“Bring her out here,” Waldreve said.
Vance dragged the coyote out of the pen, and Philip closed the door
“Hold her steady,” said Waldreve.
He took up a hickory ax handle and tapped the coyote sharply across
the flat of her nose. She gave a brief yelp and bowled over onto her back,
and Waldreve straddled her as she tried to twist away. He locked her
between his thighs and then took a muzzle from his pocket and fixed
it quickly over her jaws. He hobbled her paws with a length of baling
twine. Then Waldreve lifted himself up, a look of exhausted pleasure on
“What are you doing, Pop?” Philip asked. He cradled the rifle in his
arms, though it looked useless in his thick white hands. “You got to
remember your heart.”
Waldreve ignored him and took his skinning knife from the leather
sheath on his belt. The blade shone thin and cold. It was the knife he’d
kept forever, the one he sharpened each week while sitting on the back
porch, raking the steel over a whetstone until it glowed almost translu-
cent. He felt Philip and Vance tense at the sight of it.
He straddled the bitch again, and she strained to escape, but he bore
his weight down until she stopped. Then he drew the knife quickly
along the inside of her flank, and the blood licked a long red tongue
over his hand and he felt the bitch shudder beneath him. In the pen,
the other coyotes began to wail softly, their voices dragging out in a
low quiver as they smelled the blood now and perhaps felt it as well,
the warm spilled life being a part of themselves and their own line
of outrage that stretched back through time unceasing and even unto
the first thundered howl as it rolled up from the cleft and smoldering
“You got to stop that, Pop,” said Philip. “Your heart can’t take all this.”
He came forward and put a hand on his father’s shoulder, but Waldreve
shook him off.
“Lemme be,” he snarled, his teeth gritted into his bottom lip.
He turned the bitch and continued to skin her, slicing her hide until
he finished and jabbed the knife into the dirt and then tore the pelt from
her and stood with it, strings of hide and streaks of yellow fat smeared
across the greasy underside of the fleece.
The coyote squirmed on the ground. Dust and pebbles clung to her
damp body. He’d cut the pelt at her neckline so that her head was still