Coyote Morning

a novel by Lisa Lenard-Cook



IDENTIFICATION: Coyotes (Canis latrans) weigh between 20 and 40 pounds. They resemble a small German shepherd with a slender muzzle and a bushy tail that is usually carried at a 45-degree angle. Coyotes are predominantly brownish gray in color with a light gray to cream colored belly. Colors vary from nearly black to red or white.

On that April Monday morning, Alison Lomez watched through her kitchen window as her seven-year-old daughter Rachel shuffled to the end of their gravel driveway, where the school bus would stop for her. At first, Alison thought it was a dog that trotted up and sat down next to Rachel, a small yellow dog that reached to Rachel’s chest. Dog and girl watched the empty road that wound down from the mesa. Whose dog? Alison thought, and then, what kind? and then, coyote. At this, the animal slowly turned its head, and looked Alison squarely in the eye. As Alison watched, Rachel bent to say something to the animal before resuming her vigil.

What Alison would come back to about that morning was the moment when she’d thought coyote and how the coyote had turned, as if it had heard. When the coyote looked at her, her mind decelerated, or so it felt, while her chest constricted around her heart until all that was left was a stone clutched in the center of her that she’d feel forever after. Rachel, she croaked, the name not really rising from her throat, the broken word like the panic of a dream, while all the time, the coyote just kept watching her, casually, over its shoulder. Then, suddenly, the bright yellow school bus was there, swallowing Rachel into its hydraulic maw before it resumed its crawl down the mesa.

The coyote sat a moment longer. Then it stood and trotted up the road in the direction from which the bus had come. Alison swallowed, finally, then focused her mind until the swallow circumvented her now-swollen heart and she could breathe again.

Valle Bosque Beacon
To the editor:

That Natalie Harold who loves coyotes should come see what’s left of my kids’ rooster. He was their 4-H project, and he was a beauty, but that’s not the point. The coyotes didn’t even bother to swallow Banjo, they just killed him and then trotted away. For this village to allow coyotes to get away with wanton murders like this is a crime. What’s left of my kids’ rooster is here for Mrs. Harold to see. I hope she does.

Yours truly,
Kathy Crawford

Where Natalie Harold came from, the wildest thing she ever saw was the motion of an invisible bird in a tree. Everything was close there, close and grey, and so when she first saw the sky over the desert she knew it was the place she’d never even known to dream, and she knew she was home.

When Natalie was the first person to walk the ditch bank in the morning, as she was today, the S’s of night-lizards would draw her paths for her. Small catches of coyote fur might dandle from chamisa; small patches of rabbit fur below suggest a recent repast. This early, the sun had not yet crested Sandia Mountain to the east, the mountain that the Indians called Turtle Mountain not only because of its shape but also because of its seeming motion, and some mornings, the air might still tang from a late evening rain, the sand still clot with the last of its moisture.

As always, Natalie walked slowly and, like most Valle Bosqueleños, she carried a big stick. The stick was to ward off loose dogs. She walked slowly because today might be the day that she would finally see a coyote, her long-held and most cherished dream.

Every morning for thirty years, through the chill winds of winter, the sharp bites of imperceptible spring gnats, the slow heat of summer, and the smoke-heavy air of autumn, Natalie had sought a glimpse of her elusive prey. All around her people saw coyotes daily. Some had been seen as they trotted along this very ditch bank. Some were spotted as they ran across the two-lane main road. Others had been simply sitting and howling in one of the few unclaimed fields of sage. And yet Natalie, whose passion for the coyote was matched only by her passion for this place she had grown to call home, had seen only their leavings: fur-wrapped pointed scat, digitigrade four-pronged tracks, a tuft of fur inadvertently left behind. She heard them, yes; everyone in Valle Bosque had heard a coyote. But as many sunrises as she’d seen, the sighting of a coyote had eluded her.

The lightening sky alerted her to yet another sunrise, and Natalie turned east to see the outline of the mountain momentarily edged in gold. Watching the sun rise over that mountain was a reminder to her of the god in all things: the god in the mountain, the god in the sky, the god in the sun as it revealed itself, and finally the god in one’s self and one’s surroundings. In her years in Valle Bosque, Natalie had come to her own mode of prayer, a naming of what mattered, a cherishing of those words, and an effort at coexisting with those so named.

Home was a word that had meaning here, in a way Natalie had never understood in the place where she grew up. Home was understanding that people were never alone, that the world was as large as all who lived in it, and that all must live there, together.

Alison glanced at the house as she backed out of the drive, uncomfortably aware that because of the coyote it now felt less like home. She was late for work, late because instead of her morning run she’d called Animal Control and had gotten into one of those circuitous conversations that was possible only with employees whose lone job description seemed to be making it to their retirement and their pension.

She’d wanted to be calm when she called, so she’d first gone into the small bedroom she’d taken for her den to sit cross-legged on her yoga mat. Chris had used this room for a home office until he’d left, and even though they’d been separated for three months now, Alison still felt as if her presence there was illicit when she first entered the room. They’d moved to the upscale village only six months before, once Chris’s growing ophthalmology practice had made it possible. Now Chris was living with his new young love in a hip Old Town condo, while Alison pretended she belonged in a place like Valle Bosque.

Alison settled into her cross-legged posture, and then, breathing, watched the Sandia mountain dissolve into morning, the way it did this time of year, which was spring. She watched the mountain and breathed deeply in and then deeply out, and as she breathed out she let her mantra syllable escape as well: woe, or whoa, or maybe simply wo.

Rachel, she thought as she inhaled. Her breath caught. She knew she wasn’t going to relax.

Back in the kitchen, she pulled the phone book from the drawer and found the number in the blue government pages in the front. She was hyperventilating. Breathe, she told herself. Breathe. She dialed the number. She told the woman who answered that a coyote had been in her driveway, had waited for the school bus with her daughter. She heard the woman’s sharp intake of breath.

How old?

How old? Alison echoed.

Your daughter. How old is your daughter?

Seven. Rachel’s seven. Again, she heard the woman’s breath catch and then release.

Hold on. I’ll see if Ralph’s in yet. The phone clicked into silence. Alison breathed some more. In. Out. In. Out.

Sandoval, said the male voice.

Alison thought the voice sounded suspicious. But why did she think this? She was reading into things again. It was one of the reasons Chris had left her, or so he had said. Mr. Sandoval, this is Alison Lomez. I live up in Mesa Playa. Breathe. This morning, while my daughter was waiting for the school bus— Alison told Mr. Sandoval her story. She heard him breathing nasally in the pauses where she too breathed, in and out.

They don’t usually hurt kids, he said when she finished telling him.


Usually, they eat cats and poodles and chickens and lambs, if they go for the domestic animals at all. Usually, there’s plenty of rabbits and mice to go around.

So you’re saying the coyote was not threatening my daughter.

I’m saying they eat small animals.

And would it consider my daughter a small animal?

Is she small?

She’s seven.

She heard Mr. Sandoval’s inhale-exhale while he considered this answer. I can’t say I know the size of a seven-year-old girl, he said at last.

She’s small, Alison said. She could hear the impatience creeping into her voice, the impatience she practiced so hard to erase.

Well, I don’t know then, said Mr. Sandoval.

Is there something you can do? Alison asked.

That depends.

Depends on what?

If it threatened her. Did it threaten her?

It sat down next to her. It knew I was watching from the window. It turned. It watched me watching.

But it didn’t threaten her.

It was there. That’s a threat.

I’ll put it in my log, Mr. Sandoval said.

Alison breathed. In. Out. Counted to ten. Thank you, she said. Then she hung up.

2003 Coyote Tracking Log
Date Time Location Incident Reported
4/7/03 7:50 A.M. Ms. Lomez - Mesa Playa
coyote approached 7 yr girl

To the editor:

I was sorry to hear about Ms. Crawford’s children’s chicken. It must have been difficult for her children, and yet the fault is partly Ms. Crawford’s, in not taking the measures necessary to ensure a coyote could not get into her pen. Research has shown that simply roofing one’s chicken coop will keep coyotes out. Giving chickens the run of a place offers coyotes an all-too-easy free lunch. Coyotes are clever and adaptable animals who survive on the prey they catch and kill. Coyotes do not, however, know the difference between domestic animals and their natural wild prey, and as we encroach more and more on their habitat and so their natural prey, they will of course seek their sustenance wherever they may find it.

Coyote education booklets are now available at the village offices. I’ve taken the liberty of placing one in Ms. Crawford’s mailbox as well.

Natalie Harold

To the editor:

That Harold woman doesn’t even know a chicken from a rooster. Would she say the same thing if the coyote would of eaten one of Kathy Crawford’s kids instead of one of their roosters? I hear that back east they use guns to shoot
people instead of coyotes. Maybe Mrs. Harold should go back there where she came from and leave us alone.

Jim Curtis

When the wind blew from the north, planes leaving the Albuquerque Sunport took off directly overhead. Depending on the season, the coyotes that lived in the empty field behind Natalie’s house would respond to the jets’ roar. First, there would be high yip-yip-yip she’d come to recognize as the alpha female, then, if it were pup season, the still higher-pitched confusion of her latest brood. If he was around, the old alpha male would chime in next with his plaintive slow howl, and this year, Natalie had recognized two distinct new voices nearby that she thought might be yearlings from last year’s litter.

Lately, the dogs next door often barked first when they heard a plane overhead. It had started as an answer to the coyotes, but the dogs had learned which sounds set the coyotes off and anticipated them. The coyotes, if they were around, would respond whether there was jet noise or not. It was almost like a conversation sometimes, the alpha female’s yip-yip-yip followed by the neighbor Border Collie’s harried woof-woof-woof and then the Lab’s low and slow: Roof. Roof. Roof. Natalie would sit on her portal and be tempted to join in. What would she sound like to them? she wondered. Would they recognize her voice as human and feel threatened, or maybe stop altogether? Would they appreciate that she only sought to understand, and let her sing along?

Natalie loved the sounds of the coyotes’ voices, that each voice was separate and distinct. She loved the way their primeval chorus rose up to disappear into the indigo night sky that contained more stars than she’d ever imagined existed when she was a girl. She loved the moon-bright nights in winter that were like half-days, and she loved the summer silence left when the cicadas stopped their dentist-drill chorus on some pre-arranged signal, and she even loved the hustle of wind that cha-cha’d the old elm branches to let them know it was spring, and the mnemonic smell as her neighbors burned those branches on early autumn mornings.

She’d heard the coyotes often in the winter, but now that it was spring she didn’t hear them as frequently, even when the jets took off overhead. After so many years of listening, she understood that they’d return, that they were just getting their wandering-legs back after a winter spent close to home. But she worried, too. She worried that maybe this time, they wouldn’t be back. Ralph Sandoval from Animal Control had told her he’d heard someone had shot a coyote over by the old camposanto, and she was afraid it was her alpha male, he of the plaintive slow howl. Now she sometimes strained to hear his voice calling from anywhere in the village or even beyond. She’d think of Shirley Booth then, in Come Back, Little Sheba, how she’d stand at her door in her curlers and robe and call that little dog that was never coming back, night after night. Natalie wondered if she was becoming a character like Booth’s Lola, whose life had escaped out her rickety screen door in the one moment she’d let herself be distracted. Then she’d think she heard a high-pitched yipping, so far off she couldn’t be sure, and she’d concentrate on listening as far into the night as her hearing could carry her.

Is he here? Rachel asked as soon as Alison turned into the driveway. Because it was a Monday, Alison had picked Rachel up after soccer practice instead of rushing home to meet the school bus at 4, as she did every other day.

Who? Daddy? she answered. It’s Monday, honey. You know Daddy comes on Friday. Alison waited for the garage door to finish rising and then pulled in.

Not Daddy. The coyote.

Alison decided to act as if it weren’t a big deal. Maybe it wasn’t. What did she know? Well, she thought, who did know? That woman, the one who wrote the letters to the paper, she answered herself. She tried to remember her name.

I haven’t seen him, Alison said. Can you get your seat belt undone yourself? She reached into the back seat to help.

His name is Chris, Rachel said as she slid out of the car.

It is, is it? Alison tried not to attach any meaning to Rachel’s naming a coyote after her father, but it wasn’t going to work. She wondered what Chris was doing. She told herself she didn’t care.

She held the door open and Rachel marched under her arm into the laundry room, then turned to face her, hands on hips. Suzy Charles says you can’t have a coyote.

I’m afraid she’s right.

Why are you afraid? Of the coyote?

Alison dropped her purse and papers onto the washer and continued into the kitchen. Should we have spaghetti for dinner? Spaghetti and salad, how’s that sound?

Well, I’m not afraid of the coyote. He’s my friend. Rachel had acquired her new emphatic way of speaking in the second grade. She’d probably learned it from Suzy Charles. Now she eyed Alison a second longer before spinning on the heel of her Reebok with what must have been a satisfying squeak and then running to her room. The door closed behind her.

Alison got out a pot, filled it, and set it on to boil, then poured herself a glass of Merlot to fix a salad by. She wanted Rachel to be afraid of the coyote, but she didn’t want her to know to be afraid. It seemed as if she had to file everything she wanted under something else. It seemed as if she had a surface life and an under-life, the latter teeming with things that dared not show their ugly little heads. Even her job was that way. A public information officer for a major construction project down in Albuquerque, Alison knew it was all in the phrasing—she refused to call it spin—in the way you arranged the words to reveal the meaning you wanted to show.

Alison’s friend Molly wouldn’t see it this way at all. Molly and Alison had first met as journalism majors at the University of New Mexico, and even though that seemed to be all they had in common, they’d formed an immediate and lasting bond. After they graduated, Molly had been hired by the best advertising agency in Albuquerque, where she wrote smart, funny copy that sounded exactly like Molly herself. Whenever Alison felt like a fraud—far more often than anyone other than Molly knew—she would ask herself, WWMD: What would Molly do?

Of course, one of the inevitable answers was that Molly would never have married Chris in the first place. Sometimes, Alison wondered why Molly put up with her, but the one time she’d asked, Molly had told Alison she was the best part of her. When Alison asked what she meant, Molly said, Think about it, Alison, in that way she had, and Alison never asked again.

Still, she had thought about it. And what Alison had ultimately realized was that while Molly didn’t exactly need a friend, Alison was the kind of friend she could and would have. Alison and Molly shared a shorthand all their own, one marked by an offhand irony others often missed. Alison was someone who not only laughed at Molly’s jokes, but could bandy a few of her own as well. These days, it was important for Alison to simply remember that Molly cared about her. Of that much, Alison was certain.

The phone rang, startling Alison back into her kitchen. In separate areas of the house, she and Rachel said hello at the same time.

Hi honey, said Chris. Alison knew he wasn’t talking to her. She was about to hang up, then didn’t. She covered the mouthpiece with her hand.

I have a coyote, Rachel told him.

Chris laughed. Oh you do, do you?

He has the same name as you.

Oh he does, does he?

He waits for the school bus with me.

Alison heard Chris’s quick intake of breath. Is Mommy there? he said.

Mommy! Rachel’s voice stereoed through the hall and the phone. Alison clicked the flash button.

Hi, she said. Hang up, Rache.

I want to say goodbye again after, Rachel informed her parents before dropping her phone into its base with a clatter.

What’s this about a coyote?

Alison told him. She repeated her conversation with Ralph Sandoval.


Alison waited without responding.

Maybe she should live with me.

In your apartment. In Old Town. With you and Fifi.


I wonder what Didi would think about that.

Didi loves Rachel.

Alison waited.

I’ll bring my shotgun over. You can lock it up in the cabinet in the garage.

Oh, that’s a great idea, Chris. You know what a good shot I am.

What the fuck would you like me to do?

I didn’t ask you to do anything. If I recall, you asked to talk to me.

There you go again, Chris said.

Alison heard the edge in his voice, and felt for a moment the same vertigo she had when he’d still lived here, that lightheaded mix of incaution and fear. But Chris wasn’t here. He wouldn’t hurt her. Alison closed her eyes and leaped. I don’t know why you always— She stopped as Rachel came into the kitchen. You want to say goodbye to Daddy? She handed Rachel the phone.

Bye, Daddy. Love you, too. Rachel passed the handset back to her mother and Alison hung it up. She finished the long swallow left in her wineglass. The water on the stove hissed and boiled and Alison dropped the spaghetti into the pot.

Natalie was sitting in the dark when she heard the phone ring in the kitchen. She’d been sitting in the window seat before it got dark, and she hadn’t moved once the light had leached from the sky. Nor did she switch on the kitchen light to answer the phone; she groped toward the sound until she found the handset, clicked it on, and said hello.

It was her brother Sherman, calling from Denver. Natalie carried the handset back to the dark living room, where she could look out toward where she knew the mountain was. She told Sherman about the letters in the village paper, the Valle Bosque Beacon. She told him she wasn’t certain if she should be frightened or not.

I’ll be there tomorrow, Sherman said. Natalie knew that in one way, it was a response to what she’d said. Still, she was surprised: As she had learned throughout their mostly separate adult lives, Sherman’s visits occurred as preludes to whatever move was coming next. She’d thought Sherman had finally settled in Denver, in a way he hadn’t in LA or Phoenix, or even in Manhattan, where they had grown up. She’d often hoped that by the time they were both in their 50s, Sherman would have found a place to call home, as she had, although it had recently occurred to her that it was possible that, unlike her, a home was not what he desired.

I don’t need protection, she said, but she was glad he would be there. She and Sherman had always had a special bond. Maybe it was because Sherman had been born only thirteen months after her. Maybe it was because their parents had been much older than those of their friends. But sibling rivalry had never been an aspect of their relationship. Their parents had believed in them, trusted them, and left them to themselves.

Do you remember how it was when we were growing up? Natalie asked Sherman now.

Sherman laughed. I remember that you always had your nose in a book. Some things don’t change, do they?

No, Natalie said. They don’t. But I was thinking about Mother and Daddy. How they believed in us.

Are you okay, Nat? Are you sure you’re not worried about the guy who wrote that letter to the editor?

I was just thinking how, while everyone wished for fairy tale parents, you and I understood that the parents we had were far better than any about whom we had read in the Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Andersen.

Are you depressed? Sherman asked. Is that why you’re thinking of Mother and Daddy?

I’m not depressed. I’m looking forward to your visit. I was thinking about how close we’ve always been. How close we are still. How, even though we’re both solitary sorts, we know the other will be there, when we need him or her.

Sherman didn’t respond immediately. Natalie tried to picture him in his condo in Denver, but it was a place she’d never been. She put him on a balcony, looking out across the city lights toward the Rockies. He wouldn’t be able to see them any more clearly than she could see Sandia Mountain from where she was sitting in the dark, she thought.

I try to be there, Sherman said at last. I know you’ll be there.

It’s not like I need you, Natalie reminded him in her stern big sister voice.

Now Sherman laughed. No. It’s not like you need anyone. Especially me.

But she did need him, Natalie thought. She might not need anyone else, but Sherman’s existence was as essential to her as her dream of seeing a coyote. Natalie realized that Sherman was waiting for her to speak. I’ll be here, she said. Then they said their goodbyes.

Alison never used to watch TV, but now she turned it on every night after she’d tucked Rachel in. She hated being alone. She’d never been alone in her life until now, and she felt her solitude as a hollowness that might envelop her until she herself ceased to exist.

Tonight she was watching a rerun of some made-for-TV movie she hadn’t even considered watching the first time, and she didn’t want to watch now, either. The girl who’d been in Little House on the Prairie was in it, but she wasn’t a girl anymore, and one of the guys from St. Elsewhere or maybe it was Hill Street Blues. Old TV stars never died; they just got older and made shitty movies.

Alison was drinking bourbon. This wasn’t a good sign. She didn’t even like bourbon, but she’d wanted something that tasted like how she felt and it was what she’d found when she opened the cupboard where Chris had kept the hard liquor. Wild Turkey. What a name for something you drank. Did it indicate how you’d feel after a couple, or how you felt before you began? She’d had a couple and she didn’t feel wild; she felt even emptier than when she’d started.

She’d thought they’d been reasonably happy. Well, she amended, they’d been mostly happy. Or, she could say, often happy. Okay, sometimes happy. All right, she admitted it: Sometimes it had been worse than a made-for-TV movie.

But then Didi came along. She probably screwed like a wild turkey. Alison smiled at that, then stopped smiling. How did wild turkeys screw? Molly said when it came down to it, screwing was all men really cared about. Alison had never believed this, just as she’d never precisely believed a lot of what Molly said. If Molly was right, it meant Alison had to reexamine everything Molly had ever told her. That would take time: Molly said a lot. Alison decided to call her—it was only 8:30—but Molly’s machine came on. Alison told it to tell Molly to call her, if it wasn’t too late, and then she hung up and set the phone on the table next to the book she was trying to read when she remembered. Own Your Own Life, it was called. Each of the 365 chapters was one page long. Alison kept getting behind.

She flipped the book open to where she’d stuck a receipt from Target and read. Other people can’t make you angry, said the book. Only you can make you angry. Alison closed the book and set it back on the table, then poured a little more bourbon over what was left of the ice and took another sip. It didn’t get any better the more you drank, that was for sure. When the phone rang, she almost dropped the glass.

I was in the bathroom, Molly said. How are you?

I are drinking bourbon. Wild Turkey, to be precise.

Ugh. You should try Scotch. A good single-malt. If you’re going to become a lush, at least be classy about it.

I’m not going to become a lush. I just needed a drink.

Uh-huh. Molly didn’t go on.

How come you’re not talking? I called you because you always talk. I wanted to hear someone besides the TV talk.


What’s that mean?

Just what it sounds like. You want me to come over? You know my toothbrush is always ready in my purse.

I didn’t think that was for me.

It’s not, but I’ll make an exception. And I’ll stop and buy some decent Scotch. I don’t want it getting around that my best friend gets drunk on Wild Turkey.

Am I your best friend?

I’ll be right over. The phone clicked off. Alison set the handset next to the bottle and picked up the glass again, then instead of drinking watched the Little House girl melt into a kiss that would have killed Michael Landon, if he weren’t dead already.

Then Molly was shaking her shoulder. You’re one cheap date, she said, setting a bottle-shaped bag on the table among the book, phone, and empty glass. Molly’s hair was a new shade of red, somewhere between plum and prune.

I like your hair, Alison said.

Alison, you’re lying. I never knew anyone who lied as much as you do.

I do not. Alison was wounded. I am wounded, she said.

And you lie worst to yourself. Christ. I don’t know why I put up with you.

Alison felt herself beginning to cry.

Oh shit, Alison. The guy is not worth it. The guy is an asshole. Molly sat down on the arm of Alison’s chair and hugged her. The guy is history, Alison. Molly pulled back. What’s so funny?

The way you’re talking. The way Rachel does. So emphatically.

Great minds. Molly got up and took the bottle from the bag. Glenlivet, she said. I only hope you can appreciate it in your depleted state. She went into the kitchen for ice and fresh glasses, then returned, carefully poured, and handed Alison a glass. To great Scotch, she said.

Here, here, said Alison. Or was it hear, hear? She giggled.

Molly arranged herself on the sofa, moving pillows until both she and the couch looked comfortable. What’s really eating you?

Alison looked at the television, but Molly must have switched it off. How come you turned off the TV?


There was a coyote. Alison talked in a rush, so she wouldn’t leave anything out. Rachel was waiting for the school bus and a coyote came and sat down beside her. And when I called Animal Control, the guy acted like it was no big deal. Now Rachel wants to keep it. She named it Chris. She told Chris about it and Chris wants me to take his shotgun and keep it in the garage. Is everybody crazy, Molly? Or is it just me?

A coyote? You sure?

I’m sure.

Molly finished her drink and got up to pour another then settled into her pillow nest again. Are they dangerous?

It felt dangerous. But I don’t know. I just keep thinking about how it looked at me, over its shoulder, like it was the one in control and I was like, I don’t know, I was just this person.

I think that’s called anthropomorphism.


You’re talking about a coyote, Alison, not something in a cartoon, for chrissake.

Alison sipped her Scotch. Molly was right; it was better than the bourbon. But she was tired of drinking now and set the glass on the table next to her. I used to be the one in control, she said.

No one’s in control, Alison. We only think we are. Life just keeps on rolling along with us or without us.

That’s comforting.

No, I mean it. What do you think? That something you did differently would have kept Chris from getting the hots for Didi?


You don’t think that.

How do you know what I think?

Because I know you, Alison. You know Chris and Didi had nothing to do with you. You were a casualty, but you weren’t a cause.

Alison thought about that. There were things that Molly didn’t know, of course, that only Alison and Chris knew, that she’d never tell anyone else, not even Molly. But Rachel knew. And in the end, she’d be the one most hurt. Rachel’s a casualty, too, Alison told Molly.

Yes, and Chris is a shit for that, but there you go.

I always figured guys fell for younger women when they were older. Mid-life crisis and all that. Not when they were 35, you know?

So much for broad generalization. Molly stretched and yawned. You want me to sleep on the couch?

Alison nodded, then got up for sheets and a comforter. It occurred to her that Molly was her comforter. She was going to tell her so, but by the time she got back to the living room, she’d forgotten. Instead, they tucked the sheets into the couch silently. Then Molly gave her a tight hug and pushed her off to her room. Alison didn’t remember getting into bed, but she did.

Did you get a DOG? says Suzy Charles. Rachel doesn’t know what she means when she says that, so she asks her, What do you mean? Suzy says, I saw you waiting for the school bus with your dog, so then Rachel says, That wasn’t a dog that was MY COYOTE, and then she laughs because she WANTS it to be her coyote. Suzy Charles laughs too and Rachel decides she can be her friend today. His name is Chris, Rachel says. No, Suzy says, that’s your DADDY’S name, and Rachel decides she’s not her friend today anymore and maybe not tomorrow, either.

When Rachel says her prayers she says God bless the coyote and she hears Mommy make that noise like she does when she doesn’t like something so Rachel says God bless CHRIS MY COYOTE to see if Mommy is looking at her but if she is, she is pretending she isn’t which is what she does all the time now that Daddy doesn’t live with Rachel and her anymore. Daddy lives with Didi. Didi has hair that looks hard not like hair at all and Rachel wants to touch it but she doesn’t because— well, just because. God bless Didi’s HAIR, Rachel says, and then she says amen and looks at Mommy. Amen, Mommy says. Good night sleep tight don’t let the bedbugs bite. Mommy kisses Rachel’s head and then makes the light quiet like nighttime so then Rachel can go to sleep.

©2004 Lisa Lenard-Cook • Used with kind permission of the author.

Lisa Lenard-Cook's first novel Dissonance, excerpted in TheScreamOnline, was the 2004 selection for the countywide Durango-La Plata Reads! program and was included in the 2004 Summer Readings Series for NPR's Performance Today. Coyote Morning is a 2004 Tucson-Pima County Public Library Southwest Book of the Year. Visit her website at

Lenard photo ©2005 Bob Cook

Coyote photo ©2005 Erin K Malone

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