Coyote Goes to College

by Gregory Frost

One time Coyote decided he should go to college. It wasn’t because he needed to learn anything. In fact, teaching Coyote would have been difficult for anyone to do, because he never listened or learned until it was too late.No, as usual, Coyote decided to go to college because he wanted something he didn’t have.

Coyote was the inventor of the consumer society. He always wanted what he didn’t have, and always talked himself into reasons for needing it. Most of the time, this involved women, because that’s what Coyote had the least experience with. Had anyone consulted the womenCoyote had approached over the millennia, they would have said it was because he always lied to them. Coyote would have countered that they wouldn’t have anything to do with him otherwise. It’s just possible that both observations were true — however, as Coyote always lies, we’ll never know.

One warm afternoon in the early fall, Coyote wandered across a college campus. More than a dozen girls were sitting and lying about on the grass, and they were wearing shorts and had kicked their shoes off, and arranged their bodies the way cats do, languorous and lazy and content, and Coyote couldn’t help himself, he fell in love with every one of them.

He walked through their midst but they didn’t see him. Not one of them looked over her sunglasses at him, smiled at him, or acknowledged him. They talked about matters irrelevant to him — about grades and boyfriends and television shows. Most of it made no sense to Coyote. "They don’t appreciate me," he told himself, "because they can tell I don’t belong here.I have to change that." So for a while he followed some of the male students around, listened and imitated until he understood what he had to do. He snatched some books and some notepads, and swiped a backpack that someone had left hanging off the seat of their bike while they went into a coffee shop. He didn’t care much for the clothes the boys were wearing this year — for one thing, they all dressed alike — but he knew thatif he didn’t wear their clothes, the girls wouldn’t see him as one of their kind. Although the world had transformed so much that they could never recognize him for what he really was, they still might not pay him any attention. There was always trouble when Coyote was ignored.

Now, some of the boys he followed mentioned that they had pledged a fraternity house and some made lewd comments about what such a house would do for their sex life, and Coyote concluded that a fraternity would be a good place to learn more about how to impress those women. When the pledges went to the house, he followed them inside. Nobody knew him, but it was early in the semester and no one was sure who the pledges were anyway.Coyote had about him the air of someone who is older if no wiser than a pledge, and this worked well for him in the fraternity, where wisdom was an infrequent visitor. The pledges assumed he was a member and the members took him for a likely candidate. "I should have joined one of these long ago," he thought.

That night was a hazing, though not a very intimidating one. The fraternities had gotten into trouble because of more perilous hazing, and now the worst they could do was to make their pledges drink a whole pitcher of beer. When Coyote found out the nature of the "punishment," he worked his way to the front of the line as quickly as possible, and studied with great interest while someone pumped a keg and then filled a pitcher.They handed him the pitcher and a plastic cup, but he gave the cup back, saying, "I’ll show you how this is done. I’ve been doing this forever." He then drank the contents of the pitcher without stopping. It looked like a magic trick, and when he finished and set down the pitcher, no one spoke. They stood amazed. Coyote grinned and said, "That was refreshing. Do you think I could have another?" The room exploded with cheering andhooting and other noises that males make when they have no chance of attracting a mate.

The pitcher was refilled. Coyote wiggled his hips, stuck a finger out at the pitcher and in his best Elvis Presley voice (he had learned to imitate Elvis in the 1960s as a way to attract women, although he’d had no luck with it), said, "Thank you very much." This pitcher vanished in much the same manner as the previous one.

Now the room went wild. Hazing as such was forgotten. The boys were flinging plastic cups at each other and screaming — some so high that Coyote thought maybe some girls had shown up after all. He was a little dismayed that none had — given the boys he’d followed had been discussing how the fraternity would make it easy for them to get laid. Such a prospect seemed unlikely if no women showed up. He wanted to ask about that, but someone handed him another pitcher,and he instinctively drained it.

Coyote loved to drink. He maintained that it held no sway upon him. The beer coming out of the keg was nothing compared to brews he’d drunk his entire life. Contemplating the many occasions when he’d enjoyed himself, he slapped his leg and laughed. "One time," he declaimed, "Bear challenged me to a drinking match. And he was so big that he knew he could win, and I knew that, too. For every drink I had, he could drink twelve. And that was very powerful stuff,not like this . . .cat pee–pee here!" That struck him as funny and he had to stop and laugh again. "So I sat on one side of a fire and he sat on the other, and whenever I took a drink, I spit it on the fire, and the flame jumped up so high that Bear couldn’t see me, and I poured out the contents of the jug behind the log I was sitting on. After many hours, Bear proclaimed that he had to quit before he got sick."

"So, like, you won, then," said one of the pledges, while Coyote downed another pitcher.

"I should have, but Bear cheated. He insisted we drink one more time, and this time he came around the fire and handed me his jug. I knew I could drink it, because I hadn’t really drunk anything yet. So I started to drink, but he had filled the jug to the brim, and I had to make believe that I had done the same, so pretty soon the drink was running from the sides of my mouth, and down my body and down my foot, and it ran right into the fire."

"What happened?" asked the captive audience.

"Well, I was sitting by then on a pond of Bear’s favorite potion — everything I’d poured out — so when the fire caught that little stream, it chased it right to my log. The flames sprang up as high as the trees."

"Wow, like, how did you survive?"

"Oh, I didn’t. That time I was burned to a crisp and Bear won. I know he cheated by filling his jug so full, but nobody listens to me."

Coyote set down the pitcher. The audience stared in something passing awe as he took the nozzle from the keg itself and opened his mouth and sprayed a stream of beer in with one hand while he pumped and pumped with the other. This went on for a very long time because nobody could believe what they were seeing nor move to stop him.

When he’d drunk his fill, Coyote set down the nozzle. He rocked unsteadily on his feet. His belly had swollen hugely. He gave them all a great grin, then opened his jaws wide and let out a belch that flung pledges across the room, overturned furniture, and blew out a window.

Cackling majestically at his handiwork, he took one step and fell flat on his face, unconscious.