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Some stories, you can tell anybody. Some stories, you only tell to the right people at the right time. Some stories, everyone wants to hear. And then there are some that nobody wants to hear, but everybody should.
This isn't one of those stories. This is a story about Coyote. Stories about Coyote, everybody starts out wanting to hear them, but it's rare to find anybody to sit through the whole thing. Coyote stories make you leave the room howling...
Once upon a time, maybe six-seven days ago, I was driving in to town when I passed an animal on the side of the road, a dead one. Looked like some kind of big dog. I pulled my old Chevy off the road and walked over to it. I hate to see dogs suffer. Cats, that's different, but a dog has the heart of a child. I picked up a rock about the size of my two fists together and walked toward the dog to stop it from suffering, as any fool could see it was still panting some.
As I raised the rock, the dog looked at me, and then I could tell that it wasn't a dog at all, it was a coyote. And not just any old coyote, but Coyote, one of the old spirits my grandfather told me about. As soon as I saw that, I realized that there was no way old Coyote was going to die of having been run over by a semi truck. Gods don't die like that. But any damn idiot could see that a God suffered of it just as a man would, or a dog.
I knelt over Coyote and pulled out my medicine bag. I had let it get thin and dry of late, thin and dry, but the packet of bone powder my great-grandfather gave me was still in there. I pulled out my pocket knife, cut my arm up some, and mixed all the bone powder I had left with some blood, some spit, and the warmth of my breath all together. I spread it over Coyote's wounds as best I could and danced around him a few times for good luck.
I sneaked a peek once, but I regret it to this day. Like as maggots were crawling around on his flesh, eating up the torn shreds and the blood and shitting out muscle and skin and fur. Gimme the willies. While Coyote was mending, I whispered the story of the Last Vampire to myself:
"Once upon a time, say about three-four years ago, the Last Vampire that ever was came to the Midway looking for a good time. He been to Heaven, he been to Hell, he been to all them pagan places that isn't much like either one, he been all around the three-ring circus, you might say. And now he was looking for a good time in the Midway, looking for a good time and maybe some cotton candy spun out of a baby's blood or something similar disgusting.
"First he got close to one of the truck stops, and then the other, playing cheap games and sampling a few delights here are there, when he smells moon-apple pie for the first time. 'What's that?' he asks. And one of the ghosts there under the lamp says, 'Moon-apple pie.' 'And what's moon-apple pie?' he asks. 'Made from moon apples,' says the ghost. And the last vampire would have strangled him right then and there had not said ghost already been dead. But then the ghost says, 'Moon apples taste like life itself, if you're dead. And like ashes if you're living.' 'Why?' asks the vampire. But the ghost doesn't know, so the vampire goes up to the kitchen door, where Sylvia is passing out slices of pie to any as will take them, living or dead.
"The last vampire stands in line for a slice. When he gets to Sylvia, she says, 'What are you, living or dead?' The last vampire hisses at her, so she hands him a slice and be damned with him for all she cares. Sylvia loves the sound of her voice so much, she's just as happy to any creature, living or dead, as long as it keeps a civil tongue in its mouth.
"Well, the vampire takes one bite, and suddenly he stands stock still and starts weeping. He stands and he weeps and he stands and he weeps, and when dawn comes, he's already so dried out that there isn't hardly anything left when the sunshine turns him to dust and the morning breeze topples him over and riffles him into the cracks of the pavement. For he knew that the lifeblood he'd been drinking all those years was only ashes, and that death itself was the only sweet thing left. And that was the end of the Last Vampire."
By then, the magic was finished. Coyote stood up on two legs. His long black hair fell away from his face, and he grinned.
"I ain't heard that one yet," he said.
"Only happened about three-four years ago," I answered. "And now you owe me a debt."
"A life for a life?" Coyote asks, and quick as a hen pecking up a grub I say, "Hell, no!"
"Hell, no," I repeat. "You're no man, and, strictly speaking, life is not what you have. You weren't born a no woman, and you won't be planted down in no ground when you're dead. Only a fool wants to swap life for that. You're only as strong as the belief that finds you, and if I had your kind of life, I'd be dead straight out, as I got nobody that believes in me. I'm just a wandering old Indian with a dead wife, a dead son, and grandkids that look as white as...well, as white as a white man's ass shining in the moonlight. You ain't got true life in you, and I ain't saved it anyway. What I did was save you a pain in the ass, laying there on the ground all smashed up for all your enemies to see and remember.
"What I propose is that you exchange me a pain in the ass for a pain in the ass. 'Cause I got a pain in the ass what's making my life hell. Not to mention that it's keeping me away from some damn good eats. You ever been to Midway?"
Coyote shook his head. His hair swung gently in the breeze and his muscles rippled just from that little gesture. Naked and put together as he was, I s'pose that for three states around, women sighed a little, moaned a little, and rolled over in their beds and went back to sleep. I went back to the truck and got him my spare set of clothes.
As he dressed, I began, "Once upon a time, say twenty years ago now, I picked up a hitchhiker named Adriana and dropped her off at Midway. Now, the thing about Midway is that it's like the midway of a carnival. This is where you get your games, the food that will turn your stomach, the one-two-three times around the ride, the fat ladies, the freak shows. The perfect place for someone like her. She's a whore, you see..."
Coyote, dressed in ragged blue jeans, a plaid cowboy shirt, and nothing else, hopped out of the old man's truck at the edge of the parking lot, slamming the door behind him. The scent hit him before he took a single step on the gravel.
Woman, mixed with something else. Or maybe something else, mixed with woman.
He followed his nose to a blue tractor-trailer combo whose cab rocked on its wheels from time to time.
He banged with his fist on the side of the cab. "Hurry up in there! Some of us have to pull out again before midnight! How long does it take to fuck a whore, anyway?"
Something tore inside the trailer, like cloth being caught on a nail and jerked away. A moment later, a pale face, not the color of death but slightly riper, peeked through the driver's-side window and said, "Who is it? What do you want?" The womanly face reflected down to him in all the side mirrors, trying to see past his dark skin and yellow eyes into the mischief within. Now, Coyote had a mirror made to catch such reflections, that would strip the face of its womanliness like a red-hot razor, but he didn't think he would need it tonight.
"You all done in there? 'Cause I need me some pussy. Or are you selling something else? 'Cause I could use some of that stuff, too. Whatever you got, I'll probably take some. You can be sure I got enough money for a cheap whore like you."
The face disappeared. "I'll be right out."
Coyote danced from foot to foot and only had to bang on the side of the cab once more before she came out.
"Good night," she called back into the truck.
"Yeah, hope you fucking sleep well tonight," Coyote yelled in after her. "Come on, bitch. What you waiting for?"
"Where's your truck?" she asked.
"What, you think I'm stupid enough to bring some whore into my rig?" Coyote asked. "What I mean is, it's my rig. That'd be like letting you into my skin!" He laughed. "I'll give you half now, we go back into that field out there, and I give you the other half after we're done. I got fifty bucks and a big dick. All for you. Now come on before I jerk myself off right here."
Adriana laughed. "It had better be excessively sizeable for that price, or you're going to find out that I've taken more than you wanted to give. All right. Start walking."
"Don't you want half the money now?"
Coyote led her past the trucks, past the truck stop, past the door where Sylvia was making pies inside, waiting for midnight and moonlight to bake them up, past the outhouse, past the edge of the cement and asphalt and even gravel, past the barbed-wire fence, out into the tumbleweeds and already-dry, short cornstalks between the truck stop and a few thin rows of scrubby acacias. Once past the lampposts and circling moths, Coyote started to stumble over the ground, tripping over roots and rocks, grabbing Adriana's shoulder, even pushing himself off the ground when he'd fallen.
"We far enough yet?" Coyote asked. "I'm tired of walking in the damn dark. It seemed like a good idea five minutes ago."
"Not far enough," Adriana said. "That enormous member of yours will certainly make me cry out loud."
"Damn right," Coyote said. He took two more steps and threw himself on the ground. "This is as far as I go. You're not worried about getting dirty, are you?"
Adriana knelt over him, one knee on his chest, and put her hands in the earth on either side of his head. "Dirty...no, that wouldn't bother me a bit."
Coyote pulled her down and rolled on top of her. As he struggled with the cloth of her dress, with two flicks of her wrist, Adriana made Coyote's borrowed jeans slide right off his ass. She took one look at what Coyote kept inside his pants and broke out laughing.
"Laugh at me, will you?" Coyote shoved up Adriana's dress and ripped off her underwear. Coyote growled and his eyes turned to fire, but she couldn't help herself.
Adriana laughed. She managed to gasp out, "What is that thing?” but that was about it. She laughed so hard that Coyote couldn't manage to keep hold of her, let alone give her what she'd been laughing at, which, considering the size of the thing, would have been hard with the most sensitive of gold-hearted whores. Adriana laughed so hard she pissed herself, laughed so hard black tears leaked out of the corners of her eyes, laughed so hard her ribs creaked, laughed so hard her belly seized up in cramps and made her gasp for air.
Coyote backhanded her and cussed her a blue streak, but it only made her laugh the more, this pretty man with the dull, coarse heart. What more could she do to him? What more needed to be done? What more misery could she give him, than to be laughed at by a whore?
And still she laughed...
I eyeballed at Coyote over a slice of one of Sylvia's other pies--I take the apple every time myself, for I'm the kind to eat up an apple, stem, core, bud, and all--but he just grinned.
"How do you laugh yourself to death, anyway?" I asked.
"First your hair falls off. Then all your teeth shake loose. If you're lucky, your heart stops beating right around then. Her, she was a stubborn one. Her brains shook themselves to shit and her guts poured out her asshole before she finally gave up the ghost."
I laughed. "Glad I didn't see it, now that you put it like that. Don't you want a cup of coffee or nothing?"
"Too much to see," Coyote said.
I nodded. "'S called Midway for a reason. There's one thing before you go...what did Adriana see? What could a dark bitch whore like her see that would make her laugh herself to death?"
"Took my pants off," Coyote said. "That's all."
"You said that. I seen you naked. You ain't, well, uh, I seen fellers a mite bit smaller than you before," I teased. "A while ago, say thirty-forty years ago now. I could tell you..."
Coyote pulled himself back, and his yellow eyes flashed. I shut up.
"Everything looks small," he said, with the kind of dignity that only a god caught with his pants down can pull around himself, "when you make it seem like it's a mile away...."
I laughed. And when I stopped, Coyote was gone. I helped myself to another piece of pie and pulled the garbage bags out of the janitor's closet. Well, somebody had to help those girls clean up, didn't they?