Helpful Mr Fox

Silver Kitten ©

Lisa wondered if the confident fox might be a good omen for her daughter and granddaughter’s futures

Look, Granny, there’s that fox again!” Amelia squealed, pointing out of the window.

Lisa gave a fond smile as she glanced at her seven-year-old granddaughter, feeling her excitement as she saw Amelia’s denim-blue eyes sparkle with sheer delight.

Her smile widened as she watched Amelia wave her arms in wild abandon in mid-air. She always did that when she was excited about something and it always gave Lisa a surge of joy.

It was as if Amelia was bursting with liquid sunshine from within. She’d never have believed that she could feel so deeply for someone – other than her husband – until the birth of her own daughter, Tammie. But to feel the same about Amelia seemed like another gift all of its own.

Thinking of Tammie, her stomach tightened in worry. But she smiled and answered Amelia.

“He’s quite a deep red in colour, isn’t he? And look at his bushy tail. Did you know that foxes have whiskers on their legs and face which help them to navigate?”

“Really?” Amelia’s excited eyes widened further.

Lisa nodded. “And they’re supposed to have excellent hearing. I wonder how old he is and whether he’s got any cubs…”

She half murmured the last bit to herself. You never stopped worrying about your children, no matter what age they were.

Hadn’t she read somewhere that foxes dug underground dens where they took care of their young, to keep them safe from predators? No different from parents protecting their own and trying to keep their children safe.

She felt another anxious flutter in her stomach. Tammie was getting more and more down about her employment prospects and Lisa wasn’t sure what else she could do to help, other than take care of Amelia when needed.

She just hoped and prayed that Tammie would get a job offer sooner rather than later.

Amelia peered through the window, Lisa noticing how her tongue poked out of her mouth as her face puckered in concentration.

“He looks youngish. Like Mummy. Does that mean that he’d hear me if I went up to try and stroke him? Or would he be scared and run away?”

Lisa grinned at the expectant look on Amelia’s face. Her granddaughter loved nature as much as she did herself. She shook her head firmly.

“I don’t know whether he’d run away or not, but no, you can’t go and stroke him. He’s a wild animal, and he might bite you. But you can add him to your list of animals that you’ve seen.”

Amelia had a homework project to make a note of all the wildlife and insects that inhabited her neighbourhood.

“OK.” Amelia nodded, dashing off to get her pad from her bedroom. She stayed over sometimes with Lisa when her mum was working.

Lisa took a quick photo for Amelia to use in her project, before she continued to stare out of the window at the fox, who sauntered towards the house with a laissez-faire attitude, as if he actually wanted to be seen.

The fox showed no fear.

It struck her as strange behaviour for a wild animal to be so confident and unfazed by what might lie ahead.

Not like her. She was a worrier. Always had been. Not that it ever stopped her doing things, or attempting the unknown, but she did worry about the outcomes.

It was as though tendrils of anxiety would nip away at her insides with what ifs or maybes. Perhaps because she’d had to be strong after her husband, who worked in the armed forces, had been tragically killed while on a tour of duty. The weight of responsibility had certainly seemed to hang heavy on her after that.

But she’d muddled through. It was amazing what humans can accomplish when needed. A bit of luck was always helpful though.

Lisa heaved a sigh. Tammie had been temping while looking for a new job. She’d had a good career as a graphic design artist at an advertising firm, but unfortunately, she’d been made redundant. Being a single mother didn’t help, of course.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do, Mum,” Tammie had said, consternation tingeing her voice. “I’ve applied for new jobs but it’s difficult, with so many other applicants all hungry for the same position.

“It’s tough times. Thank goodness you’re able to look after Amelia when needed.

“I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

“That’s what grannies are for. Try not to get too stressed, love. Something will come up, I’m sure,” Lisa had comforted.

“And don’t worry about Amelia. She’s got her own room here, and I can take her to school and stuff.”

It was lucky, thought Lisa, that she worked part time now, and her job fitted neatly around school hours. She loved her job at the library, and though she’d been upset initially when her hours had been cut, it had turned out to be a godsend.

Funny how life had a strange way of working itself out. Maybe it was all about having faith, as well as working hard and not turning away opportunity when it knocked.

Not always easy in times of trouble, though.

Hearing Amelia run back into the room brought Lisa’s attention quickly back to the present.

“I’ve taken a photo for you. Maybe seeing Mr Fox is a good sign that you’ll get top marks for your homework, sweetie.”

“I hope so,” Amelia said with feeling, Lisa knowing that she wanted to impress her teacher.

It was a joy seeing Amelia so keen to learn. She was hungry for it, anxious to know everything about life, eagerly lapping up bits of information like a sponge soaking up water.

Tammie had been the same, desirous to make her way in the world. Must be a family trait, thought Lisa with a faint smile.

It had been fun spending time with Amelia in the garden. They’d watched the insects crawling across the patio – the woodlice, the ants, even an odd spider or two.

Lisa explained why the bees flew from flower to flower, and how nature always found some way to survive, or balance things out.

“That’s why it’s good to let certain plants like dandelions grow.”

“But why?”

“Well, ladybirds love them, and as they eat the aphids which are the annoying insects that attack my plants, I want to encourage ladybirds to keep coming to my garden.”


Lisa saw real interest spark in Amelia’s eyes.

“I must tell Mummy that we mustn’t get rid of the lionheads.”

Lionheads was what Amelia had called dandelions when she was younger and the name had stuck. It still made Lisa chuckle.

“There’s those snail signs, look.” Amelia’s attention had been suddenly diverted. A mind like quicksilver, Lisa had thought. Just like her mum.

She followed Amelia’s gaze to see more gossamer like trails that the snails had left across her vegetable patch.

“We’ll have to pop some more coffee granules down from my morning cuppa, as the smell is supposed to put snails off, and I don’t want them eating all my peas and broad beans. We must put some clean and dry crushed egg shells down too, as they’re supposed to be too much of an obstacle for slugs and snails to crawl over.”

“Slugs are yucky!” Amelia grimaced.

“That they are,” Lisa agreed. “That’s why I like to put some copper pennies around my seedlings, to form a border, as slugs don’t like crawling over copper. Or at least, that’s what my gardening book says.”

It was clear from the look on Amelia’s face that she was taking the titbits of trivia in, making Lisa’s heart sing.

She watched Amelia study the rest of the wildlife that visited. But she shook her head when Amelia asked if she could leave a saucer of milk outside Lisa’s wooden hedgehog home that stood in one corner of the garden by her log pile.

“It’s better to leave out plain water,” Lisa explained, “as hedgehogs can’t digest the proteins in milk.”

“OK. Can we do that then?”

“Of course. We’ll leave out some hedgehog food too.” Lisa always bought a couple of tins of meat-based dog food as she knew it was a good supplement to a hedgehog’s natural diet.

Leaving Amelia to her homework, Lisa further pondered the audacity of the fox.

It was as though it knew that everything would be OK.

Which was silly, as how could it know that?

Silently she sent up a prayer about the latest interview that Tammie had attended. Please let Tammie get the job. The last few had been a let-down and she knew that her daughter was getting despondent.

The job had been something that Lisa had spied in the paper recently, emailing Tammie straight away.

She knew it was an old-fashioned thing to do, to still buy a morning paper, but she’d never taken to reading the news on her tablet, preferring the feel of paper rustling between her fingers, and the smell of the newsprint wafting up from the pages. It felt more real somehow.

The ad had seemed to jump off the page.

Weird. But she’d felt a prickle of hope as she’d read the words…

Experienced Graphic Design Artist required to communicate ideas that inspire or captivate our consumers. Imaginative flair and thought a must.

The ad had continued with further details about the position and contact information.

Tammie had applied straight away, calling Lisa not long after. Hearing the thrill of excitement in her daughter’s voice, Lisa’s hopes had soared. Tammie hadn’t sounded this enthusiastic in ages.

“I’ve got an interview, Mum. I can’t believe it! Can you look after Amelia for me?”

“Of course. Good luck.”

She and Tammie had always been close, something that Lisa was very grateful for. She liked to think that Tammie had always felt able to confide in her, knowing Lisa was a stepping stone for her to lean on when needed.

Never judgmental, just there if required. Hopefully, Amelia would feel the same as she grew up.

It was just as she was serving up lasagne for supper that Lisa’s phone rang. It was Tammie.

“Mum!” she whooped down the phone. “I’ve got the job! Thank you so much for spotting the ad.”

Lisa could hear the excitement bubbling up in her daughter’s voice and smiled. Thank goodness. Everything was going to be all right. Her worry dissipated like sunshine bursting through cloud.

“Oh, sweetheart, that’s wonderful news! I’m thrilled for you.”

“I’m on my way over to you now, but I couldn’t wait to tell you.”

“I’ll pop your dinner in the oven to keep warm. See you shortly.”

Things were looking up.

“Was that Mummy?” Amelia asked, bursting into the kitchen.

“Yes. She’ll be here soon, and she’s got the job.”

Holding hands, they did a little jig around the kitchen in celebration, Amelia picking up on the general air of jubilation.

“Yay! I can show her my project. Oh, and Granny, can you give me that photo of Mr Fox?”

“I’ll print it off for you now,” Lisa said, reaching for her mobile.

Staring at the fox’s face another image sprang to mind.

The logo on the ad she’d given Tammie. It was a red fox.

Coincidence? A beaming smile spread over Lisa’s face. Whatever it was, it meant a new start. And in an uncertain world, that was a definite signal of hope.

Our My Weekly Favourites series of feel-good fiction from our archives continues on Mondays and Thursdays. Look out for the next one.
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