Dad said he heard Coyotes around midnight every night. He slept on the couch a lot, which made it hard for him to sleep. The television would be on quietly until really early in the morning. I don’t know if he was watching it though. The Coyotes started coming closer to our house. They were either getting braver, or dad said something was drawing them there. Mom said my brother and I couldn’t play outside past seven, but dad said we could, Coyotes are more scared of us than we are of them.
My brother’s name was Heath. He was named after my mother, Heather. I was named after my dad. Heath was the baby of the family. My mom was always playing with him or sitting with him. They were inseparable. I think it annoyed my dad, but he didn’t say anything. It’s hard to complain about a mom being with her son. I mostly hung around my dad. We would always watch baseball together, and he would explain any rules I didn’t get.
Dad stopped eating dinner with us. He said he had work to do. My dad was a busy guy; I won’t act like he wasn’t. But it gets hard to believe when after ten years of him sitting at the table he suddenly is too busy to even though his job hasn’t changed. Mom never addressed it.
About a half mile from our house there was an old dump. It hadn’t been used in probably fifty years. My friends and I used to go over there. It had turned into a sort of marsh, and every step you could hear something crunch beneath the surface. There were a lot of old bottles and dishes you could see just below the surface. We would dig them out, hoping they weren’t broken. My brother and I had a shelf devoted to everything we found. There was one time Heath found a small section that was full of Coke bottles from the twenties. He kept all those. Most of the time, you’d see a small section of something sticking up. You’d grab it, hoping it wasn’t broken. Most of the time, it was.
The family dog was a poodle named Henry. We had him as long as I could remember. He was twelve years old and never ran anymore. A lot of the time Henry spent sleeping. The other part of the time he was walking family member to family member. He’d lay his head on our laps, and then do it to the next person. In July, Henry, Heath, and I were sitting on the front porch. It was the hottest day of the summer. Henry was walking around the yard. He took a few steps into the street and a car was coming around the corner. It just nipped him. Henry spun around a few times on the ground. The spinning stopped and he wasn’t moving. Heath and I ran down to see him. The driver got out of his car and ran over to us. Henry was breathing really slowly. He stiffened up, and the breathing stopped. The driver was crying and he wouldn’t stop apologizing.
We buried Henry in the backyard.
Dad said that was probably why the Coyotes were coming closer to our house. We didn’t bury Henry deep enough. He didn’t think the Coyotes would get to him. Eventually they’ll go away.
Heath asked dad why he was still sleeping on the couch. Dad said that marriage is a weird thing, but mom and him love each other in their own way. He said that mom and him had been together a long time, and that at the point they’re at, it might work out, but it’s probably broken.
Like a Coke bottle.
more by TYLER CLIFTON
photograph by Angel Acevedo