Foxing

Once there was a young wombat named Benson, who lived in a pretty impressive hole in the ground, with his mother and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.

Benson wondered what it would be like to be a fox. He made himself a tail out of paper and sticky-taped it to his bottom, and he put black socks over his paws.

He padded quietly to the kitchen. His mother was making a vegetable stew, with eggplant and tomatoes and turnips and sweet potato and beans and things.

Benson said, “Today I’m being a fox.”

“Oh,” said his mother.

“Foxes don’t eat vegetable stew. They definitely don’t eat eggplants.”

“What do they eat, then?” said his mother.

“I don’t know yet. I’m going hunting.” He gave a foxy smile.

One of their neighbours had a chicken run. It was full of hens and chickens and one rooster. Benson picked a nice brown hen and tried to grab her.

She jumped and flapped her wings in Benson’s face. He caught her around the middle, and she pecked his head and pecked his nose and his ears. He put her down again quick. She squawked and ran off with the other hens.

Benson padded home again. “Have we got any corn?” he asked his mother.

“Yes, we have. Do foxes eat corn?”

“Chickens eat corn,” he said. He took the corn and went back to the neighbour’s chicken run. He sprinkled some corn on the ground and opened the gate a little. One of the hens came out to get the corn. As soon as she was out, Benson shut the gate quickly.

The hen was kind of skinny and short, but she would do. Benson gave a foxy smile.

“Chook chook, chook chook,” he said. He sprinkled corn on the ground and the hen pecked it up and followed Benson. He sprinkled and the hen followed, all the way to Benson’s place.

“I’ve got a chicken!” he said to his mother proudly.

“Where did you get that chicken?” she said.

“Next door,” Benson said.

“Did you ask if you could have a chicken?” his mother asked.

“No,” Benson said. “I hunted it.”

“Taking without asking is stealing,” his mother said. “You stole that chicken.”

“Stealing?” Benson was horrified. “I was only hunting, like a fox.”

“Foxes steal chickens, and they kill them,” his mother said.

“Kill them?” Benson was shocked.

“Yes, kill them. You can’t eat a chicken without killing it.”

Benson looked at the chicken. The chicken was pecking at the turnip peelings in the compost bin.

“I don’t want anyone to kill my chicken,” he said.

“It’s not your chicken,” his mother said. “You stole it.”

“She came for a visit and I’m taking her home again right now,” Benson said. He took the black socks off his paws. He took off the tail and put it in the garbage. He got the turnip peelings out of the compost and put them in his pocket. He picked up the hen and gave her some of the turnip peelings. While she was pecking the peelings, he carried her all the way back to the chicken run. He put her back inside the gate, and gave the rest of the turnip peelings to all the hens.

“Chook chook,” he said. “You can come for a visit another time, if you want to, but we have to ask first.”

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