Dotted Line Dotted Line

Fiction Summer 2017    poetry    all issues


Cover Marija Zaric

Mary Lucille Hays
Tribute in Black, White, and Gray

Anne McMillan

Faith Shearin

James Hanna
Tower Duty

Nektaria Petrou
Black Lace

Rebecca May Hope
Coyotes from Kazakhstan

John Maki
There Are No Angels Singing

Lisa Michelle
A Happy Birthday

Alison Turner
Actresses Auditioning

Brian Beard
Problems in Poultry Farming

Liz Bender
The Hypnotist

William C-F Long
Pet Hive

Wendy Dolber
Charlotte's Plan

Emily Holland
Something Cool

Writer's Site

Rebecca May Hope

Coyotes from Kazakhstan

Faith shot up in bed, her heart pounding. Lance rolled onto his side, moaned, and plastered his pillow over his head. He had a meeting in the morning, and she had promised Isme’s slumber party wouldn’t keep him awake.

“I’ll find out what’s going on.” Faith stumbled to the chaise lounge for her robe and poked her feet into her slippers. She tiptoed out the door and swung it closed. Still groggy, she gripped the handrail. Motion-activated stairway lights illuminated her descent. In the family room, lights blazed on a babbling huddle of six ten-year-old girls wearing PJs.

Faith squinted against the glare. “Isme?”

Arms encircled her waist. “Mommy! Coyotes! There’s coyotes out there!”

Isme’s back was sweaty underneath the silky shirt where Faith stroked it. The crazed, wide-eyed faces of the girls, ruddy despite the air conditioning, turned toward her. “Don’t worry, girls. They’re far away, back in the preserve. Isme, you know that. We’ve heard them howl many times.”

Isme stepped back and raised her hazel eyes. She tightened her lips in a determined line and shook her head with three defiant twists of her neck, making her brown hair flap against her cheeks. “We saw them. Two of them. We saw the coyotes stand.”


Isme pointed toward the west wall of the room, made up entirely of windows, floor to ceiling. The glass reflected back the line of girls as they all turned, joined by their left arms, and pointed in unison with their right hands like a wonder of animatronics. The blinds, tight accordions eight feet above the floor, were almost never lowered. This side of the house backed up to the nature preserve, and their privacy was assured, situated as they were on three acres at the bottom of a five-hundred-foot drive.

“Let me see.” Faith switched off the light to see the back yard better.

The girls shrieked.

“Shush!” Faith scolded, eyeing the stairs. A couple of whimpers answered. Great. The girls would tell their moms she’d yelled at them. “Isme’s daddy is trying to sleep. It’s very late,” she whispered as she cupped her hands around her eyes, resting her nose against the glass. Only the eerily yellow full moon and a dim security lamp lit the edge of the pool. But any movement out there would activate the lights next to the walkout entrance below.

Isme positioned herself at Faith’s side and mimicked her stance. “They’re gone now, Mom. But they were right there.” She pointed to the north side of the swimming pool. “That’s where we saw the coyotes stand.

“You didn’t see them move?”

“Yes, we did. They kind of crept along by the pool fence.” Isme hunched her shoulders and rotated her hands to simulate the skulking animals. “And then they both stood, like this.” She straightened to her full four-and-a-half feet and curled her hands before her like a dog begging for a treat.

Faith squinted at her daughter in the faint light that filtered in from the hallway. For a fleeting moment she took her seriously. It wasn’t like Isme to prank. She must have given in to the other girls. Faith rolled her eyes and let out an exasperated sigh. “Isme. That’s enough.”

The devastation on the child’s face stabbed Faith to the core. Isme had never learned to act. She had no siblings.

“They did, Mom,” Isme sniffed.

Faith squatted and held out her arms. Isme flew into them. “Isme, honey, coyotes don’t stand on their back legs. I don’t know what you saw, but it wasn’t that. Okay? Maybe you just saw a reflection or something.”

Isme pulled away, her lips drawn tight again. She posed like a begging dog. “They were just like this. Everyone saw them.” She raised her voice. “You guys! Didn’t you see the coyotes stand—like this?”

The line of girls had reshaped itself into a semi-circle. One by one they held up their paws. Faith clenched her teeth. She couldn’t resolve this now, but Isme—and perhaps the girls’ mothers—would hear more about this tomorrow. She looked at her watch: 2:15. No, today. But after they’d gotten some sleep.

“Okay, well, no harm done. They’re not there now. Everyone into your sleeping bag. Last one in is a rotten egg!” She shooed them forward, forcing a playful smile.

The girls, stifling giggles, scampered into their sleeping bags. Faith pulled Isme’s up to her chin and kissed her on the cheek. Isme turned her face away.

Faith slumped into her office chair and tapped the space bar, waking her computer. The last of the girls had been bundled into her mother’s minivan, draped in a beach towel, still dripping from one last morning dip. Faith had sent Isme to bed for a nap—sans protest. She could use one herself, but her prime writing hours had already slipped away. Hopefully the whole summer wouldn’t be like this. Even when Isme was at school, working from home was full of interruptions. And lately it didn’t take much to distract her.

She ignored the words of the obstinate half-finished novel on the screen. No use trying to focus on it until she figured out how to handle the coyote incident. Coyotes standing hadn’t been the end of it. An hour later she had jolted awake again. More screaming. Isme claimed that one coyote had come back—that she saw it sneak under the deck and heard it scratch against the walkout door. “It scratched five times. One, two, three, four, five.” At each number she made a vicious, curling grasp with her right hand. “We were so lucky it didn’t get in, Mom.” All the girls who were still awake—two had fallen asleep—insisted they’d heard the scratching, too.

Faith checked to make sure the walkout was secure and then calmed the girls, sleepiness smothering her anger. But thirty minutes later she was back in the family room, rocking Isme and her best friend, Maddie. They insisted they’d seen the coyote slinking away from the house, dragging its rear leg as if injured. By that time the girls were delirious, worn out from imagined terrors. Maddie fell asleep on Faith’s shoulder while Isme dozed on her lap. Finally Faith extricated herself and crept back into bed. A few hours later Lance, in an awful mood, barely growled two words before leaving for work.

While the other girls were in the pool, she pulled Maddie aside. Maddie admitted that the girls hadn’t seen or heard anything at first, but when Isme seemed so convinced, they played along. Eventually they started believing it. But in the morning light, no one could remember actually seeing or hearing anything. They might have. But they weren’t sure.

Isme had never made up tales. She’d been raised in Sunday School and took her lessons seriously. But she clung fiercely to these stories. Faith would sit her down for a long talk when she woke up from her nap—before her father came home. Best not to get Lance involved. Now that he’d made partner, his law practice was more stressful than ever.

Faith rolled her shoulders and neck, cracked her knuckles, and typed a few words. The phone rang. Of course.

“Faith? Good, I caught you.” Brian, their personal banker, sounded relieved.

“What’s the problem?” They couldn’t be overdrawn. She kept plenty in the reserve line.

“We had some major hacking last night.” His voice was low and confidential. “I’ve closed all your accounts.”

“Seriously? Do you know what a hassle that is?” More distractions. It would take hours to update all their auto-pays.

“I know, I know. I’m really sorry. But this was a big one, and the fraud department thinks they’ve got the goods on the guy this time. He’s been planting Trojans for years, stealing identities. Goes by the moniker Lucky12345. They traced him to Kazakhstan.”

“Coyotes stand,” Faith murmured. She wandered from her desk and gazed out toward the pool.

“What? No, Kazakhstan. It’s by Russia.”

“Yes. Yes, I know where it is.” Faith blinked hard and jiggled her head. “Tell me what I need to do.” Brian’s answer barely registered. She scanned the tree line beyond their property. “Do you know when—what time—our account was hacked?”

“Mmmm. Hold on.” Keys clicked on Brian’s keyboard. “I’ve got the report up. This is an internal page—I’m not supposed to share it with clients. So don’t spread it around. Okay, got it. The first attempt was 2:04 a.m. CDT. Next one: 3:10. Those were unsuccessful, and he got away. And the one we nabbed him on—that was 3:42. Crazy, huh?” Brian was geeking out about the fraud department’s prowess.

“Yeah, crazy.”

Faith disconnected, plopped down at her desk, and dropped her head into her hands. Her brain buzzed. A nefarious creature, begging outside. Scratching at the door, one-two-three-four-five. Lucky he didn’t get in. Slinking away, wounded. Kazakhstan . . . coyotes stand.

She rubbed her neck and her forehead. She needed sleep.

“Yeah, yeah. That’s good. I like it.”

Lance had flipped off his computer monitor when Faith came into the den. After years of her nagging him, he’d finally learned that she couldn’t stand it when he kept eyeing the screen while she talked. She poured out the story of Isme’s fantastic visions that coincided perfectly with the hacking. But he remained detached.

“What do you mean you like it? Our accounts were hacked, and our daughter sensed it somehow.”

“Best idea you’ve had since The Graveyard Whistler.”

That was her first successful crime thriller. Three years ago now. “It’s not a novel synopsis. It really happened. To us. Last night—I mean, this morning.”

“Huh. Is Brian on it?”

She ran her fingers through her short hair. “Of course. But what do you think it means? How could Isme have known?”

“It means you got a story idea dropped in your lap. I’d run with it.” He kept glancing at his darkened monitor, bouncing his knee almost imperceptibly, anxious to get back to whatever he’d been doing.

“You think it’s just a coincidence.”

He was probably right. What else could it be?

“Could be the Universe trying to send you a message.”

If anyone could shed light on this weirdness, it would be Collette, collector of all things kooky. She had agreed to meet for lunch at her favorite organic place.

“You said Monday, right?” Dressed in a peasant dress and flip-flops, Collette didn’t look like someone who lived in a two-million-dollar mansion on Lake Minnetonka. Her husband, Steve, had made partner a couple years before Lance had, but Collette was as casual as if she were still backpacking across Europe and living in hostels. “The night of the honey moon. First time in seventy years we had a full moon on the summer solstice.”

“Sure. Whatever.” Raising her shoulders, Faith squinted across the table. “But why send me a message through my daughter? My banker has a phone.”

Collette fingered the crystals on her funky necklace, custom designed to balance her moods and magnetic field. Her red hair fell in kinky waves onto her shoulders, and her freckled face had that second-trimester glow. As she closed her eyes in concentration, her pretty rounded belly rose and fell hypnotically under the swirling paisleys of her sundress.

Collette opened her eyes slowly. “You’re thinking too small. Think bigger, outside the box. Not about Isme, but about the hacking.”

“Nothing mysterious about that.” Faith coaxed a cucumber slice into the dressing. “Happens all the time.”

“Yes, but Isme’s vision augurs the real meaning.” Collette’s bicolored cat eyes, with their central golden circles rimmed by blue, bore into Faith. Sometimes she could look truly spooky. “That your greatest treasure is in jeopardy.”

Faith’s heart skipped. “I know. I’m really worried about her.”

Collette squeezed her eyes shut for a moment, then laid her fork across the arugula. “How are things between you and Lance?”

One of Collette’s hobbies was improving her friends’ lives—recommending workouts, supplements, meditation techniques, whatever. She fancied herself a life coach who never charged a fee.

“He’s stressed out, as usual. More cases than he can handle, I guess. But that’s a good problem to have, he always says. Who knew there were so many crummy products out there, right?”

Collette held a jicama stick between her fingers like a cigarette. She nipped off a bit. “That’s why they brought Katrina on. Have you met her?”

“Katrina who?”

Collette’s eyes scolded. “Katrina Williams. The new junior counsel.”

“Lance tries not to bore me with office stuff.” Collette’s stare showed she wasn’t satisfied. “Well—I think he doesn’t want me putting his office into my novels. You know.”

Collette finished off the jicama. “She’s a knockout. Striking. Long black hair, blue eyes, great shape. If Steve wasn’t so crazy about me, I’d be worried.”

Faith dropped her eyes. The arugula, limp with vinaigrette, was easier to confront than Collette’s intense gaze. Was she probing for the details of her and Lance’s love life? That would be a bland story.

“Lance prefers blondes.” Faith looked up, armed with a good angle. “Every girl he ever dated was blonde.”

Collette’s dangling earrings, etched with some Celtic symbol, waved skeptically as she rocked her head from side to side.

Faith squirmed. “So you think Isme is psychic?”

Collette speared a cherry tomato. “Maria could find out. She could put her under the pendant.” Maria was Collette’s energy consultant. Collette met with her twice a month and always left laden with nutritional products that Maria said Collette, Steve, and the boys needed. Collette’s supplement pantry, centrally located in her designer kitchen, was legendary.

Faith swigged down the last of her bitter green tea. She needed something more credible than a swinging crystal.

Google delivered 231,000 results for Mass Hallucinations and 19,900,000 results for Group Hysteria.

“Mass hysteria. Not a doubt in my mind. Google it,” Wanda, Lance’s mother, had commanded. As the former precinct coordinator for Al Gore’s presidential campaign, she felt she’d assisted with inventing the Internet, so she did her part to keep it afloat. “Lots of strange stuff can be explained that way. Not just the Salem Witch Trials. Those didn’t even make the top ten. When you find that list, make sure you check out number two. It just shows how fragile men’s egos are. Lance’s too, you know. Gotta keep stroking them all the time.”

When Wanda called, Faith had quickly run out of information about Isme’s ballet and swim classes, so she divulged the sleepover incident—but not the hacking.

Wanda’s keyboard clattered in the background. As usual, she had her phone on speaker. “But those other girls are as much to blame as Isme—probably more. You tell those mothers that.”

“They’ve never mentioned it.”

“Good. We can’t let Isme’s social standing suffer from this,” Wanda’s voice reverberated.

Faith scowled at the phone. Isme had social standing now? “I’m sure the girls just thought it was a fun slumber party game.” Wanda, like Lance, worried too much about pleasing the right people, as if their fall from grace might be as meteoric as their rise. Not that long ago Faith and Lance had lived in a two-bedroom apartment while she supported him through law school on her teacher’s salary.

Faith scrolled through the items on the “10 Most Bizarre” post. A laughter epidemic in Tanzania in 1962 that closed schools and lasted more than a year. Workers in a textile factory who got mysteriously ill from June bug bites—also 1962. Four hundred people who danced themselves to death in France in 1518. Nothing remotely similar to what had happened with Isme. There it was, Wanda’s favorite—something to do with men’s egos. Number Two: Thousands of men in Singapore who feared their private parts were shrinking. Faith shuddered to think what search terms Wanda had entered to bring up that page.

Psychology Today gave a more recent report of a woman who called the police because she saw eight men slicing the roof off her car. The woman was taken to the hospital and found to be normal, but four people who touched her, including two policemen, started hallucinating. The woman’s opioid patches might have been to blame.

Faith went to the family room and started opening every drawer of the entertainment center, looking for mysterious powdery residue. The more drawers she opened, the more foolish she felt. That Lance could be using drugs was as ludicrous as his having an affair.

“Whatcha lookin’ for?”

Faith jumped at Isme’s voice and slammed the drawer shut. “Nothing, sweetheart.”

“Can we make some cookies for Daddy?”

Isme—tan, lean, and bright-eyed—looked perfectly healthy and normal.

“Faith? Gretchen here.” The pediatrician’s voice was crisp yet concerned. “The nurse gave me a note saying you had a quick question. I have just a minute before my next patient.”

Faith shut the door to her office in case Isme came back inside. “What does it mean when kids start lying? And won’t admit they are?”

“Isme’s lying?” Gretchen sounded surprised.

“No—uh—I’m asking for a friend. One of Isme’s friends.” From the window she spotted Isme and Maddie playing Frisbee.

“Of course.” Gretchen’s skepticism came across clearly. “Tell ‘your friend’ it’s called pseudologia fantastica or mythomania. In adults it’s an attention-seeking behavior, but in kids it can be a form of compensation. Is everything okay between you and Lance?”

“Sure. Fine.” Faith’s pulse quickened. She was a feeble liar for someone whose career was fiction. “What’s the treatment for pseudo-whatever?”

“I’ll get you the name of the children’s psychiatrist we refer to. She’s great. I know things haven’t been easy for you guys. A stillbirth is traumatic for the whole family—children, too. Especially after you tried for so long. Even though it was a year ago, Isme might be—oh, they’re signaling me. The front desk can give you that name. Call me tonight if you want to talk.”

Faith stared at the silent phone. She’d wanted to ask what it meant when the lies the child told turned out to be true, but in a nonliteral way, but the child didn’t know that, and the child still wouldn’t admit to lying. But that might have prompted a referral to the adult psychiatrist.

“Of course you’re not crazy.” Jen reached her arm around Faith and gave her a squeeze on her upper arm.

They sat together, soaking up the sunshine, on a bench at the playground. Jen had texted—as she had so many times over the past year—and this time Faith had taken her up on her offer to meet at the park. Jen’s four kids and Isme were playing tag on the maze of tunnels, bridges, and slides.

Faith relaxed, easily settling back into their old friendship. “But isn’t it odd?”

“I think it’s awesome.” Jen jumped up, ready to run toward her youngest, who had just taken a tumble, but her oldest was already there, brushing off the little one and making her laugh. Jen sat back down, turning partially toward Faith. “It’s more common than you think. They’re like living parables. Real-life incidents that have spiritual meanings. Symbolic meanings.”

“That’s a thing?”

“Oh, sure. God often speaks in symbols. The Bible’s full of them, right?” Jen should know. She had majored in Bible and music at the Christian college where she, Faith, and Lance had all met. Now her career was motherhood—and homeschooling her brood.

“Okay, but what’s the point? What does it mean?” Faith sucked hard on the straw of her water bottle—as if enlightenment lurked at the bottom of the Nalgene.

“Foreshadowing. Sometimes a warning.” Jen tapped her fingers together rhythmically in front of her chest as if to some internal melody. “Or maybe just to let you know: God is protecting you. The coyotes never entered, and the hackers didn’t steal. Because God has your back.”

Had Jen just composed a praise and worship song on the spot?

Faith hadn’t paid much attention to God lately. It didn’t feel like He was watching out for them. “About the parenting class—sorry we dropped out. Lance has been so busy—Sunday mornings are one of the few times we can spend together.” That was the reason they’d given each other when they stopped going to church—but mostly Lance slept in on Sundays or played golf.

“I’m glad you’re prioritizing your marriage.” Jen nodded toward the playground. “Look at them! So cute!” The five sweaty children sat in a ring, shaded by one the platforms, playing a boisterous clapping game. “By the way—do you want to go to the marriage retreat? Registration’s closed, but I could probably still get you in. It’s next weekend.”

Prioritizing your marriage. Didn’t that take two? Lance wouldn’t be caught dead at a marriage retreat. “Oh, sorry! That’s Lance’s annual convention. He’ll be out of town.” Faith shifted uncomfortably. Somehow that truth felt like a lie.

Jen shrugged. “Maybe you can make it to the next one.”

Faith watched Isme give Jen’s youngest a hug. Her heartstrings quivered. Isme would have made a wonderful big sister.

“Do you think Isme could be psychic?”

Jen studied Isme as she sifted pebbles through her fingers onto the giggling toddler’s toes. “Some people are especially sensitive spiritually. They can be more in tune with God, but they can be targeted by the Enemy and tempted to use their third eye on their own. You can pray and ask God to close it.”

The third eye could be developed, evidently. Clairvoyant children, according to the websites Faith found, had an open chakra that, without deliberate training, would naturally close as they grew older.

The sooner the better. Those sites about children and ESP creeped her out. Ads for psychics kept popping up—offering to teach your child the ropes. Not a chance! This one incident had consumed her for three weeks. Isme had never talked about it, but Faith had spent hours upon hours researching and getting advice, trying to make sense of it. Hours she should have been writing.

But who was she kidding? Her writing career was an ego booster only. Just one of Lance’s product liability cases brought in more income than she could earn from ten years of teaching—or twenty of writing. But if she didn’t have her career, she’d have nothing—except Isme.

She closed all the open tabs and maximized her novel. Before she had typed a full sentence, her sister’s ringtone interrupted. She wanted them to join an impromptu family reunion at Wisconsin Dells. Would Lance be okay with that?

“I can’t get away.” Lance put up his hand to decline the dinner roll Faith passed him. “I’m already gone the end of that week for the convention.”

“Aw, Daddy! It’s a water park!” Isme flashed a pleading pout.

“You and Mommy can still go.”

They’d be gone four days and get back a few hours before Lance flew out for his trip. Isme was thrilled. Faith needed a break. No coyotes, no hackers, no visions.

The vacation worked. Faith had resolved to not mention coyotes, and they had nearly vanished from her mind. On the four-hour drive home, she figured out how to turn her languishing novel into a trilogy of novellas—complete with a child psychic. Why not? Lance would be happy she’d taken his suggestion. She couldn’t wait to run the idea by her agent.

Lance set his suitcase at the front door and pulled her into his arms. He gave her a long, lingering kiss, rubbing the sweet spot in her lower back. Tingles rippled through her body—more tingles than she’d felt for the last year—and she pressed into him.

“I wish I was going with you.” She whispered seductively into his ear and curled her tongue behind his earlobe.

After one more kiss he pulled away. “Too late now. Flights are booked. I’ll see you Monday.” He brushed his hand under her chin the way he used to in the early days.

She watched him stride down the sidewalk, stop to twirl Isme around, and hop into his Lexus. Her heart swelled. They were a happy family.

As she started a load of laundry, she heard Isme call, “I’m biking over to Maddie’s!”

After unpacking the food from the cooler, Faith headed toward her office to call her agent. She shook her head. Isme, in her excitement to see her best friend, had left the front door wide open. Faith closed it and reset the alarm. She retrieved her cell phone and tapped her agent’s number.

Three short beeps sounded just as Faith disconnected. Isme had returned and was heading upstairs. Maddie must not have been home. Faith powered up her computer, excited to tackle the rewrite. Her agent loved the idea.

“Mom!” Isme appeared in the doorway, a look of wild surprise lighting her face. She beckoned with her arm. “Come quick! There’s a cat on your bed!”

Faith rose. “A cat?” Possibly a stray had wandered in through the open door. “That gray and white one we’ve seen hanging around?”

“No, Mom.” Isme shivered with delight. “It’s all black—with blue eyes.”

Faith steadied herself against her desk. A sick feeling washed over her. “Isme, black cats can’t have blue eyes.” She had discovered that while doing research for The Graveyard Whistler.

“This one does. They’re the same color as the pillow case and sheets. It’s laying with all the rumpled sheets piled up around it—like it’s Queen Cleopatra or something. You’ll see!”

Isme ran down the hall and bounded up the stairs, two at a time. Faith trailed behind, her stomach burning. There were no blue sheets for their bed.

Entering the master bedroom, Isme blinked hard. “It’s gone.”

The bed was made. Faith set her jaw.

Isme teared up. “It was laying right there!”


“I am not!” Isme clenched her fists at her side.

“It’s lying—not laying. ‘It was lying right there.’”

Isme’s hands unclenched, and fear spread across her face. “Who made the bed?” she quaked.

Faith folded Isme into a hug. She was sweating. “Go drink some water, hon. You need to hydrate.”

Isme padded down the steps.

Faith inched toward the bed, her heart pounding. She slid the layers of decorative pillows aside. For once Lance had arranged them perfectly. She braced herself before turning down the silky mauve comforter. Sweat popped up along her hairline and under her arms. Slowly she drew back the cover to expose the blue pillowcase. She lunged for the pillow and heaved it across the room. It came to rest against the leg of the chaise lounge, the single long black hair still sticking tenaciously in place.

Rebecca May Hope is an Adjunct English Professor for North Central University in Minneapolis. She teaches middle and high school English at YEAH Academy and writes for as an online educator. A mother of five, Rebecca has supervised many slumber parties, one of which featured coyotes and inspired this story. When not teaching, writing, or reading, Rebecca loves spending time with her now-grown children, walking her rambunctious ninety-pound Labradoodle, and pampering her Ragdoll cat.

Dotted Line