Coyote Campfire

Chapter 3 New Rules

I hadn’t seen Wildey for quite awhile.

I’d been back in town for nearly a month when I rounded a corner and there he was again, big as life. Leaning against the wall of the side street drug store, intently rubbing his shoulder against the bricks to scratch what was apparently a very specific itch. He had that look of deep animal satisfaction that let me know he was getting it just right.

I looked around. No one anywhere. We were all alone, which I couldn’t tell whether that was a relief to me or not. I was still wondering if other people could see him, or if this was just my especially personal version of crazy. 

“Hi,” I said as I neared him. 

He opened one eye and kept rubbing his shoulder against the perfect brick. His tongue kind of lolled just a bit – I’m not going to say I saw him drool in delight, but it was darn close. He closed his eye again and focused on the itch. Finally, he sighed, leaned forward and looked at me.

“Hi, Kid! How’s it going? Good to see ya.” He straightened his shoulders a little and kind of shook himself a bit. His tail wagged gently, and his eyes softened.

“You look a little funny. Everything OK?”

Funny. I looked funny, standing here talking to an apparition. I shook my head. Yep, I was definitely relieved we were alone.

“Wildey, I can’t stop thinking about what you said. Last time. You know, about what game I’d prefer. I just can’t get it out of my mind.”

“Well, good. Good. That’s good. Yeah.” He paused to look at me a little closer.

“What have you come up with?”

“I don’t know. But somehow I want it all to make more sense. I just want people to be better together. And everybody seems to think I’m crazy to think it can be that good. If I hear one more person say “easier said than done” as if that’s and end to it – or, “it’s just human nature” I think I’m going to scream. It’s not MY nature to be a jerk. I may be sometimes, but it’s not my NATURE. I don’t think it’s anyone’s NATURE, really. It feels completely crazy to me. I just don’t get it. Why do we make it so hard?? I just don’t think it has to be this hard. 

“I’ve been thinking about it a LOT. I mean, I have been part of some really really cool groups in my life. Doing REALLY cool things. We were great together. We did amazing things. aMAzing things. Why isn’t THAT human nature? I think it is. And I MISS it. I really miss it.”

“Well, kid, there’s a bunch of us out here wondering when you would get around to asking that question in a real way. I mean, not rhetorical like, but really. It’s such a good question. Why is that? And while we’re on the subject, tell me this – why do you say that, anyway?”

“What? Say what?”

“‘That’s a good question.’ You say that so often. And then instead of answering it you go on like…I don’t know – like that in itself answered the question, that there’s obviously no answer if it’s a good question. Like the answer somehow is that there’s no answer and the better the question is the less likely there’s a good answer.  I mean, what is that, anyway? Seems kinda weird.”

My head felt like it had been filled with molasses. “WHAT?” I practically screamed at him. “What are you taking about? That’s not the question here!”

“Woah, now, kid, remember this is your game. I’m just asking questions, you’re the one with the answers. And I’m just kinda wondering about that one right now. It popped in.”

By now my head felt like it was about to explode and my mind was chaos. I didn’t know what the heck we were talking about anymore and I was completely worked into a froth. I took a deep breath. 

“OK, Wildey, look. If I get to make up the rules for a new game – I mean, is that what you’re telling me? That somehow I get to do that? Is that what you meant, when you asked what I’d prefer? Or was that just a bad joke?”

He grinned. 

“Where do you think it starts, kid? Do you think I am making up the rules about what you get to do? Who do you think I am? We are talking about YOUR rules here. What rules do you want to make up? How do you want it to be?”

I saw the hall of mirrors closing in and sidestepped. Just tried to focus on the question, not the implications.

“Well, I want it to make sense and feel good. Make sense in a way that DOES feel good. Feels good in a way that makes sense. You know what I mean?”

“Yeah, I think I do. It’s the way I like to operate too. I like it to feel good and make sense. Hmmm. Do you take after me?” He grinned a toothy grin, and I remembered what he had said, about being some version of my higher self. So I guess that made sense. And happily, it felt good too. I laughed.

“Yeah, that Monopoly game, now – that made sense for awhile, but it sure didn’t feel good a lot of the time.”

“Exactly. I think it felt good to some people when they were winning, seeming to anyway – but it never really felt good to me at all, even if I was winning. Which I didn’t, much. I mean, it felt good to be playing with people. Getting it, sometimes. But that was different than feeling good about beating someone else. That doesn’t make me feel good”

“Yeah, I hear you. Well, let me help you out. How much do you remember about being an animal?” He looked at me expectantly, like this was going to just clear everything right up.

“Excuse me?”

He looked at me a little closer. I could see some disbelief, as he began to realize what he was seeing.

“You heard me. How much do you remember about being an animal?”

“Well, I don’t think I do. I’ve always been a person. How would I remember being an animal?”

He looked at me in utter disbelief, and said, “What exactly do you think you are?” 

“I’m a person,” I said. I looked at him, standing there, and somehow I could feel a gulf between us. Like I was standing in one world, and he in another. “I’m a person. I don’t understand what you’re saying.”

His shoulders drooped and he said,

“Well, that explains a lot.” as he turned and walked away. 

I watched him walk away. Where he had been excited, upbeat, playful, with a glint in his eye, all of a sudden it felt like every speck of air had come out of his system. 

Somehow I knew to let him be. 

I felt the air going out of me, too. I sat down where I was, and stayed there until evening. 

He didn’t return.

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