Silver Wolf lived in a dark forest far away from all people. In fact he didn’t even know what people were. He knew who Red Fox was. That guy was always telling stories of one thing or another because he was sly and slipped into everyone’s business. However, even though he had an inkling of just about everything, it seemed that he never quite had the full picture; Brother Toad once remarked on Red Fox’s ability to spin a tale as “Fantasy on a lily pad, with truth buzzing by”.
Most creatures took whatever Red Fox had to say with a grain of salt, but Silver Wolf felt that if a truth was buzzing by, it would be good idea to listen, and so with this sentiment he was doing just that, listening to Red Fox talk about a strange creature.
“Red Fox, what is this creature you saw?” Silver Wolf asked.
“Oh, this creature was very beautiful and it walked with two paws in the air. It carried a little cub on its back, who was also beautiful.” Red Fox paused. “But if I know the nature of most creatures correctly, this creature was in a sad state.”
“Oh my” Silver Wolf said. “How sad was it?”
“It was acting as if my small paw steps were a big noise.”
“That is really sad actually. Not even mother Rabbit hops away at your foot steps!”
“Humph” Remarked Red Fox, “Mother Rabbit doesn’t run because she knows I will not eat her.”
“Kind you are, kind you are” Silver Wolf said.
Red Fox was a little offended by this. He always thought he was quite scary when he needed to be and never very kind. It was a code amongst wolves and foxes and coyotes that they never be too kind to anyone but family. Otherwise, the kingdom would not acknowledge them as formidable predators and their status would be stripped. To call Red Fox kind was a big insult.
“Well you think I’m not so scary do you!? I’ll show you Silver Wolf, this creature is much larger than me, and trembles at the sight of my tail!”
Silver Wolf smiled. He liked teasing Red Fox because he was fond of him. They were as close as brothers, and they argued like brothers too. “Well Red Fox, if you will show me that you can scare this creature big and strange, I will not call you kind.”
Red Fox got very excited because, Silver Wolf was the scariest of all the wolves and foxes and dogs, and if he thought Red Fox was scary then all animals would too. ‘And,’ Red Fox said to himself, ‘Mother Rabbit would no longer think I’m so nice’.
“Okay Silver Wolf,” said Red Fox. “Follow me when the sun rises and I’ll show you this creature and how much I can scare it.”
Red Fox first, Silver Wolf behind, they turned south at dawn. The sun moved from their left to their right, and they knew the direction. They walked very far, farther than Silver Wolf had ever been, across creeks with muddy banks, and through tall pines that leaned into the slopes they grew out of.
After a few days, the constant walking and traveling impressed Silver Wolf so much that he said, very loudly so that Red Fox would hear him, “Peripatetic!”
Red Fox paused, and turned to face Silver Wolf, slightly affronted. “Why do you insult me Silver Wolf? I thought you’d be impressed with these trails.”
“I am”, replied the Wolf, “You are a Peripatetic Fox, indeed.”
“Now wait a minute. Who are you calling pathetic?”, challenged Red Fox.
At this, Silver Wolf began to laugh- a laugh which very much annoyed Red Fox. “Peripatetic, Red Fox, not pathetic.” Silver Wolf then spoke very slowly, “Pe- ri- pa- teti -c”. He spat a little when he got to the “ck” in “-tetic”.
“Ah”, said Red Fox. “What is this – uh – peripoederrick?”
“Peripatetic,” explained Silver Wolf, “-is you. And a good peripatetic too”.
“Indeed”, said Red Fox.
Feeling honoured without quite knowing why, Red Fox continued to lead the way through a winding trail that now dipped along a rocky gorge. Eventually they turned west and followed a deer trail into a broad forest full of many more oaks and maples than Silver Wolf was used to. There were also very tall, very interesting trees.
Their soft pat pat on the ground moved in rhythm with the show of jazzy birds up above. Red Fox moved his snout this way and that, acknowledging the crowd. “Soo Soo, Red Fox, Soo Soo!” The birds sang. One bird known as Grandmother Owl, kept a sharp eye on Silver Wolf. “Hom hom, who who are you?” She asked.
Silver Wolf politely bowed and replied, “Grandmother, I am Silver Wolf.”
She considered him for a second and then, “Hom hom, brothers.”
Silver Wolf did not understand, but Red Fox smiled and whispered, “We are brothers, you and I”. Silver Wolf felt a light warming in his heart.
“Grandmother, do you say we are brothers?”
Grandmother Owl took a moment to gaze at Silver Wolf and then at Red Fox. “Hom hom, brothers”. At this the birds all began a chorus of jazzy elation; woodwinds, brass, and strings! The forest was in celebration of the return of young Red Fox, and he blushed, turning even redder than he was already.
Silver Wolf did not know that foxes could blush. “These are your friends are they?”, asked the wolf.
“Yeah”, replied Red Fox, fondly.
“They seem to like you,” said Silver Wolf reassuringly, and he swatted the little fox on the head with his massive wolf-sized paw.
Red Fox continued to lead the way, even more proudly than before, while the sun slowly fell towards the horizon ahead. When the forest was alight with evening orange colour, Silver Wolf could smell food cooking, and when he looked up, smoke was visible in the distance. “More friends of yours I hope”, mused Silver Wolf.
“Oh no”, said Red Fox, “This smells of the beasts, the ones who walk with two paws in the air.”
“Hmmm”, muttered Silver Wolf. There was a strong musk coming from the direction of the fire. He was not sure what beast could generate that array of scents- sweat, urine, milk, blood, and fire. He felt it was strange. . . almost foreign.
As they got nearer to the fire Red Fox began to wind through the trees, tip-toeing cautiously. He would pause, listen, sniff the air, and continue in another direction, zig zagging towards a clearing where the smoke originated. When they were very close, he found a large felled tree trunk and crouched behind it. Silver Wolf followed suit.
“Silver Wolf”, whispered Red Fox, “This is the place. There were only two the last time I was here, but there are more that I can smell.”
Silver Wolf peered around the tree trunk to see a single creature crouched near the fire pit, adjusting pieces of meat that were hewn near the smoke. It was an animal unlike any other: when it stood up it looked like a bear, but its skin reminded him of a whale, yet still, it used its paws much like a raccoon. It was peculiar, and had a long horse mane on its head.
“Interesting”, said Silver Wolf. He was thinking that this was an adventure the likes of which he had not been on since he was a very young pup- and even then, he traveled north into the cold winds and lakes of the migrating geese. He saw elk and moose, and brown bears who taught him to fish. He never saw a thing so bewildering. This creature seemed to be several animals wrapped into one.
“-and that is a standing burrow”, said Red Fox intelligently. He gestured towards the structure behind the creature. “They came out of it before when I was here. It is bigger now than—“
-There was a sharp noise like a bird, or a puppy, or a purring bear cub, but not quite any of those. It seemed to be a kind of laughter.
Silver Wolf and Red Fox looked down to see a small thing looking at them. It smiled playfully with big brown curious eyes.
“Um”, said Red Fox cautiously, “Hullo?”
The creature laughed, squealed, and reached for the fox who backed away startled, arching himself out of his crouching position. He was now visible to the other, larger creature standing by the fire.
In half a moment several things happened: The thing squealed, Silver Wolf slid into the shadows, and a very thick, heavy stick came flying through the air, smacking Red Fox in the face. There was yelling coming from the direction of the fire, and several of the creatures (who appeared to materialise out of thin air) were now running straight for Red Fox, waving arms menacingly.
Red Fox was so frightened he ran away yelping with its tail between his legs, and Silver Fox, who was observing from the shadows, cracked a smile. The creatures, three of them, raced towards the little laughing thing; one of them scooped it up like a mother would, and brought it back near the fire, while the others walked around, alert.
Several other creatures, upright like bears, emerged from the standing burrow.
Silver Wolf observed the creatures and took note; their presence was important to him. He decided that when the time was right he would introduce himself, but not yet. He would wait until they smelled more like the forest, and less like a freshly migrated flock of vultures.
Over the next few days Silver Wolf returned home to find that Red Fox had managed to make it back through the Oak and Maple forest, around the gorge and thick pines, and across the muddy creek in half a night (a fraction of the time it took them to arrive there). All across the forest, animals were chittering about strange beasts that had maliciously attacked Red Fox and Silver Wolf with uprooted trees, all while laughing!
“Big bad fox”, said Silver Wolf, approaching Red Fox who was in the middle of re-enacting his heroic escape to a group of awe-struck rabbits. “Yes little hoppers”, Silver Wolf interjected, “This brave fox was no match for the smiling cub.”
Red Fox blushed, this time out of sheer embarrassment.
“Cub?”, inquired the Rabbits.
“Yes, it was a baby”, continued Silver Wolf, “We upset its mother no doubt. She threw sticks and dirt and ran to pick up her cub. She was followed by others of her pack. Very interesting encounter I must say.”
The Rabbits chuckled, “Oh Red Fox…” and hopped away, giggling.
“It’s okay little brother,” said Silver Wolf to the disappointed looking fox. “They are strange creatures to be around. Some type of hybrids.” Silver Wolf paused and took a breath. “Listen, if you are up for it, I would like a favour from you.”
Red Fox piped up at this request. Silver Wolf never asked for favours, this must be important. “Yes Silver Wolf?”
“I want you stay far from those creatures, but keep an ear out from your friend Grandmother Owl. I think we should keep tabs on these new comers. Something tells me they are significant.”
Red Fox nodded, he felt better now that he had an important job to do. “I will be sure to keep a close eye- um- I mean, I’ll keep a close ear on the creatures who stand up like bears.”
Silver Wolf patted Red Fox on the head. “I won’t say you are not a kind fox, little brother”.
Red Fox frowned. He had failed to show Silver Wolf how scary he could be.
“But”, Silver Wolf added encouragingly (whilst massaging his own sore paws), “I will tell anyone who asks that you are the most peripatetic canine I have ever met”.
Red Fox smiled.
Dedicated to my nephew.