PLEASE NOTE: This story contains some profanity, mild violence, and mature themes. Reader discretion is advised.
The sun is high and hot. Impossible rock sculptures tower over the desert floor, casting short purple shadows on the scrub and cacti. An insect chirps.
A trail of speeding smoke appears at the horizon, tearing along the highway with reckless abandon. If we were to take a very fast exposure of the dust cloud as it blasts by, we might get a blurred snapshot of a giant RoadRunner (runforrestus run). Shaking her blue crest, quoth she: "Beep-beep."
Her searing dash comes to an abrupt halt in the middle of the road between two high cliff faces. She has taken note of the small bowl of birdseed before her. She looks around with a couple of staccato revolutions of her head, and then sets to work consuming the feed.
An airy whistle begins to sound, low at first and then louder, higher and more insistent. In a blink, the RoadRunner decides to make her exit. A shadow falls over her as she flutters her tongue at no one in particular, and prepares to bolt off to the distant horizon.
But she is too late.
With a solid, bone-crushing "Whump!" a boulder the size of a compact car plants itself precisely where the RoadRunner had stood.
There is a moment of profound silence as the last echoing ripples of the impact die away.
On the high rocky promontory above, Wile E. Coyote lowers his Acme binoculars from his eyes incredulously. He blinks. He looks through the lenses again, and then shakes his head. He wipes his hand down his face forcefully, and then takes in the view a third time. There is no trail of dust leading from the scene: just a boulder in the middle of the asphalt.
He scampers down the side of the ridge, stumbling and regaining his footing a dozen times in his haste. He finds himself arrived at the boulder amidst a slush of pebbles and sand.
He looks up, and takes in the elaborate mechanisms of the complex Rube Goldberg machine he had built, with just this end in mind. He sees where the elastic band had successfully launched the wedge of stone out of its resting place and begun a chain reaction of events that concluded with the loosing of the boulder. Following the stream of the machine, his eyes are lead once again to the ground before him.
From beneath the lip of the boulder runs a tiny trickle of blood.
Wile E. Coyote blinks. Slowly, a smile begins to crawl over his face. His jaw drops open, and a windy sound coughs out and turns into an ululating wheeze. After a few repetitions it sounds more like a laugh. Wile E. Coyote has not laughed in a long, long time. He does a little dance around the boulder, and howls at the sky between guffaws and cheers.
Poor fool, poor fool.
As the sun is setting the coyote is turning a spit over the fire-pit outside of the little cave he has called home since times forgotten. He closes his eyes and listens blissfully to the crackling and sizzling of the RoadRunner juices, being driven half mad by the intoxicating aroma of roasting meat.
When he does take his first bite it is a transcendent moment. No words can describe the succulent taste of a RoadRunner yearned after for so many long years. Suffice to say that eating the bird is the most profoundly sensual experience that Wile E. Coyote has ever experienced, or dreamed of experiencing.
And when he has licked the last drop of grease from the spit, he lies on his back drunk on his own satisfaction, looking up at the starry canopy above him. Never has it seemed so beautiful to him; he takes in every twinkling diamond, and every mote of the creamy belt of gas that cuts the sky in two.
Staring upward, he feels that he is cradled in the navel of the world, with all the universe spread out before him for his appreciation alone. Suffused with peace, Wile E. Coyote drifts off to a dreamless sleep.
The sun is high and hot. Impossible rock sculptures tower over the desert floor, casting short purple shadows on the scrub and cacti. An insect chirps.
The coyote has scrambled half way up his usual perch for observation before he remembers that there is nothing to observe. Unsure of what else to do, he proceeds to the summit more slowly. Once there, he casts his gaze around the floor of the arid desert spread out before him.
He can see the long highway come from one horizon and disappear to the other. Instinctively, his eyes narrow and his whiskers twitch as he settles into a pose of focused attention. Without thinking about it, he has begun his morning scan for the plume of dust that signals his prey.
The coyote blinks. He nudges a rock with his toe.
The hot sun has risen again, though the coyote cannot say how many times this has happened since the Fateful Day. He goes through the motions of gathering edible cacti mechanically, his eyes dull and far away.
Again and again he finds himself stealthily approaching the shimmering tarmac of the highway, hiding himself among the rocks, waiting and thinking of nothing. Sometimes, the sun sets on him in this state and he sleeps by the side of the road.
One day he finds himself throwing a deck of cards into a hat one by one, and wonders where the cards came from. He wonders if he is hungry. He looks around and realises that wherever it is he has wandered to in his daze, he does not know the way back to his little cave.
The coyote begins to walk aimlessly away from the highway; for the first time in his life, he lets that precious source of road-kill fade unchecked to the horizon behind him. He has no destination, he just walks. One paw over the other, weaving around columns of rock and stony hummocks. He passes cacti but neither eats nor drinks.
He comes to a stop only when his face presses into a old chain-link fence. Startled out of his contemplations, he blinks and takes a step back. Secure in the knowledge that his new purpose in life is to walk forward endlessly, he digs up a short section of ground along the bottom of the fence and slides under. Once on the other side, he continues his procession of one.
At long last he comes upon a sort of town. Thirty or forty one and two storey buildings stand in the middle of nowhere, with nothing but tread-marks in the sand for roads between them. Curiosity bubbles within the coyote, who starts at this: it is the first thing he has felt in his hollow heart since that Fateful Day. He allows himself to wonder about the strange ghost town.
He pads quietly inside the closest building. He finds a family of mannequins sitting around the breakfast table, which is the only furniture. He wanders out, and into the next building. In this one he finds a dozen little mannequins set up at small desks in neat rows...a kind of mannequin school-room.
Wile E. Coyote passes among the blank faced dummies, surveying the slices of life into which they have all been posed. Down a short flight of steps he finds eight or nine mannequins crammed into an underground bunker; behind one of the larger buildings, mannequins sit in the rusted-out carcasses of twenty-year-old cars, unwheeled tin-lizzies and windowless dead roadsters.
From the air above comes a muffled snarl. He looks up, and scans the sky. A lone aeroplane is flying overhead. The coyote's sensitive ears pick up the whistling of speeding air. Far before he can see it, he knows that something large is about to drop on him. He briefly entertains the idea of running away, but cannot find any compelling reasons to do so.
While still five hundred feet above the town, the falling object vanishes with a flash and a crack. An angry globule of thermonuclear fire grows rapidly, swallowing everything. A tall mushroom cloud of sand and soot and debris roils high above the desert floor atop a column of superheated air and tendrils of flame. A massive sonic shockwave races away from the scene, fading slowly as it does.
By the time the army jeeps and the scientists arrive with their clicking Geiger counters, the last of the fires have died. Where the town had lain there is only a two kilometer radial burn mark, with blackened bits of buildings splayed out in all directions of the clock. Their instruments ticking, the men begin to survey the damage their bomb has wrought on this facsimile of a place.
The devastation is total, save for one charred body found plastered to the side of a nearby escarpment. "It looks like some kind of a coyote," says one of the radiation experts; a frown passes over his face, followed by a look of childish puzzlement. "...And -- it's alive."
When Wile E. Coyote awakes in a drab beige hospital room, the nurses in their crisp white uniforms tell him that he is on the N. Army Base. They furthermore inform him that some important military men are very excited to speak with him.
"I'm General Assessment, and this is Major Letch. We're real pleased to make your acquaintance, son," says a white-haired man festooned with medals and pins. Both men offer the coyote their red, beefy hands. "What's your name, boy?" asks the expressionless Major Letch.
"Wile," answers the coyote in a gravelly voice, sitting up in his hospital bed; "Wile E. Coyote." He rubs his eyes blearily and then shakes the hands of the generals. "How do you do?" he says.
"Listen Wile, we've got a few questions to ask you," says General Assessment, sitting on the foot of the bed and flipping through a notebook. Major Letch stands by, his hard stare fixed on the patient.
"Why sure," says the coyote. "Go right ahead."
"Basically, we want to know what it is you did to survive the blast."
"Did you try to tuck and roll? Did you cover your head with your hands?"
"I don't think so."
General Assessment looks at Major Letch, who frowns. Major Letch puts his face close to Wile, and says in a low and heavy tone: "Mr Coyote, you are the only person in the world who has ever stood at ground zero of a...detonation of that magnitude, and survived -- we have to know how."
Wile E. Coyote answers the men's questions as best as he can, but it is evident that he is not aware of what agency had been at work in protecting him from the giant explosion and firestorm that had engulfed the town. A doctor is called in, who strikes various parts of the coyote with a rubber hammer, and peers into his eyes with a light on his head.
"Well?" prompts Major Letch gruffly.
"Well," replies the physician, "I can't find anything medically unique about this talking coyote -- at least, nothing that comes near to explaining how he survived the way he did. Yessir, I hate to admit it, but I'm plumb stymied."
The coyote looks back and forth between the three men. At last, General Assessment asks what can he done with him. Major Letch begins to rub his square chin thoughtfully, his beady eyes narrowing as he nods to himself. "Gentlemen, I think we have a unique opportunity on our hands here: a chance to insert a revolutionary kind of soldier into the Pacific theatre."
All three men look at the wiry coyote in the hospital bed. The coyote cocks an eyebrow.
"Mr Coyote," says Major Letch suddenly and forcefully; "your country needs you, now more than ever. I ask you, sir: are you a patriot?"
"Why sure, sure I'm a patriot," says Wile E. Coyote.
The coyote's sensitive ears twitch and he winces as the howitzers behind him bark fresh incendiary rounds over his head. Bracing himself, he tugs his metal helmet down and goes for another scrambling strafe to the next foxhole. Inside it he finds his lieutenant and the comm officer; the former is yelling into the latter's telephone. "Sector four is mined, I repeat, sector four is mined! Withdraw your platoons!" Explosions sound all around. Dirt and tufts of grass rain down.
The lieutenant throws down the receiver and grabs his binoculars. He climbs up the side of the foxhole to look toward sector four, but the top half of him bursts due to enemy fire.
"Somebody's gotta warn' em, I tell you! Somebody's gotta do something!" the communications officer begins to babble, running back and forth from one side of the trench to the other.
"Who?" asks Wile, wiping the lieutenant off of himself.
"J Company -- they're heading into a mine-field in sector four! Jesus Christ!" cries the communications officer.
And so Wile E. Coyote finds himself making a break for it across the middle of an active battlefield, closing the distance between himself and sector four as quickly as he can. Bullets slice the air in unbroken rhythm.
He makes visual contact with the commander of J Company, and begins to wave frantically. The commander doesn't know what to make of the dancing coyote, so he continues to order his men to retreat via sector four. The coyote makes a mad dash for sector four himself, and gets there first. He advances toward J Company, whose lieutenant is now screaming at Wile that they're in retreat. "Private Coyote turn around! We are withdrawing! Withdrawing!"
That's when Wile hits the land-mine with his foot, setting it off in a harsh clap of flame and shrapnel. Blackened and burnt, Wile blinks twice in rapid succession and then crumbles.
Now graphically informed of the risks of their planned route of escape, J Company is ordered to use B Company's abandoned trenches and withdraw via sector six. Their lieutenant takes the tail; once he has seen the last of his company reach the first foxhole, he turns and jogs back to the edge of sector four to see if there is any sign of life.
Private Coyote stands up shakily, and begins dusting the soot from his torn uniform.
"Private Coyote!" the lieutenant shouts, incredulous. Wile looks up, and begins to withdraw with the others. Once inside the foxhole, the lieutenant shakes his hand. "That's the most heroic thing I've ever seen, private -- I'm going to put you in for a medal when we get out of this."
"Thank you sir," says the coyote modestly. Suddenly, a live grenade drops into the trench, bouncing and then coming to rest at the feet of the shuffling trailing edge of J Company. The coyote jumps on top of the grenade, and lets it expend most of its energy blowing a hole through his midriff.
After running the maze of trenches and scuttling across sector six, the commander of J Company leads the men behind the lines of thundering artillery and toward the first aid station. Wile looks up to see a line of droning Japanese Zeroes swooping into view from behind the southern hills, his ears at once picking up the clatter of their machine-guns. In a matter of seconds their bullets are ripping through the first aid station, scattering medics and patients in all directions.
Looking around swiftly, the coyote spots two springs from an exploded jeep's suspension system lying in the muck, and a stretched canvas wall of the first aid station slowly burning. In an instant, he has the springs on his feet and he takes an energetic bound at the fallen wall, which reacts like a trampoline and launches the coyote high into the air.
He lands atop the starboard wing of a passing Zero, and grabs hold of the hydraulic flaps that control the fighter plane's flight. The Zero banks sharply and careens toward another Japanese plane. The coyote leaps away just as the two planes collide and explode in a dramatic fireball. The hot twisted wreckages hit the ground just a moment after Wile lands and springs away again.
He foils the third and final Zero by painting the side of a short cliff sky blue, and then taunting the pilot to follow him with references to his mother's career as an opium whore. Though all told he is shot seventy-three times, he ends the day feeling pretty good.
Many wounded soldiers, infantry and brass alike, come to congratulate or thank Private Coyote while he mends in an army hospital in Italy. (He is crammed in a small ward between a sickeningly buoyant Texan and a soldier encased entirely in plaster.) The nurses tell him that he is sure to be sent back home because of all of the injuries he had sustained; they tell him that they usually send a soldier home after he's been blown up by a mine just once, let alone six or seven times. Wile was also popular simply on account of the remarkable size of his chart, which logged all four hundred and nine woundings he had experienced in his short tour of duty. Wile E. Coyote had been blown up, shot, gassed, cooked, gored, sliced and bludgeoned more than all the patients in wards two and three combined.
His convalescence is short, and uneventful. And sure enough, he is quickly shipped back to the United States. The moment is lands at Fort G. he is met on the runway by the familiar if relatively unfriendly face of Major Letch. "Glad to have you back, Coyote." He takes a moment to admire Wile's chest-full of medals for bravery, then says, "What are you planning to do once you're discharged?"
Wile shrugs. "I don't know. I haven't really thought about it." He thinks of the empty scrub desert, the hot sun, his perch of observation for observing nothing at all...
"How would you like a job with Uncle Sam? We'll feed you, we'll clothe you, and we'll keep paying your wages. What do you say?"
"What do I have to do?"
"You'll come with me on tour to towns all across this great land, promoting the cause of war and showing all the people how their sons overseas are being saved by heroes like yourself," says Major Letch. "We leave immediately."
And so Wile E. Coyote travels with Major Letch's All-American Morale Tour, helping people to chin-up about the war. When they arrive in each town, they set up a platform in a civic centre like a park or square, decorate it in red, white and blue ribbons and paste up adverts telling people to come on down. They spend the night in a motel, and then begin the next day with presentations, tales from the front, speeches and sing-a-longs. After the morning, afternoon and evening shows were done, the decorated soldiers had a few hours of free time while the buck privates tore down and packed up.
During these times Wile goes for long walks alone, strolling the streets and neighbourhoods of the host town. He thinks about the faces of the hopeful mothers in the audience, craving any good news, and the fathers who tried not to cry when their spirit was tickled by Letch's orchestrated jingoism.
It was in Dayton, Ohio that Private Coyote came one day upon the shooting of a motion picture. A residential block had been cordoned off, and two burly police officers stood at each end of the cordons. Inside, a kind of truck with a crane on it is manoeuvring itself into position according to the screeches of a man with a megaphone and funny pants. Beyond him is a handful of parked trailers with stars on the doors.
Private Coyote wanders as far as the edge of the cordon. "Hey," barks the first cop; "Keep behind the line, fella. Who do you think you are, anyway?"
"I'm a war hero," says Wile with a shrug. It's the only card he's got.
"Aw, let him through," says the other cop, "what harm's it gonna do to let a vet look around a little, huh?" To Wile he explains, "I would be over there right now myself if it weren't for my bad hip."
"I understand," says Wile.
Once inside, Private Coyote strolls to the edge of the action, and then hangs back at the edge of one of the trailers. There is a flurry of activity. Electricians are rigging lights, despite the sunlight. Costumers are scurrying hither and yon, production assistants back and forth. This is the first thing to stimulate Wile's imagination since he'd tackled those Zeroes. The silver screen! The romance! The glamour!
"Listen to me you dumb bitch," chokes a muffled voice from inside the trailer Private Coyote is leaning on; "I don't care what nutty fantasy you have about you and me and family -- just get rid of it. I want two goddamn things from you right now: get rid of it and for Chrissake learn your goddamn lines for once!" A moment later, the funny-panted man explodes out of the trailer and strides purposefully into the middle of the hubbub. His yelling fades as he gets further away. In the aftermath, the coyote can hear the sounds of soft sobbing coming from the trailer.
The sounds stop abruptly, and then the coyote is started out of the ensuing silence by the slamming open of the trailer door. He turns to see a vision of beauty such as he has never contemplated before. She is sophisticated and divine, and at the same time wounded and child-like.
Pauline Flair is at the height of her career. She is voluptuous and carries a sinister kind of sexiness behind a gauze-thin veneer of innocence. It is this mix that is the key to her popularity, and she has refined the corporeal part of this talent to its pinnacle. She is twenty-five years old, sleeping with anyone who matters, and convinced that she is being short changed by a Hollywood to whom she's sure her soul's been sold.
It takes her less time to note, read and interpret Wile E. Coyote than it takes the coyote to recover from the sound of the door slamming open against the side of the aluminium trailer. She has spotted prey.
She stumbles from the step, and into the arms of the agape war veteran. "Oh, heavens!" she cries. "Thank you ever so much, soldier."
"Are you all right? Let me help you sit down," says Wile. He hands her his handkerchief. She dabs her eyes and then drops her gaze.
"You're very kind," she says. "I am all right, really I am." The coyote helps her to her feet. She returns his handkerchief, and notes that he holds it with a new reverence. "Escort me to the luncheon table, won't you?" she commands.
Wile E. Coyote has decided that the RoadRunner-shaped whole in his heart can only be filled by Pauline Flair. He suddenly sees his own worth as easily expressed: he is not as nasty as the funny-panted man with the megaphone. He gains confidence. He serves his lady a glass of iced tea, and positions the luncheon table's parasol to shield her from the weak sun of early spring in Ohio. He is in love.
She asks about his medals, and he tells her -- in self-effacing terms, with belittled detail. She senses this, says: "Why I'm ever so sure it was twice as wonderful as that, Wile." He affords himself the luxury of silence.
The director of the picture, Donald Fastling, is on his way over to the luncheon table, his face red. "Pauline, goddammit!" he bellows, "I tell you fifteen minutes I mean be on set in fifteen minutes." He strides over and grabs Pauline Flair by her supple white forearm. As he begins to pull her away, he notices the coyote. He grimaces, "What the fuck is this?"
"That's Private Wile E. Coyote, Donny -- he's a war hero," says Pauline Flair, looking back at the coyote over her shoulder.
"Who cares?" says Donny, pulling her away. "This isn't a war picture."
Just then, the man operating the camera crane controls has a coughing fit, and accidentally pushes the lever which brings the crane arm surging downward at a dangerous speed. The rig at the end of the arm, complete with camera, camera operator and the focus puller, comes smashing down squarely on the coyote's head.
The crew leaps forward to the wreckage instantly, pulling the people free and then working together to lift the mangled rig. They push it aside and drop it, having revealed a version of Private Coyote of pancake proportions. The gaffer takes off his hat and holds it over his heart.
Everyone gasps collectively as the pancake begins to wobble. Flat layers of fur begin to unfold and bow back and forth, making a sound like an out-of-tune accordion. Slowly, Wile E. Coyote regains his posture and works the kinks out of his flattened limbs. He wiggles his nose experimentally, and rubs his aching head. He looks around to see all eyes on him. He says, "I'm okay."
"What the fuck is this?" yells Donald Fastling. "Clean this goddamn mess up! Get me another crane! Get me another crane operator!" Everyone moves at once, scurrying to remedy the mess. Amid the chaos a man approaches the coyote, and hands him his card.
"You've got a future in showbiz, kid. That was some stunt! If you're ever in Hollywood, you come to see the Warner brothers and I will get you set-up to be killed in a big cowboy picture. How does that sound?"
"That sounds swell," says Wile E. Coyote. "I'll keep it in mind."
It is in Fairview, Oregon that things really start to come apart for Major Letch's All-American Morale Tour. It begins when the country's oldest surviving war hero dies in his sleep, and amplifies when someone discovers that Hitler, Goerring and the complete set of S.S. puppets have accidentally been left behind in Washington. For reasons beyond anyone's control, the posters promoting their events have all come out a lurid green-orange. The decorated troupe's performance at the grandstand is lacklustre in the extreme, and not well attended.
It is the evening, and Private Coyote is lying on his back on his motel room bed, staring at the small lines between the tiles on the ceiling and with a small part of his mind trying to spot the tell-tale plume of dust that signalled his old friend...his prey, the RoadRunner. Private Coyote only has one kind of day dream, or evening dream as the situation may be. RoadRunner dreams. (Though lately, RoadRunner dreams have taken on a certain Pauline Flair air.)
Major Letch opens the door as he simultaneously knocks. "I hope I'm not catching you indisposed," he says. He looks somewhat disappointed to see the coyote fully dressed in his uniform, lying on the bed. "Private Coyote."
The major has brought his own scotch, and wants to talk to Wile about how disappointing it is that everyone thinks that the war in the Pacific, like the war in Europe, will soon be over. He invites the coyote to have a hit, and at first Wile refuses. When at last he is cajolled into imbibing, he finds the experience delightful. A warm feeling suffuses his gut, and he feels the urge to smile. Scotch Whiskey, he thinks; Not bad.
His enjoyment ends when Major Letch tries to kiss him. He pushes Letch's square, prickly face away, shocked and puzzled. Major Letch twists Wile's arm behind his back and sits on his shoulder blade, digging his knee in. When the coyote ceases to struggle, the general turns him over and again presses his tongue into Wile's mouth. Again, Private Coyote squirms free. "Sit still, pretty little dawgie!" Letch cackles.
Letch rockets to a standing position, advances and clips Wile sharply in the neck. Wile falls, but does not fall unconscious as expected. He grabs the general on his way down and then scurries out from underneath as the big man falls.
Major Letch is yelling incoherently as Wile E. Coyote flees into the Ohio night.
The next day, the coyote is not surprised to find that the bus has left without him when he returns to the motel. His army duffel bag is leaning against a telephone pole. He slings it on his shoulder and begins walking along the highway, sticking out his thumb.
When the driver of the first car to stop rolls down his window and asks Wile where he's headed, the answer comes to him a mere breath before he replies: "California, sir."
Riding along this freshly paved length of the interstate freeway system, it occurs to Wile E. Coyote that for the first time in his life he has a destination. And for the first time since he took down the RoadRunner, he has a goal. He will go to Hollywood, become a fabulously famous stunt man, and then woo the gentle and innocent Pauline Flair from the clutches of that foul-mouthed movie director, Don Fastling.
He is able to conveniently ignore the fact that when he loses conscious control of his day dreams he fantasises about chasing Pauline Flair, and taking her down on the hot asphalt of a lonely New Mexico highway, plucking her feathers and then eating her.
Wile E. Coyote gets off a streetcar in Hollywood, California. He takes a moment to dust off his pressed and clean US Army uniform, and then marches up to the gates of Warner Bros. Studios. He shows the security guard on duty the card he had been given in Ohio. The guard shakes his head, "I don't have anything on my list about stunt man auditions today."
Private Coyote nods and puts on his cap. He turns to leave. He notices that the man sitting in the passenger seat of the car pulling up is none other than the nasty director, Don Fastling. The coyote recalls that Fastling had not liked him very much when they had last encountered one another. Taking his chances anyway, Wile runs up to the side of the car and knocks on the window. "Mr Fastling! Mr Fastling!"
Reluctantly, Fastling rolls down his window. "If you want an autograph," he says, "you'll have to apply through my press agency, thank youp." He begins to roll his window up.
"Wait, please -- you gotta give me a chance, mister, you just gotta. I was on your movie set, on Dayton: your camera fell on me, remember?"
"I'm amazed you lived. So what?" He resumes rolling up the window.
"So I want to be a stunt man, sir."
"A stunt man? That's ridiculous. No one comes to Hollywood to be a stunt man. We have all the derring-do fools we need right here in Los Angeles. Step away from the car, won't you?" Fastling rolled up his window and signals for the driver to drive on through the gates. As it does, the car rolls over the coyote's foot.
The coyote apathetically surveys his flattened foot as it throbs in sympathy with his heart. The car stops, and the rear door opens. Out of it steps a balding, white-haired gentleman with sparkling brown eyes, his mouth drawn into a pinch of concern. "You there! Are you all right?"
"Yessir," says Wile; "I'll be fine."
"Did my driver just run over your foot?"
"Yessir," says Wile; "But it's no bother, really."
The old man's eyes narrow shrewdly. "And your foot is quite fine like that -- flattened as it is? It will get better, will it?"
"Why sure," says Wile.
The old man nods and begins to grin. "Another one!" he whispers to himself, rubbing his stubby fingers together gleefully. Aloud he cries, "Get in the car, kid. I've been looking for folks with just your qualifications."
Once Wile is awkwardly seated between the two men in the back seat, the car drives through the security gate and onto the studio grounds. Though there are million things to look at, Wile stares at the old man who is currently scanning his body as if it were a slab of meat. Wile wonders whether he has another Major Letch on his hands...
"Have you ever seen a cartoon picture show, boy?"
"Yessir. During the war. Steamboat Willie with Mickey Mouse."
"Yes, yes. And what did you think of it, eh?"
"It was swell, sir."
"Can you read?"
"Yessir, and write."
"Nobody's asking you to write lines, kid," snarls Don Fastling impatiently. Wile E. Coyote's long ears perk up, and he looks to the older man who is in the process of relighting his cigar.
"Lines?" Wile echoes dumbly.
"Boy, I want you to take a screen test."
Wile blinks, unsure what is expected of him. Fastling snorts. "He's asking you if you want to be a Loony Toon, kid. Just say 'Yes Mr Warner.'"
"Yes, Mr Warner," says Wile E. Coyote.
Wile starts with bit parts. In his first picture, he's a part of a pack of wolves who end up getting crushed by falling anvils, and in his second he's a dog in an English hunting party who gets blasted by a shotgun. And these are not bit parts in star pictures, either, they're bit parts in third-rate pictures. But they are helping to establish Wile's credibility as a cartoon actor.
His big break comes when he plays the wolf in an early Fritz Freleng version of Little Red Riding-Hood. The critics say things like "new-comer to the scene Wile Coyote brings a real hunger and desperation to the role of Wolf in this oft-told tale" and "this is a story reawakened by a fresh young actor who knows how to make getting cut open by an axe work in a comedic context." The studio executives are very pleased, and the Warner brothers agree that the coyote should take a run at a small part in a star picture.
And the star is the biggest one of them all.
Wile E. Coyote is hanging around the sound-stage pacing anxiously two hours before the lighting boys arrive. He reviews his line, and massages his facial muscles for maximum flexibility. He mops a nervous sweat from his brow.
The sound-stage awakes around him as more people arrive. Rows of costumes are rolled in by production assistants, and the prop masters begin unloading their wares. The banks of hot lights are arranged, and the set decorated. Out of nowhere, a young production assistant accosts the coyote and escorts him to a small wooden nook behind the set. "Who did you do rehearsal and blocking with?"
"What did she tell you?"
"She told me to pop through that hole when I hear my cue, roll to the small X on the floor, and then the refrigerator will fall on me."
"Okay -- do that."
When the fateful moment comes, Wile is do deeply engrossed in his nervous meditations that he barely notices. A second late and therefore with an added layer of desperation, he crashes through the marked hole on the set and rolls like a rag-doll to the small X marked on the wooden flooring. He hears the whistle of the falling fridge, looks up, bugs out his eyes in horror, and the fridge lands with a thud. The door swings open, and a face peers inside. Wile E. Coyote realises that it is the star himself!
"Nyyyahhh, what's up, doc?"
Wile E. Coyote nearly wets himself in awe. Just in time, he remembers his line and wills his throat to cough it up: "Ice with your drink, sir?"
"Cut, and, reset for shot nine!" bellows the director.
As the face of Bugs Bunny withdraws from the open door of the refrigerator, the coyote witnesses a startling transformation. The perky whiskers on Bugs' face sigh and limpen to hang like jowls; the tall rabbit ears relax to flop forgotten by the sides of Bugs' head; the shine in his eyes fades to a mere twinkle before he closes them completely.
The moment the director calls him, the transformation reverses itself instantly and the magical persona of Bugs Bunny shines through once more. The coyote is amazed: in his naivete he had imagined that off-screen Bugs was just as witty, lively and daring as on. Instead, he sees an artist hard at work at his profession, a conjuror who summons the crafted illusion of his character from the thin air.
It is five years before Wile E. Coyote works up the gumption to seek out Pauline Flair. She is never hard to find. Everyone always knows which lot she is on, and on which sound-stage or dubbing studio. It is never a secret where she and director Donald Fastling are screeching at one another.
He chooses his moment carefully, as he would lay an elaborate trap for his RoadRunner. She arrives home and finds him by the pool in his designer suit, a martini in hand. Before he can deliver his well rehearsed opening lines, she cries, "Oh, Wile!" and drops into his arms.
"I thought I would drop by and --"
"I'm ever so glad you're here."
"Say, did I hap --"
"Come, sit on the swing with me," she says, sitting down and patting the seat next to her. After a moment of bewilderment, the coyote decides that he is a smooth operator. He sits down. She says, "Sharp threads, Wile. You've come up in the world." She fingers the collar of his shirt. "You look like a million bucks," she says.
"It never would have happened if I hadn't met you."
"I've seen several of your cartoon pictures," she says playfully. "They're wonderful. You have something that the others don't -- a kind of sadness, I think. It's far superior to the melancholy aura of Elmer Fudd the snobs go on about, Wile. They're always saying how 'existential' his acting is, but I don't think that so's at all."
"What about you?" the coyote asks. "How's the view from the top?"
"Oh," she sighs, looking away; "It's not as glamorous as it seems."
Wile E. Coyote is certain that he can be her knight in shining armour, because he is almost everything that Donald is, without the cruelty and arrogance. He is equally certain that a life with Pauline Flair will fill the gnawing void inside of him, the emptiness that comes when distraction ends. She is his new purpose.
"Beep beep," she says, and he is startled.
The coyote looks at her, puzzled. Gesturing to the ledge where his martini sits she explains, "I can't put my glass down until you move yours over, silly."
That night the gorgeous movie star and the coyote make love like animals. The next day they become acquaintances again, much to Wile's chagrin. Over the course of the next few years Pauline and Wile's off again, on again game would fail to evolve to the point where Pauline would leave Donald and marry Wile.
The coyote becomes convinced that this is because he cannot offer her the security and influence that Donald can, and so hatches his ambition to direct his own work. His current staple of short pictures revolves around a Chicken Coop premise, with Wile starring as an enterprising predator with a penchant for misfortune. Wile pours his years of Sisyphisian work tracking and trapping the RoadRunner to lend the part the desperation and sense of invention that it needs to come alive. Despite this, the critics are not enthusiastic.
Wile pleads to the Warners. They tell him frankly that his "desperate, conniving wolf-dog character" has potential, but that they still feel that giving the coyote a project of his own is too risky. "I'm sorry, Wile, I really am -- but at the end of the day I have to answer to the board, after all," says Jack Warner around his cigar.
"I understand, Mr Warner," says Wile. "I know I'll earn your confidence one day."
One night as Wile sits alone there comes a knock at the door. He opens it and is shocked to see the famous cartoon star Bugs Bunny standing on his stoop; furthermore, it is the rabbit's true face, with the pizzazz of Bugs drained out of it. Bugs takes off his fedora. "How do you do, Mr Coyote. May I come in?"
Wile fixes the star a martini, and they sit at Wile's in-house bar. "Can I get you anything else, Mr Bugs -- er, Mr Bunny -- ah..." stutters Wile.
The rabbit waves him silent. "Call me Oswald, kid. Bugs is the fella in the limelight." Wile nods, repeating the name timidly. The rabbit smiles wrily and chuckles. "You're probably starting to wonder why I'm dropping by. And the reason is because I want to explain a few things to you."
The rabbit fixes Wile with a long look, to impress him with his seriousness. Wile is impressed. Bugs, or Oswald, goes on: "When I was a kid we had a thing called Vaudeville -- you've heard of Vaudeville, haven't you kid?"
"Sure, sure I have, Oswald."
"In those days a performer paid his dues. He didn't show up one day and get thrown on the stage; not until he's spent a few years shining shoes and mopping up does he have enough respect to shut up and learn something. Are you following along, Coyote?"
"Yessir: shut up and learn something."
"Very good. If he's lucky, he's got an old coot to show him which rope opens the curtains and which rope drops his pants. If he's not so lucky, he has to figure these things out himself, dodging the hook. Some he gets, some he misses. Observation can't make up for experience." The rabbit pauses and sips his drink. "That's how it was in Vaudeville. You knew that everybody on that stage had tap-danced for the devil to get there. Today...today kids come out of nowhere and say 'I want to be a star!' How do you know they're not all lazy dogs or Little Lord Fauntleroys?"
"I don't know, sir."
"Neither do I, which is why morons like Sylvester Cat can get a contract. But you, on the other hand...I don't know where you paid your dues, but there is a look in your eye that tells me you've paid them. So now I'm offering you the second part."
Wile blinks. "The second part?"
"How would you like your very own old codger to show you the ropes?" For a moment Oswald becomes Bugs, leaning back in his chair and pretending to inspect his fingernails: "I mean, seein' as a little boid told me how they're giving you your own series and all."
"You mean -- ?" Wile gapes, and Oswald grins.
"That's right, kid. I talked the Warners into it. You've got your project -- all I'm asking is that you listen to me."
"It's a deal," swears Wile E. Coyote, who suddenly feels his dreams within reach: if he has the clout of a successful director, he can win the love and life of his stricken darling Pauline Flair.
The premise of Wile's project, called "Sam & Ralph", is classic: a crafty wolf tries in vain to steal fat sheep from under the nose of a big dog. Concerns are expressed that there is not enough meat for ongoing pictures, but Wile sticks stubbornly to his spartan vision. "No need to clutter up the purity of the relationship between the hunter, the hunted and the guardian," Wile explains to the scriptwriter. The coyote believes that he has already compromised enough by accepting that the forces of misfortune be personified by a dog; he'd be damned before he would accept the scriptwriter's suggestion to inject the character of a "nutty shepherd."
The auditions take weeks, because Wile doesn't want to pull his supporting player from the existing talent pool at the studio. At long last, a long-haired sheep dog is found with the silent, strong presence that Wile wants. A cattle call goes out for the sheep.
Contrary to the old routines with the hens in the coop, Wile wants the sheep to be utterly passive entities, like props that blink. This meets with resistance at first, especially from fans of the standard hen antics, blind adherents to the rule that the victims' fighting back is a third of the act. Even Oswald isn't crazy about it at first, citing his favourite authority: "that's not the way we used to do it in Vaudeville, kid; if it ain't broke, don't fix it."
But Wile persists, and in the end he gets his way: the sheep are to be mere furniture, grazing and chewing their cud. Wile has the hairstylist brush out the sheep's wool to make them look fat and fluffy. The dog's hair is combed over his eyes, to enhance his aura of inscrutability. After viewing the early test prints, the studio executives say that they want Wile to wear a red false nose, to "take the edge of psychosis" out of the character, fearing that it may make some viewers uneasy. Wile loses the fight against the nose. The project is green-lighted to go forward, and shooting formally begins.
During the first few months of production Wile barely has time to think of Pauline Flair. Between directing the action, viewing the rushes, and learning his part for the next picture, his days are completely filled. He argues with the prop master, who is always begging him to simplify his inventive contraptions for snaring sheep, citing budgetary constraints. He argues with the editors about long moments of silence, and when to cut away from a gag. By the time he gets home at night he is so wound up that it can take three or four martinis before he's ready to grab a few hours of sleep.
One day he walks off the set to find Pauline hanging around in the shadows at the back of the sound-stage, her cigarette smoke drifting out to reveal her position. "Pauline?" whispers Wile. When he comes near, he sees that she is wearing a kerchief over her hair and wide sunglasses over her eyes. Between the edge of the kerchief and side of the glasses peeks through a badly bruised sliver of skin.
"I've left Donald," she says huskily. "Hold me."
After the marriage Wile E. Coyote discovers that it is not his directorial influence that would be used for the benefit of Pauline Flair, but rather Pauline Flair's considerable influence that would be used to bolster his cause. Within a year, his budgets are quadrupled. He begins to feel that the sheep premise may not be sufficiently elastic to contain his newest ideas.
"I don't want to speak against the pictures," Oswald tells him; "But you know as well as I do that there's something contrived about the whole thing. Isn't there a situation closer to your heart?"
The coyote broods on the subject, sipping his whiskey in the dark. In the next room is the wheezing snore of Pauline Flair in her Valium and alcohol-induced slumber.
He knows that his red-nosed wolf character is not hitting the mark, just as he knows his life is not hitting the mark. His wife is less of a dream than he had hoped, and more of a demanding drag, happy only when basking in his reflected glory. It is a strange addiction that ails her, and the coyote cannot understand it. Gradually, he is coming to know that it sickens him. She is a complicated and messy thing, worlds and worlds away from the simple purity of a RoadRunner running down the road.
If he can please Pauline for just long enough, and at the same time avoid her self-destruction, he knows he will be made a producer. Pauline draws fans to the box office, and that means that Wile is not alone in scampering to indulge her, but has as company several top studio executives, a handful of directors, dozens of actors and hundreds of actresses, make-up girls and production assistants.
In his mind is forming a new scenario, a new vehicle for his talents: his own life. By the time Pauline's influence has made him a producer, he will know that his next project will be called simply "RoadRunner."
Wile E. Coyote strides into the sound-stage where the scrub desert sets are being put together. Grips on wires paint the giant back-wall sky blue. Set dressers add cacti and scatter rocks. The painter is painting a yellow dotted line down the middle of the winding highway. The coyote thinks to himself that the project feels right. This will work.
The coloured girls record a theme song that echoes the popular styles of the day, singing together against amplified guitars and bass:
If you're running down the road and the RoadRunner goes 'beep-beep' /
You'd better step aside or you might end up in a heap /
RoadRunner RoadRunner runs down the road all day /
Not even the coyote can make him change his ways /
RoadRunner - the coyote's after you /
RoadRunner - if he catches you you're through...
There are problems with production at first. Everyone agrees that the animatronic RoadRunner bought from Disney looks terrible in every situation save close-ups; this is on top of the fact that it is plagued by mechanical problems. (Jack warner is furious, convinced that Walt has sold them a lemon on purpose.) Wile is not impressed by the costume department's attempts to clothe an actor as the fleet-footed bird, and tells the special effects boys that their puppet version will only work for the wide shots.
In the end, a solution combining the best faces of all the approaches is favoured. It makes production a complicated nightmare, but Wile thinks it's all worth it when he sees the first rough cut. "It's all there on screen, boys," he tells the crew.
His first RoadRunner short picture debuts in Los Angeles' famous D. Theatre, home of almost every cartoon premiere since the Silly Symphonies back in the day, in the waning years of Vaudeville. Wile has a hell of a time getting Pauline together, but he succeeds in the end and manages to stride into the theatre lobby with the gorgeous if dazed star on his arm as his loving wife.
The audience receives the picture very well. Afterward amid the popping flash-bulbs and the sweaty handshakes, Oswald 'Bugs' Bunny takes Wile E. Coyote aside and tells him how proud he is. "That's a great cartoon, Wile. You'll have a hit on your hands."
And he does. The Warners are ecstatic, despite their complaints about the over-budget expenses. The critics rave: "In this forlorn coyote condemned to this endless task we can see our own hopes, appetites and fears reflected, with darkly hilarious results." Contracts for more RoadRunner pictures are signed. Bonuses are awarded, and Wile throws himself fabulous parties.
He wonders what he is celebrating.
The whole in his heart cannot be filled. He is always craving. His desire for Pauline did not satiate his yearning, nor does re-living his days of yore with a mechanical RoadRunner. His is successful, but sad. Having achieved his desires, he is robbed of his dreams. He is left craving blindly, groping in the dark for just one more drink.
"Have you ever tried gambling?" Daffy Duck advises him at one particularly substance-soaked Hollywood party. "It's a real high, and all you lose is money!" Daffy giggles and smacks the coyote on the back.
"I have money," Wile admits.
"No hangover!" promises Daffy. "Unless of course, you're drinking while you're gambling. Which, personally, I quite enjoy."
"Right," says Wile.
"You should come with us to Vegas sometime," offers the duck.
"Thanks, Daffy. I'll keep that in mind."
The Warners decide to follow up the phenomenally successful The Bugs Bunny & Tweety Show television programme with a new re-packaging of older pictures with new pictures under the title The RoadRunner & Tweety Show. They hope to capture existing fans of the classic Loony Toons by peppering Sylvester and Tweety pictures in a salad of newer material, like Wile E. Coyote's newest pet project, "Speedy Gonzales."
"Speedy is a hero," chants Wile in his pitch, "a superhero, even. He's virtuous, brave, generous, strong and fast -- but he's packaged in the body of mouse, so the antagonists are always underestimating him."
"Sounds like Mighty Mouse," sneers Don Fastling, a producer now for The Bugs Bunny & Tweety Show.
"No, and here's why, Donny: Mighty Mouse is a literal miniturisation of Superman -- it's comic but it's cheap. Speedy lives in a world of poor Mexican peasants, for whom he liberates food -- there's pathos there, there's hope and the exhilaration of watching the underdog succeed along with the purely comic angle."
"Still..." warns Donny, "Mighty Mouse is gonna shit."
Tragedy occurs early in production when the first mouse to play Speedy Gonzales is killed when the rig that whips him along the studio floor collapses. One of the junior grips sustains minor injuries to his shoulder and right arm. A large stretch of the Mexican village set is destroyed. The press descend like a pack of hounds, howling to find out who is to blame.
In a meeting with the Warners, Jack tears a strip off of Wile. "Damn it, Wile, does every picture you do have to revolve around grandiose special effects? Why does every one of your characters have to run four hundred miles an hour?" This is an exaggeration, and Jack knows it; he needs to express some steam, however, and Wile knows that, too.
Producer Don Fastling shakes his head and says, "Don't be so hard on the guy, Jack. He's willing to take the big big risks." Wile looks up, puzzled that Don should stand up for him. His puzzlement fades as Don continues: "That means accepting his big failures along with his big successes."
"This isn't a failure," Wile hastens to interject. "It was a tragic loss, but my special effects chief assures me the new rig will work. The show must go on!" Oswald 'Bugs' Bunny nods. Jack sighs. Saul frowns. Morris is asleep. Reluctantly, permission is given for the coyote to start up production again.
The first thing the coyote does is to put out a casting call for a mouse. It is not long before he spots his new star: a young actor with enough talent to almost make the tragic replacement worth the price in blood. He's quick, adaptable, attentive, and he can lay on a passable Mexican accent fairly consistently. His name is Jerry, and he's naive enough to work for peanuts; Wile gives him double that and starts ramping up for the long-delayed shooting.
Everyone holds their breath when Jerry Mouse is first belted into the harness that would connect him to the rig. If the mouse looks relaxed, it is because he has no idea what has happened to his predecessor. The effects chief gives the nod to Wile who gives the nod to Chuck Jones, the director. "Action!"
The rig performs flawlessly, scooting the little brown mouse across the entire length of the sound-stage in a heartbeat, a plume of dust spurting out behind his feet. "What a ride!" Jerry cries excitedly as they unstrap him and prepare for the next shot, a standing shot, by swapping the reinforced safety-sombrero with a chinstrap with the regular sombrero prop. Dressers scurry in to take some of the dust off his poncho, and the stage is set for the first character-driven scene of the series.
Wile watches with some apprehension as the director walks the cast through the scene, which ends with Speedy about to make his trade-mark hasty exit. Due to some confused cues on the part of the peasant mice, it is twenty-two takes before things start to move along properly. At the very end of the scene, two of the peasant mice trip over one another. Tired and feeling a little punchy, Jerry pretends to make his exit, improvising a sort of incendiary cry for himself: "Andale andale andale arriiiiiiiiba!"
"I love it," says Wile.
He loves little else. Of an evening he can found either hosting a party, attending a party, or being a small party unto himself. He rises late in the day, feeling tired. He finds fabulous wealth to be more expensive than he had reckoned, and accountants insufferably tedious to listen to. He tries to keep busy, and to keep his mind hopping from one thing to the next.
A recurrent nightmare comes to him, in which he catches and eats the RoadRunner. He wakes up in a cold sweat, his heart hammering in his furry chest.
One day, Wile notices that Pauline is seeming in better spirits, despite being passed over at a recent audition. Encouraged, he has his secretary fetch roses, which he carries proudly under his arm as he hops out of his red Porsche in the driveway of his Beverly Hills home.
He comes inside to find his wife in bed with a young up and coming skunk named Peppy. "Darling," she says lamely, "what can I tell you? This is exactly what it seems like." The skunk looks at Wile with a blase expression. "Is this your husband?" he intones with faux Gallic syrup. "Isn't he the crazy coyote?"
Wile backs out of the room and closes the door. He takes a deep breath, and then walks calmly down to the livingroom, where he pours himself a tall drink. He sits at his darkened bar for another two hours, until the skunk comes down the stairs on his way out. The coyote beats the shit out of him, and throws his bleeding pretty boy ass into the gutter with drunken satisfaction.
The coyote sits in the gutter for a while, drinking from the bottle and listening to Peppy moan as he drags himself up to the sidewalk. "What do you want out of life?" Wile asks him.
"Gef the fuf afay fom me!" the skunk spits, losing a tooth.
Wile watches him crawl away into the twilight with waning curiosity. When his bottle is empty, he throws it at his house. He falls asleep on the grass.
The beating garners Wile E. Coyote some bad press, and the subsequent divorce doesn't make him look any better. The Warners halt production on the RoadRunner cartoons, and review the coyote's contract. "The thing is, Wile, we already have an odd duck. Daffy is our troublemaking star, and we don't need another one. We don't need any stars with public drinking problems either, but we're already sacked with Foghorn Leghorn. You understand our position, son, we have to let you go."
Wile E. Coyote continues to try to make a go of it in Hollywood for a while. In the end, he's doing pornographic pictures with Jessica Rabbit just to make ends meet. The alimony is bleeding him to the bone. The last straw comes when he can't pay back a ten thousand dollar loan, so Porky Pig makes a few phone calls and arranges to have Wile E. Coyote's knees broke. While recovering in hospital Wile admits to himself that he's finished in this town.
He sells the house, the art, the over-priced sports collectibles, the memorabilia. He packs a few good suits in a the trunk of his red Porsche and drives off. He finds himself driving across California and into Nevada, and before long the reflected glare of the neon of Las Vegas is shining down on him through the windshield. The dancing lights make his mind tingle, and he finds himself stirred from his depression. This could be fun, he says to himself. He reckons that he must have had this in mind from the start.
This place isn't as open minded as California; several of the casinos won't admit coloureds or cartoons. He finally finds a place that seems happy to have him a customer, and he is set loose to wander the gaming floor. Noise and glitter surround him on all sides. He looks sharp in his white leisure-suit. He scoops a complimentary drink from the tray of a passing waitress.
He finds a familiar face at the roulette table: Daffy Duck surrounded by a cadre of flirtatious girls. "Wile E. Coyote!" Daffy cries as he spots him; he waves enthusiastically. "What are you doing out here? Come and sit with us! Ladies -- scooch over for my good friend Wile, won't you?" Daffy's girls giggle and make some way for Wile. "First time playing?" Daffy asks.
"Yeah," says Wile.
"The secret is not to second guess yourself," says Daffy; "Five hundred on sixteen!" The conversation drops away as the party focuses on the silver ball hopping between the spokes of the spinning wheel. It drops into slot number sixteen, and Daffy and he girls cheer. "See what I mean, brother?"
Wile scoops another drink from a passing waitress, and rubs his chin. Starting conservatively, he advances chips for a hundred over the square for nine. The ball drops into place, and Wile grins. Daffy claps his explosively on the back and laughs. "It looks like whatever jinx keeps you from catching that roadrunner ain't at work here, Wile. You're a natural!" Wile loses the next two, but it isn't enough to diminish the aura of excitement for him.
At the end of the night he finds himself in one of the cheaper suites of the casino hotel. He takes one of Daffy's bimbos with him, and they have a drunken good time of making love and laughing. They pass out virtually simultaneously. "What's your name?" Wile asks in the morning. "Candy," says Candy. "You're a good time, Candy," says Wile, closing his eyes. He day-dreams about the gaming floor, and realises he's excited to get back to the action.
Daffy is already at the bar with his brood, chatting up the bartender loudly and finding themselves hilarious. Wile and Candy join them quietly, and drinks are poured for them. "It's a bit early in the day for drink, isn't it?" Wile asks, though if he were alone he would already be most of the way through his first bottle of the day.
Daffy shrugs, "It's not too early for this." One of the girls is setting up lines of cocaine on a small mirror. Daffy leans in and a line disappears with an efficient hiss. The black duck closes his eyes, snorts experimentally, and then grins. "Goooood morning," he says to no one in particular.
Wile is intrigued.
By the time Daffy has made the trip between Los Angeles and Vegas three more times, Wile and Candy have settled more or less permanently in less than posh apartments at the casino hotel. When they're not drunk they fight a lot, but the sex is good. They share cocaine together, and Wile's dwindling riches.
On this third visit Daffy brings not only his usual retinue of women, but also a representative of the Acme Company of America. "It's a real pleasure to meet you, Wile E. Coyote," says the representative as he shakes Wile's hand. Wile is fairly drunk and very high, so he has already forgotten who the stiff is. "Who's the stiff?" he asks.
Daffy explains that Acme wants to use Wile as their new spokesman in their promotional campaigns. The representative rushes to say, "You were our number one customer for over twenty years, Mr Coyote. You're a legend at Acme. We're prepared to offer you a substantial sum to be our poster boy."
"You fuck," says Wile; "I am not a whore. Get out. I don't need your money." He turns to Daffy, and continues: "And I don't need your fucking charity. I don't need anything."
"Gee," says Daffy, so the coyote punches him in the head so hard that his bill flies off and hits the rear wall. Wile is not sure why he has done this, but he does know that it has brought him immense satisfaction. Daffy has dropped to his knees, cradling his face. Wile kicks him in the side and grunts, "Fucking duck season."
Later on, Wile is informed that he went on to attack the Acme man with his own briefcase. "I must've been angry about something," Wile reasons to Candy, while recovering from the experience with a sudsy bath. "Fucking duck," he mutters, and rubs some cocaine on the gums running the length of his long muzzle.
Wile decides that he and Candy should make themselves scarce for a while, on account of Daffy Duck's popularity with the management. He pays his tab and the hush money, then drags Candy to the aeroport. "Where are we going?" she pouts. "New Mexico," says Wile. "It's a vacation, baby."
"Who goes vacationing in New Mexico?"
"It's where I'm from."
"Are we going to stay with your folks?"
Soon the rental car is pulled off to the side of the four-lane interstate freeway, and Wile E. Coyote and Candy are walking through the scrub. Candy fails to be impressed by the tall rock pillars. "They look fake," is the deepest reaction she can express. "Wi-ile, I want some snow."
Wile has wandered away from her, and stands at the mouth of a small cave. He ducks his head inside and takes off his sunglasses. Sand and dust, dirt covering everything. Wile kneels down by the shelf of rock he had called his bed, and wipes the dust from the side of a small wooden crate that sits on it. "Acme Pulley and Winch Set" says the crate. This is the Pulley and Winch set that he used on that Fateful Day. He kneels on the cave floor and looks at it for a long time. He looks over the walls, and his old possessions are remembered to him: his tattered books, his diagrams, his telescope...
This life seems so small to him now, this dusty life summed up in a cramped dusty cave filled with the debris of monomania. Not only can he not imagine returning to this life, he cannot even quite figure out how he lived it in the first place. What did I think about? he wonders to himself. Who was I? he asks, frightened that he can't recall. He takes some cocaine, and sniffs.
"Wi-ile? Wi-ile? Can we leave yet?" Candy is whining, outside. Wile closes his eyes for a moment, and then turns abruptly and leaves the cave. He takes Candy's arm and escorts her roughly back through the scrub to the freeway. "Where are we going now?" she pouts.
"I don't know. Where do you want to go? We can go anywhere."
"Let's go back to Las Vegas!"
"We can't go back to Las Vegas."
"I'd rather not go to Reno."
"We don't have enough money for Paris. How about New York?"
"Oh Wile I love you!" cries Candy, kissing him. "What will we do there?" she wants to know. Wile E. Coyote has no idea. "Smack, probably," he replies.
He is no longer chasing something to fill the void inside of him; instead, he is trying to learn to embrace the void, to enjoy it. He takes some cocaine, and starts to drive.
Wile and Candy are sitting at the upstairs bar in the Waldorf-Astoria, where they can be found most evenings. Candy is swaying in her seat, and making bedroom eyes at any man who will look at her; she is their principal source of income at the moment. Wile is watching the television over the bartender's shoulder: somebody has killed John Lennon. Wile E. Coyote is indifferent to crises in non-cartoon entertainment.
He looks up to see Oswald 'Bugs' Bunny. "What are you doing here, old-timer?" Wile slurs.
Oswald sits down on the next stool, and strokes his long, somber face for a moment. "I heard you were in trouble," Oswald says quietly.
"I'm not in trouble," Wile says, noticing that his cigarette is burning a hole in his silk shirt. "Crap," he says.
"What are you doing to yourself, Wile? Why are you doing this?"
Wile considers this a long, long moment. Oswald lets him consider it. Finally, Wile raises his head and looks at Oswald, nodding. "I never should have done it. I never should have caught that bird. I never should have caught the RoadRunner. Nothing has been right since that day..." He trails off, remembering his sublime evening; "...Since that night," he corrects himself. "I never should have done the one thing I wanted to do most. How can an animal live with that?"
"Honestly, I don't know," Oswald says, "but in the days of Vaudeville --"
"Shut the fuck up about Vaudeville. It's a million years ago, Oswald. It has jack-shit to do with anything anymore, face it," Wile explodes with sudden vehemence. "If you don't have anything useful to say, stop after 'I don't know.'"
Oswald sits there as if slapped, blinking. After a long moment he shakes his head and sighs. "I just thought if we could talk it out --"
"Shut the fuck up. I don't need your crap. I don't need anything."
Slowly, Oswald takes his coat and hat and walks out of the bar. Wile throws his unfinished drink at the television, and then drags Candy into the elevator. He pulls her semi-conscious form through the corridor and into their suite. "Bed or bathroom?" Wile barks at her until she says answers "bafoo." Wile cannot understand this answer, so he just throws her into the dark bathroom. He walks to the dresser and fixes himself a drink. He sets up a few lines, and takes them.
"Fuck..." groans Candy from the washroom. "You really fucked me up, Wile," she says. Wile hears her vomit a few times. "My head," she says weakly. "You fucked up my head."
Wile gets up and leans against the bathroom doorjamb. He gropes around the corner blindly and flips on the light. Candy is passed out beside the toilet. Her vomit is mixed with the copious amounts of blood pooling on the floor next to her, apparently coming from a gash on the back of her head. Wile is bewildered, until he figures out that he must have thrown her in there too roughly. He wonders if she will die.
The coyote pauses, intrigued.
Wile E. Coyote considers that there is a way to really embrace the void. He takes the rest of the cocaine, and then makes his way shakily over to the balcony. He takes a swig from the bottle for courage, and then allows it to drop and smash at his feet. He climbs awkwardly up to stand on the balcony ledge, his paws curling over the narrow railing.
"I never should have done it," the coyote mutters to himself, enjoying the chill of the wind and the murmur of traffic far below. He closes his eyes, and counts to three. And leaps.
The coyote's plummet is accompanied by a steeply mounting whistle of rushing air. When he strikes ground, there comes a sound like a muffled gun-shot. A ring of dust drifts lazily out from the point of impact.
Wile E. Coyote awakes in a sterile white hospital room. On the table beside him is a froth of flowers, and a minor landslide of greeting cards. All four of his limbs are in traction, and as well as a cast covering much of his neck and head. He feels numb, and a little dreamy. Most of him vaguely hurts.
"RoadRunner...coyote's after you...RoadRunner...if he catches you you're through..." mumbles Wile. A nurse notices his (somewhat) conscious state and summons a doctor, who asks Wile about a flashlight while he moves it around in front of his eyes. The doctor asks Wile if he knows his name, and what the last thing he remembers is.
"I remember trying to kill myself by jumping off a hotel."
"Very good!" the doctor exclaims happily, making a note on Wile's chart.
"That's good?" Wile asks.
"It's good that you remember -- we're concerned only with your physical well-being here, Mr Coyote. Any emotional problems you may have are your own concern."
"Ah." Wile considers this. "When can I leave the hospital, doctor?"
"When we remove your casts and declare you well."
"...Is that soon?" Wile wants to know. He is not anxious to leave, merely curious. He accepts the doctor's answers calmly. He smiles.
A few days later the coyote is visited by Jack Warner. Jack is all smiles, too. He wears a fabulous suit, and he is able to make his advanced age come off dapper. "Wile my boy!" he cheers, sitting nimbly on the edge of the bed.
"It's good to see you, Jack. You look fabulous."
Jack tells Wile about all of the troubles that the studio has been experiencing lately; the cartoon department is in crisis. He is interrupted by a nurse bringing in Wile's dinner. Noting the difficulty the coyote has feeding himself with his rigid arms, Jack offers to help Wile out. "I'll help you out with your dinner, Wile," he says, cutting up a potato; "And I'll help you out of the trouble you're in, too." Wile looks up. Jack continues: "We need you back, my boy. We need cartoon actors with your kind of moxie."
The coyote opens his mouth inviting a morsel, and Jack responds by gingerly inserting a bite-size chunk of potato into his jaws. Wile chews thoughtfully. "That's awfully generous of you, Jack," he says after a moment.
"Naturally, as a tier one star you'd be entitled to certain...amenities," says Jack. Wile opens his mouth in wait. Jack inserts another chunk of potato. "And of course, you'd be under the protection of the studio's team of legal experts, should anything untoward occur..."
Jack pauses, and puts down the fork. Wile chews. He swallows at last and takes a further moment of reflection. "You've always been really great to me, Mr Warner. I'm afraid, however, that I am going to have to turn you down."
Jack isn't sure what to say. Wile opens his mouth for his next bite.
Slowly, Jack cuts a slice of meat and places it on the coyote's tongue. He says, "Take some time to think about it, my boy. All forgotten -- a clean slate -- think of it."
Wile nods, chewing. "Thanks a lot, Jack." After Jack Warner leaves, Wile struggles to feed himself the remainder of his meal. He considers that no amount of consideration would sweeten the Warners' offer in his mind: he knew well that the void at his core could not be filled by fame, success or money; empirically, it could not be filled by cocaine, gambling or pussy, either. "No sense looking back," he murmurs to himself. "Onward and upward."
It is a month before Wile can leave the hospital under his own power, assisted by crutches. Though he is without destination, he is eager to be on his way. He wanders the street, and when night comes, he sleeps there, too. He is robbed and beaten. Somebody steals his crutches. He hobbles on.
Forty nights on the street, and he is a shadow of a personality. He is having difficulty remembering what increasingly seems like an imagined past, a nonsensical chain of events stemming from his greatest misfortune: the day he achieved his dream, and made the hunt, and killed the bird, and ended the chase. He discovers that he was angry with the RoadRunner, for failing to survive. The RoadRunner took the easy way out, and ended up as coyote shit...Wile, meanwhile, is left to be digested by life, abandoned. He curses himself for hunting too well, and then curses himself for the ridiculous pretension of imagining for a moment that his skills had had anything to do with that Fateful Day: he was just lucky, and he knew it. The RoadRunner blinked. His greatest victory was a random sneeze of fortune.
Or, it was a movement in an act beyond his comprehension, a pattern larger than he has perceived. In a flash, the coyote knows how to fill the void inside of himself, and how to learn about the great forces at work that shape lives and the destiny of the universe.
Hobbling, shuffling, Wile E. Coyote makes his happy way up the paved walk to the local branch of the Church of Scientology.
The Darth Side: Memoirs of a Monster | Rocket Stumps | The Secret Mathematic | Dunyayi Kurtaran Adam
||IF YOU HAVE ENJOYED READING THIS STORY, PLEASE CONSIDER LEAVING A SMALL TIP. A PAYPAL ACCOUNT IS NOT REQUIRED. THANK YOU VERY MUCH. YOURS TRULY, C. BROWN.