Out of Time

There’s a fox with a shabby winter coat in the garden. She comes up to the patio where a potted Christmas tree, a Blue Spruce, waits to be planted out in the garden. She sniffs around, turns and then heads back, stopping briefly to urinate under the fence. The garden is empty and then she reappears with a skinny companion. He limps and has a large shiny red sore on his raggedy flank.

The cold time
A pile of white feathers
The tilting fence

Without looking back she’s on to the wall between the gardens. He follows gingerly and then pausing at the top, he catches sight of me. For a brief moment our eyes meet; his look is anxious. I move gently away but he’s frightened and jumps down. He totters off and the garden is empty again.

A few days later I am looking for a place to plant the Christmas tree. I approach the bottom of the garden with some trepidation. There’s a den next to the shed; not a permanent home but a safe place for fleeting visits. For the last two years I have found dead foxes there.

Biting wind
Resting on soft paws
The frozen muzzle

Smaller than I recall, it lies in a dip beside the burrow beneath a mound of cuttings and fallen leaves. In a moment there is an enormous silence. And then slowly the rustle of wind and the distant sound of birds. It’s a very quiet place, a place where foxes come to die. After a minute I return to the everyday and fetch a shovel from the shed. I use it to pick up the body, still soft and pliant, and tip it on to a pile of wet leaves in a black plastic bag.

A heavy spade
Heavier still and then tipping
A light heaviness

I carry it, surprisingly light, to the front of the house and smuggle it into the wheelie bin that will be emptied next day. And then I bury the Christmas tree. I dig a hole in the front garden, stuff it in and water heavily. In the weeks that follow I think of the fox and I look at the tree. The one consigned to rubbish and the other bedded between two rose bushes.

Still hanging
Beneath the Blue Spruce
A brush of tinsel

A couple of weeks go by and then as dusk is falling, I see the raggedy fox again. It limps across the common and disappears into the night.

The shifting sky
The shape of a fox
Turning in the dark


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