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26 August 2011

The Coyote (Short Story)

I am currently working on a collection of short stories with CP Bialois. This is one of the stories I am planning to include. Hope you enjoy! :) Registered & Protected

Sunlight shone in through the window, lighting up Suzanna Hawk’s face as she slowly woke up. She stretched her arms out, a yawn escaping her lips. It had been a long night with a lot of travel. She was part of a traveling circus making its way through the west. As she looked outside the window of her little train car, she saw the other members of her troupe busily preparing for the night’s show. They had finally arrived in Abilene, Kansas, the next stop on their tour. She loved traveling with the show… despite the fact she had a set act, she still never knew exactly what her day was going to be like from one day to the next.
There were always new places to explore and people to meet. Even the best planned acts would have last minute changes that made it fun for her to sit in the audience and watch, no matter how many times she’d seen the performers. She’d been with the show for almost 6 years now. She had left her home on the Sioux reservation when she was just 16 to join the show and she had never looked back. She loved everything about it: the travel, the applause, the people.

Suzanna quickly dressed and headed outside to help with the daily chores. There were tents to set up, animals to tend and rehearsals. Her act in particular needed to be carefully planned out. She was known as the Woman Who Can’t Be Killed. The story the crowd was told was she had a spirit guide that protected her from being harmed, even when she was shot several times. Firing the gun was the job of her husband, Alan Strongbow. He was very meticulous about his job. He always checked the blanks closely before putting them in his breast pocket the day of the performance. The gun was always loaded with the blanks after another check just before he went on stage to make sure no real bullets could get in by mistake.

“Morning,” Suzanna said, walking up to her husband and kissing him on the cheek.

“Morning. I was afraid you were gonna sleep the day away. There’s much work to get done before the show tonight.”

“I know. I’m sorry about that…. I don’t know what got into me. I was so tired after the show last night I could hardly keep my eyes open. What needs to be done first?”

“Elisabeth could use some help getting the horses fed and groomed. Why don’t you start with that? She’s the first act anyway.”

Suzanna nodded and walked off to help the horseback rider prepare the animals. For hours, the troupe tended the animals and made last minute preparations to make sure all the tents were ready for the locals before squeezing in a little rehearsal time. Finally, it was time for the show. Suzanna watched the acts from the stands as she always did before joining her husband backstage. As she stepped up to the curtain, sneaking a peak at the audience, she felt the usual rush of adrenaline that hit her right before a performance. It was one thing to sit in the audience and take in the show. It was another thing entirely to look at them from the stage. It made the crowd seem much larger than it really was.

“And now…. The moment you’ve been waiting for. Please give a warm welcome to Miss Suzanna Hawk, the woman who can’t be killed!” The audience exploded into applause with her husband’s introduction.

She stepped out onto the stage, bowing briefly before taking her place on the stage. The lights got dimmer and the audience fell into a deafening silence. The gun was fired, all six rounds seemingly struck their target but despite her swaying she never fell, with their act successfully over she and her husband began taking their bows.

As with any other night they took a few moments to talk to some of the townspeople before cleaning up, Since they were going to be there for another day so there was no packing to do at least. They finished much more quickly than the previous night and before she knew it she and her husband were heading for their train car to get some sleep. Well… she was about to get some sleep anyway. Her husband was too worked up to sleep that night.

Night after night, they did their act and the townsfolk showered his wife with praise and admiration, barely even looking in his direction. He felt he should be getting as much attention, if not more, than her. More pay, as well. Sure, he just fired a blank at her but all she did was pretend to fall back a little. As far as he was concerned they had equal jobs and he was tired of her getting more spoils. He even came up with the story for their act…all she had done was tell him about some legends among her people. Like many Indian tribes, her people believed in spirit guides and totems. He didn’t. As far as he was concerned, those stories were just make believe, silly superstitions that meant nothing. He laid awake for hours, filled with the resentment that had been building for weeks now. The few times he had brought it up to her (that night included) she had brushed his concerns off. After all, the money all went to the same place. She couldn’t understand why he was so worried about it. She didn’t get that as the man, he was supposed to be the one with the status and the power. He didn’t know what to do about it, but he was tired of always having to play second fiddle. He also was a bit bored of the whole magical spirits nonsense. He knew better than to believe that stuff and was tired of listening to Suzanna and some of the others speak as though they were real. At least it brought the money in. It never ceased to amaze him what people were willing to spend money on.

The next morning, Suzanna was up and dressed early, ready to help with the daily chores. The early night had done wonders for her and she was full of energy that day. Alan was already out there, cleaning his pistol.

“Mornin’,” she said, wrapping her arms around him in a hug.

“Mornin’,” he replied, pulling back to continue his task.

“You alright?,” she asked. He seemed a bit off this morning. She wondered if he was still stewing over their argument the night before. It was a familiar one and one she was tired of. She just didn’t know how to fix it. It wasn’t her fault if people wanted to talk to her more and give her a bigger piece of the profits.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” he said. “Just got a lot to get done. Why don’t you head on over to the stable and get those horses ready again? They took to you real good yesterday.”

Suzanna nodded and walked over to the stables, still not sure that the trouble wasn’t over. She figured if she gave him some time to stew on his own, it would all blow over eventually.

Later that night, Alan stood behind the curtain, doing his usual pre-show routine. This time, however, He had an odd sense of dread about him. He wasn’t sure where it came from. Maybe he was still feeling a bit worked up from their argument the night before. Whatever the reason, he never wanted to walk onto that stage less than he did that night. Ever the showman, though, he put on the big smile and let the fake enthusiasm enter his voice.

“Evenin’ folks!,” he greeted the crowd. “It’s time again for the act you’ve been hearin’ about. Please give a warm welcome to Miss Suzanna Hawk…”

Suzanna walked out onto the stage and took her normal place. Alan turned to her, pistol in hand. Just as they did every night, the audience became deadly silent, their anticipation and nervousness filling the air. Alan pointed the gun at Suzanna, preparing to fire, anticipating her fake stumble. As he pulled the trigger, his eyes widened in surprise. Instead of Suzanna’s face, he saw a coyote staring back at him. Its eyes flashed and he saw a snarl form as Suzanna fell back. The imagine lasted only an instant and he shook it off. Must’ve been his imagination. He blinked, wondering what on earth could‘ve cause him to see that..

As always, Suzanna straightened up, turning to the crowd with a wide smile on her face. To Alan’s surprise, she was holding a bullet in her hand. The audience went wild, jumping to their feet and cheering loudly. Suzanna looked down at the wooden plug and back over at Alan, confusion crossing her features. How did she manage to catch it in her hand? Quickly composing herself, she turned to the audience to take her bow, a wide smile crossing her features that never quite reached her eyes. She had had the strangest feeling come over her. Like she’d been outside of her body looking in for a moment. Several feet away, Alan had a similar look on his face… although he seemed a little more spooked than she did. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the transparent figure of a coyote disappear behind the curtain.

They never spoke of that night and Alan comments about phony spirits and magical mumbo jumbo came to an end. It was sort of an unspoken agreement between them, He wasn’t entirely sure what had happened that night under the big top, but he figured it was best not to take his chances.

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