By Cameron MacKenzie
My friend recently came back from a trip to LA where he stayed in a house with a deaf and blind dog. They called the dog Roomba, because it roamed through the place bumping into things and scarfing up food. It was old but not tired, and had settled into a low and steady rhythm of life that it seemed it could sustain indefinitely. But my friend wanted to tell me about the dog so he could actually tell me about the coyotes.
The coyotes roamed the edges of the neighborhood at dawn and dusk, big eared, serene, drawn tight as bow strings. Coyotes love to trick domestic dogs, to play with them and draw them away from their yard and out into the hills, where they then set upon them as a pack, kill and eat them. From this time-tested game Roomba was immune thanks precisely to his handicaps, so he’d patrol the back yard--protected by a ten-foot fence--with his nose to the ground, the coyotes darting in and out of the brush on the other side, curious, I’m sure, perhaps even frustrated, that their natural charisma, their superior athleticism and streetsmarts and dark and exotic draw of the wild had absolutely no effect on the snuffling trash compactor who labored diligently just feet away.
I don’t know about LA, but when I lived in San Francisco I used to run out in the Presidio by the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s all pine trees and crumbling cliffs dropping off into the pounding sea and, as the park is generally empty, the place is a runner’s dream. There’s wide honey-golden routes that run you past the main attractions, and then narrower paths out to wilder places--to beaches you wouldn’t otherwise know existed, to unannounced art installations in the woods, to old bunkers and rusting ballistic missile sites and radar towers surrounded by barbed-wire, their gray paint peeling in the wind.
I once found myself down one of these side paths that then opened up into another and another until I found myself on a trail that was just about as wide as my own foot, nearly overgrown by the grass. The further I took this back into a grove of eucalyptus the more I began to wonder if it wasn’t some sort of water runoff or deer track. I soon found myself in a part of the park I’d never been in before, the papery leaves of the high trees rattling against one another as I came to a clearing--no underbrush, no scrub--and here the path petered out completely before a circle of what could only be described as beds, as worn indentations in the grass arranged in a rough circle before me, each one about two feet long. They looked like little nests, and I wanted to bend down and touch one--just brush it with my fingers. But I knew it was better to keep my feet, better to keep my hands free and my legs beneath me, just in case they should decide--against their nature but still--just in case they should choose to come at me all at once.
Coyotes come across the Golden Gate Bridge at night, lured by the smells of the city, and they’re not the only ones--they’ve got cameras on the thing so they can tell. You got possums and raccoons and skunks and deer and snakes, but it’s not at all unusual for mountain lions to pop over at night for a dumpster-dive, nap in the park for the daylight hours, then head back over after the sun goes down.
Roomba’s limitations saved his life on a regular basis, but the local coyotes weren’t so easily dissuaded. They had watched their prey and learned its habits and had taken to killing squirrels and mice and throwing bits of the carcass over the fence for Roomba to find. The owner had seen the meat himself, pink and bloody and flecked with bits of bone, laying on top his rich green fescue like a prank, or a reminder.
“God knows how they get that crap over the fence,” the guy said, “but once those fuckers set their mind to something, they tend to find a way.”
About the Author:
Cameron MacKenzie's work has appeared or will appear in The Michigan Quarterly Review, Salmagundi, The Rumpus, and J Journal, among other places. His novel, The Beginning of His Excellent and Eventful Career (MadHat Press) and monograph Badiou and American Modernist Poetics (Palgrave Macmillan) were both published last year. He teaches English at Ferrum College and writes for The Roanoke Review.
About Weekly Flash Prose and Poetry:
CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit.