Sundown Hill – Four
Sarah did not have much patience for her daughter’s elusiveness. She promptly marched across the field and up the hill only to find Cooper. Sarah got down on both knees and called out for Maya as she gently dug her fingers into the fur on the back of Cooper’s neck. Sarah asked Cooper if he knew Maya’s whereabouts. He wagged his tail and barked while looking down the steep side of the hill.
“Did she fall down the hill, Cooper?” asked Sarah with hope and anxiety in her voice.
She called out a few more times for Maya but to no avail. She could not attempt to walk down the steep hill and thought it best to call upon the fire rescue squad. Before she left, she looked outward and saw a black coyote running away. Cooper saw it too and snarled.
“I’m going to get help,” said Sarah. “Cooper, you stay here.”
Cooper had no intention moving from his spot. He nosed the go tablet under the dense thatch of bluestem and sat beside the tablet in order to keep it out of sight. In the distance, he could still see the coyote’s shady form. It was not Old Duffy. No white patch. Cooper wondered how many coyotes were out there and waited for the chaos to ensue.
As the train approached Edmonton, Wendell asked, “You don’t have a Canadian way about you. Where are you from, Maya?”
“I hope you brought your passport.”
Wendell slaps his left hand onto his right cheek, holding it there and shaking his head.
“You have to have a passport in a foreign country, especially if you intend on getting out!”
“Don’t worry. I’ve got a way about me.”
“Yes. You sure do.”
The train began to slow unexpectedly as they neared the next stop. Wendell peaked out the side door and saw what appeared to be two vehicles ahead. They were gearing up for a train inspection.
“We must have been spotted at a previous stop,” said Wendell. “You have to make a break for those trees!”
Maya screamed through the wind, “I can’t leave you! I have to help you!”
“Well, I’m going to have to help you first by distracting them. Now go!”
Maya jumped off the train while somehow keeping her balance and ran to the trees for cover. The large conifers with their thick trunks were more than wide enough to hide a young girl. The situation did not look good for Wendell as there now was a truck on each side of the tracks approaching fast. The trucks came to a halt, sending so much dust into the air, that for a brief moment Wendell almost had a chance to run away unseen. It was a trick and Wendell stood motionless in the railcar. All of the sudden, four black coyotes trot out of the woods howling and calling to each other.
Maya was terrified as goose bumps covered her arms. She thought to herself she was going to be either caught by the yard bulls or the coyotes. Either way, her good deeds seemed to come to close before they even began. The coyotes broke into pairs and started harassing the yard bulls, trapping them in their vehicles, howling and making threatening moves at the trucks. The yard bulls threatened back with hitting the gas pedal, trying to hit the coyotes. As this happened, one coyote jumped into the bed of the truck. The rear window was open and the coyote forced its head through the small opening. Growling and snapping, it nipped one of the men’s ear and the truck veered over the rail ties and onto the tracks. Wendell watched intently as the adrenaline of fight or flight grabbed him. Finally, flight won over. Wendell seized the opportunity and jumped off the train and into the woods well ahead of Maya. Maya ran across a carpet of dry needles that generated a faint aroma of holiday spirit and caught up with Wendell.
“What a lucky break,” said Wendell clearly out of breath. “I have not seen black coyotes up this way in years.”
“I don’t think it is luck,” said Maya. “Let’s make for the town.”
As they started jogging toward the town, Maya had this strange sense she was being watched. She stopped and looked back at the train and sees a coyote sitting next to the lead engine with its tongue hanging out. Its mouth was wide open but the coyote appeared to be grinning. She glanced at the ears and saw the white patch of hairs. Old Duffy for certain. He got up on all fours and bobbed his head up motioning at the town as if to say, “Keep going. I got you covered.” Then, Maya reminded herself how things sometimes are just complicated.
The town of Stony Plain is just thirty minutes outside of Edmonton and is known for its many, old renovated buildings. Its history is discovered while searching around town for over thirty murals on the sides of buildings. The depictions tend to be literal, showing prominent residents and their contributions to the town which has grown to a minimal city status of over fifteen thousand residents. Maya and Wendell stop to marvel at one of the more imposing murals of the town’s first sheriff chaining a locomotive.
“Who was that man?” asked Maya.
“He was Israel, the strong arm of the law. He forced the railways to pay their taxes,” proclaimed Wendell. “Now that I have my bearings, let’s get to the diner.”
Back in Oklahoma, Sundown Hill had been overrun with volunteers to search for Maya. There were several trigger happy huntsmen looking to get their next coyote. The fire rescue team repelled down the side of the steep end of the hill as several others gathered to watch the spectacle instead of actually lending a hand. In the town, word had spread that several coyotes had been spotted in residential areas. Mr. Stubbs claimed that one of his goats had gone missing, although no one could verify its disappearance was due to a coyote and the report amplified the concern to a panic. There was disorganization on the left side of the hill and excessive shouts on the right side. Maya could have easily been overlooked. As evening prevailed, everyone headed back home with reassurance they would return tomorrow morning.
Rick, Sarah, and Cooper were all that remained atop of the hill. Rick held Sarah close as they watched the sun set. Sarah could not stop the tears from rolling. The pain of her lost daughter was so great she could not voice a cry. Cooper gently licked the tears from her face as the sun’s disc finally sunk out of view. Rick and Sarah got the strength to head home but Cooper refused to follow. Instead, he knew the time was right as he pawed at the go tablet, retrieving it from its hiding place. He flipped the tablet over and placed his nose in the center of the tablet’s nothingness. Cooper vanished and his quest for Maya was under way.