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 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.


The Angelfish of Giza (Excerpt 1)

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

The Beginning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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