Category Archives: Western

The Gravy Canoe of Wild Wyoming – 2

Entering Wyoming sign.

The dining of the great meal took place casually in chairs and on a soft sofa in the living room at the home of Veronica Eyes in Berlin, Wyoming. Plates and beverages rested on a coffee table; some people stood while they ate and drank. There was the murmur of blended conversations. There was light laughing.

Steel Brandenburg III sat in a chair in a corner beneath a tall reading lamp with a red velvet shade. He was quiet. He was alone among the people. He watched the others eat, trying to decipher if they liked the store-bought gravy. He braced himself for bitter reactions. Everyone acted as if he wasn’t even there as he raised fork to mouth repetitively. He was a ghost, someone looking in from the other side. He had to break the barrier.

“Are you all enjoying the gravy!?” Steel suddenly blurted out. The others stopped talking for a moment and looked at him. One guy named Craig, who was a real jerk, said, “What’s with the gravy, man? Why are you always about the gravy?”

Steel cleared his throat and looked around at everyone as they awaited his answer. “I… I just want everyone to get the most out of their meal. Gravy’s wonderful for that. It adds flavor and richness to our food.”

Craig the jerk busted out laughing. The others followed suit, even Veronica Eyes.

“Whaaat!?” Craig said with a disbelieving laugh. “That’s like the gayest thing I ever heard anyone say.”

He moved closer to Steel and looked down at him. Craig Nusmerg was a tall buffoon with an odd-shaped body, something resembling a bosc pear. People say the heavy drinking has caused his body to morph and turn him into the strange being he now was.

Craig Nusmerg had been a high school basketball star and nothing much more since. He worked the presses of the local newspaper for the last ten years and always smelled of ink and grease. He was divorced and lived alone in a rectangular can at the local trailer park. Now he was towering over Steel like an over-ripened Godzilla.

Steel looked up at him and shrugged his shoulders. “Sorry. That’s how I feel.”

“Why are you here anyways?” Craig wanted to know. “Nobody gives two shits about the stupid gravy.”

Steel glared at him. “That’s not true. I’m sure plenty of people here are enjoying the gravy.”

Craig scoffed and shook his head. His eyes then caught the white gravy boat sitting on the coffee table and he went to pick it up. “You like gravy so much,” Craig said to Steel as he carried it toward him, “Here you go. Have some gravy.” He tipped the gravy boat, and a thick stream of warm brown gravy came pouring out right on top of Steel’s head. Craig kept pouring and pouring, snickering with delight, until the entire gravy boat was empty. Steel just sat there and let him do it. He let him do it all the way. He just stayed in the chair as the gravy dripped from his hair, down his face, and into his lap.

“God damn it, Craig!” Veronica cried out. “You got gravy all over my favorite chair!”

Craig just laughed, went to grab more beer from the refrigerator, and slipped out onto the back patio.

Veronica ran to get some towels. When she got back, she started mopping up as much of the gravy as she could. She handed a towel to Steel. “You better wipe your face off,” she said. “You look like some horrible creature.”

“Do you think I could use your shower,” Steel asked her with gravy spattering out of his mouth as he spoke.

Veronica was aghast by such a request. “My shower? Oh, no. No, no, no. Let’s just get you out into the yard and hose you off.”

Veronica led Steel out the front of the house and had him stand in the small yard of grass. She went to the water spigot and cranked it on as she leveled the hose. She aimed the nozzle at Steel and began to spray him off. “Close your eyes and your mouth, Steel,” she told him as she worked. “I don’t want to rupture your pupils or break your teeth.” But then again, maybe she did.

It wasn’t long before the real Steel emerged from beneath the slick of gravy. She had him turn around and hold his arms out to his sides. “That’s good,” she said. “I need to get you nice and clean before we send you home.”

“Home?” Steel asked without turning to look at her. “You want me to go home? Why don’t you send that fuck-off Craig Nusmerg home? He’s the jerk. He’s the one who started this whole thing.”

Veronica sighed as she sprayed. “You weren’t even supposed to be here.”

“Right. You lied to me. Why did you lie to me?”

“Because I just knew something weird like this would happen. Weird things always happen when you’re around, Steel. You’re a weird magnet. You’re… You’re just completely weird. I didn’t want you ruining my party.”

Steel turned and stepped back from the spray of water. “Sure. Sure. I get it. Sorry to trouble you.” He walked off, soaking wet, and moved down the street toward where his pickup was parked. He got in it and sped off.

The moon was full and bright, and the landscape illuminated. Steel Brandenburg III drove his white pickup like a cowboy even though he was nothing like a cowboy. He went out to a place called Silver Lake and parked within the bones of the trees near the shore. That same moon that had chased him from the city was still there in the sky, looking down, watching him.

He got out of the truck and went closer to the water. It looked like a mirror with the way the light was shining down on it. He craned his neck upward to look at the ivory disk in the sky and then he just started to scream like an animal. He screamed and screamed until his throat hurt. A herd of deer shuddered through the surrounding brush. He fell to his knees and bowed his head in irreverent prayer, mocking a God who never saw him or cared for him.

He got back up and stumbled to the truck to retrieve his phone. He pressed the button for Veronica Eyes. He breathed as he waited.

“Hello? What is it, Steel? Why are you calling?”

“I just wanted to know if you have ever heard of a symbolic revenge tale?”

“What? What are you talking about?”

“You should be aware that the silly little actions of you and your friends could have serious consequences.”

“What? Have you been drinking? Where are you?”

“Stop asking me questions, Veronica. Just stop. But be prepared.” He ended the call. He looked around at the wilds. The treetops suddenly bent in a gust of wind. Something snapped and fell nearby.


Visit for the previous part of this story… And many more strange tales.

Tecumah (1.)

Taos graveyard for Tecumah.
Photo by Aaron A. Cinder

There was I, that is Thom (Tom) Hatt again, returned from beyond the living world, and I stood there in the trashed-out parking lot of some cheap, old road motel in Taos, New Mexico looking around like in a dream and smoking an Injun J with a guy named Tecumah.

The traffic roared by lonely, an ache that only the sound of engines running away can awaken and bolster that feeling of isolation in a man’s southwestern guts.

Tecumah was tall and wide, like an ungodly border wall, and he had fireflies for buttons on his long, worn leather coat and they began to flicker and flash as the sun was dropping and the stars were beginning to roar.

He looked one way, to where there was traffic and strips of tawdry shops, and he spat that way. His eyes were cursing. His long hair went wild in the wind.

“Bullshit, man. Bullshit,” he said, and he turned away to where the muscular mountains were now fading into far away bluish darkness like a melting bruise.

“That’s what it was all like here once, a long time ago — the darkness, the pinion, the rocks, the quiet — and then all these assholes show up and turn it all into a postcard and something to sell. That’s just bullshit, man. Bullshit.”

I nodded in agreement as Tecumah handed me the J. “Capitalism is a heartless grind,” I said. “I’m sorry we raped your culture. People can be horrible.”

Tecumah sucked on a big bottle of tequila I had bought him earlier because he had helped me out when my red Ford Probe broke down right outside of town.

“White man come and plow it all down with the head of their god… If they want another war, then they can have it, and I’ll be right there with wicked knuckle knocks on their whitey heads.”

“Good for you!” I exclaimed, and he handed me the bottle. “Let’s go gambling chief.”

“All right,” Tecumah said, wobbly in words and walk, “But you’re in no condition to drive, we’ll take my horse… Besides, that car you have is a piece of shit.”

“Yes, I know,” I said as I hopped up onto the back of Tecumah’s horse. “But it’s all I could afford because I’m merely a slave to the system. They pay me just enough to keep me in need. I’d really like to drive the damn thing off a cliff.”

Tecumah playfully laughed. “We can do that tomorrow if you want. I know a good place to send that piece of shit over the edge. You’ll never see it again.”

As we trotted through town, I told Tecumah that I had written a poem about the car. He just laughed at me again.

“Why do you write a poem about a piece of shit car? You should write a poem about a beautiful woman.”

“I have… A hundred thousand times. It never did anyone any good.” And then I laughed. It really was ridiculous. A hundred thousand love poems written and here I was on the back of a horse headed to a casino with a drunken Native American named Tecumah.

“It’s that damn car you have, man,” he said. “You need to drive something that will turn you into a chick magnet, like me.” And Tecumah laughed about that, too.

“But you ride a horse,” I said.

“You’d be surprised how many chicks I pick up with this horse.”

“What’s the horse’s name?”

“His name is Jim.”

“Jim the horse?”


“Let’s get some Mexican food,” I suggested. “I’m hungry all of a sudden.”

Tecumah stopped Jim the horse. He looked around a bit, thinking.

“All right, I know of a place we can go.”

And then we were off again, down the main drag, and drivers of autos were honking at us, and ignorant idiots were making Indian noises out the windows.

“Woo, woo, woo, woo …” they went, tapping their hands against their mouth holes.

“And I’ll kick you straight in the ass, you fuckers!” Tecumah yelled at them, shaking his big, hunk of meat fist at them. They ducked their heads in like frightened turtles and drove away fast.


Tecumah tied Jim the horse to a fence rail, and we went into the Mexican place. We were abruptly and rudely greeted.

“Hey Tonto, this ain’t Halloween, you can’t come in here dressed like that,” some jack-off host guy said to Tecumah.

“Dressed like what?”

“Like an Indian, that’s what.”

“I am an Indian you twat. Now, we’d like to have a table for two or would you prefer I knock your teeth down your throat you anti-Injun bastard.”

The host scoffed. “Always resorting to violence, damn savage. Why don’t you go back to you where you came from. Lousy immigrant.”

I shook my head in disbelief while Tecumah curled up his Thor hammer fist and pushed it in the guy’s face; it was nearly as big as his whole asinine head. “You’re the immigrant,” he snarled in a wild, earthy way. “And I’ll gladly knock you back to Europa.”

The curly haired twerp of a host shrunk back. “All right, all right, just settle down. I don’t want any trouble here. This way then.”

“Ah, right by the bathrooms,” Tecumah complained as we were seated. “I love the smell of urinal cakes baking in a piss oven when I’m dining.”

“Sorry sir, it’s all we have available right now.”

I looked around at the nearly empty joint.

“Bullshit,” I said. “What about all those other tables.”

“Those are reserved, sir. I’m sorry, this is the best I can do,” and with that he trotted off like the twit he was.

“Let’s just get out of here,” I said to Tecumah. “I bet they’ll spit in our food.”

“Yeah, I have a bad feeling about this place, but let’s just get some beers, and the hell with the food.”

We had nine beers each and then walked out without paying the tab. Some guy, probably the manager, came rushing out after us, but Tecumah slugged him and that was the end of that.

We flew like the wind on Jim the horse and Tecumah almost smashed into a light pole, but we finally arrived at the casino on the dusty and adobe outskirts of town. The place was all a hustle and bustle and packed with noise and smoke and the ringing of bells and the flashing of lights and the cheers and cries of winners and losers.

Tecumah went to play blackjack and I went to the bar and ordered some more beers. I played a poker game built into the bar and then some chick came up to me and she wanted some drinks. I was pretty lit up and asked her straight out if she was a hooker. She took real offense to that and slapped me across the face, but I was numb enough that I didn’t feel much.

“Thank you, mam, may I have another?”

And she slapped me again and that time I felt a pretty good sting and that’s when this big, burly bastard comes over and asks me if there is some kind of problem and why I’m messing with his girl.

I studied the big, ugly dude for a minute or two.

“Ok, ok. So, you’re with this guy?” I said to the chick trying to be a hooker.

“What the hell does that mean?” the big, ugly dude said, moving in closer to me, all pissed off.

“I’m just saying that, well, you just don’t seem like the type of guy who would see much action.”

“Are you calling me a faggot? Faggot.”

“No, not at all. In fact, to be quite frank about the whole thing, I don’t think you could get a dude either.”

The guy grabbed me and pulled me out of my chair.

“I think we need to have a private conversation — outside.”

That’s what he said to me and then I was dragged out into the parking lot, and we had this fight and he beat me up pretty bad and when I walked back into the casino people started screaming because I was all battered and bleeding and that’s when I fell down.

To Be Continued…

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 Hip and the Cruel

Hip and the Cruel. A growing storm over Albuquerque, New Mexico. Gray and golden clouds mixed with sunlight.

There’s a super fresh reality


in Albuquerque

Nob Hill groovy pubs

Ruby red placentas in Placitas

fall from hospital skies

of red brick, brown and gold

and sexy satin flesh


as newly fallen snow

on the ultra-hip Sandias

cruising on Central, Montgomery or Indian School

to smoke the city lights with the hobos

and the unfresh are like the undead

under Belen

down by the Rio

that brown ribbon curling through

bordered by the lush locks of green tree chicks

there they sit by the curls

with their hippie lamps and high times tales

bros of goodness

with mellow yellow pints clutched in claws

and the groovy fresh hipness of night descends

like clouds of far out turquoise ink

bludgeoned to the hue of a bruise

with Rio Rancho rancor

and the fist of super fresh God

the Q-Town queens line the electric neon boulevards

the Duke City duke boys say they smell

like slutty cigar store Indians

when they lift their skirts

and the desert air catches their scents just right

crippled life beneath the night fights

leprechaun green cascading beams

beckoning notice

out here like an exploding pinprick

in the desert roar of old Spanish shores

this is Albuquerque

this is super fresh

and this is what it is like

to be on maniac fire

this is what it is like to be hip and dead in the city of dusted dreams.

Mingling With the Savages

A companion piece to Inclined Corners of a Yellow Map and Bite of the Oven Salesman.

Mingling with the savages. Red adobe brickwork ruins beneath a medium blue sky and surrounded by dark green, forested hills.

The Long Drive

I handed the cop my driver’s license: Soledad Smith, 1704 E. El Toro Boulevard, El Fuego, NM. Date of Birth – 7/19/77. Hair – Brwn. Eyes – Hzl. Weight – 165. Height – 5′ 9″. Corrective lenses – None... Former oven salesman in Omaha.

“You were swerving.”


“You were swerving Mr. Smith. Have you been drinking tonight Mr. Smith?”

I looked out the windshield at the great expanse of stars draped across the black sky and I wanted to be drifting in space like a lost robot.

“No. I haven’t been drinking. I’m just very tired. Long day of life, you know.”

Liar …

“Where are you coming from?”

“Santa Fe.”

“What were you doing there?”

“Shopping and mingling with the savages. After I dropped off a friend at the airport. The Sunport in Q-town. You know it? I’m just trying to get home and sleep.”



“I thought you were in Santa Fe?”

“I was… After Albuquerque. It’s hip and super fresh.”

He looked at me like I was some sort of a loon. “Mr. Smith,” he said in a very authoritative tone, “You’re not making much sense and I really don’t feel like arresting you tonight. I just want to finish my shift, go home, and fuck my wife. I suggest you stop at the next motel and get some sleep before you get yourself killed out here. There’s one up ahead in Encino… ‘bout 20 miles I’d say. Not the nicest place in the world, but it’s got beds.”

“I know it… Know of it.”

He handed my license back and I tucked it inside my wallet and looked straight ahead.

He started to walk away back to his patrol car, and I stuck my head out the window into the black veil of night.


I heard his boots come to a dead stop.

“Did you see that wreck back there?”

“What wreck?”

“Isn’t that where you were coming from? The bad wreck some miles back.”

He stood tall and looked back down the road stretched out behind us.

“There ‘aint been no wreck on this road tonight. Nothing. Nothing at all. I’ve been up and down this road all night. Haven’t seen anything. Get some sleep, sir.”

I watched him climb into his patrol car and he drove off.

I started my car, rolled up the window and turned on the cd player. Loud music rolled out of the speakers as I pulled out onto the highway and headed to the motel in Encino.

My room at The Cactus Motel smelled of mold and old cigarette burns. I splashed cold water on my face and looked into the bathroom mirror. The grime and worry on my skin rolled away with the beads of wet and dropped down into the pool of dirty water in the sink. Stopped up. Of course. I grabbed a drab towel and dried my face. Took a deep breath and laid down on the uneven mattress of the bed. It felt dirty. A semi roared by on the road outside. Someone was having sex in the room next to mine. I could hear the woman moan “oh yeah, oh yeah” through the thin wall, could feel the headboard rhythmically knocking against it. It was late. Well after midnight and I felt very panicked and out of it. I tried to close my eyes, but all I kept seeing were visions of the weeping girl walking around the wreck in shock. “There hasn’t been a wreck on this road tonight…”

The words of the cop echoed in my head. Had he been lying? But why? Could I have been so tired that I did imagine the whole thing? Perhaps. It doesn’t matter. I was safe. I was so tired. I had to get some sleep to get up early enough to drive the rest of the way and make it into work by 4 p.m.

Morning came quickly. I rolled out of the bed sore and still sleepy. I got dressed and went to the motel office to check out. My car looked dusty and road weary in the sparkling sun of morning. A tarantula aimlessly strolled by one of the tires. I got in, started the engine, and sped off. Encino dissipated in a flash, and I was once again going 65mph headed south. Another 125 miles to go before I reached El Fuego. It was already getting hot. I rolled down the windows and cranked the volume on the stereo. Oasis – Definitely Maybe – Track 3 – Live Forever. If only we could. But then again, why would we?

The parched, rocky landscape flew by me like a desolate nightmare. The sky so gaping wide, churning blue and cream. The sun muscling its burning power through the stratosphere and into my eyes. Past the sad town of Vaughn I rolled and onto the remaining 95 miles of pure nothingness. Flatness. Openness. Scorched skin on the rocks and dust. Rocky red lands exposing burnt flesh. Stillness. Isolation. Wind and silence and heat. It was the desert. Endless miles of god’s gaping wound upon the Earth. I could see the highway roll on in front of me forever; an asphalt ribbon cooking in the first rays of day. A seemingly endless needle piercing the horizon, and all around it flat and gore and a dry stew of dirt and rocks and cactus. An unending mirage maybe; perhaps if I pulled the curtain aside a bit, I would find Eden on the other side. A paradise of lush, green and magnificent waterfalls tumbling over wet rocks down into the deepest pools of midnight blue. But there was no curtain. There was no mirage. This was the real deal. The great American Southwest in all its desolate glory and me a simple corpuscle pumping my life through the corroded veins of overcooked sanity.

I turned the stereo down to zero just so I could hear the hot wind rip through my car, wrestle my thinning locks and breathe life into my scorched lungs. I pushed the cigarette lighter in and waited for it to pop. I pressed it to the tip of my ninth cigarette of the day and exhaled a ghostly cloud of venomous smoke. I coughed. I always cough after the first drag. I turned the stereo back up just to drown out the din of nothingness and kept driving, my eyes fixed on the heat waves on the horizon.

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.