By: Dan A. Cardoza
Mr. Simmons’s grips his gloved hands on the steering wheel, as his rusty Ford 150 jostles the turns, along the gravel road on a mission. The intermittent click/clack of the four speed gears is tight and calming. Like when I pop my knuckles. Off in the distance the sugar powdered Cascades. Our ride feels like forever, at least the forever of a twelve year old boy.
JL yells, speed up Roger, see the dust way up there. I think we have us a coyote. The dust is from him going in circles around the stake.
He then cranks down the passenger window, and spits a gob of Beech-Nut chewing tobacco into the winter air, the size of a small bird’s nest, then high beams his horse teeth smile toward Mr. Simmons. He doesn’t mind the blow back that freckles his face. JL reminds me of that Anthropithecus character we are learning about in our Anthropology class. Only he is a knuckle dragger with uneven sideburns.
Mr. Roger J. Simmons is the Superintendent of Schools for Hart County. Absent his suit and tie, he still exudes the role of authority. By contrast, JL is a knuckle dragger, having barely made it out of High School. He now works on the Green Chain at the Tennant Lumber Mill. Critter hunting is what bonds these two feral yen and yang.
On our way, I am told that they are checking coyote traps. They trap coyotes to free at a later date, to teach their younger hound dogs how to track and hunt. It’s an extra high, if they are able to shoot the coyote if cornered.
Mr. Simmons, why do you have to shoot the coyote’s? Can’t you just train the dogs to hunt and let the coyote run free I ask?
Jack he says, everything dies eventually. If we are lucky enough to get a good shot in after a long hunt, we take it. And if we are accurate, then we, well, kill the coyote.
JL stumbles his way into the conversation, and with enthusiasm, says he loves killing critters. We both stare at Java Man, like he is a few sandwiches short of a pick-nick.
I almost crack my head on the windshield as the truck scrapes to a halt in a bloom of dust.
JL, you are right, and he’s big, Mr. Simmons shouts.
We all bail out of the pick-up, and run toward the trapped coyote. I feel as trapped as he does, but I quickly think of a way to free him, and at the same time, save face.
As instructed, we surround the frenzied coyote, as it snarls and snaps. Its teeth bloodied from chewing its foot, and the tethered trap chain.
JL barks, Jack, you distract him, then I’ll cover his head with the gunny sack.
His yellow teeth shine like tiny vintage dominos; his eyes beam all shades of crazy.
In an instant, I lunge for the anchor stake, pulling it hard. and Just a quickly, I see my jeans rip open at the knee, a wash of red. Mr. Simmons’s chuckles, pulls my jacket as I fall backward just out of reach of the porcelain blades.
Jack, what the hell… Let JL, and I take it from here, Mr. Simmons orders.
Ya, Jack, JL snaps, we don’t want you getting no rabies for Christ’s sakes. Go wait in the truck, and get one of those rags from under the seat; wrap it around your knee. Come on Roger, let’s do this. We’ll have us one hell of a runner for the dogs to chase.
One week later, absent rabies, I learn from Maggie Simmons’s, the superintendents daughter, that the coyote has been placed in a holding cage, in the back of their farm house, at the edge of town. It’s then that my mind goes into overdrive. I may not be a genius, but I make up for that in gumption.
Two weeks later, I find myself in the middle of a snowstorm, face to face with my canine friend. As he snarls at the wire mesh door of his temporary cage, our breath mingles in the frigid air. Slowly I tug at the pin in the latch. The cage door shakes. In a blur of gnash and snarl, I am knocked back, and run over, falling flat on my back. Elvis has left the building. I crane my neck in time to see a bristly ghost vanish into the adjacent woods. With my heart still pounding, I slowly begin to make snow angels that will be covered at the break of a steel blue sky dawn.
Lit from the back side, a curtain of clouds slowly opens, and then the light of an ogler full moon peeks through at my widening grin.
Looking back, after all these years, there have been times I needed rescuing, even if only from myself.
Dan has a Master of Science Degree in Counseling. He is the author of two Chapbooks, Nature’s Front Door & Expectation of Stars. Partial credits include: Amethyst, UK., Ardent, Better Than Starbucks, California Quarterly, Chaleur Magazine, Curlew, UK., Entropy, Esthetic Apostle, Flash Fiction Friday, Poetry Northwest, The Quail Bell, Skylight 47, Ireland, Spelk, UK., Unstamatic, and Vita Brevis.