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Sharp as a Knife: Read This Poignant Excerpt of Blood in the Cut

Much more horrifying things hide in the Everglades than alligators. 

blood in the cut book cover on florida everglades sunset background
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  • Photo Credit: Brice Copper / Unsplash

The streets and swamps of Miami are hardly a safe place to be, but when you've spent all your life there, it's harder to leave than to stay.

Iggy Guerra knows this, and that's what makes his return home from prison such a bittersweet event, with an emphasis on the bitter. His mother is gone, his father is drowning in debt, and they're on the verge of losing the butcher shop that has been in their family for generations. 

The butcher shop, La Carnicería Guerra, is going under due to some new rival business, manned by vigilante activist and big-game hunter, Orin. Not only is the business a threat, but Orin is a threat in himself; he's dragged Armando, Iggy's father, into his dangerous money-making operation deep in the Everglades, where more than just secrets are buried. 

Iggy wants to help, but in order to get his father out of this mess, his father would actually have to trust him; and he doesn't. Continually wrestling with the beauty and danger of the place he calls home, Iggy has to find a way to save his family; without losing himself forever. 

If Iggy's story hits a little too close to home, don't fret; we've got an excerpt of the story that should keep your curiosities satiated until Blood in the Cut's release on June 4th. 

Read this chilling excerpt from Blood in the Cut below—then purchase your own copy of the book to keep reading! 




Blood in the Cut: A Novel

By Alejandro Nodarse

The sun was a papercut on the horizon, light welling into the sliced sky like blood. Those early-morning beams of light scaling the horizon cast an incandescent glow on the roof and walls. It made Ignacio Guerra realize that he had never really looked at the house in which he was raised. He’d driven his 1969 Camaro ZL1 into the gated carport countless times. As a kid, he’d wrestled on the patchy lawn with his brother and cousins. As a teenager, he’d snuck in and out of his bedroom’s lone window (he’d snuck girls in too), and hopped the backyard fence to get to the next block.  

As Iggy stood sweating in the humid dawn, his worn duffel slung over his shoulder, he wondered how much his change in perspective had to do with him maturing and how much was the result of having spent the last three years in prison. Iggy hadcoldcocked a police informant who’d showed up at the dead end of that very block to set him up. Iggy had just handed him the oxy he’d been stealing from his mother’s pharmacy when the guy had given the signal and cops materialized to grab Iggy’s wrists and read him his Miranda rights. A sense of betrayal surged up his chest. He broke away from the officers’ grasp and delivered a textbook right hook to the informant’s temple. Those three seconds irrevocably changed things. 

But it wasn’t until this moment, at twenty-three years of age, that Iggy saw the house he grew up in for what it was: a cinderblock rectangle with iron bars over the windows and shingles the color of smeared shit. Only the pink hydrangeas and rosemary that Mami had planted out front offered the faintest pulse of color or life.  

Iggy doubted that the house midblock on Forty-Second Street was the place he’d call home. At least not anymore. He’d give himself the time it took to finish his cigarette before deciding whether to knock on the door or walk away. 

Iggy blew smoke in the direction of his father’s 2002 Chevy Tahoe, a hulking, forest-green gas-guzzler that was parked at an angle in the driveway. A succession of fading stickers for the Republican presidential ticket snaked along the back bumper, a spot open for whoever the 2016 candidates might be. On the patch of grass between the car and the street, the recycling bin overflowed with beer bottles. 

Iggy knew what all those dead soldiers meant and considered walking away right then. He flicked his cigarette onto the street and turned away from the house. A car was pulling into the dead end. Iggy held his breath and wondered if it was Sofie. Brake lights flashed when it reached the guardrail. It wasn’t her. The driver mistook the end of Forty-Second Street as a pass-through to 107th Avenue. Iggy closed his eyes at the memory of the dead end ablaze with blue and red lights. 

Seth Baker, the confidential informant who’d posed as Iggy’s friend for almost a year, didn’t flinch when the cops came out of the cars parked in the dead end. When Iggy coldcocked Seth, three more cops came out of the hedges and jumped on Iggy. They rode him to the ground while even more cops shouted orders from unmarked vans. Some cops pulled his arms behind his back while others pinned his face to the asphalt with the barrels of their guns. Seth eventually recovered, wiped his mouth, and stomped on Iggy’s head despite the fact that Iggy’s hands were cuffed behind his back. Gravel then stuck to his sweaty face as they emptied his pockets onto the street. He tasted blood. A huge bag of pills lay on the sidewalk beneath the shadow of the basketball hoop that crowned the dead end. 

Iggy shuddered. He focused on the soft hum of distant traffic, a murmur like a peaceful river. Grass crunched underfoot when Iggy cut across the lawn. The sun beat down on his back as his reflection grew in the wooden door’s polish. A muddled blur stood before him when he reached the door.  

He knocked and stepped away. The hinges swung outward because Armando Guerra insisted upon it when they first moved in. “No one’s kicking in my door at medianoche,” he’d said. When no one answered, Iggy tried peeking through the windows, but the blinds were drawn. 

The air smelled like petrichor. But it was more than that. Nestled in each inhale was fresh-cut grass and ozone, the sweetness of the hydrangeas and woodiness of the rosemary. Mami had planted them because they reminded her of her childhood, of how her grandfather would pluck one or the other, depending on which route brought him home, and tuck the blossom or sprig behind her ear. At least the house smelled like home.  

Iggy knocked harder. When no one came to the door, he got his copy of the house key from his duffel bag along with a lighter that Mami had given him on his eighteenth birthday. He was curious to see whether or not Armando had changed the lock. He slid the key in and turned it. 

“Yo! Carlos? Pops? I’m home,” he said into the small crack he’d opened. Cold air rushed past his face and the sweat on his neck tingled. “Mami,” he whispered, looking for a sign that it was okay to enter the house. A shiver ran across his shoulders as if he were unfurling frozen wings. 

Light from the kitchen spilled onto the tile floor and over a pile of bloated garbage bags. Heels poked through a bag of women’s shoes like thorns. Armando Guerra had to be home; he never got into a car that he wasn’t driving. 

“Pops,” Iggy called out. He stepped into the silence and closed the door behind him. Another pile of bags slumped against the coffee table, where an errant sleeve reached out from the smallest sack. It seemed to be pointing to a tumbled pile of magazines that cascaded into the skirt of a round table near the door. On that table, an army of picture frames assembled in tight rows saluted Iggy. Every family rite of passage—communions, graduations, birthdays, quinces, weddings, and baptisms—was memorialized there. A frame caught his eye. His cousins, Mauricio and Pedro, posed with their father, Lito, who died of a heart attack five years ago. Beside it was a yellowed photo of Abuelo Calixto standing between Armando and Lito when they first arrived in Miami from Cuba. 

little house in the florida everglades
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  • Photo Credit: Julius Hilderbrandt / Unsplash

Iggy studied his father’s face in the picture. He hadn’t seen the man in three years, but he’d caught glimpses of him every time he’d seen his own reflection. Armando hadn’t once visited Iggy or even come to the phone at any point when Iggy had called home. Not even in the early days. Over time, Armando had become more monster than man in the vague, obscure spaces created by absence and memory. 

Even now, as Iggy scanned other frames for his father’s face, Armando Guerra’s image did little besides throw shade. In every shot, he looked at the camera the same way: shoulders squared, mouth slightly parted, head tilted down, staring through thick eyebrows as if he might, at any moment, take off at a full sprint and tackle the photographer into the next life. There was never a smile on his face, only a look of restrained contempt. 

The framed faces felt distant, like ghosts from some other life haunting the present. Iggy studied a prom photo of himself and Sofie: he was stoic, his chin tipped up; she smiled brightly and rested her hand on his chest. Perhaps it was Iggy, having just rematerialized, who was actually haunting them now. The thought stung. The only eyes that didn’t judge were Mami’s. 

Iggy stepped out of his Jordans and placed the shoes neatly by the door. The house was much smaller than he remembered it. He felt the cold tile through his socks as he padded forward in silence. In the kitchen, stacked dishes rose and slid into each other like collapsed buildings. The toppled heap spilled out of the sink, where dirty Tupperware containers cluttered the counters. By the looks of it, the piles of photo albums, bras, books, and bags of underwear had been out long enough that Carlos and Armando had nudged boxes and bags here and there to carve out spaces to step. 

A fizz and tinkle from the back porch drew Iggy’s attention to the door across from him.  

He listened carefully to the clink of glass on tile. As Iggy opened the door, he closed his eyes for a moment to help them adjust to the outside brightness. 

Armando Guerra sat on the porch steps with his back to the door. He was framed by two brick columns made seemingly thinner by the width of his back. A six-pack of Presidentes sweated beside him in the sun, their green shadows glimmering on the tile. Armando Guerra did not move. 

“This is fitting,” Iggy said. “Here I am, calling for you, and you’re just sitting there with your back to me. You’re consistent, old man. I’ll give you that.” 

Armando straightened up but did not turn around. “¿Qué haces tú aquí, eh? What do you want?” 

Iggy stepped out into the humidity. It clung to his skin. “So that’s what you sound like,” Iggy said, taking another step. “I’d forgotten your voice. It’s good to see you too, Pops. No, really, don’t get up.” 

Armando sipped his beer and wiped the moisture from his mustache with the back of his hand. “Go away, Ignacio.” His hair was thick and dark gray, as if time had turned his head into a cinder block. 

“I’m surprised you recognized me,” Iggy said after a moment of silence. “I could’ve sworn I wasn’t worth a memory to you.” 

Armando grunted. “You get fat like your brother?” 

“Three years, Pops. You ain’t seen me in three years. Turn around. See for yourself. You can’t ignore me now.” Iggy straightened up, spreading his legs like a fighter. He cocked his head back and flexed every muscle in his body so that when Armando Guerra turned, he’d know exactly who he was dealing with. 

Armando snorted but remained motionless. Muscles still danced across the base of his neck and back, even as his shoulders sagged like a wet banana leaf that curled around the beer he held to his chest. 

Iggy pictured Mami draped around those shoulders, hugging Armando with a smile on her face. He’d seen her do it a thousand times. The last time that Iggy and Caridad had spoken, Iggy promised that his eventual encounter with Armando would be calm and peaceful—at least from my end, he’d said. Iggy wanted to live up to that, if only this once. He’d given Caridad his word that he’d be patient and try to patch things up with his father. Iggy had even rehearsed his apology with her. But now Mami wasn’t around to remind him of those words and Armando was inspiring a less penitent set of phrases. 

Iggy shook out his fists, sighed, and closed the gap between them. He knelt beside Armando, but the distance between them remained inhospitable. A no-man’s-land. 

Armando’s face was dusted with salt and pepper stubble. It didn’t make him look old, only cold. He stared out at the yard through narrow eyes, the same look Iggy had seen in Armando’s pictures. Iggy followed the line of Armando’s hairy arm down to the beer bottle in his fist. His knuckles were raw and bloody. His shirt was spattered red. So were his pant legs. Even his shoelaces were adorned with gore. 

“Why are you covered in blood, Pops? You lose a fight with a side of beef?” 

Want to keep reading? Purchase your own copy of Blood in the Cut at the links below!

Featured images: Brice Copper / Unsplash, Julius Hilderbrandt / Unsplash