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half the time), we have one big, bright Moon. But it wasn't always that way. There was a short time when we had many, many moons, and a time before that when we had no Moon at all. Until one night when Coyote said, "I'm tired of not having any light at night. I can't see a damned thing." (Which was a lie, because Coyote can see in the dark better than anyone except maybe Cat or Owl. But Coyote's full of crap, and he knows it. So he set out to get someone to help him. He tried Wolf. "Aren't you tired of not being able to see anything at night?" he asked. Wolf answered, "I have my ears, and my nose. Why don’t you use what you have for a change, instead of looking for the easy way out?" Coyote huffed, "Why do I even ask you this stuff?" He went on until he heard Mole, digging away under the soil. "Mole!" he barked. "Just the one I'm looking for!" he said as Mole came up in answer. "Hey, aren't you tired of only having Sun in the daytime? Mole blinked. "What's Sun?" he asked. Coyote snorted, "Forget about your blind ass." After awhile he came upon Cat, hunting in the brush. "Cat!" he yipped. "Just the cat for me! Hey, aren't you tired of not having any light at night?" Cat -- who he'd interrupted just as he was about to pounce on something soft and furry -- licked himself and, eventually, answered, simply, "Why would I?" Coyote sniffed, "So you can see how bad smug looks on you. Little mouse-breath bastard." Finally, Coyote came upon Raven. Of everyone in the world, Raven understands Coyote best, as he's a trickster too, though he acts less crazy about it. "Ray-VAHN!" Coyote crowed. "I've been looking all over for you! I been thinking, we gotta pool talents. Aren't you sick of not having any light at night?" "You know," Raven answered, "I am getting sick of bumping into clouds." Now, you can’t bump into a cloud, so one's sure what he meant. He was probably being poetic. Back then, Raven was the most poetic of all the spirits. He was also the most colorful of all the birds. He had feathers in reds, blues, yellows, greens, and colors nobody even remembers today because Raven's the only one who ever had them. And he wore them long, so that when he flew his tail reached halfway across the sky.
"So," he continued, "part of me is saying I shouldn't have anything to do with your plans, but part is saying that a little light at night might be worth it." "Second thoughts are always best," Coyote laughed. "So here's all we have to do. You know the Sun?" "It's a celestial body of which I'm aware, yes," Raven answered (casually inventing irony). "Right," said Coyote, not noticing. "Well, we just need a little piece of it, right? To light up things a little at night." "And how so you plan to get that?" Raven asked. "Well," said Coyote, "I don't. I can’t fly, can I? That's where you come in." "You want me to fly into the Sun?" Raven asked. "Big ball of fire that bakes the earth every morning? Eat scat." Coyote looked hurt. "Hey! I've got a plan, you know! How do you know the Sun's so bad up close? Look, in the morning, go do a fly-around and see how things are. Maybe it's safer than you think. Just check it out, is all." Raven could see no harm in this. "Alright. I'll check it out in the morning." When morning came, Raven flew up to the Sun, just as it crested the horizon. It was fresh out of the sea, and Raven found that, while pretty warm, he should be clever enough to be able to snatch a piece without harm. He flew back and reported to Coyote. "Great!" said Coyote. "But we don't want it just yet. It's all reddish now. We want to wait until it's bright white! So let's let it rise a bit. So a bit later, Raven again climbed into the sky to snatch a piece of the Sun. But now, he found, the Sun was too hot for him. He circled around it and flew back to tell Coyote that the plan was off. "Well, look here," Coyote said with his best helpful smile, "I got an idea. See that stream? Go in there and splash around and get all soaked." "That's a river." said Raven. "And it's ice-cold! It's straight out of the coldest chambers of the earth's heart!" (Told you. Poetic.) "Exactly!" Coyote grinned. "You'll be all cold and wet and you won't get burned!"
This made sense to Raven, though he noted that he was the one getting cold and wet and Coyote was the one looking on and grinning. So he splashed in and let the water soak into his feathers and over his skin. "Th-th-this is f-f-f-reezing!" he cried as the water sucked the heat from his bones. "That's the point!" Coyote said, encouragingly. "And don't bother chattering like that, you have no teeth!" Well, Raven eagerly got out of the water and started to fly -- slowly, because the water made him heavy. By the time he neared the Sun, it was a little after noon, when the Sun was at hottest, and the water was starting to warm and dry. He was cooler than he'd been before, though, so, having come so far already, he made his dive at the Sun. He snatched a small piece in his beak, but found that its touch was even hotter than he'd expected. He quickly shifted it to one claw, and then the other. He found himself in midair, bouncing it from one part of his body to another -- beak to foot to foot to wing to wing, off his head, his breast, his tail, just to keep if from getting too hot. Each time he batted the piece of Sun, another little piece flew off across the sky, and sparks flew over his feathers. It was a long way down from the Sun, and before he was halfway to the ground the water had dried up and half the bit of Sun had been battered away. As the real Sun was beginning to set, the sparks were starting to catch in his glorious feathers. His lengthy plumes charred and shriveled, his breast blackened, his beak scorches as it tried to hold the dwindling piece of Sun. At last, his feathers were almost burned away, and he plummeted like a falling black star deep into the snow of a mountaintop, where the snow against his burning feathers hissed into clouds of steam that blotted out the sky. Coyote -- who'd for some reason been waiting on the mountain where Raven fell -- called down the hole in the snow, "Hey! Nice work! Come on up and take a look!" The curses Raven swore while climbing up the icy tunnel wriggled away down the mountain, to grow into monsters for later stories (Coyote watched these with amusement). At last Raven cleared the hole and stood before Coyote. "The new look is good on you," Coyote promised. "Colors are everywhere. Almost nobody can pull off all black." Indeed, Raven was burned completely black from beak to cloaws. He knew the way these things worked, and knew that when the feathers regrew, they would grow in black and stunted. Just then, the clouds of steam parted, and in seeing the results of his work, Raven lost the thought of cursing Coyote with acidic mange. The night sky was lit buy a dozen burning moons, which together lit the world almost as bright as daylight. "Well, I'm impressed," Coyote said, so sincerely that Raven gave good odds that it was actually true. "Let's go play!"
So they darted off across the burning night, playing hide-and-seek, steal-the-salmon, and get-Buffalo-to-fall-off-a-cliff. They played, reveling in their success, long enough to get completely tired out before they came across -- or were come across by -- Bat, Rat, Cat, Owl, Raccoon, Possum and several others. "What's that?" Cat demanded, pointing at the Moon-filled sky. "Like it?" Coyote asked, grinning. "I got us some Moons to light things up during nighttime!" "We hate it!" Cat hissed. "What good is hiding in shadows when there are no shadows?" For with moons shedding light from all directions, shadows were scarce and faint. "What good is flying silently," demanded Owl, "when anything can look up and see you coming?" "It hurts my eyes!" shrieked Bat. "Hawk is out at night now!" complained Rat. After each had complained, Coyote turned to Raven. "How you going to make this Moon thing of yours right?" he asked. Raven scowled, but before he could say anything Owl said, "You two get rid of them! Or we'll skin you alive and bury you writhing in an anthill." With that, he flew away. "That bird has no sense of meter," Raven said to nobody, shaking his head. He turned to Coyote. ""Okay. I've come close enough to dying for one day. We need to get rid of those. And I can't fly up there right now, so we're going to need help." So Coyote and Raven raced to a grove of trees, where Owl had gone back to his nest, closing his eyes against the bright night and trying to sleep. There, they found Stork, Eagle, Hawk, Sparrow, Bluebird and others enjoying the night for a change. "Hey!" Raven called. " Anyone up for a game ball game?" Birds are always up for a ball game. "Which one?" Swift asked. "I have a new game!" Raven answered. "It uses these Moons! Everyone grab a stone, and see who can hit them the most and the hardest!" "Winner gets Owl's store of dried salmon!" Coyote threw in. Soon the birds were furiously into the new game. Eagle could lift largest stones, but sparrow could dart in over and over with pebbles, and Stork's neck could dart forward to hurl stones at high speed. Which player actually should have won was, of course, unimportant to Coyote and Raven, who left them to squabble over the larder of Owl (who was still trying to sleep).
What mattered was that each time they were struck, the Moons shed sparks, and were scattered higher into the sky. By the time the players tired of the game, a dozen burning moons had become a thousand scattered stars, deep in the curtain of the night sky. "There," said Raven at last. "At least it's actually kind of pretty." "Yeah," Coyote nodded. "Still. You know, just a thought here, but I think the problem was really that it was just too bright." "I'm not going back to the Sun," Raven said. "Not for all the light in the world. One mythic journey per story for this bird." "Not what I'm thinking," Coyote said. "We don't need a piece of the Sun,” he said. “We just need something to show us the Sun when it's not here. Some on." Raven thought better of joining Coyote in a second plan, but in the end no trickster, even with his feathers burned to soot, can stand to be left out of a trick. "Wait here," Coyote said when they got back to the mountain. "I have to go get something to dig with." Halfway down the mountain, he found Bear snuffling about in a beehive, licking up honey. "Bear!" he said. "Just the bear I wanted to see!" "What do you want?" Bear growled. "I'll be honest," Coyote said, "I'm out for my own gain." "You're always out for your own gain," agreed Bear. "But you're never honest." "I am when it suits me!" said Coyote. "You wound me!" "Not yet," said Bear. “But I will if you try to trick me, Coyote." "As it happens," Coyote said, “I need a partner in my task tonight. Raven went today and flew into the Sun. He fell down into the snow atop this mountain. He's sure to have all sorts of powerful magic tricks on him. We can go dig out his body and take them." Bear scoffed. "Raven would never be so mad. That sounds more like something you would do." "Ask anyone," Coyote said innocently. “Surely anyone without his head stuffed in a beehive would have seen it." Bear turned to Porcupine, who was browsing higher in the tree. "Did Raven fall from the Sun?" he asked. "Why, yes, I saw it myself!" Porcupine answered. "I supposed it was some trick Coyote played on him."
"That's no matter to me," Bear said, turning back to Coyote. "And why should I share with you?" asked Bear. "I can dig faster than you." "Because if I find Raven instead, you'll have nothing. We can agree that, whichever finds him, we'll share it. The two of us are the only ones already here, so we can make finding him a sure thing." "Hrmmm..." Bear growled in thought. "That makes sense. But I'll get the better of you, Coyote. I can dig faster and deeper, so I'll get three of Raven's things for each one you take." "Done!" said Coyote instantly. "And if you're tricking me, Coyote," Bear continued, "I'll rip off your head and eat your heart." "Well," said Coyote, "anyone ripping off my head may have my heart with my full consent. Now I'll get started; meet me up at the top!" With that, Coyote tore up the mountain to where he'd left Raven. "Alright!" he said to Raven, leading him to the hole he'd melted into the snow earlier. "What we need now is ice. Three's some good ice deep under the snow here. Fortunately, you've already dug us a hole in the best spot. You have good eyes; can you see any down there?" "What sort of ice am I looking for"" asked Raven. "The deep kind," Coyote said. "Here, I'll help." With that, he pushed Raven down the hole, and threw enough ice and snow on top of him to plug it. He ran to meet Bear, who he heard nearing the top of the mountain. "You made it!" he said. "Now, I'm digging here. You try that area just a little further up." "I don't trust you as far as you could throw me," Bear said. "I will dig here. You dig further up." Coyote started to protest, but Bear began thrust his great claws right where Coyote was standing, and Coyote leaped back with a yelp. As Bear dug, Coyote climbed back up the mountain, growling carefully inoffensive curses against great strong creatures too clever for their own good. Coyote climbed up to where he left Crow, and sat down to lick and groom himself. As Bear began digging, the mountain echoes came back, so it sounded like two sets of claws were digging in the snow. Each tie Bear stopped, eh would listen and say, "Why don't I hear you digging, Coyote? I'm not going to be tricked into digging up this whole mountaintop by myself." "I heard you stop," Coyote answered. "If a mighty digger like you can rest, then I should be able to rest my poor, tiny paws!"
Bear growled at this, but noticed that, when he again began to dig, he heard the other sound of digging start up again, and thought "At least I cannot fault Coyote for laziness." After Bear had dug most of the mountain down tot he solid ice, he decided to go up and spy on Coyote. "What are you doing, Coyote?" he demanded, seeing him sitting there. "What aren't you digging?" "I was digging higher up, and heard you stop. I thought you'd found something -- I admit, I didn't really trust you to share as you'd said -- and on the way down I spotted this strange plugged-up hole. What do you make of it?" Bear growled. "I make that I've been wasting my time digging there, because this is where Raven fell! Now, out of my way!" And he began to dig into the hole. Shortly, he came to Raven, who burst out of the snow. He tried to rage at Coyote, but was too overcome with shivering and sputtering to do or say anything. "What is this?!" demanded Bear. "You said he was dead!" "I assumed he was!" Coyote insisted. "He fell from the Sun hours ago! Who could be expected to survive that?" "Bah!" roared Bear. But he could see no contradiction in Coyote's words. "I am through with you, Coyote!" he said as he turned back down the mountain. "No one gains by putting trust in you!" "As if you would know anything of trust," said Coyote through his teeth, after Bear had left. Then, to Raven, "Well, while you were lying around in the snow, I've gotten us our Moon. Have a look." Indeed, an area of ice nearly the size of the mountaintop had been laid bare, and it shone in the starlight. "N-now what?" asked Raven, who'd come too far with this to give up now. "This will reflect the light from the stars, and from the Sun when it's under the earth. Now we just need to get it into the sky." "How do you plan that?" Raven demanded. "I don't have a plan," Coyote answered. "You claim to be a trickster, why don't you get something done for a change? Well, of course Raven did get the great circle of ice into the sky, but this is a Coyote story so we won't go into details of that. "Not bad!" said Coyote as they looked up into the newly installed Moon. "Got a fair bit of light coming down now." "Yesss," Cat hissed from behind him. Coyote turned as Cat went on, "We told you, Coyote, the night should be dark. The light is for the day."
"Well, in principle, yes" said Coyote, who liked the sound of "principles", even if he hadn't many. "But I went through a lot of work to get it up there, and anyway, it's a fine light. It even makes the shadows deeper, and you ought to appreciate that. "Tell you what," he said reasonably. "How about we compromise and I make it so that it's only there half the time?" Cat, Owl, Bat and the rest went a little way off came back, Owl said, "Alright, Coyote. If we say to pull some trick, so it looks like half is the get. But don't let this be a trick, Coyote. Half to confer. When they no, you're just going best we're going to the time, no more."
"No tricks," said Coyote, who'd practiced saying that with a straight face. He went off to look for Wolf, who he was happy to find asleep in his den. He called into the Den, "Wolf! Wake up! Do you know what time it is?" Wolf growled without opening his eyes, "Can't you look up in the sky to know what time it is?" "Is that what you do?" "Of course," growled Wolf. "Now leave me alone." "But we need you! Coyote said. "A monster has gotten into the Sun and is eating it from the inside! You're the only one brave and strong enough to stop it!" "What?" Wolf asked. "What sort of monster is this? It sounds like a trick." "I don't expect you to believe me. Come look!" Wolf stuck his head out and stared at the Moon (thinking it was the Sun) in astonishment. "What's it done?" he demanded. "There's almost no light left!" "Well, that's why I called you. I tried Eagle, because he can fly, but he was too afraid." (Coyote knew the technical difference between valor and foolishness, but from his perspective they were pretty much interchangeable in practice.) Wolf growled at this cowardice. He ran up the mountaintop, crouched, and sprung at the false Sun. But Raven had not bothered to put the Moon as high in the sky as the Sun, so he misjudged the distance and slammed into it with he nose. Wolf fell back to earth, and the impact sent the Moon sailing slowly across the sky, and also slowly spinning. This way, Coyote kept his promise without giving up his Moon for very long, because for half the month the Moon diminishes, and half it gains, but for only a few days is it completely gone from the sky.
And to this day, when Coyote sees the Moon in the sky, he remembers his trick on... well, almost everybody. And he howls with delight. And to this day, when Wolf sees the Moon in the sky, he too remembers the trick Coyote played on him, and howls in embarrassment.
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