Authors: Robert Arellano
PRAISE FOR ROBERT ARELLANO
Don Dimaio of La Plata
“Arellano has created a brilliant novel of political satire â¦ His over-the-top debauchery is both comical and charming â¦ and never lets the reader down. Recommended.”
“Fear and loathing with Don Quixote at your side! Herein another savage journey to the heart of the American dreamâbut with
âIlan Stavans, author of
Spanglish: The Making of a New American Language
“This book is like a good fistfight: You get punched and kicked but you still want more.”
âDaniel ChavarrÃa, author of
“A raucously funny satire of machine politics wrapped up in a parody of
â¦”Â Â Â Â Â
“Robert Arellano's new book is one of the bawdiest, dirtiest, rowdiest, and raunchiest novels I've come across in a long time. And it is hilarious. Hurling words like tainted pitchforks, he pursues his wanton prey as if on speed himself, snort by snort, sexual escapade by sexual escapade, as Don Dimaio lays waste to the city he's supposed to govern â¦ This boisterous cartoon of a book captures the obsessions and mad fantasies of men running amuck, Dimaio on power, Arellano on language â¦ Don Dimaio is an anti-hero for all ages â¦”Â Â Â Â Â
âProvidence Sunday Journal
“I hope that the author is not killed for writing this book. A municipal fornicator (pot) shines a waterfire light deep into the more-than-half-f actions of a civil servant (kettle). So between the writer and his protagonist, a new meaning of âblack' power arises.”
âWill Oldham of the Palace Brothers
Fast Eddie, King of the Bees
“The main story here is the author's style, which takes its cue from William S. Burroughs, Philip K. Dick, Charles Dickens, Jack Kerouac, and Tom Robbins. This may be the first postapocalyptic novel in which the apocalypse was created by a public works project â¦ [A] funny and surprising book.”
“Robert Arellano is that rare thing: an exceptional creative talent perfectly in tune with his own rapidly changing times.”
âRobert Coover, author of
“A rollicking, over-the-top, not to mention weird, odyssey â¦
is a Dickensian journey on speed, several years into this new century, where society is decayed, deregulated and Darwinianly desperate â¦ Deliriously funny â¦”
“A tight close-up, mile-a-minute monkey-cam filled with more wordplays and puns than an Eminem rap.”
âArthur Nersesian, author of
The Swing Voter of Staten Island
is an Oedipal story with a twist â¦ This is surrealist fiction, a bit Kafkaesque â¦”
parents fled Havana in 1960. He has been working on
since 1992 when, as a student in Brown University's graduate writing program, he visited Cuba on a research fellowship. He has returned ten times, chronicling the Revolution in journalism, essay, and song. He is the author of two other highly acclaimed novels,
Fast Eddie: King of the Bees
Don Dimaio of La Plata
, both published by Akashic Books.
This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to real events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
The author is grateful for permissions from the
who published early versions of excerpts from this novel.
Published by Akashic Books
Â©2009 Robert Arellano
Library of Congress Control Number: 2008925931
All rights reserved
PO Box 1456
New York, NY 10009
For Tom & Jane Lee Carr
t's Friday, and when I get back to the attic I see that Julia hasn't returned. I sit on the sofa, light a cigarette, and turn on the radio, tuning out the noise of the neighbors with the hollow metronome of Radio Reloj. “
Did you know that good nutrition can be obtained from greens you can grow in your own solarium â¦ ?”
I don't want to be up in the hot attic with the tedious banter and the beginning of a migraine, so I go downstairs and let myself into the clinic to lie on a cot. When my grandmother MamamÃ¡ died, the Reforma Urbana “reallocated” the lower floors of my father's house: the first to a family from the provinces and the second to Beatrice, the block captain for the ComitÃ© de Defensa de la RevoluciÃ³n, whose eye, as the CDR symbol suggests, is always open. I had to set up a community polyclinic in the basement just to dig my heels in and hang onto the attic. Three weekends a month, legitimate cases of arthritis and herpes vie for attention with the usual complaints of mysterious pains and aches from patients who believe the only remedy is a shot of painkillers. It makes them feel a little better when they hold a doctor's attention. I listen, letting them speak for the adrenal rush it gives them, and then I explain for the thousandth time that it is the Special Period: There is no more morphine, not even aspirin.
Alone in the empty clinic at dusk, I am resting in one of the curtained compartments when a thunderstorm breaks the heat. The shower passes quickly, briefly taking my migraine away and leaving the street outside quiet, clean, and fragrant of motor oil and rotting leaves.
I am listening to the dripping trees when I hear the crack of glass. A gentle pressure like a cold hand causes the hairs on my neck to stand, and I experience a surge of obscure fright. I part the curtain to peer at the front door of the clinic, where a gloved hand reaches through a broken windowpane and releases the lock.
It's common knowledge the neighborhood doctors don't have any more drugs, but a heavyset man in a dark overcoat is breaking into my clinic. He makes straight for the metal file cabinet, and I lie still, watching around the edge of the curtain. The man flips through the charts for a few minutes and leaves the clinic without taking anything, closing the door behind him. I go out through the alley and come around the front of the building to see him walking away up Calle 23. I follow him at a distance through the rain-slicked streets.
There is a hush over Havana. The moon, almost full, is rising above the bay. It is high summer, when the palms drop curled fronds that pile up on side-walks like brittle cigars. Sidestepping them, I keep the overcoat in sight. I follow the man up Infanta all the way to La Habana Vieja and down one of El Barrio Chino's narrow, nameless alleys. He disappears through an unnumbered entrance. No light leaks from the door glass, painted black.
I slip inside the corridor and push apart the dark drapes onto a small drinking establishment. A black bartender pours beer from a tap. Sitting at the bar with his back to me, the man in the overcoat says, “Give Doctor Rodriguez one on me.” Surprised, I step out of the shadows. The man who broke into my clinic casts a glance over his shoulder to confirm my identity, looking blandly at the contusion beneath my right eye, a port-wine stain the size of a twenty-peso coin. His deep lines, pale complexion, silver hair, and mustache mark him as an autocrat of the Fidelista generation. The gray eyes and dark brow could almost be called handsome if his expression were not so stern and inscrutable. “Please have a seat, doctor. My name is Perez.”
There is nobody else at the bar, but I keep an empty stool between us. “That's very humble of you, colonel. Anyone who reads
knows who you are.”
“What will it be?” the bartender asks.
“Do you have wine?”
“I've just uncorked a very good five-year-old Chilean Cabernet.” The bartender shows me the ornate label. “Or if you prefer I'm chilling an excellent Pinot Grigio de Venezia.”
“The Cabernet will be fine, thanks.”
The bartender places a glass before me and pours a generous serving. I take a taste, but the pounding of my heart and a sour flavor in my mouth keep me from enjoying it. “Tell me, Colonel Perez, what interest could the chief homicide investigator of the PNR possibly have in a pediatrician with the national medical service?”
He sips the fresh-poured beer. “I'm looking for a teenage girl wanted in connection with the murder of a chulo named Alejandro MartÃnez.”
“The young woman in question spent a week at your apartment, and the victim came over and threatened both of you a few days before his body got tangled up in some fisherman's nets at the mouth of Havana Harbor.”
“Could it have been accidental, a drowning?”
“There were signs of struggle: lesions on his arms and chest. Of course, the exact cause of death has been difficult to determine as we still haven't found his head.”
“He was not especially popular among the girls.” Detective Perez takes off his gloves. His fingers are exquisitely manicured. Only once before, when I was starting medical school, have I seen such hands on a man. They belonged to the cadaver inside which I saw my first organs.
“Severing the cervical vertebrae requires both the right instrument and great force,” I say, “not to mention a strong stomach and a lot of nerve. A girl couldn't have done that.”
“Young ladies come from all over the island to work in Havana, doctor. Some will spend a few months, others a year or two, do a few dirty things, and usually they will go back to their villages and shack up with campesinos, have kids, lead normal lives. But there is another type. Surely you know the constitution: the solipsist. No matter what she gets in this life, she believes she deserves more.” Perez swallows the last of his beer and rises to go. “If you see the girl again, I'd like you to contact me. Come back and talk to Samson, the bartender.”
“You choose unusual locations to conduct your inquiries, colonel.”
“Stay reachable for a few days, doctor. Don't leave Havana.” Perez parts the drapes and is gone. I wait a minute before leaving, neglecting to finish my glass of wine. Samson does not look up.
I return home to Vedado and pull Aurora's old rocking chair close to the French doors, parting the curtains onto the corner of 12 y 23: the bored soldiers, the old Chevys, the people going by and, across the street, a black Toyota with dark windows, a curl of smoke emerging from the passenger side. Taking the service stairs down, I back the Lada out of the garage and leave it parked in the alley. When I check on the basement clinic, the broken window-pane has already been replaced.