'To Spot a Fox' by Amy LeBlanc



Once upon a time, there was a girl who lived in an apartment with her mother, and her father, and her older sister. She wore a red dress and parted her hair down the middle and she tied her shoes with twine each morning. She looked at her reflection in the mirror before she went to visit her grandmother with a basket full wine and cheese. She looked in the mirror one last time and was startled at the face that peered back at her. The face resembled her own, but there was a meanness in her eyes and a smirking tilt in her mouth. The girl in the mirror parted her lips to speak even though the girl had not done so herself. The reflection said they’d never love you, you know. not like I will. The girl was so frightened that she threw a blanket over the mirror and vowed never to look at it again. She went to her grandmother’s and spoke of birds, and seeds, and plants, but she did not tell her about the mirror. Her grandmother sent her home with an armful of rosemary to give to her parents. Try as she did to sleep that night, the girl could not resist. She lit a candle and lowered the blanket from the mirror. She squared her shoulders and looked into the eyes of her reflection, illuminated only by candlelight. The girl in the mirror smiled. I knew you’d come back. You’ll always come back. The girl folded the blanket on the floor and crawled back under her covers.


*


Foxgloves are almost identical to dock leaves before they’re in bloom. The trouble is that one leaf is a magical cure for nettle stings while the other fills your lungs with spores and poisons you from the inside out. A botanist once ended his life by eating two leaves from his foxglove plant. He knew the deadly dose, but all parts of the plant are deadly if swallowed. Digitalis purpurea. It doesn’t bloom until its second year. When it does, the throats of the blooms are white with dark spots as if a scarf cinched around them—as if something were cutting its way through. They are often referred to as thimbles, because you can slip your finger right inside the bell and surround it with the soft pink blooms. In legends, foxgloves could impregnate women. Flora was showing off for the others and ran foxgloves across her belly and her breasts, raising the fine hairs on her stomach. The seed was planted and she later gave birth to Mars— fathered by foxgloves. Others say that a faerie taught foxes how to ring bells when hunters were coming. They saved their skins and their tails with their bells. Van Gogh used foxgloves to treat his epilepsy.


*


My plants love to hear the words tumbling from my lips. They may not understand, but they writhe in slow motion like the Eurasian Woodcock. Some day, they might wrap around my torso and caress me with their poison. They’ll keep growing long after I’m gone. They don’t need me anymore.


Let me tell you a story: once upon a time, there was a fox and there were two girls who came around with baskets full of bread. The girls met the fox and he bit one of their heads clean off. The girls don’t come around anymore. One is dead and the other is lifeless. Despite it all, fingernails and plants continue to grow. Here is the truth: foxglove can raise the dead and kill the living.


*


Once upon a time, a young girl in a red dress opened her door and found a fox on her doorstep. The fox’s fur was teeming with bugs and he asked the girl if she could clean him. She put on her best satin gloves and sat down beside him to pick at his fur one bug at a time. “How did you get so many bugs?” she asked him. He licked his paws and began to speak. “I can’t remember where I live.” “You can’t remember your home?” “Not at all. I wandered for ages and then I slept in the leaves. I didn’t know they were covered in bugs.” He paused, “Can I tell you a secret?” The girl nodded. “You promise you won’t tell?” She used her satin-gloved index finger to trace an X over her heart. “Someone drowned me in a cloth bag.” The girl furrowed her brow because she did not understand. “You don’t just disappear when you die. I saw your porch light on. I need a home.” The girl’s eyes began to water at the thought of not having a place to call home. She had removed almost all of the bugs and the fox looked clean enough. “You must come and live with me. You’ll like it here. We have a fish and the ghost of a girl that drowned. I promise you’ll like it.” The fox put his head down in her lap, breathing in the scent of her red dress as she picked the last of the bugs from his fur. When she was finished, she reached behind her for some dandelions and placed them behind his ears. “Welcome home,” she said.


*





Amy LeBlanc holds a BA (Hons) in English Literature and creative writing from the University of Calgary. She is currently non-fiction editor at filling Station magazine. Her work has appeared, or is scheduled to appear in Room, Prairie Fire, Contemporary Verse 2, Geez, and EVENT among others. Amy won the 2018 BrainStorm Poetry Contest for her poem 'Swell'. She is the author of two chapbooks, most recently "Ladybird, Ladybird" published with Anstruther Press in August 2018. She attended the Emerging Writers Intensive at the Banff Centre for the Arts in October 2018.

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