Mrs Fox used to call me Fantastic Mr Fox. I was a magnificent creature: from my sharp white teeth to my neckerchief, but please – don’t mention my tail.
I had outfoxed the farmers, Boggis, Bunce and Bean. We thrived under ground as they shivered above us. We were happy, but good things never last. Mr Badger called me a show-off. We fought, I won, but hurt the poor chap in the process. The others started looking at me with fear in their eyes. They scuttled away whenever I came around, so I felt it was time to move on.
I took Mrs Fox and the little foxes to the city. It broke our hearts to leave the countryside. We went from green grass to grey concrete, fresh chicken to greasy leftovers, and the sharp, sweet air to the toxic fumes of killer cars.
The city foxes laughed at my country ways. They bent their heads, curled up their tails, and called me Fantastic Sir Fox – the insolent fellows. But I soon held sway. I knew they were weak. I could tell from their fundge, which was pale and insipid. Not like our pure pungent poo at all.
I marked my territory on the best patch, right by an all-night take-away. The fried chicken scraps were not bad. I’d eaten better, but my little ones loved the fries.
Mrs Fox wasn’t happy. She wanted to go back home, or what was left of it. My stupid pride stopped me from seeing sense, and I refused to go. So she left, and took my darling cubs with her.
They left a huge hole in my heart, deeper than the one dug in the field by Boggis, Bunce and Bean. I ate to fill the emptiness. I stopped caring about my appearance. I became angry and bitter. I lost all my sense of joy. My teeth started to yellow, and my neckerchief hung from me like a dog chain, heavy, dragging me down.
And now, when I prowl my patch at night, I can hear the other foxes whispering, waiting for their turn, wanting to gnaw on my discarded fried chicken. Listen hard and you’ll hear them. ‘There he goes,’ they sneer, ‘he used to be someone. He thought he was the best thing since onion rings. Sad old fat old Mr Fox.’
Mr Fox, meet Millie and me
Truth is, I don’t like foxes.
They drop their mess on my front door step. Spray their scent to drive the local mutts crazy. And stare sullenly at me, sloping off insolently as I try to shoo them away.
Dahl’s Mr Fox was confident and triumphant. But he was also arrogant and I wanted to take him down a peg or two.
Millie was keen to draw him, as long as she received payment upfront. We agreed on a Hershey Bar. She ate it, did nothing, and then blamed me for not giving her a hard copy of my story to work from. I’ve never quite mastered the printer at home.
I started to hound her. It was half term and she had time. Then one day, she put her mind to it and got the job done. It was good, but not quite right.
Mr Fox looked like a fox, but he was a bit too smart. He looked sad, but wasn’t fat. He was eating a burger not fried chicken. And, to cap it all, he still had a tail.
I rejected her first attempt.
Millie wasn’t happy. She’d researched foxes on Google images, and they all had tails. The drawing had taken her one whole hour, and she felt that this in itself was beyond the call of duty.
I focused on what she’d done well, and gave her a couple of tips. Read my story again. And even better, read Dahl’s too. But Millie’s not a reader. Not like the rest of my family. She prefers YouTube and Netflix so hasn’t got time for books.
I got specific with my feedback. I was too prescriptive. I was taking it far too seriously. Truth is, I’d grown attached to my Mr Fox. I was only trying to help. But I should’ve let her do it her way.
I bribed her with another Hershey Bar and this time she cracked it. Mr Fox the second was fatter and didn’t have a tail. His once-smart clothes had become shabby. I liked the fact that the chicken drumstick he was holding could’ve been a glass of bubbly.
How the mighty have fallen. Sorry Mr Fox.
Part of 26 Twits, a celebration of the centenary of Roald Dahl’s birth.