About Foxes and Men

by Copernicus


Michael McCormick was born in a typically human male body at Virginia West

Hospital to two normal parents. He had the prerequisite numbers of fingers and

toes, and his skin was very pink and soft. Absolutely nothing was wrong with

him. His weight was normal, he was born on schedule, his mother had him

through natural childbirth. When he was slapped by the doctor, he cried.

Michael cried like a normal infant, giggled like a typical baby, and shat his

pants just like everyone else.

Michael left the hospital in near record time, driven home by his gushing

father and adoring mother. His home was a near mansion, as Michael's parents

were extremely well-off. His Father worked for a large corporation and was a

management fast-tracker, so Michael's mother had every opportunity to care for

and nurture little Michael. Michael showed himself to be a very bright child,

and his mother wasted no time getting him into a program that taught him to

his full potential. After four years had passed Michael was a funny,

intelligent, polite child who loved his parents and enjoyed going to church.

When he was six, Michael saw a fox. He was on a field trip with his school,

out in the Appalachians. Michael loved the outdoors, and had wandered a bit

away from his class in pursuit of the sun. Having failed to catch it, Michael

was sitting in a patch of dandelions and was trying to figure a way to get the

sun to come down to him, seeing as how he couldn't get to it. He couldn't

immidiately figure out a way, but that didn't concern Michael over much. He

was pretty comfortable even without the sun. The weather was nice. The

dandelions felt good. The howls of his teacher, trying to locate the lost six

year old, were rythmic and soothing. Michael was very content with himself.

Michael heard a rustle from behind him, in a patch of deep bushes that

extended far back into the woods. Thinking that perhaps the sun had decided to

be nice and come down to visit him after all, Michael turned and looked, wide-

eyed, at the brustling shrub. He was about to conclude that this was just one

of those plants that shakes occasionally when an animal stepped out. Michael's

jaw dropped.

The animal was a four-footed creature, shying back almost immidiately when it

saw the spell-bound child. Seeing how Michael wasn't about to attack, the

animal dropped back and stared at him warily. It needed have worried, as

Michael was too awe-struck too move. He stared at the rich red pelt, the bushy

tail, the crafty eyes, in a state of near stupefication. To Michael, this

wasn't some wild dog in the woods. It appeared to be a god in animal form, a

personification of grace and intelligence not ten feet from him. Michael was

lost in the sight.

The fox stared at the motionless Michael for some time, trying to place it

either in the vegatable or fellow animal category. After about 5 minutes, the

fox concluded that Michael was vegatable, and not worth furthur observance.

The fox got up and padded quietly into the woods, leaving Michael with only

memories of their meeting.

Michael McCormick was a very religious boy, raised in loving Christian

tradition by his parents. He believed with all his heart in God and Jesus, and

in the afterlife. His parents read to him from the bible, and he even got to

know some scripture by heart. But Michael's personal pantheon changed after

that field trip. He still believed whole heartedly in the Holy Trinity, but in

his mind Michael added another divine figure, even though he still didn't know

this figure's name. Along with Jesus, God, and the Holy Ghost, Michael added

Vulpes Fulva, the common fox. The animal called to something in Michael's

soul, and he treated them with reverence.

But after an early period of pretending to be furred, Michael kept his object

of adoration in the closet. He instinctively kept his love private, sensing

that his parents would be less than understanding. When he would become

pensive, thinking of that long ago meeting, his parents would break him out of

his reverie to ask what was wrong. Michael would just giggle and say he was

thinking about "stuff."

As he grew older his love began to manifest itself in quiet ways. He heard of

the zoo and agitated for a visit, but was bitterly disappointed to find that

there was no fox exhibit. After some consideration, he was grateful that his

love wasn't kept behind bars, but it didn't lessen the pain of being

separated. He collected books on animals, always with an eye for foxes.

Michael also managed to find a small plush fox, and it occupied a space in his

bed. But the toy was kept hidden from his parents.

Some trouble occurred when Michael reached puberty. Wild hormones kept him on

edge, social adjustment at middle school kept him troubled. He found it

increasingly difficult to reconcile his outer self, a perfected mask that kept

him getting straight A's and being very popular, with an inner self that

cried, "Forget this. You deserve to be in the forest." Sometimes Michael would

cry at night, bitterly twisted between his duty and his desire. But the next

morning he would rally his heart and go to school with a smile, leaving only

fading tears on his pillow as a testament to inner torment.

The early trouble stages of puberty passed, and Michael adjusted. He found

peace between his inner self, which cried out for a life spent among Vulpes

Fulva, and what he still thought of as his duty. Michael found solace in

several places that kept life worth living. The first was backpacking, and

Michael spent any weekend he could grab out in the woods. He frequently went

searching in the backwood for foxes, but rarely caught more than a passing


The other was a needed find to provide meaning for Michael's outer self.

Michael had made straight A's and been in all other respects a model child for

years, without knowing why. He never could find a good reason why he should

spend hours doing homework, when he could be out in the woods. A reason came

when he found charity work, a volunteer job at the local animal shelter. His

diligence and bookkeeping skills were sorely needed, and Michael found

satisfaction in saving abandoned pets. Later he did work in the hospital and

at the local nursing room, and always got a warm glow out of helping out.

"It's what my love would want me to do," Michael always thought with


High school came and went. His teachers found no end to praising Michael, to

admire his hardworking attitude and polite demeanor. He graduated with high

honors, and obtained a partial scholarship to Northwestern. Michael never

hesitated before stating his major, Enviromental Technology.

A phone call from his mother changed everything. Michael's father had

Alzheimer's. 6 years to live, 3 of those coherent. And the worst part,

Michael's Mom explained, was that they had neglected to put enough money away

for retirement. They had always made breezy plans of getting a posh retirement

fund from Michael's Father's company, not getting on his getting sick so

young. The money they would have to accept would be barely adequate for

treatment, and then...

"Well," said Michael's Mom, "We'll work something out." But her voice was


Michael hung up, thought for an hour, then changed his major to business.

He graduated in four quick years at the head of his class, working harder

than ever. He shopped carefully around for companies and accepted a good fast-

track deal from a rising star company. Michael sent half his money home and

told his Mother that he was making double what he actually earned. He moved

into a trash apartment, but Michael didn't complain. All he needed, after all,

was his backpacking gear, a small business computer, and of course his little

plush fox.

Away from his parents, Michael found a little more latitude to express his

love. He decorated his bare walls with fox prints, and went backpacking by

himself to spend more time fox-hunting. (Hunting with a camera.) Michael's

love had crystalized into his own religion, complete with rituals and

ceremony. At church Michael added his own lines to the Our Father, even making

up his own prayers while Church ceremony proceded around him.

Eventually Michael's father died, causing Michael great pain but also

lightening his financial burden. He kept his Mother in comfortable

surroundings until she died too.

By now, Michael was a powerful man at his company. He was objective and

clear-headed, and found promotions coming fast and furious. With the

promotions came more money, and Michael found himself unsure of what to do

with it. He got a new apartment because that was what one generally did with

more money, he redecorated for the same reason. Michael had no romantic

attachments; he had neither the time nor that much the inclination. He had no

costly habits, as backpacking was reasonably inexpensive, and no costly vices.

Michael made excellent investments, having nothing else to do with his money,

but was puzzled at what to do when even more money flowed back in.

Michael was walking around the city when he found an outlet for his wealth.

The city he lived in was decently well-run, and was happily close to the

outdoors, but it also had a large poor district that no one liked to talk

about. Walking absently, Michael found himself treading through a run-down

part of down, wailing police sirens providing the background noise to a

backdrop of run down slums. At first Michael was posessed of nothing more than

the usual urge to get out of there, but then a small building caught his eye.

The sign, faded and dirty, read "Southquarter children's hospital." The

building was a three story building, seeming to shrink into itself as if to

protect its occupants aganist the crime outside. Michael considered walking by

this shabby affair, but was suddennly ashamed, reminded of how little charity

work he had done since high school. Now he was filthy rich, and couldn't find

anything to do with it? His love would pity him. Michael walked inside.

The hospital was rundown and filthy, passed over for years in city budgets.

Michael wrote a check on the spot to the grateful chief of staff, with

promises of more to come. He established a trust for his money and desposited

everthing he could accumulate in it. Michael did some canvassing among

influential contacts, and managed to secure funding increases in the city as

well as sizable donations. The hospital, on good financial footing finally,

reanamed itself after Michael in gratitude.

Michael was satisfied with the work he had done, but frusterated by the work

he could not do. Children died in that hospital, despite all the equipment and

expertise Michael threw in.

He came around often, to see what was happening, and stopped to talk to the

kids ocasionally. They seemed to understand him better than most, and he

eventually found himself confiding to them about his love. While they didn't

truly understand, as he didn't expect them to be, they didn't care the way

Michael knew adults did, they just counted it as a small peccadillo in Santa


The drawback of being Santa Claus was that it was often requested that he

remain by bedsides to the end. But Michael perservered, as he always had, and

vowed to raise more money for treatment and more endowments to other

struggling hospitals. Michael had been elevated to President recently, at the

unprecedented age of 37.

He found little time to go backpacking now, but still tried to get away

whenever he could. He had become skilled at tracking foxes, and often caught

sight of them. They still occupied his heart, and everything he did for the

hospital he did for his love. His benevolent god, on a level with God now, was

now as ever Michael's protector and grace. But watching a child die can weigh

heavily on anyone's faith.

Michael's crisis came during the witching hours on a Tuesday. He was next to

the bedside of a young boy, suffering from some terminal disease Michael

barely knew the name of. The child had, thankfully, fallen asleep hours ago.

The doctors had no faith in him ever waking up. But the boy had requested

Michael to stay around, and Michael had no intention of letting him down. But

Michael's spirit was in torment. "Why, my love?" He cried," why him and not


In answer, an angel appeared.

"Your service has been noted, Michael," said the spirit, a ball of white and

red light. "I am prepared to offer you one wish."

"Are you from my love?" Michael asked, dazed.

"As you believe, so I am." was the enigmatic answer, "now choose."

Michael's head whirled, as a long suppressed wish came to the forefront. To

run on four legs, to be furred and graceful, to be one with his love, all this

whirled in his dazed head. To finally fulfill his unrequited love. But Michael

also saw the young boy's heart monitor, with beeps coming slower and slower.

He opened his mouth to speak, halted, then tried to speak again. When

Michael's voice finally emerged, it was as from a pit.

"I... I... wish for someone else. I wish that everyone in this hospital would

get well."

The angel nodded gravely, then disappeared. Michael was prepared to believe

that he was hallucinating, but the heart monitor started registering beeps

again, strengthening gradually. The boy murmured in his sleep and turned over.

Michael nodded gravely, face ashen, and left.

Once home, Michael slept fitfully for a few hours, then dully got up and

dressed. He spent some hours with his accountant, then some more with the

Vice-president of his company, a man named Deenihan also inclined towards

charity, which was why Michael promoted him. Then Michael went home, got his

backpacking gear, and left. In his jacket pocket he had a gun, fully loaded,

which he would clutch every so often. His work was done, as Michael saw it. It

was time to end it.

He never returned home or to civilization.

His camp was found some miles off the regular backpacking trip. It was a

normal, well-kept camp. The only odd thing about it was that Michael's clothes

were oddly scattered around, in direct contrast to the neatness of everything

else. A gun was found on the ground. It was fully loaded, but had never been

shot. The investigators just shrugged helplessly. It was odd, they knew, but

there was no footprints around the camp and therefore no leads.

They paid no attention to the pawprints leading away from the camp. Who



This story Copyright 1998 by Copernicus. If you want to post this anywhere else, please ask for permission first. Thank you.

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