“How are you doing?” I asked Paul-Lynn. “I know you loved him a great deal.”
“I’m holding up,” she nodded, mostly to herself, “all we found was blood in the snow; there was no flesh, fur, nor collar. We think one lured him, and the others came out of hiding, attacking from behind. I blame Jake for insisting he be allowed to run free, even though I understand that. Terry was big, as Jack Russells go, but he was no match for a pack of coyotes; they hunt together all the time, they follow a familiar pattern, a rhythm, Terry just thought he was having fun chasing one of them.” She hugged herself, even though the winter kitchen was warm. “Jake is out with a rifle right now, his atonement, I suppose, but he won’t find anything. They’ll howl and laugh at us through the windows tonight.”
When Paul-Lynn left, with fresh chocolate chip and walnut cookies for herself and Jake, to soften the inevitable evening anger, I set about cleaning the kitchen and thinking.
My father had been a reluctant and poor farmer, but a rich storyteller. “People talk about foxes being clever,” Dad had reminisced many times, “but they’re stupid compared to coyotes. Don’t ever underestimate a coyote.”
I hadn’t. When men, always men, went out of their way to chide me for walking my little dog on a leash (“Let him ruuunnn!”), I would curtly mention large predators, then angle cross-country so they couldn’t follow me with their cars. I never lost a dog to other animals.
A week after Terry’s death, I looked out the window to see Jake hiking up to my house with a huge Irish wolfhound. I quickly drained the dishwater, wiped my hands, and hurried outside. I’m very average in size, but when the wolfhound put his paws on my shoulders, the better to sniff the part in my hair, he towered above me. “Jake! When did you get him? What’s his name?”
Jake was grinning so hard his face might split. “Frank, and three days ago; I had to drive a few hundred miles to pick him up. He’s papered but not a show dog, and he cost more than I wanted to spend, but I took him out hiking yesterday, and he got two of the bastards.”
“They went after something this big?”
“A novice revenges the rhythm. Yeah, I’m sure his size gave them pause, but they’re so used to winning using their little pattern, that shitty little rhythm they play, that they gave it a shot. And he’s hardly more than a puppy, a beginner, what would he know? They played right into my hands, the bastards. Frank’s a wolfhound; a sight hound; killing their kind is bred into him. Oh, they had their little trick set up with the right wind direction, all that, but he saw the two hiding in ambush as he ran between them. When they attacked, he whipped around. He crushed the female’s skull with one bite and then tore out the male’s throat.” Jake was nearly dancing with joy. “That other one took off like a sonofabitch.” Jake knew I’d worked with men for many years and cussing didn’t bother me.
“Will you do more of this?”
“Oh, yeah, we’re going to find their dens!”
“Um, Jake, a mother coyote will fight viciously for her pups. She won’t kill Frank, but she might hurt his eyes.”
“So, I’ll fill the den with lead before I send Frank in.” They walked away then, both males in high spirits; the new winners.
I sat down with a thump. I stretched out my legs. I didn’t really blame Jake, we were all a bunch of predators, after all, and predators kill any way they can; God’s will or something like that. The history of the world is a long tale of stronger things wiping out weaker things, and not caring at all.
Should we be better than that? The coyotes were here first.
This is a Chuck Wendig Friday Flash Fiction. He wanted us to use the phrase “a novice revenges the rhythm” somewhere in the story. All the dog talk got me thinking about dogs, and my mind wanted to stay there, so I tried to work it out.