The young coyote slowly approached the small buildings close to a path that cut through the middle of his territory. He knew to avoid the building during the day and at night when the loud and fast moving monsters with their sun eyes approached. On occasion he would find a dead animal along the path that provided a quick and easy snack.
Even on a moonless night, the hundreds of bright stars provided more than enough light to move through the desert. The animal relied on his hearing and an acute sense of smell to guide him and locate prey.
Earlier a light wind blew the familiar odor of discarded hamburger and chicken across the open landscape until the scent cone intersected his nose. Normally he would hunt and find common rodents to serve as his next meal but when the diner bell from Wendy's, McDonald's, or KFC rang he took advantage of the opportunity.
The young male broke into a light trot and followed the scent as it led to the potential meal. He could travel in this manner for miles on end without unduly exerting himself, a slight lope and hop to his gait.
As he approached the small buildings he slowed to a near crawl across the large black parking lot; his senses rose to their highest alert. This is where the giant metal creatures would empty themselves of loud and bothersome humans. They would stop for a short time as the humans would scurry into the two buildings that smelled like urine; stretch, walk around a little, and then jump back into the metal creatures before darting away on the long and narrow path.
During the day they would put food scraps in metal barrels until they were over flowing. Other times they would meet at a table and have their meal before leaving. But at night they avoided this activity, probably because of what could be hidden by the darkness outside the reach of the light from the metal creature's eyes.
The coyote didn't fear the night so he followed the scent trail to a paper bag that held a cornucopia of treats; a mixture of a roasted chicken, with a lot of meat left on the bones, along with a half-eaten cheeseburger.
Within a minute he devoured the food and with a full belly the coyote relaxed. He detected countless scents where domestic dogs had left their calling cards so he quickly deposited his urine over these scents to reestablish his dominance. When his bladder ran low he pawed and scratched at the ground, making his warning clear to other non-humans.
The animal froze in place at a distant sound. He tilted his ears in an effort to pinpoint the direction of what sounded like a giant bee. In the distance he saw a small light approaching. By his prior experiences he knew this would be a small creature but one that still carried a human or two.
He gave an all over body shake, turned and trotted off into the desert with the same easy jog he arrived. He would be well on his way to his den before the human-carrying creature arrived.
A few minutes later the rider arrived at the entrance to the parking lot and eased into a spot close to the men's toilet. After turning off the engine, the rider stepped off his motorcycle, removed his helmet and placed it over one of the mirrors. He stretched his back and let out a deep groan as his back let out a series of snaps, crackles, and pops.
He opened one of the luggage bags attached to the side of the bike and rummaged around until he retrieved a flashlight. He shined it around the area until he spotted a sign with the picture of a rattlesnake.
"Beware of snakes dropping on you while to take a crap? Just wonderful," he muttered. He debated whether he should remove a small revolver loaded with scattershot but decided against it. He shined the light toward the small wood building with the big "M" on the front and decided he really didn't want to tempt fate, especially since he hadn't seen another car in over an hour.
He took a few steps away from the blacktop while he played the flashlight back and forth. Only after he was sure there weren't any snakes in the area did he turn back toward the interstate. He stared north and then south, looking for the soft glow of approaching headlights while he listened for the sound of an engine approaching. He felt secure nobody was approaching before he turned his back toward the road. The last thing he needed was an arrest for indecent exposure.
When he finished, he walked back to his motorcycle shaking his legs to get the stiffness out and the circulation flowing again. He felt like massaging his butt to get rid of the numbness but that seemed a little too weird. There are some things men don't do, even if nobody is around to see them do it.
He had left Albuquerque a little after midnight, not to avoid the mid-day heat but because he felt he had spent enough time in the city. He had been in the stands enjoying a minor league baseball game when out of the blue he decided it was time to move on.
Most people would get a good night's sleep before beginning a drive but before he began his trip he decided he would hit the road when the time was right. He extended the courtesy of waiting until the last pitch had been thrown before heading back to his motel, packing, checking out, and heading south on the Interstate.
People take vacations to unwind, relax, and enjoy themselves. In this case it qualified more as a penance, a form of self-punishment for what happened before and what he took for granted. The selection of his motorcycle reflected that attitude. Eventually he settled on a super-sport bike without the luxuries and the comfort accessories that came with a cruiser.
He drove from state to state, seeing the sights he always wanted to visit under different circumstances. Custer's Battlefield, Mount Rushmore, the blue football field at Boise State, Alcatraz, Las Vegas, and the Winslow Crater drew his attention over the last few weeks. Even though he rode by himself he never felt alone.
Often he would pull to the side of the road as waves of grief would wash over him, triggered by a familiar sight, a sound, or for no apparent reason. He remained until the sadness passed. Friends and colleagues told him anger would be part of the grieving and healing process, but that is one feeling he couldn't bring himself to experience.
He wanted the trip to serve as a healing process where he could work things out himself without friends and neighbors offering support he didn't want or advice he didn't need. They would bring food that all looked the same; tasted the same; and smelled the same when he dumped them into the trash. The unexpected visitors even looked the same, all wearing the basset-hound eyed look of pity and sorrow as if they were robots straight off the assembly line of a factory.
He had to get away, so he bought a motorcycle and rode the country, going where he wanted at his own good time. He left his cell phone at his house and dropped a couple of letters in the mailbox as he left town. The notes gave the basics--he would be back when he felt like it, don't think of contacting him, and don't worry.
His doctor would also have blown his top if he knew his patient was driving around the country, much less on a motorcycle. But the rider figured he was a grown up and would take responsibility for his actions.
He figured he had enough time to swing through the deep south and follow the coast until he reached Maine. Having a Maine lobster had been on his bucket list of things to do and he figured it would be the cherry on the top of his sundae, if his trip could be characterized as such.
He stood in the New Mexico parking lot, still amazed at how bright the stars shined once the lights of civilization were taken out of the equation. Hundreds of years ago this is how the sky must have looked over the majority of the Earth. He wanted to remember this is one thing for the rest of his life--the true splendor nature put on display when the lights of civilization didn't block it.
He stood by the motorcycle and gazed at the stars, watching some blink while others maintained a constant shine. Other than the soft ticking of the motorcycle engine as it cooled, the sounds of the desert seemed to take a short break as nature put on a visual display for one solitary man.
His eyes drifted to a small cluster of stars that seemed to sit apart from the others, with one star dominating. It wasn't as bright as many of the others but for some reason it caught his attention and he found himself mesmerized by the soft glow it radiated.
The wind started to pick up, and a light cross breeze made the evening air more comfortable. The breeze increased into a constant flow, load enough for him to hear it flow past his ears.
In his loneliness he felt a presence, similar to one he felt other spots on his trip. The feeling closed around him like a blanket, providing him a sense of security he hadn't felt in a while.
"I miss you," he softly said while gazing at the star. Tears formed in the corners of his eyes and slowly made their way down his cheeks. Maybe it was the combination of him staring at the star, the wind blowing, and his lack of sleep that joined as one, but he felt more than heard a soft whisper by his ears. A sense of comfort and well-being settled in his core as the wind gradually faded away.
He blinked his eyes and used a handkerchief to wipe the tears from his face before looking back toward the star that held his attention for so long. But couldn't find it again. He looked a little longer before chewing on his lower lip and letting out a deep sigh.
All of a sudden he felt very tired. Not sleepy or tired to the point he would fall asleep while driving, but his body and bones weighed heavy in his mind. He straddled the motorcycle and hit the ignition button and the engine greeted him with a soft, soothing roar as he slipped on his helmet.
This trip was his attempt to get away from all the sights, smells, and sounds that brought back memories. Even when the memories were good they would trigger feelings that pushed him into a dark morass that took days to climb out. As a result, his physical recovery slowed as well, despite the best efforts of his friends. In some perverse and twisted way their care and concern made the situation worse.
But now he had some of the answers--he wasn't naive to think he had all of them but a few are a good place to start. He knew he needed to get back to what he did best and face each day as it came. Get up each and every day and confront what the world had to offer.
He pulled back onto the road and headed south toward Las Cruces. He would get there in less than two hours where he would stay for a day to rest and prepare for his long trip home. He knew what his next step would be and realized Maine would have to wait for another time. Even though he felt worn out he knew the trip reinvigorated his body and soul, allowing him to heal much quicker than if he had stayed home.