Coyote ran alone, through a field of rabbitbrush, wormwood sage and wild grasses. He was clad in his winter coat, and though the sun was shining, Coyote’s breath still came out in puffs of steam. He stopped for a moment and looked behind him. The man who had shot at him was nowhere in sight, a high ridge stood between the two. Coyote knew that he would not be followed, not now. He dropped the chicken he was carrying and lay down to lick his wounds. There was blood on his front left leg, and as he licked it began to throb. One of the balls from the shotgun shell had hit him. In spite of himself he let out a yelp that trilled off into a howl.
As he ate his chicken he looked at the barbed wire fence that crossed the land, dividing his home between one hostile man and another. He looked at the road with the cars passing by, 65, 70 miles an hour they went. Fast enough to fool many into thinking they could cross it safely. The Crows, who fed there constantly, mourned the lives of the fallen. Even now, a squirrel was shared amongst them.
After he ate his meal, he made his supplication.
Is there no home for me? No place on the Earth for Coyote to live in peace? Peace, as I have heard, is the greatest of all gifts. And yet for so long, like You Yourself, Peace has eluded me.
He waited a moment, giving the Creator time and space to speak. But Coyote heard nothing, save the roar of the highway, and the cawing of Crows.
The Crows chatter wildly, but I will save my breath for You, my Maker, until the last. You have been with me from the days of my youth until now. This I know. Yet my days are passing by like falling stars. They blaze across the sky, and are gone. My only prayer, my only wish now, before my light goes out, is to hear Your voice, and too gaze upon Your face.
Again, silence from the Creator, a roaring from the highway. Coyote lay still as the sun went down. He watched the clouds turn from white to yellow to orange to red to purple to grey to black. The clouds moved closer, hiding first the face of Mercury, then Jupiter then Mars. Coyote could smell snow. He closed his eyes and went to sleep.
He was awakened in the middle of the night by two Raccoons fighting over the remains of his dinner. He growled at them but did not move. The Raccoons drug the chicken to a safe distance, and watched Coyote as they ate. The snow was falling heavily now, and Coyote got up to seek shelter. His front leg would not hold him, and face first into the snow he fell.
He got up and limped to the road, ducking under the barbed wire and snagging his fur. There were no cars at this hour. Coyote headed down to the pond and got himself a drink. He looked back at his tracks, they did not look familiar. He settled down in a Willow grove, to wait out the falling snow.
I will leave this place. This place where I am an outcast in my home, the home You made for me. I loved it once, You know that. But I am old. I have only three legs now. All the wild game has been driven off, I will go too. I can no longer steal Chickens like a thief. I can no longer bear the shame and contempt of my meals. I remember a time when hunting was a sacred act. When the kill brought out thanksgiving. When eating opened my mouth in praise. Now I rob from others, and hide my face from even the Crows, who clean up what I leave behind. With every meal I take Man despises me more. Am I despicable? Have I lost favor in Your sight? I wonder sometimes. How long will You suffer Man to destroy all that You have made? They have even polluted the sky. Senseless questions, I know. I am not here to question You, but only to seek Your face. But I have sought for so long, and have heard nothing, while everyday You hear my prayer. After a lifetime of seeking, of speaking, of hearing nothing in reply, the senses grow dull, the wit dim. Forgive me.
The snow quit falling. The clouds sank to the earth, and moved to the east.
I will go west. I will flee to the mountains, and there find me a place to end my days in peace. I have waited for You, I will wait no more. I will make my own way, I will take my life into my own hands. Perhaps I will find You in the west, where the sun sets, perhaps.
Coyote crawled out of his burrow. A blanket of snow lay on the ground. The clouds, for a moment, parted in the east, and Venus, the Morning Star, appeared behind them in the clear grey of dawn. Come, the star called, Come.
Coyote shook his head. Every fiber of his being resisted. He’d made up his mind to leave this place. He fought within himself. And yet he felt a certain elation, a glimmer of hope. The Creator had called him, of that he was certain. It was not a voice, it was not a glimpse, but he would take what he could get.
Into the very den of those who despise me? Who would rather see me dead than alive? Into the land of destruction? Where the very ones who desecrate Your temple make me an outcast, raise Chickens to tempt me, create guns to kill me from a hundred yards away, without ever looking into my eyes? Have I lost my mind now, as well as my body? Nevertheless I will trust You, and if I die a fool I will die Your fool.
Coyote howled, once, twice, three times, and limped toward the city. He walked in the ditch that ran alongside the highway, sheltered by the Willow trees that grew there. The snow crunched under his feet, and was pleasant to his ears.
I remember a time when I lived in peace. When the fields bore fruit, when Rabbit was plenty, and Pheasant and all manner of Fowl. When no roads crisscrossed the land, no fences snagged my fur. No houses full of People declared that I was not welcome. Look at me now, lame in one leg, cold from mange, and following a Star into the heart of destruction. May Your Name ever be praised.
All that day Coyote walked east. He crossed many roads, unconcerned with being seen. He limped across them as fast as he could, yet many was the time he looked closer upon the headlights than he would’ve liked. Horns blared, rubber screeched, yet on he walked. By nightfall he was walking through an alley, surrounded by houses on all sides. The snow fell heavily all that day, and though it was dark outside, few had lights on in their houses. A few candles, a few people huddled around fireplaces and wood stoves, the electric glow of battery operated devices, was all the light that Coyote saw.
He was tired, and lonely, and looked around for a place to rest. He crawled under an awning next to a garage, where the snow did not fall, and where he could not be seen from the narrow alley. A piece of plywood leaning against the wall was his shelter, was all that separated him from those he wished to avoid. He looked at his tracks and hoped that no one else would.
Here I am now, and where are You? If I am found I am dead. Is this really where I am meant to be? I have followed You. I have cried out to You, but You are silent as the night, distant as the Stars. Goodnight, my Lord.
Coyote slept longer than he’d wanted to. He awoke to the sound of a truck driving by. The morning sky was already lightening. Venus was still shining, though soon it would fade. Come, the star said again, Come.
I thought perhaps I was here. In this den of destruction, and now it is nearing dawn. If I am seen…, well, only You know.
Coyote sniffed first, and then, sensing nothing, crawled out from where he slept and stretched his legs. He heard the rooster crow again and his ears perked up. He turned his head first this way and then that, til he caught the scent of a hen house. Hunger struck him, and he turned that direction.
Two houses down he saw the hen house. A meager wire fence was all that stood between him and breakfast. Still, with his lame leg he’d have to jump it carefully. The snow again crunched under his feet, and he took his steps slowly and deliberately. In one leap he made the fence, but then tumbled when he hit the ground, not quite able to catch himself on one leg.
Coyote’s fall roused the chickens, and they began clucking madly and jumping around their roost. He tripped the latch easily with his nose, cornered one chicken quickly and ended it’s fright in a swift bite of it’s neck.
Coyote heard an all too familiar sound. A door opening, and a man yelling Hey! Hey! out of here! Get! Coyote turned to run but his exit was blocked by a large black dog baring it’s teeth and growling. He made one attempt to push past him but the dog snapped at him and forced him back. Coyote cursed his lame leg. With all four he’d be running free right now. Coyote dropped the chicken and lunged at the dog, biting his front leg. When the dog picked it up Coyote lunged under him and hobbled over the fence. Coyote ran down the alley and hid again behind the plywood shelter where he spent the night. The man in the doorway yelled at him til he was out of sight.
I can’t stay here. They’ll be after me any minute. And now I’m hungry and tired. I am too old to fight the domestics. I am getting weak with hunger, and still You lead me on.
Coyote looked again for Venus, but the day was already bright, the Sun was in the sky. He made his way through the alley as quiet as he could, still moving east. A squirrel taunted him from a tree. A blue jay swooped down and pecked at his head. Backyard dogs barked at him.
After sleeping away the mid day hours, Coyote came eventually to an industrial part of town. Places to hide were getting scarce. Coyote walked through a ditch of frozen water. Cattails both hid him and revealed him by their moving. There was a tugging in his heart that grew the further he traveled. He had almost forgotten his hunger when he saw a little grey rabbit, still in the snow in front of him. Coyote stood motionless. The rabbit looked at him but didn’t move. Coyote’s rear end slowly lowered to the ground, his legs tensing up, ready to bound.
He leapt, and caught the rabbit with ease, making him feel like a young hunter again. Just as he was about to bite down, a feeling he could not ignore, as strong as that of the call east settled upon him. He held the rabbit in his jaws and came to limping trot.
Why should I not eat this creature? I’m hungry. I’m weak with fatigue, and yet still You urge me on, when twice my meal has been taken from me. The squirrels taunt me up in their trees, the People and their dogs bark at me. Even the Blue Jays swoop down upon me. You call me on, of this I’m sure, and yet still You are silent, when all I would need to lie down and die in peace is to hear Your voice. To hear the voice of my Creator, of the Maker of all. To look upon Your face would be the end of all suffering, all worry, all evil. But I am not looking upon You, I am carrying a baby rabbit that I should be eating. I am moving towards my own demise, to I know not where. Yet I will follow. I will follow.
The sky was dark as Coyote came to an area of houses that looked like the trailers pulled by the big trucks on the highway. His inner compass was pulling strongly now, so strong that he hardly had a thought. He only followed. He came to a trailer house with steps leading up to a porch. There was a light on inside, and much moving around. Coyote heard people’s voices, and the trailer shook with the foot falls of someone inside.
Coyote ascended the steps, with some difficulty. He sat down in front of the door and faced it, alert for he knew not what to happen. The bunny trembled in his mouth, but made no move to escape.
I am here. I am waiting.
The door opened. A man stepped outside, and Coyote stepped in. “What…” said the man, and then stopped. All eyes were upon Coyote.
Coyote saw a woman, lying on her back on a couch, cradling a baby in her arms. Another woman was by her side. Coyote, with no fear, no thought at all of the people who’s house he was in, limped over to the woman holding the baby and placed the rabbit in her lap. “What is this sweet thing? The woman standing said. “I don’t know” said the man, “when I opened the door he just came in.” The lady holding the baby pet the bunny, and the bunny hid itself in a fold of the blanket they were both wrapped in. “He brought us a present” she said.
Coyote looked in her eyes, he saw no malice, no hatred, nothing but love. The lady tilted the baby towards him, and Coyote looked upon the brown skin, the short black hair, the black eyes. When he saw the eyes his heart lept within him.
My Maker. My Creator, You have not forsaken me.
The baby cried. A small, sweet cry. Coyote knelt in praise.
Thank You. Thank You. I have heard Your voice. I have looked upon Your face. Thank You.
“Someone get that poor dog some food,” the lady said, “he looks half starved to death.”
A moment later a plate was put in front of Coyote. Upon it was a raw chicken leg. Coyote ate his meal in peace, went outside and lay down under the trailer. He closed his eyes, said Thank You, and went to sleep. He never awoke again in this world.
One thought on “Coyote’s Christmas”
Loved this story.