September 25, 2018 by The Citron Review
by Jeff Fleischer
Life had once again become monotonous. He still hunted chickens that all seemed alike, and avoided the men who hunted him, all of whom seemed similarly alike. He spent most of his time alone and bored under the apple tree, always alert for threats or food.
The sun had set many times since he’d said goodbye to the little prince, and the fox remembered how he cried that day. Nonetheless, he still caught himself feeling happier about the same time every afternoon, though that time inched ever closer to four o’clock as the weeks went by. He knew he had no reason to expect the little prince to return, much less to return at the familiar time of day, but a tamed fox still held the rites in his heart. Wheat was still of no use to him, but the golden hue of its grain stirred a hurt somewhere he couldn’t reach.
Foxes don’t have a word for it, but he felt alone in the world. He remembered the despair the little prince had described when first they met, the yearning for the one rose the little prince thought special among all the roses in the universe, and the fox found himself understanding the full impact of that lonely distance.
Sometimes other foxes would pass near the apple tree, or he would encounter one when he went hunting for chickens. Most of the time, they scattered as soon as they caught his scent.
“Why are you running?” he yelled after one fox, a vixen about his own age and size. “I only want to play. Please come and play.” He had to run after her some time before she slowed her pace, turned to him, and answered.
“You are no wild fox,” the vixen told him. “You smell of man. You have been tamed.” The fox could not deny it, and slunk off to watch alone as the wind blew through the golden wheat.
A few days later, he heard steps that did not belong to a fox nor to a hunter. He cautiously crept from under his tree, the fur of his back standing upright. “You’re very cute,” a quiet voice said. The fox saw a little girl, her hair the color of sand and her dress that of roses.
She smiled at him and crouched low, putting her hand out. “It’s okay. I won’t hurt you.”
“I am just a fox,” he replied. “What would you want from me if not to hurt me?”
“I’d like to tame you,” she said. “Then you could come live with me and my parents. We could play all the time. They will let me. They don’t like the hunters.”
The fox let his fur down, but he did not approach the girl’s offered palm.
“Ah, but I have already been tamed, and I can no more be tamed again than I can be born again. You seem a perfectly nice girl, but we have no need for one another.”
“I am only looking for a friend,” she said remorsefully, getting up to leave.
“I know, and that is sad,” the fox said. “It’s a thing you cannot buy. I had a friend who tamed me. There are other foxes you can tame. You will find one who wants you to, and then for you they will be no longer be just one of many foxes. I wish you luck.”
The fox had wanted to trust the girl, and he cried when she was gone.
He still felt unique in all the world. He also knew the little prince had been right; it was his own fault.
Jeff Fleischer is a Chicago-based author, journalist and editor. His fiction has appeared in more than forty publications including Printers Row Journal, Shenandoah, and the Saturday Evening Post. He is also the author of “Votes of Confidence,” “Rockin’ the Boat,” and “The Latest Craze.” He is a journalist published in Mother Jones, the New Republic, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Magazine, Mental_Floss, National Geographic Traveler and dozens of other publications.