The turtle was enjoying his new home. The master had built him a little sheltered pond outside, and a little pathway to get from the pond to his tank inside. The dog had grown accustomed to his increased presence and no longer growled at him at feeding time. Life was good, and the trials of the desert a distant memory. He slid into the pond and swam around a bit before surfacing to sun himself on a rock near the edge of the enclosure.
His eyes were playing tricks on him and he kept thinking the rock in the distance was moving closer. The turtle knew he must have been sunning too long and turned around to head back inside when a familiar voice called out to him.
“Why hello, little turtle friend!” The coyote pranced up to the edge of the enclosure and waited for the turtle to turn again and face him. “I am pleased to see you again!” He laughed merrily and shook out his fur.
“Hello coyote, I didn’t expect to see you again.”
“Oh but I wanted to make sure you were well off. Are you doing well, friend turtle?”
“I’m doing quite well, thank you. The master built this nice pond for me to-”
“Coyote!” The dog bounded out of the house and glared at the coyote, who stared at him calmly.
“Why hello, dog, what a pleasant surprise.” The coyote yawned a little as he spoke.
“I told you you are not welcome on this land, the master has no need for troublemakers.”
“And I told you I intend to make no trouble on this land. I am merely here to discuss things with friend turtle.”
“I don’t see what you could have to discuss.” The dog growled but sat down.
“I’ve come to ask for the return of a favor. Would you assist me in a minor task to repay your debt?”
“Debt?” The turtle looked confused.
“Yes, I let you sleep in the hole I dug. It was only a small favor on my part, so I ask only a small favor in return.”
“That is how this trickster gets you, turtle. He does things for you and then asks for favors later. The turtle is under my protection, coyote. The master likes him and I will allow no harm to come to him.”
“Oh nonono.” The coyote laughed a little and shook his head. “There is no danger in what I ask. He would merely need to accompany me, do one little thing, and I’ll make sure he comes back unharmed.”
“Accompany you? I don’t think I should leave the house, it’s dangerous out there.” The turtle withdrew into his shell a little.
“The master is returning from his journey in three days, the turtle must be here and unharmed when he arrives.”
“Oh of course, of course. I give my word he will be unharmed.” The coyote leaned against the fence and yawned again, bearing his teeth.
“How can I possibly travel with you, I’m too slow!” The turtle protested, feeling like the situation was getting out of his control.
“I could carry you, little friend. Does your master have a spare container I could use? Or you could ride on my back.”
“I could not!” The turtle said, getting annoyed.
“There are some bags by the door, you could borrow one to carry him in, as long as you bring it back in one piece.” The dog sat down and looked up at the sky to think.
“Why are you encouraging this? You’re supposed to look out for me.” The turtle started to feel a little dry and moved over to the pond, floating in the shallow part.
“You have a debt, turtle. It is important to repay debts.” The dog gave him a serious look before turning around to go back inside. He returned a moment later with a small bag. The coyote inspected it and stuck his head through the handles, leaving it to dangle in front of him.
“Hmm, I’d best move it to my side or friend turtle will be jostled horribly when I run.” The coyote moved the bag with his mouth and nodded with satisfaction when it rested against his side. “Now I just need friend turtle and I’ll be on my way.”
“Wait, don’t I get any say?” The turtle said, eyeing the bag in dismay.
“I will bring out some food for him too, the desert does not always provide for those of us not born here.”
“Very true, dog. The food can go in the bag as well.” The coyote sat patiently as the dog went inside and returned with a small bag of turtle food. He disappeared inside again and reappeared near the turtle, who tried to dive into the pond but was too slow. The dog picked him up in his mouth and carried him through the house and back outside, placing him in the bag with the food.
The turtle twisted around in the bag until his head could poke out of the top. He looked around and sighed. “I suppose there isn’t another option?”
“No worries, friend turtle, we will have fun on this journey.” The coyote laughed to himself, nodded farewell to the dog, and trotted off into the increasingly hot day. As far as the turtle could tell, they were heading towards the distant lights he could see at night from his pond.
“Where are we going anyways?”
“We are going this way, to meet another friend.”
And what is this favor you want from me?”
“In good time, turtle friend.” The coyote laughed and he began to bound across the desert, kicking up sand behind him.