The Folly of The Fantastic
No, there’s not much I don’t love about living in the countryside... road kill, there’s a lot more road kill in the country, but I suppose mathematically and logically that makes sense if you take the wildlife-car ratio into consideration, but still that’s one thing I could do without, having to shovel carcasses on my way to and from work every day.
The people play a huge part in what makes the countryside so great, people are just much lovelier in the countryside, no one’s rude or cunning, everyone is honestly nice, and honest come to think of it, they only speak the god’s honest truth, and on the whole are just generally more beautiful beings.
Everything’s so much more beautiful here.
Why hello there Mr Fox.
Like my Fox, my very own fantastic Mr Fox, he’s so much more beautiful than any of those scraggy city foxes.
And Etta Madden was right. The fox that she met with every morning was far more beautiful than any fox she had ever seen. But more to the point, he was far more beautiful than any fox I’d ever seen either, and if I say he is the most beautiful fox in existence then it must be so. To further my case, between us, Etta Madden and I, we’ve seen a fair few foxes in our time, so I feel I am completely justified in saying that our personal fantastic Mr Fox is the most beautiful fox ever. Fact.
On this particular slightly too cold morning she met with him again, sat in her kitchen sink as usual, smoking obliviously on a cigarette and swigging already cooled black coffee whilst succumbing to another hung-over contentness. She winced as each minimal movement made by her origami folded legs caused the bruises on her knees to reawaken, which in turn informed her absent memory that it had been, once again, a sick night. She bit into her peach, watching the fox bathe in the sunlight. He was a character alright, choosing to live in a poison ivy bush that grew on top of her neighbours shed. It had baffled her the first time she saw him, she hadn’t known foxes could climb that high, let alone craft a comfortable and inhabitable home out of such an unstable residence. That was when she had decided he was no ordinary fox, and was indeed fantastic, as fantastic as her childhood stories had painted foxes to be.
Not to mention the beauty of him. He was one fine fox.
She bit into her peach and realised a second later than she should have, that something most definitely was not alright with the substance in her mouth. Coughing and spluttering she spat the remnants of peach onto the kitchen side, adding to the crusty party leftovers. She shuddered and looked down at the mouldy fruit in her hand.
Ok, so there’s one last thing about the countryside I’m not a fan of. Eating your own fruit. Yes it’s hideously middle-class (and therefore of course must be fantastic) to pick your own peaches off your organically grown (of course) little tree, just for the sake of social situations where you can offer a peach and say “These peaches are from my little tree in the back garden”, inflicting a wholesome glow on yourself whilst provoking an envious tinge on your companion, which is of course the main aim of everyone’s life. But this countryside fruit is tricky and manipulative, it looks so juicy and full of goodness from the outside but on the inside it can be flabberghastingly rotten. Give me a chemical pumped excuse for a fruit any day of the week.
Downing the dregs of her coffee, coffee grains and all, she turned back to watching her morning companion. He always looked how she wished she felt. Beautiful. Composed. Radiant.
Bloody smug fox.
And every morning he would clock her through her hatched kitchen window, watching him, and it would begin, as it did this day, their daily staring competition.
Here we go.
She shifted her position in the sink so that the hot tap wasn’t jabbing her purple-pink bruise, and locked onto the symmetrical face. The fox flicked his perfectly bushy tail from side to side, taunting her to be distracted, but they had played this game for far too long for such a simple trick to work.
Don’t you even think of trying to win today Mr Fox. I will beat you. I am determined. Today is the day, I can feel it.
The fox knew better than to take these words seriously though, it had been the same every day, they would stare, neither party giving in, and then Etta would have to leave for work. Always the same. No winners. No losers. Always ending with a nod of recognition and the sentence
Same time, same place tomorrow Mr Fox.
But still Etta was deludedly certain that today was the day, something was different, she could sense it. But then again, maybe she was just attuned to the autumnal change in the air, the electricity flooding the trees’ veins as the leaves started to depart, falling like fading broken hearts as they tore themselves away from the strong, dominant arc of bark; the all-knowing wisdom of the trunk.
I know you want to run today fox. I can feel it. You’re filled with pent up energy, I can see it you’re more nervous today, you want to go, you want to run, it’s ok. Go.
Are you still playing those pointless games with that fox?
Her eyes remained glued to the fox’s sly black pits whilst Harry helped himself to a glass of water from the tap, splashing Etta abundantly in the process.
You don’t understand Harry.
I do understand. I understand that you’re going to be late for work.
What time is it?
Going on half nine.
She slowly unfolded her legs and wiped the water droplets off her last-night tights whilst still keeping eye-contact with her crafty companion.
This is not over Mr Fox. You are fantastic.
But I’m bloody fantastic.
You’re crazy, that’s what you are. Talking to a god damn fox.
You wish you had what we had.
I’m actually really ok.
Now, get out of here.
Ok, ok, I’m going.
Don’t you dare think you’ve won.
She pointed a threatening finger at the smug creature.
I’m going to get you one of these days. Just you wait and see.
I’ll see you
She jabbed her finger in his direction again
Etta Madden reluctantly broke the knowing string that connected the two creatures, jumped down from the work surface and crammed a marmite covered slice into her mouth. The fox too was in a hurry that day, departing as soon as the war was put on hold. Both creatures minds switched from being absorbed with each other into being overtaken with their days tasks and so both were in a careless rush to reach their destination.
Harry handed her a bag and scarf and hurried her out the door, mumbling things she wasn’t really taking in.
When you get back we need to sort out the water bill, and Agnes wants to go for a drink tonight at The Flowing Well, and I borrowed the spade out of the boot of your car so I can do the vegetable patch today, and dear God Etta look in your car mirror before getting out, you have mascara everywhere, you look like you’re on cocaine.
She clamboured into her car. Her vision blacking out at the sudden movement of sitting down and her head banging in response to the car door slamming.
God, I really should not be driving in this state.
Have you listened to a single word I’ve said?
Yeah, yeah, pub, bill, shovel, cocaine. Light my cigarette would you?
I don’t think smoking whilst driving is really going to help your road safety this morning.
I’ll be fine.
Ok, if you’re sure.
Harry leaned in through the window and lit her tobacco stick. He slapped the top of the car, causing Etta to scrunch up her face once more as she wished he really wouldn’t make such unnecessary loud noises, and left her with the departing words:
You’re good to go.
She pulled out, after putting the car into the wrong gear three times in a row, and drove off down the tricky country lanes. Her windscreen was instantly flooded with freckles of gold as autumnal leaves descended onto the troublesome country lanes in flurried, hurried waves. She took each corner far too fast and she proved speed bumps to be completely redundant.
One last thing, driving in the countryside is bloody difficult, give me a dual-carriageway any day.
But Etta Madden liked to think driving like a madman was her speciality, so she didn’t slow her speed, even when for a second her distracted attention became wholesome as she watched the peculiar motion of black birds swirling and transforming in an ominous cloud through the indecisive sky. And that’s all it takes. Just one second. One minute little second; to change the way you live your life forever.
She leant on her open car door, inspecting what she had committed, letting out a huff of air like a steam engine that has finished its screeching halt and is dispelling its last gust of air as the chase it had been embarking on reaches its end.