Trickster

Image courtesy Karon Magwood. CC0 Public Domain

This was one of my earliest publications with another disappeared venue, Writer’s Haven. I haven’t saved the best for last, more an indicator of how far I’ve come on this journey. This was a story inspired by a comment from my wife’s grandfather. Brief, slightly mysterious, it goes for a slow revelation I have yet to master. And if you squint real close, you’ll see Hurricane and Hound…

An incoherent exclamation bubbled near the window. I pried myself away from Muscle Car Quarterly’s April 2010 issue. Earl stood half-draped in the curtains, staring into the courtyard. His wispy hair was a cloud of white against the early morning sun. He turned his head and called out again with words wet and formless.

I glanced at his nightstand. In a glass, beneath a stagnant layer of blue foam, rested his teeth.

I shook my head and snapped open the magazine. Before he’d started jabbering, I was reading about Monte Carlos.

Used to have one back in the day. I was forty and still working hard to make a living, unlike the rest of the world. A brand new 1970 with the SS45 package and something else special, too. Jack, my navy bud, snuck it out of the factory with the limited edition LS-6 454 engine. Dual chrome exhaust and a mirror black paint job so glossy you could blind people at the right angles.

Sort of like the glaring bald spot on the back of Earl’s head.

More soggy cries erupted.

I rolled up the magazine and cracked it over a knee. “Your teeth, Earl! You ain’t got your damn teeth in! I can’t understand a word you’re saying!”

Earl, milky eyes squinting, pupils wide and that whitish halo of hair blazing behind him, sputtered. “Say whu?”

I leaned forward in the recliner and clutched the magazine in a white-knuckled fist. “Your teeth.” Snarling, I pointed savagely at my own. “YOUR TEETH!”

Earl’s jaw dropped and slipped back and forth as his tongue searched. He started across the room, past my bed, past his bed, and finally all the way into the bathroom.

The man didn’t have an ounce of sense left in him. I suppose they figured I could babysit. That’s why they put me with him. But that’s not my job. Whipping the now crinkled magazine into place, I thumbed through the pages.

“You feen mah teef?” Earl’s voice ricocheted dully around the tiled bathroom.

“They’re on your damn dresser, Earl!”

Monte Carlos. Article says only 10 of the LS-6s left the factory floor. That’s right. Jack caught hell from the corporate bigwigs, but by the time they figured it out, I’d paid cash and driven it off the lot. Too late for them to do much. The mayor? A Senator? Whoever it was set aside for, fuck them. Jack’s immediate supervisor was a Marine. He knew the score. Semper Fi. No one nowadays thinks of taking care of their own. Always someone else’s job.

Earl shuffled past. A rattle and a slurp interrupted the growling rumble of a 454 big block playing in my head. A click. A swish. I tried to sink deeper into the article.

“I said, there’s a three-legged coyote out there!”

Staring up at the tiled ceiling, I growled, “Ain’t no such thing.”

“Yeah, sure as rain there is. Right out there. By the gazebo.”

What gazebo?

Focusing on the dingy tiles above, I try again to will myself away from here. Further than the thin pages of the magazine allow. Thin and crumpled. A whole quarter for a stamp, you’d think the Post Office could keep from wrinkling things. Nice looking picture on the front of a Monte Carlo Super Sport. I used to have one of those…

“Come see, it’s out there, I saw it!” Jack moves toward the half-open curtains.

“All right. All right.” I stand and toss the magazine into the chair. I’m curious if they mention my LS-6, but more curious about Jack’s three-legged coyote.

Light throws the room out of focus and I reach into a pocket for my glasses. Empty. I pat each pocket, the front of my sweater, searching for something lost. Cool metal frames touch my skin as I brush my collar. My BCGs. Won’t see the incoming tracers without them. Sliding them on, the world outside comes into view.

“Right there.” Jack points, his shoulder inches from my face as he draws an imaginary line into the courtyard. “That’s where I saw it. There. Sniffin’ around like it was huntin’ for somethin’.”

My yard is a mess. I don’t know where the gazebo came from. It’s old and weathered and needs a coat of paint. Limp flowers encircle it, wilted under the summer sun. Beyond stands a tall, chain link fence. Could haul myself over the top lickety-split; did worse last year in basic training. It deserves consideration. I don’t think I belong here.

A hand grips my shoulder and an arm continues to trace the invisible boundary. Maybe that’s Jack? Don’t particularly think it matters anymore. Following that unbroken line, a known world fades and melts into this moment.

“It was there. Right there. A three-legged coyote, sure as rain.”

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