The Fox

I start the car and pull out of the driveway, careful not to hit the mailbox. How did the mailbox get knocked over by a red car? The Havenshires know a red car owner? Then start the lies on top of lies and lies to cover lies. I swing the car way left then turn the steering wheel to the right.

I miss the mailbox today.

Before I clear the driveway I pause to look in the rearview mirror, then lean my head out the window to see around the small curve so I will not hit a small bratty boy on a bicycle who has no eyes, but lots of tears when he cries to mommy about some stupid blond lady pulling out of the Havenshire's driveway on a Saturday. Isn't Martha off on a shopping trip with her woman's club? What color was the car?

When I am just about out of the driveway, I see it standing in the yard. It appears out of nowhere, as if dropped from a tree. It is small, ragged, red haired and bony. It has little triangle ears sticking straight up and alert, sunken eyes. It is a fox, I think. This concerns me because a nocturnal thing seen during the day could indicate something bad, like rabies. I read this in a People magazine at my therapist's office. But does a fox sleep during the day? No one fox hunts at night. The Fox and the Hound cartoon was clearly a daytime Disney movie. When does a fox sleep?

A lady walks by with her dog on a leash, and I open my car door and wave her to my side. I ask her if a fox sleeps in the day or night. She says day. I stand up, and with my concerned neighborly voice tell her about the animal. She says, isn't Martha at her house in Rhode Island this weekend with the kids? At first it doesn't register what this has to do with the fox till I notice my car is still in the driveway. I don't say anything because this other lady watering her flowers from across the street waves and shouts, Louise--apparently the name of the woman I am standing with. This watering lady, Ellie (Louise tells me), walks across the street. We tell her about the fox, but she doesn't look at the yard when I point to where the fox stood, but instead at my car. She says, I thought Martha was in Rhode Island?

What is it about Martha? Does she tell everyone on earth where she goes on weekends? Or is it Frank who tells everyone? I imagine Frank at the bedroom window peeking out from behind the curtains, like he did last time when the boy scraped his knee. I picture him still naked, penis limp and loose like a noodle, maybe a newspaper in his hand. I cannot take any more jokes. After the mailbox he started all the how-many-blondes-does-it-take-to-get-out-of-a-driveway jokes.

I say no, no. I was going the wrong direction and needed to turn around so I used the driveway. And so we're off. Where was I going, Ellie says. Since I have no idea what is in this neighborhood, I say the Grand Junction grocery store. I figure there are probably ten Grand Junction grocery stores per square mile. Louise says no no, Grand Junction is in Norwalk, so you were heading right in the first place. Oh, dear, I say, I must have looked at the map upside down. This ends that. Whew!

They are now curious about the fox and ask me to describe it. Ellie wants to know about the tail. I say tail? Then I remember fox boa wraps. Oh yes, I say, a fox should have a tail. This one didn't have a tail. Ellie thinks it is a coyote and wants me to come over and look at pictures on her Internet to see if in fact what I saw was a coyote, not a fox.

I say no I have a doctor's appointment. This is what happens when I am distracted in the middle of lies. I get off the lie path. Louise says, doctor appointment at the Grand Junction grocery store?

I sit back in my car, start the engine and say out the window when I close the door, no no, after groceries I have a doctor's appointment. Which leads Ellie to say something about how I shouldn't let groceries sit in a hot car and she always goes to the grocery store on her last errand stop in order to get the food to the refrigerator faster. I say nothing.

I pull out the driveway, leaving the women standing there, both staring at my red Toyota. I look past them at the window and see Frank's naked belly protruding. He peeks around the curtain, shakes his head and closes his eyes, like I am this baby.

I put the car in reverse and jam on the gas. The mailbox jiggles a bit. I move the car forward, then reverse real fast again. The mailbox cracks. I move forward then reverse again. The mailbox breaks in half, its lid now open so that it looks like a sick puppy hanging its head over the ditch.

I wave to the frozen faced women, ignore Louise's dog barking hysterically and say, Oh never mind about the fox. I think it was just a red, bony mutt, deserted and lonely. He was probably kicked out of his family.

I take off and look only at the road in front of me, even though I see something in the corner of my eye.

About the author:

Debbie Ann Ice's recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Sweet Fancy Moses, Opium, and Insolent Rudder. She is in the process of marketing her first novel, Leaving Harry Rothbaum. Debbie lives in Connecticut with her husband and two boys.