Fiction · 12/15/2010

Why I Sing Such Good Songs, Coyote

We got our jobs by lies and defended our honor by night on the Hill in Saint Louis. Jimmy was thirty and I was forty and we’d met in the state pen. The foundry was hot and shitty but the pay was good and Annette at the corner bar cashed your paycheck no questions asked.

The day we got the axe we handed our severance over to Annette and settled in. Annette was from the Illinois side. East Saint Louis but bled Cardinal red. She had two female cousins in town. Toward midnight they showed up and we knew we were in trouble. They heard us thinking and slid their stools closer. The blonde had a ragged way of breathing that sounded like there was a chain saw buzzing in her chest. Her friend had a hawk nose and the long-waisted look that Jimmy fancied. There was one purse between them as they said they shared everything. They started out as threes but we drank them up to sevens and then eights.

We both had wives who’d gone on to other men while we were in the pen, which of course held only men. Women made me jump and I mean any woman. That extra hole made a difference.

Since the blonde was mine I tried the Heimlich demonstration, which I figured was both edgy and educational. Plus I wanted to hear that chest rattle. She sounded like a box of cough drops being shaken. After I saved her several times Jimmy tried out his pretty good coyote call which hawk nose captured on her cell phone camera. Then we started Tequila shots.

I inspected the women and gauged our chances. The blonde was called Roxy and the other was Michelle. Roxy rattled nearby. I knew if she were primed up she’d probably fuck a rock pile if she thought there was a snake in it. Then again, a hard dick has no conscience. If you live on the railroad tracks the train’s going to hit you, Grandpa used to say. We hadn’t been sober in a week. Hangover thoughts are real long thoughts.

We drank past closing time and then some. Jimmy got the idea to go to his ex’s house. He formed a belief that she was out of town visiting her mother in Cape Girardeau. The bar was closing and Annette said we had to go somewhere and this elevated Jimmy’s belief into one worth entertaining. What was astonishing was that the women thought so too. Which sort of endeared them to me.

Roxy drive her ’78 Ford 150 pickup and I rode shotgun. She played a Bee Gees cassette tape and rasped along on the chorus of “How Deep is Your Love.” Michelle and Jimmy were squeezed in beside us with Jimmy on the door and we crossed the Eads Bridge this way into East Saint Louis. The Mississippi was black wavy ink but the bridge held steady. Roxy drove with two stone cold hands. The pickup had one headlamp but it was a good one.

Jimmy had Michelle’s shirt half off. Michelle had her hand on me but Roxy knocked it back off. We drove that way for a while. Hand tugging at zipper and hand smacked. Hand in waistband and hand smacked. Jimmy tried to help Michelle but got smacked too. I was hoping the house would show up soon but we were lost. We twisted around on some back roads and Jimmy called out the turns and worked Michelle’s bra straps down. It was almost first light.

The house had burned down and all there was around the foundation were dry burdocks and chokecherries and one sugar plum the bears had broken down to get at the fruit. Meanwhile the women were on their stomachs on a mattress that’d been left and both of their bare bottoms were showing plain as day. There was an old upright piano in the foundation square. The big sky was lightening from the east but I couldn’t see the sun.

An Indian story came to mind from out west. Every time a man would screw he’d bleed to death because women had sharp teeth in their articles. It wasn’t until a coyote came along and pulled the teeth out that men could screw without dying and get the human race started. This is why the coyote is thought to be sacred.

Jimmy’s about as low down as a snake’s dick. So he looks at these four women on the bed through his one good eye until he figures out that there’s only two of them after all and only one for him. He asked the one if she’d mind getting up on the piano and could she lay out so he could sing to her. Michelle scrambled up with no problem and lay there leaning her head on a hand. He sang “Yes, we have no bananas” and she started laughing. It’s what we sang to each other of a morning in the pen to keep our spirits up. I hoisted Roxy up on the piano beside her cousin. She looked right as rain. I stood partway up and she slid down. Her ass hit the keys in a nice way like the lost chord. We did it right there which wasn’t easy.

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Gary Percesepe is Associate Editor at the Mississippi Review (now Blip Magazine) and serves on the Board of Advisors at Fictionaut. He is the author of four books in philosophy and an epistolary novel written with Susan Tepper titled, What May Have Been: Letters of Jackson Pollock and Dori G. He just completed his second novel, Leaving Telluride, set in Telluride, Colorado.