The turtle ducked down in the bag and pulled into his shell as the shaking upset his stomach. The bag was warm and soft, and although it wasn’t his normal bed the rocking proved soothing after a while. He was fast asleep when the coyote stopped at a small pond for water.
Coyote carefully slid the bag off his neck and nosed the lump of a turtle sleeping inside. The turtle slid out of the bag and stretched wearily.
“Are we there yet?” The turtle eyed the pond warily. He didn’t trust the desert to have safe drinking water.
“We are halfway there. Have a drink of water and we’ll set off again.” The coyote drank from the pond greedily and the turtle finally bent his head down, tasting the water. It seemed alright, if a little dirty, and he drank his fill before climbing into the bag again. The sun was starting to head down again for night time and the air didn’t feel quite as hot as it had been.
“It will be nighttime before we get anywhere, can’t you at least tell me where we are going?”
“Where we go is not important, turtle friend, but the journey and the company are.” The fox managed to get the handles over his head again and situated it so that he could run, “If you are bored, I can sing a song.”
“A song? What kind of song?” The turtle knew little of music, though the master sometimes played soothing sounds that echoed through the house.
“Oh a nonsense song of course! It’s no fun to be serious all the time.” The coyote started singing a song about flying fish and the turtle sat in his bag, thinking about his nice quiet pond. He was thinking of lunch when the coyote launched into a chorus suddenly and started leaping in the air.
“And he leapt so high he jumped into space. Then he nibbled the stars just to see how they taste!” The coyote laughed and hopped a couple times before taking off at a run again.
The turtle was bounced around so badly that he ended up upside down in the bag, with his head wedged next to the food. He tugged at the edge of the bag until he was right-side up again, and ate a little of the food.
Somewhere between the coyote’s ridiculous songs and leaping the turtle was able to fall asleep. Unfamiliar stars dotted the sky above him when he poked his head out again with a yawn. The coyote was trotting along in silence, and paused to nudge the turtle with his nose. “Did you sleep well, my hard-shelled friend?”
The turtle opened his mouth to complain, but thought better of it. He was doing a favor for someone who probably helped save his life after all. “I suppose, I’m awake enough now. Are we almost there?”
The coyote let out a sharp, barking laugh and hopped a little, knocking the turtle back into the bag. “Ah yes, we are almost there at last. The journey goes much faster with company.”
“So where are we going?” The turtle asked again. The coyote only laughed and started running towards the horizon. The turtle could see a dim light in the distance, just an orange dot on the horizon. It began to grow rapidly and for a moment the turtle thought it might be the sun rising, but it was too small and most of the sky was still dark. Instead, they were approaching an lone campfire at a breakneck pace. The coyote skidded to a halt a few feet away and strolled up to the abandoned fire, carefully setting the bag down on a large rock that overlooked everything.
“Now, turtle-friend, I ask my small favor of you.” The coyote waited until the turtle had crawled out of the bag and onto the rock to continue, “I wish you to listen and watch, and judge. You are very good at judging, and this is what I ask.”
The turtle felt he should be offended at this, but he couldn’t say the coyote was wrong, and so he nodded and sat down on the rock sullenly. He could only assume things would become clear soon. This was surely another of the coyote’s little games.