Chapter 10: Afraid of Fire? Anger Heart’s Past
Defiant Heart watched Anger Heart washing and eating the carrots. He’d never seen the fox scared before, he always put a strong face and whenever something dangerous confronted him, such as the gangs that had tried to kill him a couple times, he often just shot insults at whatever was scaring him before either walking away or kicking its ass. But this, this was something completely different.
Love Heart came over to stand next to Defiant Heart, watching the fox. “What’s wrong with him?” the bear asked, concerned.
“Beats me,” Defiant Heart shrugged, “I’ve never seen Anger Heart act like this before.”
“You guys do realize that I’m standing right here,” Anger Heart said a bit irritably, “and I can hear everything you’re saying.”
“Really, I’m shocked,” Love Heart said, deadpan.
Defiant Heart sighed, “Well if you want us to stop watching you then just tell us what’s wrong.”
“I don’t want to,” the fox said as he finished the carrot he had been eating.
“Well do you want to keep learning magic?” Love Heart asked.
“Yes, but I’d just like to learn something other than fire,” the fox said, looking away.
“If you do that it’s going to take you a lot longer to even get started,” Love Heart said, hoping to persuade the fox otherwise.
Anger Heart Fox didn’t reply, not seeming to care. Then Defiant Heart Badger had an idea and asked, “Do you really want me to be better than you?”
“You’re not better than me!” Anger Heart snapped.
“So you’ll learn fire magic?” Love Heart asked, hopefully.
“Well umm,” Anger Heart faltered again.
“What’s wrong with fire, are you afraid of fire?” Defiant Heart asked. Anger Heart just stood there for a minute causing Defiant Heart to be taken aback, “You’re afraid of fire? Since when?”
“You’re not going to stop pestering me until I tell you, are you?” Anger Heart asked.
“Got that right,” Love Heart replied.
“Fine then, the reason is-“
“Wait!” Defiant Heart said, interrupting the fox, “if you’re going to tell us that, tell us your whole past, I’ve known you for a long time and I don’t know a thing about your personal life or past.”
“Ugg, fine, just don’t interrupt me again,” Anger Heart said heading towards the living room, “Let’s go sit in the living room and I’ll tell you everything if you promise to stop asking.”
“Got it,” Love Heart said as he, Defiant Heart and Anger Heart went to sit down so Anger Heart could tell his story.
“My grandparents used to live in a rural area, that’s where they met my parents…” the fox began.
Alfred and Marian Kitun weren’t old but they weren’t young either, they were middle aged. They had met in University and had been able to pursue rather lucrative careers, Alfred as a carpenter and general handyman and Marian as a chef at a rather popular restaurant and both of them excelled at what they did. Both of them had been only children and due to medical complications they had been unable to have children. But despite all of that they were happy and with no expenses and good senses of self control they were actually quite wealthy, having substantial savings for their retirement even when they were both 45.
While the couple both had jobs in the city, their home was in a small house along a dirt road with a backyard that led into a forest. The house was a simple one story place with a small living room/dining room, a kitchen, a bedroom for the couple and a spare room with a single bed that was used only for company, of which they had almost none. Marian kept a garden in the back and their house was attached to a garage that also served as Alfred’s workshop. When away from work they lived simple lives, and not much happened.
One day, however, that all changed. Marian was attending her garden early in the spring, tilling the soil and spreading compost from the previous year in preparation for planting as she had a day off of work while Alfred was in the city at his job. After getting the soil ready, Marian sat back, taking a break before she would plant, unwrapping a sandwich she had made earlier so she could eat outside, when her attention was caught by a flash of red from the trees of the woods behind her house followed by a snap and a yelp. Curious she got up to investigate and came across a small red fox, a young vixen with its left hind leg caught in what looked like a very old bear trap, left by some careless trapper before she moved in.
“Poor thing,” she said, moving to try and help the fox, but she snapped at Marian, afraid but doing her best to be fierce. Marian backed off, then had an idea, she took the sandwich she had been about to eat and removed a slice of ham from between the bread, placing it near the fox’s head. The vixen looked at her curiously but ventured a nibble on the meat; the taste was to her liking and she began to eat. Marian took the opportunity while the vixen was distracted to carefully pry the old trap off of her leg and to check the leg.
“Good, nothing’s broken, that trap was so old it didn’t do any real damage but it held you fast, didn’t it?” she asked the vixen. The fox finished the meat and looked up at the human woman, why was this human helping her? The fox got up, tested its leg, then took off back into her home in the woods, pausing to look back at Marian for a moment.
“Go on, back to your family now,” Marian said. The fox seemingly obeyed, turning and taking off into the woods. Marian smiled, “Well that was unexpected,” she said, as she ate what was left of her sandwich, “but now I have some seeds to plant,” she turned and headed back to her house to plant her garden. She could not have foreseen that that small act of kindness would have a lasting effect.
Later that day, at dinner, Marian and Alfred discussed their day. Alfred explained the work he’d done to set the foundation for a garage he was going to build this month, then asked Marian if anything interesting had happened.
“Now that you mention it,” Marian said, “I met a fox today.”
“Really?” Alfred was curious about this.
“Yes, she was caught by an old trap in the woods near our house,” Marian explained, “I helped her get loose and fed her some ham.”
“That was kind of you,” Alfred complimented her, “Think you’ll see her again?”
“I doubt it,” Marian lamented, “foxes are afraid of humans and I doubt she’ll come near our house again.”
A few months later, in the summer, Marian was tending her garden and Alfred, having a day off, was helping her by weeding the garden. He gripped a particularly well dug in weed and pulled as hard as he could, finally falling back as it and its whole root came loose. “That’s one less weed to bother your garden,” he said, tossing it in the bucket they had set aside for weeds. Alfred looked up and saw two red blurs near the forest edge, “What’s that?” he asked, peering into the forest’s edge.
Marian followed her husband’s gaze and saw two red foxes, she recognized one. “Why hello there, are you the same Vixen from before?” she asked. The two foxes, one a todd fox and the other the same vixen from before, edged closer looking at the human couple.
“I take it this is your little friend from before,” Alfred said.
“Yes she is,” Marian said, taking some of her lunch. Removing the meat she set it on the ground in front of them and let the foxes eat cautiously. “I see you found yourself a mate,” she said, smiling. The vixen yipped as she finished her snack. The todd growled a bit, it was obvious that both foxes were quite young but they were friendly and didn’t seem afraid of the two humans.
Alfred reached out to pet the todd, but it growled and he backed off, “I can’t blame them for being cautious,” he said.
“Well they came this far,” Marian said. The two foxes looked at the human couple, then turned and dashed back to the forest. “I have a feeling we’ll see them again,” Marian replied.
And she was right, every year in the spring and summer and even in the autumn the two foxes would pay Marian and Alfred a visit. They would come up closer each time, eventually coming to sit on the deck as Marian gave them small scraps, not enough to spoil their appetite but enough to make them feel welcome. The two foxes had become temporary pets to the couple.
On the fifth year of this, on a cool spring morning, Marian was having a cup of coffee before she and Alfred went to work that day when something struck her. “Alfred, dear, have you noticed that our little fox friends have never brought any kits to us, I don’t think I’ve ever seen any evidence that they have kits.”
“Maybe it’s a fate,” Alfred said, as he bit into his toast, “They can’t have kits just like we can’t have children. They have been alive a lot longer than most foxes are in the wild. Who knows, maybe things will change someday.”
“Maybe,” Marian finished her coffee, “but we’ll figure it out after work,” she said, heading for the garage. Alfred finished his breakfast and followed her.
Time continued to pass and the two foxes continued to visit Alfred and Marian on a regular basis, but even though they survived predators and traps and disease, the two foxes were getting old, and they were showing it. On the ninth year of their visits they stopped leaving the house, too old to hunt and somehow having gotten attached to the human couple they had been visiting and were too old to stay safe in the wild much longer, they dug a small den under the back porch of the house and Marian and Alfred didn’t mind.
Marian was sitting on the porch in the late autumn one day after having spent the whole day harvesting her garden. She too was getting old, 55 years old, and her hair was graying and she was getting wrinkled; Alfred too was looking older, his hairline wasn’t receding but his hair was getting thinner overall, and he was starting to show the weariness of age. She looked down to see the two old foxes climbing out from under the deck, climbing up on the deck to sit next to her.
Alfred came out of the house, smiling at the two foxes, “All your vegetables are being refrigerated, Marian, it was a good harvest this year. I brought something for you two,” he knelt down and placed two rather large pieces of meat in front of the foxes, both of which were gobbled up with a speed that Alfred had come to expect, it was near hibernation time and they needed all the food they could get.
“It’s been a good year,” Marian reached down and petted the vixen’s head; she didn’t move, not being scared of human touch anymore, “let’s hope the winter isn’t too long and cold, none of us are really young anymore.”
“We’ve still got many years ahead of us, Marian,” Alfred reassured her. He looked down sadly at the old foxes. Both he and Marian knew the foxes were quite venerable by fox standards, at least 10 years old each, which was very old for a fox as most only lived about two or three years owing to other predators or disease.
Marian stood up, “I’ll bring out some more food for them, then I’m going to turn in,” she said a bit sadly, heading for the kitchen.
Alfred nodded, “I’ll help you, dear,” he added his voice also tinged with sorrow, for all he knew this would be the last time he’d be able to feed those two foxes.
A short time later, Marian and Alfred retuned with two metal bowls full of food they had learned was food for foxes and set them down, watching the two foxes eat. They could leave the bowls outside, they were old and no one would ever take them so they weren’t worried as they headed inside to bed. The two foxes ate then slowly retreated to their den to mate then to settle down for the long winter sleep.
Winter was as uneventful as usual for Alfred and Marian Kitun, the food was harvested from the garden and it was too cold for Alfred to take on many projects. Christmas came and went and it was as uneventful as ever. With no living relatives the couple had no reason to dress things up anymore, a wreath on the doorway, a small plastic tree and a small exchange of gifts between the two, nothing special, or at least that was the plan.
On Christmas Day, Marian felt like getting up early for a change and left the bed after pulling on her housecoat while Alfred was still sleeping. She poured her morning coffee and looked at the small tree set on the windowsill, a tiny touch that they only bothered with as an afterthought these days.
What was that sound? Marian was sure she heard was sounded like crying coming from somewhere. She looked around, thinking she was just hearing things, then she heard it again; it sounded like an infant and it was coming from out back.
Hurriedly, Marian pulled her boots on hurriedly and went out back, listening, and sure enough she heard crying, it was coming from beneath the deck. She hurried down the deck and peered underneath, and was shocked at what she saw. Both of her fox friends were there, lying very still, and between them was a young fox kit, but not a normal fox kit for one it was nearly as big as its parents; the kit wasn’t the same ruddy red color as its parents instead it was a bright fiery red, the nose on the tip of its muzzle was heart shaped, there was a barely discernable red heart stamp on its rear and its bodily shape looked almost human. The infant fox took a deep breath and began bawling again, sounding just like a human child. Marian had to do something, so she reached out and carefully picked up the fox kit, unexpectedly the fox immediately snuggled against her, shivering as it let her body warm it up.
Marian hurried inside and sat down, looking down at the kit. It was clearly an infant male fox but it was almost human; she confirmed this when she looked at its hands a feet finding five toes on its feet and four fingers and an opposable thumb on each hand, it was something special no doubt. Marian stood up with the fox kit, which had stopped crying for now and was now asleep thanks to the warmth of her arms, and she walked carefully to her bedroom.
Alfred was still asleep when Marian shook him gently, “Alfred,” she said excitedly, “Alfred wake up and look what I found outside under the deck.”
Alfred rolled over and looked up at his wife. He started when he saw the kit and sat up sharply, “Marian, where did you find that?”
“I found him under the deck with our two fox friends, it must be their kit but look,” Marian showed one of the tiny hands of the fox kit to her husband, showing him the four fingers and thumb on the hand, “its not a normal fox, Alfred, I think it’s a present from our friends.”
“You said they were under the deck, outside their den in winter,” Alfred hurried out of bed, throwing on a warm sweater in addition to his sleeping pants and then hurried outside after pulling his boots on. He went under the deck and found the two foxes they had befriended lying where Marian had found them. He reached out and felt them, their bodies were cold and they weren’t breathing. Alfred was no veterinarian but even he knew what had happened. She reached in and carefully retrieved the two dead foxes, carefully carrying them inside and placing them in a large old shoebox he had gotten his newest pair of boots in.
Marian came into the kitchen, which where the back door was, and asked, “are they?”
“Dead, Marian, his parents are dead. They were old foxes and the effort of bearing young at such an age must have been to much for them,” he said mournfully, placing the lid on the box, “it should be impossible but they managed to have one child and it seems he’s been left to our care. The ground is too hard right now but we’ll bury them in the spring,” Alfred said, walking over to the large deep freeze they had in the kitchen and setting the box with the two dead foxes in it inside.
The couple sat at the kitchen table looking at the sleeping cub and wondering what to do. Alfred was the first to speak, “We’ll have to take him to a doctor, but a human doctor or an animal doctor?” he wondered.
“But what if someone takes him away?!” Marian said, picking up the cub and holding it close.
“We’ll just keep it under wraps, Doctor Phillips is a good man and he respects the doctor-patient confidentiality agreement,” Alfred reminded her, as their new family doctor had been very good about respecting his oaths, and he was very good even though he was only in his mid 30s.
“I suppose,” Marian said, still a bit unsure. She looked down at the kit, “He must be hungry,” she said, suddenly concerned about how they would feed the kit.
“Don’t worry,” Alfred reassured her, standing up he went to the storage cupboard and pulled out a baby bottle. It was a bit old but it was still useable, “A joke gift from Jack at work,” he said, chuckling, “but it looks like the jokes on him now.” He went to the fridge and pulled out a jug of milk which he used to fill the bottle before securing the lid and passing it to Marian. They didn’t have the materials to make formula but this would do for now. Marian carefully shook the kit and it opened its eyes but before it could start bawling again Marian pressed the rubber nipple of the bottle against its muzzle and the hungry fox kit clamped it jaw over the nipple and sucked it hungrily while grasping the bottle in its tiny hands.
“My he is hungry,” Marian said, then she had a thought, “What should we name him.”
“Name him?” Alfred was a bit taken aback.
“Yes,” Marian said, looking down sweetly at the kit, “Our fox friends left him to us and we’re going to raise him so he needs a name.”
Alfred sighed, but smiled, “You’re right, dear, now let’s think,” Alfred didn’t have to think long before he suggested a name, “How about Alex, Alex Kitun.”
“Alex, that’s a nice name,” Marian said. The kit had finished drinking so Marian lifted it over her shoulder and patted its rear, causing it to burp, then held it forwards as its eyes drooped and it began to fall asleep.
“Welcome to our family, Alex Kitun.”
Alfred spent the rest of Christmas Day in the garage using some of the wood he had been accumulating to build a crib for Alex. It was late in the day when he finished and carried the crib to the spare room they had always intended to use as the room for their children, but had gone unused but maintained when they found they were not able to have children. Thankfully Alex was tired from crying all day and he fell asleep almost immediately letting the couple also go to sleep, happy that they had someone in their lives they could love and who would depend on them from now on.
The following day, the Kituns set out to their doctor with Marian holding Alex carefully, they’d need to get a car seat and a stroller among other things while they were in town today, taking care of a baby was something they lacked many materials for but they were ready to throw themselves into the responsibility wholeheartedly, but first they had to give Alex a medical exam from Doctor Philips.
Thankfully the office was empty for the day as it was early and on boxing day everyone was swarming the stores to take advantage of all the sales that big stores used to clear out their Christmas stockpiles. Doctor Philips was alone today, his receptionist had the day off, and he personally greeted the couple as they entered. Doctor Philips was quite a bit younger than Marian and Alfred but he had been their doctor for the last five years after their last doctor had retired.
“Good Morning, Alfred, Marian, what brings you to my office this morning?” he asked, surprised that anyone showed up today.
“Well it’s something unusual,” Alfred said.
Marian stepped forwards and lifted up the small kit in her arms. Doctor Philips started and stared at Alex, “What is that?” he asked, unsure of what to make of this situation.
“It’s a long story,” Marian said, “but I’d like you to give him an examination to make sure he’s healthy.”
“I’ll do my best,” Doctor Philips said as they set Alex on the exam table, “But I’ve never seen a creature like this before.”
“Well it was either you or a veterinarian and we trust you to keep this between us until we get things settled,” Alfred explained, sounding slightly worried, “We’re not sure how or why Alex is like this, but we don’t want to risk getting any scientists involved, just in case.”
“Well I doubt that will happen, especially here it’s not like men in black will swoop down and steal odd children right out from under their parent’s noses, but I understand your concern,” the Doctor said as he began to test Alex. The kit growled at the doctor but didn’t try anything as the doctor tested his breathing and other autonomic reactions.
After a few minutes of testing, he stood back and said, “Well little Alex is perfectly healthy, for a human at any rate. There are some things I can’t test but he likely has stronger senses of smell and hearing than any human I could name, keep an eye on that and bring him back for an exam in a few months or if there is any problems.”
“Anything special that we should do?” Marian asked.
“Nothing you wouldn’t do for any infant, he seems to be able to ingest human food without any complications, but make sure you pick up baby care materials before too long, diapers, formula, and other such things. Also he appears to be about 2 months old.”
“That’s why we came into town, thank you Doctor Philips,” Alfred said, shaking the man’s hand. They both left, grateful that, because they lived in Canada, they didn’t have to pay for such a routine check up, but Alfred did take home registration forms to add Alex to their medical care account for future appointments.
While Alfred was filling the forms out in the car and watching Alex, Marian drove them to a store where they could get child care supplies. Marian returned about half an hour later with a shopping cart full of baby food, formula, diapers, and other items to help them take care of their new dependent. Alfred had finished the forms and helped his wife load them into the car, then they drove home happy that Alex was healthy.
Once at home Marian set about appeasing the now crying fox kit while Alfred set up and stored the various baby supplies, giving one of the diapers to Marian so Alex wouldn’t have any accident, and then made sure everything was set up in Alex’s room. It was late at night when Alex fell asleep giving the couple a chance for some well needed rest.
Time passed and little Alex was able to acclimate quite well despite being a fox in a human world. Marian and Alfred raised him as best they could and because of their age and because they weren’t really his parents they insisted that Alex called them his grandparents.
For the most part, they kept Alex at or near the house for the first five years of his life, save for the times they took him in to get new clothes. Sadly no on his age lived near the house and there were no playgrounds nearby to speak of, so Alex only really had his grandparents to look after him. Fortunately while they had never had children before they had read up on the subject earlier in their marriage and remembered a fair amount of what to do, but even they struggled at times such as when Alex cried through the night for one week straight when he was teething; his teeth that had come in were mostly human, just with a few more canines than a human mouth would contain. The couple had cut back their working hours so one of them could be with Alex at all times of the day. While they weren’t exactly rich, the were well off enough owing to their savings, self-control and a lack of children up to this point that they could have lived comfortably for likely the rest of their lives if they so wished, even if they had to care for Alex, but they still wanted to work to avoid suspicion and to keep building their savings so Alex would be able to support himself when the inevitable came…
The first big even came on Alex’s first Christmas, which was thankfully not his birthday which had been in late October, and the first Christmas that Alfred and Marian had felt like actually celebrating in a long time, and they weren’t going to take things lightly. Alfred went to a local tree vendor and got a big evergreen Christmas tree then went to get decorations at another nearby location while Marian began to prepare a dinner for the three of them, making Alex’s food softer as his teeth were still new.
Alex watched as his grandfather set up the tree, sitting in his fuzzy light blue coveralls as he set the tree in a water bucker and began to decorate it. His grandmother, entered the room.
“Dear, let me help you with that,” Marian insisted, moving to help Alfred as he strung lights around the tree.
“Wa tis?” Alex asked, staring at his grandparents, confused.
“It’s a Christmas tree, Alex,” Alfred explained, “We haven’t had one in years but since you came along we felt you should experience a traditional Christmas.”
“Cwismas?” Alex was even more confused.
“It’s a special time of year when we spend time together,” Marian replied, turning to their grandson, “we decorate the house, get a tree, and give each other presents.”
“Pwesents!?” Alex understood that word and looked up hopefully.
“Not right now you little scamp,” Alfred teased the fox, “You’ll have to wait three more days.”
“Aww,” Alex looked down, disappointed. Alfred just chuckled at his grandson’s down expression and went to pick him up.
“Don’t worry, there’s a lot of fun stuff to do, Alex,” he said, setting the fox closer to the tree and placing a box of plastic ornaments next to him, “Here, help me hang ornaments on the tree.”
“Ok,” Alex perked up again and began to grab ornaments and hanging them on the lower branches. Alfred had to stop him a couple times to show him how to hand the ornaments properly but overall Alex was having fun.
Christmas Day came and Alex was up early, he rattled the bars of his crib, not strong enough to climb out on his own. The rattling had the intended effect as a couple minutes later Marian entered his room and lifted him out of his bed.
“Good morning, Alex, and Merry Christmas,” she said, hugging her fox grandson.
“Yay!” Alex said, hugging her back, “pwesents?” he asked as she began to carry him to the living room.
Marian chuckled, “Just be patient, Alex, we’ll get there,” she set him down in the living room, some distance from the tree, “Now I’ll go get your grandfather, just wait there.” Marian turned and left leaving Alex to sit there.
The red fox sat there huffily; the tree was too far away for him to get to by crawling, at least in time for him to get there. “No fair,” he said, crossing his arms, as he didn’t want to wait. He leaned forwards and began to crawl, but it was too slow and he heard his grandparents coming. Alex pushed upwards and managed to get himself into a standing position, at that moment, Alfred and Marian returned to the room outside Alex’s line of sight. Seeing him standing they kept quiet just in case they disturbed the fox. Alex saw his goal and managed to take a step forwards shakily. He steadied himself and took a second step forwards. The elderly couple smiled as the fox slowly toddled forwards towards the tree, then stopped and dropped to a sitting position and grabbed one of the present where his name was clearly marked on the tag.
“Well done, Alex,” the fox froze as he heard his grandfather’s voice behind him.
“You’re first steps,” Marian came to sit down beside the fox, “I’m so proud of you,” she smiled at Alex, “Don’t worry, go ahead and open your gifts, you earned it.”
“Thanks,” Alex said, smiling as he began to tear off the wrapping paper.