I have been waiting for you, Mr. Fox. I knew you would come when you were ready, that wild things don’t act on command. I glimpsed you under the dark wood table with the family photos, but the ping as I replaced the receiver scared you away. A ruddy scrap of mange you were, no fairytale fox, and although I nosed around for your scent, you were already gone.
I forgot you sometimes. Then you would nudge me awake with your scabby nose, linger in the half-sleep moments, leave a furring on my arm or cheek, never stay. I tempted you with moist lumps of heart, cut from my chest with a blunt angry knife. I filled a bowl with reluctant saltwater. Still you hid.
At the crem you leapt out of nowhere, landing heavily in my arms, but you didn’t stay. All those people, properly draped in their glorious russet foxes, your rich, well-fed cousins. You were ashamed to be seen among them, feeble skinny excuse for a creature that you were.
And so you waited, as I waited, until all was quiet, until other people’s foxes had gone to ground, until today, this sofa, a raging log fire and a piece of music in a TV soap.
You come to me, nestle into my lap, let me stroke you, feed you, tend you. You become the finest, most magnificent fox of all. I hold you tightly through the night and in the morning you howl with a pain that would wake the dead and I let you go.
Sherri Turner has had numerous short stories published in magazines and has won prizes for both poetry and short stories in competitions including the Bristol Prize, the Wells Literary Festival and the Bridport Prize. Her work has also appeared in many anthologies and in various places online. She tweets at @STurner4077.