A Winter Fable
This old barn is not so different from the next; it holds many natural foes, but on this night, there are none. A temporary peace allows for a grand party. Following custom, each attendee brings a decorated box with their offering to the party.
“Great night to be inside,” said Goat while guarding the window.
“Yeah, glad we are not out in that,” quacked Duck.
“Yikes,” clucked Chicken, “It looks frigid out there.”
“I like when it snows,” Llama grinned.
“Me too!” baaed Sheep.
“Neigh, I mean, yeah,” Horse whinnied, “I wish we could run amongst the flurries.”
“Me too!” baaed Sheep again.
“I wish Ox were coming,” lowed Cow. “I sure do miss that kettle corn he used to bring.”
“It’s not Christmas without Kempin’s Kettle Corn!” Dog howled.
“Another tradition lost,” purred Cat while licking her paws. “Kempin was a good man, he will be missed.”
“GobbleSo gobbleWill gobbleHis gobbleCorn,” gobbled Turkey.
“That’s the problem with secret recipes,” Spider said shuffling in her web, “They are difficult to keep alive.”
“Not as hard as you think,” hooted Owl.
“I am going to miss that kettle corn the most,” grunted Pig. “There is nothing like the sweet, salty crunch of Kempin's.”
“Why must you keep reminding us we are not getting it this year!” honked Goose.
“If I had one wish tonight it would be to have kettle corn for all of you.” Mouse squeaked.
“Me too!” baaed Sheep.
“Maybe if we all wish together it will come true!” Duck squawked.
“Yes, let’s!” bleated Sheep.
“Spend your wish on something real,” insisted Cow. “There won’t be kettle corn anymore.”
“Then we will make a new tradition,” declared Goose.
Just then there was a rapping at the door.
“Is it the farmer?” Llama slurred.
“It’s not the farmer,” Pig insisted. “Why would she knock?”
“If it’s not the farmer then who is it?” Mouse peeped.
“Whoever it is, we need to let them in,” said Owl. “They will catch their death out there.”
“What if it’s a hunter?” honked Goose
“What if it’s a thief?” bawked Chicken
“We got ‘em a hundred to one, they don’t stand a chance,” growled Dog.
The rapping came again, then soft clawing.
“Open it!” they yelled. Goat slipped the hook, slid open the door, and a burst of snow barreled over the crowd.
“Close the door!” squealed Pig. “We don’t all have coats.” The ball of white shook itself off to reveal a Mother Fox. She was pulling a sled with a meek fox pup atop a burlap sack.
“Thank you ever so much,” Mother Fox said. “The wind is ruthless tonight.”
The barn was struck dumb, not a single inhabitant moved.
“You’re a fox!” Goose announced. The smaller animals backed slowly away.
“Foxes have fox ways,” hissed Cat to broad agreement.
“We mean no harm, just a place to rest,” Mother Fox nuzzled her whimpering boy. “Coyote attacked us near the nettle patch. Do you know the nettle patch?”
“I’ve been there,” Horse leered suspiciously at the foxes. “It’s rough, no place for peaceful animals.”
“We can’t all live in such regal homes,” Mother Fox said kindly. “I’ve done good by my blood. It has gotten hard for foxes. The modern world does not grant us easy passage.”
“Still, you are a fox,” Cow assured.
“I am a fox,” Mother Fox nodded. “A fox who offers you a humble gift in exchange for shelter,” the barnians watched as the fox pup tugged the burlap sack to reveal a bag of the world’s finest kettle corn.
“Kempin’s?” Goat got close, sniffing the aromas. “How did you get that?”
“We have our ways,” Mother Fox smiled and ripped open the bag. Before the kernels floated to the ground Chicken zipped in and began pecking with Turkey and Duck. Goat leaped in as did Dog and Pig.
“Wait! We can’t just let them stay here,” Goose said with a mouthful. “They are foxes you know.”
“We do not wish to cause a stir,” Mother Fox said with reverence. “I hear so many voices, pray my eyes are not what they used to be. Why don’t you debate and vote amongst yourselves. My pup and I will abide by the outcome.”
The barn inhabitants assemble for a meeting while the Foxes look on. As the domesticated bicker, the foxes pilfer.
“They are self-admitted foxes,” Horse began.
“And we all know what a fox will do,” Cow bellered.
“Bring us Kempin’s Kettle Corn!” snorted Pig.
“It’s the treat of all treats!” Mouse pipped.
“I don’t trust it,” yowled Cat.
“How can we send them away?” Dog whimpered. “It is Christmas, you know.”
“It is Christmas,” they all say together.
“Still, I know how I’m voting,” Chicken cawed. “No honor among foxes.”
“Neither is there with chickens,” hooted Owl.
“You take that back!” cackled Chicken.
"I will not!” screeched Owl.
“Odd statement from one who prowls in the cover of night,” Dog snapped.
“What do you have against prowling?” Cat spat.
“That’s enough,” Cow bellowed. “We need to figure out the foxes so we can focus on the boxes.”
“Minds will not be changed with more talking, only ruffled feathers,” Spider insisted. “Let’s have the vote.”
There was a murmur of agreement.
Mouse-“No way. They ate three of my sisters last May.”
Cat-“Sure, let them stay. When the mouse is gone the cat will play.”
Dog-“Yes. And if they try anything funny, I’ll rip ‘em to shreds.”
Goose-“No. With a gorgeous neck like mine, I’ll be the first on their list.”
Spider-“Yes. Where there is fox, there is death; where there is death, there are flies.”
Chicken-“No. Shame on you! It’s a trap!”
Duck-“Nope, not a chance.”
Sheep-“No? I mean, it’s not like she’s a wolf, right? She’s not, is she? She could be. What do you think?”
Pig-“Whatever, no, ok? If it gets us to the dining room quicker...”
Llama-“I for one like to think of myself as a long-necked fox. Yes, let my brethren stay!”
Horse-“Neigh, I mean ‘yea’. I mean, yes. I’ll stamp out any predatory natures that may spring up.”
Cow-“Come now, she’d got a kid, and a sick one at that. Yes, let them stay. It is Christmas after all.” The animals murmur, ‘It is Christmas after all.’
Owl-“I for one believe her. But, who knows, they are good liars. The safest thing is to throw them out. No.”
Goat-“What are you afraid of?” You can always take to the sky, wimp. Let them stay.”
“Seven Yeses, and eight No's; the No’s have it. We’ll be on our way.” Mother Fox bowed quickly and made for the packed sled. Her pup shivered and smiled. In a blink, she had the latch pulled, the door opened and disappeared into the snow.
“I hope we made the right decision.” Horse whinnied.
“I’m sure we did,” Owl preened.
“I’m certain we did not,” Cow lowed.
“Where is all the food?” crowed Chicken.
Citizens of the barn search the empty boxes to find the only remaining food item is a bag of Kempin’s Kettle Corn.
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About the Creator
Jordan J Hall
I write Historical and Speculative Flash Fiction. Nature and society's underbelly are the focus of my work. My writing can be found at FoxHollowStories.com and The Spectre Review Literary Magazine. Check out jordanjhall.com for more.
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