Bare oak limbs scratch and scramble in a pale blue sky. They are the clash of antlers in the forest. They are two stags come to fight over a lone doe. I could be that doe but the sun shifts and the wind dies down and there is only one lone peeper.
The vixen has not yet been seen. If she is there, I do not know it. Although it is highly probable that she has made her den on that small crest, deep in the trees on the other side of the brook.
As the sky darkens, a plane passes over, winks through the tree limbs. White, white, white. Then nothing. Black.
I see her first on a gray-hot day in late June. She, a thief, flashes through my yard with a rawhide bone in her mouth. From my window above, I yell out to her, “Fox, fox” and she stops, just briefly, to look at me.
Later I watch as she and her mate play under the moss-covered oaks, in amongst the ferns. She leaps over a rock and he follows her. Then they tire of the games and cross the withering brook by way of a fallen birch.
That night I hear her scream—once, twice. Then silence.
I leave the dump where I have dropped my flattened cardboard boxes, my coffee grinds and cleaned glass jars and see a dead fox in the middle of the road. He would have died from the time I got there to the time I left—within those fifteen minutes. Was he scavenging or trying to get to the pond on the other side of the road? Either way I believe he is the one I know and that the vixen is left alone with her kits.
She must be frantic in her den. She must know that he has died.
All night I wait to hear her scream again, but her grief is silent, moonless.