by James Bates
It was a lazy Saturday morning in Brentwood Estates. Roland Hathaway sat in his silk bathrobe in the family room, reading the Wall Street Journal and sipping his cappuccino all the while eyeing a nearby hot buttered croissant. Life is good, he was thinking to himself.
He casually looked out the second story window into his manicured backyard, and that feeling of goodwill disappeared in an instant. "Jesus Christ!" he yelled, slamming down his paper. "Ellen, come in here. Quick. It's a damn coyote."
His nine year old son and eight year old daughter ran to see.
"Look, Dad," Lyle pointed, "It's got something in its mouth.
"Ew. Yuck," Emily said, covering her eyes and, then, unable to help herself, looked again.
Roland's wife hurried into the room. "A coyote? Where is it?"
Roland pointed out the window, "Right in our backyard. Damn thing. Call animal control. Now. It'll probably start killing everybody's pets." While his wife excitedly peered into the backyard and didn't immediately respond to his orders, he barked more loudly, "Hurry up. Now! Chop, chop!" He clapped his hands together.
Ellen fought back an urge to tell him off, but didn't when she noticed the kids were watching them. She took a deep breath, gritted her teeth and said, "All right. I'll get my phone."
Outside, oblivious to the commotion in the Hathaway house, the lean coyote trotted quickly through the pristine backyard, avoiding the swimming pool and tennis court. He knew he'd ranged too far from home, but he'd had to. He was on a hunting trip for his mate and their three young pups. The rabbit he'd killed was his reward, much needed food for his hungry family. But the smell of humans frightened him. A few miles ahead lay the rolling hills that marked the edge of the Minnesota River Valley and his home territory. He trotted faster, the rabbit secure in his mouth. He was never coming back. The human scent scared him too much, so he'd stick to hunting in the river valley. That was his home. That's where he belonged.
Ellen took her time walking to the front hall desk where her phone was charging, thinking, to hell with Roland. She leisurely unplugged it and did an unhurried search for a number to call. While it rang she walked to a side window and looked outside. She saw the coyote trotting across their lawn and smiled, thinking what a beautiful animal it was. You didn't see them too often around the suburbs. Well, never, actually.
Watching the coyote triggered a sudden, unexpected connection. It was deep and sensual, something she hadn't felt in a long time, not since she'd been a young girl growing up on her parent's farm in central Minnesota. Back then, whenever she'd seen a coyote it had made her happy. Many in her part of the state wanted to kill them on sight but not Ellen. She was drawn to their graceful beauty and wild spirit. In fact, at one time she'd wanted to become a wildlife biologist and study animals, like coyotes, and find ways to help them survive and flourish and live in harmony with humans. That was before she'd met Roland. Back then...well, back then he'd been different than he was now.
A voice spoke over the line, interrupting her thoughts, "Animal Control. May I help you?"
Ellen didn't have to think. "Oh, it's nothing," she responded, politely. "Sorry to have bothered you." She hung up and watched as the coyote gracefully leaped their property line fence and disappeared from view. "Be safe," she whispered.
From the family room Roland yelled, "Ellen, damn it. Did you call somebody yet? It's getting away."
Ellen sighed and took a moment, reliving another memory: The time she'd seen a female and two pups running along a gravel road when she'd been riding her horse. The mother had looked back once before leading her young ones into the protection of the underbrush. To this day, Ellen would swear she and the female had made eye contact, a primal bond forming between them, just before the family had disappeared from view. It was a moment she'd almost forgotten about until now.
Making herself return to the present, Ellen called back, "Don't worry. It's taken care of."
"Good. Now come join me for a croissant. They're delicious"
Ellen sighed again, in no mood to hurry off at his command. Instead, she continued looking out the window, thinking back to when she'd been a young girl living on the farm, back to when she'd had a connection with coyotes and a sense of wildness in her heart. Where had it gone, she wondered, that wildness? Could she ever get it back?
A few minutes later Roland yelled, "Ellen, what are you doing? Get back in here." But he had no way of knowing his wife couldn't hear.
"Dad, look," Lyle suddenly exclaimed, pointing out the window. "It's Mom."
Roland hurried to his son's side and looked. His mouth gaped open in dismay. He watched as his wife walked calmly across the lawn to their property line, where she paused only a second before nimbly climbing the fence and continuing on through their neighbor's yard.
"Where do you think she's going?" Lyle asked, watching in wonder.
Roland stared out the window, speechless. Finally, he shook his head, utterly perplexed, and whispered, as if to himself, "I haven't a clue."
Ellen was smiling. She had the sun on her face, the breeze in her hair, and she was happier than she'd been in a long time. As she walked she kept her eyes peeled, looking past Brentwood Estates toward the forested hills of the distant river valley, hoping to catch a glimpse of the coyote. Just once more, Ellen thought to herself, walking faster before breaking into a spirited trot. Please let me see that beautiful wild animal just one more time.
About the author
Jim has a soft spot in his heart for wild animals living on the fringes of society, and he counts it as his lucky day whenever he is fortunate enough to see a coyote. His stories have appeared in CafeLit, The Writers' Cafe Magazine, A Million Ways, Cabinet of Heed and Paragraph Planet. You can also check out his blog to see more: www.theviewfromlonglake.wordpress.com.
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