Sometime in the night – late, early, I don’t know anything but that it was dark and I’d been deeply asleep – I was awakened by a singular rise-and-fall wail of a coyote. I lay awake and still, ears straining for the responding chorus of yips and yowls, but none were forthcoming, and so I lay awake even longer, wondering at the circumstances. I’d never before heard just one coyote. Why was it alone? Why had none answered? I tried to place the animal in my mind; I’d thought perhaps the sound had come from the west, so maybe it was over by the stream, lapping from that cold water. Or I was wrong: Maybe the wail had come from the north, and the coyote was in the yard of the old church. And then I wished I hadn’t imagined that, because it was a confounding image – a lone coyote in the night shadow of a church, howling at that silent steeple. It’s red and yellow, that steeple. I love it.
I was awake for a while longer, wanting a confirming wail, anything to put that damn coyote-in-the-church-yard image out of mind. Or better yet, the banter of a dozen coyotes, proof that the one I’d heard was not alone, not separated, not lonely. But the night remained quiet, and I understood the futility of my wakefulness even as I continued listening, suddenly fearful of sleep and all the uncertainty that awaited me there.