Instinct Unheeded

Red Fox Seebarmirum flickr

Photo credit: Seabamirum

The squirrel said to Fox, “Come, talk with me.”

“I think not,” said Fox. ” I know you, Tan-Tan the Trickster, and your tongue is a weapon.” She turned away.

Tan-Tan called after her. “I could make you beautiful.”

“In return for what?”

“Something small.” Tan-Tan winked, coy.

“Meh. What use is beauty? Will it feed me? Protect my cubs?  No, I’ll give nothing for that.”

Tan-Tan stayed, gossiping and joking. Fox listened, even smiled. Clever is charming, after all.

The next day, Tan-Tan returned, chatting and laughing. Then: “Beauty could lure a mate.”

“No worthy mate values appearance over substance. I’ll give nothing for that.”

The third day, Tan-Tan tried again. “The other animals would treat you better.”

Tempting. Being the dull gray lump of the woodland hierarchy was tiresome. But, no. “Then they are fools. I’ll give nothing for that.”

Tan-Tan shrugged. “Fine. I only wanted the gift of your conversation. You give that freely, do you not?”

“Yes, but–” Only barks emerged.

Tan-Tan clucked his squirrel tongue. “My favorite part is, you knew better.”

Fox scowled at her bright, fiery fur, anticipating the dangers this fresh beauty would bring. She darted to safety, far too late.

Word count: 200.  Written for this week’s Sunday Photo Fiction challenge.  Big thanks to Al Forbes for hosting, and for providing the original photo, below.

Sorry I haven’t posted much lately.  All is well, I’ve just been incredibly busy at work.  I also lost a whole weekend worth of writing when I went to a three-day writers’ conference. It was totally worth it for the ideas and inspiration and meeting new friends and old, I just wish it hadn’t been in the middle of Killer September.


Photo © Al Forbes at A Mixed Bag

29 thoughts on “Instinct Unheeded

  1. How the fox got its red coloring. Very good. One thing though, if she had cubs, she’s already attracted a mate and red foxes mate for life. I also found out that foxes are probably not color blind, so the change in color would matter.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Of course you would catch that. 😉 I was trying to word the “my cubs” so that it could be hypothetical, about future cubs. Otherwise you’re right, the mate thing wouldn’t make sense. But then, if this is supposed to be one of those fables some group in Eneana tells, it’s the moral message that’s important; they aren’t necessarily accurate about the biological details. So there’s my out. 😉 Thanks for keeping me on my toes, James!

      Liked by 2 people

    • Aha, but I never said foxes were considered sly. 🙂 I try not to use the same associations I learned in my own culture and copy them straight to Eneana, but to instead mix them up with associations from other cultures or some that are completely made up. For instance, the real-life trickster gods I’m used to are coyotes, monkeys, or foxes, whereas mine usually appears as a crow or a squirrel.

      Thanks for reading, Iain!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hm, I’m not sure about that — Tan-Tan (aka Condeanta) gets the people of Eneana in an awful lot of trouble. I’m glad she/he isn’t hanging around my world too!

      Thanks for reading Keith, glad you enjoyed it!


    • Thanks, glad you enjoyed it! I wasn’t thinking of the Fox as “the Fool” in this story (not in the classic sense, at least). More that anyone who lets themselves be lured in to talk with the Trickster is taking a great risk. She should have listened to her instincts and walked away!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, exactly! I’d initially written out the moral of the story more blatantly: Tan-Tan said something like, “You should have paid attention to your instinct and not trusted the trickster.” But I backed off to make it a bit more subtle, and changed the title instead. Glad you enjoyed it!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hm, I’ve never thought of my stories as being especially morbid, but I suppose people interpret them in a range of ways. I’m always worried I lean too far in the opposite direction, tending too strongly toward the happy ending. This one seems pretty sad to me, actually: poor Fox got really screwed.

      Thanks for reading, Varad!


      • No, that’s fine! I’d like to think I write a range of moods, not just the same thing every time, and certainly some of them could be seen as morbid! Actually, I wish I could get a little *more* morbid sometimes — an awful lot of the place that accept fantasy short stories are looking for “darker” pieces.


    • What an awful message for you to take away, oh no! The way I saw it, the squirrel is a trickster god, and the fox knew that it was dangerous to even talk to him, but thought she could be smarter than the trickster god. It’s always risky to play games with someone who’s trickier than you. I didn’t intend anything about the fox being nice or selfless; she was being cocky. In my stories, the nice and selfless people always win. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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