Summer Nights



            The house was silent. The kitchen was spotless but deserted. The entertainment room was empty. It was late at night, and he knew he should just head up to bed and get some sleep… but that wasn’t what he wanted or needed. He didn’t like the darkness or the silence. He knew where they all were. It was where they usually were on the hottest nights of the summer.


            Coyote headed out onto the patio and immediately found himself drawn to the light and sound coming from the pool. He thought of going back inside, then thought better of it and headed over. Seeing the group having fun would cheer him up if nothing else.


            The door in one section of the tall, black, iron gate around the pool was wide open. The lights, which were about a foot higher than the gate and which surrounded the pool in a large oval, flooded the area in brightness. The house’s residents, apart from Auntie Al, were all in the water. Coyote hung back and watched from a distance.


            Sweetie was up on Jamie’s shoulders and Olly was on Nik’s. They were wrestling, and trying to see who could knock the other off first. Coyote’s money was on Sweetie, or at least until Pit got involved. Then man swam down to the deep end of the pool and put his hands on the edge of the pool. His arms straightened, lifting himself up out of the water. He was sans bathing suit, as usual. Coyote smirked at the length which was as long, shrunken in the cold water, as some of the men Coyote had seen normally. Pit took a run off the diving board and cannonballed into water. The great splash took Sweetie by surprise and Olly knocked him off. With their arms raised in victory, Nik and Olly took half a victory lap, stopping when Olly, without Nik’s hands on his thighs to steady him, fell off on his own.


            Coyote laughed and coughed in equal amounts, heard by all. Sweetie, shaking himself like a dog to recover and dry his face off, looked up and broke into a howl. Nik howled as well, rubbing his hand affectionately over Olly’s now wet and darker hair. Pit joined in with a short howl, breaking off to bark out a loud “Coyo-TE!”


            Smiling, Coyote headed over to them. “Come on in,” Jamie invited him. “The water’s great.”


            “Thanks,” he said, squatting down on the edge of the pool by the shallow end with his arms resting on his knees. “But I’m going to have to pass. I think I’m getting a cold.”


            “Really?” Olly swum over and looked up at Coyote. “Not just allergies?”


            Simultaneously, Coyote shrugged and shook his head. “I think it’s a cold,” he said. “In fact, I think it’s the cold Marty had last week.”


            “You should make him take care of you,” Sweetie said.


            Chuckling, “Love to, but he’s off at a computer conference this week.”


            “That explainsth it.” Nik said, taking a breath and floating on his back. Coyote saw he wasn’t wearing any swim trunks either, though the other three had their suits on.


            Coyote was usually the one to tie the score and jump in au natural. When he didn’t feel like shit, that is. He shivered in his shorts and hooded sweatshirt, then raised his hand to his face. “ehhChuhhh! Yehshhh! Sniff! Explains what, exactly?”


            Nik answered, “Why you’ve been moping around.”


            “I don’t need a man to make me whole,” Coyote said, rubbing the back of his hand under his nose.


            “Yeah, but you miss him,” said Sweetie. “Don’t worry. I’ve been to a gazillion of those conferences. They have their good moments, but they’re mostly full of dull, uninspiring presentations. After a day, he’ll be aching to get back.”


            “It’s not the presentations and workshops I’m thinking about,” Coyote said. “It’s the thousands of guys everywhere he turns.” When Marty had told him that there was usually at least a few handfuls of women at the events, Coyote had hardly been comforted.


            “I don’t think you have to worry,” said Jamie. “Marty clearly loves you.” Sweetie hugged his man from behind and kissed his cheek. They’d both gotten a lot freer with using that particular L-word.


            Coyote smiled. “Thanks.” His breath caught, and he turned his head, cupping his hand to his nose and mouth. “ihhhSchhh! hahhhChishhh!” He sniffed again and pinched his nose between thumb and forefinger. “I should get inside,” he said, with another shiver. The summer night was almost stiflingly hot, but he didn’t feel it. He just felt miserable in every other way.


            “Want me to come with?” Olly offered.


            Coyote shook his head. “No. I’ll be fine.”


            Pit laughed. “Sometimes when girls say no, they really mean yes.” Effortlessly, he pulled himself out of the water again and grabbed a towel. Coyote started to object, but knew better than to pick a fight with Pit. “I’ll walk you in at the very least. M’gonna shrivel up into nothing if I stay out here any longer.”


            “I find that hard to believe,” Coyote said with a smile.


            “I should be getting out, too,” said Sweetie. “I’ll make a pot of tea. Anybody else want some?”


            “I’ll pass. But I’ve got to get up early in the morning for practice,” Jamie said, getting out of the pool and then helping Sweetie out. He stayed on the side and offered a hand to Nik and Olly, as well.


            “Well, I’ll take sthome,” Nik said, kissing Jamie in thank you then grabbing a bunch of towels and handing them out to everyone.


            “And I’ve already got a movie in mind for you,” Olly said just before he bent over and furiously rubbed a towel over his hair. Then he wrapped it around his waist.


            Coyote rubbed more at his nose. “Really, guys, it’s just a cold. Sniff! It’s not as though I’m a stranger to sneezing.” And, speaking of that, “huhhShoo! hahhChoo! hihhhChishhh! Sniff!


            “Silly girl, it’s not about your cold,” Olly said, walking over and patting Coyote on the back.


            Smiling, “Thanks.” They led him inside to the rec room and set him up on the couch with blankets and tissues. Sweetie brought him tea and Olly put Hedwig and the Angry Inch on the television. Nik curled up with him and Jamie brought some snacks before heading to bed. Pit stuck around for a little while, sitting on the low back of the couch, rubbing Coyote’s back where his tattoo was.


            As they’d all seen the movie many times over, it was more like background noise, or background music. They talked about all things but nothing at all that was important, drowning out the sounds of Coyote’s sneezes and coughs. In the room filled with light and laughter, caring and conversation, Coyote’s mind went blank and he fell asleep.