I spent this morning crying in a ditch. In the rain.
Things started off great, because the weather has finally cooled off. I decided I needed to exercise outdoors, in the misty air. I like feeling like I’m going somewhere, so I tied on my shoes and hit the streets.
The Big Hill approached.
We called it that when I was a kid because it seemed really big at the time. It was the perfect way to spend the afternoon on a bike. The fastest of our hills, it attracted thrill seekers in the neighborhood, and handed out split lips and black eyes every summer. The next year, we’d all go back for more, thinking that this would be the year that we achieved mastery.
Today, I came up the slope of The Big Hill and saw a fox that lives in our neighborhood whimpering in the ditch. He comes to my back patio every morning, and watches me watch him as I have coffee. I sip. He watches. I meditate and when I peek, he is there, peeking back. He sometimes brings breakfast. It’s sort of a thing.
But today he was lying still, and his rear legs were mangled. They lay out behind him, useless as far as I could tell.
“Gideon?” I called him, and he started yipping, but softly.
Oh yeah, my fox has a name. Early in the relationship, we called him Yard Fox because he hung out in our yard and he is, after all, a fox. But in the novel Tar Baby, Toni Morrison wrote a character that was called Yard Man because he worked in the yard, but whose actual name was Gideon. Et voila.
When I saw our Gideon lying hurt in the ditch today, I started to cry. I figured some kind of animal rescue was called for but what could I do, pick him up and put him…where… in my laundry room?
I said to myself, “Oh, my God.” Just then, my sister rang the forgotten cell phone in my pocket, from her desk. Her desk has a computer, which could tell me who could rescue Gideon!
I never said hello, and the conversation went like this:
Me (crying my eyes out): You know Gideon? (sniff) The fox?
Her: Yeah… What’s the matter?
Me: I think he got hit by a car or something. Maybe he was in a fight, I don’t know.
What had been a misty morning turns into a downpour.
Me: Can you hear me? (I wipe my nose on my sleeve.) He’s in the ditch, up near The Big Hill. Gideon is hurt, and I can’t get internet access on this phone. Can you go to a computer? (sniff)
Her: Aww, Shelly…
She sounded very sympathetic, which made me cry harder. I could hear her typing, and she came up with a number to call for help. Suddenly, I was seven again. I was seven in our neighborhood, and she was the tough one, the one with answers for my bleeding heart. In the here and now, the fact that someone had called right on time – who understood that me and and this fox are friends, and I didn’t want him to die – was a very big deal.
I called some animal rescue volunteers, left a message, and while I waited for them to call me back, another neighbor came by. He said he’d been giving Gideon dog chow all summer, because hunting is hard during a drought like this. The neighbor was pretty choked up, too. Then he gave me a hug and I hugged him back as we sat in the grass at the side of the road. It was almost embarrassing. I’m just glad he had tissues in his pocket.
My friend David once told me to pay attention to myself if I cry. He said that I am telling myself something, and I owe it to myself to listen. So, while waiting for the fox ambulance, I considered what I, a person who calls staying in a Bed and Breakfast “camping”, had to cry about. What do I care about potential roadkill? I didn’t want to be friends with that fox, but he kind of charmed me in to it, and then I almost lost him.
I cried because my little friend was hurt, and I could not help him. It could be that I’m afraid of the unpredictability of nature; he comes and goes, seeking me out, and then vanishes. I hate that. People were starting to accuse me of making up this Mr. Snuffleupagus of a pet who meditated with me most days. And just when I’d become accustomed to him, and introduced him to my friends and family, he goes and gets hurt and bleeds all over the road.
The wildlife rescue people came after about twenty minutes to take Gideon away in a little SUV that was decorated with paw prints. They expect he will recover.
And my sister? She called back later to say, “Y’all could’ve gotten a house in the city. You could’ve had a condo downtown or something, with a homeowners association like normal people… But no, you want the Old Homestead…trying to make me crazy…” We laughed, but then she said, “Is he alright?”
Yes, thanks. Amen.