I heard him before I saw him.
He had a raspy barking cough, as if someone told him a good joke and he couldn’t stop laughing.
His high-pitched chirps went on as if a pattern, and then stopped.
When we crossed paths, he wasn’t laughing anymore, though I tried desperately to engage him in friendly banter.
It could’ve been my fault.
It’s not every day I see a fox up close and personal. Apparently, they don’t appreciate a fan base, especially one who jumps up and down and yells, “Fox! It’s a fox! Hi fox!”
Yes, I waved my floppy mittens in the air, like maybe, just maybe he’d give me a nod. He did not.
Startled, he looked at me just long enough to have his tiny eyes meet my tiny eyes. Instant kinship.
He was beautiful. He had a rusty red coat with white markings and a bushy tail that hung low against this hindquarters as he padded along the fence line heading for the trees.
His pace seemed to say, “places to go people to see.” If he spoke, I just know he’d have a proper English accent. What? You don’t know. He might.
I was on my early morning walk up the laneway to retrieve the newspaper from the mailbox. It was a frigid day and not yet full daylight. I was cheerful because it was the weekend. Nothing fires me up like reduced hydro rates on laundry day. True story.
I was wearing my flannel pyjamas with my grey Bobcaygeon embroidered sweatpants pulled awkwardly over top of them. These are my favourite pants because they make it look like maybe I own a cottage in the Kawarthas, like I belong there. I don’t.
There was enough snow to wear my big boots. Surely, he heard me coming because my big boots make big thumps. Think draft horse.
My pajama top hung below my lumber jacket (which the Carpenter says is not a real lumber jacket because only someone who chops and hauls wood to and from the wood pile can call their coat a lumber jacket. Eye roll. Whatever.)
I silently bequeathed the fox with the name Frederick (you knew I would). He would never go by Fred or Freddie, I determined. He didn’t look the type to shorten his name. Frederick the Fox.
In his hurried state, he lacked the swagger or cunning confidence that his breed is stereotypically cast with in cartoons and folklore.
Frederick wasn’t a sly fox, or a thief or a trickster. He was a shy fox.
He scampered away from me like, well, kind of like every boy I had a crush on in high school. He ran about as fast, too.
That didn’t deter my enthusiasm for engaging in cheerful conversation back then and it sure wasn’t going to stop me on this fine morning either.
“Look at us. Two foxes on the same laneway,” I called out, snorting at my own humour. “Two foxes, get it? You. Me. Foxy.”
I performed my best Jimi Hendrix air guitar and serenaded my four-legged friend.
“You know you’re a cute little heartbreaker.”
Frederick sped up. He cantered.
Then Frederick disappeared into the forest.
He’ll be back. I know he will.