Story Time With Hank | Story Time With Coyote
Hi, folks. Hank Henry here. In lieu of my regular Friday garbage, I’ve arranged a special treat: a guest column written by a friend of mine. His name’s Coyote and he lives across the street. Um. Yeah. Introductions are boring. I’ll let Coyote take it from here.
I lost a bet, that’s why I’m sitting here wasting an evening on this thing. I doubt it’ll have anything to do with beer, but who knows, it could take a turn. I’m drinking a beer now, if that helps. It’s only a Yuengling, though, so don’t get too excited.
I don’t know what Hank had in mind exactly when he foisted this job off on me. Probably something different from what I have in mind, but I’m the guy with the keyboard. He’s the guy who’s just gonna have to live with whatever I give him, or else do his own work.
A word of warning: This isn’t really in my wheelhouse. I haven’t sat down and cranked out a wall of text in quite some time. There’s bound to be rust.
A week ago yesterday at sundown, there was a knock on my door. When I opened it, I found myself face-to-face with a skinny old man in a black, three-piece suit and white shirt. No tie. That’s all the impression I got of him at first, just that quick, vague image, because behind him, parked at the curb and pulling most of my attention, was his bitchin’ black Corvette, a ’69 Stingray like my boss has on a poster in his office. It looked like it had rolled off the lot five minutes ago, hopped over the next 43 years, and landed in the here and now right in front of my house. It glowed, sinister and serene, in the red light of the sunset. It was beautiful.
Then the geezer cleared his throat and I forced my focus over to him. Mostly. He was bald apart from a wispy band of white from one ear around the back of his head to the other. Blue eyes, I think. And a faint smile, a bit prick-ish, but it could have been I was just annoyed he wouldn’t let me look at his damn car in peace. His suit was nice, I guess. I don’t really know anything about suits. It was wrinkled, though, like he’d been driving in it for hours. Weirdly, the car itself was spotless. I wondered if he’d maybe stopped at a car wash on his way in.
“Good evening,” he said.
“Yeah. You too.”
He looked me up and down. “Eric ‘Coyote’ Berzinski?”
“Excellent.” He pulled a hat box out of his inside jacket pocket and handed it to me.
“I apologize for the delay,” he said. “I’ve been rather occupied. You’re grandfather wanted you to have this.”
Then he turned on his heel, walked down my porch steps, hung a crisp left at the bottom, a right onto the driveway and another right into the street. The driver’s side door of his car sprung open as he drew near it, then closed again after he’d lowered himself inside. As the streetlights hummed to life for the evening, the black Corvette rolled away down the street and around the corner. It never made a sound.
My parents died when I was eight. I’m just like Batman in that way. Except my parents weren’t killed by a criminal, they were killed when a sinkhole opened up in the middle of the road and swallowed them, Camry and all. A boy can’t devote his life to fighting holes in the earth; all he can do is move on. I packed my things and moved into my granddad’s house a couple of blocks over. It was okay. People have had better childhoods, but they’ve also had a hell of a lot worse. I went to school; I made friends, all the normal stuff. Granddad conjured up a breakfast every morning and dinner every night, and in between we left each other to our own devices. Everything was fine. Then, middle school rolled around.
Granddad was the headmaster and only teacher of a very small private school for kids from all over who’d caught his eye one way or another. For years, he ran it out of a molder ex-Elk’s Lodge just outside of town, but when my parents died, he moved the school into their house. It cut his commute by a few minutes each way, and the four bedrooms were adequate as dorms if the 10 or 12 students weren’t too claustrophobic. Living room, dining room, and garage were reborn as classrooms. The kitchen stayed a kitchen. Bathrooms were a problem that was never quite solved.
Growing up, I was in and out of this school, my old house, all the time, running errands and doing whatever chores were beneath Granddad and his students’ dignity. So, basically all of the chores. The older kids liked to ruffle my hair or pat me on the back whenever I passed within their reach. I was a pet, except better, because they weren’t responsible for me—if anything it was the other way around. So I grew to hate that place. But, I learned from it as well; first I learned plumbing, then I learned to lie convincingly to get out of plumbing. And, I guess it got instilled in me an appreciation for public school. Not that I liked the classes or the teachers who taught them any more than the other kids did, but I knew there was somewhere worse I could be.
Then, I woke up one morning midway through the summer I turned 13, went downstairs, and Granddad said to me over a plate of French toast, “Kiddo, the eighth grade is no place for a boy like you. Come September, you’ll start coming to school with me.”
That was the end of it. No further discussion. I was a student at the Kentucky Academy of Magic and Alchemy now, and there was nothing I could do about it.
TO BE CONTINUED…NEXT WEEK?
Hank Henry didn’t write this. You can not-write him, or even better, not not-write him, at [email protected].