A Little Fable

Charlie was like other coyotes his age. Nothing was more fun than pulling pranks. If he wasn’t pouring glue in the milk jug, he was convincing his little sister that Santa Claus had real claws. His parents shook their heads and did everything they could to get him to stop, but he didn’t. Making Lisa cry at her fourth birthday party was the last straw, so they contacted his teacher for help.

“Do you think that might work?” Mrs. Wolfe looked at Charlie’s teacher and was not convinced.

“I think it will, if we all stick to our guns,” she said, grinning.

“Well, okay,” Mr. Wolfe said, nodding. “We’ll start it tomorrow.”

With a new plan of attack in place, they returned home and froze. In the hour they had been gone, Charlie had thrown toilet paper all over the outside of their den, dug up his mother’s flowers, and tied terrified Lisa to the desert willow.

His mother sighed and clenched her teeth, then screamed, “CHARLES BAXTER WOLFE!”

Charlie’s grin dropped as soon as he saw his mother’s crimson face.


Charlie kicked the ground and stomped to his room, slamming the door behind him.

That night, the Wolfe family, minus Charlie, played games and laughed in the living room. Charlie sulked on his bed. He didn’t like being excluded from fun.

“Good morning,” his father said as Charlie sat down at the table for breakfast.

“Morning,” Charlie mumbled, rubbing his face. He picked up the cereal box and shook it. “Any more?”

“Oh, sorry, hun,” his mother said. “Lisa must have gotten the last bowl.”

Charlie looked at his sister’s empty chair. “Where is she?”

“School.” Mr. Wolfe looked at his watch. “You’re ten minutes late.”

“What!” Charlie dashed from the table, grabbed his bag, and ran out of the house.

Lisa came out of the pantry and giggled.

“So glad you could join us, Charlie,” his teacher said over his classmates’ giggles. “You missed a pop quiz.”

Charlie sank in his seat and opened his backpack only to find Lisa’s things instead of his. He lifted the bag and saw a pink fluffy unicorn staring back at him. The thud of his head hitting his desk echoed around the room. His teacher did her best not to laugh, then she nodded toward Alice.

Alice walked to the front of the room and read from her paper. “Charlie and I researched the moon.”

Charlie’s eyes grew wide and he gulped. How could he have forgotten? It was due next week, wasn’t it? What would his parents say when they find out he missed another assignment? “Um, Mrs. Howard, may I go to the nurse, please?”

Mrs. Howard smiled and nodded. The class giggled as Charlie ran from the room.

Inside the nurse’s office, Nurse Sarah took his temperature. “Here, take this, Charlie.” She handed him a small cup that he happily swallowed in one gulp. He didn’t notice the grin that she tried to hide.

Charlie’s stomach gurgled and he bolted from the office, down the hall, and toward the outhouse.

“Oh, sorry, must have mixed that up,” Nurse Sarah said to an empty office, laughing.

Charlie stayed in the outhouse for the rest of the day. At the end of the school day, he was defeated. Nothing about that day had been fun. Hearing the other kids laugh and play and make fun of him through the outhouse door hurt his feelings.

On the walk home, he wiped the tears from his eyes. Lisa’s tear-soaked face flashed in his mind. He had been a horrible brother.

As soon as he opened the door, he apologized to Lisa, and his parents. He never wanted to be treated like that again, and he would never treat her bad again. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I’ll never play another prank again.”

“Well,” Lisa said, hugging him. “You can if it’s not a mean prank.”

Charlie smiled.


Follow the Birds

“Follow the birds, children.” Grandpa Wilson showed the kids how to pack their bags with rations, where to store their knife, and how to roll clothes to make a pillow. I already knew all this, so I strolled over to Grandma Ripple to see what she was demonstrating. Roots and berries. There was nothing new to learn at any of the tables. Great. Now all I can do is sit and be bored while my younger brother and sister go through their rotations.

There’s been one of these sessions monthly for the last five years but you had to be at least five to attend. They were fun at first, but then I got older. Now, it’s the same old stuff month after month.

“Hey, Jenny.”

“Hey, Mark.” He sat down next to me on the bench. “Bored too, huh?”

I chuckled and nodded. If I had known then, what I know now, I would have stayed there and talked to him. I didn’t though. I didn’t like him. I don’t remember why I didn’t like him, or if there was a reason at all, but I would give anything to talk to him now.

Mark tried to talk to me, but I stood up and left. Outside was warm, less crowded, and didn’t have Mark or my siblings. I paced around and kicked some rocks along the gravel road. That’s when I saw the dust clouds. Someone was coming and they were coming fast.

I had wandered farther than I thought. I was out in the open – exposed. Exactly where Grandpa Wilson said you never wanted to be. The dust cloud grew quickly and I knew I didn’t have time to make it back to the camp, so I did the only thing I thought of doing. I stripped off my clothing, threw them on the opposite side of the road, and ran sprinted a short distance away from the road. I landed on the ground and was only able to roll twice in the dirt and assume my prone position before they drove past.

It must have worked because they didn’t stop. I wish they had though. I would give anything to have saved myself from hearing what they did.

Grandpa Franklin was wrong. So was Grandpa Thomas and Grandma Everly. They all said death was fast and painless. It wasn’t. I laid on the ground and listened. Mark went early. My sister’s shrill etched itself into my mind. My brother’s ripped my heart apart.

When they were finished, I stood and collected my clothes. Slowly, I walked through the carnage of my former life. I picked up an empty pack and filled it with what I needed.

“What do I do now?” A young girl crawled out from under a woman, probably her mother, and looked at me.

Without saying a word, I packed a bag for her, secured it on her back, and gripped her hand. We walked outside.

Follow the birds,” I said, pointing into the sky. “Always follow the birds.”

Stop Pulling

Shane looked at the posters and banners that lined Main Street as he and his family walked down. His little sister tugged and complained about the line, but he couldn’t tell her to stop it without making his parents angry. That was the last thing he wanted to do on his birthday.

Lottie tripped and tugged so hard, she pulled Shane down with her. It started a chain reaction and soon chaos reigned on the street. People shouted obscenities, children screamed and cried, and his parents shouted above the chaos at Shane.

No matter what he tried to say, they were too angry to listen. Sirens blared and shots rang out as Gunther and Hagar lost their patience waiting in line. The cacophony was deafening.

All Shane thought was to lay on the ground and wait for everything to blow over. He hoped it would blow over. As he laid there, a movie poster caught his eye. “Oh, how I wish I could fly away like him,” he thought. “Why can’t all elephants fly?”