The Road to Midnight

Road To Midnight
Illustration by Simul

This story originally appeared in FANG Volume 7, published by FurPlanet in 2016.

The lobby of the Desert Sun Hotel and Casino is brightly lit, with earth toned walls and furniture. My natural dusty colored fur with tan and black highlights fits well. The ad that brought me here didn’t say they wanted a swift fox, but I think my fur’s coloration helped seal the deal. As head concierge, I cut a striking path through the lobby in my dark suits whenever I’m summoned to solve guest issues. Staffing issues, like the one just brought to my attention, don’t require such a striking look. For those, I have to listen carefully and make the right call for the hotel.

The raccoon in front of me is smartly dressed, like all our croupiers. Her ringed tail is still and calm, but I can see annoyance on her face. “We’ve been counting. He’s gone through most of his week’s wages already,” she says to me.

The he Joanna is talking about is our lounge singer. The coyote is a big name in New York, and while he’s only been here for two months, he’s proving to be a bigger problem than I’d like.

“Mr. Lopez is free to spend his money however he wants.”

“I know, but I thought you might want to make sure he could pay his tab and room. He respects you.”

I smile at her with practiced ease even though I wish she hadn’t brought this issue to my attention. “His room comes complementary. It’s in his contract.”

She wrings her hands. “Yeah, but you two are, you know, similar.”

I let the smile fade. I have more discretion than the coyote about my own affairs. I know all about Mr. Lopez’s dalliances back in New York just from reading the papers. He’s got a great voice and an excellent repertoire of popular love songs, but he’s only here because he’s trying to rebuild his reputation. So far he is not doing a good job at that.

“I have guests coming in still, Joanna. They’ve been coming in all day to see tomorrow’s test. Perhaps the GM—”

“He went home already,” she says, interrupting me, and puts her hand on my shoulder. “Come on, Antwon. From one fairy to another, you can talk some sense into him.”

I cough and straighten myself up. “And Mr. Lopez’s ‘girlfriend’?”

“I think she may try to kill him if keeps at it.”

I sigh and check my watch. I still have an hour before I can go home. Someone needs to step in before we have another incident. “All right, where is he?”

* * *

The coyote is trashed. His motions have become uncoordinated, and the way he is carrying himself makes it obvious. I would have thought there was a limit to how much whisky someone could consume, but for this coyote, that didn’t seem to matter. He’s ordered enough drinks to collect a small army of them on the poker table. I hang back for a minute to observe before I step in. Joanna leaves me to intervene alone as she goes back to her table to start a new game.

The woman on his arm doesn’t appear pleased about being with him. She’s supposed to be dating him, but if you’ve watched them around the hotel enough, you know it’s a cover story. A black coyote, she is an aspiring Hollywood actress. She’s here because it’s helping her career. I still can’t decide if her pelt is natural or a dye job, but if it’s a dye job, it’s the best I’ve ever seen.

“Well.” He leers across the table at a mountain lion betting against him. “Are you going to fold or not?”

He’s got some bravado going, considering the mountain lion is slowly cleaning him out. He may be too drunk to realize it’s liquid courage at this point. Obviously the mountain lion has noticed it is.

“Why? You afraid I might leave before you can win your money back?”

Mr. Lopez snorts and pushes another chip into the pot. “Let’s make this interesting.”

The lion quirks an ear and tosses another chip out. “Call.”

“Two Pair.”

“Three of a kind.”

The coyote sags back. “Shit.” As the mountain lion stacks the chips, it does look like Mr. Lopez has lost his entire week’s wages.

“I told you, you should have stopped drinking,” his girl says.

“Oh, you told me, huh?” he turns to her. “Maybe there is a reason I’m drinking, toots.”

She huffs and gets up. “You are an awful man, Jacob.”

“Well, how about that, I’m now a broke, awful man!”

She shakes her head and walks off. He sits back in his chair looking at his depleted stack of chips.

“You want another round?” he asks the mountain lion.

“You might want to quit while you still have something, Mr. Lopez,” I suggest, stepping in.

He glances over at me. “Antwon?” He smiles. “Oh good, we need some fresh blood at this table. Dealer, deal him in. I need to win at least a few drinks back. I can’t have this guy walking off with all my money.”

The dealer, a red fox, glances up at me, but I shake my head. “I can’t gamble on the clock, Mr. Lopez. If you don’t mind, I think it’s time to get you back to your room.”

He sighs and starts collecting his chips. “It’s only 10:30 you know, Antwon. The night is still young.”

It really doesn’t bother me if Mr. Lopez blows all his money in our casino, but it’s my job as the head concierge to make sure the entertainment for our hotel isn’t drunk under a table. I’ve been considering asking the bartenders to water down Jacob’s drinks. It probably wouldn’t help.

Finally, I get Jacob up and moving. He insists on cashing out his remaining chips. The cashier hands him back forty-three dollars of the two hundred he probably started the night with. He proceeds to try and slip me a five as I guide him back to his room.

“You know, you don’t have to tip me, sir.”

He laughs. “Just take the money. When a man such as me reaches a point like this, it’s important to make sure the people in your life know that you appreciate them.”

I don’t know what that means. I only met Mr. Lopez two months ago when we hired him to be our lounge singer. So far he’s been good for business when he’s not causing trouble. He’s occupied one of the few suites at the casino since then. Since he seems to have a gambling problem, it’s a good perk for him.

We turn off the casino floor and reach the part of the hotel where our premier guests stay. I bring Mr. Lopez to his room at the end of the short corridor and wait while he fishes out his key. I’m thankful he finds it and didn’t lose it this time.

He sticks the key in the lock. “Did you want to come in, Antwon? I can order you a drink on room service.”

I cough, and make sure to keep my tail in a neutral position to hide my annoyance. “I’m still on the clock, Mr. Lopez.”

“You are always on the clock when I see you,” he remarks, turning to me, having to brace himself against the doorframe of the half opened entry. “Why is that?”

I blink. “I work here, just like you.”

He wags and grins at me. “Yeah, but all I do is sing. You, you keep this place moving and everything clean and organized. Don’t you deserve a night off?”

Maybe the alcohol is having more effect on him than I expected. “I do have days off, sir. I’m also not a world renowned singer from New York City.”

“Ah, New York. I miss her you know. But you, you deserve a night off.”

I chuckle and wag my tail. “I’m off on Mondays and Tuesdays, so I won’t see you till this Wednesday.”

“Oh good! Give me a call in the morning, Antwon. It will be good to see you when you’re off the clock. You’re always so formal on the clock. You, uh, know the number right?”

“Yes, Mr Lopez, but—”

“Excellent!” he pushes himself off the door frame and teeters. I reach forward to grab him, and I help him into the room. I can at least feel myself relax after I get the door closed. There will be no one in here besides me to listen to whatever silly thing he says next.

Mr. Lopez has a honeymoon suite to himself. The room is larger than our other rooms. A large bed fills up the center of the room, along with a desk and a small sitting area on one side. Tossed onto the floor in the sitting area is a morning newspaper, along with a glass and a bottle of scotch on the end table. It looks like he started drinking before he even came out to gamble tonight.

“It’s good to be home,” he says, reaching the bed and turning around. The coyote straightens up and brushes me off. He tries to sit on the bed but he misses and ends up on the floor next to the bed with a yelp.

Damn it! “Are you okay?” I ask.

He shrugs. “Maybe I should have quit drinking earlier.”

I debate picking him up, but if he’s going to throw up, I’d rather he throw up on the floor. It’s easier to clean the carpeting than the mattress. I glance around the room to quickly see how he’s been holding up in here.

Most things are neat, except for the newspaper. On second look, it appears to be opened up to an article about recent House Un-American Committee investigations because I can see the abbreviation HUAC in in the headline. That would explain why he started drinking earlier. The committee is not a fan of Mr. Lopez.

The only oddity appears to be the picture over the bed. He’s replaced our desert landscape picture with a painting. Housekeeping had told me this, but it’s the first time I’ve seen it. The canvas contains a picture of a wolf, leaning in repose in a classical setting, his nude form resting on a pedestal of marble adorned with pillows and fabric. According to Mr. Lopez, the painting is a nineteenth century French piece. It’s a nice picture, but just looking at it, I can tell why he’s put it up. It’s a tasteful piece that has erotic undertones with how immodest the wolf is, smiling at the viewer coyly. It is also the only way he’s personalized the room to show that he lives here now.

I glance back down at him. He’s just leaning back against the bed with his eyes closed. “Do you need anything else?” I ask him.

“No, no, I’ll be fine,” he says, opening his eyes to look up at me.

I nod to myself and make a note to tell housekeeping to be prepared to clean the carpet in the morning. I walk over to the door. “Goodnight Mr. Lopez,” I say, opening the door.

“Goodnight Antwon,” he says, and then before I can close the door, “see you tomorrow.”

* * *

My little apartment in downtown Vegas is small. The furniture is simple, and the walls are plain adobe, but it’s home. I take the opportunity to sleep in and get a call from work in the early afternoon on the party line. I and the downstairs neighbor pick up at the same time. After some pleasantries with Mrs. Walters, I chat briefly with the daytime manager who tells me I was spot on about Mr. Lopez puking on the carpet. I sigh and ask him if I need to keep a better eye on him after he performs.

“It might help. That man drinks more than anyone else,” says Jorge. “He’s currently regaling some marines in the bar with stories about his performances in the Pacific for the GIs during the war. They’re eating it up.”

“He’s already drinking?” I remark surprised.

“Oh yeah. He’s got that girl he’s been seeing with him too.”

I shake my head. “He drinks, he fucks, he sings. I guess it’s the good life.”

“The hell if I know,” remarks the cougar on the other end of the line. “I’m too busy working to do that. See you Wednesday, Antwon.”

“Sounds good,” I say hanging up. Mr. Lopez is a horrible lush, but at least he’s a good singer. He’d be useless if he wasn’t.

My paycheck is sitting on the table by the door, reminding me how much more valuable Mr. Lopez is to the hotel than me. Next to it is a flyer I found on my door a few days ago reminding me about tonight’s test. I guess I might as well cash the check. It will get me out of the house, and I could use a late lunch.

* * *

It’s already dark when I return from the store carrying groceries. I hadn’t meant to be out so long, but I took care of some other errands. On the front stair, Mrs. Walters intercepts me. The rat flags me down as I’m going inside, a piece of paper in her hands.

“You got a call while you were out,” she says, handing it to me.

“Oh, is it work again?” I ask.

“I don’t think so. It was a Mr. Lopez asking if you were available. He sounded eager to talk to you and was disappointed you weren’t home.”

“That’s work,” I say, taking the piece of paper with his name and a number by it. I immediately recognize the Desert Sun’s phone number and his room number on the sheet.

“It was? He said you two were to meet up for dinner.”

“I…” I shut my mouth. Mrs. Walters is my downstairs neighbor, but for good reason I don’t tell her everything I do. It’s better that way. “I forgot that was today. Thank you. I’ll give him a call back.”

Back upstairs, I put my groceries away in the cupboard and the icebox before I walk over to the phone and ring the hotel via the operator. I get switched over to the hotel’s operator who patches me through to Mr. Lopez’s room. The phone rings twice before he picks up.

“Jacob Lopez speaking.”

“Mr. Lopez, you called earlier?”

“Antwon, yes, yes I did.”

“Is there a problem with your room? Jorge should still be on duty and can make sure—”

He cuts me off. “You promised you’d give me a call today, Antwon.”

I cough politely and twist my hands around. It’s a nervous habit I have to watch at work, but since he can’t see me it doesn’t matter. “You were drunk, sir. I didn’t think you would remember.”

“I remember, and it’s Jacob, please. I was hoping to see you off the clock.”

What on earth does he want from me? I’m just a concierge. “I see.”

“I know it’s almost eight, but would you be interested in dinner? I can send a car, if you’d like.”

“I have my own, but why?”

I get a little burst of static on the line just then; I think because he’s idly playing the cord. “You’re an honest man, Antwon. One of the few at the Sun who looks past the facade.”

I’m losing my patience, so I let him have it. “Mr. Lopez. Sorry, Jacob. You were drunk. It’s not hard to look past the sweet voice and see that.” I pause, and when he doesn’t say anything, I continue. “And if I may be so bold, you’re on your way to being a washed up singer. It’s not the job, it’s the way you carry yourself that suggests it. Your legal troubles back east are well known.”

There isn’t an immediate response. I wonder if I’ve pushed back too far, but then there is a chuckle. “It’s an accurate assessment. You see past the facade and what’s really there. I had hoped getting out of New York for a while would help, but it hasn’t. So, dinner? I can come pick you up if you give me the address.”

I’m forced now to think, sorting out how the coyote acts to try and understand why he’s asking me to eat with him. I maintain the highest standard of professionalism I can, but I’ve slipped up a few times. What Joanna said last night might be it, but I’ve never spoken to Mr. Lopez about my affairs. If that’s not it, I’m drawing up a blank.

“Antwon?”

“Is your girlfriend going to be there?” It’s worth stalling for a minute.

He chuckles. “I’m fairly sure you know she won’t be there. It’s just us.”

Just us? The plot thickens. Someone has told the coyote the swift fox in the dark suit up front isn’t exactly what he makes himself out to be.

“Please?” he adds softly.

There’s something in the one word request, a sense of vulnerability that becomes crystal clear the moment he says it. It’s the request of someone alone in this world.

“All right… Jacob. Pick me up at nine. I know a small place we can talk you won’t be recognized in.”

* * *

An hour later a blue Buick Special sedan with a white hard top pulls up outside under the street lamp. I recognize it from the Desert Sun’s parking lot. Jacob doesn’t get out of the car, so I go down after locking the front door. Mrs. Walters is too busy with her husband who just got home from an evening shift in the rail yard to say anything to me. I walk around the car and get in.

“Hey,” says the coyote, as I slip onto the bench seat. The inside is comfortable with a chrome dash and a soft bench seat. The material is a nice gray, so it doesn’t clash with the outside. The radio is on, playing some song that was big during the war. I see Mr. Lopez is well dressed with a nice suit and tie. The jacket is on the back seat. I’ve taken a more comfortable approach with a button up shirt open at the top to let my chest fluff breath.

“I’m here,” I say. “Why did you want to get dinner?” Party lines aren’t always the most private, so before we let this evening begin, I’d like to see what he says.

“Do you have to be so formal all the time?” he responds, as he backs the car up and then pauses. “Where are we going anyway?”

The big engine rumbles as the car sits in the middle of the road. “To the first question, I’m not the one who wore a suit. To the second, that kind of depends on why I’m here.”

Jacob scratches at an ear. “Yeah. I guess. Is there a good diner nearby?”

I motion. “Yes. Go up three blocks and then take a left. I walk there when it’s not too hot out.”

He shifts the car in gear. “All right. In answer to your question, well I said you deserved a day off.”

“I’m shocked you remembered the exchange. You were quite inebriated.”

“I have to remember a lot of things from where I’m drunk. I’ve gotten good at it.”

“Perhaps,” I offer, “you should drink less. You’re not a very good gambler when you’re drunk.”

He grumbles and we ride on in silence as he makes the left and goes up a block. We pass a Civil Defense truck going in the opposite direction before pulling into the diner. He kills the car engine and then turns to look at me.

“My agent tells me that already. I’d be a lot better off if I drank a little less and hit the poker table less, but why shouldn’t I enjoy my exile? Surely you can’t be so uptight, Antwon, to deny a man his pleasures?”

“Of all people, you know I’m not one to do that. I just don’t understand is all. You had everything going for you. Everything all lined up.”

“Sometimes we hate the gilded cages we’re forced to live in. I’ve seen yours, so don’t judge me for not liking my own,” he says, opening the door, and getting up. I follow suit and we look at each other over the top of the car. I should say something about how I don’t live in a cage, but it’s astute of him to notice how my actions at work are carefully planned.

“Not all of us can afford to fall like you did, and not hit the ground.”

“I used to think I hadn’t hit it, but maybe I just didn’t realize I did.” He shrugs. “Come on, my treat,” he says, pointing his thumb toward the door. “I’ll tell you the story of why I’m out here.”

At least it’s an understanding I tell myself as we walk in and take seats at the counter. The diner is bright with chrome fixtures. There are customers, but it’s not super busy. “I’ve heard it already. It’s not like it hasn’t been floating around with the rest of the staff,” I remark.

The coyote chuckles and wags. “There are a few stories about you floating around back there. They’re just not as exciting as mine.”

“Is that what brought you to ask me to get dinner?”

He leans over to whisper into my ear. “A little, but I had you peeped, foxy, before I heard about your fling with the bartender from San Francisco. They say you were really upset when he went back to California. I remember when he left the week after I came in from the east.”

I growl and whisper back, “Mr. Lopez, I don’t think we should be having this conversation here.”

“No? The pie in the case over there looks amazing. We can talk about how life has treated us like crap over a slice.”

I breathe in and out to steady my shaking nerves. “This isn’t the place.”

“Don’t be so stuck up, Antwon. What is there for you to lose?”

“My job.” That waitress is still busy helping someone else so we’ve got a minute. “I know you came out here to lay low after you got caught with some rent boy.”

Just then, the waitress walks up and gave us a look over. The ocelot doesn’t seem too impressed. “What are you boys having?”

“Cheeseburger, fries, a cup of coffee, and a slice of pie,” says Jacob, unfazed by what I just said. “Antwon?”

“Uh… the same.”

“Sounds good,” says the ocelot, walking away to give our order to the short order cook.

“Chester,” says Jacob, “is not a rent boy. We had a good run. It wouldn’t have been an issue but they were already keeping an eye on him because he had friends who were communists. They tracked him down to my place, and when they realized they had a pair of homosexuals, well they’re automatically subversives. It didn’t matter who I was.”

I blink, taking a moment to digest what he said before I move to get up. “Look, I’m going to go. I can walk home.”

“Please don’t,” he says as a hand catches my arm.

“I don’t understand how you be so callous about other people’s safety.”

Jacob chuckles. “Safety huh? You’re what, twenty-seven?”

“Actually, it’s twenty-six.”

“I’m thirty-seven. You’re two years too young to understand.”

It takes me a minute. “You mean I was too young to fight in the war?”

“Yup.”

I’ve heard his war story already. “You were in a Special Services entertainment unit.”

“Yup.”

I smirk. “It was a cushy job.”

He growls annoyed and leans over to get closer to me. “Yeah, real cushy.” He shakes his head at me. “I was on one DC-3 that got hit while trying to land in the Pacific. The Japs decided it was a good time to attack the airbase. The starboard side engine caught fire, and we lost the wing when we hit the ground. The pilot kept her on the runway though and put her down. All of the Special Service personal onboard walked away bruised. The pilot died later from his injuries.”

I’m not sure what I should say. “I didn’t know,” is all I can muster.

He shrugs. “I spent three and a half years near the front line being a beacon of hope for our boys in uniform. Their tired faces would light up when I stepped out on stage. They needed the brief respite our little performance could give them, and I gave them my all. Coming home after the war, everything I did felt cheap. So when Korea came up three years ago, I went over there with the U.S.O. and did two tours. All of it didn’t mean a damn thing though when I got outed.”

“You’re at least proud of what you did?” I offer.

“I am, but look what happened. We fought a war to stop a mad man in Europe, and now we have a new mad man in Europe. Korea is just a proxy war for a bigger conflict that’s developing.”

The cook comes over with our coffee and drops it off. Jacob picks it up and takes a sip. I can tell the fur on my tail has bristled. I use this moment to interject. “Whatever happens in Europe, we’ll be safe over here. The work they’re doing out in the desert tonight is to help make us safer.”

“Safe?” he laughs mirthlessly. “You think that’s going to make us safe? All we’re doing is creating a culture of fear. They’re teaching school children back east how to duck and cover under their desks in the event of a nuclear attack.”

“Mutually assured destruction—”

He slams his fist down on the counter. “It’s a death cult. All of this is a fucking death cult!”

The people in the diner are starting at us. Jacob glances around, sighs, and picks up his coffee.

“You should learn some respect for the people in uniform,” says a wolf down the counter.

Jacob twists his face into a contorted glare, so I intervene before he can say something.

“He did support work during both of the last wars.”

The wolf glares at Jacob. “Oh?”

“Yeah. I helped entertain the troops and visited the wounded in the hospital. I saw a lot of maimed soldiers over there. I even got to go to Japan after the war. I saw what happens in a city when you drop one of those bombs on it.”

The wolf gives the coyote a glare before he turns back to his plate of food. “Just show some respect. They’re trying hard to keep us safe.”

Jacob sighs and slumps forward. He stares at his black coffee for a minute before he whispers something to me. “It’s not the people I’m judging.”

“You saw what happened in Japan?” I inquire.

“Yeah, my last Special Services tour was with the occupation force. Miles of city flattened and burned into nothing.”

I could say that we did it to save our own people, that the Japanese were going to fight to the last man, but it doesn’t change that fact that we developed this weapon. We’re the ones who used it first. And now we’re not the only ones who have it. Even I know seeing all that devastation and knowing about the death that went with it changes a man. There isn’t anything I can say to that.

Thankfully, the waitress comes back with our food, and we eat in silence. Jacob chews slowly, looking lost in thought. When he finishes he gets the check and pays. He gives the waitress a ten dollar bill and tells her to keep the change on a meal that costs under five dollars. She gushes over herself when he does.

“Ready?” he asks me after she’s walked over to the register.

“Yeah,” I respond. He gets up, and so I do, following him outside. He walks up to the car and turns around waiting for me before I ask, “Where are we going?”

He shrugs, perky canine ears dropping. “I figured I burned off all my good will, so I’ll drop you back home?”

“I guess.”

He gets into the car and reaches across to unlock the door. I slide in. Just before he starts the car, I ask him the question that’s burning in my mind. “Why did you let them catch you?”

He flicks an ear. “With Chester?”

“Yeah. You’re not the only fairy out there, but you’re certainly one of the better known now. Why did you let them catch you in the act?”

“Some of what you’ve heard is likely overblown. We weren’t doing it, but I also didn’t bother to protest either. Frankly, I don’t care. I did a lot for this country, and if they don’t like it, well fuck them.”

“But your career?”

He laughs. “Fuck that asshole in the senate. He wants to call me a ‘sexual pervert’ now, huh? Well I’d like to shove something up him and the House Un-American Activities Committee. We both know homosexuality isn’t a sickness of the mind. I may not get another record cut for a long time, but it doesn’t matter here in Las Vegas. The mob built this city, and as long as I stay clean of them, a sexual pervert like me is fine here.”

“I know you’re lying,” I say, leaning in the seat so I can get a better look at him. “Your drinking shows it bothers you.”

He puts the key into the ignition. “I’m just trying to make sure my detractors get a chance to come to my funeral.”

“What about Chester?”

He pauses shifting gears. “Chester’s dead. He took a necktie and hung himself.”

“Oh…”

“Any other questions before I take you back, foxy?”

I rest my hand on his shoulder. “Sorry.”

The coyote shifts the car into gear. “It’s okay. I’m a mess. I’m just trying not to let everyone know.”

“Everyone who works for the hotel knows.”

He sucks in his breath as he turns onto the main street. “Yeah, I shouldn’t drink so much. In my defense, there is not a lot to do out here. I don’t have any friends here, just some acquaintances. I get a few letters from New York, and I talk to my agent once a week. That’s the extent of my social circle.”

“I understand the feeling of isolation. It’s why I was so upset when Bret went back to San Francisco.”

He pulls up to my apartment and turns the car off. “If it meant so much to you, why didn’t you go with him?”

It’s my turn to feel flustered. “It wasn’t that way. We were good together, but it was also convenience.”

“Yeah, it’s not easy to meet guys. I’m still trying to learn how you do that out here. Any tips?”

I smile. “For starters, don’t drop all your emotional baggage on someone when you first get to talk to them.”

He puts a paw on his chest. “It’s been building up for a while.”

“Next, I would suggest drinking less.”

“Okay, that’s a given.”

“Finally, work on your approach.”

He scratches behind his ears. “So no going to the city park after dark?”

“You’ve done that?” I respond shocked.

He nods. “Yeah… a tip there if you ever undertake such an endeavor, make sure they’re not a police officer first.”

“How are you not in jail?” I ask him.

He holds up his hands and shrugs. “My agent has good connections. I know how to talk my way out of a pinch.”

“You’re not as smooth as you give yourself credit,” I say, shaking my head at him.

He gives me a toothy smirk. “No? You’re still in my car.”

It’s true. I haven’t moved to leave yet either. Jacob, for annoying as he is, is the only gay I know in the entire city of Las Vegas right now. I know there are others, but I haven’t got any way to meet them. I’m not brave enough to go cruising, and the city isn’t that big.

“I’m not rude you know, but if we just sit here, the lady who lives downstairs with her husband will notice.”

“That must make dating difficult.”

My tail curls a little tighter, and my ears fall. “Dating?”

“Cocksucking? Whatever you want to call it.”

I cough. “We’re still coworkers.”

“Yeah. Well, thank you for the evening and listening. It wasn’t what I had in my head, but I was quite drunk when I suggested it.”

Finally an admission of why I know we’re here. “Which is?” I press.

His ears fall. He holds up one paw and makes a circle with it while he sticks a finger through the hole.

“Us, do that?” I say, bringing a hand to my chest. “Mr. Lopez, I’m ashamed you’d think about that. I am a very discreet fox.”

He flicks his ears. “Sorry,” the coyote mumbles.

“For starters, my neighbors would certainly hear that.”

His ears flick and he gives me a confused look. “What?”

“You heard me,” I say. “I’m always discreet.”

A hand comes to rest on my tail. “How discreet?”

I don’t flinch at the intimate touch. Instead I smile, showing a little fang. “Discreet enough to not get caught. That’s why we’re not going back to the Desert Sun.”

He scratches behind his ear. “Tonight isn’t a good night for a deserted street either. With the test tonight, all of the Civil Defense personal are out running drills.”

“Perhaps one of the less prestigious hotels in town. There’s an older hotel called the Californian off Freemont Street that rents by the hour and takes long term loggers. It’s rough and tumble, but it would work. They’ve been trying to close it for years.”

He wrinkles his nose. “I prefer the car. The last time I was in one of those places, I got fleas. What about just driving out of town? There has to be deserted highway out there.”

“I know a good place up near Mt. Charleston. There’s a scenic overlook, and it should be deserted. It’s only a forty-five minute drive.”

“Sure, it sounds good, foxy,” he says putting the key into the ignition. The engine purrs to life. “A drive would do me some good.”

“Yeah,” I say settling back against the seat. The car pulls back out and turns to heading west. Maybe I’m mad for suggesting this and still being here, but I also need the company.

* * *

The lights of Las Vegas faded behind us quite a while ago when we turn onto Route 157 and follow the road through a canyon up into the mountains. I let the worry we might be seen go, and I allow myself to lean against Jacob as he drives up the twisting highway.

The coyote woofs when I lean against him, and I can feel his tail wag against the seat as he steers the Buick. It’s a relaxing drive, and the sky is clear with stars covering the landscape. He has the windows cracked and once we reach the tree line and enter the national forest, the smell of pine filters into the car. We don’t encounter any cars as we head up into the forest. There are no lights either out here, just the car’s headlights.

The radio plays softly, the station playing different standards that have been popular in the last ten years. It’s already quite late, so about thirty minutes in the announcer comes on the air and does the nightly sign-off. Afterward, there is just dead air on the radio.

“Since it’s a clear night, we should be able to pick up one of the twenty-four hour LA stations,” I say, adjusting the knob on the radio.

“We should be able to,” he replies, steering the Buck around a curve.

After a minute, I pick one up playing jazz. I settle back against the coyote, watching the road. Shortly afterward, he reaches a junction in the road and turns off of it. Even though it’s clear, it’s so late I can only make out one of two lights from the village at the base of Mt. Charleston.

Ten minutes later a brown sign comes up in the headlights. “This is it,” I say, and he pulls over at the Desert View Overlook. The parking lot is completely deserted.

“This is really remote,” he says. “We’re far more likely to encounter one of our wild ancestors than a person out here.”

“Hey, it’s discreet,” I say leaning my muzzle up to lick the side of his face in the glow of the radio dial.

He kills the car and turns to look at me. It’s a clear, moonless night out. There’s no one out here besides us. We are truly alone. I have good night vision, but in the low light, he’s just a colorless shadow against me.

He rubs an arm against my shoulder, I can feel his pinned tail trying to wag. “I like this actually.”

“Good,” I say tracing a paw across the hem of his shirt.

He chuckles and slips a hand to my chest to undo the top button of my shirt.

I pull away from him for a moment. “You know, we don’t have to do it in here. The top of the overlook isn’t that far away.”

“Oh!” He chuckles. “That would be different. You’ve done this before haven’t you?”

“Bret and I came out here once, but he didn’t want to leave the car. He found it too primal for his taste.”

I can see Jacob loosening his necktie and undoing the buttons on his shirt. “Primal doesn’t bother me,” he says and then leans forward to kiss me. His breath is warm against mine, his tongue wet in my muzzle. “It’s nice to remember where we’ve come from.”

I press a hand to his chest and tug at his half undone neck tie before I let him go. “Then come on.” I’m already feeling flush from anticipation.

“Sure,” he says scooting back across the bench seat so he can get out of the car. I follow suit.

Outside, the air is cool, a soft breeze on the air. The heat from the day has faded away, although the pavement is still warm to the pads on my feet.

“Lead on,” the coyote says. I do, and as soon as I set out on the path, I can feel the coyote behind me, gently holding onto my tail like a pup.

“Worried about getting lost,” I say, turning back to glance at him.

His tail wags. “Last time I had sex was in New York. I don’t want to let the opportunity escape from me.”

I chuckle. He’s cute when he’s playful like this. I lead him up the trail to the overlook on top of the mountain. From up here, you can see for miles away. The mountains and valleys are shrouded in the deep cloak of night. The lights of Las Vegas are hidden to the east by the mountains leaving only feeble star light to outline the ridge tops.

I feel hands wrap around me. “It’s a nice view.”

I turn to look at the coyote, my thick fox brush tail rubbing against him. “The mountains, or me from the rear?”

“Both?”

I chuckle. “So tell me, Mr. Lopez. How do you like your homosexuality? Is it a top or bottom thing for you?”

“Hmm.” He thinks. “I’m partial to the ass, but I’m also partial to the cock. It depends on my mood.”

I give my tail a swish as I tug my shirt hem out of my pants. “Well, what about tonight?”

He wraps his hands around my waist and licks at my muzzle. “Let’s keep it simple tonight.”

“Why, you think I can’t do complex?” I whisper into his right ear.

I feel his paws reaching down to grip my rump. “You’re such a proper fox.” I feel a finger tracing at the cleft of my ass. “I don’t think you are a messy kind of guy.”

I make a satisfied rumble in my chest and kiss the side of his muzzle. “There is a certain kind of stickiness I do enjoy.” I reach up to remove his shirt. He pulls his hands out of my pants, and lets me undress him. When I get it halfway down, I pull it against him, pinning his arms against his sides. “Now, who has been a very bad yote?”

He lets his tongue roll and gives me a goofy grin. “You know a good coyote?”

“I know a few who can keep themselves out of the national news.”

He laughs and wiggles. “Want me to show you why I’ll never be a respectable singer again?” He brushes the front of my pants with one of his hands. Already I can feel I’m straining against the fabric. I haven’t had sex since Bret left town, and I definitely have my own feelings of urgency.

I let go of his shirt, and it falls to the ground. “Sure, let’s see what else you can do with that honey-tinged muzzle of yours.”

He gets down on his knees and slowly pulls my belt open with his muzzle. Deft fingers undo my zipper and pull down my drawers, exposing me to the cool night air and hot coyote breathe. He pants and gently noses around my shaft with his cold nose, getting it hard and out of its sheath.

I shiver and Jacob brings a paw up to hold me steady as he gently licks up and down the shaft, careful not to graze me with his sharp teeth. He has a relaxed attitude to sex. He’s got my shaft nice and wet just by tonguing at it before he even takes it into his muzzle.

“Do you always play with your toys?” I ask him.

He glances up at me, my cock in his mouth, and gives me a quizzical expression, one ear up, and one ear down. I read the innocent, “me, do that?” look he’s conveying while he’s proceeding to do exactly what I just accused him of. A clawed finger against my pucker is suddenly added to the mix. As he begins to bob on my shaft, he’s also exploring the area under my tail.

The tightness in my rear confirms it’s been a while, but Jacob works me to loosen me up. I also don’t give him much air, keeping his head down, muzzle on my shaft. Unfortunately, our needs are too great to undertake the penetration the coyote’s finger suggests, because my knot quickly swells. Jacob has to break off probing me in order to play with himself, although he doesn’t stop sucking. One paw rests around my shaft to keep me steady as he bobs.

All too quickly, I feel myself let go and he pulls back surprised. My cum splashes down onto his throat and belly. Sitting back, he starts to jerk himself harder until he also comes. Some of it tags my leg, but the rest hits the ground.

“Oh god, it’s been too long,” he says, panting in the darkness with me.

I step around him, and I can feel my knees get weak. “It’s been a while for me too,” I say, sitting down next to him. Exhaustion is starting to hit me now. It’s been a busier day than I expected.

“Maybe we should come up here again,” he suggests.

I feel my tail wag against the ground. “I wouldn’t be averse to that.”

We rest on the ground next to each other for a few minutes. I close my eyes, just enjoying the company. We’re still in that position when there is a brilliant flash so bright that even with my eyes closed, I can see it. I try and open my eyes to see what the source of the luminosity is, but the flash is all consuming. For a moment I’m confused and disoriented in a sea of white light.

“What the hell!” yells Jacob. I can hear him scrambling around next to me, bumping into me.

The light starts to fade, and then it hits me. “It’s the test.” I realize and scramble to my feet. “Look!” I yell, pointing.

In the distance beyond the valley below and behind a ridge line, a giant ball of fire is rising up from the desert floor. As it begins to fade, it takes on the shape of a mushroom cloud. It’s the atomic test scheduled for tonight on the Nevada Test Site.

Jacob sucks in his breath. “I forgot that was tonight,” he whispers, ears back. He’s on his feet, ears swept back in a panicked way.

“Yeah,” I say. “Me too. I got distracted.”

He shivers noticeably, his body shaking.

“Are you okay?” I say, turning to him. We’re both naked and the light has already faded away, leaving a strange air of nothingness in its place. The distant cloud is losing its luminosity now.

“I never thought I’d be so close to an atomic detonation. All of that destructive power.”

“It’s okay. I’ve seen them from downtown Las Vegas before. We’re safe.”

He turns away, tail between his legs. His whole body quivers.

“Hey,” I say, wrapping an arm around him. He lurches forward, and I have to catch him as he sinks to his knees. “Oh god, are you going to be okay,”

He turns to me, his naked body trembling. “It will be okay. I just, I’m remembering what I saw in Japan.”

I just hug him to me. The coyote’s violently shaking against me. “It will be okay,” I whisper, gently stroking his naked shoulders.

“Will it be?” he whispers. “Can we trust our leaders not to do something stupid? They’re already looking to flush out every communist and homosexual they can find out of government in some glorious crusade against the Russians. It’s not because these people are dangerous, it’s just so they can have someone to be the fall guy. They need an enemy. People always need an enemy if they want to unite. In the war it was the Nazis and the Japanese. Now it’s the communists.”

I look out across the desert. The light has faded. Against the moonless, starlit landscape I just barely see the shape of the mushroom cloud. “We can only hope that in the face of such power, such danger, that we as a people can be stronger, less animalistic than our ancestors. Nor can you hold the weight of the world on your shoulders. It will crush you as surely as if you were a grape. Only together can we lift the ship.”

His voice is weak. “It means little in the face of total, utter annihilation.”

I sigh. “We’re still here today, and we should be here tomorrow.”

He whispers. “And after that?”

“I guess we we’ll have to see.” I rub his back gently. He’s naked and covered in my cum, but the sex we just had has been forgotten.

He exhales deeply and rests a hand against the ground. “Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust.” He gently runs a paw across the earth. “We are born from this land, and when we die, we return to it. Why is it so hard for people to see beyond themselves and think of the pack?”

“I don’t know, but I understand your frustration. We’re all trying to survive. Why must people hold each other back?”

He doesn’t say anything, but he just stares at the ground for a bit. I wait, and finally he looks up at me. “Do you think me mad?”

“Mad? No. You’re hurt, and I can see that. No one is going to pull you out of this but yourself.”

“Sometimes I wish I was more of a man than I am.”

I get close to him so he can’t look away. “I haven’t seen what you’ve seen, but I realize it doesn’t sit right with you. I can see the stress, but it’s something you have to work to come to terms with.”

“It’s weird that the homosexuality is what most people think is wrong with me. They don’t see the real me,” he says wistfully.

“I do now. I’ve seen more of who you are today than I’ve seen in the last two months. This has not exactly been the type of hookup I go for, but it’s shown me the real you.”

He pushes himself up to stand tall. The cloak of night wraps itself around him, but he holds out a hand. The scent of our bodies drifts across the breeze, and I can smell the results of our lovemaking on him. “I guess that’s something. I at least got you out of your shell tonight.”

I chuckle and take his offered hand, and he pulls me up. “You did. Perhaps I can help pull you out of yours next.”

* * *

The hum of the car has relaxed me to the point I must have dozed off at some point. The radio is playing, but I stopped paying attention a while back. Jacob and I have been quiet as he is driving us back to Las Vegas. “Do you know what this is?” asks Jacob, waking me up from a relaxed, post orgasm stupor.

I lift my head from where I had it on his shoulder. Even though I’ve dressed, I’m going to need a shower to get his scent off of me. Jacob isn’t any better, and I can feel where the fur on his stomach has become dried and matted under one of my paws. There is a slight earth smell in the air though, and it’s overtaking the other scents in the car.

I look out over the hood of the car. The lights of Vegas are in the distance now, since we’ve come out of the mountains and are driving across the valley floor. Jacob is squinting at the road where in the light of the headlights a light pink dust seems to be falling out of the air. The particles are very fine, but you can see the slight haze they make in the headlights.

“Yeah,” I say. “It happens sometimes after they do the tests. The government says it’s not dangerous, but it’s fallout from the test.”

He squints at the dust as the car drives through it. “Does this make it into the city?”

“It’s happened once, but usually it’s to the north of town. It’s hardly noticeable and blows away quickly.”

He reaches and rolls up the window, which he had cracked again. “If you don’t mind, I would prefer to keep the windows up.”

“Sure.” I stretch and move to my side of the car and close the other window. Then I yawn and curl back up against him. Up ahead, in the distance, I can see the lights of Las Vegas, glowing in the distance. Jacob rests an arm against me. I snuggle against him, enjoying his scent and warmth. The world is a scary place, but in this moment, I’m not thinking of that or how it might end. Only the coyote is on my mind.

There may be a tough road ahead for us all in the world if they keep building new atomic weapons, but I have faith no one will push the button. It may be naïve on my part, but hope is all we have sometimes. You’d have to be beyond mad to use one anyway.