by Katherine Gehan and Lori Sambol Brody

 

Her sons in bed and her husband still at work, Amy lies on the trampoline in the backyard. The coyotes rustle in the brush. In the cool of the evening, they speak to their prey and appear to Amy as her sleekest, most ferocious self. She could hunt and howl with determination, pass for thirty again if she held her chin at the right angle.

Before she grew older and became bored of herself, Amy knew how to find a party any night of the week. She once took a Scotsman she picked up at a bar on a Wednesday night to the beach so he could watch her emerge from the waves in a black bikini. The less she slept the more electric she became, the more she was able to draw men to her like mosquitoes to heat. Now, she spends her days bathed in a computer’s glare, her nights assisting with homework and packing lunches.

The coyotes circle the dark shadow of the trampoline and whisper their secrets:

Drink blood every day for a week and you won’t believe the results.

Fill in the hollows of your eye-sockets with lemonberries and ice for a refreshed look.

The forest is a salve; the cadence of your paws on the dirt is a song.

How many women in the suburban development’s maze of cul-de-sacs lie on trampolines at night listening to coyotes? Desperate to sleep, the earth’s magnetic fields push and pull, hum in her bones, tug on her skin. The body does what it will; she is a changeling in middle age.

When their howls are joined by a child’s cry, the coyotes melt into the bougainvillea. Jack always has nightmares when her husband is away. Amy returns to the house, slays a monster, and holds Jack’s hand as he falls asleep. Thinks of her husband polishing a presentation in a deserted office, both of them so distant from their honeymoon where they left the Santorini hotel only to seek souvlaki washed down with retsina.

Jack breathes deeply. Out his bedroom window: rose bushes, playset, and trampoline. Moonlight bleaches all color.

 

One evening, Amy drifts to sleep on the trampoline’s taut fabric. The light from downtown skyscrapers erases the stars. During a dream where she bakes endless pans of gluten-free brownies for the school bake sale and enters figures into endless Excel spreadsheets, the trampoline sags with weight, the hot warmth of a large animal presses against her spine. She keeps her eyes closed, her skin prickling to be close to something wild. A rough tongue licks her neck.

Run with us for interval training and endurance.

Sink teeth into flesh and bone; inner peace comes when you live in the moment.

To write a new story, go to the woman’s moon circle to howl.

 

Amy follows directions from the secret Facebook group Artemis and drives up the hills to the meadow where the subdivision ends and the wilderness begins. There, women gather in a circle and wait for moonrise. The breeze smells sweet, like the perfume block she bought years ago in the Marrakech souk. The shop owner said it was an aphrodisiac made from a stag’s scent gland. She smoothed it at the hollow of her neck and met a dread-locked Australian backpacker with kisses like fire on her thighs.

Coyotes appear behind the women’s circle, throw back their heads and howl, proud of their elongated snouts and shaggy summer coats. The women too throw back their heads and howl, their skin crepey at the neck and sagging on their jawbones. The coyotes run back into the hills and the women follow. Amy races through chaparral, under manzanita and oak and black walnut. Their paws make paths of fire until she cannot tell whether she and the other women are human or beast. An eyetooth morphs into a fang, skin into fur, and back again. A palimpsest of a woman’s form in every coyote’s body.

Only smell is real. The musk from the animals’ bodies, trails of scent showing rabbits, foxes, and, once, the fearful scent of a man. The pack slinks into a chicken coop. Amy salivates at the smell of blood, the splatter of feathers.

The large alpha male, his coat red and brown, sniffs at her. She wants him more than any human lover she’s ever had. Heat between her legs, his teeth buried in the scruff of her neck, his weight on her. Afterwards, they break from the pack, clean branches and stones from an abandoned den in the hillside. Soon her stomach turns heavy and sagging. She bears three pups and her mate bites the umbilical cords, helps her lick the blood off, takes away the one stillborn. She teaches the pups to howl and how to take a living thing between their teeth.

The seasons and night sky revolve, she births new litters, her pups leave, her mate grows old and grey. Everything wild mates and births and ages and grieves.

When her legs are stiff with arthritis and her teeth no longer can chew meat, Amy finds her car parked alongside the meadow. The engine is still warm to her touch. She drives down the hill under the full moon, from dirt to asphalt lined with streetlights and Walgreens and strip malls. In the aisles of a 24-hour big-box store, Amy considers the 96 toilet paper rolls, refrigerated cases full of steak. She’s just another woman shopping until a man takes the package of ground beef she wants, and she bares her teeth and growls. Before he can call security, she slips into the shadows, out the door, and drives home.

Her footprints on the Brazilian cherry floor are of mud, burrs, and trampled leaves of poison oak. Her sons sleep in the glow of their superhero nightlights. Amy sits on her husband’s side of the bed; he turns, mumbles in his sleep as he dreams. Amy wonders what he will see when he wakes up, woman or beast.

 

***

 

Lori Sambol Brody lives in the mountains of Southern California. Her short fiction has been published in Tin House Flash Fridays, New Orleans Review, The Rumpus, Little Fiction, Necessary Fiction, Sundog Lit, and elsewhere. She can be found on Twitter at @LoriSambolBrody and her website is lorisambolbrody.wordpress.com.

Katherine Gehan’s writing has appeared in McSweeny’s Internet Tendency, Literary Mama, The Stockholm Review, Sundog Lit, Split Lip Magazine, People Holding, Whiskey Paper, (b)OINK and others. She is nonfiction editor at Pithead Chapel. Say hello @StateofKate and find her work at www.kategehan.wordpress.com

 

 

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