Excerpt from The Black Cathedral by Marcial Gala, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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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

"But we don't have any," Pork Chop said.

"But we don't have any what? Soap?"

"Meat, Gringo, meat."

"What about this? Grade A meat."

"Damn, Gringo, you're a genius."

"You ain't seen nothin' yet … Get moving, but calmly. I'll start preparing this veal."

He came all the way from Santiespíritu to end up like this, some guys really are a special kind of stupid, I thought, looking at the deceased, who had been left with an idiotic expression on his face that made me feel a smidgen of pity, but, "You gotta fuck life before it fucks you," my mother used to say, and this guy had come to fuck us, so he got what he had coming to him.

The first thing I did was remove his huge-ass gold chain, then I took out the wad of cash from his backpack and found the piece, one of those Makarovs that always jams. What a useless piece of shit you are, I thought. Who thinks of putting a gun in his backpack? Idiots must be a dime a dozen in Cabaiguán.

"Hey, man, do you know where you can buy a motorcycle, a really good one, an MZT or something like that, none of this Carpati or Benjovina shit?" the guy had asked me right at the door of La Mimbre. I was selling shades, but the minute I saw him, I thought this guajiro, this peasant, had cash.

"I might know," I told him. "Who can say, the only fortune-teller here is God."

"But it has to have the paperwork in order. I came from Cabaiguán because they had one set aside for me, and when I got here, they didn't have the title."

"This one has everything. It's just waiting for a guy like you to ride it … It's almost new."

"I like that. Is it an MZT?"

"No, a Harley-Davidson that my cousin the sailor brought from Panama."


"Just like I said."

"It's going to be really expensive."

"No, about the same as a Jawa, and it's got the kind of engine that, well, when you ride it into Cabaiguán, all of those guajiros are going to go nuts."

"Let's go see it."

"Do you have the money on you?"

The useless piece of shit said yes, then he saw something in my eyes, regretted it, and said he had hidden it at the house of a girlfriend just in case.

I said, "You're not a cop, are you?"

"Cop? Me? No way, I'm a normal guy."

"You can tell, but we're already talking too much. Let's go to my cousin's house so you can see the hog."

"Let's go." I took him to San Lázaro, and he was all, "Your cousin lives in a pretty bad place."

"The thing is, his wife threw him out and he had to come here, motorcycle and all, and he's scared about it getting stolen, that's why he's going to sell it, for peace of mind."

We got to Pork Chop's room:

"Cuz? Listen, tarugo, are you there?"

"What a surprise, Gringo, how's life going, my man?" Piggy said from inside with a grin ear to ear, thinking I had come to collect the money he owed me, but you could tell that he'd been drinking, he stank of rotgut and piss and the guajiro practically took off.

"I'll wait for you outside."

"These sailors really drink a lot." I smiled. "But have a seat, man, have a seat."

The guajiro sat down, and I asked Piggy, "Hey, tarugo, how's the bike?"

What bike? he was going to ask, but I winked at him.

"Oh, yeah, the bike. It's around. I lent it out."

"You lent it out? That's not the kind of thing you lend out. To who?"

"Mariana's guy."

"Oh, well, I don't have any problem with him … When's he bringing it back? Our friend here is interested in the hog."

"In a little while; he needed it to go to Varadero."

"On a machine like that you can go to Varadero in minutes, it runs faster than a Ferrari."

"Runs? It flies. Especially since I have it in tip-top shape, it doesn't need anything."

Copyright © 2012 by Marcial Gala

Translation copyright © 2020 by Anna Kushner

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