“Speak now”

The lazy dog lay sprawled out on the side of the road each morning waiting for the quick brown fox. At sunrise, the hound’s slow eye scrolled the landscape for the first sign of the quick fox.

“There’s no fox,” thought the dog. “Just a few more hours of sleep.”

The quick fox waited in the hedges near where the lazy dog, who hardly ever moved, was.

“He’ll never find me,” said the fox to himself. “I’ll scurry past as I always do.”

The lazy dog’s maw opened widely letting out a yawn. In a few hours, his master would bring him a large hunk of meat. Suddenly, the fox’s head peaked through the hedges.

“That lazy dog will lay there.” thought the fox. “I will certainly get into the coup.”

The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog, pouncing on his nose and onto a fence post.

“Care to go for a jog?” Asked the fox.

“Why would I ever want to do that?”

“Because you’re a lazy dog.”


“I’m a quick fox.”

The fox pranced atop the fence and curled up on a fence post.

“Lazy dogs never get foxes.” the fox added.

“Maybe I don’t want a fox.”

“I’ll get a fox one”

“Uh-huh,” said the fox at the edge of the hedges. With that, the fox disappeared.

“Perhaps tomorrow,” thought the dog. The next morning, the hound eyed the hedges but there was no sign of the fox. The front door of his master’s house opened, and his master’s footsteps came down the porch steps. His master knelt by the hound stroking his neck. Then he pointed to the

“Nobody gets in. Understand boy.”

His master returned to his house and the scent of apple pie began to rise from the chimney. The hound licked his chops and then a furry tail stroked the hound’s chin.

“It’s a cold morning.” said the fox. “It would be warmer in your house.” The fox’s tail pointed across the yard to an empty shed. “from the looks of things, it hasn’t been used in years.”

“I’m fine,” the hound said, yawning. “I have enough to keep me

“What’s over there?” Asked the fox.

“A place no one is supposed to go.”

“You gonna stop me?”

“I might.”

“See that’s the thing.” said the fox, “when you tell me I’m not supposed to be in a place, I just HAVE to go”

For the first time in years, the hound stood to his feet. The fox’s eye twitched.

“Did you just get up?”

“I’m on all fours.”

The fox dashed around the hound, and right up to his face.

“I see, a bit lopsided,” said the fox.

“Now where was I?” Asked the fox.

“On the run.” replied the hound. With that, the hound let out a fierce bark.

“Much worse, I assume.”

The front porch door swung open and the hound’s master ran outside.

“What is it boy?” he asked. Seeing the fox, he went inside and took the double-barrel shotgun from inside.

“This isn’t over,” said the fox.

“Time for you to make a dashing exit.”

As the hound’s master arrived, the fox shot through the hedges and was gone.

“Boy,” said the hound’s master, “we have a fox to get.”

The next day, as the hound was sunbathing, the fox returned.

“Are you going to bark?” asked the fox.

“Maybe, but I have to work up to it.” The hound responded cracking one eye.

“For little ol me? Whatever for?”

“You need a chase.”

“Clever,” responded the fox, “but you didn’t”

“I’m kind of sedentary, chasing foxes is not in my job description.”

“What about a foot race?” The fox asked, rolling under the hound. “You can do that right?”

“Yes,” said the hound, “but that gets my metabolism up, and I don’t feel like sprinting today.”

“Come on, just to the last fence post.”

“You’re not supposed to be, I might add.” Said the hound.

“It’s not because you can’t sprint is it?” Asked the fox.

“I’ll have you know I was the fastest sprinter back in my younger days.”

“That fence post isn’t getting any closer.” laughed the fox.

The hound stood up.

“The last fence post?”

“Yes, just right over there.”

“The last one is a little far, but I might give you the middle post though. That one is closer.”

“Fine. Just to the middle post.”

“Come on where’s your inner hound?”

The hound stood up and kicked up a little dust.

“On your mark, get set, go.”

The hound sprinted to the middle post, and after a second, the quick fox bounded to the middle post just after the hound.

“Dang, I almost broke a sweat there.”

The fox sighed.

“It must be the wind.” said the fox. “fine, just to the last fence post now.”

“Over there?”

“Yes. You’re not scared to lose to me are you?”

“How’s my dust taste?”

“like the half post.”

The hound glanced over to the far post.

“Over there?”

“It’s just a sprint.”

The hound squared himself, getting low to the ground. The fox began to countdown.

“Three, two—” the fox counted.

“One,” said the hound. At once, they dashed for the last post.

“You almost beat me that time.” Said the hound, panting.

“Yes, but you’re such a great distance from the coup.” Laughed the fox again.

“I knew I should’ve barked sooner.”

From the door of the coup, the fox teased the hound.

“I guess I could just borrow an egg or two.

The fox swooped through the door and right into a cage the farmer had built into the inside of the coup door. It closed behind him. There was a small window built into the coup door that opened. From outside, the hound approached.

“I guess I should’ve told you about that.” said the hound. He howled and his master ran to the coup.

“Good job, boy!” he said. He closed the coup window. “Now all I have to do is find a place to put the critter where it won’t disturb any more critters.”

“Don’t run too far.” said the hound, “I’m sure there’s plenty of room in there.”

“I’m still faster.”

“We’ll have to catch up sometime.” responded the hound. “In the meantime, I’m going back to my nap.”

The fox rolled its eyes.

“You weren’t going anywhere, were you?” Asked the hound.

Later that night, the hound was fast asleep. The fox peaked through the opening in the coup.

The next morning the farmer loaded the fox into the back of his truck. The farmer released it beyond the hedges, and the lazy dog sighed, for he knew the fox might return. Spring passed and the lazy hound began to roam. As days passed the hound became agile. Sometime later, during a quiet night, the hound looked up at the sky. Crickets chirped and the trees danced in a gentle breeze as it swept over the countryside.

The smell of moss hung in the balmy air, thick with moisture. The hound sighed, lowering his head into the dirt. He watched as a trail of marching ants scampered along the ground carrying food and leaves. Suddenly, his nose found a familiar scent. He’d smelled it before. It crawled up the back of his nose and lingered there. He knew it already.

The fox had returned. It was there and then it went away. He’d sensed it, amidst the earthy tones of the dirt. The hound looked around and then raised an ear. Amidst the breeze, there were soft footsteps, but they were there nonetheless. The hound rose to his feet. and began sniffing the ground.

The scent was fleeting so his pace quicked. It went right, and then it went in the other direction. Backward and forwards. Suddenly, it was a bit stronger. His snout held onto it now. He was closer. The fox scampered near the hedges, stopping in its tracks. Motionless at the thought of the hound’s approach. The hound stopped waiting for the fox to move. The fox took a step closer, and the hound pursued a step. The fox darted for the coup, carefully masking its movements with the breeze. The old tractor lay still in the field. It had seen better days. Its peeling paint and rust spots added character to the old machine.

Two and a half decades it had been in the family. The fox bounded onto the tractor’s seat and into the second-story window of the barn as the hound walked through the cracked barnyard doors. The fox surveyed the barn in the dim lanterns. The glowing lanterns of the barn with their subtle glow clothed the barn in ambiance.

The fox saw the brooding chickens, thinking only of the eggs they had laid that the farmer had not collected. The hound’s head raised and froze. He sensed the fox was near. The fox dashed swiftly across the edge of the top floor, gently disturbing the hay. He circled the hound from above, calculating his next move. The hound remained still, sniffing the air for the fox. The hound zeroed in as the fox moved. They paused again. The hound walked up the canted boards the farmer had laid on the bales of hay.

“I know you’re in here.” Said the hound. “I picked up on your scent five minutes ago.”

The fox stuck to the shadows.

“You’ve gotten thin.” Said the fox. “I’m impressed.”

The hound laughed.

“I’m kind of attached to my chickens, fox.” said the hound, “I’d kind of like not to lose any of them.”

“I’d kind of attached to your chickens too, hound.”

The fox’s voice drew the hound’s attention.

“For a quick fox that’s kinda slow.”

The fox drew near to the hen’s coup.

“You going to call for the farmer again, hound? That would spoil everything. He’s in there sound asleep, and we’re in here.”

“I think it’s time you went back to hedges.”

“But of course, as soon as I take a few chickens with me.” Said the fox. As it was about to take one of the hens in its mouth, the hound nipped at it.

“Let’s see how you like my bite.” said the hound.

“I owe you a chase.” said the fox.

“Three…Two. One—” The fox lept on the hound’s nose, taking a chicken in its mouth, and onto a bail of hay.

“Are you over there, hound?” The fox said, mouth-watering around the chicken. The hound lunged at the fox and the chicken ran free.

“Now who’s a chicken?” Asked the hound. The fox lept atop a higher bundle of hay.

“That’s right,” said the fox. “You’re still a lazy dog.”

“Not anymore.” responded the hound. With that, the fox jumped out of the window, onto the tractor, and off into the night. The hound stayed, framed in the window. The fox was now a blur. The hound panted in the air which cooled his fur.

He could now hear the crickets again. The blood no longer pounded in his ears. The fox was gone, for now. The hound playfully descended the canted boards. His restless mind eased, and he went back to his shed and lay on top of his pillow. Although dirty, the matted belly of the pillow was soft. Thinking of the farmer, the hound lay his chin between his paws and waited for the rooster to crow. For the black canvas of the night to transcend into shades of indigo as the sun came up.

The next morning, the hound awakened to the thunk of the screen smacking against the slats of the front door. Slung over his shoulder, the grain of the farmer’s tilted bag threatened to spill onto the ground as he fed the chickens, handful by handful. He grabbed a stool and a bucket and milked his cows. He leaned heavily to one side as he carried the milk to the front porch.

The hound wandered through fields of wheat that dwarfed him. The buds swayed in the wind. When he was passed the wheat field, he followed the trail around the house and back into the barn. The hens were all safe and brooding over their eggs.

The hound’s nose sensed the fox. The hound’s heart quickened. He skipped along the trail, nose to the dirt. Amidst the fertilizer and the clay-like scent of the soil, the hound smelled fur, soil, and a hint of pine. The hound ran forward down the dirt trail leading to the creak. The hound wandered over felled logs. He listened for the stream as it mosied along at a snail’s pace.

The scent of the fox grew stronger as the hound’s nose contracted and expanded. With every step, the hound grew closer. The fox was lapping water from the creak. The fox looked over at the hound and their gazes locked on each other.

“Out for a stroll?”Asked the fox. “How are the chickens?”

“Brooding.” said the hound

The fox skipped across to the hound’s side the creak.

“I’m still faster.” Said the fox. “You’re still a lazy dog.”

“On the count of three?” Asked the hound.

“One —” counted the fox.

“Two —” said the hound.

“Three,” they said in unison as the fox dashed into the lead, and the hound gave chase. Under a fence, over it, and through the woodline. The hound was just behind the fox, nipping at its heels.

“Come along hound,” taunted the fox. “nearly there.”

The agile fox swung left, and the hound tumbled slightly before regaining its footing and galloping after the fox.

“Almost,” said the fox. The fox bounded across the field with the speed of a falcon. The hound closed in on the fox until they got to a brick wall. They circled each other, panting.

“What now?” said the fox. “Are you going to give up the chase?”

“After I get a fox.”

The fox sprang off the brick wall. The fox tripped and the hound

“And I’m not a lazy dog.” said the hound, standing over the fox. “I’m a hound.”

The felled fox lay in the dirt, as the hound walked to his shed. The dirt under his feet felt like the clouds floating across the indigo sky above him. The hound’s lungs widened as he took in each thunderous breath and panted triumphantly. He saw the bobbing fields of wheat, in the distance, and thought of his master, who would be making supper or milking cows, or planting wheat. Ahead of the wheat fields, was a creek, half as high as his body where the fishes would glide just beneath the surface of the water undisturbed after he left.

Just beyond the creek was the woodline. The moistened dirt next to the creek would stick to his paws, but he wouldn’t mind. It would be feint as soon as he was back at the shed. The hound’s gait quicked and he began to run, across the creek, and through the wheatfields. Passed the barn, and into his shed, where he rested his head between his paws. There was a scent from the kitchen. It smelled of baked bread. The hound never knew which wonderful smells he would find coming out of the chimney.

The cows lowed in the barn and the horses in the coral. Ants marched across the dirt carrying their food and leaves. The hound sighed. He saw his master pacing the front porch until he became less restless and sat in the rocking chair. His master would peer off into the distance, watching the swaying wheat and the countryside. The crows flying in the sky headed south or to some other meeting place. He sometimes wondered what was on his master’s mind as the rocking chair rolled back and forth on itself. Sometimes he would kick his feet up on the porch and fall fast asleep. Those were the days the hound often thought about.

The hound’s eyes began to feel heavy. He gazed around the farm. A spider spun its web in the tire of the tractor. It would plummet, climb back up on itself, and then plummet again until it finished its funnel. Carefree and oblivious to the world around it, as though time had stopped, and its web was the only thing in its existence. The hound looked around the countryside. The rolling clouds in the sky drifted by slowly. The sun above him was mild. The wind was calm.

In the barn, the hound could hear the chicken’s feint coos. They clucked and fluttered in the hen house. The hound’s eye roamed the farmyard once again. In the air, there was only the smell of baked bread. The hound’s mouth watered. He knew the bread was cooling.

The hound yawned with an extended stretch. Then back to his resting place, where he would drift off to sleep. The hound laid his head against the edge of the doorframe. When he was just about to sleep, he thought of the hedges. In the afternoon sun, the flying bugs buzzed around each other, darting through the air, landing, and reversing into each other. The old pickup truck’s tire was almost flat. It had happened between the time the hound had gone after the fox. In the front yard, the old stump had grown weeds. The hound knew before too long the stomp would be cleared out along with the weeds. It had been a while, but the hound remembered the inside of the house as well.

The crickets chirped once more, and the hound relaxed to their sound. One cricket answered another and back and forth to each other. Their pace quickened and slowed in a relaxed cadence with one another. A meadowlark chirped with them, seemingly to no one, or whatever other meadowlark was listening to it. It swopped off a tree and brought back food for its hatchlings. A hummingbird buzzed around a patch of nearby flowers. It gathered nectar and flew to the next flower. The hound was finally at rest. 

March 25, 2023 03:49

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RBE | Illustrated Short Stories | 2024-06

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