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The Fox I Found on the Road Home

Melinda Shen '24

The sun was almost setting when you saw a fox down by the stump of an oak tree. You had been walking for a while, already half dead and half delirious and a fox then, to you, would've looked almost like an angel.

"Are you lost?" Is the first thing he says to you, as he yawns and stretches, pulling his arms long like he's reaching for something far away.

"What?" You say.

"Are you lost? humans get lost in here all the time, you know."

"I don't think I'm lost," you answer, although you're not entirely sure and you think he can tell.

"No, I think you are," comes his reply. "Nobody comes in here unless they're looking for something."

"What are you looking for then?" You ask the animal as the forest opens around you two like a painting and the trees go on and on.

He laughs. "Foxes belong in the forest. I've found what I'm looking for." He says as he blinks at you with wide brown eyes. "What about you?"

"What about me?" You pause for a moment. It has been a while since someone asked about yourself. "I guess I was angry, or maybe just tired. I could never find the right way to do everything, never find the right place for me to be. I think this whole time I'll be too busy worrying about doing things right that by the time I figure it out I'll be too old to get up and do anything about it."

You sigh. The leaves are turning golden brown now and you think you miss when they were green. You don't think you will ever leave this forest.

"Do the flowers bloom just to rot?" The fox laughs, open and kind. "Do you grow sharp teeth just to pull them out? There is nothing in the world that should apologize for living the way it should. Nothing in the world." He walks around and sits beside you. You think there is something inside you that wants to cry.

He flicks his tail once, twice. You count your heartbeats and the lines on the trees.

Everything's okay. Everything's going to be okay. You know this like winter knows spring. Like the forest floor knows the autumn leaves once a year, like the fox knows the stars and the sky and the wind and the earth.

"Anyway," the fox says. "You should get going. The road home is a long one, you know. Don't wanna get stuck in the dark"

The setting sun is a penny in his eyes. How long have you been in this forest? How long have you been walking yourself in circles, waiting for someone to tell you that you were lost?

You're different now. Everything's different now, and you watch the leaves fall down, down, down.

"Go home", says the fox.

So you do.

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