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  • Fiction by D.V. Glenn

He’s trying to tell a few of the guys he gets together with about a strange experience he’s had a couple of nights ago involving coyotes. But he’s had three, four shots of whiskey and four or five beers, shouldn’t have done that, Stacy’ll know when he gets home, see the muffled look in his eyes and remind him of all the promises he’s made and broken about staying off hard alcohol – drugs and alcohol destroying the lives of a whole generation of black youth, hell, not just the youth but adults as well, Bumper himself being one of them. Go on about how he’s supposed to be a role model, etcetera, she’s up in the stratosphere on her soapbox, guess she’s right, wait, almost forgot, she’s not at home. But anyway, whiskey’s why Bumper can’t tie his thoughts together into a neat package right now, they’re a spaghetti-tangle. So it’s the whiskey and in addition to that, the bar’s noisier than usual, have to shout to be heard above the incessant din of the clientele, the unrelieved ba-doom, ba-doom, ba-doom of the kick drum and bass percolating through scalding rap songs that threaten to overflow the speakers like coffee overboiling the pot: can’t hear himself think. Says that to the others.

”Maybe it’s not the noise level why you can’t hear yourself think. Maybe it’s your blood alcohol level,” Jeff says, or some remark similar to that, something funny, so that the other two, James and Louis, bellow elaborately. That’s okay, Bumper laughs with them, he’s a good sport about it.

”I’m trying to explain something to you fools and you’re not making it any easier,” Bumper says, and he notices he’s no longer slurring. It’s as though a bell fashioned out of arctic wind begins to toll coldly in his head, and he’s suddenly icy sober, walking alone through this tundra of sobriety. Can’t explain it. Funny how that happens sometimes, maybe happens through a sheer effort of will to straighten up, for instance driving with a heavy buzz and the road’s a movie of a road on a TV with no vertical hold, but see a patrol car in the rear view cruising up from behind, and suddenly Bumper’s Mr. DMV, everything right, speed, blinkers, lane changes, everything. Or maybe it’s being touched briefly by the hand of a merciful and pitying God. A God who knows that if Bumper keeps it up he’ll be drunk and end up like before in one of those open-all-night mini-mart places buying cigarettes, six-pack to taper off the harder stuff with, weaving down one of the aisles on unnavigable feet, riding that zigzaging skateboard of gravity. Like before, finally get to the counter and there’s a guy standing in front of Bumper. Guy smells like cooking oil, Crisco that’s been used to fry fish, white guy, or is he Hispanic, or if they want to be called Latino, so be it. Big teeth too, how he sees the big teeth is a mystery, because guy never smiles. Whatever he is, guy pulls out a gun, does a little dance from side to side, cocaine ballet maybe, graceful in an accelerated sort of way, not clumsy-looking at all, waving a gun that looks like a nine millimeter back and forth between the counterman and Bumper. Right, that’s how he sees the teeth, guy shouts something, something shrill squeezing through the clench of big teeth. Teeth are the bars of a jail cell, shout is a prisoner grabbing the bars, shaking them, let me out. Can’t think what to do, that same spaghetti-tangle of thought, so drops the wine, reaches for the gun, but reflexes are water-logged, neither bounce nor snap due to all the wine Bumper’s been drinking, or could have been whiskey and not wine after all. Not much of a struggle but gun goes off, bullet strikes the counterman in the right eye, no, from Bumper’s right, that would be counterman’s left one then. The counterman dies quickly, quietly, never even screams, can’t scream if there’s no mouth on the face, mouth and eye and most of the nose blown away, giving the face a macabre look, look of mutilated surprise. Guy reeking of Crisco says, disgusted, “You’re lucky there was only one bullet in this, but even if I had two, hey, I wouldn’t use it on you. For what? You’re already fried. You’re a fucking disgrace to your race.” But does smash the gun into the side of Bumper’s head for good measure. For a disorienting, upside-down, kaleidoscoping moment Bumper watches Stacy holding a Nikon with a huge lens on it so close to his face that he sees his own eyes reflected in it. “Stop dancing with my f-stops,” she says belligerently. That’s weird because she doesn’t own a camera, does she? Point is, he doesn’t go down: he’s big, 6’2” and weighs over 240 pounds, football in college, continues to work out now, pump iron though he’s been out of school for four years and owns his own Kinko’s franchise. No, make that wants to own his own Kinko’s franchise, to tell the truth he’s actually a salesman for Willamson Ford. Anyway, guy with big teeth scoops cash from the register, snatches five or six blood-spattered bags of Doritos from the display rack on the counter, makes a move suggestive of a piroutte, takes off. Bumper dials 911, tells them what happens, walks out of the store, mummified trance of walking, thinks he hears sirens as he walks up a side street, gets in his car. Late, one or two in the morning. Wait, what he hears aren’t sirens — they’re coyotes, their howls, if that’s what it’s called, floating down from the San Gabriel foothills, almost musical but not quite: warped music played on an old Victrola. Sits there and deciphers what they’re saying with their predatory, flesh-eater’s music: they’re coming to get him. Soon. This all happens a month ago.

Wants to tell Louis and James and Jeff only the coyote part, but doesn’t want to tell them all the other stuff, the incident with the killer that comes before the coyote part. Never will. Because he’s responsible for the counterman dying, taking that bullet in the eye, isn’t he. That is, responsible for being drunk and making that bad move in the first place. But maybe the killer would have shot the poor guy even if Bumper had been sober. Maybe he’s not responsible for anything. Still, won’t tell the guys, hasn’t told Stacy either. Well, can’t now. But if he could, and did, she probably wouldn’t judge him, would only seize upon what happened as an opportunity to tell him there’s a lesson to be learned and she hopes he learns it. Doesn’t judge him even when he does that strange, maybe terrible thing he does a few months ago when he’s under the influence: when he eats that raw blood-dripping steak while sitting on the kitchen floor in the middle of the night, listening to Marvin Gaye on his Walkman. What he wants is, wants to tell these guys how he’s talked to coyotes in his backyard, but how can he without linking it to the robbery incident. See, about three weeks after that night he hears the coyotes when he’s getting in his car after the robbery, he’s sleep one night, percussion of dreams turns into the sound of cans rattling in his backyard and he wakes up. Makes his way to the patio door through the chill dark of the house, sees something standing over a fallen garbage can. It’s a coyote – the coyote. And Bumper says, hasn’t been drinking that day either, says to the animal, “Uh-huh, I knew you’d come. What took you so long?” Coyote’s shrewd, pretends to eat garbage, well, is actually chewing some, but is really looking at Bumper with those yellow sulphur eyes, neck and head bent low so that eyes are tilted up, back, at an steep angle, burning holes right through the night, which hangs before Bumper’s eyes like black crepe paper, somehow flat and one-dimensional. “What took you so long?” he asks again, almost whispering. Answer of those eyes is, “I know you better than you know yourself, I know you the way that killer knew the counterman when he pulled the trigger.” Bumper knows then that they’ve always been there, in his life he means, their sulphur eyes smoldering up at him from the bottom of an empty bottle. Been on his trail since that time he was a teenager and that white kid calls him nigger and they fight on the bus, Bumper pulls the knife, he’s in a rage and stabs the kid. And on his trail ever since then — time he gambled away the mortgage payment, lost the house in foreclosure. Time . . . well, that’s enough, he knows all the times. So, very next night coyote shows up again, just about the same time, Bumper has his gun ready, takes steady aim, still hasn’t been drinking that day, but coyote takes aim back at Bumper with those phosphorescent eyes, slowly chewing garbage, and never runs when Bumper puts the gun down, walks over to the can, sinks to his knees slowly and reaches in, gets handful of garbage, offers it to the coyote. Coyote eats the garbage from his hand cautiously, almost gingerly, as though not wanting to hurt Bumper, big teeth like the killer’s that night, all the time the eyes watching with demonic intensity, fixity. Wet black plug of nostrils burrow into his outstretched palm. Musty, wet-blanket stench of fur filling Bumper’s head stronger than any drink ever has, will. Third night, still not drinking, third night in a row, Bumper’s at the garbage can but this time on his hands and knees, shirt off, pants off, down to his underwear, he’s eating garbage off the ground with the coyote. Coyote turns suddenly and runs, Bumper turns and over his shoulder sees Stacy watching through the kitchen window. Lets the coffee grounds dribble from his mouth. Wants to take off after the coyote, run with him, tongue lapping night-flavored wind, eyes rolling back in his skull as he runs, roulette of stars spinning overhead, that’s what he was planning on doing this time anyway, run wildly to the foothills, join the pack, if they’d have him. Doesn’t though, picks up his clothes, returns to the house, into the billowing vacuum of her stunned silence. Lesson time, no, actually more like judgement this time after all, because Stacy packs her bags and takes off, where, he has no idea. Doesn’t try to stop her.

On second thought forget it, can’t tell the guys any of this, none of it, not even about the coyotes, no way to without backing all the way up to the incident with the killer. Too much to explain that he can’t really explain. But he’s already started off the conversation with “I’m trying to explain something to you fools and you’re not making it any easier,” so he finishes it off a moment later with “had me a weird experience, actually, goddam religious experience almost: I stopped drinking for three days in a row last week.” They all laugh at the joke, well, the others laugh, but Bumper’s laughter claws its way up to a warped-Victorla howl, and he keeps it up until, finally, tears of exhaustion stream from his red-rimmed eyes.

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A Pause in the Motion Of Wheels- previously published on Web Del Sol / In Posse Review

Article By: dglenn

Arts | Fiction | Short Stories

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