The New Mexico sunset was fading over the horizon, nightfall
extinguishing the blazing yellows and oranges that lay against the azure
sky. The blues were ever darkening and the colors on the clouds were
changing to rose and pink. The encroaching darkness was smothering the
sunset and turning the granite cliffs to dark gray monoliths. For
Antonio Salazar, this was a sky of memories, his thoughts were filled
with familiar images of home, that he thought he had long ago forgotten.
The motor on the black BMW M7 sedan groaned with hesitation as they
coasted through the switch-backs on the west facing side of the
mountain; the slopes, rocks, and road disappearing gradually in the
fading light. Antonio focused on the white lines on the edge of the road
and followed the flaking yellow dashes in the center of the highway. The
asphalt was spotted with neglect and superficial repairs. There was
loose gravel on the surface; the road was treacherous. The roadside
weeds waved in the draft of the descending car.
Inside the car, except for the motor, it was wearily quiet. They had
been arguing for the last one hundred miles, and nothing had been
resolved. The atmosphere inside was emotionally cold, bodily stiff, and
Antonio glanced over at his wife, Hope; she appeared like a statue; her
alabaster skin turning to stone in the darkening interior of the car.
She was slender and delicate with a beautiful face and lovely body. Not
small though, she was five nine, or taller when she wore heels. Her hair
was auburn down to her shoulders, enticing when she piled it on her head
with a flower on the side. He could smell her perfume. He watched her in
his peripheral vision, wondering, if he looked directly at her whether
she would be there. The darkness was diffusing her like a ghost. He
wanted to apologetically touch her, but couldn’t; he imagined the
distance between the seats like a flooded, bottomless canyon; his reach
was too short, and she was too distant.
He had left New Mexico when he was seventeen, stumbling his way across
the country, seeking something that he felt, rather than understood.
After several disappointing diversions, he had ended up in New York
City. He had done manual labor and lived in a shabby rooming house. The
anonymity had kept him there rather than any revelation; he had finally
gone to NYU out of desperation, not knowing what he wanted. No one had
been more surprised than he when he graduated with honors from the MBA
program. He couldn’t believe that he had ended up in investment
banking, but he rarely wasted his own introspective moments trying to
explain it to himself or anyone else.
He was a handsome man, 5’10” tall, with dark wavy hair and classic
Spanish features. His dark skin was smooth and mostly hairless from his
mixed Indian blood. He was fit from working out and handled himself in
an arrogant confident manner.
He had met Hope during his first year of graduate school; she was in
advertising and worked for a prestigious firm in the city. She was a
senior designer and, when deadlines had to be met, then she worked long
hours into the night and he rarely saw her.
He hadn’t been looking for a mate when he started graduate school, but
after their first meeting he began planning the life they would spend
together. She had elicited love from him; love that was unfamiliar; but
passionate love that he had believed would last. They were married the
summer after he finished school amid great fanfare and expectations.
They had many friends and the celebration lasted an entire weekend.
Now their schedules often separated them for days at a time, but their
time together was magical, until the passion had waned in this last
With his success in the banking industry and her creative work at the ad
agency they had become, what their friends called, ‘very
successful’. They lived on the Upper East Side, took extended weekend
excursions to the Bahamas, ate at the finest restaurants, and owned
truly everything that they wanted. They had a large savings account, and
plenty of surplus income, but now something was missing in their
relationship. They had talked about having children, or adopting, but
nothing had ever come of it. The process was too complicated and so were
their lives. Despite their commitment to each other, both were silently
aware, that their relationship was failing. Antonio had become stoic
while Hope was pensive.
Excerpted from "Hummingbird Cantina" by D. Michael Poppe. Copyright © 2017 by D. Michael Poppe. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
D. Michael Poppe
D. Michael Poppe grew up in Iowa on a dairy farm. He had a love of art from a young age; drawing pictures, building toys, and writing stories. His upbringing was conservative and religious. He served in the US Marine Corps during the Vietnam War and was Honorably discharged in 1971. He then attended the University of California at Irvine and studied art and music. He received a Studio Art degree in 1976. Dean has painted as a professional artist since college, and has examples of his work in numerous private collections. He retired in 2007 and finally had time for serious writing; Hummingbird Cantina is his second novel. The first novel, Match Play, was published in 2014. He still draws when he has time, and lives with his wife Ann and two recued dogs, Buster, and Sadie, in southwestern New Mexico
View full Profile of D. Michael Poppe