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First pages

Chapter One

The fat man tore through the woods as fast as he could move, his chest heaving with the effort. He crashed wildly through the trees, the branches slapping against his arms. His face, barely recognizable as human through the twisted patina of decades old scars, twisted even further in terror. Panting, he focused straight ahead, continuing to run. Tree roots caught at his feet, but he managed to keep his pace. Behind him, the forest was dead silent. An inky blackness spread over the trees, obliterating the view of the sky. Ahead, the rim of a canyon appeared in a break in the trees. The man barely paused, glancing once over his shoulder to confirm that the unnamed blackness was still eating the world behind him. The blackness had almost overtaken him. He turned back toward the canyon and putting on a last burst of speed, sprinted to the edge and threw himself over the side of the cliff.

Coyote sat up in bed, looking wildly around the dark room. He fumbled a hand toward the nightstand, knocking his phone to the floor as he reached for the light. Relief loosened the knot in his chest as the soft light filled the room. It was a dream, only a dream, but it had felt so real. He looked down at his arms, half-expecting to see scrapes and bruises from his flight through the woods. The dream was slipping away, and he struggled to remember the details. He had been terrified and running from something, but what? He blinked in the white light from the lamp. He thought it was important, that there was something about the dream he needed to remember. His fingers unconsciously traced the line of scars on his face as he thought. The darkness meant something, he was sure of it. He had been terrified while running, yes. But also, hadn’t he felt proud?

He got out of bed and padded as quietly as he could to the bathroom. The old floors creaked under his weight and there was a pause in his mother’s snoring. He froze. When she resumed snoring, he tiptoed forward. It was impossible for him to walk through the hundred-year-old house without making noise, but it was worth the effort not to wake his mother. He finally made it to the bathroom. After peeing, he stood in front of the bathroom mirror, staring at his reflection. His eyes looked odd, and he thought he could see shadows moving behind them. The crisscrossed map of scars looked gnarled and ugly in this light. In any light, he reminded himself. Tiptoeing back to his bedroom, he thought about the dream again. It was something about the shadows. Lost in thought, he forgot about the loose board outside his sister’s room. It squeaked when he stepped on it and he held his breath. In a moment, his mother’s voice screeched from her room.

“Get the hell back in bed, fatty. You’re waking up the whole damn house.”

He trudged back to his room, crawled back into bed, and pulled the covers over his face.

When his alarm went off in the morning, Coyote panicked. He felt around on the bedside table, trying to find his phone. He remembered knocking it to the floor, and felt around under the edge of the bed until his fingers gripped it. Showering and getting dressed took forever. He felt as if he was walking through quicksand. He pulled a pair of jeans out of the closet and struggled into them. He needed to make another trip to the Big and Tall store, but he couldn’t afford their prices. Last month, after his last pair of khakis split at the back seam, he had gone to a thrift store hoping some obese old guy had died recently and donated all his clothing to charity. After pawing through rack after rack of clothing, he had given up. The woman at the counter, trying to be kind, had told him that it wasn’t often they got anything as big as him, but he could try checking back next week when they unloaded the new shipment.

His mother, Rachel was already awake, pacing the kitchen floor as she chain-smoked. Coyote watched her for a moment, the way she tossed her ashes haphazardly toward the kitchen sink whenever she got within a few feet of it.

Coyote’s sister, Hazel, was sitting at the table eating scrambled eggs, and she flinched every time Rachel stomped behind her chair. Hazel absently waved a hand in the air when the cigarette smoke clouded around her face.

Coyote stumbled into the room, bumping into Hazel's chair as he walked passed.

“Watch where you're going, big boy,” Rachel snapped without looking at him.

Coyote glared at her without answering. Wandering over to the fridge, he rummaged around looking for some food.

“It's about time you got out of bed,” Rachel continued. “You're going to be late for work.”

Coyote grabbed a yogurt and slammed the refrigerator. He snagged a couple of pop-tarts from the box on the counter. His mother scoffed as Coyote lowered himself gingerly into one of the kitchen chairs. Hazel gave him a slight smile as he sat next to her. He dropped one eye in a wink when Rachel wasn’t looking.

“You can't afford to be a slacker, Coyote. When your father died, you became the man of this family. Hazel and I need to count on you. I tried to give you a stepfather and look how that turned out.” She paused, jabbing the air with her cigarette. “You don't get a choice. You have to take care of us. And that means getting to work on time.”

Coyote kept his eyes on the table, methodically eating his breakfast through his mother’s rant. He felt Hazel’s foot press against his under the table and he looked up. She gave him another half-smile. Hazel loved him, but she couldn’t stand up to Rachel. He couldn’t blame her. He couldn’t stand up to her, either.

Graduating from high school was the highpoint of most people’s lives. For Coyote, it meant the relief of getting away from the bullies who had tormented him for his entire life. And increasing his hours at the store from part-time to full-time.

“Did you even ask about a raise?” Rachel was still ranting. “You've been at the grocery store long enough. Even a lazy employee like you should have had a raise by now.”

Clearing her throat, Hazel looked up. “Coyote pays for everything here. Maybe if you’d let me get a job…”

Rachel barked out a laugh and both Coyote and Hazel jumped. “You? Work? You can't even leave the house to go to school.”

Hazel dropped her eyes to her plate, blushing up to her ears. Hazel had been going to an online public school since the last big panic attack she had back in ninth grade. Coyote envied her not having to go to high school, but it wasn’t healthy for her to be stuck in this house all day, every day.

Coyote pressed his foot against hers and she pressed back. Hazel deserved better than this. It was true that she had trouble making connections sometimes, and she was a little too trusting. Coyote had taken her with him to the grocery store several times, just to get her out of the house. He had to keep an eye on her the whole time, though. Once, he had lost track of her while arguing with the butcher over the cost of the meat he was buying. When he finally found her, she was holding hands with a middle-aged man, and proudly announced, “My new best friend wants to take me home to see his dogs.” The man had turned tail and run when Coyote advanced on him. Hazel wasn’t dumb, she was innocent, and she needed Coyote to protect her.

Coyote had once had a dream that he fell in love with a woman and married her. The two of them took Hazel home to live with them, leaving Rachel to fend for herself. Hazel would be eighteen in two years and Coyote could move out and take her with him, but who would take care of her while he worked? He didn’t know if Hazel could manage being at home alone all day, and he certainly wasn’t taking her to the store with him. And there wasn’t a wife; there would never be a wife.

Rachel’s screeching voice interrupted his thoughts. “I suppose next you'll be telling me to go get a job. With my nervous condition and my heart? Maybe I should just kill myself now and save you the trouble.” She lit another cigarette with shaking fingers. “If it wasn’t for my disability check and Hazel’s food stamps, we’d starve. We don’t have enough to pay the bills. Not nearly enough.”

Coyote stood abruptly and dumped his yogurt container into the trash.

“The bills will be paid,” he said. “They always are.”

He winked once more at Hazel and left the house. Slipping behind the steering wheel, he reached for the seatbelt, trying to bring it across his body and click it into place. After a few minutes, he gave up. He tried to buy a seatbelt extender once, but he couldn’t figure out the kind he needed, and he was too embarrassed to ask for help. He didn’t know why he kept trying to put the seatbelt on. It was a lost cause. Instead, he tucked the head of the seatbelt under his armpit as he drove to work, hoping it would be enough to fool any cop he happened to pass.

Coyote heaved himself out of the car and walked into The Max Dance Club. He stared around at the overhead lights, the cages, the dancing platforms. Coyote had never been here at night, when the cool people put on their sexiest clothes and danced the night away. He knew some of his classmates came here with fake IDs. The Max sold club wear and odd paraphernalia during the day, but Coyote was just the janitor. Nodding at the cashier, he headed toward the storage closet for the cleaning supplies.

When Coyote had come in three years ago, looking for work, the owner, Max Brent, had told him they weren’t hiring. Coyote had been to every store in town, he had applied to every bar, every restaurant, and every hotel. He had put in applications at nursing homes and gas stations. He’d even tried to work fast food. No one would hire him. The excuse was that he was too young at fifteen, but he knew it was because of the way he looked. The dance club was his last resort and when Max told him no, Coyote broke down, crying at the cash register. Coyote supposed Max had taken pity on him because he hired him to clean the place for minimum wage, but he paid Coyote under the table, so he didn’t have to pay taxes.

Coyote walked into one of the bathrooms and started wiping down the walls. He wished his father was still alive. Sometimes, Coyote hated him for dying. And sometimes, he just fervently wished he had him back. How different his life would have been if Elon Jones had never died. Hazel wouldn’t have been born, though, and as frustrated as he got taking care of her sometimes, Coyote loved his sister and wouldn’t want her to stop existing.

Eighteen years ago, Elon Jones was killed just as Coyote came screaming into the world. Coyote's mother had seen him as a curse from that day, Coyote was sure of it. Rachel’s second marriage produced Hazel. Coyote lifted a hand to the scars on his face. Hazel’s father was pure evil. When Rachel was forced to take care of the kids on her own, she simply gave up. She lived on the state and took in a few odd jobs, and when Coyote was old enough to work, she retreated into her nervous condition, working less, and eventually refusing to even leave the house.

Swabbing a mop across the floor of one of the stalls, Coyote grimaced. His mother and sister thought he worked in a grocery store. That’s why they were always asking him to bring things home from the store. They figured since he was there anyway, it wouldn’t be an inconvenience. Pausing to place the “Caution: Wet Floor” sign, Coyote noticed a man across the room pretending not to stare. Coyote laughed. A grocery store. What grocery store would want him in view of their public? It was bad enough being stared at here, where the customers were mostly not the same class of people as those in his neighborhood. He made a face at the man across the room and the man ducked down an aisle.

Don, the clerk motioned Coyote to the register.

“Coyote, don't scare the customers.”

“I can't help it,” Coyote replied. “Scary is my natural state.”

Don rolled his eyes. Coyote stared back at him, aware of the impact his appearance made. At six-foot-five and well over four hundred pounds, blending in wasn’t an option. And when people got close enough to see his face, they almost forgot about his size.

Don eyed Coyote's network of burn scars that pulled down the corner of his right eye, spread across his cheek and nose, and twisted his mouth into a permanent half-sneer. “Just don't make faces at people,” he said.

After work, Coyote went to the grocery store to pick up his mother’s prescription and something for dinner. He’d do a big shopping Friday after he got paid. For now, he just needed to take them through a couple of days. Lumbering through the grocery store, Coyote tried to follow his list without making eye contact with any other customers.

A group of his former classmates was at the prepared food case, buying pizzas, so he veered quickly down a different aisle. He didn’t want to see any of them now or ever again.

A young child looked up at him and opened its mouth to speak, but the mother grabbed the child’s hand and scurried away. In the frozen food aisle, a pretty girl smiled at Coyote. He scowled at her and turned away. He could deal with the people who ran away from him, or refused to look at him. It was the ones who pretended not to notice, who wanted to be compassionate that really pissed him off. He’d take honest scorn over fake empathy any day.

He grabbed a couple bags of frozen fruit and slammed them into the cart. All his mother ever did was smoke and drink smoothies. No wonder she was so skinny. He reached for some cheap frozen pizzas and a family size macaroni and cheese.

Back in produce, Coyote got the greenest bananas he could find. Hazel would only eat bananas in a perfect shade of yellow, with no brown spots. If he bought them while they were still partially green, they might get a couple days out of them before she refused to eat the rest.

At the checkout counter, Coyote ignored the cashier's stuttered, “Good afternoon.” He pretended not to notice the security guard who had followed him around the store and was now standing at the end of the lane. Coyote just stared at the belt, waiting for his total. He was three dollars under budget, so he added two candy bars from the impulse section. He and Hazel could eat them after their mother passed out, when he wouldn’t have to listen to her pointed jabs about his weight.

Back at the car, Coyote pushed the fast food wrappers to the floor and stowed his groceries on the backseat. Grunting, he managed to squeeze himself into the front seat. He didn’t bother trying to put on the seatbelt this time. He tucked the end under his left arm and left the parking lot.

Driving home, he fantasized that his mother got an odd disease that caused her to gain two hundred pounds. At the same time, Coyote himself became a bodybuilder with a rock hard, and slender physique. In his mind, he pursed his lips at her. “If you just ate less junk and more salad,” he said in his head, imitating her exact blend of disgust and fake sympathy.

At home, Coyote struggled into the house with the groceries. Wheezing, he grunted a hello to Hazel who was sitting at the table with a fashion magazine. She looked up at him, smiling.

“Did you have fun at work?”

Coyote shook his head. “It’s cleaning, Hazel. There’s nothing fun about it.”

“I’d like to have a job,” she sighed. “I wish I wasn’t slow.”

“You aren’t slow.” Coyote lifted the bags of groceries onto the counter and paused to catch his breath. “She’s told you that so many times, you can’t help but believe it.”

Hazel pursed her lips looking, for a long, sad moment, exactly like their mother. “I can't leave the house. It's dangerous for girls. They get raped and killed if they go out alone.”

“That doesn't happen to everyone. It does happen, though. You want to be careful.”

Hazel traced her finger over the line of the gown on the page in front of her. “It's so beautiful.”

Coyote resumed putting away the groceries. He popped a frozen pizza into the oven.
“Where is she?”

Hazel sighed. “She took a pill and went to bed.”

“Good. I refilled her prescription today.”

Hazel shrugged without lifting her eyes from the glossy pages in front of her. “If we were nicer, she wouldn't have to take pills.”

Coyote scoffed and slammed a cupboard door. He poured a glass of milk for Hazel and got a Dr. Pepper out for himself. In a few minutes, he sliced up the heated pizza and gave a couple slices to Hazel, taking the rest for himself. They ate in silence for a few minutes.

“I had a dream last night,” Hazel said.

Coyote ignored her, shoveling pizza into his mouth.

“Don't you want to hear about it?” Hazel persisted.

“I guess.”

“I was running in the woods. I was scared, and I didn't know what to do. There was something behind me and it just kept coming and coming. The trees were trying to trip me. I kept running, though my chest hurt, and I thought my lungs were going to explode. I kept running, even though I knew there was a cliff in front of me, because I knew that even if I died, whatever was chasing me was worse than death.”

Coyote stared at her, horrified.

Rolling her eyes to the ceiling, Hazel continued in a near-whisper. “The darkness is coming. The darkness is here. And it's terrible, Coyote.”

“Nothing is coming,” Coyote said. “Nothing is here.”

“You're going to fix it. And I'm going to help.”

“Just stop it,” Coyote snapped. “Everything is fine. I don't need any help.”

“Everyone needs help,” she replied.

Coyote slammed his fist down on the table, shaking their plates. Hazel jumped, her eyes wide. She turned to look over her shoulder toward their mother's room.

“Hazel. Tell that fat boy to bring me some water and another pill.”

Hazel looked straight at Coyote. “Bring her some water and another pill.”

Coyote slammed from the room and dropped the pill off to his mother. When he came back to the kitchen, Hazel was reading the magazine again.

Coyote sat down with her. “I’m sorry I yelled at you.”

“I’m used to it from her,” Hazel said, motioning toward the bedroom.

“I hate her,” Coyote said. “I hate that she treats you like that.”

Hazel shrugged. “I’d rather she yell at me. At least then, all I can hear is her anger. When she isn’t yelling, all I can hear is her fear and hatred. Sometimes, I don’t know which fears are truly mine and which ones are hers.”

Coyote stared at her. “Hazel, what’s happening to you?”

“I feel things,” she said. She looked back at her magazine. “Isn’t this pretty? I think I’d wear this if I ever went dancing.”

Chapter Two

Hazel tiptoed down the dark hallway of her mother’s house. She carefully avoided the loose board in front of her bedroom door and headed to the kitchen. This was the best time of the night, when her mother and Coyote were asleep, and Hazel could sit in peace and practice her knowing.

The problem with her mother and Coyote is their thoughts and feelings were so big, Hazel couldn’t see or hear anything else when they were around. When they were all in the house together, all Hazel could think about what her mother’s neurotic fear and anger, and Coyote’s self-hatred. Hazel didn’t even know what her own true feelings were anymore. Was she anxious like her mother? Was she self-loathing like her brother? Did Hazel really hate and distrust men or was that so strong in her mother that she couldn’t help but feel it herself?

Long ago, Callie told Hazel that she would have to learn to shield herself if she wanted to stay sane. Callie hadn’t been with them long enough to teach Hazel how to shield herself so all she could do was look at fashion magazines or color in the coloring books Coyote brought her. When she focused on the shiny pages of the magazines or the colors in her books, Hazel could almost shut out the incessant mental screams from Coyote and her mother.

It didn’t even matter if they were sleeping. Coyote dreamed endlessly of another world. When he dreamed of this world, it was of the torment he suffered from his classmates, the pokes, and punches, and the times he was knocked into walls. Sometimes he dreamed about the fire and when he did, Hazel sometimes thought she could feel both of them burning to death.

And her mother’s dreams were like the rantings of a madman, disjointed and terrifying.

Hazel sat at the kitchen table, rubbing her hands along the smooth wood. It was so old, the crisscrossed lines of scratches on the surface were almost as pronounced as the ones of her brother’s face. But Hazel loved the way the wood felt under her hands. She thought the small groove at her place was from her thumb, rubbing over it time and again, as she sought to leave her body on these sleepless night.

She closed her eyes and tried to shut out the feelings of her family. Neither of them had entered a deep dream state yet, so their minds were still quiet. Hazel visualized the teal dress she had seen in the magazine she had been reading earlier. She pictured the folds of bright blue waving across her field of vision, closing her off from the rest of the world.

She had been doing this for years. Not every night. Not even every week, most of the time. The conditions had to be perfect. Coyote and her mother had to have somewhat quiet minds. And the dog next door, the one that barked incessantly, had to be inside or quiet. Hazel herself couldn’t be tired or sick or have a headache. Things had to be perfect. She thought if Callie had stayed with them, if she had raised them the way she said she was going to, Hazel would have learned how to block out distractions and reach out to people with her mind. Hazel would still be in school. She might have friends, girls who would come over and hang out. Her mother would still be happy if Callie had stayed. Hazel would be safer, too. Callie would have taught her all the ways to grow her knowing, without letting the fears of other people consume her. But she had left, left so thoroughly, that Hazel couldn’t find her, couldn’t even sense her.

She tried to clear her mind of Callie, too. It was hard not to think about her. Harder than clearing her mind of her family, even though they were right here in the house. But Callie was a presence, and she filled Hazel’s thoughts whenever she could get a moment away from her mother and Coyote.

The teal fabric still waved across her vision. It covered up the remains of her thoughts about Callie. It blanked out her fears and hatred. It covered all the emotions until the only thing left was the fabric.

Hazel knew not to try to direct her mind. She swayed with the movement of the fabric and let it lead her. She fell deeper into the teal until it covered everything in her mind. In the span of the color, she started to see or sense more colors. Vivid yellows streaked through the blue. A bright orange snaked through like a fabric river. A light green trail caught her attention. It was small, but so vibrant. It looked like the first leaves of a plant budding in the springtime. She followed the green with her mind. It led her through the colors and out into black space where there was nothing except the green. She reached out to touch it and it surrounded her. It twirled around her hand, snaked up her arm, curled around her neck. She was floating in the green trail and she felt nothing else.

Hazel opened her eyes. She was lying on her stomach on soft grass. It was dark, but not nighttime dark. It was dusky and grey. She lifted her head. A woman standing on the grass, not far from where Hazel was lying.

Hazel pushed herself to her feet and approached the woman. She was tall, almost as tall as Coyote, and Hazel looked up at her as she came up behind her. The woman’s back was broad and strong. She wasn’t fat, but she wasn’t skinny like Hazel. She was solid. Hazel gazed at the woman’s back, at the muscles that seemed to coil underneath the skin. She turned.

Callie, Hazel gasped.

I’m here, the woman, Callie said.

Hazel reached for Callie, but she couldn’t feel her.

Callie smiled.

Hazel gaped at her. She looked the same as Hazel remembered. Hazel didn’t feel as if she was in a dream state, but she knew this wasn’t real. She blinked at Callie.

Am I here? She asked.

Hazel, you need to listen. I need you to listen. A man is going to visit Coyote. An important man. And he’s going to ask Coyote to do something. Coyote has to say yes. Do you understand me?

Hazel stared. What can I do?

Callie smiled at her. You can convince him to say yes. Hazel, I need you. I’m counting on you.

Hazel opened her mouth to reply, but Callie was already fading. The grass was shifting under her feet. In another moment, Hazel was in the blackness again, only this time, she wasn’t protected by the green trail. Her skin burned with cold. She shivered and shuddered so violently, she thought she was going to explode into pieces.

She felt the hard wood of the table under her hands. Forcing herself out of the darkness, Hazel opened her eyes. The kitchen looked different than it had when she left. She thought it was darker with more shadows. She stared into the corners, trying to see if things were hiding in the dark.

Reaching across the table, she grabbed the fashion magazine, the one with the teal dress, and held it in front of her chest like a shield. Armed, she left the kitchen, and tiptoed back up the stairs to bed.

Chapter Three

Coyote closed his eyes and focused on his breath. He was trying to meditate, trying to keep the thoughts from crowding his brain. It happened when he closed his eyes, the faces swarmed into his head, and he had to work to visualize them all disappearing into puffs of smoke, the way Callie had taught him. He missed Callie, with her capable hands, and her deep, yet gentle voice. Callie had loved him in a way that his mother never could. She had taken care of him after the accident, when Hazel’s dad had gone on the run, and Rachel was pregnant with Hazel.

Coyote didn’t remember the night of the accident, but he could go there. In his mind, he could drift into the past, calling the darkness around him, and reemerging in the air around his two-year-old self. He had seen it happen dozens of times and he kept coming back to it. Drifting, he let the darkness float over his eyes and take him to that night.

He was looking at a campfire, at his mother, twenty-three years younger, and beautiful, but tired. Callie was there, sitting on a log, her long, denim-clad legs stretched out to the fire. Coyote saw himself, running out of the trailer, excited to see Callie, his mother’s best friend, who only came over when Frank was gone.

He wanted to reach down and snatch himself out of the scene, to stop it all before it started. He wanted to somehow scream into his mother’s brain, just get out. Go with Callie now. She wants to take care of you. Go with her now. But he was a shadow, a nothing, and he had learned long ago that trying to change it only left him exhausted and sore.

Hazel was just a bump then, and Coyote, toddling along on fat legs, didn’t yet understand what was happening. He only knew his mother loved the bump on her body in a way that she didn’t love him. He jumped into Callie’s arms and she swung him around, laughing. Callie loved him. Even later, as he was growing bigger and fatter, and his face was full of scars, Callie loved him. She would kiss him on the face and swing him around in her strong arms. When he was older, she would tell him he looked like his father with his high forehead, dark skin, and his deep, intense eyes. Elon was as handsome a man as Callie had ever seen, she would say. Coyote had once asked Callie how she knew what Elon looked like. She had looked at him quietly for a moment, looked away, and said she had seen pictures.

That night, the night around the campfire, Callie and Rachel were smiling and laughing. Callie held Coyote, singing him a song as she rocked him gently. It was the only perfect moment he had ever experienced in his life.

When Frank roared up, coming around the side of the trailer, drunkenly screaming about something, Rachel and Callie jumped to their feet. Callie set Coyote down and told him to stay behind her.

Rachel, used to Frank’s temper, had her hands up in a gesture of surrender. “Please, Frank. She just came by to see Coyote.”

Frank turned on Callie. “Stay away from my property and that means the woman, the land, and the kid.”

He pointed at Coyote who wrapped his arms around Callie’s legs, trying to hide. Frank grabbed him by the arm and dangled him in the air. “My own kid doesn’t even want to come to me anymore.” He shook Coyote. “You’ve poisoned his mind against me.”

Coyote was crying silently. Frank’s hand was cutting off the circulation in his arm and his toes were dragging in the dirt. He tried to put one foot down on the ground, but he couldn’t reach.

Rachel stepped forward. “Just put Coyote down and we’ll go talk about this.”

Frank’s fist lashed out and caught Rachel in the nose. Coyote felt, rather than heard, the crunch of bone, as blood gushed from her nostrils. Callie stepped forward to grab at Frank and he swung around, throwing Coyote aside. Coyote felt the rush of heat before he landed in the fire, face first, screaming. The flames rushed over his face, behind his eyes. He was screaming, and his throat was burning. It felt like he was there for hours, for eternity, but as he watched, Callie grabbed him from the fire and threw her body on top of him, putting out the flames.

Through his screams, he was vaguely aware that his mother was also screaming, and Frank had run, his truck spraying the gravel as he left, but the only thing that mattered to Coyote was pain and Callie’s arms and he kept screaming until he woke up.

It was dark in his room. He didn’t know what time it was. Sometimes he understood why his mother took so many sleeping pills. The screams never truly went away, and they were loud. He contemplated taking a pill from his mother’s stash. He didn’t want to go down that road. Besides, he had to dole out his mother’s pills carefully to make sure they lasted until the next time they could be refilled. As much as he hated her, he knew she couldn’t live without him. If he left, she would die, it was as simple as that. In some ways, that would be better for everyone. But he didn’t want that guilt resting on his head. It was bad enough that she blamed him for Elon’s death, and for Frank’s behavior. Even for Callie leaving. He was a curse. He ruined everything. Reaching up to touch his scar covered face, he sighed. He was a curse. He had been born on the death of his father and the rest of his life was a penance.

He turned over, the old bed creaking under his weight. He needed a better bed. He needed new clothes. He wanted to leave this shitty old house and go somewhere else. If he and Hazel lived in a modest house, maybe a rental with utilities included, they could afford a few nice things now and then. He’d get Hazel subscriptions to the fashion magazines she liked so much instead of getting them used at the thrift store.


About me

E. A. Van Stralen is a fan of wizards, dragons, and dark towers, none of which appear in this book. In her spare time, she teaches the craft of writing, hikes, plays the harmonica, and juggles. Badly. Coyote Ate the Sky is her first YA novel.

Q. What is the inspiration for the story?
Years ago, I had a dream about a fat man running in terror through a dark forest. When I woke up, I started sketching out Coyote. He went back to sleep for several years, and only recently popped back up to insist on saving the world.
Q. This book is part of a series, tell us about your series.
This is the first in the series. Coyote loses a travel companion during this book. In book two, Coyote and his sister, Hazel will travel back to Adumbrate to rescue the man they left behind.