Mr. Fox came out of the shadows as Boy left the soup kitchen. The fox seemed to not emerge as much as step through them as though the darkness was a kind of door, his eyes sharp and cool as he stared up at Boy. Boy’s stomach was gurgling happily and he had to resist the urge to poke it and see if it would make more noises; being full was a new experience, and one he was quite enjoying.
“They don’t let us take doggie bags. Or fox-bags,” Boy said, quite proud of the joke.
“I imagine not. They fed you, yes?” the fox said softly, for his ears alone.
Boy rubbed his stomach under his shirt and grinned a nod, which is perhaps even more foolish than it sounds but he was full and happy with it.
“Good.” The fox paused a beat and slipped into a small side street, leaving Boy to scramble after him. “I trust, Boy, that your stomach is as full as your mind is empty?”
“Their food is not without cost. They would have told you stories.” The fox paused another beat. “Parables.”
Boy scratched his scalp in thought. “They said we’d be reunited with our families in heaven?”
“And you think that is a blessing?” the fox asked, words as quick as sharp as movement as he spun back to face Boy, his eyes cool and bright under moonlight.
Boy bit into his lower lip and shook his head. He remembered enough about his parents to know that wasn’t anything he’d want. Not their faces or names, but the feel of them came to him easily, disappointment and anger rising through him like bile. “They didn’t want me,” he whispered, his voice hoarser than normal.
“I can’t imagine why not,” Reynard Fox said, and his tone was so dry that Boy giggled despite himself. “There is this about stories, Boy: the more seductive they are, the less truth they are apt to contain. A story that speaks only to the heart is seldom a true story at all.”
“I don’t –.” Boy flattered, in word and step. “I don’t understand why anyone wants a life beyond this one, Mr. Fox.”
“Many seek reward, Boy. Others redemption, or the punishment of their enemies. Or to regain what they believe was taken from them, or perhaps lost. Few can boast a life free of desire, and desire is no small thing. There are many whose lives are so very small because they believe it will be far better for them in he world they believe is to come.”
“You’re saying it is a lie?”
“Nothing so simple, Boy. But it is a terrible story to trick anyone with, and one I myself do not use.”