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Miraculous Rancho San Diego

I meet DB at the Coffee Grounds, where we catch up on gossip. He asks why I moved from downtown to Rancho San Diego, his gaze fixated on the very competent, very cute, barista.

I decide to level with him.

"I moved here because miracles happen in Rancho San Diego."

Now I've got his attention.

"For example, the coyote."

"Coyote? As in canine?"

I nod, and continue.

She runs along the path behind a fenced that pens manicured dogs. Legs scissoring, she crosses Fury, the deserted football field, comers the registrar's office, sprints the grand sweep of gopher-pocked grass, then pauses beside the tech center to scratch, hind leg jerking. She walks downhill and wades through cattails. Frogs plop underwater, suppressing bellicose croaks as the coyote drinks from the ribbon winding toward Sweetwater River.

Stomach gurgling, she moves on toward the olive trees, vestiges of old Rancho Jamacha, where oats and alfalfa thrived and sheep grazed. A car squeals, motor racing. Startled, she dashes through buckwheat and hears voices. Dark eyes peer at her, assessing, "Es un coyote." She backs away and runs.

DB's eyebrows are raised. "There's a Spanish teacher in the buckwheat?"

"No. Just migrants, passing through."

As the coyote approaches the derelict board-and-batten chicken ranch, the remaining hens shift nervously. Alongside their coop, a billboard with a wolf icon advertises acre estates. She crouches beneath the sign, watching the cottontail browse closer.

"So, which is the miracle? Your coyote scoring a rabbit, or developers selling acre estates in this market?"

"Neither, DB. I'm not finished yet. There's KC and the cop, too."


KC parks the pea-green Fairlane, skull dangling from rearview mirror. Her friends, orange-fingered from Cheetos snagged at Target, spill out. Together, they enter Damon Lane Park and slip behind tall, carmine-berried toyon, hiding from a man who was jogging the trail. They sit quietly until the whorls of dust resettle.

"Snake!" KC tosses a twig; the guys scatter as it drops. She inhales, exhales smoke toward two hawks looping lazily overhead. It is hot. She digs through itchy black lace, scratching the welt on her elbow.

"C'monl Let's get wet!"

They leave the park, scramble through weeds, and bobble past homes with sunstreaked windows glaring like disapproving dowagers. Trudging uphill, they pass the chicken ranch, then stop suddenly, mouths open. Their pond is bulldozed pancake-flat.

"That so sucks," KC groans. Sweat stinging her eyes, she kicks at clods until noticing the dark stone. She bends to pick it up and slides her thumb along the finely chiseled point and over the surface, which feels roughly smooth. Carefully, she pockets the arrowhead.

DB sips his latte and smiles at her.

"Art in East County; now, that's a miracle. And Goth girl finds it. Cool."

I laugh. DB doesn't know the half of it. He hasn't experienced our awe-inspiring vistas, seen our Bierstadt-luminescent hills and mountains, or explored the rotund Heritage of the Americas, repository of anthropology, archaeology, natural history, and art. And, yes, many people visit our neighborhood - even Goth girls. I raise my cappuccino, savoring its piquant sweetness. Then, I reintroduce the jogger.

He slows and exits the park, moving behind the parked Fairlane. Continuing up the street, he crosses the lawn, walks to the front door and into his house that is like the others this neighborhood, three-car garage and rough stucco walls bracing a tiled red roof. Seated at the computer, he taps code, hits enter. Screen for Law Enforcement Purposes Only appears. He types and waits. The Fairlane is registered in Granite Hills, just three miles away - likely not a problem. He heads the kitchen to indulge in dessert from Janet's Cafe: A luscious isosceles-shaped hunk of peach pie.

"This guy's a tad Dick Tracy with the license scan, would you say?"

"No. The way I see it, he's simply protecting what he loves."

Outside again, the jogger inhales fragrant jasmine, ethereal in this earthy suburb. Funeral-placarded cars line the curb across the street, where an opened garage reveals Iraqi patriarchs communing, black suits pressed into metal chairs.

He climbs into the patrol car, backs onto Calle Albara, and eases forward.

Darkness has silenced the mockingbird's taunts; a barn owl screeches. The coyote pulls from her kit, brushes through the sumac, and sprints toward Wieghorst, passing the Water Conservation Garden, the empty carwash, the Eroma Day Spa. Beside the stream of lights she hesitates, then steps onto the warm asphalt.

The call comes before he reaches the substation. Making a U-turn, he heads back to Rancho San Diego and sees the car jacked on a hydrant at Jamacha and 94. A girl, dressed in black, strikes a match repeatedly.

"Evening, Miss. Are you all right?"

KC nods, staring at the street.

"Is that your car?"

"Yeah." She inhales, tobacco flaring.

"What happened?"

"I tried to miss that dog." She sniffs. "There."

He turns, eyes following her gesture to the tawny body.

"That coyote, you mean?"

"Yeah." She frowns.

"Coyote?" She scratches her sleeve and mutters, "What's a damn coyote doing out here?"

He turns to radio a tow truck, KC tags behind, cell phone lifted. He hears: "Yes, I'm okay, pick me up outside Friday's, by the theaters."

Across the street, a kid in Quiksilvers ollies at Da Boyz as a sharp-dressed man leaves Shisha Hookah Lounge.

Completing the call, he signals. "Okay, the driver says 20 minutes. I'll stay till he gets here."

"Thanks. Is someone coming to get the coyote?"

They look toward the street, then at each other, astonished. The coyote is gone!

"So, DB, while it's true this isn't downtown, it is an amazing place to live. Miracles happen in Rancho San Diego."

DB watches the barista walk past. She winks at him.

Finally, he nods. "You know, LD, I think you may be right."

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I meet DB at the Coffee Grounds, where we catch up on gossip. He asks why I moved from downtown to Rancho San Diego, his gaze fixated on the very competent, very cute, barista.

I decide to level with him.

"I moved here because miracles happen in Rancho San Diego."

Now I've got his attention.

"For example, the coyote."

"Coyote? As in canine?"

I nod, and continue.

She runs along the path behind a fenced that pens manicured dogs. Legs scissoring, she crosses Fury, the deserted football field, comers the registrar's office, sprints the grand sweep of gopher-pocked grass, then pauses beside the tech center to scratch, hind leg jerking. She walks downhill and wades through cattails. Frogs plop underwater, suppressing bellicose croaks as the coyote drinks from the ribbon winding toward Sweetwater River.

Stomach gurgling, she moves on toward the olive trees, vestiges of old Rancho Jamacha, where oats and alfalfa thrived and sheep grazed. A car squeals, motor racing. Startled, she dashes through buckwheat and hears voices. Dark eyes peer at her, assessing, "Es un coyote." She backs away and runs.

DB's eyebrows are raised. "There's a Spanish teacher in the buckwheat?"

"No. Just migrants, passing through."

As the coyote approaches the derelict board-and-batten chicken ranch, the remaining hens shift nervously. Alongside their coop, a billboard with a wolf icon advertises acre estates. She crouches beneath the sign, watching the cottontail browse closer.

"So, which is the miracle? Your coyote scoring a rabbit, or developers selling acre estates in this market?"

"Neither, DB. I'm not finished yet. There's KC and the cop, too."


KC parks the pea-green Fairlane, skull dangling from rearview mirror. Her friends, orange-fingered from Cheetos snagged at Target, spill out. Together, they enter Damon Lane Park and slip behind tall, carmine-berried toyon, hiding from a man who was jogging the trail. They sit quietly until the whorls of dust resettle.

"Snake!" KC tosses a twig; the guys scatter as it drops. She inhales, exhales smoke toward two hawks looping lazily overhead. It is hot. She digs through itchy black lace, scratching the welt on her elbow.

"C'monl Let's get wet!"

They leave the park, scramble through weeds, and bobble past homes with sunstreaked windows glaring like disapproving dowagers. Trudging uphill, they pass the chicken ranch, then stop suddenly, mouths open. Their pond is bulldozed pancake-flat.

"That so sucks," KC groans. Sweat stinging her eyes, she kicks at clods until noticing the dark stone. She bends to pick it up and slides her thumb along the finely chiseled point and over the surface, which feels roughly smooth. Carefully, she pockets the arrowhead.

DB sips his latte and smiles at her.

"Art in East County; now, that's a miracle. And Goth girl finds it. Cool."

I laugh. DB doesn't know the half of it. He hasn't experienced our awe-inspiring vistas, seen our Bierstadt-luminescent hills and mountains, or explored the rotund Heritage of the Americas, repository of anthropology, archaeology, natural history, and art. And, yes, many people visit our neighborhood - even Goth girls. I raise my cappuccino, savoring its piquant sweetness. Then, I reintroduce the jogger.

He slows and exits the park, moving behind the parked Fairlane. Continuing up the street, he crosses the lawn, walks to the front door and into his house that is like the others this neighborhood, three-car garage and rough stucco walls bracing a tiled red roof. Seated at the computer, he taps code, hits enter. Screen for Law Enforcement Purposes Only appears. He types and waits. The Fairlane is registered in Granite Hills, just three miles away - likely not a problem. He heads the kitchen to indulge in dessert from Janet's Cafe: A luscious isosceles-shaped hunk of peach pie.

"This guy's a tad Dick Tracy with the license scan, would you say?"

"No. The way I see it, he's simply protecting what he loves."

Outside again, the jogger inhales fragrant jasmine, ethereal in this earthy suburb. Funeral-placarded cars line the curb across the street, where an opened garage reveals Iraqi patriarchs communing, black suits pressed into metal chairs.

He climbs into the patrol car, backs onto Calle Albara, and eases forward.

Darkness has silenced the mockingbird's taunts; a barn owl screeches. The coyote pulls from her kit, brushes through the sumac, and sprints toward Wieghorst, passing the Water Conservation Garden, the empty carwash, the Eroma Day Spa. Beside the stream of lights she hesitates, then steps onto the warm asphalt.

The call comes before he reaches the substation. Making a U-turn, he heads back to Rancho San Diego and sees the car jacked on a hydrant at Jamacha and 94. A girl, dressed in black, strikes a match repeatedly.

"Evening, Miss. Are you all right?"

KC nods, staring at the street.

"Is that your car?"

"Yeah." She inhales, tobacco flaring.

"What happened?"

"I tried to miss that dog." She sniffs. "There."

He turns, eyes following her gesture to the tawny body.

"That coyote, you mean?"

"Yeah." She frowns.

"Coyote?" She scratches her sleeve and mutters, "What's a damn coyote doing out here?"

He turns to radio a tow truck, KC tags behind, cell phone lifted. He hears: "Yes, I'm okay, pick me up outside Friday's, by the theaters."

Across the street, a kid in Quiksilvers ollies at Da Boyz as a sharp-dressed man leaves Shisha Hookah Lounge.

Completing the call, he signals. "Okay, the driver says 20 minutes. I'll stay till he gets here."

"Thanks. Is someone coming to get the coyote?"

They look toward the street, then at each other, astonished. The coyote is gone!

"So, DB, while it's true this isn't downtown, it is an amazing place to live. Miracles happen in Rancho San Diego."

DB watches the barista walk past. She winks at him.

Finally, he nods. "You know, LD, I think you may be right."

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