I recently visited my buddy in Santa Clarita for his fiftieth birthday. It’s a treat, in a way, knowing all the things that might have killed you haven’t killed you–you can ease up on yourself a bit. It’s nice, too, seeing a good friend emerge from middle age. He likes his kids. He likes his wife. I like them, too. The dog, though. Gigi, a poodle. Gigi is so old, she’s gone bald on her back, and what’s left of her fur has turned a strange type of purple, as if the purple had been applied by a generic brand of cosmetic powder. Gigi. Even the name is purple. On top of it all, Gigi is deaf and blind. She roams the house like Roomba, but joyless, seeking neither heat nor affection, bouncing from kitchen cabinet to garbage can, to the fridge, then back to the living room sofa and coffee table. Outside, Gigi roams from one side of the yard to the other. Fence to fence. Lately, however, a pack of coyotes have caught wind of Gigi. The coyotes live in the patch of wilderness that separates my buddy’s neighborhood from the next. Keen to Gigi’s disabilities, the coyotes have altered their game, abandoning the tactic of feigning gimp or playful, hoping to lure the dog into their grips. Instead, the coyotes have begun baiting the back of their yard with strips of jackrabbit.
During the birthday weekend, I found myself standing in their backyard staring at the patch of desert, sipping a cup of coffee or a Knob Creek, depending on the time of day. I started wondering why a dog like Gigi would even be worth their trouble. By the time the coyotes ripped her apart, how much meat would any of the coyotes even get–just enough to make it to the next meal? Hardly worth the caloric effort or even a fair return on their investments. On the last evening of the trip, though, just before the drive back to LAX, my eyes somehow penetrated the tangle of sagebrush, I spotted one of the coyotes hanging about. The thing had been looking at me the whole time. Probably tracking movements, counting my drinks. He was thinking way past that rabbit.
Tim Fitts is the author of two short story collections, Hypothermia (MadHat Press 2017) and Go Home and Cry for Yourselves (Xavier Review Press). HIs work has been published by journals such as New South, The Gettysburg Review, Boulevard, Granta, Shenandoah, among many others.