It was nearing four AM and whatever drives me to stay awake unto the ruination of my health and livelihood was waning; I was yawning violently, had lost my thirtieth spider solitaire game in sequence and every arthritic bone in my body was shouting "to bed moron, what the hell's wrong with you!" So I powered down and walked to the shack door, waiting until the computer's fan switched off before flicking off the lights. I knew it would be bitterly cold and near pitch black but it's a short walk to the house and the somber light of the moon would be enough to guide me there speedily. With a gasp and a flurry I rushed through the door onto the small wooden platform that serves as my stoop, gingerly closing the glass storm by hand so as to lessen its heavy-weighted clank. And just as my fingers were caught between the door and its frame I noted a shadowed figure a few feet to my right, the frosty smoke of its measured breathing hovering about a head as large as mine, though somewhat more pointed.
We'd caught each other mid
thought, and both had blanked out for that moment; both succumbed to
the combination of fear, elation, surprise and curiosity, a paralyzing
brew of emotion shared by man and beast.
was bigger than I'd truly thought his kind would be, yet smaller than
I'd imagined in wakeful nightmares wherein packs of dogs would chase me
through the sedge and lady's thumb and stinging nettle that rises six
feet above our boggy back yard. A Lassie sized mutt I figured; fifty to
seventy pounds of scrawny, flea bitten howler who at that moment was
obviously hungry enough to search the grounds near my own marked scent,
risking retribution for trespassing on my turf, hoping to find a
jackrabbit or even a mole who'd blindly wandered from his tunnel.
was frighteningly cold, a few portions of my skin lay bare to the north
wind as I hadn't anticipated hesitation much less emulating statuary.
Yet it was a moment I didn't want to lose, huffing in time with a wild
animal, sharing a space if just for a minute or two admiring each
other's power and grace. So I grit my teeth and stood still, as did my
challenger, surely more nervous than I and trying to blend into the
background more than sate his desire to be at one with nature.
looked away once, then twice; gauging distance and mapping obstacles,
memorizing track and choosing a waypoint. I shushed slowly, then
whispered "it's ok, I won't hurt you" through my teeth, as if I knew he
was a native coyote and not a recent transplant who only spoke Spanish.
But I didn't know Spanish for "nice doggie" anyway, so shhhh was the
best I could do.
The cold won the day, the cursed arctic express
and its malicious screaming bent us both to searching for shelter and
with what I choose to think was a knowing nod, my new friend backed up a
step then turned and walked off, never looking over his shoulder.
Either he trusted me at that point, or he was wishing I'd just kill him
and save him from the rest of what will likely be a horridly cold
Once in the house I had to catch my breath and let my
flesh respongify. And as I stood there I thought...I don't have it so
bad, I have a house to go to; a heated house and a wife and a dog and
plenty of snacks and a computer and ether pals and more stuff than I
could carry in a backpack. My hair isn't matted and I don't have to
chase bugs to eat and I can catnap without fear of farmers shooting me
(well I think I can anyway).
And then I giggled and thought
that's all nonsense, there's no relationship between a human and a
coyote, he and I have nothing in common. Except the pattern of our
breathing, one winter's night under a half lit moon.