by Jake Reynolds

Is that her mother whose arm she is touching? She holds a tablet
to the charity shop window and photographs nothing much. There
is nothing much to photograph when wearing a fox-head (which I
think of as brave on a day as hot as this). The tail perks up from
the waistband of her jeans, a wad of fur swaddling a pliable wire.
It catches on nothing. I think it suits her. I am briefly sad that we
as a species lost our tails. The fox-smile is part-sinister, part-content
as though pleased to be given something back by being so violently
stripped away. Her mother guides her left and right across the
window like two mosquitoes hunting for a breath. A chalkboard
swings in the breeze: Steampunk festival – join us inside! But they do
not go inside. I notice how tightly the fox-girl holds her mother’s
arm. It is clear then that she is more than a guide or set of eyes.
There is something skittish about foxes; now I feel I have seen one
long enough to appreciate their true nervousness. I wonder if the
fox-girl is smiling underneath her fox-head. Foolishly I picture her
smiling with tears rolling down her cheeks. I watch her feet lightly
scuffing the floor and I prescribe her adolescent bravery of the kind
I never had, the kind that looks tiny but feels like a tsunami. She
will not be smiling and crying, of course. I hope, then, that she is
at least excited. I feel like she deserves this. I have nothing to base
this on. I return to my beer. Maybe I’m just projecting. The only
thing that matters to me is the face behind that fox-head and the
person behind that face, i.e. things I will never know. I forget the
grimace of the fox-head, or that a stiffened tail could be warning
me of an imminent hunt. Try as I might I cannot picture blood
around that girl’s mouth.

Featured image © Colm O’Cuinneagain

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