The Coyote Ate My Baby by Heather Ayers

What a fat, behemoth of a baby. What kind of plump mutant did they bring home? It looks like a flesh-tone sack of tuna purée, cream-heavy milk rolling around with a little black toupee clinging on to the top of its tiny block head. I am less than unimpressed. A new low even for these two metalheads somehow charged with my well-being.

I’m trapped in some bizarro version of Little House on the Prairie, where the farmhouse has been transported to the human’s poop plant, their only neighbor a mountain lion inhabiting the crawl space underneath. They’re all too happy to let us drift off into oblivion on our very own poop-plant-adjacent planet. All I can hope for is to become more mythological than memorable, nine lives defined by the absurd circumstance.

Who of sound mind and body would allow these two juvenile delinquents to bring home a baby of all things? If only they knew that a real who’s who of backwater thrash monsters would be attending her first birthday kegger, maybe then they’d have thought twice. It’s as if I’ve been dropped in the middle of some Coors-fueled Aesop’s fable. My fairy catmother will soon appear and whisk me off to someplace by the sea where there’s nothing but fresh-popped cans of Fancy Feast as far as the eye can see.

It’s almost enough to bring a tear to the eye. Almost.

When the big-dumb cats first brought their “bundle of joy” home, I’ll admit that I was intrigued. What was this fleshy, doughy little lump? Nothing. A nuisance. A plague upon my carpeted cat tree. Her evil machinations slowly began to reveal themselves as her pudgy reign of terror unfolded.  The baby hid its plotting behind delightful gurgling and topsy-turvy toddling while its parents oohed and aahed in admiration. Disgusting. What type of creature celebrates such mediocrity. After a year of life, it couldn’t even run. A predator’s dream.

Something has to be done. How could anyone be expected to live under such circumstances. Plagued by the presence of this mini menace.

I made my first attempt to remove the baby from the picture by mounting my strike from beneath the sofa. I tore through the gauzy fabric on the underside of the couch and snaked my way into the gaps between the springs, waiting for the ideal moment to strike. Time slipped through my paws and I drifted into a blissful, mid-morning nap in my own little corner of the universe. I was all too soon disturbed by the suffocating pressure of the cushions bearing down upon me. The time for action had arrived.

Twisting my body, I looked upward to find the space between the cushions where light had spilled through.

“Alright, what book do you want to read?” the large man-cat said. To what end, I cannot say. The baby had yet to respond. Maybe she was dumb and unable to appropriately convey her literary preferences. It mattered little to me. She wouldn’t be around for much longer for it to matter.

Now was my moment. I thrust my paw up into the sliver of light above, claws outstretched eagerly awaiting contact with their victim.

“Ouch! Son-of-a-bitch.” the man-cat yowled.

My intended recipient gurgled to herself with delight.

“Let’s read the one about the lazy puppy?”

I thrust again.

“Jesus! There once was a little pu…”

Again.

“Fuck!”

Again.

She wails, the sound ringing from above.

“That’s it.”

The man-cat plunged his arm deep between the couch cushions, swatting at the void where I had just been. I had accomplished what I had set out to do. Soon the baby would be gone. Soon I would be plagued no longer.

They are conspiring against me. Those big, hairless twits. They think they can hide their oafish voices with hushed whispers from another room. My ears burn with their betrayal.

“Rikk, we can’t just let Xeno keep doing this shit.” The she-cat hisses.

“Yeah. Let him roam free and make is way in the wilds of the golf course.” It is at this point where I realize that, were I to choose to leave, the man-cat’s idea of humor would be the last thing I’d miss.

I won’t be the one to be pushed out. We reserve that honor for the newest member of our clowder.

“Heeey there, buddy.” The man-cat elongates each syllable. An attempt to assuage my suspicions with brotherly pleasantries. How plebeian. “I’m just gonna open this door…”

Imbecile.

If they want me gone, they’ll have to drag me out by my cold, dead paws. I’ll shit in every corner, piss on every piece of furniture, and claw at every pillow before I am exiled to that fertilizer-riddled wasteland. Never underestimate the primal desire of revenge.

But first, a nap.

I drift into a state of pure bliss. Tuna, trout, bass, salmon, mackerel, tilapia, eel, flounder, sole, cod, pollock, haddock, grouper, swordfish all raining down upon me, a delicious feast of fishy fabulousness. But not catfish. Never catfish. I bat at them, paws and tail working in tandem, with all the youthful vigor of a kitten. Delight seeps in from my salivary glands, my mouth now itching to be satiated by their tantalizing tastes. Wriggling, scaly bodies pile up around me forming an edible barrier all around.

Faster and faster they fall overwhelming my senses. I cannot swat them away quickly enough. My tail pinned, its spritely movement forcibly arrested. It is then that I see it, a flickering light suspended far above, growing closer with each passing moment. The object reveals itself as it twists and turns end over end through the expanse. Closer and closer. Faster and faster it turns picking up speed with each rotation. No, it’s not light. It’s a knife. A big one. Coming straight for me, the poor son of a queen buried beneath a mountain of delicious fish.

The moment stretches out into infinity, playing with my fears and forcing me to watch as death hurtles toward me at dream pace. It defies all reason, all laws of Man that have been thrust on the natural world for the rest of us to follow. The knife stops just above me and I think that I have escaped the worst. I am not so fortunate. The knife quickly makes up for its tardiness and shoots in my direction, severing my tail from my buried body.

I wake with a yowel and leap onto the couch. My tail. My tail! Intact enough in that it is still attached to my body. But all is not as it should be. Where once there had been tufts of luxurious tabby fur only a rat-like naked tail remains. My eye follows the trail of stray fur to the scene of my mutilation.

There she sits, that fat waste of space, gurgling with delight on the fur-covered hardwood. Her eyes bright with pride in her accomplishment having finally caught her kitty. She wiggles on the floor with clumps of my fur clutched between her pudgy fists and gummy coyote-like jaw.

“That’s it!” The larger man-cat shouts as he barrels into the room. “You’re out of here you fucking…”

His eyes grow wide as he surveys the carnage around him: shorn tabby, disembodied fur, and feral baby with a mouth full of orange hair. He sidesteps toward the child whose eyes remain fixed on me as I perch on the ready from atop the couch.

“I’m just, I’m just gonna grab her,” his voice is tentative, unsure if I might retaliate when he and my assailant are at their most vulnerable. Let them go. I want nothing from such horrifying creatures. Pimples made to scar the earth. Slowly, he retraces his side-stepping and backs out of the room with the beast propped on his shoulder, her fur-coated fists waving goodbye as if she were embarking on some transatlantic steam liner.

Bon voyage, baby.

Heather Ayres is an interdisciplinary writer and artist working in copywriting, creative non-fiction, novels, short story, comic books, and painting. Her work explores themes of Feminism, mortality, equality, and fantasy. Her writing has been seen in marketing and advertising collateral for corporate and non-profit entities, as well as Amazon Publishing and literary journals. She currently resides in the Pacific Northwest with her partner and dog.