Excerpts for Second Life of Abigail Walker

the fox had been stepping into stories since the beginning of time. Important stories, everyday stories, stories that only mattered to one or two people. She sniffed stories out. When she smelled one that interested her, she closed her eyes and leaped into the air, moving through the invisible space between one story and the next. Sometimes she took chances and landed in unfortunate places. Like the story of the soldiers in the middle of desert, the sand seeded with explosives. A fox could get killed in a story like that.

Not that the fox ever got killed. She hadn’t even managed to die of old age, although how old must she be? Ancient of days, her friend Crow liked to say when you asked him his age. The fox supposed that’s how old she was too.

Now she stood at the edge of a field, in the invisible space between one story and another, and gazed across the green-goldness of it.

What had drawn her here?

This field, like all fields, had come from somewhere else. The birds had flown across its blank slate and dropped seeds into the waiting soil. The raccoons gathered burrs in their fur and deposited them as they tracked through the mud, and in the spring the earth took a deep breath, pulled forth roots, and sent out flowers and grasses.

There’d been something else here once, not too long ago. The fox could smell it. Something that had gone wrong. Her nose quivered. The scent was mixed: the something-gone-wrong smell, yes, but also mice and rabbits and the small berries that came at the beginning of fall, tiny, sour fruit she might eat just before the first frost. These were smells she remembered from the oldest stories, the laughing stories, stories where her kits gathered around her and chattered and barked.

Suddenly the heavy, dark smell of exhaust from the road filled the fox’s snout. A bus? A truck? Soldiers back from Al Anbar? Quick, quick, burrow into the center of a clump of weeds. Something was coming. Someone. What would she witness this time?

Maybe it was someone who could help, she told herself, trying to stay calm. Maybe they’ve sent someone to help.

The fox trembled, and she waited.