a devolutionary game." I stepped a little to the right to better reach his left arm, dodging the huge drums of shit and garbage he clasped in each foot. The bottom of the plastic drums brushed vegetation sprouting from the greenhouse floor. His breathing was tight with exertion, but controlled.
Grinning at me, Uncle Cleveland lowered his pint glass and I filled it with the Banana Likker. "Always the left hand to hold the Sanity and Reason, cause it's the same hand I use to wipe my arse." Glass full, he lifted and emptied it in a few seconds, subsequently placing the glass above him on the bridge replica. He glanced down at me for a moment, at my smooth face so different from his rough and pocked and hairy. His brown eyes moistened, but not from the Likker.
In a fury, he shook and jolted below his replica, testing its strength. I heard a whimper from the construction after his tantrum, but didn't say anything.
He spat out his cigar.
"This bridge won't break," Uncle Cleveland sobbed. "No one's too heavy for it. No one."