I named the fox ‘Kafka’ because he is irrelevant and because he tosses around a lot in his sleep. It can be annoying. I had never imagined foxes get nightmares. These days we sleep together, the fox and I, in my trailer by the loch.
I call it a loch but that is since I found it earns me the locals’ respect. The loch is not really a loch –it has no proper name– not even a lochan perhaps. Maybe just a big pond.
An entire year went by before I made the decision to relocate. I had never before inherited a lake, so weighing my options took considerable time. I did not even know there was a lake involved when I was first informed, over the phone, of the existence of a parcel of land registered in my name. I discovered as much when I travelled to see it. I took ownership but did not move here until the following summer, giving up the Big Smoke and my life in it.
At the time, I was working as a non-destructive testing technician for a London-based company. Other than that we shared the same surname, that he had dropped out of Princeton and that he had been a shipping magnate, I knew nothing of the uncle who left me a plot of land almost forty hectares large in the middle of nowhere in the Highlands of Scotland. I never met the man. His wife and executor of his will said her husband, childless as they were, had bequeathed property to every relation of his, no matter how distant, in the hopes that his name and life’s work would be fondly remembered.
I cannot say I relate. Maybe I just never had ambition in me or simply I do not care for the love people seem so keen to go after. In my eyes, all the earth ever was is a planet populated by morons, most of which are in dire need of leaders and some of which opt for fulfilling that role. So simple. People clinging onto religion, fighting for lost causes, creating art. Making up purposes of every kind. Anything to lull existence until the final defeat. I do not think there is anything that matters really. I was always one for anchoritism, I guess. But living so detached from the world puts things into a certain perspective.
I have lived here for the past four years and have yet to decide what to do with the loch. There is not much you can do with an expanse of water. I am not attached to it but I admit it is handsome to look at and imagine its depth. In the winter, with its surface frozen as if by the all-encompassing silence, it becomes one with the land surrounding it, a secret sort of being, imperceptible. Maybe I will stay, maybe I won’t.
The fox found me one afternoon in September. He came out of the forest and stood there, at the bank on the other side of the loch, staring at me. I remained immobile for an hour until he got bored and disappeared into the woods, a blush in the low light.
He kept coming and going. Two months later he was eating out of the palm of my hand. When I dared to touch him, I laughed out loud and scared him. Nowadays he does not even mind me brushing him, in springtime when his moulting gets bad, so the trailer is not covered in hair. I prefer his looks in late autumn though; he gets all dapper and cushiony.
Because he is so docile, I suspect Kafka might have belonged to and escaped from someone breeding domesticated foxes. On the other hand, it is clear he has spent enough of his life in the wild, maybe as a stray cub that lost both his parents and somehow survived. When I met him, he was neither a cub nor an adult fox, not a proper one, but something in between. Hence he will always be semi-wild, regardless how long I spend with him.
The first time I put trance on the speakers, Kafka flipped out. This was before I installed a cat flap –a fox flap– and closing the door earlier had been an inadvertent movement on my part to forestall the evening mosquito attack. Instinctively, too, I put on music. The fox was napping curled up in the middle of my white bed sheets while I was busy cooking on the other side of the trailer, over the stove and the adjacent small counter. Thoughtless, I just reached and turned on the stereo.
He wrecked the place, thrashing about and jumping like a lunatic against the walls, hissing and whimpering with considerable brio. Whatever he thought was going on, in his tiny fox brain he had translated the sudden sound as a direct threat. Ears fallen back, tail stashed between his legs, he kept launching himself wild-eyed against my few neatly stacked possessions on the shelves.
The spectacle seemed to me hysterical until the devil bit me. He got me right in the calf, his teeth burying sharply into the soft flesh below my left knee. I did not expect this. As I spun around gasping, I sent the pan with the teriyaki chicken crashing into the washing machine.
Apparently, a terrified fox turns into a jaw-locked idiot. It took me ten minutes to dislodge his toothy grip on my leg, petting his head all the while and muttering continually ‘Stupid baby fox, stupid baby fox,’ under tearful eyes.
The fox listens to trance now. After several low-volume, carefully orchestrated training sessions involving fox treats (hamsters I bought from a pet shop in Inverness) and cuddles, I conditioned him to tolerate the beats. It is pure happiness, jumping into the jeep at night with the fox on my heels, driving to the other side of the loch, turning off the lights and blasting the speakers with 90’s trance classics, rolling up and watching the galaxy. There is no light pollution so all the stars are visible.
Once, I let the fox share a joint with me. The first times I smoked around him, Kafka avoided standing too close, perhaps unsettled by the pungent smell. As with everything else, he gradually grew used to it. One night in the car, I leaned in and breathed smoke I had not inhaled into his nostrils. His nose felt hard and wet against my lips. He freaked out a bit but after a while he loosened up, rested his head on the seat and was blinking very, very slowly.
Sometime in January that first year, the fox disappeared. He just left, early one morning to tend to whatever fox business he tends to when he is not here, and did not return for supper. After three days without any sign, I took the Subaru and drove around looking for him, unwillingly keeping an eye out for road kill. Nada. Fox gone, I started sleeping naked again, a habit I had been forced to give up since he was so scratchy a partner.
Then, in the middle of the night almost a full month later, I was woken up by frantic licking on my beard. The prodigal fox was back. And not only that. He smelled strongly like something from the underworld and had lost half his weight. His fur featured rough patches where skin was showing and he had obviously received bites in a couple of places. I had read up on their mating habits, and the following years I never wondered where the fellow went when he took flight around January, but that first time I was not expecting the fox to return. At least he looked happy, I thought, if not beggarly and spent, and was more aggressive in his affections than I remembered. I realized that despite his fond shrills and unmuffled excitement at our re-acquaintance he was also a bit shaken, which I connected to the barking outside. Probably the dog had followed him all the way here. I pushed the fridge in front of the door, blocking the fox flap, and groggily went back to bed, facing the wall to avoid my stinking fox’s endearments.
In the morning the dog was still there, sporting a sullen and menacing mood that didn’t bode well at all with the peaceful mist hanging over the loch. And I loved the fox, so I calmly picked up my rifle, went down the trailer steps, and blew the dog’s brains out.