Fire

by Bob Hazlett.

Wiley Coyote was roaming the hillside looking for a meal for him and his mate Wilma. The bright morning sun made it difficult for him to stalk anything he spotted. So far, he had been unsuccessful with one rabbit, two field mice, and a chipmunk. He was definitely beginning to feel needy. Hunger is dangerous for a predator. It weakens the muscles and dulls the senses, making success harder. Today’s hunt was tougher because Wiley had one broken fang which, besides being painful, weakened his grip on anything he caught. So it had been with the rabbit which could have been a feast for both of them.

Crisscrossing the clearing, working his way up the hill, Wiley checked all the familiar hiding places for rodents. The wind was blowing from the east, so uphill was downwind. On the eastern slope, the sun would be against him and the wind would favor him, maybe giving him a slight advantage, maybe not. He crouched low at the summit, hoping to surprise some unwary critter on the other side. He was the one surprised. What he saw and smelled struck fear in his heart — animal kingdom terror — smoke. Sweeping up the hill’s east side, fanned by the dreaded Santa Anna winds, came a cloud of thick, acrid smoke with the bright orange glow of a grass fire at its base.

Wiley turned and raced down the hill. Fear overcame hunger. Out of the clearing and into the forest, Wiley hurried to his burrow where Wilma was waiting, hoping for a nice breakfast. Together they hastened west — the only available direction — knowing they would soon be in “man territory”, with people, houses, asphalt streets, and automobiles. Wiley had seen what automobiles could do to a wild critter but fire was much worse. At least running on a street was easier than in the woods.

In town, people were leaving their homes, getting in autos, and crowding the streets leading to the bridge. No running on the street today. Wiley and Wilma had to run through the backyards, around fences, through gardens and shrubs — real broken field running. How does a snake escape fire?, wondered Wiley.

They reached the river. Here, a river is a concrete ditch, usually bone dry, occasionally filled to the brim, with a high chain link fence on each side — certainly not the way God intended water to get to the ocean. But it is what it is. Today it was dry, but the two still had to find a hole in the fence on each side before they could claim safety. That was not hard because young humans cannot stand to have a fence without a hole in it.

On the west side of the river, the two canines crouched in a clump of bushes. The air was thick with smoke and filled with the sounds of humans dealing with fire — shouting, sirens, horns. Tonight, this scene would once again be broadcast nationwide as another piece of paradise laid charred and smoldering.

I’m still very hungry and my tooth hurts, thought Wiley as he watched and wondered where he and Wilma would go and when they would eat next.

###

Prompt: fang, broken, field, needy

Word Count: 535

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