Old Man Coyote by Austin Ross

Old Man Coyote by Austin Ross

Long after I had been banished and the world had ended, Old Man Coyote gave me a gift. I had not seen him in many years; he had grown large and fat and polar-white since I had last seen him. His hair, skin and eyes were pale. Only his clothes were black, the suit he wore snug against his body.

It’s time to start the world again, he said. I had not spoken to Old Man Coyote in thirty-eight seasons, and during that time I had lived on what I could find and cook, hunkered low in the grey winter winds as I ate small, gamey rabbits or badgers. I had tilled the ground, watered it with what I had, cultivated a small farmable patch and built a hut of stones and logs that whistled in the harsh wind. I scoured the land looking for plants, for seeds, anything that would grow.

What of my petition to the Triad? I asked. Will they let me leave? History has been unraveled before my feet like a scroll, Old Man Coyote said, ignoring me. The stars dance before me in clustered arrays of aching beauty. He reached down to the dirt and spit on it, fashioning the mud into deer, elk, antelope, mice. They ran into the desert steppes, terrified.

These animals are for you, he said, but I have a greater gift for you. It is the greatest gift you will ever receive.

And he produced from one of his pockets something small, flat and pointed, somewhat like an arrowhead but much smaller.

What is it? I asked.

It is a seed, Old Man Coyote said. But it is no ordinary seed. It is time to begin the world anew. And you shall reign over it, and all will serve you obediently. He planted the seed into the earth and patted the soil down over it. Then from the mud he fashioned a beautiful woman with tawny hair and flushed skin. Her eyes were blank, though, and she looked dazed.

Monigote image courtesy of Flickr user Francisco Gonzalez.

Monigote image courtesy of Flickr user Francisco Gonzalez.

Can she speak? I asked. Not as such, Old Man Coyote said. And I looked at the animals he had created and realized that they, too, were strange and false.

None of this is real, I said.

Of course it isn’t, Old Man Coyote said. But who cares? The Triad will never let you leave. But you can be a god here and now. You will eat and have your fill. Who would refuse such a gift?

What do you want from me? I asked. Old Man Coyote smiled, his pointed teeth glistening in the light of the setting sun. I want you to beg me, he said. I want you to worship me.

I could no longer hide my disgust at him, and turned and went to my hut. His tricks were tempting, but had lost their power. When I returned, Old Man Coyote had left, and the animals and woman he had created had vanished, but the seed was still buried in the dirt. I picked it from the ground and threw it as far as I could. Perhaps the earth would take it, and perhaps it wouldn’t.

Let fate decide. Shadows stretched across the landscape as the sun slowly set beyond the horizon. Night would be here soon. I returned to my gardening, awaiting the first fruits of the meager crop to appear.

 

 

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Austin Ross lives and writes near Philadelphia. His fiction has previously appeared in SNAFU Anthology. You can follow him on Twitter @AustinTRoss.