Quick Brown Fox

The quick brown fox jumps over a lazy dog, transfixed by a billboard by the highway that runs along the meadow. The lazy dog is chained to a long leash in a fenceless yard that the fox likes to frequent. The dog’s parents grow vegetables that they are often too tired to pick. Though it takes days to figure out, and weeks to relax his guard, here in this place the fox does not need to sneak to eat. He can pluck an ample something that strikes his fancy with his sharp claws and languidly make his way through it. The quick brown fox develops a taste for prolonging one bite to the next, sitting still for sometimes a minute on end, and a window opens in his brain. He begins, without sharing a word or fully comprehending it himself, to understand the lazy dog.

A karaoke machine is plugged into a power surge strip behind the quick brown fox’s chestnut tree-trunk style credenza. This is the resting place for his flat screen television. At 27 inches it fills the far wall of his cinema. Normally the fox would fancy a car chase police procedural, a jail break drama, or any heist-themed caper, but today, like most days as of late, he flicks through the channels looking for something else. He stumbles upon a sunrise with a low note being sung by a chorus of voices, and a human man, in a cowboy hat, driving in a top down convertible car, speaking to the screen. The fox stops his clicking and watches the screen.

The movie’s story is of urban growth, of suburban sprawl, of a place that feels like the past and maybe the future, like the past itself is building a future that is already past. The fox struggles to get past this idea in his head as the man again addresses the screen, the room, the fox himself. The man says, “the world is changing, buildings are changing, roads are growing wider and smaller, and less tree-lined and some with more trees.” He says, “Everything is happening at once. And everything that happens is happening today.”

The fox stares at the screen immobile, confused, half-enlightened, his nimble and often restless hands limp at his sides. The movie continues but this last phrase loops while the pictures move and music swells and bursts and quiets, then disappears. The credits roll and it is not until a loud and almost cosmically offensive commercial for dish detergent wakes him from his temporary paralysis that the fox believes he understands what must change.

The fox removes his karaoke machine from his credenza, carefully unplugging and coiling the microphone cable into a neat series of circles. He hangs the instrument off a screw in his tool room and deposits the karaoke machine in the rubbish pile at the end of his driveway. In the moonlight he looks at the black box, two compact disc trays above a single speaker housed in black cross hatching, shaded blue by the night lights. He brings his paw to his lips and kisses his claw tip, lays that paw against the machine, winks, and walks back to his home.

He lays in his bed late that night, counting the glowing star stickers on the ceiling of his room, formulating his plan, building an internal order of operations, theorizing perfect patterns of traveling the many distances from where he stands to where he wishes to.

Next day, the quick brown fox purchases a sewing machine. He finds one similar to the machine his mother used when he was a cub. It will feel the most familiar to him when he begins. He places the machine in a rolling basket that he wheels to a vintage store where he purchases three blank white mechanic’s jumpsuits with pant bottoms that bell out from the shin.

He clears his tool table. He hangs each tool off a screw in the wall, then he scrubs the tabletop down with liquid soap and a hand brush. He removes new shearing scissors from his shopping bag, unpacks the sewing kit, hangs each jumpsuit off a screw. He rips the sleeves clean off at the seams on two of the jumpsuits, and clips the pantlegs at the knee from the third.

He recognizes the feeling as it surges to his claw tips, the electricity of his body’s natural pace. He is a nimble animal, he is used to working almost too quickly. He remembers the billboard and the lazy dog in the yard. “Slow down.” That’s what it said in large letters, and underneath: “Tired drivers die.” Tired drivers die had shaken him. How many months had gone by? How many days had he lived so comfortably unchased by bullets or shouts. He is meant to, is built to, outrun. He sews stitch after stitch, minor patterns in the piping, of the bright white suits. He works furiously into the night.

Lightning strikes across the pasture. He hasn’t finished. His foot pulsates to a beat. He quickly darts to the kitchen to grind beans for coffee. “It’s a ten part plan, maybe fifteen,” he says aloud to the clock above the arched threshold that separates the kitchen from the dining area. The fox throws the scalding hot water over the ground beans and dashes to the table. He peddles the foot control, wishes the machine could keep up with his brain’s pattern, he can see it all, his whole life outstretched, starting with these stitches. The needle makes a pitter patter dart as the fox repeats a mumbling phrase to himself, “clothes make the man, they really can.”

The quick brown fox emerges from his house, walking down the long drive to the road where the others get from one place to the next. Over his eyes are an elaborate sequined mask that sends seeds of light skittering across the pasture. A circling bird of prey watches the fox emerge in his bright white jumpsuit, casting his lights, and winds his way groundward.

“Something different about you today, fox.”

“I am a singer. A real rock n’ roller.”

“Have I heard any of your songs?”

“No. But you will, bird. They’re coming. They’re coming fast.”

“How will I know when they are here?”

“This is the announcement.”

“And this is all you think you have to do?”

“No,” says the fox quite sternly. He crosses his small brown arms across his bright white chest. “You tell them you saw the Quick Brown Fox emerge from his hilltop home up there wearing a glowing white suit and a sparkling mask. You tell them his tale was wild and bright, that his teeth were sharp and his black gums glistened in the daylight. You tell them he had a message.”

“Wait, who am I telling?”

“Tell everyone. Tell them I had a message. Tell them I’m coming, bird. I’m coming quick, like me.”