The Space Between Part 3
 

Grant furrowed his brow, “I can’t say I’m all that opposed to the fucking idea right now."

 

“Tsk, Tsk. So angry…” Coyote faded into her cloud to become a woman sitting in a deep leather chair. It looked considerably incongruous in the alleyway.

 

“Tell me about your mother.” Coyote was black now, that is to say African, with a generous mouth stretched over white straight teeth. Her hair was drawn back in a tight bun. Black rimmed glasses perched upon her nose, and her long slim body was wrapped in a skirt suit that was a faded taupe. The jacket was tight and slightly opened, showing Grant the welcoming swell of her cleavage. She looked exactly like Lisa, save without the gravid swell of her belly.

 

Coyote smiled at him with a different kind of hunger.

 

“ Slut” said Raven.

 

“ Yes, I know” Coyote smiled. “ So many men… eternity. So Grant…ever think of cheating on your wife?”

 

Grant sputtered a no out—but his mind hitched onto a memory of Lisa bending over the photocopier in the office, her breasts swaying under a low cut v-neck. He flashed on imagining her face hovering over him. Pricked with the idea now him mind raced over flashing images.

 

Lisa’s mouth engulfing his penis.

 

Lisa’s eyes staring back at him as she straddled him and rode.

 

Lisa’s face covered in a glimmer of sweat, her mouth opened in an expression half pain and half sensuality as he slid into her from behind.

 

Lisa underneath him, imagined orgasms shuddering within her, her liquid eyes closed, her lips flushed and swollen.

 

Lisa smiling at him in the morning dressed in a robe.

 

Lisa holding a child ---his child. But it was not his child. And he had never so much as allowed the thought to colour his mind- but now he couldn’t stop it.

 

He would never have a child. Iris has had a full hysterectomy. When she understood that they would never have children, Iris wept; Iris prattled and babble and inside, the spark that Iris had within died a little bit. Iris clung to him and asked if he still loved her. Grant could not answer in words. Grant rested his hand on her back and held her close. Grant asked himself the same question and found nothing but a hollow filled with echoes of her question.

 

Grant would never leave Iris. He would scour her with words. He would break her down—without intending it. He would use that truth to break splinters off inside her without even meaning to. But he would never leave her.

 

Coyote laughed and Raven preened, clucking disapproval.

 

Grant stiffened and walked to the wall of the alley. Black brick, yellowed mortar, the smell of rotting garbage and moldy decay.

 

“Screw you both.” Grant said and ran his finger along the dirty brick and, after that ginger tough, examined the thick blackness of the resin that clung to his fingertip. He looked to his feet for something to wipe it on, holding his finger in front and away from him like it were part of another creature grafted by some mad vivisectionist to his hand. The grime and old vomit on his trench coat was forgotten.

 

“Oh come on Grant. Come back.”

 

Grant ignored the female voice behind him and began to walk slowly deeper into the alley. Maybe the other side would be different and he could leave this place.

 

A growl, low and very deep came from behind him. He noticed that the interplay between the woman and the bird had ceased. He turned slowly around as the growl rose in pitch.

 

The alley disappeared in a clap of thunder and Grant shivered. He stood in a field—chewed up by the feet of many men, holes blasted by mortars smoked around him. The sky was gunmetal grey and small droplets of rain spattered his face. Around him dead men lay. Soldiers of every nation and every time—disemboweled, dismembered, curled into fetal balls—blank gauzy eyes staring at the sky.

 

The stink of evacuated bowels and blood old and new hit him at the same time he noticed the flock of ravens descending upon the field—black beaks pecking at the eyes, and shadowy forms—dogs, wolves, jackals—ghosting in and around the corpses—some muzzles deep within body cavities—others tugging at fingers or chewing on faces.

 

Grant dropped his briefcase and opened his mouth. The scream remained somewhere trapped in his chest. A huge grey wolf pulled its bloody face out from the chest of a young man in a British Army uniform from the first world war and bared its fangs at him.

 

The beast disappeared as it turned changing again to a bronzed woman with long straight black hair down to the middle of her back. She was naked as she moved toward him. The battlefield shattered into blobs of grey and brown and then dissipated as she walked past him, and the alley appeared from behind it as if the scene never was. The blood, the mud, the hammered metal sky all gone as if they never were.

 

“ Do you think I’m here for your amusement? I am a messenger! I stand in the middle of all things and craft the coming day. Some I end, some I birth squalling on the hard earth. Some I lay gently, some I dispatch with no small prejudice. You will never turn your back on me again, little man…” With that she turned away from Grant and stood facing the alley mouth.

 

Raven fluttered overhead. “Ignore a woman at your peril.”

 

The woman that was Coyote replied without turning, ”A woman likes to be heard Grant. Makes us feel special.”

 

“I trust he will make that mistake, nevermore.” quoth the Raven.

 

She shook her head and her shoulders bobbed her laugh was like bells chiming and though she laughed she kept walking slowly away. Raven descended to perch upon a dirty metal grid that covered an electric light just above Grants head.

 

She turned and her from shifted again. Iris stood before him, but Iris with her hands over a great gaping wound in her abdomen. Iris pressing on the hole there with bloody hands.

 

Irises voice, “ Do you still love me Grant?” The form shifted as Coyote laughed, becoming once again the native woman, who again turned her back on him.

 

Grant ground his teeth. His lips pulled back curving in and the blood rose changing his face to a blushing red. He stared at the woman as she walked away. Before himself turning his back on her again-When he heard her steps behind him he did not turn. He simply extended  his middle finger and gestured over his shoulder.

 

Ravens floated after him. “You are brave after all.”

 

Coyote spoke after him, “I’m not liking this trend towards atheism that much anymore.”

 

Grant spun around and clamped his teeth tightly again. His lips skinned back, his back stiffened and he began to walk toward the twain.

 

She stopped and turned to observe him, her features were strikingly beautiful. Almond eyes, aquiline nose, high cheekbones. She had a regal languor in her movements, a poise unearthly and yet of the earth in its sensuality. She turned flicking her hair to look disdainfully upon him but as she did her eyes grew wide. All grace left as she turned clasping her hands together- the woman becomes a girl.

 

“ Oh yes. Very nice snarl look at how you show your teeth…Raven…look at his teeth...”

 

“ Very nice”

 

Grant stopped snarling.

 

“ I brush every day” the ridiculous thought rose in him.

 

“I’ve seen shinier,” said the Raven, with some disdain.

 

The woman who is Coyote strode toward Grant; her stride was light, her beauty shocking, her nudity became covered with a deerskin tunic that appeared from the air, lined with beads of shell and aquamarine. She cocked her head to listen –

 

“I’m sorry about the Iris thing. It was a bit too much yes?”

Grant nodded.

 

” Postman.”

 

“What?”

 

“ Your father…” Coyote regained her regal poise, but her eyes mocked a little and the broad recurve of her lips hinted at another smile. “It was rude of us to interrupt.” Grant imagined sex with this woman on the floor of the alley.

 

“ Yes” said Grant “NO…I mean not rude, but…” Her eyes were shining from between long lashes; the white reflection on the black of her iris, looked like new cream held in onyx cups.

 

“He loved his job. He loved walking I guess. He loved the solitude. He loved the motto. Nothing overly sexy about it really. Then he retired.”

 

“He loved his work,” Coyote looked thoughtful “I can understand that. I love mine.”

 

“ He planted himself in front of his television set and lasted six years before he started to go. Alzheimer’s.”

 

Grant paused, he had almost said “ The Alzheimer’s” as his grandmother would have said.  Alzheimer’s sounded so much more temporary-a trifling syndrome waiting to be cured. Alzheimer’s was the term doctors and researchers used, the term the shiny bright talking heads on the television used. It was the disrespectful language of anonymity and consumer conceit. It was the language of Malthus, or Darwin. It was the language of crowds not individuals. 

 

"The" Alzheimer's made it something else. It made it what it really was-a monster lurking in the flesh. "The" Alzheimer's were the words of a farmer watching a rainless sky; the words fo a fishing boat skipper looking at a freak wave eighty feet high off of the Grand Banks. “ The” Alzheimer’s was Heriot in his hall looking into the Grendel's night, or of a midwife and healer watching black cassocks under golden crosses, and black leather doctor’s bags approaching the village by torchlight. “The” Alzheimer’s was like The Diabetes, The Cancer, and The Emphysema. They were a personal and unbeatable foe, the final end of an individual human being not the evolutionary vector of a population of fucking sheep. It was an enemy that could be hated and in that hatred, shown respect. It was not the label to be used to excuse losers in the medicine wheel game of life.

 

“ Where am I?” His voice was ragged.

 

The woman’s lower lip bobbed and pursed. “ In between,” she said.

 

“In between what?”

 

"Glove and Skin. Bullet and Bone. Stroke of midnight, high noon, Madness, genius, up, down, life, death…take your pick. Your kind always tries to break it into two things. Good –bad—when in reality—you live your entire lives in the middle.”

 

Grant began to pinch his nose between his fingers, pushing his glasses up to his forehead. The tears, constrained, pressed out of him, like wine from grapes. Coyote touched his face softly daubing her fingers in the tracks of his tears. She traced lines down her own face, painting it silver where the saline wetness met her copper flesh.

 

“Why? What am I doing here?” He asked her, his face crossed with furrows and lines.

 

“Poor unhappy god,” she said.

 

“ Why do you keep calling me that?”

 

“You must be, to be here. ”

 

“ This isn’t real.”

 

“ Of course it isn’t. But it is where you happen to be. In the middle, the edge, the place where things change right? You must be like us. Of the middle. Like us. Between two things. But you must know that?” Her liquid eyes made the statement a question.

 

“ Why would I know that?”

 

“ How can you not know what you are?”

 

“ He just doesn’t. None of them do. That’s why they end up causing so much damage.” Raven spoke and Grant remembered that that the bird still watched them. Coyote looked over her shoulder at the great feathered shape and her mouth pursed into a moue.

 

“ The middle?” Grant shifted back and forth unable to settle his weight, he had stopped crying, the emotion passed by.

 

“ You ever heard an old song, three times in one day?” Coyote moved a little closer. As she did her face lengthened and stretched, fur sprouted and her ears grew pointed and large. “You ever have something show up just when you needed it, where it had no business ever being?”

 

“ Coincidence, “ said Grant.

 

“ Synchronicity” said Coyote.

 

“ Fate” said the Raven.

 

“ Whatever. Whatever it is it is beyond my control…I’m just…I’m just a guy.”

 

“Yes and no.” said the Raven…”Have you ever thought of being a hero, Grant?”

 

“ You mean like in the movies? I suppose so?”

 

“ And yet you live your life as if you can’t be one. You settle. You accept your shortcomings. You believe that you have no effect at all—as if you exist alone and unattached.”

 

“ Well—I’ve had help in that regard.”

 

“Oh now. Self pity? Really Grant.” The Raven tutted and became interested in one of his flight feathers.

 

Coyote stepped forward. “Grant?” She changed again, this time it was Iris who stood looking at him.

 

“ If you saw a child drowning in a lake and no one else was there to help would you help the child Grant?”

 

“ Yes—of course.”

 

“ What if that child—that is to say—what if you knew before hand that that child would be responsible for the death and pain of many others and by letting the child die you could save them—what would you do?”

 

“ If I answer that will you let me out of here?”

 

Both the Raven and the Coyote with Iris’s face remained silent.

 

“ That is a bullshit kind of question.”

 

“ Howso?” Coyote leaned forward, Iris’ face changed slightly, gaining a vulpine cast.

 

“ How am I to know what or why the kid is going to turn into? And even if I did how many chances would there be to change the kid for the better? So I’m not buying into your bullshit A must be B scenario. I’d pull the kid out and deal with the consequences later.”

 

“ Ah, but there is no way to make the child into anything but what he will be. And he will be a monster.”

 

Grant slumped.

 

“ What would you do Grant?”

 

“ I’d pull him out anyway.”

 

“ Even knowing you would cause more pain later on? Perhaps even pain to yourself—or those you love?”

 

“ Yeah.”

 

“ Why? I’ve told you the child will be a monster?”

 

“ I guess it’s because I don’t believe you. I don’t believe that the child must become a monster.”

 

“Grant?” coyote giggled.

 

“ What?”

 

Coyote smiled slowly.

 

”Good answer.”

 

She faded from the alley, the center of her flowing like mist disappearing in sunlight; then the outline, her shadow last of all.

 

“Wait!” Grant called after her, but it was as if she never was.

 

“What was I supposed to say?”

 

The raven shifted from foot to foot again and sighed. “What makes you think you were supposed to say anything?”

 

“ Then why ask me the question?”

 

The Raven turned its head away and studied the sky before ruffling its feathers.

 

“ Grant, we are all messengers.”

 

“ So you said.”

 

“So we take information from one place and bring it to another—we bridge the gap between one place and another. Sometimes between life and death—or the earth and the sky—the sea and shore-a moment to another-but always to give the receiver some information.”

 

“ The blue car hit me right?” He asked the Raven who sat still atop the light grate.

 

“ Or I had a heart attack at my desk. I’m dead right? I’m dead and gone?”

 

Ravens eye glittered coldly, but the great bird said nothing for a moment.

 

“You are so very dense. I blame television you know.”

 

“What?”

 

“ Television. Used to be folks could figure things out for themselves. They had to. You couldn’t get by living vicariously through the choices of other people.”

 

Grant opened his hands and took a soft half step toward the bird,

 

“ Please, I don’t understand…”

 

“ Of course you bloody don’t.”

 

Raven flew up to the higher level of the fire escape. Grant followed him with his eyes. The black form was visible between the dark iron slats that made up the landing high above. Raven poked and prodded at a pile of things, a twig fell, then something vitreous and sharp edged. The bird fussed, wings opening and folding, feathers shaking until it stopped, shifted slightly and then flew down to the edge of the dumpster nearest to Grant. In it’s beak it held something that gleamed in the light.

 

Raven held something in his beak. Grant approached and held out his hand. The bird opened his bill and dropped the coins into Grants palm. Two quarters fresh as if from the mint lay cupped in his palm.

 

“There” said the Raven, “Two coins.  Put them on your eyes, pay the ferryman or call someone who cares.” It hunched first, its feathers bulging before throwing itself up into the air. With a beating of midnight wings Raven flew up and over the alley walls and was gone from his sight.

 

The sound from the street resumed behind him, breaking the odd silence that had prevailed in the alley previously. He turned over the coins in his hand.

 

Grant stepped back into the street and from gray into the yellow light of the noonday sun. As he placed the coins in his pocket, his fingers brushed the yellow paper cradled within. He pulled it from his pocket and held it in his hand. His wife’s name and the small cartoon bird were there above the number for Ossberg-the Union representative. Across the street a payphone stood on the wall beside a bodega. Grant Buchner left the alleyway and crossed into the middle of the street. He put the quarter into the telephone and dialed home-he knew the questions he would ask Iris; he knew she would tell him to call the second number, to do the right thing, and she would tell him to do it fully understanding the consequences for both of them if he did. She would tell him to make the call. He waited with his ear to the receiver, understanding what lay under her small talk of garden, and décor—of vacation plans and family gatherings—the words that served as a mask and plaster over the gap that grew since her operation. He heard her voice on the other end of the line- Grant waited a moment before he spoke, feeling the sound of her filling the space between.

 

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