I awake from a dream I’ve had countless times, of my family and I running across the border from one tribe into another. I remember my sister and two brothers running alongside my parents with purpose. All I could think of was running and inspecting every bush that came my way. I could also remember how if it weren’t for the bumblebee I chased into the dense bush that the pack of coyotes would have killed me too.
I shake the memory as one would shake off water or spider webs. It is still dark as I lift myself heavily from the straw bed and yawn my good morning to the silent barn. Slowly I walk around the hay pillars of my makeshift room and into the heart of the barn where the farm equipment and animal feed is stored. Another yawn escapes my lips when I get to the giant doors and squeeze through the gap between them. It’s cold outside, and the sky has the tiniest blue halo where it meets the earth.
I sit on the hard ground and stare at the farmhouse where my sweetest Madeline still rests. I can’t help but let my mind wander to when the farmer found me out by the boulders, sitting there staring at what was left of my family. When I felt him touch me to pick me up I attacked; he pulled his hand away as I glared at him with teeth barred. My breathing was quick, and my fear matched my anger, but it all faded when Madeline poked her curious eyes from around the farmer.
The cold breeze excites the fur on my neck, letting the slightest shiver run down my spine. A rustling next to me announces the arrival of Balthazar the raven. His midnight feathers are specked with tiny white down, and his fading claws dig into the dirt as the gust returns in the opposite direction.
Balthazar speaks; his voice is as soft as the early morning sky. “How are you my friend?”
“I’m doing fine Balthazar, how’s the wind been treating you?”
He sighs heavily. “It was much gentler when I was young. Mother Earth has decided for me to remain in the treetops, to enjoy her beauty more often before I nestle down into the spirit world.”
My voice stiffens with cold breath. “Don’t talk about that Balt. I don’t know what I’d do without you.” Balthazar has guided me since I came to live on this farm; he is the mother and father I lost.
“The cottontails know you hunt today,” he says. “I was in the field just now and I watched them prepare to pray to father sun. May they run swift.”
“May they run swift,” I repeat and add, “I had that dream again Balt. I could see the coyote with the crooked snout much clearer.”
Balthazar watches the horizon brighten in silent thought, and after a long minute he clicks his beak in resolution. “The sky clears around you, signifying the arrival of the father sun, as your clearing memory must mean someday you and the crooked faced coyote will meet again. It is said that the coyote is the bringer of change. I suggest you prepare yourself for the next crossing of paths.”
“He killed my parents, our paths will be stained with blood when they cross again.” My blood bubbles with hatred toward the creature.
“I do not doubt it friend. I just hope you are ready to take the burden of a soul broken by battle,” Balthazar says softly.
I go silent. What he tells me has been on my mind for quite some time. If the crooked faced coyote and I were to meet, I don’t think I could hold back the fire that has been smoldering for so long. Even before the dreams I tried finding him, asking the wild animals for help brought nothing into the light. Crooked face and his pack may as well have faded into
the desert sand after their attack; every soul who saw them did so only in glimpses. I suppose it just isn’t the way mother earth wants it.
In our silence, Lecter, the farm rooster, makes his way from the hen house to the top of a stone wall and faces the horizon, waiting for father sun to peek. He and I share a bond of loss; when he was a chick a feral cat killed his brothers and sisters and maimed him, leaving his voice mangled. I think the farmer has a soft spot for the lame and downtrodden as the farm is filled with lots of us.
A strong breeze blows in the direction he is facing; mother earth is moving to allow the light to brake. Then like the glimmer of a diamond, the sky bursts with the first rays of father sun. Cocking his head back, Lector lets out a cry somewhere between a caw and a screech, and from all around us the farm awakens from its slumber. The noise erupts all around us as any animals not in pens walk out freely and greet each other.
“Charles! Balthazar! How are you?” The thundering voice of Carlos the pig startles me. He is massive, the height of a baby calf and the girth of five. His gray nose contrasts with his pink body and kind hazel eyes.
“Hi Carlos,” I say, not really paying attention. I’m watching the door, waiting for Madeline to come out of the farmhouse.
“Excuse him Carlos. His mind is busy on … other things,” Balthazar chuckles. “I heard from the sparrows that you won best in show at the fair.”
“Oh that, I don’t really like to talk about all of my first place ribbons.” He waves a hoof with a humble expression.
“Please let this old raven relish in your victory.” Balthazar spurs the already puffed up pig.
“Well if you really want to know…” Carlos crouches a bit as if ready for battle. “There I was in the midst of fifty young porkers, none of them any real competition of course but one mustn’t scare them off or what would be the point. Being the reigning champion I was set to go last, which I was more than glad to do, giving the young a chance to squeal around for a while. When it was my turn I was dead set on my parade around the paddock, and to my dismay it was full of muck!”
“How dreadful,” Balthazar chimes.
“Exactly, I was ready to turn around and walk away but oh the crowd, they drew me in with their cheers. I am not one to let them the public down,” he says in a greasily humble voice then thunders, “and I was off!”
Carlos begins to strut around with his head held high, pausing and looking over his shoulder, walking backwards and doing his best to trot. Some of the animals even walk over to watch the show, which eggs him on that much more; it is astounding for a pig his size to move so lightly.
I stand on all fours and whine at a noise from the farmhouse, this makes Carlos stop grumpily. “Balthazar I don’t think your student is interested in my parade,” he says with a frown.
“Can you blame him?” Cynthia the sheep says as the door opens to the farmhouse. The farmer walks out, adjusting his belt and scratching his belly. He surveys the grounds then motions with his head.
She walks out in a glimmer of early morning sun; Madeline’s white fur bounces as she walks around the farmer playfully. Another whine escapes my throat and she turns in my direction, my heart swells twice its size in her gaze.
“Charlie!” she barks at me. My paws shift nervously and I shoot Balthazar a backwards look.
“Have a heart Balthazar, let the boy go to her,” Carlos says with a smile, though still a little grumpy.
“She waits for you friend, go on,” he says softly.
I bolt toward Madeline and the farmer and skid to a halt in front of them. I nuzzle his hand first, and when he’s satisfied I turn my attention to Madeline’s beautiful blue eyes. She nuzzles my neck and I lay my chin on her back, I saw her yesterday but it feels like many moons.
“I thought you were going to run into us Charlie,” Madeline giggles. “I think I heard the farmer curse under his breath.”
“I’m sorry, I was just so… I’m sorry.” If I were as hairless as Carlos I would have turned red, and it doesn’t help that she giggles knowingly.
“I hear we are going hunting with a few of the dogs from the farm a few miles down,” she says.
“That’s what the plan is, the more noses we have the better it will be for finding the cottontail. I wonder if old Ben is coming, he is the best there is at finding them,” I say a little breathless. We start to walk toward the hen house to see how they are while the farmer goes to the feed bins.
After inspecting the hens and playing with the chicks we walk to the small paddock of piglets. I’m glad she is playing with them, running from one side of the pen to the other. I always find it so hard to keep a conversation going with anyone after having that dream, but she lifts the weight slightly better than anyone though. After looking around the farm, we hear the roaring of engines and the bark of our hunting companions, and we run to the front gate to greet them.
Five dogs amble out of the back of a truck and one waits to be let down by the master, poor old Ben. The three bitches in the group, Rose Anna, and Mindy, are the same bread as Madeline, long silky fur, small stature and thin muzzle, the only difference is the color. The three other dogs are as different as they can get: George is a wiry haired, tall mutt; old Ben a long legged, droopy faced and eared bloodhound; and Sad Eyes is a short-legged, long eared hound, with patches of color all over his body.
“Hey Charlie. How you been?” George drawls.
“Hey George, hi Ben, how are you Sad Eyes?” I ask.
“My boy, how you been?” Ben’s voice is deep and raspy.
“How are you Charles, how has mother earth treated you?” Sad eyes says slowly.
“Good lord Sad eyes, you still preachin’ that mother earth stuff?” Ben asks. “I’ve lived too long to be hearing that mumbo-jumbo on this here hunt.”
“Aw come on Ben let the two Indians dance around the fire,” George laughs. “Who knows, if they’s can get them ghosts to help us out we may get a damn rabbit to ourselves.”
“It’s funny how you two talk about hunting when all you’ll be doing is laying in the bushes drooling y’alls brains out,” Sad Eyes says mimicking George’s drawl.
“You boys ain’t talking about us now are you?” Mindy asks walking sweetly up to us.
“No ma’am,” Ben says wagging his tale.
“And why not, aren’t we as interesting as the cottontail?” Anna asks. “Hello Charles. I see mother earth has been kind to you.”
“Lord not another one, when y’all are done dancing you can find me over by that bush.” Ben walks away to tend to some business.
“Do y’all know how hard it is to get that old timer up after he’s gone down, lordy me it’s like picking up a sack o’ potatoes,” Mindy says annoyed.
We laugh at old Ben and hear more of Mindy’s stories as the farmers get ready for the hunt. I wonder if Anna and Sad Eyes have asked father sun for a good hunt. I really should’ve at daybreak but I can’t when Madeline is around. I’m sure she thinks it’s all mumbo-jumbo too.
“Sad Eyes, I still haven’t gone to see the snake. Do you think I still have time?” I can see the surprise in his eyes.
“Young pup, the hunt is almost upon us and you have not consulted the serpent?” Sad Eyes removes a feather from Anna’s collar. “Take this as an offering now. Hurry before the masters call.”
I take the brown spotted feather and run back to the barn. Skidding past Carlos dancing for the crowd, I make my way through the doors and up to the loft. It’s empty, but for a few old hay bales and rusted machine parts. I drop my feather down in front of me and close my eyes; my breathing slows as rustling noises sound the arrival of the snake.
“What brings you to my home child?” the shaman hisses. His skin touches my front paw, sending a shiver through my body.
“I have come to ask the spirits for a good hunt.” My voice shakes as the serpent moves ahead of me. The image of him slithering around, calling the spirits out from the air, makes my hair stand on end. Like a soft breath, the snake’s chant begins, and the rattle on his tail comes in soon after.
At first, all I see is darkness behind my eyelids, but as the snake’s chanting picks up speed, I see swirls of smoke slowly come to life. As the smoke entwines into itself and gets thicker, the colors become more vibrant. It pulsates to the swish-sway of the snake’s rattle, letting droplets fall in to the darkness and splatter color on the newly formed ground. I can see the flowers burst into bloom as father sun shines down.
The shaman snake slithers around my legs, chanting low and deep with long breaths. Louder, faster, louder, the colors brighten, and I can see the hunting meadows and the cottontails running swiftly through the high grass, their feet thumping, drumming on the earth. The wind picks up and drowns out the shaman’s chant. The thumping gets louder as thousands of cottontails run. I can see them, thousands of them running alongside their ancestors. They’re running from the wind, a wind that howls though the trees, a frightening wind. The cottontails disappear under the high grass and the wind swirls trying to find them. The wind dances in a fury where it last saw the cottontail. Then as the shaman’s chant slowly bleeds back into existence, the wind snaps and turns to face me. I can see the grass and trees bend in its wake as it makes its way toward me. My breathing becomes heavy as the howling gets louder and the ground rumbles. The cottontail burst from the tall grass and run past me, leaving me to face the wind. As it gets nearer, it changes, it takes form, and it becomes the crooked faced coyote.
Next, I see a lightning bolt striking the earth, illuminating a tree that is being beaten on all sides by the same wind. I can hear myself wine in fear; the shaman’s chanting and rattling sound like thunder and rain. The young tree is being ripped out from mother earth by this coyote wind, this vicious horrible wind. I suddenly have to save this tree; I need to get over to the wind and tear it away from this beautiful tree.
My master’s whistle snaps me out of my trance, and I am face to face with the shaman snake. His bright red eyes stand out from his pearl white scales, and my feather offering sits in his mouth. He holds me in his stare until my breathing has slowed enough for me to hold myself up.

Special Thanks to my editor A. Colunga
Part 2 coming soon.

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