The Boy Who Cried Fox
Copyright © 2010 by Stephen W. Potts. All rights reserved.
Once upon a long time ago, though it could have happened last week, a Boy whose job it was to guard the chickens got bored. He was too old to stay home hanging on his mother’s apron but too young yet to work in the fields or to be apprenticed to one of the tradesmen in the village, so he ended up with one of the jobs reserved for old women and children.
He was tossing pebbles into the fenced pen, watching the fowl flutter and cluck and hop in response, when he heard a voice.
“Hey, kid!” it whispered to him hoarsely. “Wanna have some fun?”
The Boy started, looked to one side then the other, but saw no one.
“Who are you?” he asked.
“I said d’you wanna have some fun?”
“Where are you?”
“Answer me first,” the voice replied. “Then I’ll show myself.”
“Yeah,” the boy said. “I’d like to have some fun.”
“Great.” The bushes at the edge of the woods rustled, and a rusty red animal emerged. There was a flurry of noise and distress in the fowl pen.
“You’re a fox!” said the Boy.
“And your point is?” the Fox rejoined.
“I’ve been warned about foxes.”
“Hey, but who you gonna believe nowadays? Haven’t you heard that f-o-x spells ‘fun’?”
“Whatever.” The Fox glanced toward the pen and licked its muzzle before fixing the beads of its eyes on the boy. “Now listen to me. Here’s what you want to do.”
After hearing the Fox out, the Boy ran to the village and sounded the alarm. All the villagers within hearing turned out into the square, including the most important ones: the Butcher, the Miller, the Old Man who could read, and the Guy who owned the biggest house in town, which he had inherited from his father.
“What is it?” asked the Butcher.
“I just found out that the people from the village across the river are coming to steal our food,” said the Boy.
“We can’t let that happen,” said the Miller.
“Let’s attack them first!” cried the Guy who owned the biggest house in town, which he had inherited from his father.
The villagers cheered in agreement.
“Wait a second,” said the Old Man who could read. “Where did this news come from?”
But the villagers had already stormed off to get their pitchforks, scythes, and torches. By the next morning they had all returned, after burning the village across the river and all the lands around it. But when the villagers carried the Boy in triumph back to his post, they discovered that during the night three of the chickens had been stolen.
“Once more, Boy,” said the Old Man who could read. “Where did this news come from?”
With all the eyes of the village upon him, he could not bring himself to lie.
“From the Fox,” he said.
“Haven’t you been told?” said the Old Man who could read. “Never trust the Fox! The Fox is cunning and serves only its own interests. Whatever the Fox tells you, it’s crap.”
“Don’t ever bring us such a story again, Boy,” warned the Butcher.
And the villagers all went back to the village, muttering against the Boy.
But the next day the Boy again grew bored with his chores, and this time he himself called out for the Fox. He called three times before the Fox appeared.
“What is it, kid?” It belched; a feather fell from its snout.
“I wanna have more fun,” said the Boy.
“So you got a rush from that, hey? Okay, here’s what you do.”
This time when the Boy ran to the village and raised the alarm, he told the villagers that the chickens had been stolen by the foreign wanderers who sought work, and who were encamped in the glen south of the village just waiting for a chance to steal more.
“Let’s put them to work then refuse to pay them!” shouted the Guy.
“Let’s drive them back where they came from!” shouted the Miller.
“Let’s do them severe bodily harm!” shouted the Butcher.
“Where did you hear this news?” asked the Old Man. “Not the Fox again, I hope.”
But the villagers had already stormed off to get their pitchforks, scythes, and torches. When they returned, they found that another three chickens had been taken from the pen.
“It was that Fox again, wasn’t it?” said the Old Men, who had refused to join the festivities of the previous two days.
The Boy could not deny it.
“Didn’t you hear the Old Man?” asked the Butcher. “You should never listen to anything the Fox tells you.”
“You can’t ever expect us to believe another story you bring to us,” said the Miller. “Ever ever ever ever.”
“Fool me once, shame on you,” said the Guy. “Fool me twice — uh . . . we won’t be fooled again!”
And they all went away, leaving the Boy alone with the chickens that remained.
The Boy was really bored by the next day when the Fox showed up again.
“I got a really good one this time,” said the Fox.
“I’m not supposed to listen to you,” said the Boy.
“No, really –“
The Boy covered his ears. “La-la-la-la.”
When he uncovered them a moment later, the Fox explained the plan.
The Boy raised the alarm in the village, and all the villagers within hearing showed up in the square.
“What is it this time?” asked the Butcher.
“This better be good,” said the Miller.
“I’ll bet it’s the Fox again,” said the Old Man. “Don’t even listen.”
“It is the Fox,” the Boy confessed. “It told me that the Old Man w.c.r. is the one who has been stealing our chickens.”
“Are you shittin’ me?” said the Old Man.
“He’s the only one who has been staying behind as everyone else went after the bad guys,” the Boy pointed out.
“Hey, that’s right!” said the Guy.
And with that all the villagers ran for their pitchforks, scythes, and torches, except for the Old Man who could read, who ran for the road.