Tag Archives: Travel

The Cowmen (One)

For The Cowmen

I was the man beyond the veil, and I was upside down in sunlight, so it seemed. A crystal-clear river of icicle vibes sparkled in that light to my left. A grassland to my right. Broken people with backpacks and real live monkeys on their shoulders wandered through traffic unaware of all that worldly danger that I could feel myself right under my olive and oiled skin. The black hairs on my infinite arms curled and crawled like villains coming up out of the ground—ground on a green hill, ground littered with the stones of the dead, ground covered with thick trees and their companion crooked branches that pointed off into all sorts of directions, all sorts of times and places, pointing off to one hamlet or village or town or metropolis or suffocating hole of hell that included far too many bodies living on top of each other.

I watched as they bathed in dirty rivers. They held red buckets near their dark brown skin. The hoods and the shawls and the shirts were all decorated with brightly colored flowers and yet no blue god with a golden and ruby dragon for a crown would grant them peace. They suffered for living. Yet some smiled. Some laughed. Some even splashed and jumped in the water the color of diarrhea. I turned the other way like so many of us do up here on the mountain in the clouds.

Bibles for bullets, burritos for warfare, turbulence for tractors… I see the farm man in a straw hat and loose blue shirt sitting on the machine as it putters its way through a big yellow field slowly turning fresh brown. He plows the world under in search of an unsustainable hope. He falls, dies, and is buried by his own machine, man’s own metal devices. I move on with the stars, the planets, the universal exoskeleton.

“Get a rope,” a grumpy cowboy who sat by a fire in another time croaked in his drunkenness. His face was like dirt and charcoal all mixed together like splatter batter and the orange light made the skin shine. He looked up to the night sky. “We’ll tie one end to the moon, the other to his neck.”

“Who are you wanting to kill now, Arno?” a cleaner cowboy asked from the other side of the fire. He was sitting on a log and rolling a cigarette.

“I’ll kill anyone deserves killing or even those that don’t but merely dream about it. I’m just thinkin’ and spoutin.’”

“Seems all you care about lately is killing folks.” He pointed with his smoky cigarette hand. “Haven’t you ever just wanted to love somebody or be loved yourself? I figure you got to have a heart in there somewhere. Why don’t you ever use it?”

Arno grunted his dismayed amusement. “Love is nothing but the far end of disillusionment. And when you connect both ends, when you bend this arc of life like space time and bring them closer, well, it’s just the same thing. You drop in. You drop out. Continuum flows into continuum and just keeps going. Love turns to hate and then back again… Maybe. If you’re lucky. But most of us ain’t.”

“Well,” the clean cowboy named Hosea chimed like the wind and he spat at the ground, “I don’t see it that way.” Hosea stuck one end of the rolled cigarette into his mouth and put a match to it, waved it out and tossed the stick into the fire. “Love would change you if ya just let it. Love will make you a true and genuine man. You just can’t give up. It’s gotta be through thick and thin.”

Arno reached down and filled a hand with pebbles and dirt and tossed it. “Shut up. Your dullard philosophy is giving me a pain in the head. You sound like a duck. An unintelligent duck.” Then Arno stood and flapped his arms as he waddled around the fire making quacking noises and laughing.

“Ah, hell. You ain’t nothing but a fool, Arno,” Hosea said as he brushed the pebbly dirt from his coat. He tossed the remainder of his rolled cigarette in the fire and coughed. “I’m going to turn in.” He was tall and skinny, and his body seemed to go on forever toward the sky when he rose in the firelight and headed toward his bedroll. “I’m tired as an old man.”

“Sleep tight, princess,” Arno teased. “Don’t let a broken heart fill your dreams with dread.”

“Yeah, yeah. Don’t forget to put more of them logs on the fire. Keep it burning.” His voice began to drift away. “I’ve got the strangest feeling someone is watching us from the woods… Or maybe a crystal ball in the clouds.”

The air smelled like dissolvement in the turpentine chill of a new winter’s day. It had lightly snowed on them during the night, like a virgin spread of the legs, and they woke chilled to the bones and scuttled quickly to restoke the midnight fire which wasn’t an easy task and they had to make use of strong whiskey for their insides and for flames. They made heavy coffee and fried remainders of rabbit meat in a chattering silence among them. Both men kept their uneasy thoughts to themselves as they packed up, broke camp, and mounted the horses.  

They rode slowly in single file. The breath of the animals steamed. Arno led. Hosea kept his distance. The landscape was a grayish, ghostly white on the moorlands and with forest walls of slate green on the curved edges. The sun was a rising palladium disc that lacked radiance as it sat motionless behind the ill-colored clouds. 

Hosea later called ahead in the vastness, his voice cracking the quiet and startling perched birds to flight. “Do you think we’ll make it all the way to Shamrock today?”

“I don’t know,” Arno answered when he turned to talk. “I reckon that’s up to the universe and the degree of its good mood.”

Hosea spurred his horse up closer to the brooding leader, and then told him, “I had a dream last night that I died.”

Arno glanced at him for a moment and then looked forward again, mostly uninterested. “I don’t ever dream,” he said. “Dreams are the products of unfulfilled wishes.”

“Do you mean all your wishes have come true in life?”

“No… Because I don’t wish for anything neither.”

“How can you live like that… With no hopes or dreams or wish making?”

Arno looked his partner straight in the eye, a squint forming via a streak of sunlight beckoning to break through the veiled ceiling of the world. “Well, right now I sorta wish you’d shut your yapper.”

The younger Hosea was a bit dejected. “Sorry… I guess I do talk too much.”

They came to a fork in the trail and their wayward way opened like a storybook. They stopped and looked at the bowl of the land, an arc of morning light on the horizon the color of an over-easy fried egg.

“Yes, you do,” Arno said about the talking. “And sometimes I wonder if you’re even a real cowboy.”

“Of course, I am,” Hosea protested. “Just because I think about a lot of different things in a deeper matter than most doesn’t make me not a cowboy.”

Arno merely grunted a response as he looked both ways at the fork. One path sloped up and deeper into a wooded plat, a forest of vertical jail cell rails with light lingering through, ghosts of all the world’s prisoners floating among the limbs. The other way opened onto a prairie with shallow, frosted hills and escarpments of weathered rock fondled by perverted and unsettled brush.

And why are we called cowboys?” Hosea pointed out. “We’re not boys, we’re men. We should be called cowmen.”

“Cowmen?” Arno snorted like one of the cold horses. “Because cowmen sounds stupid.”

Hosea was quiet for a moment and then changed the subject. “Which way to Shamrock?”

Arno nodded toward the prairie and the vast wonderland that lie beyond. “West.”


The Pumpkin Cult Clerk

For Pumpkin Cult Clerk.

Jehovah Pumpkin worked in an oceanside souvenir shop in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. His job title was that of clerk and his basic duties consisted of stocking merchandise, helping customers, and operating the cash register. He liked the job but hated the people that came in and complained about the most mundane things. He also liked the job because he could come to work looking like a beach bum and no one really cared. He was part of the “atmosphere,” his boss had said, and so it was okay if he resembled a hippie surfer dude who was high on more than just life.

But the one thing that Jehovah Pumpkin always got heat for was his name. There were a great many people who upon looking at his nametag emblazoned with JEHOVAH became very accusatory in the sense that Jehovah Pumpkin was somehow making light of the name of God, or worse yet, impersonating the good Lord. His persecutors — and wasn’t that strange, persecution for the persecuted — said words like “Sacrilegious,” and “Blasphemous,” and “Scandalous,” and “How dare you,” and “You should be shot, and then shot again.”

Jehovah Pumpkin would try to explain, if they would listen, and some did, that he had no choice in what his name was because he was raised in a cult that lived in a pumpkin patch in Colorado and that their Prophet had bestowed all names upon the newly born, for it was his law. Jehovah would always add, “And I have a brother named Yahweh.”

Many of the people he told this to would just scoff and shake their heads in disgust. Some would spit on him after purchasing big towels or beach balls or plastic pails and shovels and molds for sand to build sandcastles with.

It was his crazy mother, Ruth the Baptist, that decided to stay with the cult while his father, Roger Hemingway, (Hemingway being the secular surname he returned to) had escaped to a semi-normal life in Denver when Jehovah and Yahweh Pumpkin were just young gourds (or boys). There had been much fighting and hot-headed quarreling between the mother and the father, especially when Roger Hemingway discovered that the Prophet had taken his wife as his own… Without even asking first.

And seeing that Ruth the Baptist had no intention of protesting the arrangement, in fact, it seemed she was quite in love with the Prophet, Roger Hemingway could no longer take life there in the pumpkin patch. He decided it was time that he left the compound, to leave behind the bland adobe buildings, cell blocks really, and metal fences, and wild dogs, and bizarre rules and rituals, and so he packed one bag and stole off into the night without even saying goodbye.

Jehovah Pumpkin was haphazardly rocked by Parrot Bay rum as he looked out at the ocean and the clouds above that were like purple haze marshmallows. He was sitting out on the deck of his beach bungalow, it needed fresh paint, and he was listening to the waves crash as he rearranged his mind with the strong drink. The sliding glass door was open and music from the radio inside was filtering out through the screen, something from the Yield album by Pearl Jam. He had recently cleaned the kitchen and the dishwasher was running and so he heard that, too, the machinery and the water. It was somehow soothing and satisfactory to him as it mixed with the mainstream rock licks.

The wind blew his hair around and there were people running and playing down in the sand. Someone was flying a kite. He could hear the distant sounds of people laughing and speaking inaudible words to each other. He reached for the binoculars on his patio table and zoomed in. There was a woman who had taken off her top and her oversized breasts were jiggling almost grossly. It was unsatisfying to him. The tourists clot the cream, he thought.

He set aside the binoculars and bemoaned the fact that he was too drunk to just run out to the sand and feel the grains between his toes and the softness on the soles of his soul and jump out into the ocean like a madman to jungle dance and eat jellyfish sandwiches as a windsock screamed a scalding warning about a coming storm called IGNORANT MAN… So it said on a banner trailing from a small plane in the sky.

The phone rang. Jehovah Pumpkin clumsily got up and drunkenly shuffled inside to answer it. It was his boss from the oceanside souvenir shop wanting to know if he could come in and cover the evening shift, 4 to 9 p.m.

“No. I can’t do that.”

His boss got a little upset and wanted to know why.

“I have to go to my uncle’s funeral.”

His boss wasn’t convinced and wanted to know when his uncle died.

“A few days ago,” Jehovah Pumpkin answered. “His heart exploded.”

His boss wanted to know why he hadn’t mentioned it before now.

“I was to upset… And I didn’t want to place any unnecessary emotional burden upon my co-workers, dude.”

His boss sighed and asked him to call tomorrow with an update on the status of him being able to work.

Jehovah Pumpkin hung up without saying another word. He looked out the sliding glass door and saw that storm clouds were beginning to develop. He was happy about that because he liked a good rain, he enjoyed the sound of it as the drops hit the world and discolored it. He was suddenly hungry for pizza. He dug through a small pile of paper coupons and found one for a good deal at Volt’s.

“Volt’s… Shockingly good pizza,” Jehovah Pumpkin said aloud with a laugh. “Hell, man. I like that. That’s a billion-dollar idea.”

He dialed the number and ordered a large sausage, pepperoni, and pineapple pie to be delivered. They told him it would be about 45 minutes.

“Dude, time has no meaning to me. Just bring it when you can,” he told the young man on the other end of the line.

He hung up and walked outside. The wind had picked up and the temperature dropped, and he thought that was strange. “Maybe it will snow,” he said to the clouds.

A while later there was a knock at the door and Jehovah Pumpkin nearly fell on his way to the door. He pulled it open hoping to see the pizza delivery guy holding a big white box and a pleasing smile. But his heart quickly sunk when he saw the Prophet from the pumpkin patch in Colorado standing there, looking much older than he remembered, but it was definitely the Prophet. There was a large man standing on either side of him, big muscular arms folded across their torsos, squinting scowls upon their faces.

Jehovah Pumpkin poked his head out a bit and looked around. “What the hell… Have you seen the pizza guy?”

One of the large men quickly put a cloth sack over Jehovah Pumpkin’s head while the other grabbed him up and carried him to a waiting white van with the side door open. He was thrown inside, and the door was quickly slid shut with force. The van sped off.

Just as the van had completely disappeared, the pizza delivery person from Volt’s Pizza arrived and knocked on the halfway open door of Jehovah Pumpkin’s beach bungalow. “Hello… Pizza delivery,” she called out. She waited. “Hello,” she repeated. “I have your Volt’s Pizza order.” She waited a little longer. “God damn it,” she mumbled, and she went back to her car, tossed the white pizza box through the open window and onto the front passenger seat. She went around and got in on the other side and drove off with a bucket full of anger in her guts.

The pizza delivery girl, her name being Emmanuelle, stopped at a convenience store and bought herself a lemon-lime soda in a plastic bottle. She drove to a park overlooking the ocean and watched a thunderstorm give birth far out over the Atlantic. She ate Jehovah Pumpkin’s pizza and drank the lemon-lime soda. When she was done, she put her hand down her pants and touched herself for a while. Then the rain came in thick sheets, and she felt it pool in her heart for the rest of the day.


If you enjoyed this story, check out more at cerealaftersex.com.

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.

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)

The Angelfish of Giza (Excerpt 3)

Uncas’ car was a brown-colored old Saab that’s seen better days. There was a metallic squeal when Wilburn opened the passenger-side door. The smell inside was odd. There was trash strewn about.

“Sorry about the mess,” Uncas said, embarrassed. “My wife and I are having marital problems and I’ve been kind of living in and out of my car lately when I can’t afford a room. Pharm Farm doesn’t pay people shit. Surprise, surprise.”

Uncas slammed his door with an angry thud. There were specially installed bars and handles for him to be able to operate the car without having to reach the foot pedals. He leaned, turned the key and it sputtered to life.

Uncas put the car in gear and pulled out of the glossy parking lot and onto a road that connected to another. He turned right. The metal moon was blue, low, and bright. It cast a glow across the soft desert. Wilburn thought he saw bent figures moving in the fields out there — in those rectangular patches etched into the hard earth around it and splashed with the light the color of spilled milk.

Uncas fussed with the radio trying to find music to break the awkward silence but all that came across were the familiar weird vibrations and messages that came from somewhere else.

“Extraterrestrials, those not of this Earth,” said Uncas, and his eyes quickly darted upward, through the metal roof of his beat down, beat up car and all the way to space. “They keep messing with us down here, but not enough people pay attention.”

Wilburn tried to focus on his thoughts as the car bounced along the late-night road toward the guts of Giza, New Mexico. “You believe in that sort of thing?” he finally replied.

“That sort of thing?”

“Yeah. That sort of thing.”

“What kind of question is that? It’s all I believe. It’s everything I believe. It’s all I can believe. The star people are the creators. What do you believe?”

“Well, I was born into the generalized idea of religion. You know, church on Sunday, Jesus on the cross, God up in Heaven, sins and hell and all that.”

“Yeah. And how’s that been working out for you all this time?”

“It hasn’t. I want to say I don’t believe all that, but, when it’s in your blood, it’s kind of hard to get rid of… I can say, with all my own truth, that it’s never done me a bit of any good.”

“Hmm. Sounds like you need to get out more and take a real look around for yourself. Perhaps you were baptized into the untruth.” Then, after a long patch of silence, “Here it is.”

The car came to a slow roll in front of a roadside motel, the tires crunching on gravel. There was a fluttering pink neon sign shaped like a bird and the light bounced off the surrounding landscape of rocks and brush — Crane Valley Motel. Vacancy.

“This be okay?” Uncas asked.

Wilburn scanned the area with his tired eyes. “Looks fine to me. Thanks.”

“All right. I hope you find whatever you have lost.”

Wilburn got out of the vehicle and strange little Uncas drove off. He watched as the red tail-light dots grew smaller and then disappeared completely. He turned and realized someone was standing out in front of the motel office smoking a cigarette.

“Do you need a room?”

“Yes. Do you have one?” Wilburn stepped closer.

“I do.” The man studied him. “You don’t have any luggage?”

Wilburn searched around himself in earnest. “No. Just my backpack.”

“Lost it, I suppose,” the smoking man pointed out.

“No, just a minimalist.”

The man looked at him as if he didn’t understand. “Well then. Just as long as you’re not up to no good. I guess it’s all right. Not so much me. I don’t care what people do, but it’s my wife. She doesn’t like people coming here with those unclean prostitutes. Gives us a bad reputation, she says. Mostly truckers do that though. You don’t seem to be a trucker.” He looked over the parking lot. It was empty. “I don’t see a truck.”

“I’m not a trucker, just a traveler.”

“Oh yeah? A traveler without luggage or a truck.” The man laughed to himself, coughed, and snuffed the cigarette in an oval ash can tray. “Ah hell. I’m just messing with you. As you can tell, I’m glad to have the business no matter what way it comes. Step inside and we’ll get you registered.”

The office was small and bright and smelled of disinfectant and flowers and oldness. The man stepped behind the counter. He was thin and his tan face was taut and wrinkled. He awkwardly maneuvered a pair of wire-framed glasses onto his face, sniffed and opened a registration log. “All right then.” He handed Wilburn a pen and turned the logbook toward him. “If you’d just fill out that information there for me, and how would you like to pay?

He looked over the previous entries out of curiosity and in three different spots he saw the name Uncas Bravo had been written in. Wilburn scratched his own name into the next blank space. “Why do you need my address?”

“Something wrong?”

“No, just want to know why you need my address?”

“In case you leave something behind, we can send it you. That a problem? I can’t rent you a room if you don’t provide us an address. It’s our policy.”

Wilburn made something up and turned the log back around to the man. He looked it over. “Hmm, Mr. Valentine, is it? All the way from Santa Monica, California?” He looked up at him, suspicious. “That’s a long way to go without any luggage and a car, don’t you think?” He laughed, sputtered, coughed.

“You should quit.”

“Quit what?”

“Quit smoking and quit asking questions about my traveling, no disrespect.”

The man sheepishly looked away, removed his glasses, and rubbed at his eyes. “That’ll be $65 then.”

Wilburn withdrew cash from his wallet and set it on the counter. “If I decide to stay longer than one night, will that be okay?”

The man scratched at his face and thought. “Yep, just fine, sir. Should be at least. Just let me or my wife know by noon tomorrow. Her name’s Mandie. I’m Sid, by the way.” He pushed the room key across the counter with the tips of his fingers. “Room 17. All the way at the end there. Should be nice and quiet and private. My wife will have fresh coffee and donuts set out here in the morning, no extra charge. The Thundercloud Diner there serves up a pretty good breakfast, too. Give us a ring if you need anything. Can’t promise we’ll answer but give us a ring. Goodnight now.”

Wilburn Valentine sat on the edge of the bed in room 17 drinking water from a paper cup. The room was small and dim. One of the walls was wood paneling. The other walls were cinder block painted a dull yellow. There was a small round table beneath a hanging lamp with an amber glass ashtray dumped and wiped clean set down in the middle. There was the smell of past lives, quick sex, loneliness, and lingering cigarette smoke.

He turned on the TV to the Weather Channel. The hosts were celebrating wildfires and hurricanes and all-around global devastation. He kept the volume low. He went into the bathroom and clicked on the bright light. It was clean. He undressed and looked at himself in the mirror. He was in decent shape still. He pulled the shower curtain aside and reached to turn on the water. He gathered the small samples of shampoo and soap from the sink counter. He stepped in, activated the shower, and let the world around him fill with steam.

Wilburn Valentine was an impatient man and it aggravated him. At the age of 59.5 he felt the end was coming closer and closer. Now more than ever. He hated wasting time. Hated it. He felt every moment should have purpose and value, be meaningful, productive, full. He felt he was constantly being chased by that reminder of time always draining away, that ever-ticking clock, those subtle sweeps of the hands, that endless feeling that “I must do something, I must get somewhere, I must accomplish something great!”

Not practicing mindfulness was one of his greatest weaknesses. But what is life if not for the small, simple moments that merely present themselves? His quandary.

Yet he was a man who squandered most of his life away worrying about not squandering his life away. He didn’t know if it was a defect in birth or motivation or if he was just overwhelmed all the time. He envied those that accomplished things in life. He questioned his own talents. He questioned his own intelligence. Self-doubt lingered in him always.

He stood in his room at the Crane Valley Motel with just a white, thin towel wrapped around his waist and he was mindlessly looking at the TV and rapidly clicking through the channels. Nothing interested him. Maybe that was his problem. Nothing kept his interest anymore. It was all thoughtless crap. He clicked it off. He swallowed some of the chamomile capsules with some water. He turned down the sheet and thin blanket on the bed and released the towel from his waist and crawled in. He reached over and clicked off the light on the bedside table. It was quiet and dark except for a narrow glow from the parking lot coming in through a gap in the curtains. He turned on his side, facing away from it, and tried to escape into the world of sleep.

You can read the previous excerpt from this novel HERE.