Buckshot holes in her pack and the shoulder of her jacket told a story I didn’t want to know. Her being so hungry, ravenous you could say, and having dirty hands and matted down hair you could see she’d been living rough. Had more hair about the face than most women, starting out light on her cheeks and getting redder as it went back. Bright black eyes, not like a regular person. Now you could ask about a tail and find out just how sharp that knife on her belt was. Find out how quick she was too. Damned quick I’d say, from the look of her. With troubles up north some people, especially people who were part something else were making their way south. Keeping to themselves. Being real quiet about it. I’d done that trip a couple or more years back, run across a few other folks who had too. For now, I’ll just buy her two more burgers with fries and be listening when fox-girl wants to talk.
She liked it when I called her Coyote, figured she was from someplace they still told the Tricksters old stories. She was from no-place on the northwest side of nothing, way up in Quebec. She said she hoped her two moms wouldn’t be worried. I thought she meant one thing, but then knew she was meaning was her human mom and her birth mom. There aren’t a lot of people up there. Two dozen trailers maybe, up on a big lake with nothing but forest in every direction. Some youngsters come out of the woods, and other kids get curious and want to go in. People take in each other’s children, their kid’s friends. That’s how bonds were made and families grew. I remember it too. Native kids, Quebecois, and forest kids, running like a little tribe. More winters you spend in the trailer more human your ways. Start speaking French and wearing clothes sometimes. Seeing if you liked the people part. Seeing how much you might miss the other.
Coyote was down to a smear of ketchup and a glass of ice when she asked if I knew a place she could stay. (Better she asked than I offered). Sure, maybe, I said well, maybe sure. You can stay with us. I’ll check with my wife but most likely it’s okay.” Coyote smiled natural now, not afraid to show her teeth. My wife, Claire, got native blood, the daughter of a medicine man, so she recognized me right away when we meet. It was something else, the magic we had back then. Together the two of us pulling from both the earth and sky. She thought it was funny when I asked her to marry me. Man nor boy on that whole damned island had been brave enough to ask her. We told her folks, and funny thing, they saw it as us being married was about the old ways. Spirit Worlds of man and nature combined. I know Claire misses them. I miss them too. Miss that whole way of life.
More than likely the girl staying on with us will be alright, but I’m not fool enough to be bringing home a bottomless pit of a dirty she-fox kid without asking. Couple of months maybe me and Claire be moving on anyway. Go out to the coast, get a job on a fishing boat. Be spring then and I’ll be going white to brown like I do every year. Leave here before anybody starts asking questions. Your hair, your beard, they can go all white and people just think you’re getting old. It don’t work the other way. People get funny and start to ask. Yeah, dump the job, screw the boss, screw the rent too and just leave. Won’t be first time I’ve been called a weasel.
Doug Mathewson is a writer and editor of short fiction. He is also a photographer. Most recently his work has appeared in The Ham, The Boston Literary Magazine, Bartleby Snopes, The Binnacle, Bop Dead City, DOGPLOTZ, The Donut Factory, Jersey Devil, The Odd Magazine,
Sweater Weather, and Rocky Mountain Revival Podcasts. More of his work can be found at www.little2say.org