He was painting the dining room. I was a little surprised. When I left he said he was just going to paint the pantry so that had been fine with me. Now there were drop cloths everywhere.
“Well, yes, I did, as a matter of fact.” I said. “In Death Valley, between Mormon Point and Split Cinder Cone.”
I was looking for the mail but all the furniture was shrouded so I went into the kitchen and began frying up onions and peppers and chicken with some spices.
“Don’t you love those names?” I didn’t have much hope of diverting Coyote but I was going to give it a shot. “We came in at Zabriskie Point and saw the Devil’s Golf Course (well, that was kind of a stupid name) and Badwater, where a surveyor’s donkey wouldn’t drink, and …”
“Hold up,” Coyote said, pouring more paint into his tray. The paint was a pretty apricot color. “What about my cousins? You wanted to see them, I know you did, so what happened? What were they doing?”
“Hunting,” I said, vaguely.
“Unh-hunh,” Coyote said, dipping his roller. “I thought so. I’ve heard about them. Clever.”
“What do you mean?” I said over my sizzling sound. “They actually didn’t look that clever to me. They looked a little …” I hesitated, eyeing him, “… goofy.”
“Not the word I would have chosen,” he said, taking a sip from a can before climbing back up the ladder.
“I think they might have forgotten they were wild.” That was as close as I wanted to come to saying I was a little disappointed in them.
“Oh yeah?” He was making a sticky sound with the roller on the wall. “How would you know?”
I put some tortillas in the oven and began mashing avocado.
“Well, I had in mind that I would see one trotting amongst the creosote bushes, not even noticing I was there, and disappearing into a rocky ravine. Something like that.”
“They do that,” Coyote said, eyeing the corner he was working on. “When they need to.”
“I don’t understand,” I said. And I really didn’t.
Coyote shrugged. “Just how much do you know about coyotes, exactly?”
“I know they like chicken fajitas and beer,” I smirked. Coyote didn’t take the bait.
“They are tricksters,” he said, turning to face me. I could barely see his eyes in the shadow of the ceiling. “They show up or they don’t. They look the way you want them to or some other way. They set traps, plant bait, adopt disguises (I believe you used the word ‘goofy.’). Mainly they turn your life upside down, throw the cards into the air, send you right down a road you never thought you’d be on. That sort of thing.”
He turned back to his painting to let me think about that.
“So I should expect something to happen?” I asked, warily.
“I wouldn’t get too comfortable,” he said, from the darkness of the corner.
I looked around at the newly painted dining room walls. They were nice and I wouldn’t have done it myself.
“You’re going to paint the living room now, aren’t you?”
“So long as I’m here,” he said.