The KiYote in the Twenty-First Century
In the summer of 1998, I visited my aunt in Washington State. She lived in Buena Vista trailer park. Buena Vista butted up to an area of somewhat wilderness. I used to go on walks there late at night, sometimes early before dawn. This was where I met the kiyote lady. We became friends. The first time we met, she asked me to go hunting with her the next night.
The kiyote lady was pushing sixty years old, weighed about fifty pounds and had a mane of white, curly hair. She had a long and slender muzzle. Her eyes were yellow with round pupils. She had an acute sense of smell. She was divorced and had a son in Washington DC who did policy work.
I brought a kazoo that first time we went hunting because I really didn’t want to encounter anything. I thought, if I blew a kazoo when we were hunting that would ensure I wouldn’t have to kill anything. The kiyote lady brought a Parker Terminator crossbow. Do you plan to use that, I asked.
I asked the kiyote lady what we were hunting. She said rabbits, squirrels, gophers, ground hogs, rats and voles.
Are you going to shoot a vole with that crossbow?
I’m gonna try.
I was glad I brought my kazoo.
As we walked the earth that night, I asked the kiyote lady why we were hunting. Because I want to help the coyote, she answered. Did you know that over 50% of all coyote deaths are caused by humans, she asked. I didn’t know that.
The coyotes really need our help. Some people think they kill sheep and they’re rotten and sneaky and evil. But it’s the smell of the sheep grazing down in the valley that does it. Their voices move like water and come down the canyon, past the trailer parks. Their voices are a creek, running down a mountain, over the bones of sheep, living and dead.
And besides, eighty percent of their diet is rodents whose burrowing holes can cause injury to cattle or horses that step in them.
The kiyote lady talked about coyotes like they were in little plastic snow globes. Merry Christmas, from the kiyote lady.
How are we going to kill these rodents, I asked. We’re going to hide out in the brush and when they appear, we’re going to shoot them. And then we’re going to leave them for the coyotes. And you’re not going to blow your kazoo.
We crouched in a bunch of bushes. I settled in like rheumatism, made myself right at home. The kiyote lady sniffed the wind.
Two hours later, the kiyote lady hit my leg, but it had gone to sleep, so I didn’t feel it. She hit my arm.
It’s a rabbit.
I couldn’t see anything. It was about three in the morning.
The kiyote lady jumped up, foxfire in her reflexes, and shot an arrow into the darkness. She didn’t hit anything.
Fuck, she said.
We went back to sitting. I wished I’d taken a picture of us out there in the brush. With one of those night-vision cameras. The picture would be in suspension like seeds in a package. I’d be older when I looked at it again. I’d say, Look there’s that kiyote lady and me out in the bush, hunting. Look at that. I thought about things like that for another hour or so.
At five in the morning, we went home. We didn’t kill anything. Not even close to killing anything. The kiyote lady was depressed. I told her maybe next time we’ll get lucky.
We went out hunting three more times. I learned a few things:
1. Do not feed coyotes! They become dependent upon and less wary of humans. Feeding ultimately alters the animal's behavior and encourages future visits to you and your neighbors. This can lead to potential problems (bites, scratches, encounters with pets). Note that God punishes residents who are feeding the wildlife.
2. If you see a coyote, make loud noises, blow a kazoo, yell, toss water balloons, tennis balls and other objects in the general direction of the animal to startle it. By exhibiting these actions you are reinforcing wildlife's perception of you as a predator. Make sure that the coyote’s natural fear of man remains acute.
3. Like all warm-blooded animals, coyotes may contact rabies. Report any unusual wildlife behavior to the Animal Control Officer, Sue Webb at 781.555.8460.
4. The coyote may be found in all of the United States (except Hawaii), Canada and Mexico.
5. When coyotes mate, they sound like they’re killing each other.
I saw the kiyote lady walking around Buena Vista one day and asked her if she wanted to go hunting that night. I was low on things to do.
The kiyote lady said no, she couldn’t. She had to write.
What are you writing, I asked.
The kiyote lady’s son in Washington DC, who did some kind of policy work, told her the coyotes needed a spokesperson. The government was screwing them.
She decided to be the spokesperson. She decided to write a play to save the coyote. She’d been writing it all day.
What’s it about, I asked.
It’s a play about a coyote that writes a play and takes it to New York and tries to get it on Broadway. The coyote’s play is called ‘The Twenty-First Century Kiyote’ and is about a coyote who gets elected mayor of a small, Midwestern town. He abuses his office and starts killing people in the town, as retribution for hundreds of years of poaching. He almost gets away with it, except that after he kills his victims, he carries their dismembered bodies around town in a shopping bag. Somebody catches him and they hang him in the public square.
I looked blankly at her.
But the coyote’s play doesn’t attract any interest in New York, the kiyote lady continued. Nobody knows how to market it, though everybody says it’s a dynamite idea. The coyote ends up trying to catch rats in Tompkins Square Park and accidentally swallows rat poison and dies. But it’s left unclear at the end as to if the coyote swallowed the rat poison on purpose or by accident.
Ah, I said.
The play is almost finished, the kiyote lady said.
I left Buena Vista the next week because summer ended. The kiyote lady was still working on her play. I never got the chance to tell her, but I came up with a better ending for her play.
It went like this:
After the coyote had the door slammed in his snout, he walked down to the coyote graveyard that’s on the lower east side, somewhere on Avenue C. He gathered up all the grass and fruit jars and tin cans and markers and wilted flowers and bugs and weeds and clods that were strewn over the coyote graves. He tied it all to the end of his bushy tail. Then he jumped off the Williamsburg Bridge, and all that stuff sparkled like diamonds in the sky’s blue campfire smoke.
About the author:
Jefferson Navicky lives in Brooklyn, New York and works at the Authors Guild. His chapbook Map of the Second Person is forthcoming this winter from Black Lodge Press.