The Brooklyn Rail

APR 2019

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APR 2019 Issue

Good Shadow

Iris Garcia Cuevas' work captures the atmosphere of violence that marks one of Mexico's historical contexts. The author creates borderline characters (prostitutes, drug-dealers, serial killers) typical of noir fiction, but draws them through a radically new and transparent perspective. These stories are part of Ojos Que No Ven, Corazon Desierto, published by Editorial Tierra Adentro.


There is nothing more ill-fated than foreseeing the future but not knowing how to avoid it. Every throw of the cards announced the ruin that awaited us.

The Stricken Tower beside the Chariot anticipated the catastrophe at the end of this trip. I let him know. I begged him:

"Please, don't go back to Acapulco."

He thought I wanted to keep him in Tijuana because I was jealous of his wife. He made me come with him, as if being there could prevent him from fucking her or fucking any other woman he wanted.

"It's not that, I swear," I tried to explain, but he wouldn't listen.

He stuck me into the car by force.

We traveled in silence. Him, staring ahead and stepping on the gas. If the car overturned, our ending wouldn't be as terrible. But that is not yet written.

I pull out the deck and arrange the tarots to kill time.

"So what's happening, according to you?" he asks with irony.

I set aside two arcana. The Empress is followed by the Hermit.

"Your wife's lover…" the rest of the prediction does not escape the enclosure of my lips.

He hits the breaks. The cards trickle from my hands like suicidal virgins. He grabs me by my hair and brings my face close to his.

"Cut it out with that bullshit," he spits

He thinks no woman can fool him.

There are no coincidences. I gather the cards that fell to my feet. I interrogate them.

The Emperor, The Sun, and Death anticipate an accumulated hatred that will not cease until the blood does not dilute. The Hermit prepares the ambush crouching in the shadows, he envies his power, he wants to murder him to take his place. The Empress will hide the traitor under her skirt. It is her who has plotted vengeance, stoking the resentment with a pain brought about over something that was precious and then lost by her husband.

I can't remember the daughter's name, but I remember the tale: her father offered her to one of the drug kingpins so he could get a free pass and protection at the border for his brothels.

"She's beautiful and still a virgin," he said, or so they said that he said.

Then, the photograph of her body in all the newspapers: she was naked, lying on the thicket at the end of the ravine as though she was lying in the beach. She wasn't even fifteen years of age.

She didn't like the idea of offering her body to facilitate her father's deals. It is said she scratched the protector's face, and he ended up killing her. But a deal is a deal, and in exchange for the daughter's life, her father could establish himself in Tijuana with the wind on his tail. If I was the mother, I would hate him too, but that is not the case.

The Priestess: I will share her luck, but I can't do or say anything. I know he won't believe me, no one has ever believed me. It's a curse. Foreseeing the future didn't help me prevent the deaths of my loved ones either.

My brother loved a prostitute, he made her leave the brothel and took her to my parents' home. I told him:

"Our family will encounter death because of her."

He wouldn't listen. My father found her pleasant.

"You shouldn't judge her," he told me.

"I don't judge her, I'm only letting you know she will bring about misfortune."

No one listened. I watch them get killed. I remember them lining my family up. They shot them one by one with my brother watching. When my turn was up I heard the authoritarian voice of the one who would become my man:

"Not her, I like her for myself."

I was twelve years old and I didn't want to die. He became my savior, my angel.

The tollbooth to Chilpancingo. We will be arriving in less than two hours. The phrase to our fate weighs heavy.

The tarot cards are still beneath my feet. I want to know what will happen.

The Lovers: the couple will fulfill its purpose. But the card is upside down, so the taste of triumph will not satisfy their palates for long. But that doesn't matter anymore; if they fulfill their purpose, when it actually happens, we will already be buried.

The Moon, The Stars and The Hanged Man: conflicted emotions will make the blood spill out. The daughter will seek revenge. Not out of love for her father. She has earned the right to command and she will want to take it back. She will secretly plot the way to get rid of the usurper. She will put pressure on her brother so it is he who executes the punishment and she can remain undamaged.

The Devil, The Magician and the Wheel of Fortune: an irresistible force will defeat the vacillations of the avenging arm. The son will spill the mother's blood! Vengeance will be consumed.

Hypotheticals are inexistent, destiny fulfills itself in time and form. We aren't but the instrument of the forces of what becomes. Not even choices can come in the way, but I can't stop thinking that none of this would be happening if we had stayed in Tijuana.

I look at my own reflection in the car window and I think of the little time I have left with it. They say every life bears the trace of the previous one, unless we learn to resolve one by one the problems we have created; this is the only way they can stop repeating themselves. We must make the right decision in every given circumstance.

I don't think about death. Rather, in what becomes of my next life. Will I be condemned to be murdered with every reincarnation? It doesn't matter anymore. If I get to choose, I will ask to never know the future again.

He looks at me out of the corner of his eye, it doesn't take a clairvoyant to realize my discomfiture.

"Pick up those damned cards already," he yells.

The ones I have in hand I tuck into my purse so they don't mix with the rest. I pick up the others. The Madman, The World, Justice, Temperance, Strength, The Pope, and Judgement. Seven cards. The following chapter in this story will be released in the realm of the spirit.

The son will suffer the consequences. The remorse for killing his father will be stronger than his sister's words to convince him he did the right thing. He will try to flee because he'll think all fingers are pointed at him, that he is being judged, but the severest judgment is the one within himself. Poor soul. I imagine him badgered by remorse. How to forgive himself for spilling his mother's blood?

"But she killed your father," the sister will say.

"Wasn't it my father who caused the death of my first sister?"

He tries to break the silence. His voice interrupts my worried thoughts. He doesn't like yelling at me. I even think he loves me in his own way.

"You know I have a daughter?"

I don't answer, I can't stop imagining her conceiving the death of her own mother.

"She is more or less your age. She manages the brothels in Acapulco. She knows how to do things well."

"I don't doubt that."

He stops the car, the gate to the house opens up. We drive in and get out of the car. A young lady—her daughter probably—and an older yet beautiful woman who I take as his wife welcome us. They both know as much about me as I do about them, but in this business these petty things don't matter. What matters is that I'm the woman in charge of the brothels in Tijuana and there is business to be settled.

The daughter shoots me a watchful look before diving into her father's arms. The woman impales a cold look in which I can see she has already decided my fortune. I ask the universe for a sign. What can I embrace to alter the course of the stars? I press my purse instinctively against my body. I feel the bulge of the revolver through the suede. Maybe there is one way to change destiny.


Iris Garcia Cuevas

Iris Garcia Cuevas was born in Acapulco in 1977. She is a novelist, playwright and journalist. In 2008 she won the National Novel Prize Ignacio Manuel Altamirano and the Short Story Prize Maria Luisa Ocampo.

Diego Gerard

Diego Gerard is a writer, editor and translator based in Mexico City. He is the co-founding editor of diSONARE.


The Brooklyn Rail

APR 2019

All Issues