Category Archives: Chronicles

The Chronicles of Anton Chico (American Soil)

Anton Chico in swirl of dark hallway.
Photo by Aidan Roof on

The Other Side of the Door

By mid-afternoon, the sun was flaring its nostrils and spitting fire and when I walked out of the rough cantina in Juarez, I had to shade my eyes because the light stung them like a burning wasp.

I stumbled into the tide of people and turned this way and that in a state of confusion trying to determine which way it was to the border. I saw the policeman, walking slowly against the flow of people, and I saw his eyes fix on me and Anton Chico panicked for a second, moved to the edge of the flustered queue and stood against the hot stucco of a building until the officer passed.

I knew it was time to get out of the country; the paranoia was creeping in again and I felt an attack coming on. I swiftly moved back into the flow of people and headed straight for the crossover. When I reached it, I deposited a quarter and pushed my way through the turnstile and sighed with relief when I saw the buildings of El Paso, cloaked in heavy and hot smog, just beyond the crest of the bridge.

I walked fast. The sweat was pouring out of me like someone had gently squeezed a sponge. I smelled like the remnants of a wild fiesta. That familiar ache in my head and the churning in my belly began to rise and I was dying for a drink of water. Agua.

I stopped outside the checkpoint building, where the Mexicans show their green cards, and smoked a cigarette watching the herd of people moving along like desperate and bewildered cattle. I crushed the smoke on the ground and joined them. I had no green card but showed the officer my American driver’s license.

“American citizen?” he asked with a stern look.


He moved me through, and on the other side of the doorway was America.

Swallowed by the Night

No soul to touch, no voice to caress, no hand to crush to dust. The little car hummed along the highway at dusk headed toward home. El Paso faded like a dream behind me. I was feeling a bit sad having to leave that place. As big and dirty and electrified as it was, I began to miss it; or in all actuality, miss the being away from the doldrums, getting more doldrum by the day, and the ache in my belly began to roar again as I thought about having to return to my shaved-face reality; my 4 p.m. check-in and well-behaved, well-dressed mannerisms.

It was all soaking fake and dull and leaving me shaking with a shame about my own false reality and pious lies and imperfections seething through the cracks in my well-oiled skin as I desperately tried so hard not to break down and scream and rant and rave and cry up a mad tempest all down my sweaty, shaking face as I smiled, feigned smiling, for the camera, the camera called the eyes and lies of every beating heart human that surrounded my very bland every day activities.

The blood in my veins boiled, the acid in my stomach fizzed, the marrow in my bones bubbled, the curvatures across my brain pulsed, rhythmic creation in an underskirt, my diary of madness scratched on the inside of my eyes in a calligrapher’s black ink.

It was dark as death as I pulled into my space at the complex and killed the engine. The moon was full and beaming down through the tall treetops like something out of a famous love story. I opened the car door and reluctantly trudged my pack with me up the short steps to the door. I fumbled with my key in the lock and pushed the door in. Black silence came over me. My fingers fumbled for the light switch and when thus the place became illuminated it was no brighter than when it was completely dark.

The place smelled as if it had been vacant for months; stale, dry rot, cumbersome, old, gray, nicotine smeared and cold. I set my things down and went to my favorite living room window, the tall and narrow one, pulled aside the curtains and opened it. The vacant lot outside was just as I had left it. A car rumbled down the road. I looked at the scattered remains of porch lights at this late hour. A dog barked. A bug of some sort slammed himself against the screen and then fluttered off dismayed. I sighed and went into the bathroom to shower.

The blaring sun woke me up. The curtains were thin and an ungodly melon color – bed sheets really – and I threw the blanket off me because I was already beginning to sweat. So some words about that unholy oppressive heat I had come to so despise during my desert life:

The heat was like an arrow of fire, like a spike dipped in burning coals thrust through the flesh at high speed, like hell, like an oven, like crisp and dead leaves beneath a Boy Scout’s microscope… The relentless ball of fire hung in the sky like the devil’s eye, unleashing its burn down upon the land, the desolate harrowing land of death and solidness, of pain and captivity, a burrowing fever that boiled the brain and cooked the buildings and the asphalt, a harrowing, searing blaze boiling all in its path, an unending glare, the fireball coated white hot and spitting its hot lust down upon the earth in every spot I stood; there was no relief, no shelter from the sun that never hid its face from view, always there, always hanging there like a hot jewel ripe to burn the skin right off your bones.

It made the town more depressing than it already was; at least the rain would of washed some of the sin away, but no, not here in this place, no rain, just wind and dust and hot, everything dry as dead bone, every drop of moisture sucked from the living; the river ran so slow and shallow and brown, the sun sipping every morsel of wet from the land’s soul and the skins of humans dry and cracking, wiped over with lotions and moisturizers every morning and then one would step outside and simply burn, burn, burn… The beads of sweat came forth suddenly and poured down one’s face; a sick, laborious heat that pushed the boundaries of human endurance far over the edge, where one would kill for a place in front of a breeze, one would kill for an ice cube or a fan or an Alaskan vacation.

I and others like me would sleep draped in our own sweat because even once the sun did fall for the night the temperature would remain high; the heat, absorbed by the buildings and the streets and the earth, would be belched back out to recycle its pain throughout the darkness, a warm velvet glove cupped over the city swatting away any attempt of coolness trying to come down and breathe upon us all; the heat, there was just no escape – the swamp coolers hummed and rumbled but not a dent would they manage to carve into the grip of suffocation.

See more of the Chronicles of Anton Chico at Thank you for reading and supporting independent writers and publishers. Be sure to subscribe by entering your email below for updates on new posts. It’s free to follow! Thank you.

The Chronicles of Anton Chico (The Dragon)

The dragon in the night.

I walked out of the dusty shop in Juarez with my two postcards and headed up the street. It was nearly noon, and the sun was thrusting down its fiery tentacles and burning the whole place up. At the end of the block, I turned the corner, passing by pharmacies and cheap-looking stores with posters and magazines and greasy smells.

At the end of the next block, I crossed the busy street. A bus was blocking traffic and I just moved with the crowd. A woman walked suspiciously close to me, and I moved away, over to a small square across the way where men were feeding a huge flock of pigeons.

I sat on a low wall and watched them tossing down dried corn on the ground or breadcrumbs or whatever it was. There were more buses clogging up the streets. I was glad I wasn’t driving, I would have gone mad.

Across the way from the square was a building made of dark brown brick, a smooth stone arch around the doorway. It was some kind of a palace for some king unlike me. It didn’t really look like a palace, but it was called a palace.

There was a mother walking with her two small boys. I sat on the wall taking pictures of all the surroundings like some lame tourist, and then felt odd so I stopped. I felt I was drawing attention to myself, and I did not want to do that, so I just sat there and watched, my head drooping down a bit out of habit, and I looked at the dirty ground.

I began to think if I was ever going to feel happy again. Seemed no matter how hard I pushed my thoughts and feelings in a positive direction, they just never went there. It was as if I was somehow always on the precipice between darkness and light and could just not get my leg over that highest rail. It was defeating and frustrating. Having to feign a smile for one’s whole life is not a good way to live, now is it, Anton Chico.

It was getting hotter still and I felt sticky and greasy all over. I wanted a shower. I thought of the girl in the room above the shop and wondered what she was doing right now. I pictured some UTEP college boy slobbering all over her and I imagined she hated it, but poppa didn’t hate it as he stood around downstairs collecting all that American dough. He loved it, but did he love her? I wouldn’t think so, but then again maybe they do things differently down here.

I stood up and walked away from the square and toward a park where they had a market going on. Rows of canvass covered cubicles spread out on the lawn crammed full of all kinds of cheap junk, trinkets, and souvenirs. I strolled through, but I did not buy anything. I was worried about exposing my wallet.

I kept on walking, back down to the main drag I came in on and turned back toward the border. When I saw a Mexican cop walking around, I got nervous. I heard stories about Mexican cops locking American dudes away in some crummy jail for months on end for doing barely anything. I was worried; Anton Chico is always worried and that is not a good state of mind to be in.

I turned into a kind of open mall. They had a Burger King there along with a bunch of dress shops. I just walked through, came out on the other side, and continued walking toward the border, the cop now behind me rather than in front of me.

Someone tugged on my sleeve. I looked down to see a small boy showing me his open hand and, in his palm, sat a few coins, foreign coins. He talked in Spanish but the only word I understood was “hamburger.” He wanted to buy a hamburger, but he did not have enough money. He looked sad, dirty, and desperate. I pulled out my wallet and gave him two dollars. He looked at me and grinned wide. I watched him run off.

I slipped into a colorful cantina in the shadows of a side street and ordered a drink at the bar.

“Beer. Tequila.”

I slammed the shot, chased it with the beer. The place wasn’t very crowded. There were a few Mexican dudes drinking at the end of the bar and talking amongst themselves. There was an older Mexican dude sitting closer to me sipping on a beer and watching Mexican TV.

Anton Chico could get carried away with the drink at times. It was tucked down in the alien DNA somewhere, and now I was spilling bills onto the bar. I downed shot after shot and began feeling very warm, as if my soul was walking on the surface of the sun. Then I got sad and wanted to cry about all that tarnished love that had gotten in the way of the perfect American dream. But it was no dream. It was brutal reality of the ball-shattering kind. I straightened myself out and returned to the present. The here and now. The only place one can be.

I wanted strange music and went to the dusty old jukebox and slipped in some coins, pushed some buttons, and then went back to my stool at the bar. A moment later, some weepy western tune came crawling out of the machine like a skeleton from a grave and I lit another cigarette as more desperados entered the cantina and clambered noisily around me.

Smoke and loud talk filled the joint. I could hear a cue ball being smacked around in the back, rolling across some beat up table and the desperados cheering it on.

Everyone was getting drunk and lucid and parading around the joint like they were on some great fucking holiday or junkie acid trip. It was becoming a fiesta. Anton Chico suddenly became sad again and huddled closer to the bar and bowed his head in painful drunken prayer.

In the dim reverence he let more of the strong drink run down to his belly and then to his brain where it sloshed around like a warm sea tide and as he looked out his blurry and wet eyes, through the smoke clouds, through the laughter coming from the mouths of those with bad teeth and unruly facial hair, he wondered, as he often did, if he had hit rock bottom once again.

See more of the Chronicles of Anton Chico at Thank you for reading and supporting independent writers and publishers. Be sure to subscribe by entering your email below for updates on new posts. It’s free to follow! Thank you.

The Chronicles of Anton Chico (A Mexican moon)

Border wall erected at Mexican border with United States.

The Inhuman Wall

I sat in the back of the hotel van as the Mexican man drove me to the border. He was playing Mexican music on the radio and speaking into a CB handset of some sort once in a while. He was telling his comrades on the other side: “Here I come with another gringo! Get your baseball bats ready you fuckers!” That’s what I thought.

It was at times like these that Anton Chico wished he had known how to speak Spanish, or at least understood some of it, especially with those bruisers on the other end waiting for me. I shifted uncomfortably in the seat and looked out the windows at all the chaos I had just come through myself earlier.

So, I should have turned there, but I didn’t, and the van pulled into a lot, and I thought to myself, “Well, this is it. They’re going to club me, and I’ll be done for. My keys, my camera, my wallet and I’ll wake up handcuffed to a bed with a dirty mattress in some dingy room with thin curtains and a half empty bottle of tequila sitting on a wobbly table and there sitting in the chair by the table will be this Mexican girl, big brown breasts exposed smoking a cigarette and staring at me like I was some sort of villain and then in would walk her John Boy in a stained wife beater t-shirt and having a big, black, bushy moustache and holding a switchblade and he’d come at me, cursing at me in Spanish, flailing the sharp blade all around in front of me, slicing the air, then he catches my cheek and I can feel the warm trickle start rolling down my damp face like a maroon tear and flow into my mouth.”

“We’re here,” the driver said as he always does, and he got out of the van, came around the other side and slid the door open. I stepped out and handed him $3.

“Gracias, senor,” he said, and got back into the van and drove away, leaving me there right on the razor’s edge between two very different nations. I was immediately approached by another man who had been waiting in the lot.

“You need senorita?” he asked. “Twenty dollars and I take you to senorita. Pretty senorita. My taxi right there, $20.”

“No, that’s all right,” I said. “I’m going to walk over the bridge. I want to go across on the bridge. Walk.” And I pointed toward the bridge. He looked at me like I was crazy. He seemed so disappointed.

I fell into the queue crossing over. I deposited 35 cents and stepped across. Now above me the Mexican flag painted the sky in the wind. I looked over the edge of the bridge and saw the muddy trickle of the Rio Grande piddle through. I saw the great barriers designed to keep the undesirables out rise up at its American shore. The sign deciphered: This is America. No illegal aliens, only illegal activity by our own is accepted.

Those barriers, those watch towers, those rows of razor wire are grim reminders of human selfishness, the God negative and gluttony, hypocritical pride and the suffering in its wake. On one side of the barriers, perfumed buttoned-up crooked sophistos drive to lunch in a polished Mercedes; on the other side, a starving man drinks himself senseless on a dirt road while the stars and the sadness spin. If only for an opportunity, but they don’t pass out opportunity like political payoffs.

Anton Chico suffers from a debilitating mental illness. When happiness should be sweet, it is sour for him. When love should be beautiful, it becomes a desperate crawl along the cold kitchen floor crying out in emotional pain for him. When human contact should be soft, it is like petting a dragon kitten of thorns for him. Everything hurts, everything aches, a narrow tunnel lined with dark light and harrowing thoughts of soiled innocence. It is physically exhausting and now I cannot get over the wall that they never did build. Such heartless, godless stupidity.

I was there. Stepping across the imaginary line that separates one way of life from another. The street was packed with people shuffling in and out, up and down. Ratty store fronts lined the way. Spanish language signs everywhere. Green and orange and sky-blue facades with painted black lettering. In every doorway stood someone desperate to sell me something. Desperate for the American money they could use on the American side to buy things made in Pakistan or Bangladesh or Honduras. To buy clothes sewn together by the sore fingers of their not-so-distant relatives in another, oppressed land just like their own. There were more offers to meet a “sweet senorita” upstairs for $20. “She’ll make you feel so good senor. Do you not want to feel good?”

There I was, sticking out like a flashing American beacon. They could smell me. They could see me in my red ball cap, my faded striped shirt and faded shorts exposing my whiteness, my 17 days unshaved and a Pentax film camera slung around my neck. And then I wondered as I walked, where were all the other Americans? Where were all the others just like me flowing across? But then I remembered, as I was crossing over, there were no others. I was immersed in the clan. It was a weekday, and these were all simple workers and shoppers streaming back into their homeland and I suddenly felt all alone, a poster on the white wall. I no longer felt so at ease.

I stepped inside a relatively safe looking shop; bare and dusty and two men hunched over the counter. One sprung on me as soon as I entered.

“What are you looking for? Some jewelry? Something nice for your girlfriend?”

“I don’t have a girlfriend. Not anymore. Just some postcards. Do you have postcards?”

“Postcards! We have postcards. Here, I will show you.”

He took me to a wobbly spinner rack of muddy brass that held a few faded, dry looking postcards. I grabbed two.

“Fifty cents. Nothing else? No senorita?” He motioned with his head toward a staircase. “My daughter. You will like her.”

I set the postcards down on the counter along with one dollar. I stood for a minute thinking, looking out the grimy glass window to the hot, bustling street. The whole place smelled like greasepaint, and I could feel the greasepaint on my face. The grease clogging my fat pores. The sweat stinging my pale skin. I lifted the red ball cap from my head and wiped the wetness from my brow.

“I’m so sweaty,” I said to the man.

“Everybody sweaty. Don’t worry, she’ll take good care of you.”

I set twenty dollars on the counter and the man smiled. He motioned me to stand there while he went to the bottom of the stairs and shouted something up in Spanish. An agitated female voice shouted something back down. He came back over to me.

“Upstairs. You can go now.”

He tapped his worn wristwatch with the tips of his fingers.

“30 minutes,” he said, and I went to the stairs and climbed them slowly.

I heard crackling Mexican radio songs flowing down the stairwell. It grew hotter as I climbed, and I wondered how they tolerated it. At the top of the stairs was a doorway to the left. I looked in. It was a bathroom. Hot, not too clean. There was a short hallway and at the end of the hallway was a flowery curtain covering a doorway. I touched the soft fabric and pulled it aside. Inside the room was a single bed covered in crumpled white sheets. Next to the bed stood a small table and on the table a few glasses, a half-empty bottle of brown alcohol, and an ashtray littered with lipstick-stained butts.

The room had two windows spaced closely together. They were open, ratty, flowered sheets for curtains languidly flopping in the light breeze. It was very hot in the room and the sweat was pouring out of me. I saw a cloud of smoke spurt forth from another corner of the room. A girl was sitting in a chair, a yellow towel wrapped around her body, her hair was dark, flowing and wet. Her large brown eyes stared up at me in a kind of hopeless, loving and lost way. Her brown skin was dimpled with sweat or maybe water from a shower she just took. I watched her take a drag on the cigarette tightly clamped in her full, bare lips. She smiled after she exhaled and motioned for me to sit on the bed.

“Cigarette?” I asked her. I had my own, but for some reason I wanted one of hers.

She tossed me her pack and I pulled one out. She tossed me a book of matches and I lit it. I waved out the match and dropped it in the ashtray and then sat halfway in the windowsill next to her chair so that I could see inside and outside. I didn’t want to sit on the bed. I could feel the heat on my shoulder and the greasepaint smell was rising again. I could taste the smog on my tongue. Off in the distance I could hear traffic – honking horns, gunning motors, people yelling in Spanish. The girl sat emotionless, staring off into space as she held the cigarette between her fingers, the smoke flowing from the tip of it like a bluish whisper. We sat there in silence for half an hour looking at a Mexican moon that wasn’t even there. She didn’t seem to mind, and neither did I. I looked out the window one last time, and then I got up and walked out. She never said goodbye.

See more of the Chronicles of Anton Chico at Thank you for reading and supporting independent writers and publishers. Be sure to subscribe by entering your email below for updates on new posts. It’s free to follow! Thank you.

The Chronicles of Anton Chico (The First Instinct)

White brick wall near white chair in white room for Anton Chico experiment.
Photo by Henry & Co. on

Rough Ride to Juarez

I dreamt of having a collapsed lung and the doctors put me in a windowless white room and closed the door.

There was a table in the middle of the room, a white table and beside it a white chair. I did not sit down. It was cold in the room, like an air conditioner was on somewhere though I heard no sound.

One of the doctors came in with a clipboard and I told him I wanted to go to Juarez. He asked why. I told him I wanted to submerge myself in the various arts of indecency. He asked why. I thought about it, and I couldn’t tell him why. He asked why I had such demeaning goals. I told him I didn’t mean to; it was just what I thought about.

He wondered why I didn’t want to go to Mexico just to soak up the culture, go to a museum perhaps or take a bus tour. I told him I didn’t think about that. I told him I had a depraved mind sometimes. He scribbled something down on a pad, looked at me from over the top of his glasses and started walking toward the door. I asked him about my collapsed lung. He said I had worse problems than that and he’d be back in a few minutes.

When he returned, he was carrying a silver tray with a white towel draped over it. I glanced at what was in the tray and it was a needle, an injection of some sort. I asked him what that was for. He said he was going to give me a shot of morality and when I’d wake up, I wouldn’t be so damn depraved.

He had me sit in the white chair and roll up my sleeve. He rubbed a cotton ball across my upper arm and jabbed the needle right in there and pushed on the plunger without even warning me. I felt very warm at first and then very tired. I don’t remember much of anything else.

When I awoke from the dream it was very cold in the room. I fell asleep with the air conditioner on. Someone was knocking and there was a voice coming from the other side.


“Come back later please.”

Too damn polite Anton Chico. Why not just say: “Leave me the hell alone!”

I showered, got dressed and went down to the lobby restaurant for some breakfast. Besides an older couple on holiday and some business sophistos in suits chattering on about the meaningless, I was the only one there.

I chose a table in the corner by the window looking out on the downtown street. I ordered eggs, toast, and coffee. I sipped and ate in solitude, staring out the window. Another hot day I assumed from the way the sunlight was pouring down all around and I could see the heat shimmering off the cement. So hot. Too hot. Inhumane heat and I wondered why was it that so many people lived here? Why so many lives were compacted into such a tight, hot, and ugly space?

I decided to drive the few blocks to Mexico in my own car, park somewhere on the American side and walk over the great bridge that spanned the two nations and the Rio Grande River between them. Great river? Dirty, brown trickle. The Great Divide. The muddy vein separating grotesque wealth and desperate poverty. It made one want to puke.

It was such a hot day, and I had my windows rolled down as I meandered my way through the maze of streets winding up and around and through downtown El Paso trying very hard to follow the signs that were pointing me in the direction of Juarez.

As I got closer to the border there was construction and roadblocks and feverish masses of people walking all over the place and I could not find my way in all the confusion and the noise and the heat and decided it would be better to just go back to the hotel, park my car and take the shuttle as I had originally planned.

One should always go with first instinct. The first thought that permeates the gut and simply says: “Yes! Do it this way!” or “No. Do it another way, this is bad.”

Anton Chico in his confused mind cannot always differentiate the first instinct from the second or even the third. He often makes mistakes, takes falls, runs from his miscues, and ends up panting and raging and slamming his fists into a wall because shit just did not work out again!

Again Anton Chico. You fucked up! But Anton Chico also had a way about him that caused him to grossly exaggerate the little misfortunes in his existence into giant, earth-shattering sins with the ability to destroy his entire life to the point he is ready to jump off a balcony and call it quits for good, to trade it all in for eternal rest and prosperity. To sleep peacefully forever in the boughs of the soft trees of universal Heaven spread out in space like a sheet of stars and to never again have to speak above a whisper or for that matter even hear anyone speak above a whisper. He was not fond of chaotic noise.

And I was immersed in chaotic noise right now.

Lost and hot and horns honking and Mexican people chattering outside the storefronts as they do, the men in white sweaty t-shirts and big dirty straw hats perched upon their dark heads; the women, large and brown wearing colorful and flowery sun dresses of thin cotton waving chunky tanned arms and making deals with the shopkeepers in the big clunk of stores huddled in a dirty mass of glass and brick and stucco right on the edge of the border on the American side.

I wondered as I drove, what had I gotten myself into now, what have you done Anton Chico? You fool! You can’t drive your little car around in Mexico! They’ll shoot at it, steal it, rob you blind and maybe even rape you for the camera around your neck or the few American dollars in your wallet. Get out Anton Chico! Get out while you still have a chance! 

I drove my way slowly out of the chaos and back closer to the big buildings downtown. I finally saw the El Paso Times building. I was not too far from the hotel. I would go there and find out how to get across without having to be so paranoid and stupid.

See more of the Chronicles of Anton Chico at Thank you for reading and supporting independent writers and publishers. Be sure to subscribe by entering your email below for updates on new posts. It’s free to follow! Thank you.

The Chronicles of Anton Chico (Love and Loss)

Anton Chico. Juarez.

The Battles

All the battles of Anton Chico’s life have brought me to this place – alone. For the battles break you at times. There. Over those hills I look out at the far gone on the horizon, now bathing in the holy amber light of another fading day.

So many miles between myself and life. Anton Chico looks out over the edge of the balcony at the long way down. So far to fall. But look how far I have fallen already. The hum of the city winding down mixes with the din of my own loneliness as I watch a happy family trot along the sidewalk gazing at the sun and moon both etching out their individual spaces along the horizon.

Together, husband and wife and little kids too, all on their way to get gunned down in Juarez because they are the entitled Americans who know no better and think Mexico is just another shopping mall, another place to push a shopping cart, another place to bitch at inept clerks who don’t cater to their every spoiled whim.

Get gunned down you fools. Have your white American blood all over the filthy streets of Juarez in your endless endeavor for more stuff. Get gunned down as you piss and whine because no one speaks English, and the Burger King hamburgers don’t taste the same across the border. Shooosh the little begging boy away. Cringe at the sight of him why don’t you, at the site of his dirty face and dirty hair and big, wet weepy eyes and turn in disgust as the filthy rags he calls clothes make your eyes sting just from the smell of them. Get gunned down. It’s all for you but there’s no one there to save you now.

Anton Chico, me, that is I, turned off the television set and headed down to the car to round up some magic at a local magic shop. The car had cooled down considerably and when I got in it reeked of bar life. I headed for the main drag that runs up and down by UTEP (University of Texas El Paso). The street was surprisingly hilly and lined with appealing architecture unfamiliar to me. Mexican-American brick and stucco facades, adobe churches, wire and mesh fencing, stone yards, cacti, stunted little palm trees and yuccas.

This part of the town had a sad tone to it, it breathed poverty and desperation, yet it had a furious taste of survival to it – cultures clashed, the old and the new, the white and the brown, the intelligent and the inaudible. As I moved farther from the areas closer to downtown and nearer to suburbia, the familiar sickness of strip malls and neon rose and that is where I found the spirit shop, pulled into the parking lot and sat there for a while smoking a cigarette in the last rays of day.

When I went inside the Asian clerk behind the counter greeted me and watched me as I headed straight for the beer coolers at the back of the store. I looked up and down at all the varieties he had stocked there. I wanted something good, not the American piss swill I usually bought because it was cheap, I wanted something with some heart to it, something with some kick, something that would really slur my speech when I began talking to the television set back at the hotel… Something that might give me the crazed sense of false courage to throw myself off that balcony and crash face-first into someone’s nice, clean windshield. I wanted something that might kill me.

I left my cell phone on just in case someone called. Was something starting up? Not really. It was there, but not. There was a party and I was invited but of course I didn’t go because I was here, there, in El Paso getting lit on magic firewater and tossing burning cigarettes over the edge of the balcony. It was dark. The lights in the room were dimly lit and I began to tilt. It was sad there, yet jubilant.

No one in the entire world knew where I was and for insanity purposes, I truly believed that no one cared. I was Anton Chico the unloved, the ungraceful, the unbeauty of all males in the Southwest. But someone was hurt that I did not come to the party. I don’t know why. Said she was hoping I would, but most likely in the throes of the festivities I rarely came to anyone’s mind.

I went out on the balcony for some air. It tasted brown and smelled dirty, but I felt free as I cracked open that new bottle and added to my demon inebriation.

Once sufficiently aired out I commenced the ritualistic clicking of the remote control. There was nothing worth watching. There is never anything worth watching but I left it on just so I could hear some voices other than the ones in my own head. I was watching something about crocodiles and a man who drove around in a little boat at night with a flashlight and then he dove into the water and grabbed onto one of those crocodiles and wrestled with it. He had an Australian accent. Them fucking crazy Aussies. Anton Chico thinks there great, just great.

Another bite of magic please and I suddenly felt very, very lonely. No one had called. No love letters slipped in under the door. No angels from heaven dangling outside my doorstep. Nothing. Solid me. Lonely me. Empty me pouring out the emptiness into a world of emptiness and I wondered if everyone else was as bored stiff as I was.

How could they be? I hear them laughing, I see them smiling, I see them hanging all over each other doing great things and going great places and there was me, Anton Chico, lit up and down on the seventh floor of some dirty old downtown El Paso motel boo-hooing about another and another and another crushing loss while the entire freaking world is out there partying their asses off.


The TV is off. Muffled voices on the other side of the walls. The clinking of glasses. Laughing. The sound of faint music, a tap of a piano key, a lover’s whorish growl, a train whistle, my own rapid heartbeat banging to get out of my chest. A freight train leaving town, its call and grind a heartless calliope.

Check out the previous posts in the Anton Chico series: Low and High and The Monarch of Devils.

Inclined Corners of a Yellow Map

This is a companion piece to Bite of the Oven Salesman.

Inclined Corners. A starlit sky is seen above the shadow of an adobe structure in New Mexico.

Cigarettes For a Saint

Once I was west and with the oven selling in Omaha behind me, I set a half-empty pack of Marlboro cigarettes on the stone feet of St. Francis outside the great cathedral in Santa Fe as a sort of offering. It was dark save for the spotlights beaming down from heaven.

I felt strangely safe in the shadow of the church and the tall trees that surrounded it. The tolling of the soothing bells sent shivers up and down my skeleton. I sat on the courtyard wall and looked out at all the rummagers of history, drunks, confused tourists and well-to-do sophistos sparkling around the town square like ice rink skaters high on New Mexico gas and good credit.

I had spent most of the day in the old city, a sort of day trip to quell my very own madness. Just the night before in El Fuego, my new town in the southeast quadrant of NM, I went to bed in a manic stupor and full of brat meat and beans and German potato salad on a pretend Halloween night that brought no spirits to the surface, no goblins to the door other than my own tar-caked demons living in this rattling, oily rib cage. I scared my own self with my innate ability to fall prey so easily to bad habits. Easily. So easily. Frighteningly easily. Addiction to addiction. Lack of self-control. Bent on self-destruction no matter what. A bomb. A nuclear bomb. Love bombed the will to live right out of me. My heart was Hiroshima all over again.

The Nightmare in Clines Corner

It’s a little stop where I-40 and Highway 285 meet up in the great expanse of nothing but wide-open wonder. There were a couple of gas stations, a gift shop, a restaurant, stray dogs, diesel trucks and the dreamy distant sound of traffic zipping by on the interstate. West to Albuquerque. East to Tucumcari. And me in between, slumped over in my ride, head spinning and stomach lurching. I was trying to sleep a bit before pushing on to the more than 100 miles I had yet to go. It was late. After midnight I suppose. Traffic was pulling taffy wide with ghost groans. Zooooomrumble, rumble rumblezooooom. I tried to sleep but I couldn’t. I couldn’t get comfortable. The giant Shell sign perched up high on a tall metal pole was too big and bright. A yellow and red beacon to travelers of the night; my menace at that moment and more.

“Go to sleep why don’t you,” I thought out loud. A big diesel truck rolled into the gas station noisily. I had to get out and walk around. The air was cool enough at night still and maybe a stretch and some air could get me coherent again.

I unfolded myself from the car and walked around the lot a bit. Everything was so bright and stinging my eyes. My head was still pounding. Some juice, I needed some juice. Gatorade, lemonade, first aid. I pulled the door to the convenience store open wide and stepped inside. Quiet but for the buzz of the yellowish lights. A cricket in the corner was making love to the silence as I yanked open the cooler door and fumbled around for some juice. Apple juice is good. Took it to the counter and cleared my throat. The clerkie was rummaging around in the back somewhere, counting cigarettes or playing the French horn. I don’t know. He came out to the counter and mumbled something like, “Izz thut ell for ugh?”

Yes. That is all you greasy bastard. That is all. I have to get moving. Lots of driving to do. Too much empty space to pierce through like a dart with angel wings sailing for the sunken promised land – El Fuego. It will be hot tomorrow. It will be too hot. It is always too hot in El Fuego.

The Desolate Crash

I managed to get the car back onto the road and in motion again. I crossed over I-40 and into the darkness of the less traveled 285. It wasn’t long before I came upon some sort of clamor in the roadway. I slowed down as I came upon the wreck. It was three or four cars; I couldn’t really tell in the twisted dark. Three or four cars wrapped around each other like lovers in an orgy of metal and hissing steam. It was silent mostly, except for the soft groans of people trapped and the tears of a teenage girl pacing back and forth in obvious shock and awe. I rolled down my window. She moved her mouth away from her cell phone; she was shaking.

“Are you all right?”

“We’re fine, we’re fine,” she answered.

“Is anyone hurt?”

“Yes… We’re all hurt. I think someone might be dead.”

I looked past her at the wreckage. Surely someone was dead.

“I can give you a ride somewhere.”

“No. The police. The police are coming already. I called them.”

I looked off ahead of me into the dark distance and could see the tiny pops of blue and red drawing closer. But where did they come from? They weren’t coming from the interstate. There’s nothing else out here. This is a wasteland.

“I’ll stay with you until they come. You can come sit in my car if you like,” I said to the trembling girl. But she didn’t hear me, didn’t notice me. She was crying harder and shaking more violently, mumbling to herself and dragging her feet across the roadway as she walked in tortured circles near the wreckage. I looked off into the distance. The blues and reds were growing larger. I could hear the faint sound of sirens. I put my car in gear and drove away, watching the scene of despair and pain fade away in my rear-view mirror.

The cops blew by me with such speed it nearly forced my car off the road. If they didn’t slow down, I thought, they would bash right into the whole wreck scene and cause even more misery. I watched their lights disappear over a hill. They were gone, I was gone, and the darkness swallowed me whole as I rumbled on.

The Chronicles of Anton Chico (The Monarch of Devils)

El Paso. Woman in shadow walks down the street in Spanish-speaking neighborhood.

Off to El Paso

I went to El Paso. It was some summer of love and it was hotter than Georgia asphalt in July. But this wasn’t Georgia, it was Texas.

I was afraid my little old Nissan would overheat in the middle of nowhere, but it did not. It made the trip faithfully. Four hours without any air conditioning through the wastelands of New Mexico into the barren yellow corner of Texas right on the border with the country of Mexico. The stark, dry landscape all around me. Mounds of rock dying of thirst and choking on their own dust. The radio crackled in and out as I dodged the vultures and ran over the tarantulas ambling across the roadway. I could hear their splattered guts sizzle on the broiling pavement as I left them behind to die.

I was being swallowed whole by the vastness of the place. The ever-widening expanse of desolation laid down before me and it was as if I was on some mad magic carpet ride through the outlands of the earth. Was this even earth? It all seemed so sci-fi and foreign to me. Not very many other cars and when they did pass it was with a sudden swooooosh of lightning-quick eye contact with some foreigner on their way to holiday farther north in the mountains where it was at least 20 degrees cooler. The sunglasses, the smiles, the slicked-up lips mouthing nonsense to other travelers.

I exhaled smoke and tossed another butt out the window, watched it skid along the roadway in my rear-view mirror, shooting sparks like a firecracker all over the hot asphalt like a crashed motorcycle. I took it slow, didn’t want to push the engine too hard. If she were to break down out here, I would be fucked for sure. She kept on pushing on.

The little gray sedan I bought from a foreigner who went back home. That foreign lesbian chick who used to come sit by my desk and talk incessantly about Norwegian folklore while I was trying to focus. She was intelligent, bright, and witty as I struggled to work and think of enchanting things to say all at the same time. That foreign girl with the endless legs. It was as if all she had were legs. She was so damn tall, unnaturally tall, like a volleyball player from Belarus, and she was constantly ducking to avoid hitting her head on things. She smelled like gingerbread and books. That foreign girl was on the other side of the planet now. I dropped an empty beer can out the window, hearing it go tink tink behind me, and stopped thinking of the foreign girl.

I drove and drove and drove through the beautiful atmosphere thinking that perhaps I had made a wrong turn for I saw no sign of El Paso, no smog cloud, no hazy shapes of buildings on the horizon. Nothing. Nothing at all. From the direction I was coming I was unaware at the time that the city of El Paso lurches up suddenly like an oasis erection in the desert. One minute you are gazing around looking for it and then there it suddenly appears laid out like a hi-tech graph, sprawled across the land like a breathing, pulsing organism teeming with frantic, hot life.

El Paso City LimitsPop. 563,662

The freeway suddenly sucked me in, and I found I had to drive faster just to keep up with these speeding maniacs. The freeway, like the digestive tract of a human body, wound in and out, up and down, over and through the chaotic town like a maddening bowl of spaghetti in motion. It was metal on metal, brick on brick, breath to breath and pillar to pillar.

I came into the downtown district and saw a cluster of tall buildings all huddled together and basking in the burning rays of the sun. I saw the 11-story hotel I was looking for and skillfully pulled onto the exit and down into the belly of town. I turned into the parking lot and killed the engine, letting the car pant and sweat in stationary safety. I crawled out. My clothes were wet and stuck to my body. I grabbed my bag and went inside. It was a decent place decked out in an unauthentic Mexican motif. I heard the chattering of Spanish speaking tourists and hotel workers all around me. The scent of Mexican food wafted throughout the lobby as I made my way to the front desk.

“My name is Anton Chico and I’d like a room with a view for two nights please.”

The clerk had me fill out a little white card with a pencil the size of my pinky.


“A suite would be nice.”



She tapped in my information into a computer and ran my credit card.

Should I be concerned?

She smiled and handed me a small envelope containing my key card.

“704 sir. Enjoy your stay.”

“If I want to go over to Juarez, will someone take me there?” I asked her.

“Yes, we have a shuttle. Just let us know when you’d like to go over sir. Our driver is very flexible.”

And then I took a momentary dream pill.

“Why do you wash and stow the ashtray, Anton Chico? You know you’re just going to fucking light up again,” I remember saying to myself as I shuffled around my little hut on Galapagos looking for cigarettes that were not there. That’s why I went to Galapagos in the first place. To just sit with the dragons and not smoke. I went crazy sitting there with those dragons. Those damn things could have killed me, but I didn’t care; I was out of my mind with nicotine fits, and hell, I thought dying would be better. Just one vicious bite from those raw-hided bastards and I’d ooze away on the beach. Slumped over like a cadaver who floated in from the sea. Some poor Joe who just got dumped from the deck of a ship because he had typhoid or hepatitis or something bad like that.

So, I just sat there in the sun and sand with the dragons wandering about all around me until some sweaty American scientist studying the place came along and offered me a fat Marlboro, tightly packed and ready to burn. I took it, inhaled deeply, and left the dragons be and went to my hut to jot down some thoughts in a notebook. I think I called it Anton Chico’s Short-lived Island Adventure.

And so there I was in this El Paso hotel room standing out on the balcony leaning far over the rail with a burning cigarette planted firmly in my mouth looking way down at the cement of the parking lot spotted with dirty oil stains. I spit. The spit plummeted down, slid sideways in the wind, and then crashed into the windshield of a black BMW sports car. How easily entertained Anton Chico was then and there. How easily driven to the easily obtained excesses of life.

I looked out at the world around me, slowly running my eyes over the whole of the scene. Right across the busy street below was a large blue building with large, dark windows reflecting the fading sun. Over to my right, stood square and squat office buildings reflecting the shimmering gold of the sun as well and a shabby looking old hotel taller than the one I was in with a big red sign on top that said: HOTEL.

I could see the drip marks from the air conditioners running down the sallow sides of the building. And beyond that, beyond the heart of downtown El Paso splattered over the barren, dusty hills were the shacks of Juarez. The oppressed lived there with their green cards. They were the ones who spilled across the border every day to clean up after all the American filth had taken their great big shits for the day. They worked the work that the too proud Americans were too proud to take. The hotel room cleaners, the janitors, the battering rams, the shit sweepers, the spit lickers, the gut rapists. They did it all for a few dollars just to pour another cup of tortilla soup down the gullets of their brain-damaged children swatting away the flies back home in their beautiful green, tin shacks shimmering in the desolate sun.

Although the stories are loosely connected, you can check out the previous post here: The Chronicles of Anton Chico (Low and High)