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by Carter Hemion

u walk toward the sound of coyotes. ur new place is a little more mountain than ur parents’ suburbs. pitterpatterpitterpatter goes rain. not quite what u were used as a kid to but it’s growing on u. subtler sounds.

school brought u to the edge of the city. ur dad thought it was cool hearing coyotes in the background of ur evening calls but u were starting to forget the sound since they seemed to scream close every damn evening. it wasn’t so bad compared to the screeching cars in the burbs and blaring music from old neighbors. ur growing up and the forest feels fresh. real adult start.

pitterpatterpitterpatterpitterpatter hits bushes. rain follows u. now past ur dorm’s parking lot. a little further from road and into a dim path so u won’t have so much of noise in the way. u crunch in and slow down. pull out ur phone. tiptaptaptap, tiptap a 1202 a voice memo a red button. stop.

rain gets loud. coyotes get quiet but u know they’re near and u will hear them from afar like usual. pitterpatterpitterpatter. the birds stop. probably getting too late.

pitterpatterpitterpatter. u hate the rain.

pitpat breath. pitpat grumble. pitpat snout framed in browngray. it’s not rain and it’s coming too close for comfort.

white knuckle phone. arms out. eyelids frozen apart. breathy conversation and one sided bargain. hey big puppy puppy don’t get any closer what are you supposed to do when u see a coyote in person why are u so much bigger than ur pictures.

stompstampstompstamp. wigglewaveshake. performance for wind and rain and dark sky and whatever lies in browngray dirt. big puppy puppy backs off. big puppy puppy blocks your path back. turns around every few steps to check u didn’t give up. only forest forward.

worst part isn’t the darkness n knowing u always hear coyotes in packs. it’s the walk back out to avoid the single one brave enough to follow u in.

speed walking like ur being followed. maybe u are. blackberry vines scrape numb ankles. u know they’re invasive but u know ur the invader in this land.

plinkplonkplunk real rain riots in puddles. u hope to memorize the difference in what rustles bushes.

nothing like when u drove past scrawny desert coyotes on ur family’s road trip last summer.

parking lot. phone still in hand. catch breath as howling starts to close. arms out wide as howling moves away moves away moves away. show’s over.

u skitter home to ur dorm. keycard. doors. stumble into elevator. stumble out.

drop keys. neighbor gives browngray eyes at blood staining tops of ur socks but u just feel bone cold.

soaked stiff fingers. keys clatter. home.

tiptaptaptap. cut audio to 20 seconds. tiptap. mom. send.

84 days until summer break. ur dad always thinks ur overreacting when ur nervous around dogs. ur mom’s story of coyotes taking childhood pet comes back. stained feathers all over the yard.

u remember why ur a cat person.

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