Animal Dilemmas – Coyote Dung Beetle
The Beetle rolled into a stiff ball upon impact with the shaman’s table. It had landed on a stack of parchments with recipes for curries and stews. The Beetle held its body rolled up for a few minutes as a precaution. When it judges it safe to open up it unrolled and took a wide look around the table.
The table top was littered with jars of many sizes filled with insects, death and alive. There were leather bound books, pages with diagrams and old maps, mixing vessels, spoons and measuring scales. The Beetle’s vision was not his forte so it could no tell much about what was around it. It was also very dark in the tent short for the ray of sunlight from the crack in the roof. The light came down diagonally and fell as a long narrow trip partly on the table and mostly on the sandy floor.
It was the brightest and most visible blurry destination the Beetle could make out, so it was attracted to it. It started among the jars following the path of light. It felt warm and energetic with the sun on its back. It’s wings loosened from the strain if the recent flight. Its legs strode slow but steady until it reached the edge of the table.
From here the Beetle could see a dark abyss below it and the distant hazy glow of the light path as it continued on the floor. The Beetle considered his situation and voted to start the climb down. It went over the edge and descended on the table’s periphery. It was an old table and the wood was dry and smooth. The Beetle found it hard to keep its hold and after a few steps down it tumbled and fell to the duty floor with a thud.
The tent was perfectly silent so the light thud woke the Coyote up. The Coyote was tied with twine around the neck to the center poll of the tent. The shaman had caught it in a twine trap on out of his trips to the north beyond the desert where the climate was cooler.
The Coyote was long separated from its family and lived in the hill forest with a group of outcasts. The pack are insects, mice, small rodents, rabbits and occasionally organized attacks against small dear or sheep. When they didn’t hunt they lay around at the mouth of a small niche in the rocky hills and rested.
After one frivolous badly organized hunt of a stray sheep is when the Coyote fell into the shaman’s trap. The pack thought it easy to tire the sheep and chased it lightly and no hurry. The sheep ran about lost in the woods and not by any design stumbled on the herd. Upon seeing the coyotes the shepherd pulled out a long rifle and started shooting at them hoping to catch a lucky dinner.
The pack dispersed and ran in all direction. That is when the Coyote stumbled into the twine trap and froze still. It was young and strong back then. It had spend its best years in the shaman’s captivity. It had forgotten how to hunt, run and kill. The shaman liked it for its size and used it to guard his tent.
The Coyote has lived most of the last few years tied to the center tent poll announcing visitors, invited and uninvited.
The Coyote looked around in the dim tent and saw the Beetle on the floor under the table illuminated by the sunlight. The Beetle had stiffened during the fall and stayed rolled up a few moment after the impact. That is why the the Coyote didn’t think much of it.
Once the Beetle judges safe to look around it unrolled and found itself in the light path as it was hoping. It slowly started traversing over the sand following the light. It didn’t know where it would take it or why it was attracted to it but it new it had to follow it.
The Coyote noticed the Beetle inching away in the light but it didn’t bark. It knew it wasn’t the barking kind of visitor in the tent. But it also knew that it loved eating beetles and remembered how it used to catch them before it learned to hunt rodents. It wanted to grasp that token of freedom and feel young again.
The Coyote knew the length of the twine via a few deep scars it had previously acquired when excited about something. It started chewing on the thin rope as fast as it could. The Beetle advanced steady towards the far end of the light path. The Coyote wanted to catch it before it vanished into the darkness.
The Beetle was only vaguely aware of a mild noise not far from it but it didn’t consider the huffing Coyote a danger. It advanced with measured breathes and strong faith. It finally reached the end of the light path and halted insure where to go. To plunge into the darkness or wait for an omen.
The Coyote gnawed through the rope in great ernest and jumped across the tent to the Beetle. In one bite it crushed it to bits and slid it down its throat. The adrenalin of the success filled its mind and the Coyote started running around the tent in ecstasy.
It jumped on the table and knocked the jars with potions and insects. It tiered the parchments and cushions on the divan. It pissed on the shaman’s bed and on his collection of turbans.
As it was relieving itself on the fine clothes the tent filled with light as the shaman held the curtains up and walked in. The giant was stunt at his misfortune and stood still by the entrance taking the pictures around him in.
The Coyote used that moment to run between his legs and out into the sand dunes. The Coyote run in the sand in the scorching sun without looking back or thinking. It had need felt happier and more energetic than this moment of defiance.
What lay beyond the dunes was not of interest. The running was that mattered for the Coyote.
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photograph by Tiago MuraroHire An Editor