On the street she walks along most days there is a wall. The wall is one side of a building and is tall and made of brown bricks, neatly piled and cemented together. The wall has been painted in one spot, up high, and it is this painting of a triangle fox that she watches as she walks. The fox is brightly coloured, with kaleidoscope eyes. The first time she saw it was not so long ago, for she is new here and has only had the courage to walk the streets since she has known to some extent where they join. She told Miles about the fox that first time, but he frowned and kept typing and she couldn’t really explain about the yellow parts and the cave cheeks and the spike of its ears, or how it made her scared and safe at the same time, so she stopped, mid-sentence. Later he touched her hair as he walked to brush his teeth and asked her to tell him more about the tiger. She didn’t correct him.
Then there are the days when she walks down the street with the wall with the painting on it for no reason other than to look up at the fox. She isn’t very busy—jobs are like lucky pigs here—and she feels small and blurry in the apartment on her own. Sometimes as she rounds the bend and lets out a small sigh as she sees the fox up high, there is an old man standing where she stands when she looks at the fox, and he is looking up, too. He gives her a heart ache, with his grubby mittens in the middle of summer, the same drooping plastic bag by his side, every time. She feels so sad – her heart is an emptying bath. But he always moves before she gets to the spot, so, without guilt, she can look up, drinking in the kaleidoscope gaze from above her.
She is looking up at the fox one day, at that time in the very late afternoon when you can almost smell the sun sinking. She does not see the man until he backs into her, his grey hair combed straight and his jacket sticky. She apologizes; chokes out a laugh; wants him to know she does not fear him. He doesn’t seem to hear her. The man stumbles and she moves to let him as he tilts back his head and looks up at the fox. He is saying something—she can hear something croaking out between his upper lip and jaw. She cups her ear to hear him.
word by Laura Helen McPhee-Browne
colour by DAAS