Coyote - Chapter 7
2017-09-01 22:01:04 -
Roddy Doyle

By Roddy Doyle

There were days when there was nothing in the news. Other stories dominated: what Trump said, who Trump didn’t meet, the collapse of Syria, the break-up of U2, Varadkar’s wedding announcement. As 2017 came to an end, it was sometimes possible to forget about Brexit and all that it might mean.


Life went on.


The Coyote dug the tunnel. Kelly helped him but he reminded the Coyote: he was a farmer.

— That’s one thing, he said.

— And I have to be seen to be a farmer. That’s another thing.


The military helicopter had become a daily – twice daily – visitor. It passed low over the farm, and often hovered, and often turned and came back over the farm.

— They see a farmer, sometimes two, he said, pointing at the Coyote. –They’d be wondering where we are if we disappeared.


The Coyote agreed. He could see the sense and justice in Kelly’s observation.

— But, he said.

— You could work in the tunnel at night.

— I could in my hole, said Kelly.

In the previous chapter, we claimed that Queen Elizabeth II had died during her speech to the House of Commons, just after she had declared that her Government would reinstate the winter fuel allowance for all pensioners, except transgender pensioners. But this had not happened. Nevertheless, she did die before the end of the year, as did her successor, Charles III. An unfortunate man who’d spent all of his life waiting in his mother’s shadow, he suffered a heart attack at her funeral and even fell into her grave. His son, the newly crowned William III, surprised his wife, his subjects and the rest of the world just fifty-three seconds into his maiden speech. Instead of, as expected, declaring war on fatty foods, he declared war on Spain. He was following the instructions of his Government.


And nothing happened.


At first. For weeks. Months.

Kelly was able to explain his sudden interest in timber beams by creating fictional pigs.


— Organic lads, he told the supplier.

– They’ll have the run of the place.


He took out his phone and showed the builders’ provider – he was married to a cousin of Kelly’s – photographs of small wooden huts.

— See? he said. – Each pig has her own wee house.

— That’s gas, said the supplier. –Why pigs, though?

— Fuckin’ Brexit, man, said Kelly. –The Brits will eat anything but the French and the Germans are fussier. So I’ll be an organic pig farmer south of the border and its business as usual in the north.

— Is there a grant?

— God, yeah – stop being stupid.

— What about panels for the walls? the provider asked Kelly.

— I’ll come back for them, said Kelly. –I’ll get the frames up first.


Driving home to the farm with enough beams to build a pig city or support a tunnel wide and high enough to allow the average adult to walk crouched, Kelly decided that he’d have to fill the story with real pigs.


He explained the decision to the Coyote. He was down in the tunnel, inspecting the work.

— Good job, he said. –You’ve done this before.

— Yes, said the Coyote.


Guilt had driven Kelly to pick up a shovel. He quickly filled a wheelbarrow.

— We’ll be having pigs, he said. –Organic, free range. Brats, more than likely.

— Why?


Loose stones fell on Kelly’s head as the Coyote held a beam above his head and tapped it into position.

— I could buy hard hats, I suppose, said Kelly. –But the cousin’s husband would be wondering why I need hard hats for rearing pigs. Will it be raining pigs, he’d be asking.

— Why pigs?

— Well, said Kelly. – I’ve told more than one person that I’m doing it. Every nosey prick who’s looked into the back of the truck and asked what the wood is for. And think of it – we’ll be working away, making our living, right under the pigs. Can you think of a better camouflage?


The Coyote thought about this.

— Actually, he said. – No, I can’t.

There were times when the Coyote missed Dublin, the work and the noise, the fares in the back of the taxi and beside him, talking to him and at him, talking to themselves. The winter days were short and they seemed even shorter away from the city lights. Climbing out of the tunnel, out of one darkness into another – it was unsettling.


Once – this was when the tunnel was almost finished – the Coyote covered the entrance with a sheet of corrugated iron, and turned – and looked into a pair of eyes. For seconds – long seconds – he didn’t know what he was looking at, what was looking at him.


It was a fox. It stared at him, brazen, almost indifferent, then turned and walked away.


The encounter stayed with him – the eyes, the stare – for days. He’d close his eyes and see the fox.

© Roddy Doyle 2017


Roddy Doyle is an author, dramatist and screenwriter. His first novel was The Commitments, and he won the Booker Prize in 1993 for Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha. He lives in north Dublin.

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