When the moon looks the other way, it’s time to get going. That’s what the coyotes said last night. I heard ‘em. And this is how they said it: their voices like a flock of geese, warbling and trilling against the walls of the hot night. The sounds of those coyotes. The things they say. Their voices spread out on the air like wings, and their words rise up in intervals and hang suspended in the night before floating through my window as feathers that press against my neck. Their sound on my throat becomes hilarious, unnerving and common all at once. It’s good to know they’re out there. That nothing has stopped them so far.
I was a coyote once. A jobbernowl like the rest of them. Running around. Staying out all night. An incompossible life. I could never keep up. They like to remind me of this when they come for me. They want me to sing down the moon, so they can dance and smoke and procreate in secret. And if I don’t come sing for them, they’ll have one of my chickens. And if I don’t let ’em have a chicken, they’ll take my big, dumb dog. It will go like this: Some day a sunny day because these things always happen on a sunny day the most gangly of coyotes will swagger up here acting like she wants to play, and if my big, dumb dog’s instincts are not as good as I hope they are, he will go bounding after her, down the trail, across the creek, to the other side of the fallen cedar, and into the thick patch of ferns where the coyote’s little friends are waiting. It’ll be quick.
Maybe a few days later I will find what is left of my big, dumb dog, and I will have to bury those parts like I buried the deer parts and the skunk parts and the raccoon parts all out in the south field just on the other side of the logging trail. Bury deep. Four feet. Best to put down some big rocks on the graves, too. Because the coyotes come back for a snack at midnight when the hunt is lean, and they are noisy when they come. That’s when they start in on me about the moon.
They are out there now trying to dig up my goat. The old thing died of heat exhaustion the day before. It got up to 102 here on the ridge. After working in the west field and not feeling so good, I figured I better go find my goat because he was getting old and sort of blind and no longer tried to butt me when I bent over to move his stakes. I found him where I had staked him that morning. He was lying on his side in a pile of thorny vines, and when I bent over him to pet the fur on his neck, he looked at me hard and let me know how mad he was about all of this. Leaving me. Leaving the farm. Leaving the young female goat that was not quite ready for him yet. Not finishing off the blackberries on the lower four acres. Not eating the next batch of ratty cotton sheets that I put out to dry on the line.
The eyes of the coyotes peeped through the shadows of shade at me and my goat. I could smell their breath. I carried the goat up the trail, but he died in my arms just 15 yards from the cool barn floor. I hugged him hard. He was a good goat. He cleared two acres of Himalayan blackberry bushes for me, he liked my dog, and he never held the coyotes against me.
The jabbering. The nonsense. The potential for an open grave. I figured I might as well get up. The moon was waning. It wouldn’t mind. So I rummaged for my boots and my jeans. Ran a comb through my hair. Rinsed my teeth with mouthwash but didn’t brush. Dug out the bottle of Maker’s Mark from behind the septic tank treatment kit. Flashlight just in case. Left the dog locked in. Ambled down to the logging road behind the barn, sat on a rotting log, and sang with them. Sang about that old life. Sang about things that hurt so much it felt good to hurt that big. Sang about having too much. Sang about having too little. Made the moon tired. She’s had enough of bourbon and partying and depravity. She doesn’t like coyotes. And she barely cares for me.
They didn’t really want to sing with me. And they didn’t care what the moon saw. They just wanted to dig up my goat, and they wanted me to know it. So when the moon looked away, I picked up a large rock from the grave and brought it down on the closest coyote’s head. Only it missed his head and hit him square in the neck, breaking it. His body tried to run away from me while his head just dangled and caught between his front legs. He tripped. He twitched. And his tongue came out long and pink and lay uncurled on the dirt.
When I dragged him over to the goat’s grave, his head and legs flopped behind him. He was very relaxed. Very comfortable. I placed the coyote on top of the fresh earth and poured the rest of the Maker’s Mark on him so he could tell his friends not to mess with me any more. Not to make fun. To just go on about their coyote business. And never think of me again. After all, there are some things coyotes will never understand. But the moon does. And that’s why she looked the other way.