The Angelfish of Giza (Excerpt 5)

Gary Glasscack boasted that he had the largest collection of pornography in all of Giza, New Mexico. He bragged about it any chance he could. He especially liked to bring it up in conversation with young female interns at the Giza Revealer newspaper where he worked. He always found a way to slip it into casual conversation in the breakroom while unwrapping the sandwich his wife had put together for him every morning.

Gary feigned a hopeless sigh as Lyla VanFly from Bend, Oregon sat at one of the plastic tables sipping a soda and nibbling on slices of cheese like a mouse as she stared into her phone.

“Ham and Swiss on rye, again,” he said, looking down at it, shaking his head. He snuck a glance at her. “That woman loves to fill me with rye bread. Does anyone even eat rye bread anymore?”

Gary waited for a reaction.

She eventually looked up at him, adjusted her glasses, crinkled her nose, and brushed her straight brown hair away from her eyes.

“I’m sorry. What?”

“Rye bread. My wife keeps feeding me rye bread. Do you like rye bread?”

“I don’t think I ever had it. I’m not much of a bread eater. Carbs are the devil, you know.”

Gary sat down at the table with her and dropped his sandwich in disgust.

“Am I really supposed to eat that?” he asked, palms out and pointing with the tips of his fingers.

She looked over, annoyed that he was invading her personal space. His hands looked weird. They were thin, and bony, and old, too old for the rest of him. “Why don’t you just tell her you don’t like rye bread?”

“I don’t want to hurt her feelings.” He chuckled. “But then again, I do.”

“I guess you could just throw it out and go get something else, right?”

“I suppose I could, but that would be wasteful. I couldn’t live with that kind of guilt.”

He stared deeply into her freckled and somewhat damaged-by-life-at-a young-age face.

“I’m Gary Glasscack by the way, advertising copy writer and business promotion guru. Welcome to our little newspaper. How do you like it so far?”

His name. She was weirded out but smiled politely. “Nice to meet you. I’m Lyla. Lyla VanFly. It’s good so far. Just trying to find my way around.”

“Well, if there is anything you need, don’t hesitate to ask. I’ve been around for quite some time now. Just ask Gary, and I’ll be able to help you out. With anything.” He winked at her. “And it’s German.”

“Excuse me?”

“You gave me a look when I told you my name. It’s a German name.”

“Thanks for the clarification.”

Gary sighed again. “Well, I guess I should go ahead and eat this. You don’t mind if I sit here with you, do you?”

She did mind, but she didn’t want to come across as rude or spoiled or uptight. Thunder clambered outside.

Gary’s head oddly swirled around like a cat’s following a bird with its eyes. “Sounds like a storm is brewing.”

“I didn’t think it rained much in the desert,” she said.

Gary took a bite of his ham and Swiss on rye and nodded his head.

“That’s a popular misconception, but you would be surprised at what goes on around here,” he said with food mashing in his mouth.

Gary took another bite and as he loudly chomped on the sandwich like an animal he stared at Lyla VanFly longingly.

“Just between you and me,” he leaned in, looking around and almost whispering. “I have one of the biggest collections of pornography in all of Giza.”

He took another bite of his sandwich and winked at her again.

“Excuse me, what did you say?” Lyla stammered, suddenly becoming extremely uncomfortable, yet strangely intrigued, for Lyla VanFly was a girl of the world and was totally on board with new, absurd, and experimental experiences.

“Do you have something against pornography?” Gary asked. “I assure you it is very tasteful.”

“Why are you telling me this? Or rather, do you really think it’s okay to be telling me this? I barely know you.”

Gary picked up a potato chip and pushed it into his mouth. He took a sip of diet soda, being that he was a pervert who cared about not getting too overly loaded with sugar.

“Giza can be a lonely place. I’m just saying that a young woman such as yourself may need a sexual outlet at some point.”

Lyla leaned back in her chair, somewhat shocked. “I really don’t think that is any of your business — or at all appropriate for the workplace.” But deep down inside, she kind of liked the inappropriateness.

Gary smiled, oblivious to his behavior.

“You’re not in Oregon anymore, dear. What was it? Bend Over? This is the middle of nowhere. It’s a forgotten place. Heck, you could even say it’s a place that doesn’t even really exist.”

“It’s real as any other place in the world. And it’s Bend, not Bend Over.”

Gary exhaled and wrapped up the remaining ham and Swiss on rye in its wax paper.

“Look, all I am saying is, if you would like to come over one night, maybe have dinner with the wife and I and I could show you a few things. I’m not going to hurt you if that’s what you think.”

“What kind of things?”

“Just some pictures. Maybe we could watch a movie together.”

“And what would your wife think of that?”

Gary scoffed at that remark.

“My wife and I have an understanding.” He leaned in closer to her again. “In fact, we haven’t had any sexual relations in several years. She finds it off putting.”

Disgusted, Lyla started to get up, but Gary reached out and took a hold of her wrist.

Lyla jerked away. “What are you doing? This is not okay. None of what you are saying to me is okay.”

But then again, somehow it was. For Lyla was a deviant and mysterious free spirit hiding in the shadows, a curious young woman who rebelled against normalcy. She ached to be cool, different, and even weird. And she presently found herself in a very weird situation.

Gary sensed her low tolerance for male piggishness and got nervous.

“I’m sorry. Forgive me. I just wanted to be friends. I was just trying to be friendly. Welcoming, you know? Like I said, Giza can be a lonely, debilitating place.”

“I would appreciate it if you would just keep your distance,” Lyla said with authority. “I wouldn’t want any of this to affect either one of our jobs.”

Thunder banged outside, lights flickered, and Lyla VanFly left the break room and went to her desk in the cackling and bustling newsroom to work on an article about killer bees for the next day’s edition.


The Angelfish of Giza (Excerpt 4)

Giza, New Mexico, population 53,219, sat in a narrow stretch of hot land running from the prosperous north to the downtrodden south. To the west, desolate hills rose up and up through picturesque valleys eventually leading to a mountainous region and beyond, then diving into expansive bombing ranges of evil and hot desert land and to places called Alamo City and Las Corsica and eventually the state of Ari-zoned-out. To the east, red crumbling cliffs lurched above bottomless pools and formed a desolate plateau that carried on past the nearly indecipherable Texas border toward places like Yellow Plateau with its wretched Dairy Dew drive-in full of bugs and human piss; Amberfield, home of the ugliest woman ever seen; and onto hot, brown and alphabetical Lupland — an open-face hot beef sandwich thrown into the dirt.

Giza’s cliché Main Street, a mostly straight line, dissected the city directly down the middle, from north to south, like cranial sutures deeply sewn into a burrito-shaped skull of desert-bleached bone. Paramount Avenue ran from the west to east — or east to west depending on what end of town you were coming in at or leaving from — and dissected the city perpendicular to Main, crossing through it in downtown. Beyond the confines of the city proper, on the outskirts, there was the farmland, arroyos, stinking dairies, ranchland and rancheros, shacks, wide meadows, fields, haystacks, heart bending farmhouses, pockets of sunsets, thunder, gulley washes, creepy natural gas factories, chuckling newsies doing cocoa-puffs under moonlight, star maps of glittering silver made the world there, hot Mexican food cooking, a sun dropping big and golden, hot, like red sauce on a La Torrential Bravo burrito.

And there was something in the air or the water or the blood flowing through that place that had a visible effect on the people. It was almost as if giant scientists in lab coats were looking down from above and poking and prodding with gloved tentacles inside a sterile box. That talk of Giza, New Mexico being one big psychological experiment may have been true. There was a madness that brewed there. There was a loneliness, too. Was it the isolation? Was it the relentless dry heat of summer? Was it merely the gathering of lost souls in Hades on Earth to party and ache for a few years?

There was lawlessness, gang pride and shooting in the streets and it was all tangled together with rich white peace and sun-pulsing preaching. Old-school Jesus duked it out with Evangelical aluminum storm shelter prayer warriors. There were deep cultural contrasts indeed, yet they flowed through a heat-wavering pall of consistencies. Giza was the city that should have never been, yet there it was, like some sheltered bruise on a pee-colored map of New Mexico.

There was Old Mexico-like ghetto, there was prosperous land. There were dirt roads, there were carefully constructed oversized landing strips of polished concrete. There was an abandoned Army air base still rung with barbed wire fence — but it really wasn’t all that abandoned. It still glowed at night and men with guns marched there. There was a brand-new Buddha-Mart, an attempt at non-confrontational big box retail, dubbed “the biggest in the world.” Probably not true, but then again, what was, what is? There was a big community college and a small airport. There were mid-century strip malls painted pink and brown. There was a small zoo inside a park with a kiddie train and a carousel and there was an urban legend that they kept a man inside a cage there and used him for human mating experiments. Crack whores and Christians strolled the same mall together. Murderers waltzed down the streets and laughed on the hot sidewalks while biting into delicious burritos. Musicians strummed guitars on the back porches of haunted houses beneath golden beer light. Pyros torched schools and jilted lovers blew up houses and gunned down firemen. The jail was always full. Overflowing even.

The tallest building downtown was 13 stories high. There were two high schools — homes to the Galactics in the north and the Fire Ants in the south. There was a military school for bad kids. The big fair came every August and the whole banging place smelled of cotton-candy sweat and new sex. The excited screams and laughter from the torturous rides floated up to space and bumped into the orange moon. Someone always got shot. There were a lot of funeral homes. Old people liked going to Buff’s, the cafeteria restaurant behind one of them. It was convenient in case they choked to death.

Summer seemed to last forever, and the oppressive heat boiled brains and other internal organs. It seemed the sun rarely shut itself off. There were not enough dark clouds and cool rains, not enough ice cream to calm the madness, not enough popsicles for the girls to deep throat, not enough electricity to whir fans, not enough clean, dark holes in the ground to escape to. At times it was like a dome of Los Angeles exhaust clamped down tight over the whole nutty joint of Giza. There was no room to breathe. There were not enough men of the cloth to excise all those flames of hell coming up to chase them through the wild desert.


The Angelfish of Giza (Excerpt 2)

Wilburn turned his attention to the store. It was right where he needed to be at the moment, he thought. He stood in front of the doors, and they instantly parted with a mechanical swish. He stepped inside. It smelled like a newly built house dipped in medicine. A yellow-white glow poured from the multitude of ceiling lights. It stung his eyes and bleached his skin. So unhealthy, he thought. So unnatural. And the incessant low buzzing was like orgiastic hornets trapped in a box. Although probably subtle to most, anyone with a sensitive soul and system could pick up on it.

The floors were like hospital tiles. The walls were painted wedding-gown white except for flowing bright yellow and red directional script to help dumb bunnies find the items they were looking for. The aisles were narrow and ran long toward the back of the store. Hypnotic electronica new age music played overhead. The shelves were perfectly neat and organized. There was not an empty space or single item askew.

He found the restroom in the back and used it. It was exceptionally clean. When he came back out, he noticed there was an elevated glassed-in counter in the far corner and there was a man just standing there staring at him, watching him, thick arms folded. He seemed oddly short, and he must have been standing on a stepstool, Wilburn assumed. The man had sun-worn brown skin and hair black as night that flowed down upon his shoulders. He wore a neatly pressed white dress shirt and over that a yellow vest with Pharm Farm stitched into it with red thread. There was a large microphone looking device in front of him – silver colored with an adjustable crane’s neck. The man suddenly leaned forward and spoke into it.

“Can I help you, sir?”

The voice was loud and distorted. He tapped at the microphone, stepped back a bit and tried again. “Can I help you sir?”

Wilburn’s nerves fluctuated inside his skin. He moved closer to the counter and looked at him. He was so strange looking.

 The clerk had a plastic nametag pinned onto the other side of the vest and it read: Uncas.

“Why is this place here?” Wilburn asked.

 And even though Wilburn was right there at the counter, the clerk once again leaned into the microphone when he spoke.

“Welcome to Pharm Farm, sir. Do you have a prescription that needs to be filled? Are you in pain? Do you feel sick to your stomach? Are you lonely? Do you have a broken heart?”

“I just want to know why this glittering box is here.”

“Sir?”

“In the middle of nowhere?”

“This is Pharm Farm, a modern leader in retail pharmaceuticals and everyday items that contribute to a happy and fulfilling life. We aim to meet all your needs — day and night, wherever that may be. My name is Uncas, by the way, and I’m a proud member of the Pharm Farm family. So again, how may I help you?”

Wilburn dug into his pack and pulled out an orange prescription bottle and slid it through a small opening. “I need more of these.”

Uncas picked up the bottle, read it over carefully and looked back at Wilburn.

“I can’t,” the strange man behind the counter said, pushing the mic out of his way, and he slid the bottle back through to him.

“Why not?”

“You are out of refills and a doctor must order more. I’m sorry.”

“But I need them.”

“And I need a longer pair of legs.”

“But it’s obvious I need them. I have the bottle. I can show you my ID if you don’t trust me.”

“It’s not a matter of trust sir, it’s a matter of cumbersome law and the fact that insurance companies dictate your healthcare. There is nothing I can do. You will have to contact your doctor’s office.”

“Look, I’m not from around here. You can’t just help me out?”

“I cannot just help you out, sir. I would lose my job. Perhaps you should have managed your prescriptions better before going on vacation. Have you heard of personal responsibility?”

“I’m not on vacation and my condition in this world is none of your business.” Wilburn looked around, lost, unsure what to do. “I’m sorry. I’m just frustrated with the system again.”

Uncas sighed and stepped away from behind the counter. A hidden door opened, and he came twaddling out. “Follow me.”

Wilburn followed behind the strange, little man to the supplement section. Uncas stood on his tiptoes and reached a small hand up and retrieved a bottle of Pharm Farm brand chamomile flower capsules from among a sea of other bottles and boxes. “Here. Try this. It’s not your prescription, but it could help you out until you can talk to your doctor.”

Wilburn looked the bottle over. “You want me to eat some flowers?”

“Chamomile is known to produce a soothing and calming effect.”

Wilburn was desperate. “Okay. I’ll try it. Thanks for your help.”

Uncas smiled up at him strangely. “Customer satisfaction is our number one priority here at Pharm Farm. It’s what our associates live for, it truly is. It’s all I think about when I go home.” Uncas sighed and rolled his eyes. “I can complete your transaction back here if you would like.”

“Do you know of a decent motel in the area?”

Uncas ignored him while he slowly concentrated on ringing up the sale. “Sorry. I’m new to this,” he said as his short, thick and brown fingers punched at the register keys. “$15.43.”

“That’s pretty expensive.”

“Our prices are very competitive here at Pharm Farm. If you have legitimate proof of an unexpired lower price offered somewhere else, I would be happy to match it — after you have it professionally copied and notarized of course.”

“That seems like an obscenely huge hassle,” Wilburn complained.

“Of course, it is.”

“Would the clerk up front know about a motel?”

Uncas shrugged. “I don’t know. I’m getting around to that. Just wait. Modern white man so impatient.”

“I’m not impatient. I’m tired.”

“Go toward Giza, that’s the city here. The motel is called the Crane Valley something or another. It’s on the right. It will be the first motel you see. It’s one of those old ones. Not bad. It’s cheap, but decent. There’s a diner right next door. I’ve had to spend a few nights there myself because of my bitch of a wife.”

“You’re married?”

“You look so surprised.”

“It’s just that…”

“What? Because I’m a little person? Or because I’m an Indian?”

“No. Of course not. Isn’t it Native American?”

“To you, not to me. I can call myself whatever I want. I can call myself a little Indian all day long, but you can’t. I’m in charge of my title, not you or any other rapist of our culture. Sure, I’m a little person, but just as capable as you are. Probably more. Look at me, I’m employed. Hell, you probably don’t even have a job or a wife.”

“No. And I don’t have a car either.”

“I knew you were some kind of loser, but then how did you…?”

“Hey.” Then Wilburn struggled. “I don’t know.”

Uncas eyed him strangely and then submissively sighed. “I’m sorry. I should have not gone off on you. You are a guest of Pharm Farm. My district manager will probably beat the shit out of me if she gets wind of this.”

“I’m not going to say anything to anyone.”

Uncas gave him an appreciative smile. “Look. I’m about to go on break. You seem like a nice enough guy and being that I am a nice guy, I’ll drive you over to the hotel.”

“Wait. You can drive?”

Uncas shot him a stern look and then he grabbed the neck of the microphone at his station. “Hey Doug, I’m going to go on break.”  

Then another voice pierced the air.

“Hey Uncas, how many times have I told you not to use the mic system for personal business. Pick up the phone and call me if you’re going on break. It’s distracting to the customers and unprofessional.”

Uncas slapped a hand against his strangely large forehead and shook his face. He yanked the microphone toward him once more.

“Sorry Doug. It will never happen again.”

You can read the previous excerpt from this novel HERE.