THE ANGRY FOX
There was a separation between my life before the angry fox arrived, and all that followed.
She – for it was a she – brought pain, but that was not the fault of the fox. How can I lay blame on carnivorous nature, or demand perfection to reign amid the complexities of this, or any, era?
Like an orphan, she cried out for love, but with no blueprint for such emotion and no clue of my sentience, she mistook the empty space in her parched heart for hunger.
Dancing around my legs like a feather-light, fleet-footed boxer, she easily evaded my amateur parry, taking every opportunity to bite chunks out of me. Whether growling or wheedling, she always succeeded in beating me.
Repeatedly I silenced my screams as her teeth sank into me.
The wild fox fed voraciously until she had her fill — keen for the meat, but shy of the kill, leaving me still breathing, her foxy instinct needling her, telling her she needed me, even as she misconstrued the shape of that need.
Friends advised me to drive her away; to hide within my walls, lock and bar my doors, or to flee, but I could no more do that
than amputate a limb;
I would not
give up on my
Soon, my meat was too scant to satisfy. She sought more dangerous fare; creeping where wolves prowl and hyenas leave only the crunched
bones of small creatures.
She hid in the wasteland, chasing chameleons, in the expectation that they could make up the insufficiency – following those deceivers, letting them lead her into the fray where my wounded fox could only lose.
Damaged and confused, she often came back to me, each time more battle-scarred and emaciated, yet still too blind to seek sanctuary.
Like a blubbering fool, I described the bludgeoned depths of my mothering soul, showed her safe roads where hunters never lifted a gun, drew pictures of the sun warming olives in Spain, painted all sorts of possibilities, describing every style of happy ending to our story, begging for release from her ravening teeth.
But foxes don’t speak the same language. As if in retribution for my insufferable, indecipherable noise, she took another bite, chewed, then limped away,
to dredge the depths for dread, grinning enemies; beasts who fought for grim death in that killing place, unknowingly swallowing themselves whole, all of them escapees from hope.
Years passed. The day came when I knew I had to refuse her entry; she’d almost eaten me away, yet she still hadn’t learned where the hunger lay. Maybe if she found a lesser place to feed, she would come to see the truth of her needs. Only then would she be free.
She prowled around my grounds, growling. If I left the house, sometimes she’d find me, and take a brief nip before I fled.
After a while I became a source of confusion; she’d sniff the air, then wander away, a bemused look of longing bending her frame. I watched that longing become an ache, and the ache become an agonising pain.
I saw her from my window when she trotted up with a bunch of white flowers in her mouth. After she’d gone, I plucked them from my doorstep. Tears fell on them as I placed them in water.
I began to leave small treats for my grieving fox – making sure she wasn’t around, placing them a distance from my house and scuffling away.
One day she came to me, dragging the metal jaws of a familiar trap. She was beaten down, ready to chew off her leg. Pitiful whimpers dribbled from her bleeding mouth, dripping down her jowls, as she clung on to the failing embers of her life. Running to her side, I checked the trap; rusty from age and misuse, it took no more than a glance; an undisguised look of love, to prize it apart. This time, she didn’t snap.
As her shocked eyes sought mine
the picture melted into an end and a beginning;
she’d found what she never knew she’d been looking for;
surprised to realise that it had been there all the time.
Behind us, wild beasts wallowed and sank in the dirt that they made, their frail veins freezing beneath the heat of failed dreams.
Ahead of us lay a welcoming road, banked by hedgerows laced with early sun-kissed blooms, part-shaded by green-budded trees that dappled the track with pink shadows. A short way ahead a simple dwelling beckoned – my home, her sanctuary, Beyond was a crossroads, its sign draped in wild roses and honeysuckle. On each arm was written the same word: freedom.
She licked my skin, nuzzled me, and gently, she wrapped herself around me.
Softly she spoke:
“I love you, mum.”
Sensing a shift in my body, I glanced down and saw that my scars were already healing. I had become strong.
Turning to her, I noticed that she had grown taller than me.
This story spans almost thirty-two years. It’s hard to find a metaphor that covers the essence of it, since there have been so many twists and turns in that time, and – like all of our lives – my life consists of a mass of tangled stories, many of them mine to a greater or lesser degree, while there are others in which I have only a walk-on part, or act as understudy to a secondary character. Therefore, I present this as a work of fiction, inspired by Reena, who has thoughtfully chosen to continue her Exploration Challenge.
As this is such a long-winded poem, I’ve split my response to the challenge into two parts. This part of my post covers the first question – although it doesn’t do so until you reach almost to the end of the poem. 🙂 You can find Part 2 HERE.
©Jane Paterson Basil