:: Article

Virgil

By Sarah Coates.

We were standing near our car and the sun blazed down, hot dog breath, the eggs on the street fried – thousands of them. Frying and the grease ran down the road and onto the doorstep of our neighbor, Cathleen. She feeds the dogs at night. She puts out 17 bowls of food, kibble speckling her pebbled lawn, and then the pigeons come for the bowls of food and the mosquitos come for the bowls of water and the coyotes come for the pigeons and the food and the javelina come because they always come. There were 40 of them in her yard today. So she called in the National Guard to tell them that the invasion has finally happened. That the javelina are here and she sees them as people and she hears the pigeons and knows their wings are helicopter blades. And our neighbors exited their houses and found us all in a row in the street looking at her. Just looking at her meltdown framed by the egg grease on the tips of her shoes, on the edge of her doorframe. And one of our neighbors foamed and had sharp fingers, the one that lives in Virgil’s old house, reconstructed to look nothing like Virgil’s old house, the red framed by more red framed by the blooms of the ocotillo when he lived and died there. Before it burned down. My parents never told me how Virgil died. Virgil told me how Virgil died. Or I heard it from George our other neighbor whispering to Cathleen while she was putting out more water and food for the stray dogs. Now there are no stray dogs. All the stray dogs have been tricked by the coyotes who lure the dogs to the mountain caves pretending they want to play and they do play, with the dog’s bones. And their meat before it becomes stuck in their teeth and they cackle to knock it loose.

Virgil told me, or George told Cathleen, that he died in the bath, darkness all around him and then he smiled a small smile and he lit a match and you could see his lips, wavering between folds of night and in the small waves of the bath, his snot yellow teeth pin point refractions. Pissy quick silver. Like the brand I was wearing. And he threw the match on the wood floor and it went out and then he threw another match on the wood floor and that went out and then he threw another one and it caught the bath curtain on fire and then he threw another one and it caught the window curtain on fire and then he threw as many as he could and sunk into the bath and watched the room dance with light and he lobstered. He inhaled deeply. The flames only touched his face. His skin still shed from the heat. He was a snake until the end. Lonely and afraid of his neighbor.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sarah Coates is an interdisciplinary artist and writer. They have an MFA in metalsmithing from Cranbrook Academy of Art and are an MFA candidate in fiction at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Their art has been exhibited internationally and their writing has appeared in the The Iowa Review, The Hawaii Review, Meat For Tea, and Slag Mag. They’re also the submissions editor for Paperbark Magazine, a publication focused on the intersection of sustainability, social justice, and the environment. Magic, their pets (past and present), Gila monsters, creosote, their partner, and the nocturnal war that coyotes and javelina wage on urban sprawl are all important creative muses.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Tuesday, September 22nd, 2020.