The Angelfish of Giza (Excerpt 1)

Author’s Note: I’m 57,000 words into this, my “novel” based on my experiences of living and working in a small town in New Mexico many years ago. I thought I would add a few excerpts to the site here and there… A satirical commentary on the evil men and women do to each other. Rude, raunchy, and raw, The Angelfish of Giza explores a ring of mostly empty human relationships set against the backdrop of a small, isolated city in the New Mexico desert at the turn of the 21st century.

The Beginning

At the crossroads of the metal moon and spilled-milk stars and beneath the exit to the Earth and its sun, a thumb rolls across a spark wheel and Wilburn Valentine’s labored face glows orange for just a moment.

In the low-lit and hazy Sundowner Bar on the outskirts of a swallowed and lost Western place called Giza, New Mexico, he looks up at a softly buzzing neon yellow sign nested among the amber and clear bottles and it reads: Live Long and Suffer.

“Don’t I know it,” he breathes aloud to the ghosts, crushing the smoke in a green plastic ashtray, trying to quit.

The door to the bar opened and the dark universe streamed in carrying with it more ghosts — loud, laughing, exhausting. He snapped the last shot back and stood. The feet of the barstool scraped across the floor and mixed with the sounds of achy country music and pool balls smacking into each other off in a corner. He threw money down on the bar and gently smiled at the lonely woman behind it as he slung a backpack over his shoulder. “Thanks for the dull memories,” he said to her.

He stepped outside and the ceiling of the world was the color of a candle-lit bruise pinpricked by broken glass and contrasted by a paler desert floor. The distant hills were sharp and rocky, the colors of chocolate and red grape juice. A highway separated the wavering roadhouse bar from a much bigger plot of land that now glowed under the night sky, competing with the larger glow of Giza itself to the south. He walked across the momentarily quiet road.

Where he was standing, he had not been a minute before. Now he was in a 3-acre glossy blacktop parking lot that had clean, straight white lines indicating the parking spaces. He could smell the freshness of the oil and the paint. It was night, but tall lamps sprayed cones of pinkish-white light down all around him. There were just a handful of cars, five at most. The store was called Pharm Farm, according to the blaring sign, and it emitted a glow like an alien mothership and its tentacles of light reached out and nearly blinded him. A slightly curled grand opening banner fluttered off in the shadows. There was a slight wind. He nervously searched his backpack for his phone. He flipped it open. It was something past midnight. There was one text message: I love you so so much. Where did you go? He flipped it shut and powered it down, tried to catch his breath. The sound of trucks on a nearby bypass dreamily stroked and rolled in the distance. He rubbed at the Christmas watch on his wrist with his thumb to clear the grime. He tapped at it. Saint Nicholas was screaming atop his sleigh as he flew through a blizzard but he was still keeping time. He loved that watch.

There was an artificial, plastic bench in front of the Pharm Farm and he set his pack down. There were two bright soda machines and a nearly empty Giza Revealer newspaper vending box. He dug for change and bought a retro Elf brand grape soda in a can and the most recent edition of the paper. He sat down, opened the soda, and scanned the front page of the newspaper, the self-proclaimed Voice of the Giza Valley. The top headline read: Gas Industry Battles Planet Earth. “What the fuck?” Wilburn Valentine said aloud to no one. He flipped through the paper to see if it was in fact a real newspaper. He guessed it was after all, folded it up and stuck it in his pack. He sat and looked around as he dug in his head for answers to the questions he always had. What is this place? How did he get here? What had he done this time? Why?

He tilted the soda can and drained the last of it and it forced him to look up at the crystalline stars screaming silently across the light-polluted sky and his entire being suddenly steamed with anxiety. He fumbled in his pockets again and found the orange bottle of pills, uncapped it, popped two in his mouth, and swallowed. The bottle was empty now. He sighed with worry.

Anxiety had always gotten the best of him. Anxiety led to fear which led to hiding which ultimately led to failure. He wanted a different past, a different life altogether. He was searching for a place void of anxiety, empty of chaos and free of fear — but did it exist? And even if it did, would it matter anymore? He wondered if he should just give up after all. Most of his life was over, so he thought. There was no more work to be offered to him. No one wanted an ancient architect full of unorthodox dreams and a touch of mental abnormality. Was there even need for new structures anymore? He turned to look at the shimmering new Pharm Farm store. Obviously, there was, but it was hideous and stained with greed. There was no humanity in its design. Let the young ones take care of it now, he thought. They had far more energy and gumption yet sadly were raised in a dumbed-down world and the products of their imaginations will be so less than what the ancient others built. He looked up into the stars again. Amen to that, he thought, even though God was not his friend. Someone rolled past him with a rattling shopping cart.

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