Three deaths

Sawn off, jut-jawed, tongue lolling, a fox muzzle lies on the path at the edge of the field, small enough to fit in the palm of a hand and easy to miss, for all its fierce grin and airy white moustache. Apart from the obvious injury, it’s in good condition and can’t have been here long. What did this? Surely not a dog off the lead. The local pack? Not in this field. Another fox? I peer around, but see no gore, no brush and no other clues; the ground is too hard for tracks, and it’s getting dark. A riddle without an answer. The punchline to a lost fable.

When I pass the same way next morning, there’s nothing of it left at all. And then I’m back a few years a couple of hundred yards away, looking at two large crows on the same path, heads together, glossy in the summer sun, all intact and both stone dead. The transformer looming over them hums to itself. Clear cause and effect, yes – but there’s something uncanny here, and I’m not the only one to feel it. From further up the field comes an elderly man I know by sight. He came by with his two Alsatians earlier on, he says, and the dogs skirted and barked at the dead birds in fright. Was it a sign?


This scrap of writing dates from 2014, and I’m still not entirely sure what it is. A prose poem, I suppose. I include it here partly because the fox and the crows keep coming back to me, and partly because I like scraps of stories: severed ends, beginnings or middles that glow at least as brightly in unexplained isolation as they would in a whole tale.