Author: Elizabeth Zerbe

Neighborhood: Valley Center

Age: Over 40

Occupation: Care provider

Saturday night, and everyone was going out to dinner — even the six-inch black-and-silver tarantula in the driveway, heading to our ­house.

It was very delicate and graceful. It sort of leaned back on its hind legs as we drove by, as if to say, “What the hell was that? Japanese anime?” Tarantula was very elegant and probably better dressed than we ­were.

Sometimes living here feels like that Walter Mosley book Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned with all these predators around. They are always hungry. The wasps, the yellow jackets, the snakes, the lizards, the hawks, the birds, that pesky gopher and his family, the mosquito fish, the cat — and then ­there’s always the Labrador and the coyotes. Just to mention a ­few.

So ­that’s a slice of life served up at the Bear Valley Café. Just another food-chain event: a thousand and one stories. We just happen to be a little closer to nature than most of the urban set of San Diego. If the prices at the market keep going up, we might be sharing whatever the cat brings in. You know those snakes taste just like chicken if you cook ’em right...and some of those mosquito fish in the lily ponds are bigger than sardines. Keep this up and we could end up on The Food Channel or else cited by Fish and Wildlife for something or other. Stay ­tuned.

Last ­Call

Monday night the coyotes went out to dinner at about 11 p.m. with their usual demeanor: howling and cackling down the hill and through the ravines. Only, last night, around 3 a.m., after the bars have closed and the casinos are still on a roll, there was one mournful voice, a plaintive howl. First from down near Guejito Road, then ten minutes later from the hill above the ­house.

The quality of the song was sad and mystifying to me. A solo, one-note call that went unanswered. I figured it ­hadn’t been a good hunt, and perhaps dinner was ­scarce.

So this morning, on the way down the grade, there was a coyote body beside the road. Death had been quick, and my 50 mph glance registered a beautiful but smaller coyote. Multihued fur. Coming back from the lake or Guejito Valley. It just ­didn’t make it across the road. Blinded by the headlights. Close, but not ­enough.

So that explained that solo cry last night. One is missing. Probably a mate; certainly a family member. One that will not hunt again. And the song was sung to the stars, and their cold beauty did not ­answer.

Last night at 3 a.m., a lone coyote howls. A curious two note, one note, and an extended howl, repeated several times. Enough to wake the Labrador, who woke me just in case I ­didn’t hear the coyote. There was no response to this song of the night. It was repeated several times, and it was ­solo.

The body beside the road was gone ­yesterday.

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