Dining By Moonlight
After the full moon, came the snow. The garden under its thick white blanket looked like a macabre but stunningly beautiful stage set. Familiar landmarks were reborn into something brand new and exciting; that old wooden bench by the back wall of the terrace morphed into a sumptuous sofa, generously upholstered by four inches of snow. And the wall itself, looking more like the side of a tantalising, giant Christmas cake, now topped with an extravagant layer of mouth watering icing sugar. Bushes, trees and plants that had been there for years were suddenly transformed into weird and wonderful Jurassic shapes. The snow clung to each branch and leaf as if it had been forever thus. The sky, steady black, lorded over that mysterious, muffled silence that only mid-winter snow can bring.
I had been keeping my nightly vigil since 8.30pm. It was now 11.45 and I knew it was now or never. My dinner guest was a fickle creature who liked his sleep. If he didn’t come by midnight, he wouldn’t show at all. Sometimes he didn’t. Sometimes he had something better to do, someone more interesting to visit. I prepared to return to my bed, disappointed.
But then I saw it, an unmistakeable glint of absurdly bright ginger, skulking out from the bushes at the far end of the garden. He looked at the house and I felt sure he knew I was watching, one paw partly raised like a stalking cat. I could see the frost on his whiskers even from 120 feet away. The snow, disturbed from the bushes of his hiding place, gently showered onto his long, sleek back like ice-cold confetti.
At last, reassured, the handsome fox edged forward towards my nightly offering, his black nose twitching in anticipation. I had boiled the meat from the bone, and it sat there like a tempting feast, lightly sprinkled by an earlier flurry of snow. The fox set its belly down and sprawled carelessly before the banquet, his head twisting from side to side as he chewed in the bright moonlight.
Fiona loved the big ginger fox. Fergus she called him. Furry Fergus. Sometimes when we stood at this window together I could feel her chest heave with palpable excitement when he, at last, crept stealthily into view. She would clasp her hands together like a child and exclaim something sweet and facile like a two-year-old seeing the Christmas tree for the first time.
I smiled now as I watched Fergus hungrily enjoy his supper. It was as if Fiona was still by my side and I could imagine her clinging to my dressing gown in her innocent enthusiasm.
“Oh, what a handsome creature,” she would say. “I wish how I wish we could have him as a pet.”
“You can’t domesticate a full grown fox,” I would tell her. But she knew that. She knew that, but it didn’t stop her dreaming.
With a sigh, I turned reluctantly from the scene and went to bed.
The next night I was there again at the window, 8.15pm prompt, waiting for the curtain to rise. The snow was still thick on the ground but, without serious reinforcements from fresh falls, some of the sheen had lost its pure lustre. Yet the scene in the garden was still spectacularly backlit by the waning
moon, and I shivered once more with that unmistakable anticipation as if I were sitting in the Royal Circle, my programme in my lap.
He came earlier this time, emerging from the same clump of bushes near the greenhouse. Again the small splatter of snow on his back from the disturbed branches. I smiled at myself as I realized I too had taken a sharp intake of breath as soon as I had spotted him.
“See, Fiona, you’re not the only one whose heart is stirred by the ginger fox.”
I was talking to myself, naturally. But it was easy to picture her still standing by my side at the window. Easy to remember her child-like thrill whenever that sleek, marmalade coat came into view. I could see her now, fingers excitedly interlocked with some sort of deep yearning for the mystery of a creature she could not possess, the call of the wild reaching out to a part of her I could not touch. He sang to the feral in her. He’d been coming for more than a year now, our own midnight caller. But he had never been so well fed.
“Oh Mr Fox what big teeth you’ve got,” I mouthed slowly and clearly as I watched him chewing his bloody feast, my breath misting up the window pane inches from my face. With my finger I traced the words “Fi 4 Fergus” on the glass.
My body shivered with the sudden chill of the night and I hugged my dressing gown more tightly around me. It was only 9.30pm but already I yearned for the warmth and comfort of my bed. No Fiona to keep me warm now, just her old pink hot water bottle on my feet. An old pink hot water bottle and sheets still warm and scented from the memory of her.
Again I sighed as I took a last look at the fox down on his haunches and oblivious to everything but his generous supper, and then retired to the bedroom.
The next night he didn’t show until 11.30pm. But again he seemed to gaze long and hard at the house as he came out from the bushes, and I wondered if he somehow knew that this was where his nightly treat came from. Was that gratitude I could detect in his bright brown eyes as he edged closer to his waiting meal? I laughed out loud at my own silliness and stood a while longer watching him before finally turning in, satisfied. We would both sleep soundly tonight, he with his full stomach and me with a contented heart.
As I pulled the blanket right up under my chin and reached to turn out the lamp I was still thinking about Fergus, his slinky ginger coat flecked with specks of snow as he ravenously ate his fill. He might have been beautiful, but his table manners left a lot to be desired. No wonder he always ate alone.
“You’ve had it easy so far,” I whispered out loud. “I’ve been boiling the meat off the bone for you.
“Tomorrow I’m going to try you with her head. See how you get on with that. “
Published on writebuzz®:
> London 2012