“I can’t stand this anymore!” Glenda flung open her front door, letting in a rush of cooler air to her stifling apartment. She stomped onto the porch and plopped down on the top step. She wiped her sweaty face with the hem of her tee-shirt.
The late afternoon sky had transitioned to a deep cobalt blue and the thin sliver of a waxing crescent moon reflected the light of the setting sun. The streetlights were beginning to glow.
A wave of anxiety overtook her and she glanced around. The street was quiet. This was odd for an August evening. There should be runners and walkers headed toward the beach and beach-goers coming back, but she was utterly alone. The restraining order that she had placed on Roger was working, it seemed, since she had not seen him for several days. Not wanting to take the chance of running into him, she had played it safe and spent the entire day inside her apartment. She kept the windows and door shut to suggest she was not home. That, and having no air conditioning as well, made her apartment feel like an oven.
She buried her face in her hands. “I can’t live like this,” she muttered. She felt so cold inside. Glenda snorted and shook her head at the irony of being so frozen on a hot summer night.
Out of the corner of her eye she caught a movement. She looked up and saw an animal trotting down the sidewalk towards her. It was moving at a fast clip, with a smooth gait, and its head lowered as if it were trying not to be seen. As the creature came into the pool of the porch’s light, Glenda saw its big triangle-shaped ears, pointed muzzle, bushy tail, and gray-flecked tawny pelt. It stared ahead and gave her no notice. Its eyes did not have the knowing, engaged look of a dog. This animal was wild.
Glenda became completely immobile. She was no more than ten feet from it. She had never encountered a wild animal capable of injuring her at such a close distance, but it did not break stride and continued on as if it were on some urgent mission. It glided past her down the sidewalk and slipped around the corner.
It took Glenda a moment or two to realize that she had just encountered a coyote. She knew they often came into urban areas, but the closest wilderness habitat was it least twenty miles away. She had no idea that they could range so far. Glenda quickly stood, pulled shut her front door, and took off in the direction the coyote had trotted.
She carefully peered around the corner and could see the coyote halfway down the street. Glenda pulled out her cell phone and asked it to dial the front desk of the local police precinct. She felt that someone in authority should know that a potentially dangerous animal was roaming the streets of her neighborhood. Not wanting to lose sight of the coyote, Glenda broke into a jog while waiting for her call to connect.
A man with a flat, bored voice answered. When Glenda finished with her report, the man said, “Are you sure, ma’am, that you didn’t just see a dog?“
“I did not ‘just see a dog’. I saw a coyote,” she emphatically stated as she jogged. “I’m only reporting this because I figured you’d want to make sure that no one‘s pet or small child is attacked. I hope we’re on the same page here, officer.”
The man sighed and asked her for her name and phone number. “We’ll check it out, ma’am.”
“Thank you”. Glenda shoved her phone back into her pocket. She had reached the place where the street dead-ended into the neighborhood park. As she paused for a moment to catch her breath, she spotted the coyote running in and out of the shadows across the outfield of the park’s baseball field. Glenda entered the park and headed in the same direction. She had nearly caught up with the animal, but it slipped into some bushes at the edge of a grove of trees.
Glenda came to a stop, and with her hands on her hips, she bent over gasping for air. “You win, Wile E. I gotta rest.”
“Who you talkin’ to, Glenda?”
Glenda spun around.
Seated on a park bench was a matronly woman. Her legs were too short to reach the ground so she swung them, clad with black sneakers and white socks, like a child on a swing set. She wore purple spandex yoga pants and a blood red tee-shirt with faded lettering that said, “Stay Calm and Yell Bingo.” Her silver hair was drawn up and tucked under a blue Dodger baseball cap that crowned her head. In one hand she held a barbecued sparerib bone while the other balanced an open takeout container on her lap. Next to her on the seat of the bench were two open Corona bottles. Her round smooth face beamed with a toothy grin.
Everyone in the neighborhood knew Tía Luna, but no one really knew anything about her. Some said she lived in a flat above a son’s auto body shop. Some said she lived in a fancy townhouse purchased by a doctor daughter. And some quipped that she lived on Mars. She dispensed wisdom to everyone in the neighborhood, regardless of age, gender, language, or color. From how to raise children to how to untangle complicated relationships to how to cure arthritis, Tía had the answer.
“I saw a coyote.”
“And you decided to chase it?”
Glenda shifted on her feet, “Well, I guess that was a pretty stupid thing to do.” She honestly didn’t know why she had done that. Changing the subject, she asked, ”Tía, what are you doing here so late?” She typically saw Tía Luna only in the early morning power-walking with her posse of elderly friends while sipping their cups of senior discount McDonald’s coffee.
“I’m on a date,” she giggled.
“You’re on a date?”
“Why not? You’re never too old to… “ Tía Luna shimmied her ample bosom and gyrated her hips on the seat of the bench.
The old woman laughed and then ripped off a piece of flesh from the sparerib bone. With her other hand she held the container forward to Glenda. “You want some? Johnnie’s makes the best,” she said between chews.
“No, I’m good. Thanks.”
Tía shrugged. “Arturo went back to get some more sauce.”
“Arturo? What happened to Hector? I used to see you and Hector hang together all the time.”
Tía made a dismissive wave with the bone. “Pthhph! Hector is old news. I’m keeping my options open.” Tía narrowed her eyes and pointed the bone at Glenda. “And you— talkin’ about guys— Where’s that no-good piece of—”
“His name is Roger. And I don’t know where he’s at. I haven’t seen him for days.”
“It’s good you took out those papers on him.”
Glenda stared at her. How could she know about the restraining order? She had not even mentioned it to her own family. She was too ashamed to admit what he had done to her.
“But hiding out in your apartment? What are you thinking? That’s no way to live.”
Glenda lowered her face and said, “I know, I know.”
Tía dropped the bare bone into the container and tossed it on the bench beside her. She wiped her fingers with a paper napkin. She sighed and said, “So what are you going to do about this?”
“I don’t know.” She felt tears beginning to well up in her eyes.
“Well, I’m gonna tell you what to do. First of all, get out of that apartment. You can’t live like that.”
“And do not run and hide somewhere else. You being scared is just where he wants you. Being scared is what gives him his power over you. Do. Not. Be. Afraid,” she sternly stated, punctuating each word with a finger.
“But you don’t know what he can do to me,” Glenda pleaded. “I can’t fight him.”
“I’m not saying to fight him. I am telling you to resist him. Bullies run away when they meet a strong woman. You understand?”
Glenda sniffed and nodded.
“Stand strong. And don’t feel sorry for yourself. You are better than that. Right?”
“Yes— I AM better than that.”
“And I have eyes and ears everywhere in this neighborhood and if he shows up around here, I’m gonna know it and I’m gonna send my people after him. I have ‘people’, you know, and we’re looking out for you.” Tía chuckled.
Glenda was about to respond when she heard a rustle. She turned toward the sound. Standing a few yards away in front of the bushes at the edge of the tree line was the coyote. Its yellow green eyes looked directly into hers.
“Tía! Do you see it? It’s back.” Glenda turned her gaze to the bench. Tía Luna was gone. The bench was completely empty. “Tía? Tía, where are you?”
She spun around, looking in all directions. Then she noticed that the coyote had vanished as well. Glenda sighed “Well, that’s Tía Luna for you.“
It was completely dark now, and Glenda slowly walked to the bike path that wound through the park. As she approached a curve in the path that headed alongside the baseball field and towards the park’s exit, she saw a silhouette of a person.
The figure was back lit by the intense white field lights. The figure’s height, build, and gait told her this was a man. Glenda noted that he held a thick object in his hand.
Oh God. Roger.
Glenda abruptly stopped and her muscles tensed to run. Then she remembered something that she had seen in a nature documentary about how when prey runs then the predator will pursue. No, she was not going to run. She was going to stand her ground. She was going to tell Roger to his face to get out of her life forever. She would not be intimidated. She began walking towards the man, picking up speed. She felt her body begin to shake. Even though a feeling of power came over her, a feeling that she was invincible, she nevertheless pulled her cell phone out of the pocket and was poised to dial 911 if necessary.
When she was just a few yards from the man, she opened her mouth to speak. Before she could say anything she heard a squawky, fuzzy voice coming from the man. He reached a hand up to his shoulder and lowered his mouth to it.
“Copy that. I think I see her now. Excuse me, ma’am, did you call about a coyote?”
Glenda stopped. She could barely stifle a laugh of relief. Her legs felt like gelatin. “Yes, officer, I did. I saw it over there.” She pointed back towards the bushes behind her. The police officer pointed the flashlight in his hand in that direction.
“Thank you, ma’am. I’ll check it out. You know, ma’am, the park closed at dusk. It’s not safe for you to be here right now.”
Glenda smiled at him. “I’ll be fine.”
The officer gave her a bewildered look. “Yes, ma’am.” He walked off towards the bushes.
Glenda continued on her way, the anxiety, fear, and anger sliding off her shoulders and melting into the darkness. She looked up at the crescent moon sailing across the night sky and trembled with delight.
Image courtesy of Morguefile