During a recent visit to my parents house in L.A., I strolled through my old neighborhood and brooded over my mom’s declining health, the challenges my dad faced as her caretaker, and the Sanka coffee substitute I’d resigned myself to drinking with breakfast.

Walking alone, deep in thought, I was startled to see a stranger standing in the middle of the road.   Although I didn’t know her, I knew her type—the chiseled face, heavy coat, yellow eyes . . .she was a loner without a pack.

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This bitch was a coyote.  And she was stopped dead in her tracks.

We sized each other up:  She’s old.  She’s dirty.  She’s mangy.  I read her thoughts.

My take on her:  She’s young.  She’s fast.  She’s hungry.

I racked my brain for anything I’d learned in Girl Scouts that might prove useful in this situation.   I remembered how to build personal skills, how to improve self-esteem, and the Girl Scout handshake, but damned if I could recall a single thing about how to fend off a wild animal. 

Screaming would be futile.  Thanks to the tumultuous marriage of John and Freida Brightman at the top of the hill, neighbors had long ago learned to ignore any yelling coming from up the street.  

I could take on the bitch. After all, she was on the small side.

But, then again, so was I . . . 

After catching a glimpse of her teeth, I knew instantly I’d win hands down—if this were a Crest tooth whitener competition.  But in a head-to-head battle, my root canal treated molars wouldn’t stand a chance against those razor sharp fangs. 

I was defenseless. 

Although I carried a cell phone, I doubted she’d care if I threatened to call the police:   “Listen, bitch.  I just dialed 911 and the cops are on their way.” [Teeth bearing down on my throat] “They’ll be here any min . . .”  

By the time they’d arrive, I’d be a pile of bones.

So I did the only thing I knew how to do.   I ran like hell and screamed like a little girl all the way home.    

I bolted into my parent’s kitchen, gasping for breath. “Coyote. . . huge . . . fangs . . .”

“You ran into Lola?” said my mom, barely looking up from her newspaper. 


“The coyote who likes to hang around here.  She’s harmless.  I just shake my cane at her and she runs off.”

I stared at my mom, slack-jawed.

She looked up and noticed I was shaking.  “Oh, honey, did she really scare you?   Sit down and relax,” she said.  “I’ll make you a fresh cup of Sanka . . .”


When Jersey Girl Lisa Tognola traded her job as freelance writer for that of full-time mother of three children, it didn’t take long before her writing was reduced to grocery lists, notes to school nurses excusing her kids from gym class, and e-mails to her husband reminding him to call his mother.  Daily life as a suburban mom was fraught with challenges and unexpected dangers like adult dinner groups, town hall meetings and home shopping parties.  Rather than fight her fate, this mom embraced it by unleashing her inner columnist.  Her weekly column, Main Street Musings, reflects on life in the suburbs---the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Visit her blog http://mainstreetmusingsblog.com/.  Follow her on twitter @lisatognola