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 The Artist and the Animals


 One day, an ambling artist was plodding aimlessly around the woods, hoping to strike upon something to paint. Having trudged along for hours, arms full of various painting supplies and no inspiration to be found, the exhausted painter let out a sigh of pure exasperation and plopped down by the base of a shady oak. Leaning back against the solid tree, the artist began sifting through various chattel for their precariously packed lunch. Pulling out a small, delicately wrapped slice of avocado toast, the artist noticed the comestible had become soggy sitting inside the lunch pail all morning. Scrunching their nose in disgust, the artist resigned themselves to their disappointing lunch and bit down into the mushy meal.


With this momentary pause in their seemingly futile journey, the artist took a moment to carefully study their surroundings. It was a warm, mild day. A golden green light filtered through the lush green expanse, with a cool breeze dancing its way through the thick forest brush. The earthy aroma of damp moss, and dry leaves tickled the artist’s nose.  It was an incredibly quiet moment; the forest taking a deep inhalation and holding it in a queer quiescence.  


Then suddenly, as if out of thin air, a small, scrawny doglike creature materialized at the artist’s elbow.


“So, you’re the artist that everyone has been watching all day?!” the coyote mused loudly.


Taken aback not only by the sudden appearance of the small canine, but also by its firm grasp on the English language, the artist stared at the coyote in bewilderment.


“What? Coyote got your tongue?”, prancing daintily the coyote maneuvered itself right in front of the painter. Sitting back on its haunches the animal was eye to eye with its stunned audience, “What are you even doing out here anyway? Seems strange for a human to wander into our world.”


Managing to finally speak, the artist stumbled out, “I… came out here to look for inspiration for... a painting… or something like that...”


“You must be really stuck if you’re all the way out here!” Tilting their head thoughtfully the coyote paused for a moment in deep consideration, “I’ll tell you what, normally we animals don’t do this, but since you seem to be in such dire straits for inspiration and I’m VERY hungry…  I’d be willing to make a trade with you!”


Perking up a little the artist mused; a talking coyote was an exciting, if not slightly terrifying, prospect, but a talking coyote willing to make a trade for potential inspiration was something else altogether.


Noticing the artist’s visible interest, a sly expression briefly flashed through the coyote’s eyes, “So here’s the trade: you give me your firstborn child, still wet from the womb, and I’ll show you around our world for inspiration.”


Uttering a noise that was a mixture of shock, and anger the artist scrambled to their feet in surprise.


Laughing gleefully at the reaction the coyote giggled “I’m kidding. Humans in general need to learn to lighten up, but you’re one of the most tightly wound ones that I’ve ever seen. Don’t even know a proper joke when you hear it.” Flicking their tail in amusement the coyote continued, “Give me that delicious avocado sandwich, and make sure I get some credit for the work that you create; then we’ll call it even.”


Still shaking from the shock of the coyote's first request, the artist carefully offered up the rest of their avocado toast to the animal with an arguably questionable sense of humor.


Swiftly coveting the offering, the coyote began scarfing it down in an impossibly short amount of time. Finishing its hasty meal, the little dog turned and quickly began flouncing away, “Better hurry up if you want me to show you the ropes!”


Hastily struggling to gather their painting supplies from the base of the oak tree, the artist haphazardly began following the coyote.


Continuing to trot several yards ahead of the artist, the coyote began talking at the artist, “Now, I have to tell you some things before we get there. This will be a little expositional, but you humans always feel the need to explain anything and everything to each other so I’m sure you won’t really mind.”


Letting out a grunt of agreement and annoyance the artist walked quickly after the fast-moving animal, attempting to make mental notes of the conversation. “First thing, animals are like people in a lot of different ways, they aren’t really good or really evil. Much like yours truly.” Turning back to the artist the coyote winked, “So, it’s not wise to go about putting us all in boxes.”


“Secondly, all of the animals talk, and they’re all really different. The animals in your world don’t do this, but ours do. Some animals might want to talk to you, others might not. Respect them, and they’ll respect you.”


“And thirdly, like with me, give credit where credit is due. We aren’t just going to be your muses for free.”


The artist followed the coyote for what seemed like weeks and weeks, the coyote turning out to be a knowledgeable, if not a snarky, host and quite a social creature; introducing the artist to a multitude of creatures during their time together and by the end of their journey the artist’s mind was brimming with ideas.


On their last day together in the forest, the coyote and human were leisurely strolling back to the oak tree where they had first become acquainted. Looking up at the artist the coyote asked, “So, human, how was it being in my world for a bit?”


Pausing thoughtfully before responding, the artist mused, “It’s strange, people think themselves so much different than you all, but you were right, we’re not that different at all. Sure, the way that we live our lives is miles apart, but the core of who we are is more similar than different.” Tapping their chin with an errant paintbrush the artist continued, “In your world I saw a mirror of who I am and what humanity is as a whole.”


Eventually back to the tree where they had met, both the coyote and artist bid farewell. “I think you’ve seen and learned quite a lot, which is impressive considering that you’re a human. We’ve always got lots of good fodder for you silly artists, and if you ever want to come back just make sure you bring some more snacks along with you.”, and with a wink of their eye and a flick of their tail, the coyote disappeared as quickly as they had appeared, leaving the artist standing very much alone next to the shady oak tree. 

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