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  • War broke out the day the cruise ship entered the Caribbean Sea. The Americans aboard clustered together poolside, at the buffet tables and in bars strategically located throughout the vessel to follow the action. There was a news blackout in the casino, which never knew darkness. Impromptu chants of "U-S-A! U-S-A!" broke out in the dining hall, in early and late seatings alike. There was widespread confidence voiced that the whole thing would be wrapped up within a week.

    The ship docked in Mexico. The Americans issued down the gangplank a little nervously, as though unsure if they would be met with a cheery "Buenas dias!" by their hosts or a hail of stones. Some fingered dollar bills like amulets. They needn't have bothered. Their Cozumelian cousins were only too happy to accommodate the newcomers. "This way to the jeep safari!" "Shopping tour line up here!" "See the ruins!"

    At dinner that evening they recounted their adventures ashore. The consensus was that Mexicans were all right. Shop girls and taxi drivers expressed certainty that the Americans would win any day now. Oh, what the hell: "U-S-A! U-S-A!"

    The people of Nassau and Grand Cayman Island were similarly impressed by America's military might. Some offered special discounts because "U.S. good people, mon, fight for freedom." The tourists came back aboard with their arms stuffed with bargains. The natives were crafty, but no match for the God-favored sons and daughters of Michigan, Nevada and New Jersey.

    Five days later. The war news was good. The ship pulled into port in Miami. The weary, sun-burned, well-fed passengers disembarked. A sizable knot of Americans gathered on the dock. One last time, boys, and let's show some real spirit: "U-S-A! U-S-A!" The ship's whistle blew, swallowing the cheer whole. One bald Ohioan peered darkly at the captain's bridge. "This is a Dutch ship," he said. "Let's all remember that."

    They made a show of marching in proud formation to the parking garage. No comments issued from the impassive faces of the ship's crew. Reinforcements were already starting to gather in the terminal, and on TV monitor after monitor, beaming, immaculate readers declared that victory was at hand.
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