Written with my Thursday night group with the prompts: she’s lost control; unplugged; we had a falling out; a far more pleasant pursuit; loved searching for shiny treasures; a pack of coyotes, that’s it for this edition; Manhattan mojo; unparalleled; trying to resolve the dilemma by wishing I could take both roads
Melinda came in from her run, sweaty and hungry. She grabbed a protein bar, sank into the couch, and turned on the TV. The news was on: a map of California dotted with bright red flames filled the screen. A man’s voice was caught mid-sentence: “. . .a pack of coyotes,” he concluded solemnly, pausing for effect. The ominous backdrop fell away and the camera zoomed in on the concerned face of the handsome, graying-at-the-temples anchor. “And that’s all for this edition.” A trumpet-heavy instrumental theme song played while credits raced across the screen too fast to read.
“What?” Melinda exclaimed as she sat upright. “Coyotes?” She grabbed the remote and commenced a swift channel surf, futilely searching for news of coyotes.
It’s my fault, she thought. I’ve lost control.
Her cat leaped onto the coffee table meowing in agitation. “Don’t try to kiss up to me,” Melinda told the cat. “I do blame myself.”
Finally Melinda found what she was looking for and put down the remote. She and the cat both turned toward the screen. Coyotes, they said, were invading the cities.
Small packs of eight to twelve animals had been spotted trotting across parks and ambling down sidewalks in San Francisco, Chicago, Nashville, and Washington D.C. There weren’t a lot, not yet. But it was odd, the way it was happening in so many places simultaneously, as if there were some sort of coordination, some sort of plan. Even in New York, the bold canines were seen darting through Herald Square and up Broadway, setting up dens behind theaters and hotels, startling tourists, disrupting Manhattan’s mojo.
The cat jumped onto the couch beside Melinda and rubbed her head against Melinda’s elbow. “I know,” she said to the cat. “I know it’s crazy, but I think of it often. What it could have been like. If only I could go back.” She shrugged. “If only I could resolve the dilemma by taking both roads.”
The cat jumped down with a curt meow, seemingly impatient with such nonsense. Her tail held aloft conveyed an insistence on logic: things are as they are.
Melinda had long ago had a falling out with her mother and made the hasty decision to unplug from her own community. Initially she’d sought refuge with crows and magpies, loving to join in their search for shiny treasures. But foil wrappers and scraps of metal jewelry were not enough. She grew eager for more pleasant pursuits. Still she held a powerful debt to the corvids who taught her how to recognize and seek out what is valuable, for now her ability to manifest was unparalleled.
Melinda turned off the TV and got up to go to the kitchen. The cat was perched on the window sill, silently staring at the darkness seven stories down. Melinda opened the refrigerator, but a woman’s deep voice made her turn. The cat had morphed into a small sleek dark haired elder, but only for a moment. “They’ve found you,” she whispered before resuming her feline form.
Melinda drew in a sharp breath when she heard the plaintive cries: coyotes, howling in the street below.
Photo by Olena Ivanova on Unsplash