Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Flash Fiction Wednesday: When Foxes Have No Holes

I'd already made plans for today when I saw East Coast Ink magazine's promotion of Flash Fiction Wednesday; so while I didn't have time to write a new story (600 words max., apparently), I'll post this one that qualifies, which I wrote pretty recently, as part of a much larger story cycle. The only disclaimer I'll add is that the use of meter is very deliberate: to convey a dog-like dissatisfaction with being enclosed, the narrator's voice slips in and out of (usually trochaic) meter -- and not just in the parts that are set in verse. 

“When Foxes Have No Holes”

            Bark! Bark, my kits!
            Bark across the empty space until it carries sound.
            Bark as if keen ears could hear your echoes coming home.
            Bark: the Farmers weren’t the ones who drove us from our dens, yet they fend us off and Fence us out into the dark.
            Bark! The Fence! It keeps us prowling, searching out ways In.
            Can’t you all remember how and when we met the Fence? Come! We’ll catch the tale in our paws so it can’t (yip!) escape. It begins:
            First Outfoxes saw the Fence
            (sitting there, all innocence!),
            Metal balls, misthrown and lost;
            Outside noses caught their scents:
            Lonely, shiny outcasts.
            Nosed and pawed, the balls bit back
            (in an unprovoked attack)
            There, Outfoxes learned, beware:
            Pouncing Fenceposts in the Black
            Punish those who trespass.
            And the sentries spied, we found,
            Those who sought out routes around
            Digging under, jumping o’er,
            Foxes tasted vacuum, drowned
            In the airless reaches.
            Then would all the Fenceposts speak
            In that whistling, rasping squeak
            Painful to Outfoxes’ ears,
            Squawking while we cowered, meek
            Animals, mere creatures.
            Stay, they whined. You can’t come in. There’s no controlling you. You’re uncivilized. You’re wild. You’re robbers. Now go home!
            Go home, kits? How could they?
            Driven from their planet-den by Vermin long ago, now the Fence had locked them out; they never could return. Days when kits could chase and play and loll in warm sunlight, growing into sandy-whiskered gentlemen: all gone. Even days of sauntering and hunting 'cross the stars, catching prey as chickens in their interstellar coops – never caring what it was or who it was we ate – all gone now, too, my kits!
            Soon they found that Fenceposts, like Outfoxes, like to move: discontent, unjust, their border migrates as they go. Piece by piece expanding, yip! so gradually it grew, spreading civilized space, shrinking ours; for we could sense larger predators out lurking, out beyond the stars’ firelight.
            Would the Fenceposts listen, when we whined of this?
            No, the biting toys squeaked, still you can’t come in, you dogs, good barbarians! (Bark!) Noble scavengers! Protect our border that we share. Guard our space. You’ll keep it safe from darker animals.
            What to do, my kits? What Fencepost knows nobility? Are we noble, living witless, carefree lives? And weren’t we more helpless than so many creatures, worrying bones of helplessness? But when we gnawed the problem down – so the caught tale tells – we saw what we must do to let our barks be free, be heard!
            Settle down! Now settle down! What taming irony: minding what the Farmers and their Fenceposts asked of us, settling down against the Fence, nomads no longer. Leashed our caboodles, panting ships, together, save for scouts sent to roam the Fence in search of holes or gaps, where Outfoxes might slip through. We bark! in savage protest, bark! Not so noble, but defiant: outside, barking in.
            So bark! bark! for our remembered home.
            Bark again! at those who Fence us out.
            Pant! with gnawing hunger for the day
            (Yip!) when hole is found, or hole is made,
            When Outfoxes find ways In,
            Lollop, hunt, and feast again.

            Bark, bark, my kits!

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