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author: hazard_us ([livejournal.com profile] hazard_us)
email: scorpio_kaur [at] yahoo.com

Jay knew that steam and hoods didn't go together on cars. She walked around her two tons of trouble, once and then twice, slowly beginning to feel the sweat bead on her back and around her ankles into her shoes.

Walking around wouldn't solve her problem, so she retreated to the interior that was already heating up, put her hat over her face and closed her eyes. Someone would come by sooner or later.

Light changed, shadows changed, but the change in air that she felt meant someone was standing outside her window. She pulled her hat down slowly.

The sun was behind the guy leaning on her car and he motioned for her to roll down the window. He was not a cop. She smiled but shook her head.

"You need help?" He moved his lips slowly so she'd understand him behind the glass, even though it was cracked at the top and she could hear him fine. His mouth was red and full and distracting.

"The engine overheated," she explained. "Do you have any water?"

"Sure." He pulled a two liter plastic bottle out of his backpack. She realized that the man had very handsome eyes, brown flecked with gold flecked with mischief. "Do you have room for a passenger?"

"Always." She opened the door. The air buzzed with heat. "After you."

He popped the hood of her car and disappeared behind it. Her hat couldn't save her from the sun so she shaded her eyes against it and asked, "You know what you're doing, right?"

"Sure do." His voice came to her all bright colors and angles through shimmering hot air. "You almost cracked your engine."

"Bad, huh?"

"Almost bad." He threw the empty water bottle into the middle of the road. She went into the road to get it because she didn't like littering, and when she turned around, he was slamming the hood shut. He made himself comfortable on it. "We'll let it sit for a moment, then see if it'll start. If it does, we should run with the heat on."

They waited. The man didn't say anything at all, just stared up the road one way and then the other. Jay moved out of the road and sat next to him, playing with the empty water bottle in her hands.

"Where did you come from?" she asked. Her voice sounded awkward to her own ears.

He waved his hand back behind them. "Down the road."

"There's nothing down that way." He wasn't sweating and she was envious.

"But there is. I saw your steam from my trailer and wanted to know if you were okay."

"You don't have a car out here?"

He shook his head. "I do. I have a truck. It's in the shop. And now you're giving me a ride into town because if I have to sit in that place one more day, I'll go mad."

"You were going to walk into town?" Jay asked. "How far away is it?"

"Far enough. But I had water and someone would have come along. They always do." He stopped looking down the road at the same time she looked up from the water bottle in her hands. Their eyes met. "Your car stopped and I found you. Lucky for me and you."

The air was so hot that he was shimmering in front of her. All she could focus on was his smile. Jay's fingers lost feeling and she dropped the water bottle. It rolled under the car.

"I think we're good," he said suddenly. "Let's see if it worked."

They got in the car and she noticed how small the hatchback seemed with him in it. She turned the key in the ignition and the engine sputtered, then turned over, humming hoarsely. He leaned forward, turned the heat on, and rolled down his window. "That'll keep it from overheating again."

She turned to him. "You said you needed to go into town."

He shrugged. "Or wherever you're going. I just need to get out of my place."

She didn't know where she was going and no one knew where she was, but he didn't need to know that. She pointed her car west and said, "I'm warning you, I don't have a working radio. Or much gas."

"That's okay." Her eyes were on the road, but he might have been smiling at her. "And what do you call this chariot of yours?"

"You mean other than second-rate?" Jay asked. "His name is 'Sleipnir.'"

He ran his hands over the dashboard. "Hello, Sleipnir. I hope you carry us as well as your namesake."

She cocked her head to the side and the rearview mirror reflected the glittering of his eyes. "You get the reference, then?"

"I do."

She was already sweating. "I don't think I can take too much more of driving in this inferno. I say we stop at that town of yours."

"Sounds good."

Town was ten minutes away and town was a generous name for a crossroad and a stoplight. There were four buildings on each corner; a bar, a diner, a motel, and a mechanic's garage. The diner and the mechanic's were closed, but the bar was open.

The air was deliciously dark and cool on Jay's skin when they walked inside. A TV mounted on the wall flickered. The little place subscribed to a sports TV package because the Tigers and the Reds were on the screen, but neither of those teams were anywhere near here.

"- and as Red Barber would say, the hitter is sitting in the catbird seat, what with bases loaded and no outs - "

Jay smiled. She liked baseball and she liked Red Barber.

Her hitchhiker went straight to the bar and ordered her a beer without asking her opinion. She didn't complain. The beer was cold in her hands. "What's your name?" she asked, after putting her purse on the bar, sitting down and taking a swig.

He searched in his pocket for a moment, ignoring her question. He frowned. "Do you have a quarter? Dime?"

She pulled one out of her purse and gave it to him. "But you didn't tell me your name."

He leaned towards her and she felt like she was being let in on a secret. "Call heads or tails. Heads for the truth. Tails for a tale."

The quarter flew high, landed on the back of his hand. He slapped his palm over it. "Well?"

Jay's mouth twisted, not quite a smile or a frown. "Heads."

He looked under his fingers. "Okay. Some call me Jack and some John. But you can call me Coyote."

Jay laughed. "So it was tails and tales then."

He flicked the quarter through his fingers before handing it back to her. "Maybe. Maybe not."

"Well, Mr. Coyote, I'm well-read too. I don't know if my mother would like me going around with you."

He leaned against the bar. "But where's the fun in doing what your mother says?"

She smiled at him over the top of her bottle. "That's what Coyote always says. And that's the lesson of the story too. Don't listen to Coyote or he'll trick you."

"But I like you, so maybe I won't," Coyote or Jack or John said. He smiled. "You'll just have to take a chance."

It was two beers later that Jay realized he hadn't asked her what her name was.

Six beers later and Sleipnir wasn't starting, not that it mattered because both of them were probably a few beers past safe-driving and the bartender informed them that no mechanic was going to open his shop for them this late on a Saturday night.

They were lucky. The tiny motel across the street was still open and the neon sign flickered "Vacancy."

Jay paid for the room upfront when he showed her his empty wallet.

"Movies are extra," the woman behind the counter cautioned.

Coyote leaned over Jay's shoulder, pulling her close against him. feeling of skin and smelling of the desert. "Don't worry, madam. We're capable of entertaining ourselves." Jay knew he was winking and she laughed.

It took them three tries to get the key in the door and two bumped shins to get the lights on. Jay threw her purse on the tiny table near the bed. "I'm thinking of a number between one and twenty," she said, sitting on the end of the bed.

He'd been looking in the bathroom, checking it out. "Thirteen."


"Thirteen. You were going to say that if I was close, I could have the bed." He started to remove his shoe and almost fell over when it got stuck around his heel. "Only I'm not sleeping alone tonight."

"You did win fair and square. You get the bed."

His other shoe was off. And so was his shirt. Jay ignored him, found her shoe laces extremely interesting and difficult to undo. Through her beery haze, she remembered something.

"How did you get home?" she asked.

"Hmm?" His hair was standing on end in front. Her hands wanted to push it down, wanted her fingers to be in his hair in some way. She ignored her hands.

"I said, how did you get home? When you took your truck to the mechanics? Why didn't you get a rental car or something?"

And like before, he didn't answer her question. He just smiled and came and sat next to her. His hand was on her knee as he said, "Why are you worrying about how I got home? That's not really important, is it?"

"I guess not. I just - I just don't even know your name," she protested. She didn't look at him but she didn't remove his hand from her knee either.

"I told you a name."

"But it's not your real - "

"And what's your name?" he asked, interrupting her.

"Catherine," she lied. "Cat to most."

"Cat, huh?" His hand slid up her leg. "Coyotes eat cats."

"Only if they can catch them," she said, watching his fingers trace their way up the seams on her jeans.

"And do you plan on going anywhere?" His fingers worked at the metal button, slipping the tab over and open. She held her breath as he pulled the zip down very, very slowly and exhaled when he reached the bottom.

"No." His hand crawled up under her shirt now. She didn't move and closed her eyes, enjoying the smell of him so close. "But what am I supposed to do? Mother always told me to stay away from myths."

"I'm not a myth, Cat." He kissed her hard and then breathed, "I'm a religion."

Jay stared at the ceiling for awhile, watching the fan go round and round and round in the darkness. She enjoyed the feel of the sweat on her skin drying, of the sheets wrapped around and between her legs like the bindings of a death shroud.

It was fun playing possum, playing innocent, but now it was time to stretch and be herself.

She untangled herself from the sheets because spiders couldn't be caught in webs like this. Coyote moved and she froze. She went to their clothes strewn on the floor and sorted between his and hers. She felt through his pockets and took his wallet and the money he'd stolen from her earlier when he thought she was absorbed in watching the baseball game on TV.

If he'd been awake, he wouldn't have recognized the way she moved. The studied uncomfortable way of standing like a woman who was just pretending to be confident was gone. She moved with care, in silence, like an animal's shadow.

I'm a religion. That was a good one. She might have to use that in the future.

She stepped back to the alarm clock and set it for a special time. She dressed, freezing at each of his shallow exhales, watching his back rise and fall and making certain that it stayed in that easy rhythm.

She went to the door and opened it. He didn't stir. She stepped out and shut it carefully.

Jay walked across the gravel parking lot and crossed the dusty street. Sleipnir waited for her. He ran perfectly fine, except when she didn't want him to. Perhaps stealing him from his previous owner, who'd stolen him from the All-Father, was a little too much, but she figured one day she'd return him to Long Beard and ask for a reward. She grinned to herself. That would be a story to tell.

She adjusted her seatbelt and the radio and then looked at herself in the mirror. Now that her fun was done she could go back to being herself. She rubbed her face with her hands, one, two, three and now her eyes were a little brighter, her nose straighter and her lips fuller. It was the little things that made the difference.

Coyote had been hard to drag out of his den; he was called the prairie wolf for a reason. But an outsider woman stuck in his land, fat with water and cash, was a prize not even he could ignore and curiosity was sometimes a fatal flaw. And his kind were never good at looking once, twice, three times to see what was beyond the surface.

But he'd almost caught her with a look and a stare out on the road, in the hot air on the hot lands. He was still powerful and he was still wily. She was surprised that he'd given her his other name, even in jest. On the other hand, there was no danger in that. Coyote was just another name for trickster and it was no more dangerous than people introducing themselves as human.

The sun hit the edge of the desert, throwing light in her eyes. Jay squinted and put the visor down, as the dash clock changed numbers. Inside the hotel, the alarm clock was going off, waking a con artist who was just now realizing that something was not right.

"Time to go," she said and Sleipnir roared to life.

Jay looked into the rear-view mirror as she sped away. There was a strangled scream and Coyote, wrapped in a sheet, came running out of the hotel room. She laughed as the dust churned up from the tires to swallow him up and when the cloud cleared, she was already making a plan to trick the next trickster.

There were so many.

the end

Date: 2008-12-02 03:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kurifurinkan.livejournal.com

I totally did not see that coming, haha.

Date: 2008-12-08 09:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wordsofastory.livejournal.com
Oooooo, awesome. I adore Coyote. And I adore Loki (right?) Having them together is super-duper best-ever awesome. What a great idea for a story. This is utterly great.

Date: 2009-12-11 07:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nieriele.livejournal.com
oh hah. i like her

lovely story

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