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The Fox Next Door

By Morgan Leger All Rights Reserved ©

Other / Fantasy


David thought he would be in for a dull summer. That was until a set of new neighbors move in and rarely come out. As it turns out, these new neighbors happen to be a group of kitsunes, who are half-human and half-fox. David learns of this after meeting their curious son, Todd. Among the adventures they share, David finds there is more in common with his new found pal than he expected from tasty sweets to problems of their own. .

Chapter 1 - Old

The curtain raised slowly from the stage floor. The sound of “Clair De Lune” was heard from a nearby piano. The melody was soft, sublime yet graceful. David watched in silence from his seat in the middle row. Dressed in a black tux, his brown eyes fixed on the empty stage with eagerness.

Suddenly, a ballerina appeared from the right side of the stage while moving on her toes. She took every step with a slow pace and postured her arms with a sorrowful glance. The gloomy dancer was outfitted in a peach pink leotard and a wide tutu that fit on her hips like a hula hoop.

The nine-year old boy was the only one in the audience as he watched the recital marveling at her beauty and graceful moves. The pirouettes perfectly rotated, she stood on her toes without a bend and whipped about the stage in a slow manner. The dance she performed complemented the music.

David always found something interesting in ballet. The weaving of footsteps and music was a curious combination. He even wondered how two elements could go together so well in hand. The music came to slow finish as she stood with her left arm reaching to the sky and the right leg pointing her knee in a lifted angle. David instantly rose from his seat and applauded with an approving smile. However, she didn’t look to him and remained in her position.

He kept applauding but she didn’t look at him. The ballerina looked on. Her left leg moved down to the floor as she looked on past the audience. Her feet started walking to the edge of the stage step by step. David’s cheering came to stop as his smile began to shrink. She was only an inch away from the edge. Her foot rose and moved forward to the air in front of her.

David dashed out of his row and ran down the aisle. His little legs picking up as much speed as possible with his arms reached out to try and catch her. Even if he was midway, it felt like a long way to the stage. Each step he took felt like he was getting further away.

Her foot started to move down as the ballerina’s body tilted. The graceful dancer began to lean forward. Her eyes didn’t blink as she started to fall off the stage. Tumbling and moving down, her body floated in the air while her weight pulled her closer to the ground below.

Just as David reached the very last row, he looked at the sight in horror as she fell into the floor and disappeared.

His brown eyes fixed on the floor where she should have landed. There was no body. Just an empty floor. David turned around and looked at the empty seats behind him hoping someone saw.

“HEY!” he cried out. “Can someone help me?” No one answered back. He was all alone.

Suddenly, the lights above him slowly turned off one by one as the stage behind him melted away leaving David in darkness.

Gasping for a breath, David’s body lunged forward from his bed breathing deeply. He stood up in fright as he tried to calm down.

His mind pulsed with shock as he kept thinking about the ballerina and her tumble down the stage. He kept thinking back to the failed rescue as his sad mood started to return. It also didn’t help David was in his plaid winter pajamas. The sweat from his forehead cooled him off but heated his body.

His eyes looked around seeing the familiar collection of books and posters around the room he sat in. David looked to the window next to him. The blinds were already open and the sun poured down on his face like a welcoming hello. David looked down and sighed with disappointment, “It was all a dream…”

David was a lonely child that morning. He sat on the porch steps knowing the only one home was himself. His mother and father already left for work. Thankfully, they only departed a few minutes ago before the school bus arrived. His folks knew he would be fine. Or at least they hoped.

With a soft sight, the school boy stood up on the steps with his backpack at his side. His face had a glum look. Eyes drooping and a frown that showed doubt. It was hard trying to remember a time when he didn’t feel so sad. But he couldn’t.

“The better days are history,” he said to himself. David grabbed his backpack and walked away from his house. The glum boy looked up at the sky and noticed how bright it was. There was barley a cloud in the sky as the sun shined like a blossoming sunflower. This was perfect weather for his last day of school. David looked at the bright display with an underwhelming sigh. He was too gloomy to feel the joyful atmosphere.

Trying to pass the waiting time, he looked to the right side and fixed at the empty house next door. Now both homes looked nearly the same in every way. They were two stories tall and had a porch at the front. But the house next to David’s home was not in perfect shape. In fact, far from it.

Nobody lived in that dusty place for over twenty years, the blue color that coated the outside had faded away, the windows were barred with dusty cobwebs and worst of all was the steps; broken and tattered with nails sticking out. It was a ghastly sight that would make one think why it never got demolished.

“If that house could speak, I know what it would say,” David said to himself. On the other hand, there was no need to ask or think what that house would feel. It was barren and desolate just as he felt today.

His eyes examined the front lawn while pondering how such a lovely place to live in would be plopped next to one of pure ugliness. Next to the mailbox, a single sign stood there with “FOR SALE” in red letters written on it along with contact information.

His mind began to think for a bit. A home no one would dare spend a day in and yet realtors were brave enough to put the abandoned place up for sale.

David wished he could ponder more but the sound of whirring grew louder and louder. He turned to the left in time to see a big yellow bus arrive. It stopped right in front of him as the Stop sign on the other side moved in position. Just as the doors slowly opened wide, he picked up his backpack and slid his arms through the straps. It was filled with school books and an extra change of clothing for gym. The bag wasn’t too heavy.

As he walked onto the steps, his eyes looked up to the bus driver in front of him. Dressed in her black uniform, she sat in the driver’s seat with a smile as David entered on step by step with a heavy sigh.

“Hey pal. Don’t be so down in the dumps,” she replied. “I’m sure the day will get better.” David’s slumping head moved up a bit, but his eyelids still drooped with sorrow. Aside from a small nod, David had no other response. He didn’t want to ruin her upbeat attitude; let alone ruin someone else’s day.

He meekly walked down the aisle as the bus driver closed the doors. He found a seat in the seventh row and sat there while placing his bag next to him. It was a place on the bus anyone rarely took a seat on.

David’s glum face looked around and saw all the school kids sitting in front of him. Some chatting about plans they had for the summer while others complained that summer vacation should have started sooner.

David looked out the window as his sorrow glance reflected to the passing trees and houses going by. He knew that no matter how and when summer vacation arrived, there would be nothing that would change his mood.

“Alright class, let’s talk about what plans you have for the summer,” the chipper teacher said walking past the rows of students. “I know everyone is excited to start their vacation and forget about ‘boring’ school, but that is only a mere hours away.”

David sat there in silence with his left arm resting on his desk and his right fist perched at his cheek. His fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Pierce was a good friend to not just him but other students around Littleton Middle School. He knew that she could be a ball of sunshine on the rainiest of days. Middle-aged, hair of a dark blonde and wore a nice red dress. Pierce looked upon her class like a garden of different violets and petunias. Though her eyes fixed on David from time to time who sat in his chair as a wilting rose would.

The joyful instructor walked to the front of the class while revealing with a smile, “So instead of doing some equations or reading another Narnia novel, I’d like you to take out a piece of paper and write down in no more than three sentences what you plan to do on your summer vacation.”

At her will, the students in the class took out a piece of paper from their folder while the sound of tearing a page from a notebook filled the room. David slowly took a blank notebook and his utensil pouch out. Plopping the notebook on the desk, he opened it to a blank page and took a pencil out from the pouch.

“I’ll give you five minutes each. That should be enough time to let you write something down,” she explained. “If you don’t have any big plans, that’s fine. Just in your own words, write what you plan to do over the summer.” Her eyes looked to the clock preparing the time them. The red hand moved without a fast or slow pace around clock as the minute hand steadily moved. “You may begin…now!”

Immediately, sounds of scribbling filled the room in an orchestrated manner. Everyone’s heads where perched down and focused on the blank sheets in front of them. David was the only one whose head remained looking up.

He looked at the chalkboard for a bit and then his eyes moved to the surface of his desk. A blank piece of lined paper sat there waiting to be crafted on while his pencil perched within his right hand. David felt stumped.

He kept digging deep into his mind trying to think of a certain answer. No matter what he did, his mind kept drawing a blank. His eyes moved from his desk and began to look at the other classmates around him. Each one was writing quickly as an eagle.

To the right of him, Laura was probably jotting down plans to vacation in Florida. In front of him, Rufus was writing with a blue ink pen about scheming to see every summer blockbuster at the local drive-in theater. Even if meant sneaking in though the wired fence. In the far right corner, Travis had plans to meet a baseball team as Susan behind him wanted to visit her aunt’s farm for the warm season.

It seemed everyone had a plan except David. The clueless student closed his eyes for a bit as a small light bulb turned on. With pencil in hand, the graphite slowly moved on the blank page in front of him. After a minute, he looked down at the finished piece. Placing his pencil to the side, his eyes fixed on the page reading the single sentence to himself. For his heart sank more to find that all he wrote down was, “I don’t know.”

A kickball soared high in the air as it knocked Kevin in the chest. The gawky kid fell to the floor in defeat knowing he was out. The whistle blew with all its might as everyone stopped for a moment. David watched as the latest victim stood up and moved to the other side of the court.

Gym was David’s least favorite class. He could recount the many intensely played games from baseball to basketball. With the last day at hand, the class was left to vote for a game to end off the final day. Dodgeball won the majority votes while David and Taylor’s choice for volleyball were overruled.

Once Kevin was on the other side, the whistle from Mr. Lister’s mouth blew signaling the carnage to continue. David and his friend Taylor were the only ones who remained standing. The red balls kept flying from the team across the gym bombing the survivor’s territory. The rival group fired away as the two targets darted around while ball after ball whizzed past their legs.

One by one, David and Taylor ducked their heads and moved frantically as the rubber missiles kept aiming for them. The sweat from David’s head was dripping to the white shirt he wore as his blue shorts breezed in the air. Taylor immediately spotted a rolling kickball at his feet moving its way to the other side of the court. He scrambled to nab it with arms reaching out in welcome. That hopeful child was so close to touch it. His eyes fixed on the little ball as it rolled across the line and straight to the feet-filled sneakers of William McGenty.

Never was there a fierce player on the court like him with jet black hair and green eyes that looked down at you as if death was staring back in your face. The freckles on his face increased the fear as if a million eyes were watching your every step. He reached down and grasped the ball into his hands like greedily acquiring the ultimate bomb at his fingertips. He grinned bearing his braces-laced teeth.

“You’re next!” he roar with a cry like thunder and tossed the ball aiming at Taylor’s feet. The ball bounced at Taylor’s feet as the solider winced at the feel of rubber at his sneakers. It was a direct hit.

Taylor sighed with loss as he moved to the sidelines of the opposing team’s court joining what was left of the unlucky team. David stood in the middle of the gym’s lonesome side in fear. It was eight against one as his eyes looked briefly to this team on the sideline. For a moment, he gulped while placing his gloom aside. His feet started to move from the left to the right side of the court dodging every projectile that came his way.

William and his goon squad kept tossing each ball at the remaining fighter. His comrades kept catching every ball that bounced back to them as they kept firing on. A fierce battle was at play between meek and athletic. David never took his eyes off them as his hears head the sounds of his teammates across the court cheering him on. His chest bobbed from side to side and his legs leapt up avoid each ball that came his way.

“You’re outnumbered, Carpenter! Just give in already and go back to your shack!” yelled the metal-mouthed monster. William hurled another kickball at him hoping to pin him in the head. David quickly lowered to the floor just in time as it whizzed past him in the air. As he lay on the floor, a flame began to form. It was one thing to have your last name be Carpenter but another to be poked fun at for it. This infuriated David easily.

Before he could get up, his head turned to the right and sitting right next to him was a kickball. A smile quickly grew on his face. His hands reached out quickly taking it. A feeling of hope grew inside his heart as he stood up with the ball in his hands using it as a shield.

William eagerly grabbed another ball rolling to him as he picked it up in his arms. With a mighty throw, he sailed straight to David’s head again but the clever solider raised the ball to his face. It bounced off it just in time. He nearly fell to the wooden floor below him but maintained his balance. A loud growl of disappoint came from the rival across from him.

Confidence brewing, David observed the court across from him seeing his opponents in sight. He took aim and fired the ball over the line. It flew in the air like a cannonball darting into the sky. The rubber ball bounced off Travis’ arm. Travis immediately rubbed the hit on his arm as the whistle blew.

At last, David thought. I finally got one! However, his success was short lived. Before the whistle could even blow, his eyes moved to the center of the court in time to see a fast moving ball flying right at his head…

“It’s just unfair,” Taylor said. “The minute Will threw that ball at your head, it should have been a penalty.”

David sat across from his friend at the wide table holding an ice pack to his forehead. “What should have been a real penalty was the five minute argument William had to the Mr. Lister about it being an accident,” lamented the wounded solider.

Taylor shrugged a bit as he bit on a chicken nugget. “I just hope your head will be ok. How bad is it?”

David moved the ice pack from his head showing a large red dot engraved on his forehead. Taylor tried not to laugh as bits of air escaped from his lips. David rolled his eyes placing the ice pack back to the side of his tray feeling his head was numb enough.

His eyes looked around the busy cafeteria as nearly every table was full of chatty students. The table him and Taylor sat at only served them. No one else took a seat except those two. Taylor didn’t mind. It was a nice break from the loud and talkative tables of kids.

David looked down on his lunch tray trying to move on from the dodgeball incident. On each tray in the lunchroom was the usual special prepared for students before the summer vacation; chicken nuggets, some peas, a carton of cranberry juice, and some French fries that were shaped like a smile.

However, sitting in the right corner of the lunch trays was something rare. A bundle of chocolate chip cookies freshly baked from the oven. Although, it wasn’t on everyone’s tray. Due to David’s visit to the nurse’s office, he was too late to get the sweet desert in such limited time. Each sweet morsel given out to the hungry students were gone in a matter of minutes. As a replacement, they gave out apples to those who missed the cookie surprise.

Taylor looked at the apple on David’s tray with a glum feeling. His guilty eyes moved to his tray where a batch of cookies wrapped in a plastic bag with red ribbon sat there. “I’m sorry you missed out on the cookies. Shame they only bake them when a school vacation is around.”

David sighed while looking at the red lump on his tray. “It’s alright I guess. They always do something like this for every holiday. Like those sugar cookies for Christmas or the mint Shamrock cupcakes on St. Patrick’s Day.”

“Yeah, but no one deserves to miss out on something like this,” Taylor replied while finishing the smiley fries. “Maybe you’re just having a bad day?”

David looked down knowing it was more than that. He opened his mouth wanting to say what was on his mind. But instead came a sigh of depression. He knew there no way to tell it in words.

Taylor looked at his depressed friend with regret. These two had been together since the second grade but he always knew how to cheer him up. “You know, after seeing how you did in gym,” he complimented, “I’m surprised to see how much fight you have left in you.”

David looked up from his tray giving a soft smile. Taylor gently picked up the plastic bag of cookies and leaned over the table. He placed them on David’s tray and sat back down with a smile. “I think you deserve them more than me.”

David looked at the small plastic bag. It looked like a freshly baked trophy on his tray. His eyes looked up at Taylor responding to his friend with a small smile. It was the least he could do.

“Thanks Taylor,” he replied softly. “I don’t know what I would do without you.”

And with that, David took the small bag of cookies accepting his friend’s gift. He was just about to open the bay when he looked back at Taylor. A smile started to run away from his friend’s face. A look of fear developed on Taylor’s face.

David was suddenly grabbed by the collar of his shirt as his body was heaved up from his seat. He turned around to find himself face to face with the grinning, metal mouth of William.

The grip of his fist was so close to David’s neck, you could have sworn the monster was ready to choke him on the spot. Will raised his fist high and was ready to deliver a mighty punch. Knowing the tyrant’s strength, it would have shattered any poor lad’s teeth in. Leaving nothing but the pink of the gums. Before he could make a movie, William’s eyes moved to the bag of cookies dangling in David’s hand. With a sickening grin, his mind began to change from pulverizing.

“I believe I’ll have my just deserts,” snickered the bully as he grabbed the cookies from David’s hand.

And with that, he let go of the prey in his grasp. David fell to his seat and realigned his shirt. He felt a flow of air to his nose as he breathed deeply. Will looked at the cookies like a small fish in a bag while untying the ribbon. His hand gleefully reached in and took one out.

Taylor stood up in protest. “You can’t do that! It belongs to David!”

Will stopped just before he took the first bite. “Is that so?” he asked with braces gleaming in the light. “Then I guess there is no harm in return this to the rightful owner.”

David hoped Will wasn’t pulling his leg but even he knew there was no sense of remorse. Without warning, he saw the bag of Taylor’s cookies drop to the floor and crumble on impact. The cookie in William’s hand crushed as crumbs fell to the floor like hail.

Will raised his right foot in triumph and stomped on the delicate desert till it smooshed against the souls of his shoes. He raised his foot and all that existed was nothing but crumbs in a plastic bag on the floor. Will looked at David with an innocent grin knowing he meant it.

“Oops. I guess that’s what you get for tattling on me, Carpenter,” he said with a menacing tone. A flame started to flicker in David’s eyes. Enough was enough as his right hand reached for the ice pack. His fingertips noticed how soft it felt. Instead David’s right hand moved to the apple on his tray…

Mrs. Piece could do nothing but sit in her office chair. She sigh with disappointment as David sat in front of her with a guilty look. “So you smacked him in the head with an apple over cookies?” she asked with hands on her face.

David didn’t want to answer with a simple yes. His eyes nervously looked at the posters of cats and green landscapes on the office walls. He took a soft breath and looked at her with virtue. “It wasn’t my fault he hit me in the head during dodgeball. Those cookies were from my friend.”

Mrs. Pierce lowered her hands a little. Her face showed no sign of anger or upset. Pierce’s blue eyes looked at him knowing what was wrong as she put her glasses back on.

“I know you meant well David but there is a right and wrong way to stand up for yourself,” she assured him. “And the last thing I would choose to do is use food as a weapon.”

David’s eyes looked down knowing what he did was wrong. “He’s been like to this to since that incident in little leagues. I know he was a sore loser but-“

“Stop!” Mrs. Pierce raised a hand up ending his peal. She got up from her desk and walked over to David. She knelt in front of him with a soft sigh looking at him.

“David, look at me please and listen well,” she said as David slowly moved his eyes to see hers. “I know these past weeks have been rough for you and your family. I can imagine something like this is never easy to deal with. But you have to try and look at the positive. You got three months of rest and relaxation. Before you know it, you’ll be back here in fifth grade.”

David didn’t smile. He just wanted this moment to be over with.

“You were one of my brightest students,” she said without raising her tone, “and now your barley working in group projects, putting half effort into your class work and just today you’ve tried to fight off a bully with an apple. I know you’re better than this.”

It only made him feel worse. How did I get so low? He kept thinking where it all went wrong. From weeks ago to today, he tried to piece the answer for himself. How could all this happen to me?

He paused as the reason for his depression started to dawn on him. A few tears shed from his eyes as he kept thinking about that day. David knew he wasn’t his old self. Sadly, he couldn’t remember a time when he felt happy.

Mrs. Pierce handed him a tissue speaking with a soft tone, “Listen, if you ever need to talk to me about anything, just write me an e-mail, ok? I’ll try to respond back as quickly as I can.”

He wiped his eyes as best as he could. His fingers placed the thin handkerchief under his nose and blew into it. “But, I don’t have a computer at the house,” he responded timidly.

Taken back by his words, Piece said with a slight smile, “I’m positive there’s another way to keep in contact. I just can’t stand seeing you this upset. I hope you understand.”

David nodded a little. He felt unsure about how to take her advice. She walked back to her desk and opened the top drawer taking out a small bag of Jelly Babies.

“I mean it, David. I’m really worried about you,” she said while walking back to him. David looked at the small bag of British candy as she placed it in his hand. He tried to return a soft smile but couldn’t.

“Just promise me you’ll have a good summer,” she said feeling concerned.

David slowly walked off the bus with his school bag slumped on his back. He walked down the metal steps feeling lower than earlier.

The school bus doors behind him closed for the last time and drove off. David turned around and watched as the yellow vehicle drove down the opposite road and through the rows of trees that surrounded his house. He stood there and observed it until the bus disappeared from his sight.

David turned his head to the house knowing the school principal called his parents about the incident. Before he could walk to the porch, he looked at the old house again.

The building was the same ragged nature but this time something was missing. The “For Sale” sign that occupied itself next to the mailbox was gone.

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