Do you like children’s stories? Even if your own little ones are too old for them now, you might have grandchildren who you need to get away from their devices for a while. There again, you might be ever so old and just enjoy reading them for yourself. Shush, don’t tell anyone.
‘Mum, tell me a story.’
‘Once upon a time…’
‘No! Not like that. I mean a proper story. I’m too old for fairy tales.’
‘No one is ever too old for fairy tales, Mia. What sort of story do you want? Just a quick one then you go to sleep. Deal?’
‘OK, Mum, deal, but it’s freezing outside. I’m worried about the foxes in the garden. How are they going to keep warm if we don’t look after them? Can we bring them into our house?’
‘They wouldn’t be happy living inside. Do you know their names?’
‘Yes, that one’s Rosie and the bigger one is Chico.’
‘Okay, snuggle down Mia, and Lucy will tell you her story.’
Lucy’s Mum, Rosie met her Dad, Chico on Valentine’s day which was quite romantic. Rosie had been roaming around on her own when he saw her and chased after her. She thought he was a big, strong male who would make a good father, so they started playing together. Rosie was screaming with laughter at something he said when a loud bang made them run and hide under some nearby cars. A man was shouting from the window telling them to stop making so much noise. It was three o’clock in the morning, and although foxes usually go out at night, that’s when people like to sleep.
After a while, the man stopped yelling so Rosie and Chico went off to make a home together under some bushes hidden amongst the trees. Lucy was born at the beginning of April, along with a sister and two brothers.
‘Like me,’ Mia said. ‘I’ve got a sister and two brothers but we weren’t all born at the same time.’
‘No,’ her Mum said, ‘your siblings are a lot older than you so you’re the only one who gets to listen to stories. Shall I carry on?’
‘Yes, please,’ said Mia, although her eyelids were starting to feel heavy.
The cubs couldn’t see or hear at first, so Rosie stayed with them, using her big bushy tail to keep them warm while Chico went out hunting and brought back food for all the family.
Although the young foxes often squabbled, they knew they had to keep quiet and still if people were around as not everyone liked them. By the summer they were ready to explore, and their Dad taught them how to catch their own food. One of the boys, Luca was the best mouse catcher but Lucy was the best for climbing. Her other brother left one day, and Mum told her he had gone to live not far away. Chico decided the rest of the family should move, but the first place he found was inhabited, so they carried on to find somewhere else.
‘Mum, why did that other vixen scream at you?’ Lucy asked.
‘Well,’ answered Rosie, ‘it was their home first, so they were telling us it was already occupied. Barking and sometimes screaming is our way of talking to each other.’
After a while, Chico came across a tumbled-down shed at the end of a garden. Most of the wood had rotted and the door was hanging off. Lucy wanted to stay inside out of the rain, but Dad didn’t like that idea. There was only one entrance so if they were disturbed there would be no way out. At the back of the shed the ground was soft, so after digging for a little while Chico led his family to a den underneath. From here they could see if anyone approached, but still have some protection from the rain.
As Spring turned into Summer, the weather got warmer, and sometimes Lucy would climb on top of the roof and have a snooze in the sunshine. One day she looked up and saw a woman watching her from the far end of the garden. The lady didn’t shout or move but seemed to be smiling, although Lucy jumped down and hid in the bushes just in case. The next day the woman appeared again, but this time she threw something onto the lawn, half way between them. It smelt delicious, but it could be a trap, so Lucy stayed where she was until the woman went back inside and closed the door.
Quick as a flash, Lucy ran along the side fence, jumped down to the ground, grabbed the chicken wing, leapt up into the bushes and was back in her hiding place before the woman had time to open the door again. The next day Lucy found another lovely piece of chicken waiting for her, so every afternoon she checked the garden and sure enough there was some food ready. Sometimes it was a mixture of things in a bowl, sometimes it was wings or bones but Lucy didn’t mind, she wasn’t fussy and enjoyed everything.
Gradually she learnt to trust the lady, and sat on the grass to look through the conservatory windows until Mrs Jones came out with the meal. One day Lucy saw her open the door, but before she had a chance to grab the chicken there was a flash of fur in front of her and her meal had gone. Her brother Luca had been watching and stolen it. Well, she’d see about that. Luca might have been bigger than Lucy but she wasn’t going to let him get away with it. She found him hiding under the shed and gave him a good telling off.
‘Didn’t she want to share it with him, Mum?’ Mia asked in a sleepy voice. ‘You always tell us we have to share with our brothers and sisters.’
‘Yes, she was happy to share, but he was wrong to steal it without asking,’ Mrs Jones replied, ‘and you should be asleep by now. We’ll finish the story tomorrow.’
‘No, please tell me the rest of it tonight. I want to know what happens next,’ Mia said, although she could barely keep her eyes open.’
‘OK, but only five more minutes.’
The lady must have noticed because the next day there was not one piece of chicken but two. The word soon spread, and before long other local fox families heard all about the best place to go for a good meal. Eventually Mrs Jones opened a restaurant just for them, but the local supermarket still thought she was a crazy woman who ate nothing but chicken wings.
Dogs usually live for about 12 or 14 years but foxes normally only live about 4 years, so by the following summer Lucy was all grown up, and had her own family. She brought her cubs to show Mia and Mrs Jones. Even when Lucy crossed over the rainbow bridge, her own offspring still brought smiles to Mrs Jones’ family with their antics.
‘Did you enjoy the story, Mia?’
But Mia was fast asleep.
Many years later when Mia was grown up, she met a lovely man and got married. Can you guess what her husband’s name was? Why, it was Mr. Fox, of course.
© Val Portelli January 2021
If you enjoyed this story you might like ‘Weird and Peculiar Tales’ which is a collection of fairy tales for grown-ups as well as children.
Amazon author page https://author.to/ValPortelli