Before you ask, no, my husband doesn't know.
Some of them have known about me in the past, they've known my name, but in modern times they don't tend to believe it anyway, and marriage to me doesn't tend to last. I don't take to it. It's like trying to give a cat a hot baththere's nothing wrong with a hot bath, in fact they're quite nice, but cats, well, they don't like them much, do they? It's nobody's fault. It's just that they're cats. It's not in their nature.
For coyotes, it's the same thing. We can be monogamous for a time, but once that time is over we can't any longer. And like it or not, Coyote is what I am.
This time, the man calls me Cat. It's funny that I picked that name for him, but it's a joke that's been going on too long. It's wearing thin. So when I wake up next to him and he's asleep, I whisper my real name in his ears. I've been doing it for as long as I've been marrying. Sometimes I gotta get caught, and when I do I want them to know who they're catching. Big ego. Someone told me that about myself one time. Narcissist. I told them nah, that's not me, that's some guy on the other end of the world.
This morning I'm not waking up next to the man. It's somebody else, a kid from the bar. We're in a Best Western, and he's still sleeping. He's a lot different from the man, though. He's red-haired and skinny and smaller, and by smaller I mean his whole self. Down to his toes. He's got baby's toes.
I hunt around the sheets for my underwear and find them under his foot. I've got real light fingers, though, so I lift his heel and drop it and he doesn't feel a thing. I can't find my bra, so I let it lie. It wasn't my best one or anything.
He wakes up while I'm stepping into my pants, which is my fault because I tripped and knocked up against the dresser. He's got this lost look, like he can't remember how he got here, and it doesn't completely go away even after I see him remember. He knows he's screwed up. Maybe he hadn't done it yet before last night, and that's it. I'm not going to ask him.
"Hey, um, hey," he says, trying to be a gentleman. "Breakfast?" He's seen this happen on television before, I guess.
"Nah. I've got to go."
"Oh. Can I see you again?"
"Married." I start putting my socks on.
I'm not looking right at him, but I see him go white out of the corner of my eye. I pull my shirt over my head.
"I didn't know"
"That's because I didn't tell you," I say. Then I do look at him. "And I didn't want to tell you now. But it was fun." I grin, showing all my teeth. They're very long, white teeth. And then I raise my hand and I show him my wedding ring, as if it's been there all along.
"Well, I'd have liked to s"
"I know," I say. I'm in my coat and shoes now, and I walk out the door without looking back.
I've always been at the beginning and the end of things.
I walk home, stepping between shadows the way I do if I don't want to be seen, and I watch an old woman yell at her daughter on the sidewalk, calling her a whore, stupid bitch, all those names while the daughter holds her whole weight upright. With nobody seeing me, I knock the old lady's cane from under her and she goes down like a sack of wet cement, letting her daughter have a free shoulder for just a minute. The poor sap pulls her mother up soon enough, but maybe the old bat will watch her mouth in the future.
I'm not a nice woman. Hell, you could say that I'm not even a woman, not completely. I'm not completely anything. Some people say I invented women, but that's another story.
I get back to the man's house pretty quickly and slide into bed with him. He's still snoring the way he does, like a pig snuffle but really quiet. He's dreaming.
I can't look at him, so I put my arms around his shoulders. My head sits in the hollow of his neck, and I lean into his ear until my mouth is almost touching it. "I need to tell you the truth, now."
I tell him a story about Coyote, and not one of the nice ones where I come out on top. One of the ones where I'm a total ass, and I get what's coming to me. He laughs at the end, in his dream.
Then I begin to explain, and he doesn't laugh. He doesn't wake up either.
"I don't always like being Coyote. I can't change it. I might be a liar, but this time I'm telling the truth for once." I bark a laugh. "You made me tell you the truth. You made me feel. You tricked me and trapped me."
I'm quiet as a breath, and I pick up his hands, real slow, so he doesn't wake. "So here's what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna tell you to forget, and you'll do that. You'll forget I was ever here, ok? And you won't have to get hurt by me." I kiss his lips.
"But sometimes, you'll dream about me. And they'll be sweet dreams. And when you wake up from them you'll feel good and not even know why. And we'll both go on like we ought to have done the day we met."
I slide out of his bed, and his arms lose the shape of me. He doesn't miss it.
I leave. And for me, that's the easy part.