Between April and May

Coyote hunts the streets like a stray dog, her claws clicking along the asphalt. Among the urban diaspora, her lean shanks and rusty coat look primordial or alien. Her teeth flash among headlights like slashes of white paint on a dark canvas and her red gums bleed into the night like an open wound. She is on the hunt as she lopes purposefully through the streets.

From the empty plains she has come, clinching retribution in her snarling maw. It is an ancient retribution, one of righteousness that carries with it the memories of an entire people. The city seems to yield itself before Coyote, acquiescing to whatever the stranger may bring. Beneath her feet, the gravel smokes as she lopes down an alley, passing rotting fences and decrepit houses. Other dogs retreat into the shadows behind the fences.

For a moment, Coyote pauses to sniff the air, and then she raises her head to let a howl flee downwind. Standing before her is a woman who crosses the alley to escape Coyote’s glare. Coyote sidles in front of her, head down and hackles raised. The woman is carrying a baseball bat with nails driven through its barrel. On her back, a child is wrapped in a blanket. She raises the bat with both hands before her. Coyote feints and then lunges, grasping the woman’s throat in her teeth. She falls and the bat drops to the ground. Taking the child’s shoulder in her mouth, Coyote carries it down the alley.

Out of the known world, Coyote runs with the child until they are lost in the great desert plains, red stems of grass sweeping a desolate, featureless land. The child is weaned like a pup until it can race the wind in the grass and its ears can hear the faintest cry of the farthest sparrow and its nose can scent the deepest mole. Beneath a haloed moon, Coyote speaks to the child:

You will set aright the sins of this land; the blood that taints the water and the ghosts that trod the grass. At your hand, the cities of the plain will turn to bitter ashes and mothers will eat their own. The time of the coyote and the buffalo will return to the plains when men can no longer scar the earth.

The child now rises and moves toward the destiny set before it, crossing the plains to meet the inevitable end. In its eye is a wild look that splinters wood and shatters glass, as May rides its heels and April springs before it. Above, a thunderhead crashes.

©2018 by Christopher Overfelt

Christopher Overfelt lives and works in Kansas City, Mo. He received a Bachelor’s in English from the University of Kansas and his fiction has appeared in the online publications Gambling the Aisle and Sky Island Journal.

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