dontravis.com blog post #348
|Courtesy of public domain files|
I guess I’m “animal-obsessed” these days. Last week, a dog. This week, a furry-tailed red fox. Hope you enjoy my tail… er, tale.
There were humans in the woods! Instinctively, she dropped behind a fallen log near the path their kind usually trod. One was nearby, although the odor was somewhat different. Her sharp nose detected no scent of the savage dogs they sometimes used to hunt her. The big beasts could smell as well as she could, but they weren’t as fast. Couldn’t scoot through the underbrush as easily as she could, either.
She cocked her ears as a mewling sound reached them. A crying sound, like one of her kits would make. Except… stranger. Foxy, no longer able to contain her curiosity, raised up enough to see over the rotting log. The season of falling leaves had arrived, and she peered through a veritable rain of them at a human. A tiny human walking on its two hind legs—the way they all did—although with halting and uncertain steps. Its mouth alternately opened to emit wails and closed to make sobs. The peculiar fur he wore was the color of the sky on top and like damp sand on the bottom. One of his paws—she was almost sure it was a little dog fox—was covered in something, but the other one was bare, fat little toes—one more than she had—topped with short little claws that looked to serve no purpose at all.
Something moved at the edge of the far side of the forest. A wolf! No, a coyote. The beast watched quietly for a moment and then moved for the child. He probably wouldn’t hurt the little human, but sometimes coyotes like to play with their prey, and this one probably looked like a giant ground squirrel to him.
As the coyote moved in for a closer look, the child backed up too quickly and ended up sitting on the hard ground, raising a cloud of dust as it plopped down. The abrupt movement and a following screech of terror brought a snarl from the coyote.
Foxy reacted as if it were her own kit in danger. She bounded forward, snarling and nipping at the bigger animal. The coyote snapped back, but his heart wasn’t in it, so he slunk off. The baby let out a howl, it’s big eyes the color of ripe acorns wide with fear. Moving slowly and gently, Foxy licked dirt and twigs from the human’s filthy face. In moments, the child went silent and allowed her ministrations. Finished, she backed of and sat on her rump. The human child gurgled and reached out to stroke her fur with fat little forepaws. She allowed it until she sensed the kit was surrendering to exhaustion. It was too open here. Too dangerous, so she poked him with her nose until he roused. Then she walked toward the tree line, glancing over her shoulder and giving a short bark.
The baby leaned forward on his front paws, lifted his rump, and stood uncertainly on his two hind feet. She yipped again, and he tottered after her.
Once she reached a sheltered place, Foxy settled down, her long red tail curled around her comfortably. As she hoped, the child plopped down beside her. Moments later, she heard a yawn and felt his body slump down, his belly touching her back. Good. He would rest now. So could she.
Abruptly, she lifted her head as sounds reached her sharp ears. Other human. More than one. Two, possibly, although she could hear more remote voices, each making the same sound. Could they be looking for the lost kit? Had this little human strayed from his protectors?
Foxy stood quietly, so as not to rouse the sleeping child. After a few steps out on the trail, she stopped to listen and smell. No scent of hounds. Nor the unpleasant, oily odor of the shooting sticks they sometimes carried. If they were searching for the little human, they were on the wrong trail. Glancing back at the sleeping child, Foxy made a decision. Never before had she consciously courted danger, but she would now.
Following the nearest human noises, she made directly for them. Close now, she lay silently in the shade of a berry bush until two of them appeared on the deer trail. They still called, each making the same sound. These two must be part of a larger group searching for the child. And if they continued down this trail, they wouldn’t find him.
Foxy examined the two approaching figures. Men. Males. Not old and grizzled like some of them. Young, perhaps. They carried no shooting sticks, merely trimmed limbs from some tree. When they were close enough, she made her move, darting directly in front of them and halting in the middle of the trail.
Each shouted something, but she paid no attention except to watch their forepaws for danger. When one clawed at his side and drew out a short shooting stick, Foxy scooted back the way she’d come. No explosion followed, so she dared to stop and look back. One had his hand on the shooter’s arm and was shaking his head. Encouraged, she allowed them to get close again, almost too close. When they started hurling rocks, she scampered through the trees before halting. Sure enough, they were following, pausing now and then to pick up more stones or broken sticks to throw.
After a couple of near misses, she understood how far they could throw things, and stayed just out of reach. When their interest waned, she approached enough to tempt them a little farther. She had almost reached the trail when the human’s demeanor changed. They seemed to have figured out she was trying to lead them somewhere. Maybe they had the capacity to think. Who knew?
More secure now, Foxy went straight to the baby still sleeping where she left him. With a final lick on the child’s chubby cheek, she scampered into the underbrush and circled to watch as the two men caught sight of the child. They barked a single word and rushed forward to sweep the surprised little kit into their forearms, planting kisses where Foxy had bestowed hers only moments before.
Slightly alarmed when one of the humans drew out his short shooting stick, she understood when he pointed it skyward and made it go bang three times. Then he repeated the gesture.
In moments, Foxy was aware that other humans—some with dogs—were converging on the spot. Time to go.
But before she could move, one of the humans who’d followed her, turned to face the forest and doffed those silly things they put on their heads to cover the only natural fur they had. At least this one had enough sense to figure things out.
Foxy answered with a sharp yip and headed for her den. Time for a good nap.
Sounds far-fetched? Perhaps so, but there are real-life tales along these lines that will astound you.
By the way, Dreamspinner has released a publishing date of November 19, 2019 for my latest BJ Vinson novel, The Voxlightner Scandal. They’ve even given me a buy link: http://www.dsppublications.com/books/upcoming-releases-c
Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say, so say it!
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See you next week.
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