About Foxes and Men
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
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
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
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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