Coyote held a wake the night before he had to have his last wisdom tooth extracted.
“Is really about the tooth?” someone asked someone else, yelling so they could hear. “Probably not, but I don’t think it matters.” The din of the room suffocated their conversation. It ebbed out in a far corner. “I had mine taken out all at once,” someone said. “It was terrible.” The neighbours pounded on the shared wall.
People moved about lighting candles. They turned the music off, for a moment of silence at midnight. Coyote wept, and did a poor job of hiding it.
Some people think that, before we became ourselves, we were someone else. Many times over, maybe. Some even think we weren’t just someone else, but could have been something else. Like a bird or a dog or a ghost or a rock.
Some people say all you can do is be yourself. But they don’t say if you should be the self you are currently or one from before, or maybe a pastiche of all of previous selves you might have been. Or if you should aspire to more.
I worry if my previous selves would like the current one.
“I’d be pretty happy if I had someone else to make my bed,” Lamb said.
“That’s it? Doe asked, pulling her knees up under her, spilling a bit of her rum and diet coke. She licked her thumb and rubbed at the spot. “You have one wish, and that’s what you ask for?”
“Everyday? Freshly washed and dried sheets, tucked in tight. Yeah, for sure.”
They talked about other things. Had more drinks. Watched a movie when the pauses in the conversation got long.
Lamb woke up in the middle of the night and leaned in closer to her friend.
“You got a washroom here?” Kearns asked.
The attendant handed him the key, said it was around back. The headlights and the car that produced them turned in off the highway, just as Kearns walked outside. He ducked between the truck and his car, and waited.
The car stopped at the pumps, and honked. Kearns heard the bells, as the attendant made his way over. The two shots rang out.
Kearns backed away, pulling his revolver from his jacket pocket. The car door opened and closed. He crawled under the truck, waiting for the other man to come his way.
He came in for a glass of water.
But now, in the dim, dark and cool, he has another idea. One he tries to push away. It settles in, like a friend or lover, makes itself comfortable. The water is still running, his glass overflowing. He shuts off the tap and tries very hard to not think. To make his mind blank. Like he learned.
He wakes up on the kitchen floor. Pulling himself up, he doesn’t remember how he got there. His glass is still next to the sink. A car pulls in the drive, and he heads outside.
Kearns pulled off the highway and into the gas station parking lot. He nosed the car, picked up that afternoon, beside a beat up Ford that probably belonged to the attendant. The bell over the door rang, and the man behind the counter turned his head from the small television to see who’d come in.
“Lemme know if you need anything,” he said from the side of his mouth.
What Kearns needed was to watch the highway, and make sure no one had followed him. He spun the postcard rack and paced the cracked linoleum.
Headlights appeared, coming this way.
Last night’s argument discoloured the walls, like twenty years of cigarette smoke.
“This is going to stain,” one of them said.
“Use the steel wool.”
“That’ll take off the paint.”
They stood in the middle of the room, staring, rags in hand.
“We could repaint. Something bright?”
“Maybe a poster?
They dropped it for now. Emptied the bucket in the sink, rang out the rags. Moved the furniture back into place. And then, standing there, saying nothing, they drifted to other parts of the house. Later that night, they met in the kitchen.
“Are you hungry?”
“Yeah, me neither.”
There’s no sense in washing the windows when it’s about to rain. These early autumn storms come in sideways, drawing the curled leaf corpses from the puddles they pool in and throw them against the house. Some mornings you have to go out there and peel them down. Comes off in a solid sheet.
No point in trying to get out ahead of it, either.
You start running from a little rain, and you’ll finish in a snowstorm. The old-timer next door says as much, anyway. He gets out there, wrapped tight in his slicker, chin jutted to the sky.
Carl waited in the hotel bar, while his wife, upstairs in their room, finished getting ready. It was mid-afternoon and besides the bartender and a young couple out on the patio, he had the place to himself.
He sipped at his whiskey sour.
They’d got in the night before. Their first vacation together since they had kids. Seventeen years. Carl was doing his best to enjoy himself, but hadn’t had much practice. Bored and uneasy, Carl kept turning his head, scanning the bar, half-hoping someone would sit beside him, and strike up a conversation.
He rehearsed what he might say.
Crouching, he moved from the deeper shadows, over the hip-high back fence and across the yard, diagonally from the corner to the second window from the left side of the house. Leaning against the siding, he caught his breath and made sure he hadn’t yet been spotted. The window slid open, and he hoisted himself inside without too much noise.
He undressed and tried to sleep. School started in a couple hours.
A note on his pillow startled him and he turned on the lamp to read it, even though he had a pretty good idea what it would say.