Coyote ducked among the shrubs and prairie grass in an attempt to hide from the sun. He preferred the shadowy anonymity of moonlight but his stomach wouldn’t let him wait until nighttime.
Haunting the usual spots, he intended to search for some bunnies, perhaps a family of prairie dogs but they were harder to surprise. He stumbled across a pile of dry bones and gnawed for a moment, but his stomach grumbled at the waste of time.
Then he smelled something weak and old. And delicious. A cat; his tongue let forth a flood of drool.
Mine, Coyote thought. His stomach kicked. Mine. He flattened his ears and stalked the backyard that hid the delicious treat. An old woman kneeled in the flowerbed out back, gardening beside her beloved cat.
“Enjoying the sunlight, Gizmo Smoggins?” she cooed. A couple of scratches for the cat and the old lady gathered her bag of weeds and headed inside.
Coyote’s ears relaxed and his mouth opened in a toothy grin. He sauntered forward as casually as one can while keeping low to the ground.
“Hey there Gizmo Smoggins.”
The cat leapt up, her fur bushed like Einstein in zero gravity.
“Relax,” Coyote said. “If I wanted to hurt you, would I approach like this? Just wondering how domesticity has been working for you?”
Gizmo arched her eyes in a very catlike manner and didn’t deign to reply.
“Lots of food, I suppose?”
Still no reply.
“I’m just asking because,” Coyote had his lie prepared, “I have some pups back in my den, and my woman is starving trying to nurse them. So I’ve been bringing her all the food I can find—”
“Kill,” Gizmo interjected.
“Don’t you mean you’ve been bringing her all the food you can kill?”
“Oh, ah,” Coyote let out an embarrassed little cough. “Can’t really help it, can I? Circle of life and all that.”
Gizmo’s eyes narrowed. “Get to the point.”
“Of course, and then you can get back to your, ah, sunbathing here. Just wondering if you had any kibble, maybe some wet food, a few bites of chicken? Whatever your lovely companion feeds you. It would sure help out an old skin-and-bones coyote like me. Keep me strong enough to support my family.”
“Why would I want to keep a coyote strong?”
“Fair question.” Coyote nodded amiably. “I assure you, I’m no cat-eater. I prefer to stick to bunnies and other uncivilized pests. Surely you can appreciate my role in the neighborhood ecology. Without me your backyard would be overrun.”
Gizmo appeared to contemplate this. Emboldened Coyote went on.
“Why just the other day I saw two prairie dogs distracting a puggle while their companions stole his food. They’re becoming a menace. Barely afraid anymore! Someone needs to keep them in place.”
“But you’re asking to take my food. I hardly see the difference.”
“The difference is I’m asking. The prairie dogs were stealing. It’s immoral, that’s what.”
“And I’m supposed to listen to a morality lecture from a known murderer?”
“Murderer?” Coyote huffed. “That’s hardly fair. Should I interview the mice beneath this deck, see how innocent you’ve remained over the years?”
Gizmo contemplated again. “Fine,” she said. “But I’m not carrying my dish out to you.” Her chin tilted up, nose in the air. She would only ever serve her woman—maybe drop a dead lizard at her doorstep on occasion—and only when the mood struck. “I have what people insist on calling a ‘doggy door.’ You’ll have to stick your head in and get the food yourself.”
Coyote flicked his ears. “But I’ll be caught by your old lady for sure.”
“I’ll go in and keep lookout. When you hear me, stick your head in. I’ll have the food as close as possible for you to grab a mouthful.”
Coyote’s tongue lolled out of his mouth in a happy smile. After he got some of the cat’s food he’d hide in the yard. Then Gizmo would come out again, all relaxed, and that’s when Coyote would pounce and it would be cat-kebobs for desert.
Gizmo led him around the side of the house to her little entrance in the laundry room door.
“It’s bigger than it looks,” the cat assured, slipping inside.
When he heard a quiet “Meow,” Coyote stuck his head through the door, tantalized by the smell of pulverized chicken. But the bowl was just out of reach. He strained, stretching out his tongue which was dripping in anticipation and lapping at air.
Then Gizmo let out an outrageous “Reeeaaaaaaouuuuwwww.”
Coyote jerked his head, slamming the back of his neck against the doorframe.
“Ouch! Shh! Shh! Shh! What are you trying to do?”
Gizmo grinned and kept meowing, her pointed teeth (that people insisted on calling ‘canines’) glinting evilly.
Toenails scrabbling for purchase, Coyote fought to free his head, but he was stuck fast, the sides of his jaw pressing painfully against the small opening.
“Good heavens!” The old lady arrived and, seeing precious Gizmo Smoggins in danger, took no time to fight back. Still in her gardening clogs she kicked at Coyote’s face.
“Back, you vermin! You mangy bandit! Get out! You worthless mutt! I’m calling animal control and they’ll dart you!”
Wham! Wham! Wham! Her foot connected with his skull. Coyote strained and staggered, twisted and rolled, until finally, blissfully, he pulled free and collapsed on the small landing outside the door.
But the woman was right there, opening the door. Coyote leapt to his feet and she landed one swift kick to his abdomen before he could turn tail and flee. Beyond the fence he turned to check behind him, only to be struck between the eyes by a perfectly thrown gardening clog.