I wonder, briefly, if I might drown myself in the meadow, the pasture is deep enough to render a sea. At least then I wouldn’t be able to hear them incessantly argue – spite contaminating the car as we make our way home.
“You’re nasty,” she says, and he says, “well you’re selfish” and the cycle repeats – masochists to their own misery. I keep my eyes on the scenery. The long grass has turned to straw, clipped short. A shame. I could unbuckle my belt though. Open the door. Fall clean out onto the tarmac.
He huffs, she snipes again. He slaps his palms against the wheel, gripping it to a white knuckle. “Stop being ridiculous” she says, wafting a hand in his direction. He goes to reply with something vicious – lip curled, I can see it in the rear-view mirror – but instead of words there’s a squeal of tyres as we slam to a heavy stop. “What the fuck?” leaves my mouth before I have time to think and I’m told “don’t you swear in front of your mum” but she’s too fixated with whatever we’ve nearly hit to notice my transgression.
It’s a Sunday sunset. Northern sky pink. Two foxes are in the road, indifferent to us.
I shift in the seat and stare. From here they are prize fighters in the low beam lights of the car. A beat passes as they posture, and then mum gasps as one of the foxes lunges, teeth bared. In an instant, marmalade fur feathers up and out and they dance – snapping and snarling, twisting their bodies left then right. The duel isn’t equal – one is at least a hand bigger, but the smaller gives as good as it gets.
Back on ringside, silence has ebbed into the car. The foxes hold steady, lock positions, then the larger leaps again. Instead of a bite and spilled blood, the other reads the move and dips down, setting its snout to the gravel. Concession? A feint.
“What are they doing?” I ask. The smaller fox has landed a blow. “Isn’t it obvious?”, he replies, moving his hand to mum’s thigh. She’s still breathing heavy in shock. “They’re courting – deciding if it’s a match. The male might even scream.”
I don’t question his explanation. We wait, the duel ongoing, but no such yelp comes. Then as quickly as they started they pause their pursuit. One sniffs. A few quiet seconds pass. They lock burnt orange eyes on us, then in the click of a finger they’re gone to the wild. The fence to the left is little other than three planks of wood. The male jumps up and over whilst the female burrows down and out. A forest sits on the horizon – their tails stream towards the brush. I go to speak but think better of it.
Mum is a study of stillness. He takes his hand from her thigh and unclicks the hand break, the car creaking. He puts it back then, on her, softly – the other relaxed, steady on the wheel. The foxes have disappeared, gone to the timber. We restart the journey home.
A young writer from Yorkshire, Emily has recently discovered that she actually likes creative writing, despite everything she may have previously said. She can be found on Twitter @emily__harrison, and has had work published with Storgy, Retreat West and Riggwelter Press to name a few.