Our neighbor was feeding the coyotes. Standing in our front yard in the dark, their bodies fat but yearning, their eyes pinpoints in the dark. They didn’t run.

    I knew this because my wife told me when she came home about midnight on Tuesday. She said she was at her sister’s house. Her sister had just had a baby with red hair that was falling out. I called them but no one picked up.

    My wife saw the coyotes in the yard. One of my neighbors wanted to shoot them.

    She is fucking someone else.

    Not that I blame her. I have aged. My hair is thinning and starting to gray. I have gained weight around the middle and my face has filled out, a double chin haunting me; I am no longer thin and boyish and young.

    We no longer talk as we once did. I wish I knew why but I really don’t. Not anymore.

    I was watching the coyotes skulk through the neighbor’s dusky yard when a car pulled into my driveway. I thought it was just someone turning around, lost on these serpentine streets in the hills, trying to find the park to our north. The coyotes scattered away into the dark, joining with the shadows.

    But the car was idling in the driveway, lights on, what looked to be one person in it. And then the lights turned off. The engine followed. Our 1920s streetlight only faintly illuminated the area. The driver sat in the car in my driveway, waiting.

    I wasn’t sure whether I should go out or not. I stood in the house, staring at the car. The hall light was on but I didn’t know if the person in the car could see me or not in the dining room window. Were we watching each other?

    The door opened and a guy got out. Mid 30s, goatee, crew cut, and little wire rim glasses. He came up to the front door and rang the buzzer.

    I walked to the door but didn’t unlock it. I stood on the other side, trying to catch my breath. My heart was beating fast. The hallway was dark and I stood there, unsure what to do.

    The buzzer rang again.

    Yeah? I said.

    Are you Jerry? his voice asked through the door. His voice was deep like he’d been practicing.


    You need to come with me, he said.

    I knew he was standing out there in the dark on our porch. I didn’t turn on the porch light for him.

    Who the fuck are you?

    It’s about your wife, he said. You have to come get her.

He gave me the address. I kind of knew where it was, down off Wilshire near the El Rey. We’d seen a couple bands play there years ago. I got in my car.

    He was leaning out his car window, looking back at me. I was parked on the street. You want to follow me?

    I leaned over and rolled down the passenger window. What?

    You want to follow me?

    I think I got it.

    I’ll drive slow, he said and rolled up his window. He backed his Lexus out of my driveway, careful not to clip me as he turned onto the street.

    I followed him and turned the radio to the jazz station from Long Beach. Bird was playing and I cracked the window.

The house was a duplex in the S. 900 block of Dunsmuir, a white shingle house with blue trim that had been broken up into two units. He pulled into an old wooden garage. The boards at the bottom were broken. The garage had one door that he had to stop, get out of his car and pull up himself before driving in. He propped the garage door open with a bowed piece of wood.

    I parked on 9th Street, which intersected Dunsmuir at the corner where the house sat. I considered leaving but turned off the radio. I stood outside the car, watching him.

    He came out of the garage, sliding the wooden door down behind him. It jammed on the track and it took him about a minute before he could get it properly closed. He probably just needed to oil the track but I wasn’t going to tell him. The temperature seemed cooler here in the flats than up in the hills where we came from.

    He walked by me on the sidewalk as I was leaning up against the car but didn’t say anything. I followed him onto a covered front porch that had large curved stones, a path that I could barely make out by the dim porch light.

    He had his back to me, unlocking the door. I didn’t want to go in. I wanted to get back in my car and drive to my house, go inside, turn off the lights, and lie down. But he was standing there, turned, the door open, waiting for me.

    What’s your name? I asked him.


    Richard, I repeated, shaking my head.

    I went inside. He closed the door behind us and flipped on the light in the entry way. Marble floor, white paneled walls. A large picture of an abstract flower done in brownish yellows on the wall across from the door. The paint on the frame was coming off.

    Are you sure my wife is here?

    He nodded. She passed out on the couch.

    He led me to the living room. There wasn’t much furniture. A tv on a small wood table and a nearly empty bookcase. A brown recliner in the corner. In the center of the room was the couch. It was red with several large pillows, a country look, I guess. But she was not there. I looked at him.

    She was here when I left.

    He went over to the couch and moved a couple pillows around as if she might have slipped beneath them, down into the recesses of the couch like loose change. He threw the pillows back on it and shrugged.

    I don’t know, he said.

    It doesn’t look like she’s there now.

    He shook his head. His eyes were a sad blue, I don’t know how else to describe them. He didn’t want to be doing this with me, I could tell. I didn’t want to be doing it with him either.

    So where is she?

    I don’t know.

    Why don’t you know?

    He licked his lips. I could see the glimmer of white.

    I’m going to look around.

    He nodded and followed after me.

    We started searching the house. I looked in rooms and he didn’t say anything. He didn’t stop me. He encouraged me to search, to take back what he must’ve considered mine and what he was sorely misunderstanding.

    I glanced in the bathroom, thinking perhaps she was passed out on the floor, as in the past, but she wasn’t there. The bathroom had purple tile from the 30s, a metallic sheen to it, and white built-ins including a dressing table with nothing on it. There was one soiled white towel on the floor and an open toothpaste tube leaking out onto the green sink.

    I closed the door behind me. I could hear him rummaging around in another room. I checked out an office. His office. A computer and a chipped laminate desk, cheaply glued together, from an office supply place two blocks away on Wilshire.

    He and I together searched through the house, ending up in a small kitchen. Dirty dishes clustered in the sink. Crumbs scattered on the counter and a putrid smell came from the small white trash can, I guessed.

    You find her? he asked.

    I shook my head.

    Where could she have gone?

    Why the hell are you asking me? I said.

    He pulled on his fingers and leaned back against the counter, putting one of his hands on an old white stove.

    I shrugged. Did she drive?


    You check the back yard?

    He nodded. I didn’t see her back there.

    You check the entire house?

    He nodded.

    And you didn’t find her?

    He shrugged as if he didn’t know what else to do. His stomach fell over his belt and his shirt gaped open, showing hairy white skin. I wanted to laugh but didn’t. We stood there for a while not really saying anything. I wondered if I should go.

    You want a beer? he asked.

    I hesitated and then nodded. I’m going to go round again.


    I went room by room. In his bedroom, which I hadn’t checked the first time, the sheets were unmade and tangled, pillows askew. There was a smell. I left the room and looked into a couple more before giving up. Maybe I wasn’t really looking for her but looking for something.

    Back in the kitchen, he handed me a cold can of beer. I took it from him.

    Where could she have gone? he asked, not really asking me. I could tell he was worried. He took a drink, wiping the wet residue off his upper lip.

    I drank half the can. What was she doing here?

    Somebody from work was having a party, he said, and she wanted to go. Said her husband. He stopped himself and shook his head.

    I took another drink as if it didn’t matter.

    Said you didn’t want to go and didn’t care. So we went and had a couple drinks, danced in the living room, and came back here and talked but then she passed out and I couldn’t get her into the car and I felt funny about leaving her out here and going to bed so I went through her purse—

    I gave him a look.

    —Just to find the address, that’s it. That’s how I found you.

    I nodded and finished my beer.

    You expect me to believe that?


    Do you?

    He raised his hands. Hey, he said, I don’t want any trouble. She wanted to come here, she insisted.

    How long’s it been going on?

    He shrugged and glanced down at his shoes. And shrugged again.

    I watched him and didn’t say anything. He wouldn’t look up.

    I lifted myself up on the white tiled counter. The cabinets were old and stuck out so I had to lean forward. You married? I asked.

    He shook his head and went into the living room. He sat in the brown recliner that looked poorly bolted together from a kit. I followed him in. He was sitting in that chair, hunched over himself.

    Was, he responded, not anymore.

    What happened?

    She met someone else. Moved out.

    I nodded.

    You going to repaint?

    What? he asked.

    It always helps if you repaint. I pointed to the wall behind me.

    Oh, he said, getting it. I never really thought about it.

    The living room too was a dingy red color. Maybe it was an off-red or maybe it had changed from age or smoke. It was hard to tell. There were only two small windows. It felt dark and cramped.

    I’d definitely repaint, I said. Clean the place up. You own it?

    He nodded. Yeah, a couple years.

    Might want to think of selling. It helps.

    What color would you paint it?

    I walked around the room. I put my hand out and dragged it along the wall next to the opening. I don’t know, I replied. I walked around the room again. I stood in the doorway between the living room and the small dining area that had a wicker round glass-topped table and four wicker chairs. He was still in the recliner, sagging into it, letting himself go.

    White, I finally said. I’d probably paint it white.

    He nodded and put his head in his hands.

    I don’t know how it happened, he said. We used to be happy, me and her. We met in college and got married but through the years things just got harder and harder. It’s like we were always looking for a fight. And then I came home one day and she was just gone and I was lonely. I waited almost a year but I was just lonely, so lonely that it made my teeth hurt.

    I put the empty beer can in the middle of the floor. Thanks for the beer.

    Sure. He didn’t stand. He just stayed in the chair like it was a nest, a place for him to burrow.

    I headed for the front door.

    Where do you think she went? he asked again.

    It was a question I had asked many times before. I shrugged. I don’t know, I said. Maybe she woke up and not knowing where she was, she went for a walk. She’s done that before. She’s done lots of things before so it’s hard telling. You should probably look for her.

    He nodded and I left.

    Outside it was quiet. The crickets sounded louder here. It was getting cold so I zipped up my jacket and got in the car. I sat there waiting, trying to figure out what to do. Finally, I started it and headed home. I felt myself glancing at the sidewalks, and wondered if the coyotes were waiting for me and what I would do if they were.

Ron Burch is a screenwriter in Los Angeles who is currently writing projects for Disney, Fox Animation, and TBS. His short stories have been published in Mississippi Review, The Saint Ann’s Review, Pindeldyboz, PRISM International, Juked and others.  He has been nominated for an Emmy and, more recently, a Pushcart.

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Ron Burch