let kids watch beauty and the beast

In which I beat off a coyote with a box of Rice Chex

It’s late at night and my husband calls to me from the front door.

They’re here.

Whose here?

The coyotes. Just on the other side of the garage.

I’m busy with the children and not that interested in hearing the coyotes yip and howl. I’ve heard it enough. I have my doubts about their proximity, knowing that they can sound an awful lot closer than they really are. But I am finally coaxed out the door.

Standing in the silence, I ask if he tried to scare the coyotes or just let them be.

Yeah, I banged on the garage and then one howled.

A chill ran up my spine. Because that sounded like a challenge. The yipping that is starting up on the other side of the tree line is one thing. The pack is assembling, quarreling, getting ready to hunt. The howling, however, is reserved for the alpha male asserting his ownership of the territory. The question is, who was the howl directed at? My husband? Our dogs? Or the pack?

One thing is for sure. They are close, and banging on the garage wasn’t doing much to scare them off. We retreat into the safety of the house until morning. An outing with the dog reveals just how close the coyote my husband heard came. A single coyote trotted up along the hedge that marks the edge of our property.

At the road, it turned. It trotted up our drive. It walked in a circle near the garage. It started to head around the back of the garage before turning back toward the road and disappearing in the ditch on the other side.

A little too close for comfort. It isn’t our first encounter with this pack, but they gave us a month of peace. A month of not letting us know they were here, anyway. Now what did they want? Were they just passing through, or were they back, prepared for a fight? They are known to actively lure dogs away, back to the pack where they are disposed of. And the coyotes and I both know my dogs will give chase.

So again I’m uneasy. That we share this land with wild creatures does not scare me. That wild things lurk in the dark and watch me even while I am unaware of their presence makes me only a little nervous. But that we have a wild predator that seems so willing to allow itself to be seen, seems to challenge us even, that I find unnerving.

But you want to hear the part where I attack, don’t you? Trust me, that all is important to the story. The story just isn’t the same without the events leading up to it.

Because you see, this all happened on a Wednesday and Wednesday is AWANAs. On this particular Wednesday, we got home late because I had stopped at WalMart for some groceries. So we get home, I let Hunter out of the chicken coop, lock it up and get the kids and groceries in the house. Teeth brushed, pajamas on, children in bed. Catch up on some email, write a post, Twitter. By now, it’s getting very late, but I spy a bag of groceries on the kitchen floor.

Aye, that too yet. I begin to put them away, but it sure seems like less than it was in the store. Did I really spend so much on so few items? It’s one in the morning and I realize I never got the bags out of the back seat of the car.

I step out on the porch and the coyote chorus begins immediately. I hesitate. Not only are they close, but they started the moment I opened the door. I know they weren’t calling when I was in the house. They’re too close. Too loud. I would have heard it. Coincidence? Or were they “talking” to me? Or about me? Was I again flanked like my husband the night before?

Twenty steps to the car. I stop to look around. I’m surrounded mostly by open ground, but the other side of the car is in a dark shadow. I’m acutely aware of that fact as I open the car door and reach in to turn on the light. And in that moment, as I reach across the seat with my back turned to the darkness, I feel vulnerable. I can’t turn around fast enough.

But nothing is there. With the lights on, it is so much easier to tell myself I’m imagining things. That I imagined the rustle. That I’m imagining danger in the sudden silence of the coyote pack, so vociferous only moments before.

I reach back into the car, over the seat to get the bags. Again, I feel vulnerable. With my back to the darkness, the light does not help. Another shiver runs up my spine and I turn around.

But nothing is there. I grab the bags, close the door and turn toward the house.

A rustle. I. Did. Not. Imagine. That. My grip tightens on my bags as another rustle is accompanied by a tug at the bag in my right hand. My heart and time seem to stand still as I spin around, becoming suddenly aware that the only thing in the bag I’m about to swing is a box of Rice Chex.

Fortunately for me, that was enough. It only took one wallop with the cereal for that bush to think better of messing with me and release my groceries. But I ran in the house anyway, having had enough of the wild things for one night, bushes included.