|Image from http://goodleobyron.tumbler.com|
It was late July in Tucson and the rains had petered out. All the washes were dry. The mesquite pods were cracked and empty. The toads had dug their holes deep beneath the hot sun. Even so, their skins were bubblin’.
SLim was wore down to ragged fur on bones. His summer wilyness was wearing as thin as his skin. He recalled one week in May when, tethered by a rope, a two-legged critter in short pants fed him juicy strips of fried meat. Back then, SLim had snoozed in the shade and lapped cool water from a pan. Considering his present circumstances, a roped-up life seemed better than becoming another carcass.
Trouble was SLim didn’t know how to get caught again. Definitely didn’t know how to get himself into the same comfortable quarters. So, what to do? Slim sniffed the air. Caught a two-legged whiff from the smooth path above the wash.
It was dusk with stars just beginning to poke out of the sky. SLim had enough daylight to saunter up the gravel and get himself caught. So up he went. Tail draggin’ and brushin’ up on a small dust cloud.
“Look, mama,” a tiny voice chirped. “A doggie.”
“Sweetie, that’s not a doggie. It’s a wild coyote. He looks tired, doesn’t he?”
SLim liked the sound of the voices. They tinkled with possibility. He lowered his head and began to whimper. Figured he’d benefit by taking it a notch higher and pretended to limp on his hind legs.
“Oh, mommy. He’s hurt.”
“He might be. Or he might be sick. We better steer clear and head back to the car.”
They turned away from SLim. He whimpered again. More loudly, sensing defeat at sunset.
Just then, a cowbird plopped itself in front of SLim, flapping its charcoal wings.
“Hey, SLim. What are you up to?”
SLim sighed. He knew Charlie well—a pal from better days when they shared occasional chats on a distant cow ranch.
“Tryin’ to survive. But it ain’t workin’ out too well today.”
“Oh…. I just found a spot in town where a few chickens are runnin’ around and there’s no wall. Just a wire fence that wobbles in the wind. Want to trail me for a quick dinner?”
Since things weren’t working out has SLim hoped, Charlie’s offer sounded sensible. He nodded, trotting after Charlie who flew low until they got to the designated backyard. Sure enough, quite a few chickens were peckin’ stubs of grass in a yard with a droopy fence. SLim scrunched under the wire and pushed a small wedge into the loose dirt so he could break through. After a small tussle, he caught a hen and finished her off. The ruckus drew attention from an unexpected well-fed and muscled guard dog on the other side of the yard who came running with growls and grunts. SLim scrambled under the fence with the guard dog coming in close, nipping SLim's tail. SLim yelped as dust flew.
Charlie saw the whole thing and cheered for SLim’s escape.
“Good job, SLim. You can still kick up a fuss and come out okay of the other end.”
Panting and licking his sore tail, SLim wasn’t so sure.
“This isn’t the life I want anymore, Charlie. I’m looking to find me the two-legged critter in short pants who treated me pretty good for a week.”
“Oh, I know him,” Charlie crowed. “If you want, I can get you to his place in a jiffy.”
“Well, let’s go then. I need to be tended to for awhile.”
So, Charlie flew and SLim, followed, loping over rusty railroad tracks to find George--the boy who made SLim a pet for a week.