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The Black Cathedral

by Marcial Gala

The Black Cathedral by Marcial Gala X
The Black Cathedral by Marcial Gala
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2020, 224 pages
    Jan 2021, 224 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Elisabeth Cook
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Print Excerpt

"Swear it isn't true," she would say to me when she saw me come in.

"Of course it's not true," I would assure her. "I'm a man. It's art, what I do, I get dressed and make myself up as a woman as a form of art."

"It was Jelly who got that into your head, who hurt you, that son of a bitch. You were so macho, my son, very macho. You never liked pinga, I know you didn't."

"No, mamá," I'd say, and as I closed my eyes, it would be that April afternoon again, when my mother and I went to the Stuarts' house to bust Jelly's head.

"David King, present yourself," Stuart said.

So Cricket popped out his crazy-ass face.

"Not that one," I said. "It was the other one."

"What do you mean, the other one?" the father said. "Take a good look at him, boy, surely it was this one."

"No," I said. "It was the other one, the gentle one."

"Impossible. The other one is an irreproachable gentleman."

"Irreproachable, my ass," said my mother. "Call him out here before I come in and find him."

"Go in, David King," the man said, and then, "Listen, ma'am, why don't we straighten all this out inside the house. I'm sure that with God's favor, we can come to an agreement."

"No," my mother said. "Tell that worthless son of yours to come out already. If you don't, I'll be the one who goes in there and starts swinging."

"Excuse me, but you will not go into my house without my permission, and I assure you that your son must be mistaken. Samuel Prince is incapable of treating another of God's children like that … Come in the right way and let's settle this. At the end of the day, we're not animals, the spirit of God dwells within us all."

"Speak for yourself."

"Come in," the man insisted. "Please."


A guy who used money to settle things, like the white people in Punta Gorda—he had that defect, or that virtue, depending on how you look at it. He paid la Lupe five hundred pesos to keep her quiet, at least that's what she said, maybe she settled for fifty; la Lupe, tough act and all, she was always a pushover. You would've had to kill me—I'll smash the brains out of anyone who touches a child of mine. "The guy's a real moneybags," the whole neighborhood said, and people began to beat down his door; if someone stole a bicycle, they went to see him: Arturo, you dig these wheels? See how new this is, it's straight from the store. If a woman was trying to hustle, she would wait for Carmen to leave before going to see him: Listen, Arturo, I need a hundred pesos and don't have any way to pay you back … Look, here's my body. But he was all "Blessings, sister," he said the same thing to everyone, without getting into any business; and as for the whores, they soon stopped visiting him. It was around then that the bigger of the two boys decided to start singing; that's when we named him Cricket, because what came out of his mouth was pure honey, he coulda been in a reggaeton band, that voice of his was so good.


We let Cricket in from the beginning. He was kind of crazy, but at least he didn't seem like a fairy and he played soccer pretty good. But his thing was baseball. When we said to him, Hey, man, we don't play ball here, you've got to get outta the neighborhood for that, he was kind of sad, but then he forgot about it. I was sure he was kind of slow, like my brother Tere, who was at Tato Madruga, the school for retards, and I'd ask him things: "Hey, Cricket, how much is six times six?"

"Thirty-six," he would say, and I would tell myself, It can't be thirty-six, this idiot doesn't know, but when I asked other people, they also said it had been thirty-six for years and should still be, unless math had changed and the news hadn't reached the neighborhood yet.

Later, I'd ask him, "Hey, Cricket, what's the deal with America? Who discovered it?"

Copyright © 2012 by Marcial Gala

Translation copyright © 2020 by Anna Kushner

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