J.F. Rains

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FICTION

Alaric the Fox

Alaric was the kind of fox who reinvented himself every three months. So when things didn’t work out in the forest, he decided to try his luck with humans.

He stepped inside a little vegan cafe with a “help wanted” sign and took the stage (it was open mic night), and did a stirring spoken-word piece about dead crows. He was wearing patched-up jeans and a vintage polyester butterfly collar shirt open to the third button, and all the women fell in love with him.

The owner offered him a job baking vegan cookies.

He took the job, and every day after his shift he wrote poetry in his Moleskine notebook, while admirers sipped coffee and gazed at him. In particular, there was a beautiful woman named Rose who admired his poetry, his fox-ness, and everything he was and was not and all that he might become.

He liked her at first, but before long he found her annoying and not-quite-beautiful-enough and somewhat lacking in fashion-sense. He became depressed. “I need direction,” he said once, to his cadre of followers, and someone suggested he see the lady upstairs.

The lady upstairs was Dr. Mary Weather, Certified Life Coach. Her office was in a tiny room above the cafe. She sat behind a cluttered desk. She wore navy slacks and a white blouse and pearl earrings and a pair of black bifocals.

“What I really want,” Alaric began, “is…beauty. Specifically, I want to know a really beautiful woman. The most beautiful woman in the world. Or someone, at least, in the top ten percent.”

“Wouldn’t you rather know a beautiful female of your own species?” Dr. Weather asked, shuffling through 5x7s of beautiful foxes.

 “Been there done that,” Alaric said.

 “I see. Hm. Well, how do you plan to achieve your goal?”

 “I’m not sure. That’s why I came to you.”

Dr. Weather began moving the stacks of things around on her desk, until she found a manila file folder with “How to meet a beautiful woman” written in black sharpie on the outside. She opened the file. “Here are some worksheets on confidence, empathy, social skills, emotional intelligence, getting in shape, making more money, and personal grooming…”

Alaric took the folder with the papers out of Dr. Weather’s hand and threw it across the room. The papers flew into the air in a hundred directions and came floating gently downwards.

“Well,” Dr. Weather said, “clearly you are beyond all this,” she waved her hand as if to include the entire office and its contents. Then she looked into his eyes. “There is another way.”

“Tell me,” Alaric said. “I have money.” He pulled out a wad of cash from his jeans pocket and flung it onto the desk.

“I don’t usually share this with my clients, but if you want to meet a beautiful woman, go to an art museum on a rainy day. Find a painting with a woman that you consider uncommonly beautiful. Fall asleep in front of the painting listening to Bach’s Partita in D minor. When you wake up, you will be in the presence of the most beautiful woman in the world.”

“This better not be a trick,” Alaric said, and he got up and walked out.

The next time it rained, he walked to the art museum with the Bach piece cued on a device that he had borrowed from Rose. He wandered up and down and back and forth and all around the museum, till he finally found the painting “Girl Combing Her Hair” by Renoir. He stared and stared at the painting, lay on a bench in front of it, closed his eyes, put the earphones in, and pressed “play.”

***

When he came to, he found himself sitting in the passenger seat of a loud car. There was a large woman in the driver’s seat. She had long gray hair, which she wore in a braid down her back. Her face was round and pockmarked. She wore blue polyester pants with an elastic waistband and a huge purple sweatshirt. The backseat of the car was piled high with styrofoam containers, apparently filled with food. (After his three-month vegan stint, Alaric was pretty sure he smelled bird-flesh emanating from those containers).

“You must be the new volunteer Pastor Dave told me about. I’m Melba. Glad to have ya.”

“Where am I?” Alaric asked.

“Melba’s car. 1982 Ford Escort. Still runnin’, believe it or not. We are delivering Thanksgivin’ meals for the shut-ins. Some elderly, some sick, some dyin’. Some all three.”

“You’re not the most beautiful woman in the world,” Alaric said, irritably.

Melba laughed heartily at this for a full five minutes or so, and then she said, “Your good looks ain’t gonna get you to Heaven, Foxy. You better get your heart right with the Lord.”

After Alaric the Fox helped Melba deliver Thanksgiving meals to shut-ins, and after he had ascertained that none of the shut-ins were the most beautiful woman in the world, and after he had devoured an entire turkey himself (plus a good amount of sweet potato casserole), he went with Melba to the First Baptist Church and had a heart-to-heart with Pastor Dave.

He got right with the Lord and was baptized that Sunday.

He received his ordination from an online seminary three weeks later, and he went back into the forest, to share the Good News.


J.F. Rains is a musician and mother of four who lives near Chattanooga, TN.


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Artwork: “Fox Print” by Dylan Meconis, Flickr.com.

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