Dear You,

So this has been written in the case of not being able to have anything for you for Christmas. As I have aforesaid, things are on their way, but none have arrived on time. Thus, here we are. Maybe the story is familiar but hopefully the setting is refreshing. 3 Merry Christmas.

Leonard lived alone. He did not go out, and he did not see friends-- he did not want to; they were all dead. He was the only one left, really, and often he felt as though he were the only one left in the whole world. No one else really seemed human to him anymore, they were all repeated, tired versions of people Leonard had met before and had no desire to meet again. He did not relish the claustrophobia of a hug or a handshake, he did not miss the noise of children's laughter. He had lost his taste for that long ago- though if we were to question just how long ago, he could not answer. Leonard no longer cared for the notion of time; the calendars that hung on his walls were outdated and his clocks no longer chimed. It made the march towards the end less distinct; for Leonard the final curtain would be a whimper and not a bang, and that was his preference.

Despite his attempt to blind himself to the passing hours, Leonard could not deny the plot of a day and sometimes he would stop to observe the rising and falling of the sun from his window, as though the sky only existed within the pane of glass. He was doing just this the day he saw the fox.

It appeared as Leonard was gazing out over his ice cold land, amused by naïve nature's attempt to thaw when there would only be another snow to come. As the ice gave way ever so slightly to water and dripped from his roof, Leonard crunched his shredded wheat, feeling it edge between the gaps of his teeth where the fillings had cracked and come out. He idly scratched his thumb against the blot of paint that still remained on the window. It was dark green and meant for the wood paneling above it, meant to make Lilly happy, but she was gone now. Lenard wondered how an accident could outlive a human being. As he tried to chip it away, a slow-building brightness rose to his face and he squinted; the casting sunrise had caused the wet ground to shine. This lasted for only a moment though, and shortly only a slice of sun remained, clinging to the clouds and the trees that were not yet ready to say goodbye. It was through this last, cherishing light that Leonard saw a creature- small and abundant in what Leonard would call accursed fur- standing in the middle of Leonard's fields. It stared upward with unpretentious curiosity but not without anxiety, shifting his weight from paw to tiny paw. He was grey, the fox, which made him unlike any fox that Leonard had ever seen, and his white face only created a glow for his eyes. Leonard was mesmerized at first, then, as the fox's name began to dawn on him, he became furious.

"Fox!" Leonard called into the now night as he flung open the door beside the window. His tin bowl of cereal had fallen with a clanking sound that seemed neverending, yet matched the tone of Leonard's cries. "Fox!" He shouted. "Go away!"

He needn't have said the last part-- with a flip of his tale the varmint had vanished. Good.

The next day saw Leonard at the window again, waiting for the colors to paint themselves over his otherwise mangy canvas. He had nearly stepped on his bowl, a forgotten thing in the wake of the excitement from the night before. As he cleaned the shreds that had clumped and stuck to the stubborn tin, he found himself glancing out the window. Once as he scraped, to note the rosy red hue, again as he rinsed, to note that his rickety shed definitely needed work and a new coat of paint, then a third time as he reached up to restore the bowl to its former glory. Only this third attempt granted him the fright of his life in the form of two large, admiring eyes. Leonard gasped and once again the bowl slipped. He waved. He yelled. But this time the fox simply sat, comfortably, perched upon his gloved paws as though he was the one who owned the land and couldn't imagine what Leonard was doing, dawdling about in his kitchen and making racket. Now silent, the man stared back at the grey devil, and, finally, the creature spoke. He did not bark, as foxes are far too complex to speak in tones satisfactory for dogs, but instead made a very succinct noise somewhat like the purr of a cat meeting the grunt of a wolf. Then, looking quite satisfied with himself, he tipped his head to the left as if waiting for a response. Leonard began to shake with annoyance as the black outline around the fox's nose and mouth began to tip ever so slightly upward, curling into what Leonard could swear was a grin. Having had it, he stormed to the front door and threw it open, but all that could be seen was the flash of grey on the horizon.

The next day Leonard spotted the fox again, this time sitting perched on the hill, watching Leonard move from the barn to the coop. Leonard knew it was his familiar opponent not by its shape but by the barely noticeable twitching of its silhouetted tail. Again, Leonard saw it wandering around his porch as he returned home one afternoon. It gave him the stinkeye before it vanished into the snow. Leonard became so preoccupied by the gall of his grey shadow that he could swear he heard it tip-toeing about mischievously on the roof. Specifically, above Leonard's bed at night. For the first time, Leonard began to miss the familiar, dull comfort of the ticking clocks and chiming bells, the silly sounds that might keep him from noticing the suspicious creaks of the surely fox-infested ceiling. Be gone, be gone, be gone, he muttered on these nights, burying his face in his mattress.

It was a Tuesday- unbeknownst to Leonard of course- that the wish was granted. He was in the barn, at last commencing in the repairs that seemed now almost pointless, when he heard a familiar shuffling from below. Moving as quickly as the rickety boards would allow him to, Leonard peered down from his uneven perch in the loft. Sure as day, the fox sat beneath him, meeting his eyes, asking the same question he had asked from the first moment Leonard had seen him. It was too late, however, and as Leonard crouched the boards began to crack and give way. Though he moved quickly for his age, Leonard knew the destruction was unavoidable. The boards, the tools, the ladder came crashing down and brought Leonard with them.

As he came to with an ache in his side, Leonard could tell that despite some pain he was surely alright, and not without some embarrassment he began to casually look for the mocking stare that had come to be so familiar. Surely the fox would not miss this chance to gaze eloquently at this destruction. Surely the fox would not miss this opportunity to chuckle with grace as only foxes can. Surely not. Leonard stood up, listening for the skitter skitter of sensible fox-feet, but none came. "Fox," Leonard said, for the first time. As he did, he noticed it-- the grey tail beneath the rubble and broken boards. Slowly, Leonard picked up a board, causing a bit of the pile to shift. The tail did not move. "Fox," Leonard said again. "Mangy mutt," He insulted. But the fox did not move. "Oh," said Leonard. "Oh."

The fox received a proper burial the next morning-- or was it the evening? After which Leonard washed his hands and went to bed, this time with a quiet attic and only the sounds of former snow dripping from his porch. Still, he could not sleep, and eventually rose to make himself a bowl of shredded wheat. The night was well-lit, the moon was not full but it was bright and the stars gave off enough light to allow Leonard to find his way around the kitchen. As he took his place at the table with two chairs, he avoided looking out the window, through the tiny paint blot that was now impossible to see but which he could still easily pinpoint for he knew it so well. He did not look outside, at the glow, nor did he mutter into the silence. But he did cry for awhile.

When the sun of morning soon came to find him, the untouched wheat had hardened and the character sitting at the crooked table had new lines in his face. Not knowing why, the man reached for the heavy wooden clock that sat, turned away, beside the stove. With great effort, Leonard wound it until he heard the shudder, the morning stretch of mechanical awakening. As the ticking began, Leonard placed the clock on the sill and gently brushed the dust from its face. "I'm here," said the man as the little warmth from the morning touched his cheek. "I know," the morning replied, and a grey fox appeared at the window.