A Coyote's in the House

A Coyote's in the House

by Elmore Leonard

ISBN: 9780060544041

Publisher William Morrow

Published in Literature & Fiction/Contemporary

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Sample Chapter

Chapter One

Here was Antwan, living the life of a young coyote up in the Hollywood Hills, loving it, but careful to keep out of the way of humans.

Humans were crazy. Some would feed you, some would shoot at you for no reason. Yell at coyotes, "Go on back where you came from." But this was where they came from. They had lived in these hills the past forty thousand years or so. It was their turf.

All Antwan and his gang wanted to do was hang with the pack, goof around, groom each other for ticks and fleas, flirt with the sisters and mostly chase after what ever kinds of creatures were out of their holes. Mice were the most fun, 'cause you could play with 'em before you ate 'em.

Mice ate crickets and crunchy bugs, and coyotes ate mice. It wasn't to be mean or cruel. It was what the law of nature told you to do if you were a coyote. The same as when they went after possums and raccoons, or rabbits hippity-hopping down the bunny trail. Even kitty cats and little doggies humans kept as pets, they were all on the coyote food list, okay to eat.

Understand, if the mice or other creatures were hiding out in their holes or off looking for food, then Antwan and his gang would have to go looking for it, too.

Go to where humans lived, down back of their houses where they kept their trash cans. It was dangerous 'cause you had to look out for humans. Some even tried to run over you with their cars. But if they didn't build their houses right here, Antwan and his gang wouldn't be going through their garbage.

Antwan was the leader of the gang, known as the Howling Diablos, because he was the smartest and the fastest of all the young coyotes. The Diablos were pretty sure that in time, say in a year or so, Antwan would be the one to tussle with Cletus, the pack leader, and run the old dude off. Then Antwan would be the head of the whole pack and have his pick of the bitches. He'd choose the one he'd like to hang with the rest of his life and have his pups.

Right now Antwan was busy looking after his little sister, Ramona, seeing she didn't get in trouble. Ramona was dying to join the Diablos, but hadn't yet learned enough about life in the wild to run with the big boys.

Antwan was teaching her.

Saturday afternoons he'd take Ramona to a dog park over in another part of the hills, a good place to show his sister the different breeds of dogs there were in the world, the ones easy to snatch and eat and the ones you didn't want to mess with. Antwan and Ramona would crouch in the bushes, up on the side of the canyon, and look down at the humans and their pets, some coming up the mile-long trail from Hollywood, while others were walking down: all kinds of dogs passing both ways. It was like a show.

"Here comes a working dog, a Border collie," Antwan said, "only he's out of work. Rides around Hollywood in his own er's car looking for sheep to herd." "I know what collies look like," Ramona said. "They have that long, pointy face."

"Other dogs do, too," Antwan said. "Your borzois, your Afghan hounds.... What's that white one coming?"

"A greyhound?"

"You're close, but it's a saluki."

"What's it do?"

"Lays around the house thinking it's somebody."

Ramona said, "I know greyhounds chase rabbits."

"Yeah, toy ones," Antwan said. "They chase 'em around a racetrack and humans bet money on which one's gonna win."

Ramona wouldn't know what he was talking about. It took time to learn all the weird things dogs had to do. Antwan said now, "Here come some more working dogs, like the collie. That black one's a Bouvier and the little shorty's a corgi. Put them out on a farm they can't wait to start herding sheep, or even geese. That make sense to you, having to work? It's hard to believe coyotes and dogs are in the same family, dogs having sold out, gone over to the human side. They're more like them than they are us."

Antwan said now, "Here comes a hunting dog, a pointer. He points to where the game bird's hiding - like a pheasant, the one with the long tail? And the human shoots the bird as it flies up in the air."

"So the pointer's like somebody that tattles on you," Ramona said, "a snitch." "That's right, honey," Antwan said, "you're learning your breeds. What's that one with the big floppy ears?"

"A bloodhound."

"And what's he do?"

"Catches your scent and sniffs after you."

"That dog's so dumb," Antwan said, "he'll track you all day and all night for a treat and a pat on the head. All these dogs, they'll do tricks, sit up and roll over, to get a treat put in their mouth."

"I never had one," Ramona said.

"A treat? You haven't missed anything. Okay, what's that dog - you see him down there taking a pee?"

"A German shepherd."

"Wrong. It's a Siberian husky, tough as they come. He'll sleep outside all night in the snow and pull a sled all day."

"What's snow?"

"That white stuff you see on top of Mt. Wilson." He waited for Ramona to ask him what a sled was.

But Ramona was looking at a dog with big droopy ears and a long black coat to the ground. She said, "What's that one?"

"Some kind of spaniel," Antwan said. "A human shoots a duck out of the sky, it falls in the lake and that retriever dog swims out and fetches it. Doesn't mind getting wet. Only around here it doesn't do nothing but sleep and get food handed to it."

Ramona said, "What's wrong with that?"

And Antwan said, "Could you lay around all day? Never hunt your own food? Come up here to be shown off? What good would you be, to the pack or to yourself?"

"I could have fun playing," Ramona said, looking at a boy with a Chihuahua jumping up at him, "like that little one there."

"You want to be known as a toy?" Antwan said. "That's all that dog is. There's some more, the Lhasa Apso and that lowrider they call a dachshund - looks like a sausage and smells like it, too. They're tasty enough, but give me a rabbit or a half dozen mice for breakfast any day."

Now Ramona was watching a human throwing a ball to his dog standing above him on the trail, the dog catching the ball in his mouth, then dropping it to roll down the slope to the human. She said, "Antwan, look how smart that dog is."


Excerpted from "A Coyote's in the House" by Elmore Leonard. Copyright © 2004 by Elmore Leonard. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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