Transcript, a Literature Across Frontiers publication
(c) Youssef Rakha
SHORT STORY: Foxes and Birds by Mehis Heinsaar
Foxes and birds (Rebased ja linnud)
(c) Jüri J Dubov
Translated from Estonian by Adam Cullen
Sitting at home drinking coffee alone on a Thursday morning and absentmindedly looking out the window, small-family-home designer Rein Vihalemm felt he was starting to slowly turn into a fox. It was a strange feeling. The architect’s moods became vigilantly alert, his nostrils awoke to sense new and interesting aromas and Rein’s gaze would unexpectedly, even to him, focus on the neighbor’s yard – where chickens strutted about, one meatier than the next. Rein Vihalemm could then feel the spittle already dripping from the corner of his mouth. The man sprung up instinctively, only to sit back down in his chair.
“What the hell – am I going crazy or something?” he thought in terror, poured himself another mug of coffee and sat back down to eye the plum trees watchfully.
Yet in the next moment, Rein charged up once again, ran out the door and ducked down behind the neighbors’ fence. Thirteen beautiful, plump chickens walked around on the other side of the currant bush and a mesh wire enclosure. Rein watched the birds with his eyes opened wide and his tongue lolling from his mouth, feeling something – that could not have been there – begin to wag from side to side near his bottom.
Sweet tension grew higher and higher within the man and finally, unable to resist the temptation, he jumped across the fence, right into the middle of the flock. A second later, three chickens had their necks wrung twice over and Rein Vihalemm’s heart was at peace. The man was even amazed at his own adroitness in retrospect. With the chickens clutched under his arm, the architect was already planning to climb back across the fence when someone’s light voice forced him to halt.
“Excuse me, but what are you doing here right now!?” someone shouted from behind him. This “someone” was the neighbor’s wife, Inge Teder.
In any other situation, Rein Vihalemm would have jumped out of his skin; yet now – brimming with vulpine cunning and human intelligence – he turned around calmly and smiled at his neighbor.
“Instead of thanking me, you become angry. That’s not nice, Inge!”
“My question was: what are you doing in our yard with chickens under your arm?” intoned the neighbor’s wife, repeating the question more demandingly.
“Fine. If you so wish to know, then I suppose I’ll explain,” Rein Vihalemm gave in. “What happened was actually that I’m sitting in my kitchen having my morning cup of coffee and trying to ease into the work day, about to begin, when all of a sudden I see from the window – a fox! The kind with fluffy fur and a long tail. And it’s slinking right across my yard towards your chicken pen, when – bam! – over the fence and straight to snapping necks. “Oh, what horror!” I shout, jump up and go right after him! As luck had it, I made it here right at the last second; or else the fucker would have killed off every single one.”
“Your story is strange and hard to believe, dear neighbor; I’ve never seen a single fox here!” The neighbor woman replied suspiciously, even placing her hands on her hips in a menacing stance.
“You hadn’t before, but now you have,” said Rein, not refraining from a retort. “One time is always the first.”
“So, so. Interesting: where is that fox, then?”
“I said that it’s interesting – where is your fox, then? I would also like to see this miracle animal!” the woman demanded.
“Why don’t you believe me, Inge?” Rein sighed in such despair that a tear even glinted in the corner of his eye. “I said I drove him away! You see, the piece of crap even managed to bite my leg first. I truly don’t know where he could be right now.”
The neighbor woman’s expression now became more hesitant. It seemed that she was starting to so much as soften.
“Have you really then not heard on the radio or read in the papers that foxes have taken over all the suburbs of London and Berlin as of late?” Rein the architect continued on with even greater gusto, sensing how something in the area of his rear was once again starting to wiggle back and forth. “They don’t even fear hunters or the police any longer, not to mention ordinary people; and now, this scourge has apparently reached our little town as well. Isn’t it crazy!”
When Inge Teder nodded at the man upon hearing this, wearing an expression of complete confusion, Rein Vihalemm instantly felt something new within him: an even more feral fervor for the hunt awakening, a zeal of such dimensions that it shocked even himself … and brimming with vulpine cunning and human intelligence, he found it was the proper time to start closing in on a new prey.
Rein now stepped towards the neighbor’s young wife, took her by the hand and looked deep into her eyes.
“So you believe that I acted wrongly?” he inquired softly. “I should have just witnessed that vicious animal slaughtering all of your chickens one by one, holding a bloodbath, right? If this is so, then I apologize, of course. I will never, ever again go into battle with a single fox that invades your chicken pen, you can believe me!”
Two sad tears fell from his eyes onto Inge Teder’s hand, and then Rein Vihalemm turned to walk home.
“Wait just a second!” the neighbor woman soon called after him. “Don’t go like that, leaving me standing here as the culprit! If your story is indeed true, then… Come in, I’ll at least offer you a cup of coffee in repayment.”
Smiling sheepishly, the architect followed the woman inside. Rein carried along the three slaughtered chickens, dangling by their necks from his left hand.
After Inge Teder had brewed a full pot of coffee and prepared a few sandwiches on the side, the pair sat down at the table. A categorically more cheerful conversation soon began to sound in the house. It was definitely something to laugh at, as Rein Vihalemm began to describe the fox hunt that had only just taken place from a much more humorous perspective than before. With glowing eyes and flourishing hands, the man detailed how he had just grabbed the chicken thief by the scruff of its neck when the beast broke free and started going for the coop once again. Rein Vihalemm moved smoothly onwards to speak of previous occurrences in his life, and it turned out he had likewise loved to hunt during his youth – that he had tracked down foxes earlier and everywhere, even on several occasions, and had caught them from time to time as well.
“But haven’t you been an architect your whole life?” Inge Teder remarked in surprise upon hearing this.
“Ah, that’s all stuff and nonsense: the most important thing in my life has nonetheless been hunting,” replied Rein Vihalemm, a wild glint in his eyes.
The architect’s hunting tales incited an ever-greater thrill within the young neighbor woman’s soul. Since her two small children – Mirjam and Mihkel – were only supposed to arrive home from their grandmother’s with their father just before evening, she also had time to listen on and on to her neighbor’s interesting stories. Spring had just arrived outdoors, the scent of flowers wafted throughout the garden and a mild breeze meandered around the house.
Inge soon couldn’t help but laugh with tears in her eyes and be amazed at her neighbor Rein’s hunting accounts. These stories spoke for the most part about tracking foxes, setting all sorts of traps for them and running them down with dogs. However, Inge especially enjoyed the fact that the foxes in these tales frequently outsmarted both the hunter and the dogs, escaping with their lives. Since such tales became ever more adventurous and incredible to the point that they could soon no longer be recounted while sitting in place, Rein the architect began walking around the table – sometimes slinking, sometimes on tip-toe –,going as far as to kneel before the woman and seize her by the hands while at the same time explaining something rapidly and incoherently.
Rein thereafter jumped onto a chair and continued recalling his adventures from this vantage point. No matter whether the enrapturing hunting stories or the strange, wild glimmer that flashed at her from Rein Vihalemm’s eyes was to blame; but at one moment, the neighbor woman even unfastened a couple of buttons around the neck of her dress so that the man could get slightly nearer to her with his unbelievable stories, given that all of the woman’s other visible body parts were already covered in narrative. When even her exposed breasts became coated by Rein’s storytelling mixed with kisses, Inge finally undid the entire front of her dress so that the man could now gain access to the full length of the woman’s body to tell his vivid hunting tales …
Rein recounted at length the daring stories of his life that might not have really happened, but which seemed much more believable than those that had truly occurred in his lifetime, and which therefore were not worth recalling in the least.
It was only when the man had finally made his way between the woman’s thighs with his regaling and brushed the pink door to her bodily love chamber with his clever tongue that Inge Teder suddenly came to her senses and noticed that her neighbor Rein hadn’t spoken to her in human speech for already quite some time; rather, he had communicated in some indecipherable language comprising a mixture of growls, yips and purrs … How could she have let everything unfold in this way? How did this cunning dog manage to put her virtue to the test with his slippery speech like that, when after all she was actually still a decent married woman and mother of two? Inge couldn’t understand.
Yet while she was racking her brain over this mystery in sweet astonishment, Rein had already slipped behind the woman’s back and driven his small lustful friend into Inge’s love chamber, where he cheerfully thrust himself in and out while continuing to captivate with his hunter’s stories. Growling, barking and snapping at the woman’s hair with his teeth, Rein now shoved Inge Teder forwards onto the table between the three chickens, taking his next-door neighbor so far with his unusual story that she now followed along no longer laughing or gasping in wonder; but rather moaning and baying until hot semen finally invaded her vagina and both of them slumped exhausted to the floor …
In the meantime, plum and cherry trees were blooming all around the house and bees flew from blossom to blossom beneath a light-colored sky. The warm spring day began to reach afternoon there in the small town.
When Rein Vihalemm at last rose up from the kitchen floor, he felt like a sensible, honest architect again. Then, seeing the nude neighbor woman lying next to him on the kitchen floor, Rein was overwhelmed with embarrassment and shame. The sly animal that had danced and reveled in the joy of the hunt within him just a moment before had acquired its prey and fled off into the forest, now leaving the unhappy man in this rather uncomfortable situation. No longer feeling the slightest bit of interest in the chickens laid across the strange table, Rein dressed furtively and disappeared from his neighbors’ house, mumbling apologies.
Inge Teder, however, lay on the floor, staring at the kitchen ceiling with an absentminded expression, still not comprehending how all that had just occurred could have occurred at all. Inge’s gaze then fell upon the wall clock, and the sensible housewife awoke once more within her. Having quickly dressed and adjusted her hair momentarily in front of the mirror, she dropped the chickens into a large soup pot to boil them and began waiting for her husband and children to come home while dusting and humming some dreamy melody.
The lives of the two neighboring families carried on as such, just as if nothing had ever happened. Rein Vihalemm continued dutifully designing small family houses and caring for his ailing father, while the Teder family continued to raise their darling children and take fantastic trips into the wilderness on weekends. When the Vihalemms and Teders happened to see each other across the fence, they spoke a few words as usual about the weather or about how the cucumbers or radishes were growing, just as is customary for neighbors to do.
Only rarely, sometimes, on some languid morning with the sense of spring in the air, when the plums and cherries have burst into bloom once more and the April breeze meanders around the house, does Rein Vihalemm find himself surreptitiously leaning towards the neighbor’s chicken coop anew. Yet the fox no longer awakens within him. Sighing, Rein will then stare off across the yards into the distance, standing for a time eyeing the plum blossoms hovering in the spring breeze, and then dolefully continue to work on his half-finished project.
Inge Teder similarly finds herself watching from the window at about the same time, an agitated disquiet in her breast. The woman peeks to see whether her neighbor hasn’t just invaded their chicken coop again by chance. And – breathing a sigh of relief – she reassures herself that everything there is peaceful.