Have I ever told you about the magic that comes with the fog? It’s not something you notice right off. In fact, I’d say most people just curse at the mist and fiddle with the high beams, or use it as a topic for small talk at the grocery store. But for those who pay attention, whose eyes are open to it, the strangest things happen around here when the fog rolls in.
Take last week, for example. It was a cloudy day, but the roads were clear as I took the highway in to town. It’s a simple enough drive to do on auto-pilot, if you’re so inclined, but it’s a bad idea. In Newfoundland, you have to keep your eyes open for moose. Caribou, too, if you’re in the right area at the right time of year. Bunnies and weasels are tiny tragedies when you hit them. A moose will total your car.
So sure, I was paying attention, but I was enjoying the drive, too. Music cranked up, temperature controls set the way I liked them, and enjoying the fact that the back seat, though as messy as ever, was free from any small people who might interrupt my passionate caterwauling. It’s not often that I get out without the kids, and I was making the most of my alone time.
The October leaves had captured my attention as I came around a wide bend in the road, and at first I didn’t notice the small, dark shape trotting down the shoulder of the highway through the thin fog that had settled in the low places. A fox, but not red. Come to think of it, I don’t remember ever seeing a red fox here. They’re dark brown, almost black. Still, certainly a fox, bushy tail and all. I tapped the brakes and slowed in case he decided to dart in front of me, but I shouldn’t have worried. In fact, the fox stopped, parked his fluffy butt on the gravel shoulder, and raised a forepaw in the air.
I slowed again as I approached. The fox twisted his paw, holding it out like a human offering a handshake, and jerked it upward.
He’s hitchhiking, I thought. I’d never picked up a hitchhiker before, but it seemed like a good time to make an exception. I leaned over and popped the passenger side door open, and the fox leapt up onto the seat. I asked him to excuse my elbow as I pulled the door shut, and we started down the road again.
“Thanks,” the fox said, and reached up one back foot to scratch at an ear. “I wasn’t sure that would work.”
“No problem.” A car passed, and I checked my speed. Ten under the limit. I pressed harder on the gas pedal and tried to pay attention to my driving. “Where are you headed?”
“Just down a ways. You know the entrance to the dump?”
“That’ll be fine.”
I reached out to turn the music off. “You know, this is quite unusual. I can’t say I’ve ever met a talking fox before. Or given one a ride.”
“Yeah, well. What can you do?”
He didn’t seem inclined to say more, and we traveled for a few minutes in silence, save for the sound of his frequent scratching.
I turned in to the dump road. “That’s fine,” the fox said. “You can let me out here.”
“Oh. Sure.” I hesitated, then asked, “Is that it, then?”
“I’m a little short on payment options.”
I drummed my fingers on the steering wheel. “No, that’s fine. It’s just that in stories, talking animals always appear to offer advice, or a warning, or to share something at a turning point in a person’s life. I thought maybe…”
The fox sighed and closed his eyes, then stood. “Open the door,” he said, and I did. He turned and sniffed the air, then raised a leg and pissed all over the back of the seat. He jumped out and trotted a few paces away before turning back and holding out a forepaw again, this time in a gesture that brought to mind a human flipping the bird.
“You want advice?” he asked. “Don’t pick up hitchhikers. It never ends well.”
And with that, he was gone, bounding away into the mist.
I’m telling you guys: shit gets weird around here when the fog rolls in.
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