Conversation 15

2 Thessalonians 3:13

Adam Malcolm

They stood in shadow staring through the chainlink, scanning for any movement. The child’s fingers gripping the chainwire of the fence. Her breathing audible over a ditchpond’s midnight chorus.
Can you see them? the child said.
He looked up the field toward the house. He looked at the fence. Carefully he unlatched the gate, opened it wide.
Where are they?
See those holes? he said, pointing to the dark hutches. They’re in there.
The man took his child’s hand and led her back to the edge of the woods and they sat crosslegged in the dewdamp grass.
The moon stood grand and cratered over the fox farm, reflecting on the rows and rows of chainlink.
The girl was staring at those dark passages. Why aren’t they coming out?
I think maybe they don’t know there is an out.
They waited, listening to the peeping of the frogs. To far-off barking in the forest.
Do you think they’re looking at us? the child said.
From the distant house came the skreak of a screen door, its clapping shut.
What was that?
He could just make out the shape of someone standing on the porch.
I’m scared.
From the silhouette on the porch, a sudden light.
You have to be quiet, Ev.
But. Dad. They’re coming out.
From one of the hutches a little fox had hopped forth. Now another stepped cautiously into the moonlight.
Is there someone down there? A voice he knew. The disked light ran jerkily across the green and yellowed grass, spotlighting the grey of woods, the front line of spruces, their dead scarecrow limbs.
They made themselves low.
The two foxes stood at the open door, their muzzles up, tasting the night.
As the light drew closer, dilating, its shape grew faint.
This was a bad idea.
No, Sweetheart, it wasn’t.
I wish I never said anything.
The light hovered in the field. Then it rose and briefly ran under the house’s eaves. Then it went out.
Hesitantly one of the foxes stepped through the open fence door. The other one came sprinting out ahead of it, straight toward them. The porch door clapped shut. The fox halted, just a few feet in front of them, a forepaw held slightly off the ground, staring.
What is it doing?
I think it’s telling you thank you.
They watched the foxes run up the edge of the lawn, four, five of them, six, and vanish one by one into the long grass.
Wow, the child said.
After the last one had gone and after the ditch frogs had quieted the girl raised her arms and he stood and picked her up and they moved in shadows along the edge of the woods back towards the bridge.