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When Quince saw the coyote slink up to the fence, he snickered. The rancher cowered deep into the brush with a toothpick between his rotten teeth as he watched the animal sniff about. Taking careful aim, Quince sighted in on the target, ready to savor the moment as he slowly applied pressure to the trigger.
"Easy boy. Don't be movin' none now, ya hear," said the old rancher. His face was dry with red chapped cheeks and lips that pealed from the sun. He licked at the cracked mouth and crisp pieces of skin floated to the ground. It sounded like the raspy rubbing of sandpaper on an old rotted log.
The coyote shivered in the bright sun. It sensed fear. Something dangerous lurked nearby. A nappy head whipped about and nostrils flared as the canine's keen sense of smell kicked in.
The old rancher remained immobile as his finger cocked the hammer into position on the shotgun. Adrenaline mixed with excitement while he homed in on the target, the barrel pointed at the animal's heaving chest. He had strategically placed himself downwind. The coyote would never detect his presence, unless another movement gave him away. He didn't intend for that to happen.
His greatest pleasure in life was ridding the world of coyotes, and he grabbed every opportunity to kill them whenever possible. Today was his lucky day. This would be his third confirmed kill. Two others lay dead in traps along the range.
The first one he discovered earlier, as it jerked and struggled to get loose. It actually tried to gnaw the trapped foot off. That was a real pleasure to see. Quince sat back and watched that one yank around for a bit. Every timehe got near, the desperate coyote would snarl and snap. Finally, Quince tired of the game and shot the animal. He figured he did the 'yote a favor by putting him out of his misery.
The other was dead, stiff with maggots crawling out his ears, eyes and most every orifice on its body. It smelled really bad. Quince was always amazed that the 'yotes wouldn't eat their own kind. The darn things would attack and consume anything else, even bugs, but they wouldn't kill their own breed. He'd even heard that clever female 'yotes conned anxious domestic male dogs into the open to be pounced by the rest of the pack and eaten alive. They were smart animals. Their ability to survive was a true challenge to his hunting instincts.
The coyote sniffed at the calf carcass sprawled on the desert ground. Quince used that for bait. The calf was born prematurely and died. He decided to get some pleasure out of his loss by using it to attract predators. The carcass was starting to get a little raunchy and attracted a lot of flies. Quince kept it in a freezer and had been reusing it for a couple weeks, but between the intense desert heat and the natural decaying process, the calf was downright rank anymore. The extra aroma enhanced the number of interested coyotes. They seemed to thrive on stench and filth. To Quince, they were the filthiest creatures that ever walked the earth. He despised them. That's why he got so much pleasure out of killing their scrawny asses.
Quince drooled as he pulled the trigger back, waiting for the explosion to follow. The moment of impact gave him intense pleasure. Killing was a huge turn on-better than sex, in his opinion.
The gun slammed hard into his shoulder, and the noise shattered the silence. Ecstasy from the jolt rushed through Quince.
Without a chance to react, the coyote was belted hard in the chest. It blossomed open as if the animal had exploded from the inside out. The force of the impact sent the 'yote flying into the air like a rag doll. It landed on its side with feet splayed. A bloody tongue dangled from a gaping jaw.
Quince stood with a grunt and a huge grin. He wiped drool from his stubbled chin with the rough back of a hand, then wandered over to observe the kill.
It was a perfect shot. The chest was almost completely obliterated. He noticed that the animal had crapped itself, probably at the moment that it heard the gun explode and before it died.
"Scared shitless, were ya?" said Quince. He laughed good and hard at that one.
"Well, ain't that the shits," he added. He laughed even harder at his second joke.
Tired from the hot long day that he had already put in, Quince laid down the shotgun and extracted a large buck knife from a hip strap. The blade gleamed in the sun.
"Enough talk. Time to get this show on the road, you nasty critter."
Grabbing the coyote's nape, Quince sliced off the head. He extracted a sharp pole from the bed of the truck and shoved it into the ground, then impaled the head on top like a gory trophy. Already flies were attracted to the scent, climbing over the stiffening tongue and glazed eyes to feast.
"There! You miserable sons of bitches take a good look now, ya hear. Let this be a warning. I'm comin' for each and every miserable one of ya. Ain't no place ya'll can hide that I won't find ya."
After kicking the 'yote's headless body for emphasis, Quince tossed the calf carcass into the bed of the old Ford pickup and zoomed off in a cloud of dust.
Yellow eyes watched the fading image.
Copyright © 2003 by Robbin Nickaell and Marston K. Banóach