Disclaimer: The characters below do belong to me. I had a character sheet for a long time when I realized that my original characters from previous stories were too flat and I wanted to write a story with believable characters. I finally managed to write the story that follows. I hope you enjoy it.
Chapter One- The Family
The forest was alive with the sounds of birds and leaves rustling in the breeze. Sunlight dappled the grass through the gaps in the trees. The absence of other people seemed perfect to the young man who walked through this scene. He wasn’t antisocial- he liked being with people even though he only had a few select friends.
The young man heard a rustling coming from a bush up ahead. He stopped in his tracks and waited to see what would emerge. The rustling stopped and a fox came out from the bush. It was a dull red with black paws and black-tipped ears. A bushy tail with a white tip swished behind it. Its dark brown eyes bore into the man’s own dark brown eyes. The fox’s eyes seemed to be saying, “Remember.” The word echoed in his mind and the scene dissolved into blackness.
The young man awoke to the feel of sunlight on his face and the sound of an alarm clock beeping at him. He rolled over and turned the alarm off before sitting up and stretching. He swung his legs off the bed, stood up, and padded out of the room and toward the bathroom. He splashed cold water on his face to fully wake up. He patted his face dry and looked into the mirror. A boy of fifteen stared back at him with alert dark brown eyes. The same shade as that fox he dreamed about. The dream was still fresh in his mind.
I was in a forest which sense since I love forests. There was a fox there, my favorite animal. It seemed to be saying “Remember”, but remember what? Remember the dream? That’s easy. It’s practically burned into my brain.
He tore himself from his thoughts when a girl’s voice from the other side of the bathroom door said, “Evan, are you almost done?”
“Uh, almost Katie. I just need to brush my teeth.” Evan grabbed his toothbrush and toothpaste and got back to getting ready for school.
Evan entered the dining room fifteen minutes later, his reddish-brown hair neatly brushed and dressed in a pair of pressed jeans and a green polo shirt tucked into his jeans. “Good morning, Mother. Good morning, Father,” he said as he sat down.
His mother, Ruth Blake, smiled at him as put a plate of eggs and bacon in front of him. “Good morning, sweetheart.”
His father, Jessie, lowered the newspaper long enough to say, “Good morning, Evan” and pick up his cup of coffee.
Several minutes later, Evan’s kid sister, Katie, came in wearing a pale pink skirt, matching tights, and a white blouse tucked into the skirt. Her brown hair was pulled back into a neat braid and her eyes, the same shade as her brother, sparkled happily.
Jessie looked at his children over the top of his paper and smiled before looking at the paper again. He was pleased over how Ruth and he raised their kids. Both were well-behaved, well-dressed, and good students. Jessie had strict moral values and he would drill them into his kids with the intention of having them grow up into sensible, successful, and highly productive members of society. Thus far, he considered Evan’s drilling complete while Katie was still being drilled, but she did have the well-dressed part down pat.
He lay the paper down and got up once his kids had finished eating. He would drop them off at their respective schools on his way to work where he was vice-president of a company that supplied office supplies to other businesses, like office supply stores. He grabbed his briefcase at the front door and slipped on his dress shoes while Katie put on a pair of Mary Janes and Evan put on a pair of Docs. Then, they grabbed his backpacks and lunches before following their father out the door.
Evan opened his locker to stow his lunch and backpack before taking out his books and binder with folders and a pencil pouch inside it before closing the door. As he headed for his first class, his best friend, Daniel Woods fell into step beside him.
“Yo, Evan. What’s up?” he asked, brushing some of his red-streaked black hair back.
“Not much. I’m looking forward to our weekly vocabulary test.”
“That’s not ‘til Friday! This is Tuesday!”
“It’s never too early to start studying.”
Daniel clapped a hand over his blue eyes. “Man, Evan sometimes you’re such a nerd.”
Evan said nothing, but a small smile came to his face. He knew Daniel wasn’t being mean by calling him a nerd. Daniel was too free-spirited a guy to be mean or spiteful to anyone. Everyone seemed to like him. His mellow attitude went well with Evan’s studious behavior which is why they were friends.
“Evan, you wanna spend the night at my place Friday?” Daniel asked as they rod the bus home that day.
“I have to ask my dad first.” Evan was reasonably sure his dad would say yes, but he had been taught to ask permission first.
Chapter Two- Returning Dreams
Evan stretched and a small sigh escaped. It was Friday night and he was lying on a sleeping bag on the floor of Daniel’s bedroom. He had to admit, Daniel’s room was quite different from his own. Evan’s room was plain white walls with pictures and awards on them and a plain wooden floor. Daniel’s, however, had walls that were painted in bands of color that resembled a sunset. The ceiling was black with white dots that resembled stars. The floor was carpeted in a green the same shade as grass in springtime.
“Daniel, this is the coolest room I’ve ever seen,” Evan commented.
“Thanks, man. My mom did all the painting and picking out the carpet. Sometimes it pays to have an interior designer for a mom.”
Evan yawned. It had been a long night. The two boys had played games, watched movies, and ate popcorn. He snuggled down in his bag, mumbled a good night to Daniel, and fell asleep.
The same springlike forest appeared before his eyes. He drew comfort from the familiar surroundings as he strode purposely toward the bush where he knew the fox was hiding. He stood near it as it rustled and then the fox emerged. It looked exactly like it did last time. Once again, it sent the same message with its eyes.
“Who are you?” he asked in a whisper.
The fox simply blinked and, with a swish of its tail, turned and began trotting away. Evan wasted no time chasing after it. He never caught up: The fox disappeared into the blinding sunlight and the dream dissolved into blackness.
He jerked awake, the darkness of the room telling him that it was still night. He looked to his right to see Daniel’s sleeping form in bed. He turned his gaze to the ceiling.
That’s the seconds time this week that I dreamed about a forest and a fox. That’s supposed to be impossible. It’s been proven that dreams don’t play out the same way ever.
Then again, some people receive visions that lead them to their destiny. But, my dream is just a dream. Perhaps I should ask Daniel in the morning.
“Hey, Evan, you okay? You’re bein’ kind of quiet this morning.” Daniel asked at breakfast Saturday morning.
Evan glanced around for Mrs. Woods, but saw no sign of her. It would seem she went into her home office in the back of the house. He learned toward his friend. “I’ve been having a dream and I don’t know if it means anything.”
Daniel grinned. “You’ve come to the right place. Dream interpretation is a hobby of mine.”
“Well, it’s just one dream and I’ve had it twice this week. I’m in a forest that’s in springtime. As I walk, a bush nearby rustles and a fox emerges. His fur is a dull red with black paws, black tipped ears, and a white-tipped tail. It eyes are the same color as mine. It stares at me and I feel as if its saying, “Remember.” The first time that’s where the dream ended, but last night I asked who it was but it started to walk away and I chased it before the dream ended.”
Daniel let out a low whistle. “Wow, that’s a really vivid dream. I’m thinking it may not be a dream.”
“What do you mean?”
“It could be a vision. You’ve had the same dream twice. No one has the same one twice unless it’s a vision. When the vision returns, try to talk to the fox. It clearly wants to communicate with you.”
Evan nodded. “I’ll try. Thanks, Daniel. I feel better now that I’ve talked to someone about this. My family would think it’s just a silly dream.”
Jessie showed up at noon that day to pick up Evan, who was silent on the ride home. His thoughts were on the vision. His talk with Daniel convinced him that it was a vision and he was keen to talk to the fox. I wonder when the fox will return.
The rustling of leaves in the wind and the sounds of birdsong reached his ears. He turned in a slow circle. It was the same forest again. The vision had returned for the second night in a row. “The fox must want to talk to me, too,” he said softly.
“You are correct,” a male voice replied.
Evan whirled around to see the fox behind him. He sat cross-legged before the animal who likewise sat, revealing one, no two tails! Evan’s eyes widened and the fox seemed amused by the reaction.
“Who are you?” Evan asked.
“I have no name,” the fox replied,. though the mouth did not move. His tails twitched beside him and Evan stared at them.
“How can you have two tails?” he asked.
“I am not an ordinary fox. I’m a trickster fox. In fact, I am you.”
“Yes. You and I are the same soul. Centuries ago, we were a trickster fox. However, that is a story for next time. Goodbye, Evan. We will meet again.” The dream dissolved into blackness.
Chapter Three- The Past Revealed
Evan dwelled on the vision as he got dressed for church on Sunday. The surprise of learning that he had been dreaming of a trickster fox had been a pleasant one and he reflected on how the fox had looked.
Now that I think of it, he thought as he got in the car. There was a hint that it wasn’t a normal fox right in the first vision: He had black paws. I can’t believe I didn’t think of how unusual that was.
The sound of car doors opening drew him out of his musings. They had arrived at church. He quickly exited the car and followed his family inside. He sat in the pew between his mother and Katie, his thoughts still on the vision while his body went through its normal motions.
I find it hard to believe that I was a fox in a previous life and a trickster one at that. I wonder how I was reborn as a human and why I’m only now remembering.
“Evan!” Jessie hissed softly. “On your feet!”
Evan blinked and looked up to see the rest of the congregation on their feet for the first hymn of the service. He quickly rose, a flush creeping up his neck and into his face. Once Jessie was facing forward, Evan felt a flash of anger toward his father that surprised him. Why would his father anger him?
/He would hold us back,/ a voice said inside him. A voice Evan had heard only while he was asleep. /Fox half? Is that you?/ Evan asked.
/It’s me. I’m regaining our magic and it’s allowing me to speak to you like this./
/Of course. Magic is part of being a trickster./
/What did you mean by Father holding us back?/
/That’s part of our history. You and I will be one again and we’ll return to our fox form and trickster way of life. Jessie would try to stop us./
/Return to playing tricks?/
/Among other things./
/Playing tricks sounds like fun./
/I thought you would think that./ The fox’s words reverberated and Evan sensed the connection was broken.
The congregation sat and Evan followed suite. He face forward as the sermon began, but he didn’t hear a word. His thoughts effectively blocked it out.
Maybe I shouldn’t play any tricks. Dad wouldn’t like it. All my life, I’ve been a good son. Life is fine the way it is. Yet, this life is a little boring. There’s nothing wrong about shaking it up a little, is there?
But Dad won’t like it! I don’t want to make him mad. Oh, I don’t know anymore. I want to prank, but I know I shouldn’t. Maybe my other half can help. I’ll ask him later, perhaps tonight.
After the service, as Ruth and Katie headed toward the car, Jessie took Evan aside. “Evan, why didn’t you stand at the same time as everyone else on the first hymn. That’s not like you.”
“I’m sorry, Father. I was thinking about the school week to come.”
“Oh? Important project?” There was a proud note in his voice.
“No, Father. I just enjoy school.”
“As you should. Just don’t let it distract you in church again.”
Jessie patted Evan’s shoulder and kept his hand there as he gently led his son to the car. He didn’t notice Evan’s eyes widen slightly. The teenager had just realized that he had actually lied to his father for the first time in years. The last time he could recall lying was when he was four years old and had not yet started school. The act had earned him a time-out and a stern talking-to about the evils of lying. The evils mentioned in the talk had scared him so much that it had cured him of lying…until today.
Did I lie because I knew Father wouldn’t like knowing I was mentally talking with a trickster fox inside me? Or did I lie because my fox half influenced me? It sounds scary to think he could influence me like that and yet I’m not scared at all. It would seem my destiny is to transform into a fox and resume playing tricks on people. My fox half did say that it will happen. You can’t fight the inevitable!
Evan had no visions of his other half Sunday night and it didn’t really concern him. Perhaps the telepathy and regaining the magic exhausted him and he needed time to rest. Evan decided he let the fox come to him when he was ready. He had his school work, family obligations, church, and hobbies to keep him busy. Evan didn’t hear from the fox the entire week and considered talking to Daniel about the progress made from two weeks ago.
“Daniel, I’ve got something to tell,” Evan said Monday at lunch.
“What is it?”
“Well, I had another vision that night after you suggested it.”
“You had the vision hours after talking to me? Wow! So, what’cha find out?”
“Well the fox is male and he said that he’s a trickster fox from centuries ago.”
“A trickster. That’s cool.”
“That’s not all. This fox actually is me. I’m a trickster fox reborn as a human.”
“What!? You’re the fox? How is that possible?”
“I don’t know how yet. On Sunday last week, we talked during services through telepathy. He regained some of the trickster magic for the telepathy. He said that eventually the two of us will merge together, actually transform into a fox, and resume the trickster life.”
“So,” Daniel said, leaning forward. “At some point, you’ll turn into a fox and leave this life behind?”
“Looks like it. Honestly, it sounds cool and I like the sound of it. Of course, I will want to know how I became human.”
Have the two of you spoken since your telepathy talk?”
“No. It’s possible the talk wore him out and he needs to rest. He’ll talk again when he’s ready.”
“You talk as if you really know him.”
“Why not? We are the same soul as he says.”
“Hello, Evan. Miss me?”
“I did. I thought you needed rest when I didn’t see you after our Sunday talk.”
“You are partly correct. I was also unlocking more magic. I’ll be able to show you our past with the magic I acquired.”
Evan’s eyes lit up with eagerness. “I’ve been dying to know how this all happened.”
The fox winced. “Dying is precisely how this happened. In fact, this forest setting is where it happened. Look.” He pointed his foreleg behind Evan who turned around.
A fox with black paws and five tails lay on its side, the shaft of an arrow protruding from its body. His breathing was shallow and labored. Evan felt a lump in his throat. That’s me centuries ago.
“Damn villagers,” the dying fox said. “Not my fault they couldn’t take a joke. A few logs lying around in random spots is not evil. Just harmless.”
The sound of footsteps was heard and a priest stepped into view. Evan deduced that the time period had to be somewhere in the early 1600’s, judging by the priest’s clothes. The injured fox attempted to get up and flee, but the arrow prevented this and he fell back with a groan which caught the human’s attention. He approached slowly and unthreateningly.
“Stay back or you’ll be sorry,” the fox growled, his fur bristling.
“I have no desire to hurt you. I only wish to help,” the priest said.
“Like this.” He sank to his knees, put on hand on the fox’s side, gripped the shaft in the other, and in one smooth motion removed the arrow, revealing the head to be made of iron.
“Thank you, but the damage is done. I am not long for this world.”
“Tis a shame for a fox such as you to die like this. Therefore, I bless you fox. May your soul, magic, and memories be reincarnated so that eventually you will return to life as you know it.” The scene suddenly faded away.
Chapter Four- The First Prank.
“That is what happened four hundred years ago.”
Evan turned back to his other half to see that he now sported five tails instead of the two from before.
“So now that I know the past, what’s next? I mean will I wake up in the morning as a fox?”
His fox side laughed. “Oh,no. I only got enough magic to create a visual memory of the past. In time, enough magic will be acquired to invoke a gradual transformation. But, for now, you may find yourself compelled to play some tricks.”
“I had considered doing so, but I know Dad wouldn’t like it if I did.”
“Evan, it doesn’t matter what your dad would or wouldn’t like. It’s our nature to play tricks. I’m not suggesting you play a major prank. Instead think about starting small and then act on it. If your hand is discovered in the trick, take pride in the trick.”
Evan tilted his head in consideration before straightening it. “You’re right. We will become one eventually and our skills as a trickster should be flawless. I should be able to play a small trick in a day or two. I promise.”
“You wanna play tricks, Evan?” Daniel’s face look stunned for a moment before a grin broke across it. “It’s nice to see you’re loosening up now. I mean, you usually want to just study, do homework, and behave yourself. Pulling a prank is a surprise.”
“I know, but I woke up this morning and realized I’m tired of being a goody-two shoes. The only thing is I don’t know about any good tricks. I thought I’d ask you.”
“I know one that’s kind of harmless: You could tie someone’s shoes together.”
“Hmm. That could work, especially if that person isn’t wearing them.”
“The only way that could happen is if it’s done at home.”
“Yeah and I think I know whose shoes I’ll tie together. Thanks for the idea, Daniel.”
“Sure, man. Anytime.”
Okay, Evan thought Wednesday morning. The trick is set. Now, it’s only a matter of time until it’s discovered. I can’t wait to see the reaction not to mention my confessing to the prank.
Evan smiled before strolling into the dining room, greeting his parents like usual, and sitting down to breakfast. Katie came down at her usual time and breakfast passed in the usual silence.
Evan and Katie trailed after Jessie, as normal, to the front door. Jessie stopped dead in his tracks while his kids slipped on their shoes. His eyes stared in shock at his shoes whose laces had been tied together! He turned to his kids, who looked curiously at the shoes before turning to him. “Evan, Katie,” he said calmly. “do you know who did this?” He pointed at the shoes.
“I know,” Evan spoke up. “I did it.”
“You!?” Jessie’s face slowly turned red, matching his hair. “Katie,” he said curtly. “wait in the car.” The minute Katie was gone, Jessie turned to Evan, arms folded over his chest.
“Son, why did you do this?” he asked.
“I…thought it’d be funny,” Evan answered weakly.
“Well, I don’t find it amusing! You know I don’t approve of this behavior! I want you to promise you won’t pull this kind of stunt again!”
Evan lowered his head. “Yes, Father. I promise I won’t do it again.”
“Good. Now, go wait in the car. I’ll be there shortly.”
Evan nodded and headed outside. Once he was in the car and buckled, he noticed Katie staring at him with wide eyes. He tilted his head. “Yes?” he asked.
“Why did you do it?” she asked.
“Because it would be funny. Didn’t you think it was funny?”
“Maybe, kind of. Yeah.”
Jessie opened the door and both kids fell silent. Evan congratulated himself on the ride to school. He successfully pulled his first prank! Sure, his dad didn’t like it, but Evan didn’t care. He knew his pranks would continue despite promising not to play any. He had gotten a thrill from the prank that he found kind of addictive and he could hardly wait to tell Daniel and get his input and ideas for more tricks.
I’ll have to play some tricks without getting caught or suspected in having a hand in them. I also need tricks that Katie will find amusing.
Evan loved his sister and knew she looked up to him. She practically idolized him as someone she wanted to be like. He glanced sideways at her. I wonder if trickster magic could change someone into a different form. Katie may want to become a fox if she sees me change into one. Perhaps I could ask my other half about that.
“So you tied your dad’s shoes together?” Daniel chuckled a little and smiled. “Nice work. He wasn’t pleased, was he?”
“He sure wasn’t. He wanted me to promise not to play more tricks. I said I wouldn’t, but I don’t plan to stop. I do plan not to get caught, though.”
“Cool. I did have a couple of other tricks you could do at home.”
“Yeah? Like what?”
“Well, you could put sugar in the salt shaker. There’s also the classic camp prank of short-sheeting the beds.”
Evan smiled mischievously. “I like those a lot. Of course, I’ll wait a while first. It’ll make Dad think I’m keeping my word.”
“Wow, you’re really thinking like a trickster. You’re becoming a different person and I like it.”
“Thanks.” Evan turned back to his lunch and, again, thought of changing someone into a fox. Daniel might like to join me especially since I’m not such a studious student anymore. Or at least I won’t be once I feel like schoolwork and homework is boring and pointless.
“Hey, Evan,” Daniel spoke up. “Did you find out about your past yet?”
“Oh, that’s right. I didn’t tell you,” Evan said with a smile. “I learned that I’m actually four hundred years old. Apparently I had played a harmless prank on a village and one of the villagers shot me with an iron-tipped arrow. I think tricksters are vulnerable to iron. Anyway, a priest came along and removed it, but it was too late. I was dying. The priest took pity on me and blessed me. He hoped my soul, magic, and memories would be reincarnated so that I would be able to return to my previous life.”
“Wow,” Daniel said softly. “Clearly his blessing worked because here you are.”
Evan nodded. “Here I am. In time, I will return to my trickster self and way of life.”
I will return to my former life, but for now I will enjoy my current life, Evan thought that afternoon as he assisted Katie with a school project. Jessie was still at work and Ruth was in the kitchen preparing to cook dinner. Both brother and sister were in the latter’s bedroom at the desk.
“Evan?” Katie asked.
“You thought tying Father’s shoes together would be funny, right?”
“That’s right. I still feel that way. Father simply has no sense of humor.”
“That’s true,” she said slowly. “Are you going to do something like that again?”
Evan hesitated. While he had been drilled to be well-dressed, a good student, and well-behaved, Katie was only well-dressed and a good student. However, she did know that lying was wrong just as he did. Unlike her, he had already lied a week and a half ago. He loved her and wanted to tell her, but wasn’t sure he should.
“Evan? You are planning more tricks, aren’t you?”
“You think so?”
“Yeah, I do. The tricks can be fun to pull, but I don’t want to see you get in trouble. I don’t know why you’re playing tricks when you never have before, but I kind of like it.”
“I do plan on more tricks. I don’t plan on getting caught, but it could happen.”
“Why are you doing this?” she said without anger but with curiosity.
“It’s because…I was a trickster fox in another life,” Evan admitted, finding he couldn’t lie to her.
“You were?” Her eyes looked at him in surprise.
Evan nodded. “It was four hundred years ago. A priest had found my dying and blessed me to be reborn with my soul, magic, and memories intact. I started having dreams of my past life a few weeks ago.”
“So…you’re playing tricks because you did it in the past as a fox?”
“Okay. I think you being a fox is cool by the way.”
“Thanks Katie. That means a lot to me. Now, let’s get back to your project.”
Hours later, Evan was on his computer, searching the Internet for instructions on how to short-sheet a bed. He had never gone to camp and thus he never learned how to play this popular camp prank. He also searched for other tricks that appealed to him. He printed out the short –sheeting instructions and wrote down the other tricks on this same page before storing it carefully in his desk drawer and going to bed.
Fox Evan lay curled up in Evan’s mind, observing his human half go about his business. He saw him help his sister and sensed the love Evan felt for her. He understood Evan’s love for Katie and had to admit that he felt fond of her too.
She believes him about us being a fox who played tricks. That’s good. Our friend, Daniel, also believes and has suggested some tricks. That’s also good. And speaking of tricks, Evan needs to play a couple of playful ones before moving on to some of a more mean-spirited nature. After all, tricksters play both harmless and mean pranks.
Chapter Five- Causing Chaos
Evan continued to get good grades at school, but Fox Evan convinced him that excessive studying is not necessary. Evan’s state of dress began to change a little. He would go down in the morning dressed the usual way, but once at school, he would untuck his shirt and then tuck it in before getting on the bus home.
His grooming habits didn’t change and it made sense why: Foxes pride themselves on being well-groomed. His behavior was two-sided: He would project the perfect son to his parents, but alone he expressed disdain for his parents’ restrictive rules and of course Fox Evan agreed with him. Evan was quite keen on transforming and leaving his human life behind, but was reminded that their tricking skills still needed to be honed and polished.
It was with this in mind that Evan set up his second trick three weeks after the first one. He figured it would be good if he set it up after school so he could achieve the maximum effect as well as bask in the glory of a successfully pulled prank. He smirked as he put the finishing touches on the set-up. All that’s left to do is wait.
Dinner was steak and baked potatoes. Jessie cut up his steak while Ruth served buttered peas onto everyone’s plates. Jessie opened up his potato and sprinkled some salt on it. He passed it to Ruth who used it. She passed it to Evan who mimed using it and passed it to Katie. She was about to use it when she saw Evan slightly shake his head out of the corner of her eye. She also mimed using it.
Jessie put a bit of potato in his mouth, chewed it with a strange look on his face, swallowed, and frowned at his plate.
“Something wrong, dear?” Ruth asked.
“I’m not sure. There’s a funny taste to my potato.” He took a smaller bit and rolled it around in his mouth before swallowing. Ruth followed suite and funny look crossed her face, too.
Jessie put down his fork and grabbed the salt shaker. He unscrewed the cap, dipped a finger in, and licked off the white specks on his finger. “This isn’t salt!” he exclaimed. “It’s sugar!”
“Sugar? How can that be?” Ruth inquired.
Evan kept a straight face even though his impulse was to laugh. This trick was perfect: Jessie couldn’t suspect him; he’ll probably think either he or Ruth put sugar in the salt shaker by mistake.
“Kids, put butter on your potato to cover the sugar,” Jessie said.
“Evan, that was great,” Katie commented as they brushed their teeth. “The look on Mother’s face was funny.”
“Well, thank you very much. There’s no way Father can suspect me. That trick was perfect. I’m afraid I’ll get caught or suspected on the next one.”
“What are you planning?”
“Short-sheeting the beds.”
“Oh. Yeah, Father will think you did it.”
“Yeah. When I get around to the trick, I’ll have to short-sheet your bed or it’ll look suspicious.”
“That’s okay. I know you have to because of your fox side and because you love me.”
“Nice work, Evan. Your trick was perfect,” Fox Evan complimented in dream vision.
“Thanks. I enjoyed watching the results.”
“So was I. I was laughing the entire time. When will the next one be?”
“Soon. Dad doesn’t suspect me or he can’t suspect me. As far as he knows, I’m still behaving myself.”
“Yes, but the next trick will tip your hand.”
“I can lie about pulling the trick.”
“He probably won’t believe you.”
“So what? He can’t tell me what to do forever. By the way, I’ve been wondering what trickster magic can do.”
“Oh, a lot of things. As you know, it allows telepathy, dream visions, and visual memory recreations. I’ll be using it to change us back to fox form.”
“Could it change people into animals?”
“It could. Why do you ask?”
“Well, it’s just that Katie and Daniel think it’s cool that I’m a fox and they may want to join me when I change.”
“I see. Well, when you change, you can ask them.”
“Get some sleep, Evan. You’ve got work to do in the coming weeks.”
Evan stared at his science test a week later feeling pleased despite the red B written at the top. His schoolwork was starting to reflect his less rigorous study schedule. A grade like this will undoubtedly slip even more as he and his fox side grew closer together.
That’s fine with me. An education isn’t necessary when one is going to become a fox. I think I’ll play my next trick in about a week. I can hardly wait! I’m getting sick of acting like a good boy. It’s boring.
/Of course it’s boring,/ Fox Evan spoke up. /To a trickster like us, disrupting peaceful lives with a little chaos is fun./
Evan smiled slightly as he sat down. /Another telepathy talk. You go more of our magic back./
/I did. Lately, however, the magic has been staying instead vanishing when I use it./
/When’s the next trick?/
/In about a week and I can hardly wait./
/Of course you can’t and neither can I./
Evan wasn’t sure how he made it through the following week when his impulse was to set the trick up immediately. His preoccupation with playing tricks was reflected in his schoolwork. He continued to do his homework but it wasn’t as detailed as it used to be.
The Friday of the week of the trick finally arrived. Evan figured that for the maximum effect, the trick should occur when school, work, or church won’t be disrupted by short-sheeted beds. He knew he was going to get caught and his dad would probably yell at him and maybe punish him, but he didn’t care. He would disobey any promise he would make and any punishment his dad would give out. He would not keep any promises except for the one that the tricks would keep coming.
Once Evan got home that Friday, he immediately got to work. He went into Katie’s room where his sister was at the desk working on her homework. She paused in her work when Evan came in and started short-sheeting her bed, making the bed look the way it did when he came in: Neatly made. Evan gave Katie a mischievous smirk before leaving and heading for his parents’ room.
Evan returned to his room and hastily did his homework. He knew he would have to wait until bedtime to reap his reward, but the wait will be worth it.
Jessie kept an eye on Evan during dinner that night. He seemed distracted judging from him pushing his food around on his plate. He couldn’t deny that Evan had been acting a little unusual. Instead of acting like he had been for the last ten years, he had been lying like he did when he was four years old. He suspected that Evan had something to do with the sugar in the salt shaker, but he couldn’t prove it. His son had broken his promise of not playing more tricks. Just what was with Evan these days?
He was still pondering that question as he prepared for bed. Ruth was lying in bed on top of the covers and reading a book. Jessie pushed back the covers on his side and climbed in. He slid his legs down- or rather halfway down.
“What the heck?” he said, getting out of bed. He flipped the blanket back to reveal that the bed had been short-sheeted! Jessie scowled and his eyes darkened. Evan had done it again! That boy had gone too far this time. First thing tomorrow, he was going to sit the boy down and have a long talk with him.
Evan smirked as he quietly closed his bedroom door. He had heard his father’s exclamation even though the room was at the end of a long hall and his father’s voice wasn’t that loud. Perhaps my senses are becoming as sharp as a fox’s. It would certainly make sense. I wonder what Dad’s going to say to me tomorrow. Evan yawned slightly before climbing into bed and falling asleep.
He awoke in the morning and started getting ready for the day. He dressed casually since it was Saturday and headed downstairs for breakfast. He suspected that his dad would wait until after breakfast to talk to him and sure enough as soon as Evan finished eating, Jessie said, “Evan, I want to talk to you.”
“Follow me.” Jessie rose from his seat and walked into the living room with Evan right behind him. He turned around and gestured to an armchair, indicating that Evan should sit in it. Evan obliged while Jessie stood in front of him.
“I want to talk about your behavior lately. I told you these tricks are unacceptable. I know you short-sheeted the beds because I asked Katie if she did it and she said she didn’t because her own bed had been short-sheeted.”
“Yes. I did short-sheet the beds,” Evan admitted proudly.
“Did you put sugar in the salt shaker, too?”
“Guilty.” Again, he answered proudly.
“I suppose you think both were funny?”
“I don’t think they’re funny. I know they’re funny and it was fun setting them up.”
“Why, Evan? Why are you playing tricks? Especially after you promised not to play any more.”
Evan didn’t know what to say. He couldn’t tell the truth because his did wouldn’t believe him. If he could tap his magic and transform, telling the truth would be the way to go, but since he was currently a powerless human…
/You’re not powerless nor a human,/ Fox Evan cut in. /You are a trickster fox and you simply don’t know how to access your magic./
“Well, what do you have to say for yourself, young man?” Jessie demanded.
Something in Jessie’s tone irritated Evan and he felt a desire to lash out. He knew doing so would invite trouble but he really didn’t care. He looked directly into his father’s face and stated, “I am not sorry about what I did. Perhaps the reason I pulled tricks is because you don’t seem to appreciate a harmless trick. If you had laughed at one, I probably would have stopped.”
“Well, seeing as it looks like they’re aimed at me, I don’t find them amusing. Now, I want you to stop playing tricks and stop lying to me and breaking promises. You understand?”
“I understand, but I don’t plan to stop. I want you to laugh at least once.”
Jessie’s face went red and his dark brown eyes went so dark they looked black. “Now look here,” he shouted. “I am your father and I taught you to do as your mother and I ask! You always listened, Evan! Why have you stopped being a good kid?” Jessie turned and stormed out of the room before Evan could reply and possibly get in big trouble.
/He’ll never understand and he certainly won’t laugh at himself,/ Fox Evan said.
/I wish he wasn’t so strict. There is a balance between strict and lawlessness. I see that now./
/Hmm. Perhaps turning him into a fox temporarily could change his attitude./
/Change him into a fox? When? Now?/
/No, not now. Such a power will only be possible after we have returned to our true self./
/Would we have enough power to possibly change three people?/
Fox Evan laughed. /We have tremendous power to change people, cast illusions, use telepathy, and almost anything you can imagine. Of course, there’s also immortality./
“Man, your dad really blew his top,” Daniel commented over the phone in Evan’s room a few minutes later.
“True. I’d like it if he wasn’t so strict. It would have made playing tricks easier.”
“Your dad is who he is, though.”
“Yeah, but once I’ve changed back to my true self, I can use my magic to temporarily change him into a fox to change his perception.”
“Change him to a fox? That could work,” Daniel said, his tone sounding wistful.
Evan tilted his head. “Daniel? You okay?”
“Yeah. It’s just that I’ll really miss you when you leave.”
“Daniel,” Evan said slowly. “are you saying you’d like to be a fox, too?”
There was a pause before Daniel said, “I do like foxes and I like the idea of becoming one…permanently.”
“It would be nice to have someone to talk to as well as keep me company.”
“So you’ll do it?”
“Yeah. I’ll come by after I’ve changed and use my telepathy to contact you.”
While Daniel and Evan talked on the phone, Ruth sat Jessie down in the living room to talk about his talk with Evan. “Dear, why in the world would you shout at Evan? He hasn’t done anything wrong.”
Jessie stared at his wife in disbelief. “‘Hasn’t done anything wrong’? Ruth, our son has been acting differently for weeks now and you haven’t noticed?”
“He’s been playing tricks and proud about doing so. He lied about not playing tricks after the first one.”
Ruth shook her head. “Jessie, I find this hard to believe. Why would Evan play tricks?”
“He said he wants me laugh at one of these tricks. Perhaps, if I do, he’ll stop and go back to being good.”
Ruth shook her head again as she left the room. Jessie was acting strange, she decided. He believed that Evan was acting differently, but she hadn’t seen Evan act any way than what she was used to. I hope Jessie stops acting strange so our lives can go back to normal, she prayed.
Chapter Six- Small Changes
Jessie kept a wary eye on Evan and his own surroundings during the week following his scolding with his son. He wondered why he was being singled out for these tricks. He knew what the goal of them was but the reason why eluded him.
He reflected on his personality. Perhaps it is my beliefs and mores that are the reason why the tricks are aimed at me. The thing is I can not change who I am. I want Evan to stop with the tricks so if I can laugh in a convincing manner at the next trick, he may stop and go back to my perfect son. Yes. Evan must be going through a phase.
Nine days after shouting at his son, Jessie was walking up the sidewalk to the front door on a Monday afternoon. He put his keys in the doorknob, unlocked it, and pushed the door open as he stepped in.
A short metallic clang was heard before his vision went black and he felt wetness in his hair, on his face, and on his shoulders. He lifted a hand to his head and felt the coldness and contours of a metal pail. He put the pail with the wetness and concluded that this was the pail of water trick.
He lifted the pail off, a forced but casual smile on his face. He gave what he felt was a convincing laugh before saying, “Oh, good trick. That was quite amusing.” He gave a genuine chuckle before heading upstairs to change clothes. I hope this stops Evan’s tricks for good.
Evan scowled as he shut his door before Jessie came upstairs. His father had pretended to enjoy the joke; he could tell that laugh wasn’t genuine. It was clear that Jessie thought the tricks would stop if he laughed at least once.
/If he thought I would stop, he’s delusional,/ he thought-spoke to Fox Evan.
/What other tricks are you going to play?/ the fox asked.
/Well, I thought of doing a tripwire./
/Oh, that a little mean-spirited of you. I can feel our merging starting to occur./
/I had also considered defacing government property. Maybe spray paint a boy’s bathroom at school./
/Oh, that is definitely mean-spirited. Now, I have a surprise for you. Look behind you./
Evan tilted his head before looking behind him. Something twitched near his jeans. His eyes lowered and his jaw dropped. He had sprouted a fox tail!
/Don’t panic,/ Fox Evan said. /Just concentrate on making it vanish./
Evan did as instructed and the tail had disappeared when he checked. /How?/
/When you expressed desire for bigger and mean tricks, we began merging and a small bit of magic instigated the appearance of a tail./
/I caused the tail to appear? Cool! We’re that much closer to returning to our true form./
/We certainly are. Those two tricks you mentioned will be enough for our spirits to fully merge and for our magic to be completely unleashed./
“You’re almost ready to become a fox?” Daniel asked the next day on the bus ride home.
“Uh-huh. A couple more tricks and I’ll return to my previous life.”
“And you’ll come by and change me too.”
“That’s right as well as Dad and possibly Katie.”
“Your sister? She’s said she wants to be a fox?”
“Well, not exactly. She thinks it’s cool that I’m a fox and she may want to be one if I ask her after my change.”
“You know, if you time it right, you’ll be a fox by Spring Break.”
/Spring Break,/ Fox Evan said thoughtfully. /Sounds like a good idea to me./
Evan spent the afternoon giving the tripwire some thought while his homework sat in his backpack untouched. He no longer cared about homework or his classes. He still attended classes and while he looked attentive, he didn’t take in a single word his teachers said.
He knew the tripwire needed to be set up so that only his father would fall victim to it. He didn’t care if his father got hurt or not, he simply wanted his trick to go off without a hitch. He felt an itch and glanced back to see two tails sticking out of his jeans. He smirked as he vanished them and returned to his plans. Spring Break would start in ten days and he wanted to become a fox by Friday afternoon at the earliest.
/I suggest waiting until Friday night,/ Fox Evan suggested. /Remember, you’ll be a five-tailed fox and normal foxes don’t have five tails. The darkness will conceal us from prying eyes. Furthermore, you need to explain yourself to your family before transforming yourself, Jessie, and Katie./
Evan mulled over that for a moment. /You’re right,/ he replied. /Night would be preferable./
/Good. Now, with this tripwire. You know when your parents come downstairs in the morning. You can set the wire after your mother goes down. I suggest doing this on Friday, two days from now./
/Friday it is. I’ll buy some spray paint on Saturday and deface the bathroom on Thursday so I can enjoy the chaos on the Friday that I’ll transform./
/Sounds like a plan to me./
Evan grinned as he scribbled the plan’s notes down before stashing it in his backpack. He could hardly wait to play these last two tricks. I’ll need to tell Daniel the plan when I see him tomorrow.
“Next Friday night is when you’ll change, huh?” Daniel nodded at his friend. “The timing is perfect.”
“You do understand that once I turn you into a fox I won’t be able to change you back. It’ll be a permanent spell.”
“Of course I understand. I like the idea of living free and helping you plan tricks.”
Evan nodded. “That’s how I plan to live: Free and playing tricks.” Evan was a little surprised that Daniel didn’t object to the spray-painting of a school bathroom, but only a little surprised. Daniel’s always been a kind of free spirit, always going with the flow of whatever was going on around him. It was this attitude that convinced Evan that Daniel would be well-suited to a fox’s lifestyle.
On Thursday night, Evan carefully tied one end of the wire, but left the other end loose and lying curled up beside the wall of the tied end. He then went into his room, set the alarm, and went to sleep. When the alarm went off Friday morning, he shut it off, waited until Ruth went downstairs, finished setting up the wire, and then waited by his slightly ajar bedroom door, his enhanced senses listening intently for the trick’s success.
He heard his father go by and an excited mischievous grin lit up his face. His grin grew when he heard his father yell, “Aaargh!” as well as the sound of a body hitting the floor. Evan opened the door and removed the trap as Ruth rushed to the foot of the stairs saying in alarm, “Jessie! Are you all right?”
Evan quickly went back to his room, quietly closed his door, and got dressed for school. He heard footsteps stomping up the stairs and Evan quickly sat down on his bed before his door flew open and Jessie stood in the doorway, fuming.
“All right, Evan!” he shouted. “This time, you’ve really gone too far! I could have broken my neck falling down those stairs! You’re grounded from now until the end of Spring Break! You’ll only be allowed to go to school and church!” Jessie turned and left, slamming the door behind him.
Evan’s grin had not wavered the entire time and it changed into a smirk after Jessie left. While the grounding prevented him from buying the spray paint, he could ask Daniel to get it for him.
“You’re grounded!?” Daniel asked incredulously at lunch that day.
“That’s right. It’ll lift after Spring Break. Of course by next Friday it won’t matter. I just need you to get the spray paint.”
“Sure, man. Any particular color?”
“No. Any color will do. Thanks, Daniel.”
“No problem-o dude.”
Evan was in his room pretending to do his homework later that day when Ruth greeted Jessie at the front door when he got home.
“Dear, we need to talk,” Ruth said once Jessie closed the front door.
“Okay.” Jessie led the way to the living room, confident in what Ruth wanted to discuss. He sat on the couch and Ruth followed suite.
“I want to talk to you about Evan. Why did you ground him?” Ruth asked, confirming Jessie’s suspicions about the conversation’s topic.
“I grounded him because he played another trick and a mean one at that,” he answered gruffly.
“You don’t know that he did it.”
“He did do it! He was grinning while I was yelling at him.”
“Dear, isn’t it possible that you tripped over your own feet?”
“It’s possible, but that did not occur in this instance. I tripped over a wire.”
“I didn’t see a wire.”
“Nor did I. It is likely that he removed it after I fell.”
“If he did do it, isn’t grounding him until after Spring Break a little harsh?”
“Ruth, this is the fifth trick he’s played and it’s not as harmless as the previous ones. If we don’t come down hard on him now, he may play a trick that could lead to serious injury or even death.”
“Death? Jessie, surely you’re overreacting.”
“All I know is that his tricks are starting to show a mean-spirited side and we must stop it now.”
And I think I should get Evan to speak to the pastor, he added silently.
Jessie knocked on Evan’s door Sunday morning before opening it to show that Evan was completely under the covers. “Get up and get dressed, Evan.”
There was movement before Evan’s muffled voice said, “Yes, Father.” Satisfied, Jessie left and closed the door.
Evan sat up, stretched his arms upward, and moved to rub his eyes. He stopped when he realized that his fingers felt stuck together and something furry had moved across his face.
He opened his eyes, looked at his hands, and blinked several times in shock. Instead of hands, he had two furry black paws! A quick look at his arms revealed that the fur stopped at his wrists. He placed his paws on the bed and leaned forward so it looked as if he had forelegs. He smiled before swinging his legs out of bed and stood up. He felt something brush against his legs and went over to his full-length mirror.
He stared at his reflection in awe. In addition to his forepaws, he also had fox ears, and three long tails. He couldn’t help but notice that his tails were longer than they had been before. Perhaps trickster foxes typically had longer tails than normal foxes? Evan continued to admire his changes until he remembered that he was supposed to be getting ready for church. He willed himself back to full human form and proceeded to get dressed.
Evan sighed softly. He was bored listening to the sermon. He wanted a far more interesting topic- like his upcoming full transformation. He turned his mind’s eye inward and looked around the forest setting that dominated his soul, but didn’t see his fox half.
/Fox me? Where are you?/ he called.
/Look behind you,/ came the reply.
Evan turned around and gave a mental yell. He was in front of another full-length mirror, but his reflection was utterly bizarre. His entire left side from head to foot was all fox with two tails while his entire right side was all human.
/Surprise,/ Fox Evan said.
/What is this?/ Evan asked.
/This is our spirits merging. As we gradually become one, you will gradually become a fox physically./
/I noticed that I had forepaws, fox ears, and three tails this morning. I liked what I saw./
/Just imagine when you completely become a fox./
/Yeah. Just five days left and four days until the final prank./
/Heads up, Evan. Church is over and people are starting to get up./
Evan jerked himself back to the real world and stood up at the same time as his family. He followed them out to the entrance hall but paused when his mother and sister headed for where the pot luck was being held. He wondered why they were going there. The family usually went straight home after services were over.
He was about to follow them when Jessie put a hand on his shoulder. “Evan, I’ve scheduled for you to talk to Pastor Charles about your recent behavior.”
Evan’s eyes, unseen by Jessie, narrowed and fury sparked in them. Why was this man butting into his life? Why couldn’t he leave him alone and allow him to return to his trickster life? Wait. Did I just call my father “this man”? I’m starting to distance myself from him.
His mind reeled at this realization as Jessie guided him to the pastor’s office. He was thinking more like a fox now than before. Speaking of thinking, what was he going to say when the pastor started questioning him? Even with his father there, he could probably tell Pastor Charles the truth. He most likely wouldn’t believe it, but at least he would listen with an open mind at the start.
Charles walked in, closed the door, and then sat in his chair behind the desk. He smiled at the teenager. “Hello Evan. Your father told me you’ve been acting differently lately. Would you like to tell me about it?”
“Would you believe me, sir?” Evan asked, even though he suspected the pastor wouldn’t after his explanation.
“Of course, Evan.”
Evan licked his lips. “Well, sir. The thing is I’m turning into a trickster fox. That’s why I’ve been acting differently.”
“I see. Evan, people can’t turn into foxes, trickster or otherwise. You need to change your recent behavior. Lies and trickery are the tools of the devil and one must not be allowed to be led down that path.”
“This lying must stop, Evan! A trickster fox? That is absurd!” Jessie’s words still rang in his mind hours later. He told the truth and they believed he was lying. Well, come Friday, they will believe him. They will all believe.
A knock sounded at his door. A timid, gentle knock that told him it wasn’t his dad. “Come in,” he said.
The door opened to reveal Katie who stepped in, closed the door, and sat on the bed next to Evan. “Are you okay?” she asked.
“Yeah. I told Father and the pastor that I’m a fox and they think I’m lying.”
“But, you’re not.”
“I know, but they don’t think reincarnation is possible. But it is possible. I’ve been slowly changing. This morning I woke up with forepaws, ears, and three tails.”
“You did!?” Katie’s eyes were wide with wonder before her eyebrows furrowed. “Why did you have three tails?”
“Trickster foxes typically have more than one tail. I actually have five tails.”
“So, you’re actually turning into a fox? That means you’ll be leaving us?” Katies’s voice cracked at the last two words.
“I will be leaving, yes. But Katie, if you want, when I change I can use my magic to turn you into a fox. That way, we can stay together.”
“Really?” Katie grinned hugely. “I’d like that. Promise you’ll make me a fox?”
“I promise, Katie.”
Chapter Seven- Change Complete
“Hey, Evan. Here’s the paint, man.” Daniel said softly on Monday morning at the lockers as he slipped a can of red paint into Evan’s hand. Evan, in turn, put the can in his locker.
“Thanks Daniel. I’ll keep the can in my locker so my dad doesn’t find it. Now, in order to pull off my greatest prank, I need to say I’m staying after school for a class project.”
“Yeah and I’ll stay too. I can have my mom pick us up afterwards.”
Evan nodded. “Sounds like a plan. I’ll make sure to pack some gloves and a shirt to protect my clothes so as to not to tip off my dad that I’m pulling pranks at school.”
“Good thinking, man.”
Evan kept himself busy with his prank’s details up until Wednesday evening. Then he started thinking about Friday’s confrontation. He needed to get his family all together so they would see him transform. I need to either plant something about my falling grades were my parents will find it or I could just ask everyone to come to the living room where there is enough foliage outside to conceal three foxes.
Evan noticed that his fox half hadn’t “spoken” to him in the last few days. It was possible that their thoughts had already become one. Since he could think of nothing but tricks, he was pretty sure the two of them had completely merged and more magic was probably being acquired for Friday. Evan smiled as he felt more changes making themselves known. He looked at the mirror to see five tails swishing through the air behind him. His ears were back as were his forepaws. His feet had also become paws and a short crop of whiskers had sprouted on either side of his nose.
Since it’s bedtime, I won’t vanish my changes. I’ll go to sleep like this. After all, I’ll be sleeping as a fox from Friday night onward.
Evan awoke Thursday morning and returned to human form before getting ready for school. He packed the gloves and shirt in his school bag before taking it downstairs and putting it beside his shoes. He toyed with the idea of tying his dad’s shoes together again, but dismissed it. Shoe tying was a petty trick and he was above it. He had moved on to bigger things.
“Father?” Evan said at breakfast a few minutes later. “I’ll be staying after school with Daniel to work on a class project. His mother said she’ll pick us up after we’re done.”
Jessie nodded before sipping his coffee. He noticed that Evan had been good as gold since the meeting with the pastor and he hoped that Evan was back to his good kid self. It’s possible that these tricks and a story of a trickster fox were just pleas for attention.
Evan whistled happily as he strolled toward the boy’s bathroom that was most used during the day. It was after school at last and he and Daniel headed for the bathroom. Daniel was to guard the door while Evan carried out the prank. If anyone came to the door, Daniel would send them away by saying the bathroom was out of order.
Evan donned the shirt that fell to his knees and pulled on the gloves before grabbing the paint, pulling of the cap, shaking it, and aiming it at the walls. He sprayed pictures and all manner of lines. He sprayed the paint on the stall doors and the walls inside the stalls as well. He continued to spray until the can was spent. He capped it and put it in his backpack with his shirt and gloves. He checked his clothes in the mirror and saw them spotless. He turned away and called, “Daniel? Is it all clear?”
Daniel stuck his head in. “Yeah, man. All-,” he trailed off as he stepped in, mouth agape.
Evan grinned. “I know. I did great, huh?”
“It’s…not that man. It’s you. You’ve grown five tails.”
Evan looked back and sure enough, his tails were back and they were sticking straight up. He willed them away and they disappeared. He looked at his friend. “Yeah, I’ve been changing a lot lately. I went to sleep last night with five tails, four paws, two ears, and whiskers.”
“Wow,” Daniel whispered.
“Yeah. The full transformation probably won’t happen until tomorrow just after sunset. You should start coming up with a cover story to explain your soon-to-be disappearance.”
Daniel nodded. “I’ll do that tonight. Let’s get out of here and I’ll call Mom to pick us up.”
Evan went to bed that night looking the way he did Wednesday night, eagerly awaiting the following morning. His life as a human was drawing to a close and his previous life would soon begin again.
The PA crackled to life and the principal’s voice soon echoed through the school as students sat in their first period classes. “Attention, everyone. When the school was closing last night, it was discovered that the first floor boy’s bathroom near the front doors was spray-painted on. The walls and stalls were covered with pictures and lines. The bathroom is off-limits while we attempt to clean off the paint. We urge the culprit or anyone who knows who did it to come to my office as soon as possible. Thank you.”
The system clicked off before students looked at one another murmuring about the graffiti. Daniel and Evan exchanged looks before they quickly winked at each other. Daniel was proud in playing a small part in the prank while Evan reveled in the sensation the prank had caused. He sensed a change wanting to come out and he suppressed it. He couldn’t lose control of his emotions here at school because a major loss of control would allow the changes to appear.
Everywhere Evan went throughout the day, his prank was the topic. No one but Daniel and he knew the details and neither one were telling for obvious reasons. People would become suspicious if they were to speak of the details. At the end of the day, Evan emptied his locker of everything. All papers went in the trash. His textbooks had been returned to his teachers as he went to class. None of his teachers were aware that the book had been returned. Daniel had done the same with his papers and books.
“So, what cover story did you come up with?” Evan asked on the bus.
“The only thing I could come up with was going on a Spanish class trip to Mexico for Spring Break.”
“That’ll do for now. We’ll have all week to think of a permanent cover. I think I’ll have to share a little of my magic with you so you’ll be able to talk to your mom somehow once we have a cover.”
“Why are you going to share your magic?”
“When I change you, my sister, and father, you’ll all be ordinary foxes. You’ll be able to talk to animals but with humans it’ll just be barks and yips to their ears.”
“Ah, I see. Okay, then. I’ll place the note where Mom will find it and I’ll wait for you in my room. By the way, how will you explain your absence from school?”
“Oh, I’m sure my mom will come up with something.”
“Just your mom?”
“Well, see, I don’t know how long it’ll take my father to change his view on life.”
Evan spent the afternoon rehearsing what he was going to say at sunset. Since they would be eating before sunset, gathering everyone into the living room would be easy, thus he didn’t leave a paper with a bad grade lying around. He was looking forward to the big moment. He wouldn’t have to choose his words carefully. He was going to live his life the way he chose. No one was going to tell him what to do.
Dinner was torture for him. It seemed like everyone was eating too slowly for his liking. He ate his food despite his excitement and impatience. He had a lot to do tonight and he would need his energy. He glanced at Katie and saw she had finished eating and looked as excited as he did. It was understandable; she was going to be a fox and she couldn’t wait.
At long last, the dishes were cleared away, cleaned, and put away. Evan cleared his throat to get everyone’s attention. “Could everyone go in the living room? I want to talk to you.”
Ruth smiled indulgingly. “Of course, sweetheart.”
“Okay,” Katie agreed.
“I suppose,” Jessie said reluctantly.
A few minutes later, the family was gathered in the living room. Evan had opened the window near a clump of dense bushes before facing the room again. His heart pounded with thrill and he could feel his magic tingling, eager to fully transform him and be used again. The moment had arrived.
“So, what did you want to talk about, son?” Jessie asked. He was curious about the topic despite his reluctance.
“The reason I’ve been playing tricks for weeks,” he replied. He took a deep breath. “That reason is that I’m a four hundred year old trickster fox who was reborn as a human.”
“Not this story again!” Jessie exclaimed in exasperation. “Evan, I’ve told you before! It’s absurd that you’re a fox!”
“It’s not a story. It’s true and I can finally prove it.” Evan closed his eyes and released the urges he had been feeling all day. He felt his tails sprout again as well as his ears and paws. His mouth itched as it stretched out into a snout complete with whiskers. He went down onto all fours as dull red fur spread across his body. Soon, Evan was in his fox form. He opened his eyes which were now a liquid-looking dark brown, to see his human family staring at him with wide eyes. Ruth looked about to faint, Jessie stood with him mouth agape, and Katie looked absolutely delighted.
“E-Evan?” Ruth stuttered.
“Actually, I didn’t have a name,” the fox answered. “But since I’ve answered to that name for fifteen years, I suppose I could still use that name.”
“Evan,” Jessie said sternly. “you will change back this instant and promise never to become a fox again.”
“I’m sorry, but I can’t do that. I was blessed a long time ago that I would return to my fox form and trickster way of life. I can’t become human again.”
“I don’t believe you!” Jessie thundered. “I taught you to listen to your mother and me! You are my son and you will do what I tell you!”
“No, I will not.” Evan’s voice was calm as opposed to Jessie’s growing anger. “Why don’t you admit it, Jessie? Some of my tricks were amusing, at least a little bit?”
Jessie’s face turned red. “You don’t call me anything but Father! Our lives were better when you were well-behaved and not playing tricks.”
“It was boring. The same thing day after day. A little disruption now and then is a refreshing change.”
“Yes, I thought you would feel that way. So, I will have to implement my plan. First, a promise I made that I will now honor.” Evan flicked a tail at Katie who began to glow.
Her brown hair turned bright red and became fur that spread over her body. She watched in awe as her hands conformed into dark red paws as did her feet. She began to shrink as a bushy tail grew out behind her. Her ears grew pointed and furry before resting on the top of her head and a snout grew out of her mouth while her eyes became liquid brown like Evan’s. Katie pranced over to her brother and rubbed her head against his side affectionately. “Thank you,” she softly said so only he heard.
“What have you done!?” Jessie demanded.
“I had told Katie the truth about myself awhile ago. She, unlike you, believed me. She didn’t like the fact that I’m going to leave this life behind and asked that I change her into a fox so that we can stay together.”
“Now look here,” Jessie said angrily. “You can’t do this. You change her back and leave this house at once. You aren’t my son anymore!” Jessie inwardly smirked. He hoped that his disowning Evan would shock the boy so much that he would return Katie and himself back to human and swear to forget about his previous life.
Katie shrank up against Evan’s foreleg when Jessie started yelling and Evan gently stroked her cheek with his snout before looking up at Jessie. “I’ll only change her back if she wants me to do so. I don’t care if I’m not you son anymore since I’m leaving anyway.” He turned to the window and paused. “Oh, yes. I almost forgot my plan.” He flicked a tail at Jessie.
The same glow that had Katie was now around Jessie. He yelled in fright as he shrank in height. He stared in horror as a snout grew out in front of his face. His ears itched as they grew pointed and moved to the top of his head. His red hair changed to fur that grew over his face and down his body. A pair of whiskers sprouted on his snout. His hands transformed into paws of dark red as did his feet with his heels traveling up to form hindquarters which forced him to all fours. A bushy tail grew out behind him complete his transformation to a fox.
Jessie shook himself out before demanding, “What is the meaning of this?”
“Your strict moral values and personality are too restrictive to enjoy life,” Evan replied. “I felt that changing you to a fox may make you realize that you can still be moral while relaxing the rules. Additionally, this is for my own amusement.”
“That’s right. Now, it’s time for us to go.”
“Yeah. You, Katie, and me.”
“I’m not going anywhere.”
“You’ll need me to change you back once you’ve learned your lesson. I won’t be coming back here. If you stay here, you’ll end up a fox forever instead of temporarily.”
“Forever?” he repeated faintly. He looked at his wife. “Ruth, do something!”
Ruth said nothing. She simply stared blankly at the fox who had been her husband a few minutes ago. “Ruth!” Jessie exclaimed.
“She doesn’t understand you,” Evan informed him. “She hears barks and yips because you’re a regular fox. Only tricksters and extraordinary foxes can talk to humans.”
Jessie paused to consider his options. On one hand, he could go with Evan and Katie until he was human again. On the other hand, he could stay home but end up as a fox forever. He knew he couldn’t remain a fox; he had a job that brought in the money.
He sighed. “All right, Evan. I’ll come with you. Tell Ruth to call my office to say I’m taking a vacation.”
“Ruth, Jessie says to call his job and tell them he’s taking a vacation.”
“For how long?” she asked.
“I don’t know. Oh, and come up with a story of why I ‘m not coming back to school.”
Ruth nodded, clearly still shocked by all the magic that had occurred but trying to be accepting of it. “All right. Please be careful, all of you.”
She received three nods before the foxes jumped out the window and Evan led the way to Daniel’s house. They arrived outside his window in one hour.
“Evan, why are we here?” Jessie whispered.
“My friend, Daniel, wishes to be a fox permanently and I agreed to change him,” Evan whispered back. He looked up at the window and switched to telepathy. Daniel, it’s Evan. Sorry I’m a little late. My dad was being stubborn.
Daniel’s head appeared out the open window of the darkened room and Evan could tell that he was in awe of Evan’s fox form. He pulled his head in and it was replaced with his legs going through the window followed by the rest of his body. Daniel dropped to the ground before jerking his thumb to the wooded area in the back of his house before heading for the area with the foxes in tow.
Once concealed among the trees, Daniel finally spoke. “I understand, Evan. Every plan usually has hitches. I also want to say that there’s a den a little further in that’s large enough for four foxes, including one trickster fox.”
Evan inclined his head. He was larger than a normal fox; he was almost as big as a wolf. “Let’s get down to business Daniel and then we can all get some sleep.” He flicked two tails at his friend to invoke the permanent change and the ability to talk to humans.
Daniel savored the magic that washed over, welcoming the changes occurring to his body. Due to him welcoming the change, it occurred faster than Katie’s or Jessie’s. He soon became a fox with bright red fur and medium brown eyes. Daniel circled around to admire his new tail and rubbed an ear with a foreleg before leading the others to their new home.
Chapter Eight- Fox Life
Evan awoke in the morning when he felt something land on the top of his head. “Hmm? What?” he said sleepily.
He heard a giggle on his head followed by Katie saying, “Sorry, Evan.”
He smiled as he said, “Good morning to you, too.”
“Hmph and what’s so good about it?” a grumpy voice said from the back of the den.
“Come on, Father! It’s a beautiful day,” Katie said, jumping from Evan’s head to Jessie’s back in two bounds.
Jessie grumbled, but said nothing else. Evan knew what Jessie’s problem was: He was still angry about being forcibly changed into a fox. He looked over to the side of the den on his right to see Daniel stretching and then scratch behind one ear. He shook himself out before saying, “Morning, everyone. Who’s up for some food?”
“Yeah!” Katie exclaimed.
“Okay,” Daniel laughed. “Evan, how about the two of us go catch something?”
“Sounds good to me.” Evan and Daniel left the den and stepped out into the sunlight. “I think a couple of rabbits would make a good meal.”
“Yeah? How are we going to catch them? Rabbits are pretty fast, you know.”
“Oh, I think we can lure them into a trap or two.”
A rabbit hopped toward a waggling white-tipped dull red object lying near a bush. It stopped near it and sniffed the object. Suddenly something landed hard on it, pinning it to the ground. It raised it’s eyes in time to see a fox leap out of the bush and latch its jaws around the rabbit’s throat and bit down hard, killing it instantly.
Evan withdrew his tails and emerged from hiding as Daniel released the dead rabbit. They admired their catch. “Excellent,” the trickster said. “One more and then we’ll eat.”
“I can hardly wait.” Daniel sniffed the rabbit and then the air. “Hey, I think I smell one!”
Evan also sniffed the air. “You’re right. You want to hunt it down? We can’t both do it or we lose this catch.” He nodded at the carcass.
“I’d be glad to catch it. See you back at home.” Daniel loped off into the woods while Evan picked up the rabbit and trotted back to the den.
“I’m back and I have food,” he announced as he dropped the rabbit on the ground. Jessie and Katie stared at it.
“A rabbit?” Jessie finally said disgust evident in his voice.
“Could we at least cook it?” Katie asked softly.
“I suppose we could, just this once,” Evan conceded, flicking a tail at it so that it was cooked. He reasoned that it wouldn’t be fair to expect his father and sister to eat raw meat even though their fox stomachs could handle it.
I expect Daniel won’t have trouble eating raw meat seeing as he’s a permanent fox, he thought.
Katie approached the rabbit, grabbed a paw with her teeth and dragged it over toward Jessie so both could share it. She started eating one section while Jessie just looked at it.
“Come on, Father! It tastes fine,” Katie said, licking the edges of her snout.
“You better enjoy that rabbit, Jessie,” Evan said. “After this, your food won’t be cooked.”
“What!” Jessie exclaimed.
“You might as well accept it. You’re a fox and foxes usually eat food raw.”
“Isn’t that dangerous?”
“Not at all. Fox stomachs can handle raw food. I also can’t guarantee having rabbit every time. I did hear a stream nearby so we could have fish sometimes.”
“So we only eat rabbits and fish?” Jessie said.
“No. We can also eat berries, fruits, seeds, eggs, insects-.”
“Eww. I’m not eating bugs,” Katie interrupted.
Evan chuckled. “Okay. No bugs.” A thump behind Evan caused him to turn and see a proud Daniel and a dead rabbit.
“I caught it! I love being a fox! Let’s eat!” Daniel said.
Evan leaned down and tore a chunk off the rabbit. Daniel joined in while Jessie finally joined his daughter. The four ate their fill and then Evan showed how they could bury the uneaten portions and save them for later.
Evan decided to explore the woods that would be his home- at least temporarily. It was important to know where the stream was since it was their source of water and what kind of animals lived there since some would be their prey. He found the stream and saw not just fish, but frogs too. He saw bushes with blackberries, apple trees, and oak trees.
I wouldn’t mind living here actually. I haven’t seen any other foxes and there seems to be plentiful food and water as well as a comfortable home. Evan lay down at the stream’s bank and watched the fish swim through the clear water.
Jessie walked through the woods, brooding. A full stomach dispelled his grumpy mood from this morning, but it didn’t improve his situation. He was currently stuck as a fox and didn’t have any clear idea how to permanently change his view on life. He had always been a strict and moral person as well as religious. He had grown up to become a productive member of society and he wanted to instill those same traits in his children.
My son turning out to be a reborn trickster fox was not in my plans, he thought ruefully. Not only did he start not listening to me, he’s trying to turn my daughter against me as well. Jessie shook his head. He would never become human again with thoughts like that and yet he couldn’t help thinking like that.
He heard movement behind him and instead of turning around, he ducked and a red blur flew over him and landed on its stomach: Katie. He walked over to her as she turned onto her side.
“Aww, Father! I thought I was going to surprise you. I had planned to tackle you and get you to play with me.”
Jessie, for some reason, did actually feel an urge to play with Katie and decided to indulge in this feeling. He stood over his daughter and then sat down with his tail curled up beside his left hindleg. He lifted his left forepaw and started tickling Katie’s furry belly. “Oh, so you wanted to play, did you?” he teased.
“Father, stop please,” Katie squealed.
“I will if you start calling me Dad. Father is a little too formal for now. I realize that now.”
“Okay…Dad. Now please…stop.”
“All right.” Jessie set his paw down and allowed Katie to sit up.
“You mean it, Dad? I don’t have to call you Father anymore?”
“Not exactly. You can still call me Father once in a while.”
“Good. Now, how about a game of Tag?” He tapped Katie’s shoulder blade. “You’re It,” he said before dashing away.
“Hey, no fair!” Katie called as she ran after him. Both were unaware that their conversation had been overheard.
So he told Katie to call him Dad and he’s playing with her, huh?” Evan lifted his head and grinned at Daniel. “Well, it’s a start.”
“Your dad doesn’t strike me as the playing type.”
“Maybe not, but foxes do like to play when not sleeping or hunting.”
“So he’s playing because of his fox nature?”
“Exactly. Now,” Evan stood up and stretched. “Let’s go collect those berries and acorns to take back to the den.”
“You think we’ll eat these along with the leftover rabbit?” Daniel grabbed two leaves and crossed them into an X shape before nudging berries on the ground into the makeshift pack.
“Katie and Jessie will be pretty hungry with all the running they’re doing.”
Jessie panted at the stream’s edge before lapping up some water. His daughter did the same beside him. He licked the edges of his snout before sighing. “That hit the spot.”
“Sure did,” Katie agreed. “But now I’m hungry.”
“So am I. We do still have that leftover rabbit.”
“It’ll be cold, though.”
“Yes, but at least it’s cooked.” As the pair headed back to the den, Jessie inwardly smirked. His plan was off to a good start. He was certain that if he pretended to be changing his view on life, Evan would change him back. He knew lying was wrong and he planned to pray hard for forgiveness after he returned to his human life. He planned to be home in bed by Saturday night next week, if everything went well.
As Jessie and Katie entered the den, they saw Evan and Daniel grouping blackberries and acorns into a pile in a small hollow hole in the ground. Evan looked over at them with a grin. “Hungry, you two?” he asked.
“Yeah, we were going to have more of our rabbit,” Katie answered.
“Well, if you want something else, there’s these berries and acorns,” Daniel said.
“These came from the bush and trees near the stream, right?” Jessie asked.
“That’s right. They’ll keep producing food until late fall. I better think about when to start storing up for winter,” Evan replied.
“W-winter?” Jessie stammered. He wasn’t planning to be a fox when winter came! Did Evan lie about changing him back?
“But spring’s just started. Why are you thinking about winter?” Katie asked.
“I admit, normal foxes wouldn’t be planning ahead. They start storing when they sense the cold weather’s coming.”
Evan went over to where he buried the rabbits with Jessie right beside him. “Evan, I don’t plan on being a fox when winter comes,” he whispered.
“If you don’t change your view before winter, you might have to.”
“Were you lying about changing me back?”
“I was not. Lies and tricks are my stock-in-trade, but this is a matter of teaching a lesson.”
“A lesson? Tricksters can do that?”
“Oh, yes. Teaching humanity lessons is something tricksters have done for centuries. Sometimes it is necessary to change humans into animals to make him or her see the error of their ways or to alter their view of the world.”
Jessie pulled up the cold yet cooked rabbit and set it down before eating it along with Katie. He felt a sense of relief. Evan hadn’t been lying to him. But that doesn’t change my plan. I’ll pretend to have changed in order to be human again.
Evan and Daniel were also eating but the trickster kept glancing at Jessie. He sensed something about the older fox that he didn’t like. As he licked up a blackberry, he thought, I wonder if he’s plotting something. I know he wants to be human again and he knows how to go about it. He probably plans to pretend he’s changed so that I’ll change him back. It’s a shame that won’t work. My magic will tell me when he’s learned his lesson.
Chapter Nine- Death Dreams
Evan awoke on Monday morning to the sound of whimpering. He looked to see Jessie and Katie asleep, their faces relaxed. He looked at Daniel and saw it was he who was whimpering. He got up, stepped over to Daniel, and nudged his head. The whimpers ceased and Daniel opened his eyes.
“Hmm? What?” he said.
“Daniel, you okay? You were whimpering in your sleep.”
“I was?” He looked thoughtful for a moment before it cleared. “Oh, yeah. I was dreaming about my dad.”
“Your dad? You never mentioned your dad before. What happened to him?”
“Four years ago, Dad was traveling at night. He was heading home when a drunk driver rammed his car, sending it skidding off the road. He…crashed into the river. They…never found him,” Daniel choked.
“Oh, Daniel. I’m sorry.”
“Thanks. This is the first time I’ve dreamed about Dad since he first died.”
Both foxes lapsed into silence and were unaware that Jessie was awake and heard the entire conversation. He noticed that Daniel had not said, “man” or “dude” during the conversation. It seems to me that his “normal” speech is just a mask and Evan clearly can see behind that mask. In fact, he hasn’t said those two words since he became a fox. I think even I have been acting differently since Saturday. Jessie dwelled on these thoughts as he drifted off the sleep again.
Jessie was awoken hours later by something swatting at his tail. He moved it slightly, but it was batted at again. He swung it high only to have it batted again and accompanied by a giggle. He rolled his eyes behind his eyelids: Katie was playing with his tail. He opened his eyes, lifted his head, and looked at his daughter.
Katie was crouched on the ground, her eyes on his tail, and one paw lifted to swat it again. She sensed his eyes on her, looked at him, lowered her paw, and grinned sheepishly. “Morning, Dad.”
“Morning. Why were you playing with my tail?” There was no anger in his voice, only curiosity.
Katie sat up and looked at Jessie with wide liquid brown eyes tinted with confusion. “I’m…not sure. I wanted to play and for some reason, your tail was tempting.”
“I’m not surprised,” Daniel spoke up. “Kits like playing with their parents’ tails. It’s a natural instinct.”
“I was playing with Dad’s tail because of instinct? A fox’s instinct?”
“Of course,” Daniel answered. “It makes sense. You are a fox right now. Just go with it.”
“By the way, where’s Evan?” Jessie asked as he got up and stretched.
“He went fishing.”
“Hmm.” Jessie shook himself out before heading for the exit. “Maybe I’ll help him fish.”
“Couldn’t hurt to ask,” Daniel said as the older fox left for the river.
Jessie reached the river but saw no sign of the trickster. He spied a cache of fish on the riverbank and wondered why Evan would leave the fish out in the open where other animals could come along and eat them. I better stand guard. Hmph, Evan’s letting his fox self distract him from being responsible.
He stood next to the fish and looked around the forest. It was certainly a pretty place and peaceful as well. He watched as a squirrel nearby inched toward an acorn on the ground. It reached the nut and was about to grab it when the acorn suddenly moved away from the gray animal. Jessie blinked in amazement. How could an acorn move on its own like that? He continued to watch the squirrel pursue the acorn which kept moving every time the squirrel got close to it. The acorn rolled into a bush and the squirrel followed. A few seconds passed before a loud squirrel squeak broke the silent air.
The bush rustled and Evan emerged with a dead squirrel clamped in his mouth. He put it down and laughed in a manner that made Jessie suspect that Evan was responsible for the acorn’s strange movement.
“You tricked that squirrel in order to catch it, didn’t you?” Jessie said, disappointment laced in his tone.
“Of course I did,” Evan answered, not thrown at all by Jessie’s presence. He picked up his catch and carried it over to the fish and put it down.
“That wasn’t very nice,” Jessie scolded.
“Why?” Evan shot back. “Because I tricked it? I’m a trickster, Jessie! Pranks are what I do! I would have thought you’d have relaxed your morals a little after being a fox for now the third day.”
“I don’t approve of your tricks. You know that.”
Evan’s eyes narrowed and his fur bristled while his tails wavered in the air and his calm attitude finally broke. “I don’t care about your approval,” he growled. “You disowned me so you can’t tell me what to do! I warn you, though: If you don’t change your attitude, Katie won’t want you as a father, either.”
“Are you threatening me!?”
“No. I’m telling you that that’s what’s going to happen if you don’t learn your lesson.” Evan scooped up the squirrel and used his magic to levitate the fish before heading for the den leaving a stunned Jessie behind.
Evan entered the den, deposited the fish, and then stormed to the back where he began to chew on the squirrel with unnecessary ferocity. Daniel and Katie exchanged looks before Daniel grabbed a fish and joined Evan in the back.
“So,” Daniel ventured after a couple of mouthfuls. “you wanna talk, dude?”
“Jessie,” Evan growled. “He dares to try and tell me what to do. I’m much older than him and he tries to boss me around.”
“Don’t let it get to you, man. He’ll be stuck as a fox if he keeps up that attitude.”
Evan grinned, his anger fading and his calm demeanor returning. “You’re right. He won’t be human again if he doesn’t relax his morals. And that would be amusing for me”
Jessie entered several minutes later, grabbed a fish, and started to eat. He knew it was raw but he started eating his food raw the day before so it didn’t bother him now. Katie came over and said, “Dad, why is Evan mad?”
“He didn’t tell you?” he asked softly.
“Well, he told Daniel and I did overhear. Is it true you were telling him what to do?”
“Not really. He tricked the squirrel he’s eating so he could catch it. I told him I didn’t approve of his trick.”
“But that’s what trickster foxes do.”
“I know, but-,”
“No buts, Dad. He’s doing what he had to do in order to survive. His playing tricks are a part of who he is and you can’t stop him from playing them.”
Jessie gaped at her. “Katie,” he said in a stunned tone.
She glared at him before walking away. Jessie’s legs buckled and he fell on his stomach and his eyes glazed over as they stared blankly at the wall. Evan’s warning was starting to happen. Katie was starting to distance herself from him because of his strict ways. How can I loosen up? Perhaps stop trying to keep Evan from playing tricks? Katie has a point: Evan’s a trickster and playing tricks is what he does.
Jessie spent the rest of Monday and all of Tuesday keeping silent and observing. He only spoke when spoken to and even then he didn’t have much to say. He watched Katie play with Daniel, he would watch Evan hunt and didn’t bother to stop or scold him when he tricked his prey into becoming food. He went to sleep before the others Tuesday night which led Evan to call a meeting with the other two.
“I’m concerned about Jessie’s behavior,” Evan stated. “He’s been acting strange since our argument yesterday.”
“Yeah, I know,” Daniel added. “All he does is watch us.”
“I think it’s my fault,” Katie said.
“Your fault?” both boys chorused.
“Yeah. I told him that you were doing what tricksters do, Evan. That he can’t stop you from playing them.”
It would seem that Katie is already being distant with Jessie but she feels guilty about being so, Evan thought.
“Maybe he’ll be normal tomorrow,” Daniel suggested.
“If not, I’ll have a little talk with him,” Evan said.
“Me too,” Katie added.
Jessie was in a black void with no sky, but with ground. He turned around and around to see endless black. He wondered how he could see without a light source. Even with his fox night vision, a light source was still needed to see anything.
“Hello?” he called, his voice echoing in the void. He started walking looking left and right as he did so. He wasn’t sure what he was looking for, but he knew he would know it when he saw it. The darkness pressed in on his eyes and was so complete that the sudden appearance of two spotlights dazzled him for several seconds and causing him to yelp in surprise. He tried to focus on the shapes in the spotlights while blinking away the dots in front of his eyes. Once the spots cleared, he recognized the shapes as Katie and Evan.
He went up to his daughter who was lying on her side. He nudged the furry back but she did not stir. He moved until he was facing her. What he saw made him recoil in horror: She was dead. Her eyes were blank and unstaring, her mouth was open, and her tongue was lolling out. He heard a groan behind him and turned around.
Evan was also on his side and it was clear that he was dying. His breathing was shallow and uneven. His eyes, though unfocused, glared at Jessie with intense hatred. “It’s your fault,” Evan rasped.
“What?” Jessie asked.
“Your strict ways are why Katie’s dead and why I’m dying.” Evan gave a shuddering gasp. “Remember…this was your…fault,” Evan sighed one last time and a death rattle was heard.
“No,” Jessie whispered. “No! Katie! Evan!”
Jessie jerked awake. He raised his head and looked around frantically, his breath coming in hard and fast. He saw the others three foxes curled up in the middle of the cave, all asleep and alive. Even so, the dream had seemed so real.
My kids don’t want me as their father. Even if I became human again, my life would be empty. I just wanted them to be law-abiding citizens. I don’t care if I remain a fox. Why learn my lesson if both of my kids are going to stay foxes? With a depressed sigh, Jessie fell into a fitful sleep.
Chapter Ten- Turning Point
Evan watched Jessie leave the den the next day with serious concern. The fox had shuffle-walked out, his tail dragged on the ground, and his head was bowed. What could have happened to make him look so depressed? Could his disagreements with Katie and me have affected him more than we realized? I better follow him and talk to him.
Jessie stared at his reflection in the river. He was prepared to accept that he was going to look like this for the rest of his life. He couldn’t see any way out of his current situation and he honestly didn’t care anymore. His dream still weighed heavily on him.
Jessie looked up to see Evan next to him. He looked back at the river. “Hello,” he said in a flat tone.
Evan lay down beside him. “Do you want to talk?”
“Well, I don’t like seeing you depressed.”
Jessie didn’t want to talk about what was bothering him but something in Evan’s tone prompted him to talk. “I’ve given up trying to be human again. What’s the point when both of my kids hate me? I’d rather stay as I am. I’m sure I’ll adapt.”
“Whoa, whoa. What are you talking about? Katie and I don’t hate you!”
“Yes, you do! I’m strict to the point that both of you would rather be animals than responsible citizens like me.”
“Considering that I was supposed to return to fox form, your plans for me didn’t concern me. As for Katie…she loves me as a brother. We’re close and she wanted us to stay together. That’s why she’s a fox too. Jessie, you can become human again, you just need to loosen up. You can live life in shades of gray.”
“Shades of gray? Is it that easy?”
“Maybe. Depends on how willing you are to let go and have fun.”
Jessie dwelled on Evan’s words as the two of them headed home. All I have to do is let go and have fun? Well, technically, foxes don’t live by morals but rather by instinct. Since I’m a fox right now, I could live by a blend of morals and instinct. That should work and I can’t wait to put that theory into practice.
Jessie didn’t have to wait long. That night, Katie said, “I miss eating sweets. I’d really like to have a cookie.”
“We’re not far from my house,” Daniel pointed out. “I know there are sugar cookies in the kitchen. We could sneak in, grab some cookies, and leave.”
“Your mom wouldn’t notice any missing cookies?” Jessie asked.
“She might. It’s also possible that she might figure she just lost count of how many she had already eaten.”
“In that case,” Jessie got up and headed for the opening. “Let’s go get those cookies.”
“Really, Dad?” Katie asked as she and the others got up.
“Sure. As Daniel said, his mom might not miss a few cookies.”
“Yea!” Katie cheered and ran past Jessie. Daniel darted out after her calling, “Hey, you don’t know the way!”
Evan and Jessie departed together and the trickster said, “No problem with breaking in and stealing food?”
“No. Suburban foxes sometimes raid trash cans. Despite this wooded area, we technically are suburban foxes.”
“Ah, so this a matter of instinct to you.”
“Exactly. Morally, breaking in and stealing is wrong, but foxes don’t know it’s wrong. They go with their instincts and do what they can to fulfill it. Katie is hungry for cookies and we want to fulfill that hunger.”
Evan nodded. “A slight blending of morals and instinct. Interesting.”
A short time later, they were in front of the door to the kitchen that faced the forest. Daniel pawed the doormat aside to reveal a key. He grabbed it with his teeth, put it in the lock, and turned it. The lock clicked open and Evan used his magic to turn the knob and open the door. The room was dark but their eyes were equipped with night vision so they had no problem navigating to the cabinet where the cookies were. Daniel pushed a stool over and climbed on it before pawing open the cabinet. Evan levitated the package down, opened it, and removed several cookies before sealing and replacing the package. Daniel closed the cabinet door, jumped down, and followed the others out, closing the door and locking it behind them.
“That was so easy,” Katie commented as the group chewed on the cookies.
“True,” Jessie agreed. “But, let’s not raid all the time. There’s plenty of food and water here after all.”
“Yes, but one could get tired of eating the same thing all the time,” Daniel pointed out.
“Evan, did you eat the same prey all the time?” Jessie asked.
Evan paused in eating his cookie. He swallowed and answered, “Not all the time. I didn’t eat fish mostly because it was difficult to catch them. They would move away so quickly as soon as my paw touched the water. I could have used my magic, but there are times when I feel like getting my food like a normal fox. I turned to a village occasionally to get some fish. I’m proud to say that I never got caught.”
“And without your magic, getting into the house would have been impossible,” Jessie said, sounding pleased that they had successfully stolen food.
“You really don’t mind we stole, do you?” Evan asked.
“Why should I mind? We’re foxes and foxes occasionally steal, whether from other animals or people.” Jessie wiped his snout with a paw before curling up and going to sleep.
He’s really changing, Evan thought. He’s starting to think and act more like a fox. I was right in changing him into a fox. Foxes are cunning and deceitful creatures and he needed to be one in order to soften his human morals. He’s close to learning his lesson. I can sense it.
Jessie pulled a rabbit and couple of squirrels into the cave the following day. All three were dead and Jessie looked infinitely pleased with himself. He had a right to be so: He had hunted and killed each animal himself. He had to admit that hunting these animals had made him feel truly alive. His morals would have balked at the notion of killing and eating raw food, but now he realized that it wasn’t so bad and he was enjoying being a fox.
Evan looked at the carcasses and then at Jessie. “I’m impressed. Three prey and you caught each yourself.”
“It was wonderful!” he exclaimed. “The thrill of the chase, the excitement as I closed in, and the pleasure as I bit down and killed them. I feel so alive!”
“Any fruit found?” Daniel asked.
“No. They are still flowers. We had already eaten what was available.”
“But I like the blackberries,” Katie said.
“Perhaps, we could get some from the house,” Jessie suggested.
“Agreed,” Evan said. “But we’ll do that tomorrow night. For now, let’s enjoy our meat.”
Jessie grabbed a squirrel as did Evan while Daniel and Katie took the rabbit. Evan lay next to Jessie and began to eat.
“I noticed,” he said after a few minutes. “that you’re not so strict. You seem completely relaxed.”
“I realized that I had spent the first few days fighting my new instincts. I now know that I should have let go and allow my instincts to guide me. I’m grateful that you changed me. I did need a change in my view of the world.”
Evan nodded before tearing off another piece of meat. Jessie might be human by Saturday. Let’s see…today’s Thursday. So, he might come to some balance that will allow my magic to wear off on him. My teaching a lesson is working perfectly.
I think Katie is starting to dislike being a fox. She’s starting to find that some foods will not always be available. She may want to be human around the same time that Jessie does.
Evan and Daniel crept quietly into the kitchen. It had been decided that only two of them needed to go. Since it used to be his home, Daniel was automatically in and Evan being the trickster also made an automatic inclusion. Daniel quickly darted across the floor and leaped onto a counter to grab a small basket. He grabbed the handle in his teeth and leaped down, landing a little harder than he intended. Evan flicked a tail to open the fridge and the two of them stared at the options available to them. There were the blackberries they came for as well as raspberries, blueberries, and apples. But before they could grab anything, the kitchen light came on and a gasp came from behind them.
They whirled around to see Daniel’s mother there with a broom in her hands. It was clear to them that the broom was going to be used to chase them out of the house. The three of them all froze where they were; neither of them wanted to make the first move. Evan decided to use his telepathy to speak with Daniel.
Daniel, perhaps you should talk to your mother.
You mean, the jig is up?”
Yeah, I think so. Evan broke the connection and Daniel focused on his mom. He felt nervous about talking to her and about her reaction. Evan and he had talked about permanent cover stories and all Daniel could think of was an accidental death on the class trip. Evan had dismissed it, claiming that one family death was bad enough. Daniel opened his mouth to speak when his mom spoke first.
“A five-tailed fox? Wow. I had heard of multi-tailed foxes, but I never thought I’d see one,” she said in a voice full of wonder and awe.
Daniel closed his mouth and glanced sideways at Evan, who nodded and looked at the woman. “Hello, Michelle. It is nice to meet you at last.”
“At last? What do you mean?”
“For years, I had only one friend and that was your son. He confided a good deal to me and two of those things were his love for you and his fascination with foxes. It’s clear that his fascination came from you.”
“Oh, uh, thank you.”
“You’re welcome. My five tails means I have magic powers and one of those is I can tell when Daniel is in trouble. I had such a feeling a few days ago. I was immediately at Daniel’s side. He had ingested a substance that was slowly killing him. I immediately brought him to a den in the woods behind your house. I tried to cure him using the herbs in the forest. I soon realized that the substance wasn’t toxic to foxes-,”
Michelle put up a hand, silencing Evan. “Let me guess: You turned my son into a fox. I believe he’s the one beside you.”
Evan nodded. “You’re correct. I had no choice, but to change him into a permanent fox. My magic can’t do temporary changes. I did leave him with the ability to talk.”
Daniel had been silent listening to Evan’s story and feeling impressed by how believable it sounded, but now he spoke up. “Hi, mom.”
Michelle’s eyes widened. “Daniel. It is you.”
“Yeah. If it wasn’t for my friend, I would be dead, but like he said I can’t become human again. It’s not all bad. There’s plenty of food and water in the woods except for fruit at the moment.” He glanced back at the open fridge.
Michelle smiled. “So that’s why you broke in. You’re hungry for fruit. I would be happy to give you some food. You just scratch at the back door and I can give you what you want.”
“Thanks, mom. We’d really appreciate that.”
“So, what kind of fruit do you want?”
Chapter Eleven- Conclusions
Jessie looked up when Evan and Daniel entered, each carrying a small basket of fruit. “Did you leave any for your mother?” he asked while Katie sprang for the blackberries. “She’s going to notice this much food missing from the kitchen for sure.”
“My mother gave us this fruit,” Daniel answered. “She caught us as we were about to raid the fridge. Evan came up with a great story about why I’m a fox and she offered to provide us with food anytime we want. Of course, we won’t ask too often. It will be nice to know we won’t starve in the winter.”
“Yes, it will.”
“Jessie, are you thinking you’ll still be a fox when winter comes?” Evan asked.
Jessie shrugged. “I might. It’s not so bad. I know how to hunt and catch food. It’s kind of fun living like this.”
“Yeah, but I miss mom and my friends,” Katie piped in. “I’m kind of getting tired of being a fox.”
“You want to go home?” Evan asked.
“Yes, no, I don’t know. I mean, I like living this way, but I want to see mom and my friends, too.”
“I’d like to see Ruth too and to go back to work, but I haven’t fully learned my lesson yet.”
“You have learned a lot though,” Evan pointed out. “That’s impressive.”
“Thanks, Evan.” Jessie grabbed an apple and chewed on it.
After eating their fill, the quartet curled up and went to sleep. Before drifting off, Jessie came to the conclusion that he would be happy as a human or a fox. It didn’t matter which form he was in, he would be able to live in shades of gray.
Jessie awoke to shaking and the sound of barking that he was sure was Katie, but why was she barking? “All right, I’m up,” he murmured. “Katie, you don’t need to bark.”
“She’s not barking,” came Daniel’s voice. “It sounds like it because you’re human again.”
Jessie’s eyes snapped open at Daniel’s words and he sat up to look himself over. He saw human hands and the clothes he had been wearing last week before they had changed into fur.
“Congratulations. You’ve learned to live between morals and instincts,” Evan said, sounding pleased.
Jessie nodded. “Yes, I have. I’ll kind of miss all this.” He gestured at the cave.
“Really?” Evan asked.
“Yes, really. Last night, I realized that I would be happy human or a fox. I only wish I could be both.”
“I could do that. I could make you a werefox. It would be like a werewolf: You would turn into a fox during the full moon but you would be human the rest of the time.”
“A werefox. Yes, that sounds perfect. Please turn me into a werefox, Evan.”
Evan flicked a tail and a white glow surrounded Jessie before fading. “It is done. On the next full moon, you’ll become a fox.” Katie, to Jessie’s ears, yipped at her brother and Evan chuckled. “All right, Katie. I’ll change you back and you and Jessie can go home.” Evan flicked a tail again and Katie was in human form. Katie leaned down and hugged Evan around the neck.
“Thank you for the week. It was fun, but I’m ready to go back home.”
“Daniel and I are going to live here. You’re welcome to visit anytime.”
Father and daughter both nodded and returned home and to their human lives. Evan and Daniel learn the Michelle told their school that her son was transferring to a boarding school. The two of them lived together, just the two of them, for exactly one week until Jessie appeared in fox form to spend his first full moon cycle with them since it was the weekend.