March 1, 2021

Kypris’ Kiss

by Slip Wolf

“I can’t love a coffee shop enough to marry one.”

I’m in a small part of heaven.  My delicate feline nose picks apart what my eyes already feast on; inside the glinting glass hull of the French press, the coil-rimmed filter, carrying grounds from the toasted gold above, descends. A caramel head of froth crowns the results.  I pick up the press by its warm stem, pour with care so no drops escape the bone-white mug with its silver-leaf logo reading Kypris on its flank.  Steam rises as I set the press down and stir the cream upward.  I delay the moment with bated breath, then another. In heaven there’s no need but I do this because savoring is no less wondrous than having. Then a Moroccan kiss touches my lips and passes on.  I love this place. I savor my solitude amongst kindred but separate souls and feel the sands of time settle as they always do here. This is a small part of heaven.

A Madeline cake would be wonderful right now. My loving coffee shop dotes on me, the sea-shell confectionary on my plate spongey and fragrant as my coffee. Crossing lanes beneath my nose I can move from baked sweetness to off-bitter bite. The coffee is exquisite. “I love this place.”  I say to the shop. “I love you.”  Is there sugary perfume on the napkin that I dab at my lips?  I finish the next page in my book and set it down. It will be here when I return through the red door frame onto these ebony, ivory tiles. Everything is where you leave it here. I wander the streets, my shoes scuffing the cobbles under a perfect dusk.

Home is an apartment that is a cloud that is a cradle in the sky, glass walls that see for infinity in every direction. Slumber finds me if I want it, but mostly I get to meditate on all the others milling below on their way to and from whatever enclaves of heaven wait for them.  A movie house, a painted cave, a parlour of flattering mirrors, a lush lick of wild jungle.  There’s a slice of heaven carved out for everyone.  Nap time.

I was somewhere else once. The end was irrelevant, as the beginning of what came next was enrapturing. The blue sky became a pale iris, the pink dusk a rose garden under clouds.  I don’t remember the cat I was before I came. To do so would, I suppose, recall some pain or shortcoming. I danced from cradle to rest, bright in my moment, hopeful for the next day, but alone. I remember that much. A solitary creature, my happiness or lack of it was in books and tuna and grooming. I think. These are all inseparable parts of me in some way. I don’t remember what I toiled at or what reason I had for doing so.  I could have walked or I could have loped on all fours. I don’t remember that either. Did I wear these clothes? These off-whites and meditative greys?  My fur is the same color so maybe this is an extension of me. I’m lithely naked whenever I feel like grooming, clothed again when I follow certain paths, seeking the perfect flower to adorn my breast pocket as a corsage. Whatever I need to be to be happy, I am, as I suppose I was where I came from. And what I am now, as I’m sure I was then, is alone.

I pass a braided coyote on the way into the coffee shop, tail swaying, teeth shining above a caftan that looks like a Navajo sand-painting unfinished with itself, winding in an unfelt wind.  Her claws click on the polished tile as she passes me with kind eyes and leaves through the same red door frame through which I enter.  A rabbit, a lion, a dolphin, a horse. In duos or trios they occupy their spaces inside the café.  My space waits for me, single chair drawn back, book open face down. The press and mug wait empty. When I sit, they are ready. My coffee shop has ticked the seconds off till I return. The press descends and the pour is perfect. How well Kypris café knows me.

I sit; I read my Proust. Laughter and talk around me is musical as a brook. There are no distractions in heaven, well, none that aren’t welcome. The draperies framing the window behind me brush my back and cool air breathes a caress into my shoulder, like the coffee shop’s very soul is teasing me in affection.  “I love this place,” I repeat behind closed eyelids, and then, to the walls and windows and tiles and brass and wood collectively, “I love you.”  It feels good to say that, to acknowledge how much a part of me this place is, this oasis of calm in eternity, this space of repose and rejuvenation. This must have been an important part of what came before, wherever that was. It doesn’t matter.

Coffee replenishes. The currents of surrounding chatter wind round one engaging topic after another.  I stay alone. Then I leave.  My return to the cloudy domicile this time is naked, slinking and leaping from high rooftop to rooftop. The ghosts of caffeine have my tail in the air the whole way.  Slumber finds me in perfect peace once again.

Next day the coyote is back, this time in a black kimono, white paint stark against the red on her toothy lips, black lining her wise eyes.  She gazes at me for some time as I seat myself, book and press at ready. There is an empire cookie on the plate, tart and sweet, icing like a wink.

My mind is absconded by the words on the page, but only momentarily. I realize the coyote is talking to me.

“What?” It’s been some time since my voice was used with another here. I squeak, mouse-like.

“I’m saying your proposal has been accepted,” the coyote says in the manner of congratulations.

I fidget a moment, having lost my place on the page.  I look over the black nose on that painted white muzzle and cock my head. “I’m not sure what you mean.”

“Of course you understand. We all have someone for us here, someone who shares us, completes us. You found yours,” the coyote said as though pointing out the obvious.

I know of course of the trickster dispositions of coyotes, of the way they wind you in wiles. She’s having fun at my expense, obviously.  “I don’t know what you’re speaking of,” I mutter, ears swiveling in confusion.

“Always alone,” the coyote says.  “Or so it seemed.”

“I like the freedom solitude affords,” I answer honestly and she clicks her long tongue.

“But you love,” the coyote grins. “Just like the rest of us. Love brought you here again and again. And that love was accepted. Now it is done.”

“What is done? I’ve accepted nothing.”

The coyote rises gracefully and begins to glide to the door. “Everything is where you leave it here, especially your affection.”

I wrinkle my nose. The other mammals in here regard one another over the waft of java’s team, paying us no mind. She lowers a paw to my shoulder and the bracelets chase each other to her wrist like an abacus adding the universe up.  “You and Kypris are married now.”


“I will leave you alone.” The coyote does, sashaying out the door frame which shines its crimson shine.

I am left with my coffee and my questions. My coffee wafts strong. The sun is warm on my shoulder. The drawn drapes tickle my neck.

Soon enough I’m home. I don’t have to sleep. So I don’t, unthinking.

Next day I hurry back, and linger in the open doorway of my coffee shop. The coyote is there again, dressed in a blue cloche and a flapper dress.  She smokes her cigarette through a lacquered stem and stares off into space. So I settle in my seat, resume my book and sip my coffee. There is a sense of peculiarity in the air, as though I’m missing something important. The white frosted cake is exquisite, soon gone to the last spongey crumb.  I read my novel as it spools the woe of a love unrequited, and I wonder with amusement at the needs of creatures to find affection for themselves in others.  Such a strange predilection to thrive in such a way. Whatever wants I was once slave to, such was not it. Chimes sing above the distant cash register which itself rests un-manned and has never rang once in all my time here. The chimes are either in agreement or chiding me. I know this is for me alone.  I am the only creature who listens and I laugh when I remember yesterday. “Can you imagine being married to anyone?”  I ask nobody in particular.  I sip my coffee again and something brushes my lips.  I look into my cup and see a small fragment of something floating in there. By the glint of icing sugar I can see its more cake.

I feel the coyote at my side even though she casts no shadow. “Happiness where you least expect it,” she laughs. “There are still surprises, even here.”

My ears swivel.  “What surprises?”

“I told you. You are married. You and Kypris. This is the first day of a honeymoon that may never end.”

I could laugh, but I can’t. I could sputter, but the sweetest caffeine ambrosia in heaven isn’t for the most startled throat to choke on.  “You can’t be serious.”

“You found its kami. It found your heart. That was enough.”

“I can’t love a coffee shop enough to marry one.”

“Have you never loved a place before?”

“Before here?”  I frown. It’s a strange feeling to frown, no less than feeling confused. “I don’t remember exactly who I loved.”

“Who.  So you believe that true affectionate love is only granted between people like us?” The coyote is even more amused now as she sits across my small table from me in the space that up until a moment ago needed no chair nor had one.

“I don’t know,” I say, feeling consternation that has become alien to me. “I never thought of love that way at all.  This place is important to me.”

“And you love it for that reason. I’ve heard you say it. So did Kypris. What’s to deny? Love brought you here. Love keeps you here. It always does. I’ve got to go.” The coyote rises.

“Who are you?” Different feelings are pulling me from different directions, and everything feels a mess. My throat is dry and the dark potion awaits, but it has become suspect.  “Did I know you before?”

She doesn’t meet my gaze. “Everyone knows someone like me from before. It’s not important.”  She puts her paw on the red door frame as she passes through, patting affectionately as though on the shoulder of a friend. “I’ll leave you two.”

“Where are you going?”

“To play billiards. Or roll in a meadow. There’s quite a few options.”  And she is off.

I frown into my coffee, which hasn’t cooled from the way I like it one bit. Reading my books and drinking my ever-filling mug. Nothing about it needs to be personal. My solitude, in and of itself, is the whole point.

More white cake has appeared, this time with a tiny frosting rosette in red. I regard it for a while before I go back to my book, reading more about a man who sought love where it was not to be found and failed to learn. Fools are so much more interesting to read about than the wise. No interesting surprises ever befall them, do they? I’m having trouble paying attention to the book in front of me, glancing back to the rose-bejeweled cake and back. I’m not hungry. When I leave through the red door, I leave it behind next to my book.

I wander alleys back, tail twitching. Night passes, then a day and I lay in my cloud, thinking on the details of my coffee shop. It wasn’t made for me. Too many others share the space for it to be just mine. They are as real as I am; I know it. Life has a gravity, a warmth that you can sense. None of us here are shades of a life, but the purest essence.  All Kypris café’s other patrons are paired, or trioed, or collected in larger groups. Is that why the shop has given its love to me, the solitary visitor? Or are there others who share it?  I don’t recall there ever being love like this in what came before this place. Is it good that I don’t remember?

Perhaps it is all a lie. Perhaps the coyote has spread this to others and there are several of us, each assuming Kypris café has given its love to us and us alone. What a trick that would be. But the whole idea is senseless, making fools of so many people.  Just me then.

I am seeing a half truth, tying myself in needless knots. It makes no sense for paradise to allow such a thing.

The next day, I am unable to focus on my book at all. I look up and study all of Kypris’ furnishings and decorations collectively and separately, all organs of a whole.  The shop has the aged appearance of something musty and lived in, but conversely spotless and highlighted with bright spots. Stained-glass chandeliers, brass fittings and wood panels, and here and there frames of red, highlighted by the prominent hot-red door frame in which the French-glassed oak door rests, eternally hinged inwards. There is no sense of a closing time. I would imagine there are nocturnal souls who visit when heaven’s lights are low and licks of sodium and neon create beckoning beacons all up and down this street. So strange that I am so rarely nocturnal, and never here.  But then I remember; I can’t read clearly at night.

Nor can I now.  I’m barely another paragraph ahead in my book before I’m drawn up anew by some crackling of presence around me, not just in occupied, warmed chairs all around me filled by cheerful bodies, but in the empty corners, the details of my world drunk in and absorbed and taken for granted.

The treat today is an almond croissant. I take a few bites that tingle my senses, but something doesn’t feel right. There’s a cloying sense of deliberation in the air around me. I’m being crowded with sightless intent, doted on by dextrous hands unseen.  I’m being smothered by an attention that is at once invisible and ever present.

I close my book and leave feeling uneasy, but break from tradition. The croissant receives only a few bites, but the book comes with me.  There’s a distinct cold stirring in my wake as I leave, no words spoken to myself, the other patrons, or anyone in particular.  I’m home soon enough, on my cloud, book open but too tired to read now. Slumber gauzes the eyes and the senses and another day has passed.

The next begins with trepidation. My book is under my arm, poking at a lilac corsage I’ve picked along a garden path, and as the red portal of Kypris café appears, the well-worn fragrance of ground coffee bean and spongey, desert decadence entice me in.

But the uncertainty is still there, that feeling of disturbance deep within. Entering suddenly entails more than I can comfortably fathom.

I move on, avoiding the wet shimmer on the window panes as my passing reflection ripples across them and out of sight. Out in the endless light I walk the thoroughfare of heaven, into the throng of other souls in joy and repose, passing other waystations of their amusement. Jazz and toasted tobacco smoke rolls out of a club with doors wide and no lineup and a snap in my step that urges me to smooth down my lapels.  A bakery tickles my whiskers with scents that dab my tongue with marzipan and sugar icing, and I see cakes filling a frosted window that stands the fur on my shoulders on end, countless exotic offerings sampled by gourmands of every species. All the while the disturbed goods bake themselves back into replenishment with fragrant splendor on their azure cornflower pedestals. I sidle up to the open door, as all doors in heaven necessarily are, and rub my narrow flank along it to gather a bit of its scent. Then, perfumed in sweetness, I’m up a drain-pipe and sneaking past a soft-shoe dance chorus of multiple mammalian species of matched grace at a rooftop garden party, stopping momentarily to drown my confusion in a sip of sweet bubbly from a champagne pyramid at the shindig’s edge. Soon I leap back to heaven’s side-walked earth and come face to face with another open door on an open portico and familiar signs with universal symbols.  A ring-handled cup on a saucer lets off steam in rough gold-leaf filigree. The sign above the door says, rather tacitly, Angel’s Gin and Java.

I check and see that the book I’d lost track of during my flight from Kypris is still under my arm, a part of me in that strange alchemy of paradise, but still something to be set down. I enter the coffee shop, smell unfamiliar smells, and take a seat at an empty booth near a window.  The vibe in here is wholly unfamiliar, not welcome, nor exclusionary. Wallpaper and tryptychs of pastoral landscapes with hedge-leaping horses and parasol bearing foxes glint in oily light.  The clientele is thick, but isolated and among the teapots and mugs I see sporadic beer pints and highballers, along with a martini-glass borne by a lizard who sips away in an opiate torpor.  The coffees are spiked by liqueurs and the teas are paired with mustily strong edibles that overwhelmingly stain the air.  I find a seat and take it, reading my book. Nothing manifests at first as I read, then finally I look up and see a coffee. Angel’s has seen me at least, and read my simplest of desire. I sip. The coffee isn’t bad, I don’t think, a bit over-sweetened. I settle in against the plush cushions, which are soft and lose myself in the sensation of welcome solitude. No mis-requited love from a place that holds any power over me, nor uncertainty at its proximity. I can get my bearings again in this place, just another building in paradise’s endless playground. No bizarre shade of needy affection chases me.

The light is just bright enough to see, then just enough to read comfortably. Stupid coyote. Feed me a line and think I can’t get away from your manipulations, or the manipulations of whatever tried to hold me to Kypris café.  In paradise we are bound by nothing, our memories sifted for the most fleeting joys, made eternal as we desire. This cat walks eternity in the grasp of no love that can bind it. The very idea is treason to all I am.  My dues to mortality are paid. I demand little of the universe and it demands nothing of me. What an absurd imposition of my identity the whole idea is; that one can love any place in the manor of another soul. Especially when you don’t want another one.

It’s hard to concentrate on my book, with its lost subject scattered into the machinations of others’ desires and repulsions. Such a reminder of the world I must have left behind in these pages, such a warning as to the follies that could have beset me had my heart lay unguarded.  Now, having nearly succumbed again, I’ve proven with a simple traipse down heaven’s artery that I will never be tied down by the ensorcellment of any bosom of flesh or wood. I’ve gotten bored; I’ve stepped out. Commitment isn’t for me, sweetie. The décor in my peripheral sight appears slightly lurid in a way I like.

My coffee spills. On its way to my lips I lose my grip on the mug stem and coffee that isn’t quite scalding but not cool either splashes onto my chest and lap.  My clothes, for I need clothes in this moment, absorb the spill and its halo of drops.

Well damn. I sit there in my booth, drops of coffee all over my front, spread across my lap and sprinkled on the underside of my muzzle. A moment passes, then a second, and the café-bar carries on as normal, none of the other raucous creatures noticing my clumsiness.

I blink. The spill cleans itself up from the table and floor. But not from me. I’m wet and dripping. Even my book has been dabbed in liquid, the page bubbling up under the spots of moisture. Well why not? If what I read is a part of me and not of this place, it wouldn’t stay intact.

One never has to change clothes or fur or skin in paradise, for all that affects what we are is with consent and as desired. Like the gravity of other places, this is a rule universally known and everywhere unspoken. I can’t think of why I would desire a soaking. Even a cool rain here is just neutrinos of tingling refreshment that fades with sensation. Most often it is the lullaby of thunder beyond Kypris’ window while I—

No. I won’t ponder her here. I escaped that place for a reason, namely the absence of reason brought on by the coyote, the trickster. My hackles, wet and dry rise and fall. She sowed the discord that chased me away. I decide I hate her.

I am still dripping with coffee and uncomfortable, so I rise and head deeper into Angel’s.  I know what a restroom is though I don’t recall needing more than a mirror in one for all my time here.  I gaze in the mirror, willing the dark stain to dry and recede into memory, but it doesn’t happen.

The thick scents that permeate this whole place have become a miasma, a low hanging smoke like cloudy dread. One should not feel this sensation in heaven. I wrinkle my nose at the stale headiness of it and realize I need to clean myself. I run water under the tap, and from icy cold the water turns to scalding hot. I draw my paw back from the torrent with a yowl and feel the sting throb and then subside.  A bang takes me off my feet as a stall opens and a goat shuffles out, horns crooked, sniffing, foul smoke curling from a mouth without a cigarette. “You don’t know why you’re here either,” he wheezes and holds up an open pack of what looks like tobacco-stuffed finger-bones. “May as well light up and stay awhile. Maybe longer.”

My whiskers twitch as my gaze falls to the pack in his bony hand. The bones in the pack are moving, whispering things I can’t quite hear.

“No. We have to go.”  A paw wraps round my elbow and squeezes my forearm.  The coyote narrows her yellow gaze at the goat, leads me away as the ragged figure backs into the dark of the stall and seals the portal with a click.

I frown as I’m led back to the door, close to the mirrors, far from the other stalls, most open and innocuous. The coyote answers my unasked question, the filigree on her golden sari catching gaslight.  “Wherever you lose yourself, you’ll find one like him. Yes, even here. Keep walking.”

In a moment, we’re back in the café proper, my sense of unease still present if subsided. My book is still on the table where I spilled the coffee, still bubbled on the open page. But I myself am dry now, just like that. I return to the table and the coyote comes with me, takes an uninvited seat. I’d bristle, but I’m not sure if I should be grateful or not.

“You followed me,” I say sourly.

“I was going to ask if you followed me,” the coyote says.  “We don’t all have one place here that’s chosen us.  Some move around.”

“Places don’t choose us.” I fold my arms in defiance and glance longingly down at the wrinkled page of my book. Will it be eternally maimed in the part where Swann laments his time wasted with Odette?  I am thankful the story has so many separate, pristine volumes. Had this happened to Tolstoy’s War and Peace, I would probably weep.  “There are places where we’re comfortable. That’s what I want. Comfort and solitude.”

“And what makes you comfortable?”  The coyote’s paws grasp mine, the shock of warmth on my paws sending a shudder through me as thumbs wrap over my palm. Direct contact has eluded me for so long. Who in heaven even desires such fleshy, foolish things?

“The quiet. The solitude.”

“You can have that anywhere. Go deeper. Details, please.” Her golden eyes look up from her bowed head, ears wide and receptive.  “Please.”

“I love the simple décor. Much nicer than this place.”

A badger knocking back a pint at the bar gives me a glare over his shoulder, more pitying than annoyed.  I ignore him. “I like the way the sun dapples on the tables through the French glass in the transoms. I love the simple elegance of the cloth-covered tables and wicker-backed chairs. I love the coffee, the confectionaries, the way the place always knows what my mood wants before even I do.”  I think back to the rose-encrusted cake. “Well, most of the time anyway.”

In a corner two wolves call out a cheer in a language I don’t recognize and slam their pints together hard enough that one breaks and sloshes suds. The one with his back to me has a battle-ax affixed to his back and is nearly naked. I think I’m glad they didn’t hear me putting this place down.

“Valhalla isn’t the same for everybody,” the coyote says, following my gaze with a shrug before looking back. “It sounds like you love Kypris café. So why are you here instead of there?”

I don’t quite know why, so it takes some time to collect myself.  “Marriage, I mean, whatever game you were playing in there, I didn’t appreciate it.”

The coyote turns her head sideways. “What game?  You’re attached to that place, more than any other here. The café is attached to you, more than any other patron. What about the profession of love disturbed you?”

“Besides it not being possible?” I want another coffee and I have one, black as night and bitter when I steal a sip. This place doesn’t know me, but that’s just fine. Maybe it takes a while. “Kypris is a coffee shop, a place, an inanimate space.”

“No, it’s not.” The coyote wants to frown, I can tell, but smiles with a patience I find unnerving instead. “Here everything has a spirit, a force, an emotional agency. A place called Japan called it kami, while far North in the colder climes of the world before, Araniit, the breath of all things, affected people’s lives. We all came to know the world we exist in now in different ways, just bits of truth, gleaned or guessed while we were still wandering around wherever we were before this. Much of this is a surprise, and that’s part of the fun when you think about it. I mean why would you want to move onto a world where you already know everything, right?”

I don’t know what to say to that. The coyote’s tail wags as she waits for me to agree, then slows and rests out of sight. “You don’t have to understand everything to enjoy paradise.”

“I want to enjoy it by myself. It’s just how I am. Is that bad? I don’t love a coffee shop.”

The coyote swallows, and her enthusiasm slackens as though coming to accept what I’m saying.  “You don’t have to love Kypris back, not in that way. But we all love something, if not someone, in some way.  We couldn’t live otherwise. You could love a mountain top, or a wind-swept plain or a subway stop.  The only difference is that here, it can love you back.”  The coyote shifts in her chair. “Here, everything and everyone can love you back.”

I look into my coffee, take a sip. It’s still bitter and I miss the coffee at Kypris.  Dammit.  “So what do you do with four walls and tables and chairs that love you?  I mean…this whole thing feels absurd.”

The coyote laughs and I sense that its slightly painful.  “You consummate that love with your presence. That’s all it requires.  Understand, cat, everyone is given the gift of knowing, even if just once, what their heart really wants.”

“But it isn’t real.”  I think of the tickle of the drapes, the unceasing warmth of the sun through her windows, the perfected sensation of every bite and every sip in those walls. “I don’t know what love is, but I know this isn’t it.”

“You don’t have to know,” the coyote chides with a smile.  “Love is confusion, and yearning, and often unrequited. Your mistake is to assume it is somehow weaker for all that. Giving it with no expectation of its return is where its strongest.”  She stops and takes a breath, then sips from a cool glass that has manifested in her paw. Maybe it’s gin and tonic, maybe it’s water. I don’t ask. She stares into her glass for a moment. “Kypris loves you even if you decide to avoid her and never see her again.  Her kami, like all spirits, is for you and you are for her. You only need acknowledge that whether in an oasis, or a café, or in another’s arms, you find love for something, if not someone…”  The coyote stops and sets down her glass. “…outside yourself.”

She turns away and scans the crowd of souls congregating in the Angel pub, together, apart, content. As she turns back to me, her fidgeting stops for her to wipe a tear away.  “Just let it happen. You already have.”

“Who are you?”

The coyote lets boisterous celebration and laughter from all corners drift into our small realm of quiet. She holds her muzzle straight and dries her last tear away. “You don’t know me. You never did.  I’m just someone who sees what is.  No tricks. I was never one for tricks.”

I curl my tail around myself, and sigh, my dry chest fur rising and falling as I lean back. The coffee isn’t working. Something is missing.  I stare down at the dried book, pages wavy and rippled from water damage, willing order to return to them. This is what paradise is supposed to be, the order that follows the messy chaos of the outside, the preamble, the intro. Doubts shouldn’t torture anyone here and it’s for that reason that so much is swept from memory, consigned to insignificance. Loneliness never plagued this cat. So what plagues me now?

I look up at the stuccoed ceiling past the slow turning, brass-plated fan, and with just a slight change in focus that alters perception, even past that barrier through to the blue eggshell skin that surrounds the vast heart’s locket of this heaven for all of us. Focus again, and then one can see past it into the nameless dark.

Love put me here, safe from oblivion, and the very same found my tiny crèche in heaven, my place of comfort.  What else would possibly take the one thing that mattered most to me in the mortal coil and put it here for my enjoyment, as part of my sense of self as the tail raised behind me or the whiskers that sample every wondrous sense ahead.

“I’m a fool,”  I say glumly.

The coyote’s soft paw rests upon mine again. “We all are. It’s our most endearing quality, don’t you think?”

“I didn’t ask your name,” I realize as I rise.

“No you didn’t,”  she says as she gets up with me, adjusting her sari. “It’s Cloud. Walk back with me, will you?”

I nod, not needing to ask where.

My walking stick clicks the cobbles and I tilt the bowler I’ve adopted above my pinstriped suit.  Her sari has given way to a satin gown that follows curves from sinewed limb to cobbled ground. In another life, under other circumstances, I’d want to see how her hips sway.  Here and now, I appreciate the warmth of her paw and feel the giddiness of her lively heart as we stop at Kypris’ red arch and part ways with respectful bows.  Cloud’s parting is silent, but reluctant. The coyote fades into the crowd of another cross-thoroughfare of heaven and I rifle the rippled pages of my book as I feel the electric charge of my café, welcoming me in.  I can’t remember if I was gone hours or millennia. As Cloud said, it doesn’t matter.  The cake waiting for me next to my French press is the most delightful, airy slice of culinary sugary joy I think I’ve ever sampled.  The coffee is a lively melange of Moroccan warmth and spice. I know now I can go anywhere, but my joy will reside right here.

It may be that to be happy, even in heaven one mustn’t fully know the self, why we’re at peace with the people or things we were close to or apart from. Love is the most confusing element of any life.  I’ll never fully pierce the fog of the world before this one, where joys and pains brought me to struggle as we all did in some way. I’ll never seek out the reasons for my self-proscribed solitude, never deeply wonder if doubts were insects in my stomach.  The faces that occasionally flash before my mind’s eye with dips of madeleine cake or sips of coffee or glimpses of dusk along heaven’s distant edge will never resolve back to knowledge of family or acquaintance, friend or foe.

And I’ll never turn and see the coyote who called herself Cloud, decked just once, fleetingly, in a smudged coffee shop owners apron with the Kypris silver-leafed logo, looking longingly and lovingly across the sea of content regular patron souls, picking mine out of the throng as she had countless times before in a world all but forgotten. She’ll ache once more with curiosity and affection and a love of the kind that even when fate leaves it unrequited, fills us, grows within us and creates a place in paradise for us all.


* * *

Originally published in ROAR, Volume 8

About the Author

Slip Wolf has been writing fiction under a few guises for the past twelve years and has dozens of short stories out in the wild.  Currently he’s trying to finish his first novel while under COVID lockdown in Canada. He is tolerated during this process by a patient mate and two indefatigable dogs. Through it all he’s learned that Heaven can be the peaceful moments we all manage to find in the places we happen to be.


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