The Fisherman and the FoX

    One day a man is fishing along the bank of a small lake. And as he casts his pole, a fox leaps out of the woods behind him and dives sharply into the water. The man cannot believe his eyes. He drops the pole at his feet and leans forward trying to spot the fox beneath the surface. But he sees nothing.
   At home, his wife asks how fishing went and the man tells her what he saw. Surely it wasn’t a fox, she tells him, maybe it was just a big fish jumping out of the water. Or maybe it was all in your head––it sure gets hot out there sometimes.

    You’re probably right, he tells her…

    But later that night in bed beside her, the man is unable to sleep. Had the fox drowned? What would make a fox dive into the water anyway? He grabs a flashlight from his bedside drawer and puts his boots on. Damp air hits his face as he goes out into the night.

    When he reaches the lake again, he sees he’d left his pole behind.

    The line is taut now, in the moonlight, a thread of silk.

    “You silly coward,” he says to himself and picks up the pole. But when he begins to reel the line, he finds there’s something on the other end—something very, very heavy. This must be the biggest fish in the entire lake, he thinks.

   He pulls back hard with the pole; it arches in its middle. The reel creaks in his hands until it breaches the water with a dull splash. The man points his flashlight toward it—he sees the fox’s tail is no longer bushy like before, but slicked and matted by the water. And moss clings to its exposed teeth where the man’s hook is barbed through its lower lip.

    Oh my god, I knew it was true he tells himself. The fox did dive into the water and now I’ve killed it…it’s tired itself out and drowned.

    The man sets the pole down and wades into the water. Warm as a bath. He closes his eyes and holds his breath. He follows the line toward the lake’s bottom, where the dead fox has sunk again. He holds the fox’s small head in his hands. Runs his thumbs softly against the corners of its eyes and then leans forward, whispering into one of its ears.

    But his words never form.

    He only makes bubbles.

    Thousands of them floating.

    Bursting at the surface.

    The night, not listening.

Matthew Feasley lives in Chicago
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