Curse the Names

Curse the Names

by Robert Arellano


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One of Deckled Edge Books's "5 Books With Diverse Perspectives You Can Read Today"

"In this unsettling mix of noir and paranormal obsession . . . Arellano displays a sly, Hitchcockian touch."
Publishers Weekly

"Arellano pulls off the not-inconsiderable feat of making the disintegration of his hero more compelling than the end of the world as we know it."
Kirkus Reviews

". . . [N]othing in New Mexico has ever been more secret than Los Alamos, the Atomic City, where a diverse group of geniuses built the first atomic bombs and changed the face of the world forever. That’s the setting and premise for this excellent novel by Cuban-American Robert Arellano. Disaster is about to happen and one man can avert it . . . maybe."
Globe and Mail (Canada)

"Arellano's taut prose [is] a trip into the mind of a man on the edge of delirium, piecing together a puzzle at the expense of his marriage and his sanity."

"Arellano writes with pure movement and action . . . Curse the Names does exactly what Hitchcock and The Twilight Zone did so well. It takes the ordinary, the benign and relatable and turns it into a fast-paced romp with unexpected events and realizations at every turn. Don’t be surprised if you start this book and don’t look up again until you’re finished. Though its release has come at the doorstep of 2012, Arellano has definitely earned a late addition to my best books of 2011."
Ryan W. Bradley, The Nervous Breakdown

"Readers, fasten your seat belts for this one. Arellano’s novel is a dizzying Thompsonian concoction of noir crime thriller and alternately nightmarish and comic surreal psychodrama, spiced up with a heaping handful of local northern New Mexico flavor."
Albuquerque Journal

"The nightmare intensity to Arellano's prose gets under your skin. You won't want to turn the lights out after reading it."
Charles Ardai, Edgar Award winner

High on a mesa in the mountains of New Mexico, a small town hides a dreadful secret. On a morning very soon there will be an accident that triggers a terrible chain reaction, and the world we know will be wiped out.

James Oberhelm, a reporter at Los Alamos National Laboratory, already sees the devastation, like the skin torn off a moment that is yet to be. He believes he can prevent an apocalypse, but first James must escape the devices of a sensuous young blood tech, a lecherous old hippie, a predator in a waking nightmare, and a forsaken adobe house high away in the Sangre de Cristo mountains whose dark history entwines them all.

A massive bomb is ticking beneath the sands of the Southwest, and time is running out to send a warning. James has to find a way to pass along the message—even if it ruins him.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781617750304
Publisher: Akashic Books
Publication date: 12/27/2011
Pages: 200
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Robert Arellano is the author of the Edgar-nominated noir Havana Lunar and two earlier novels, all published by Akashic Books. Writing as Eddy Arellano, he collaborated with three artists on the graphic novel Dead in Desemboque from Soft Skull Press, and as Bobby Rabyd he created the Web's first interactive novel, Sunshine '69. He lived for seven years in the small mountain town of Dixon, New Mexico, and he now teaches in the College of Arts & Sciences at Southern Oregon University.

Read an Excerpt


A novel
By Robert Arellano


Copyright © 2012 Robert Arellano
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-61775-030-4

Chapter One

Monday, July 1

She took my wrist in her hands and placed it on the padded, tissue-papered armrest. "Keep your elbow real straight for me now." She was what you might call a goth: black scrubs, pierced tongue, and an extreme manicure, black-polished fingernails at least three inches long. How can someone who draws blood for a living have such long nails?

There were tattoos up her inner arm: figures, faces, and names. I don't know, guys she had been with? There were girls' names too. I watched her preparations.

She tied the latex strap around my bicep and gave me a rubber ball to squeeze. Somehow she pulled a pair of surgical gloves over those nails, and then she scrubbed the crook of my arm with an alcohol swab, finding a vein she liked. I tilted my head back and closed my eyes. She jabbed the needle in and I groaned softly.

"You're lucky you have such low blood pressure," she said, and we both waited for the vial to fill. "So, what are you doing for the Fourth?"

Fourth of July: a special day for me—like the song says, "Born on."

"Staying home, probably. Fireworks make my dog skittish."

What made me say probably just then? And what made me refer to Oppie as just my dog? The same impulse that makes me take off my wedding band before entering the clinic: a just-in-case. Never mention the wife just in case you run into a woman who might want to make a pass at you.

The blood tech was holding her breath, and for the first time in our short history of brief encounters I noticed that she looked into my eyes with a strange earnestness. Back in college, that expression would have made me put down my beer at a party and follow her up the stairs no matter how she looked. I said, "What about you?"

She exhaled and flicked the strap away. A little grin stole over her usually dour pout. "Me and my girlfriends go to Morphy Lake. Have you ever been up there?"

"Is that the one near Mora?"

"Yeah. There's an abandoned house above the lake. It's the only place in that valley, right after the bend in the old road. Me and my girlfriends bring a bottle of Crown Royal and make up ghost stories." And then she said, "You should come."


She backed out the needle and pressed a gauze pad against my skin. "You should come, we could hook up."

Hook up, that's the phrase young people use for sex, right?

For as long as things have been cooling with Kitty, I have been waiting for this to happen: a loose girl—a young woman, the likes of whose suppleness I haven't experienced since grad school—makes the first move. I am a lecher, but I am also a coward, so I have always left it up to someone else to propose an extramarital affair.

The nails got in the way and she fumbled with the Band-Aid. I had to help her put it on my arm, our fingers briefly touching. I let go of the rubber ball and she finished her job with a bit of surgical tape. I liked the way she held my wrist and gently bent my arm back at the elbow instead of saying okay, you don't have to keep it straight anymore. I liked the homemade signs she taped to all the cabinets, little penciled messages that read: don't 4get servecing code! and remember: just a little pinch! I decided she might just be trying to pick me up. Hook up.

I took a mental picture of her ass inside those scrubs. I wanted to know what it would feel like for those long fingernails to scratch my back, draw a line of blood. In my head, I was already winding across the mountains in the Spider, and Kitty was better than a thousand miles away—even though she would be right beside me—because my mind was on a sexy young blood tech I pictured disrobing inside an abandoned house at the end of the trail. I realized I had not felt this way in fifteen years, when driving three hours to get laid was almost as good as getting laid. It simultaneously inflamed my lust and awakened an affinity for deception.

In the clinic parking lot, I climbed in the Spider, took the New Mexico map out of the glove compartment, and drew a line across the mountains.


Excerpted from CURSE THE NAMES by Robert Arellano Copyright © 2012 by Robert Arellano. Excerpted by permission of AKASHIC BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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