I, Said the Fox with the Worried Frown

Sly, why’re you even gettin a tree?

“What do you mean?”

Well, Tiff’s off in Michigan or sumthin wit her family, you ain’t got no family, least dat I know bout, and yer nuts if ya tink I’m spendin Christmas witchoo.

“I’d be nuts if I wanted you to spend Christmas with me.”

Xactly. So’s why the big deal? You got nobody to impress.

“I just want a Christmas tree, I didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition.”

Well, looks like dey might come in handy.

“Aw crap.”

You’re a Mean One, Shady Shrew.

Dat doity rat stole mah tree!

I didn’t never! Heh, I cut this one down myself!

Yer a lyer!

“I think we might just try to ignore this one, ok?”

Sounds like a plan ta me, Sly. He waddles over to the fire and starts warming his hands. I bite back the urge to tell him that he should have worn a shirt if he’s cold, and start examining the foliage.

I ain’t gonna take dis one lyin down!

So call the cops, ya joik. Hehehe.

I dun need dem! I kin deal wit you right here an now!

I cringe. Not today, please.

Hey, whut?

Lemme see dat axe fer a minute.

Aw gawd HELP! HELP POLICE!

He said the magic word.

“Alright, what’s all this then?”

The freeze, both looking at me. They’re still in a tug of war over the axe, the shrew has the tree leaning over his shoulder. As they stare, it slowly lists backward and falls to the snow with a soft crunch. Their only reaction is a quick, suppressed wince.

I scowl at them. “All right, you first.”

Wull, dis guy’s trying ter walk of wit one a my trees! Dat’s illegal… roight?

I’m not gonna bother answering that. “And you?”

I cut this tree down myself, see? Heh, an now this big palooka thinks he can just pop outa nowhere and play Lizzie Borden on my face? No way!

Yer a damn prevaricator, an detective Fox here’s gonna bring you in, and then I’ma come for you!

“…maybe he is. But he isn’t the only prevaricator.”

Whut?

“Is he?”

Wull, it’s obvious, right? I mean, the trunk’s all sawn-off clean like, but he aint got a saw, he’s got an axe!

Yeah, and I’m gonna keep it, too! Heheheheh.

“None of that explains how you know my name.”

It’s amazing. His face falls, but the mask doesn’t–it looks like his cheekbones melted or something. Then he realizes that gave him away even more, and just looks disgusted, even through the mask.

I’ll have you know, Detective, that he did indeed steal that from my lot.

“Never said he didn’t.”

Then prior to the tedious necessity of explanation, would you kindly take steps to ensure he does not leave?

“Max?” I shout over my shoulder, “cuff him!”

But I tought da plan was ta ignore dis one!

“Yeah, well, the plan changed. Now cuff him or I’ll cuff you.”

Hey, this ain’t kosher! I demand my rights!

“Shut up. Alright, now get on with that explaining you talked about.”

Never took your eyes off me for second, did you? Clever.

“That doesn’t sound like an explanation to me.”

He shrugs and pushes the mask up onto his forehead. You have no idea how much this itches. But what is there to explain? I bought myself a tree for the holidays, left it in the front yard while I fetched the stand from the attic, and came back just in time to see this accursed insectivore making off with it. I snatched the nearest disguise, and pursued him. And I would have gotten away with it too, if not for you meddling police.

“You got family?”

That gets a chuckle. None to speak of, no.

“Then why the tree?”

I just wanted a Christmas Tree. What’s so strange about that?

Well. Huh. He does have a point. “I guess we’re bringing him in, Max.”

But Sly, ain’t dat- whoever dat guy is? Aint he sposed ta be in jail?

“What for? Wanting a Christmas Tree isn’t illegal.”

He smirks, and collects his recovered decoration. Merry Christmas, detective.

“Whatever.”

So now here I am, standing on the middle of the bridge, alone. They’ve set up a skating rink in the riverside park, and beyond that is the river itself, slow, heavy, dirty, and cold. But it reflects every light anyone anywhere in the city turns on, and there’s more than a few of those tonight.

Something lands on my nose. It tickles. Guess it’s starting to snow.

Good. That means I hear the footsteps crunching behind me. “I couldn’t get a tree. Sorry.”

Figured, Foxy. I went ahead and got one myself.

“Always thinking ahead.”

You know me.

“I do.”

What happened, anyway?

“The usual. Ran into some old friends.”

Once again, as in olden days, happy golden days of yore, Faithful friends who were dear to us, will be near to us, once more? she hums.

“Heh. Something like that, yeah.”

So you gonna stand here jawing me to death? Cassie grins, What’s a girl gotta do to get you to come open your present?

I wish I could tell her. There’s this infinite black void all around me, that’s screaming that I can’t trust her, can’t trust anybody. Stealing someone’s Christmas tree is low, but there’s lower. She’s gotta be playing me.

But still, there’s the lights, and then there’s the cold. I can see em both from here. And I’d rather be in the lights. At least for tonight.

“Nothing.” I take her by the arm, “Course, I mighta gotten you something too, we’ll have to see.”

Besides, I can always play her right back.

Merry Christmas, Foxy.

“Merry Christmas.”

The Final Word.

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