Published in The Coachella Review, January 2022
The wind brings in the morning even sooner than the birds. It’s covered in smoke. One sniff—
—All the smells are smudged with ash. Fire. Not here, but close enough. There’s no direction it’s not. Enough reason for me to get back home, but I stand on the stone steps, motionless, as the darkness yields to shreds of new sky.
I wait, telling myself I’m not waiting.
The nests above on either side of the steps are quiet, and no signs of movement in those clustered below. That’s another reason I know it’s still safe here—if a fire was anywhere nearby, I’d see swarms pouring out of those nests, rolling their way out of the canyon.
decaying-citrus old-blood mouse-scat garbage
saliva-young-male Sharp Eyes
No, not Sharp Eyes, I remind myself. Rot.
I thought he’d be down by the wideroad but he approaches from uphill, behind and to my left. If the wind had been blowing the other direction, I wouldn’t have known he was there.
But he knew that.
Don’t come any closer, I tell him without turning around. Or I’ll rip your throat out.
Good morning to you, he says, his voice curling the way it does. There’s no fear in it at all, just anticipation and amusement, but I notice he’s keeping his distance.