12 May 2009

Desert Bloom Got Rolled

Coyote did not often trouble himself by meddling in the affairs of men, but this night was different. He could sense it, a dull tang in the air like watered rust, ozone before the storm. A sense of anxiousness clung to him, and he was unable to chase it away by his usual habit of running through the scrub to scare up jackrabbits, just for fun. The rabbits seemed particularly skittish tonight, and Coyote took no real pleasure in making them run. Something was in air, and Coyote was sorely vexed to out a name on it. After a few halfhearted runs up the draw, he gave up and made his way to the top of the ridge that looked out over the distant city belonging to man. The glow of the lights made a pearly smudge on the underside of a thin, mottled layer of clouds scudding across the sky. A nacreous sliver of moon peeked through now and then, augmenting the silvery wash of starlight over the desert. The wan light made it possible for Coyote to see the faint track of a gravelly path snaking through the brush down below. He knew it well, having learned that men with guns often used it to drive their trucks over, looking for antelope, ocelots…and sometimes coyotes. Coyote slowly eased his furry haunches to the cool rock ledge, settling down to wait. He breathed deep, the night air heavy with the scent of saguaro blossoms.

A faint rustling and whirring rose from the desert floor. Long-nosed bats were feeding heavy on the saguaros. Coyote could catch glimpses of them occasionally, flitting swiftly about and perching delicately on the cacti to sup on the sweet nectar in the flowers. He did not think often of the bats because he never troubled himself to wonder what they might taste like. Voles, mice and rabbits were much more to his taste. Sometimes Coyote would eat crickets or berries if the pickings were otherwise slim. Tonight, though, he watched the bats intently, finding their aerobatics fascinating for some unfathomable reason. It was during this study that he became aware of a new sound coming from farther off. It was a crackling, crunchy sound not unlike the snapping of tiny bones between his jaws. Coyote’s ears perked up and he raised his head to look further out for the source of the sound.

It was then that he saw it: a faint glow approaching through the scrub farther out toward the city. The glow was moving closer, and Coyote could tell the noise was connected to the glow. He stood up, pupils dilating and sniffing the breeze. His fur rose reflexively, part fear and part curiosity. Abruptly the glow cut out, but the noise continued growing louder. Coyote saw a faint plume of dust trailing out behind a bulky, black object rolling along the track below. The noise changed to a growl and the big van (for that is what it was, although Coyote had no name for the thing) accelerated into a bend in the track. He reckoned it was some humans out hunting or maybe looking for a saguaro to carry off, as they sometimes did.

The van did not stop this time. As it rounded the curve, Coyote saw it speed up. There was a low booming sound as a gaping hole opened up in the side of the vehicle. Coyote could see the faint outlines of two humans standing in the middle of the van. Between them they held something that looked like a sack, or a loose bundle of something. Coyote peered harder and recognized the shapes as humans, two standing and holding a third by its arms. The middle human flopped to and fro as the van lurched over the track. The two standing humans swung the third by the arms and hurled it out of the side of the van. There was a faint sound of coarse laughter, and the door in the side rolled swiftly shut with a thud, loud in the desert night. Coyote watched as the body tumbled a short distance to come to rest face down in the undergrowth. He waited a few minutes, but the human did not move. Overcome by curiosity, Coyote glided down the slope to investigate.

The van slewed around the curve, the driver barely steering out of a skid that would have taken the vehicle off the track and into the scrub. The two men standing in the back cursed loudly as they struggled to keep their balance, hands smacking into the warm metal of the sides. One let loose with an oath as he cut himself on an unprotected edge near the door frame. The second man hurled invectives at the driver, calling into question his maternal ancestry and general lack of intelligence. The driver just laughed and flipped them the bird over his shoulder. He told the two passengers to hurry up with the task, get rid of the “cargo”, and the quotation marks were nearly visible in the close air inside the van. The two looked down at the battered heap laying on the floor between them. Closer inspection revealed it to be a person, unconscious or dead maybe only a physician could tell. The two men grabbed the body roughly by the arms as the taller of the two swiftly drew the door open, slamming it wide open. With grunts almost in unison, they lifted the body and swung it once, twice and then hurled it out the door into the desert. The shorter of the two laughed loudly as the body hit the gravelly shoulder and bounced before rolling into the brush. The door slammed shut as the van accelerated up the track to turn towards the city. A spray of rocks and sand blew over the body, adding insult to already significant injury. The growl of the engine grew faint as the van made its way back to the nearby road, its lights springing to life as it turned onto the pavement. The body did not move, and the desert sounds slowly drew in around it.

Coyote made his way down the hill. The bats cheeped and whirred over his head as he paused to make sure the other humans were not coming back. Several minutes later, he resumed his progress, sniffing the human on the breeze. Coyote could see the sky beginning to lighten faintly. Sunrise was not far away.

Shock. Impact. The body rolled to a heavy stop, a loose sack of potatoes thudding into the sagebrush and creosote bushes. It was badly beaten, patches of blood on the torn undershirt and blue jeans that clung to the battered frame. Its limbs lay loosely in that posture peculiar to the deep sleeper…or the dead. Which was this was still uncertain. The dust from the passing of the van slowly settled over the body. It did not move. A slow, thin trickle of blood seeped out of its mouth to coagulate the sand under its cheek, heavy blood pearls beading on the desert floor.

There was no watch on its wrists, or rings on its fingers. The undershirt was untucked and the outlines of scrapes and deep bruises could be seen mottling the flesh of the torso. Closer inspection also would reveal that only the left foot still carried a shoe, a scuffed and badly worn brown leather shoe. The right was clad only in a torn and dirty white crew sock. The sock was heavily spotted with blood. The legs were crossed at the ankles, a comic result of the body rolling that made it look as if dancing a jig.

Coyote stepped from the underbrush just a few feet from the body. He sniffed cautiously trying to tell if there was any life there. No movement, but Coyote thought he could sense a faint heat. He crept forward, pausing every so often. Just as he came within touching distance, the body abruptly moved and began making loud, booming noises. Coyote backpedaled furiously, turning swiftly to dive into a nearby clump of brush. The body shook, the arms and hands twitching as Coyote watched it struggle to lift itself out of the dirt.

Pain. Near-blinding throb in his jaw. The man groaned loudly as he forced himself up. A thick stream of spittle and blood cascaded out of his mouth. He was in so much pain he could not close his mouth. Slow torture as he sat upright, rocking slightly from the waves of agony coursing through him. He eased his eyes open, blinking away a film of blood, sweat and dust. Sweet relief as the stars and clouds swam into focus. I can see, he whispered through a mouth that felt filled with mush, I can see.

I’m not dead.

He laughed, or tried to laugh as the action wracked him with pain.

I’m not dead. They didn’t kill me. Ha. Fuck them.

The man stayed in that position for some minutes. His breathing slowly settled into a steady rhythm, becoming less ragged as he focused himself. The pain began to ebb as the sky began to lighten. When he felt strong enough, the man pulled his feet under him and attempted to stand. His first try failed, nearly fainting from pain and dizziness. A few deep breaths and he made it to his feet on the second attempt. He stood, swaying slightly, and slowly scanned the horizon to get his bearings. He spied the city far off and a crooked grin creased his face. The pain in his jaw was intense.

Coyote watched intently, wondering if the man had seen him. So far, there was no indication that the human had discovered the hiding place. Coyote watched as the man slowly patted himself down, hands searching the pockets.

The man steadied himself and took a slow inventory. No watch. Ring and jacket gone. Belt and one shoe missing. Sock bloody and looking more like a hole than a piece of cloth. He felt a lump in his left pocket, and he discovered a wad of crumpled bills, tens and twenties, in the right. The lump turned out to be his cell phone. Amazingly, it still worked. The faint LED glow lit up the man’s face as he grinned.

Sonofabitch. They forgot the phone.

He sighed and then gasped as a sharp lashing of pain lanced through his jaw. He thought some teeth were missing, and a gentle probing of his tongue confirmed it.

Damn. Well, I still have some money, and I ain’t dead, either.

He looked up again towards the city and it was then he saw Coyote watching him from the brush. Another big grin, and he beckoned to the animal.

Come on out, Trickster. I ain’t gonna hurt you.

Coyote found himself walking slowly, tentatively towards the man, their eyes locked on one another, a hand outstretched. Coyote extended his snout out sniffing gently at the fingertips.

Stay with me, Trickster. I could use the company to help me get back over yonder, the man gestured with his chin towards the distant city, and I reckon you and me could be fine friends.

The man began to hobble painfully towards the far road and erstwhile civilization. Coyote hung back while trying to make up his mind to follow or stay. The man shuffled to a halt. He turned back to Coyote, the man’s face a grotesque mask of contusions in the early dawn light.

Come, my friend, we have work to do. The mask split into a feral grin. Coyote felt his heart open and he understood the man, knowing they were brothers of a sort. He leapt to his feet, and the two made their slow, uncertain way across the desert floor.

Behind them, against the rosy sky, the saguaro blossoms began to close and the bats returned to their places of mystery, to await the fall of night and the hunt for nectar.


  1. more...more...dammit, I want more!! this is brilliant....

  2. You just plain need to put this all in a book!!!!

    I love your writing!!!!!

  3. The writer man is back...yay :)

  4. That was absolutely fantastic.

    I was engaged and waiting, waiting, waiting for more.

    well done, my friend......well done.

  5. Wow. I really like this.

  6. What's up Kevin! I was on hiatus. Actually I was caught near the outer banks of utter oblivion...or maybe it was Hoboken...

  7. SSP: (writing furiously) Hold on, wait, I gotta another idea!

    Headbang8: See above :)

    OAM: Head poking out of the bushes...

    skywind: Yes. I think.

    BEW: I'm thinking about that, need some time.

    Braja: Sniffing the wind, as it were :)

    VM: (blush) Thank you, my dear!

    Pearl: Happy to oblige. thanks!

    KMJ: Hey, where you been? I went to Hiatus, but no one was there, the bar was empty...


"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...