Mushroom Muchness (part2)
The fox turned to strut deeper into the forest, and while she stood bewildered in the shadows of the trees, it stopped to look at her again. It was waiting for her.
“I don't think I should follow you”, she said in a small voice. Finding herself in the woods all of a sudden, and also talking to a fox, had her question everything she thought she knew about the world.
“Why?” it said.
"Well, I'm... you know…" She struggled to put a sentence together while looking around at the trees, as if she would suddenly discover her house somewhere between them. “I'm not supposed to talk to strangers,” she said finally.
The fox trotted back to her in a way that she couldn’t help but find cute.
"Is that so?" it said when it stopped near her feet looking up at her. It was definitely smiling. "My name is fox,” it said.
"Is it a common name among your kind?"
"It is. What is you name?"
"Hello Ophelia, I wondered if you could help me with something, now that were introduced?"
"I…wonder if I can."
"Oh, indeed you can. You are tall and you have fingers." The fox wagged its tail.
"Oh," Ophelia looked at her fingers for a second. "If I help you, would you take me back to my house, please?"
"Of course." The fox started to trot back into the woods. This time Ophelia tentatively followed. There was no path but the fox weaved effortlesslybetween trees and bushes, over moss and small streams of water. Ophelia guessed they had been walking for only five minutes when he stopped.
"There," he said with his eyes fixed at something.
She followed his gaze, and gasped. How had she not noticed the grand mushroom that stood before her. A chanterelle bigger than a horse was front if her.
"How on earth!" she shouted.
"It’s quite large, isn’t it," the fox said in the most carefree manner. "I wonder if you could get that for me." The fox was still looking at the top of the grand mushroom. In the hollow of it sat a very large diamond. Or, at least, to her it looked like a diamond.
"If you wouldn’t mind," said the fox. "There’s a pesky bird who likes to steal it from me."
"The diamond is yours?"
"Well, I found it first."
"As if you did, you redheaded buffoon!" The voice came from somewhere above, and Ophelia spotted a bird in an oak tree not far away. A quite large brown bird of a kind Ophelia was unfamiliar.
"It is my diamond!" it screamed.
"No, it’s not," protested Fox.
"Yes, it is!"
"It’s not, though."
"I have a question," said Ophelia. "How is it that such a fantastically large diamond is in the middle of the forest ... on top of a mushroom?"
The bird turned to stare at her with her round eyes.
"Why wouldn’t there be a large diamond in the forest?!"
"It does seem a perfect place to me," agreed the fox.
"Well, at least you agree on something," Ophelia said in half a laugh. "So, who found the diamond first, then?" she tried to reason, knowing all too well what the response would be.
"He’s lying!" piped the bird. "He’s always doing that. So creepy! And he smacks when he chews! I can hear it from the other side of the forest. The other foxes must really hate him. Do you even have friends?" The bird started to cackle with laughter after the long roast she just delivered.
Ophelia felt a frown form on her forehead. "I don’t think that’s very nice." She looked at the fox. It was looking at her.
"I have a friend," he said. He seemed to mean Ophelia.
"Oh, for heaven’s sake!" she exclaimed. "I don’t want to take sides, but you’re making it very hard!" She reach up to the top of the mushroom and was just about tall enough to grab the diamond.
"How did this mushroom get so big anyway!"
"God’s ways are mysterious." Carefree, the fox happily accepted the diamond in his mouth. The bird pouted in the tree. As much as a bird can pout with a beak.
"I will remember this," the pouting bird said and took off with a swoosh, flying away while cackling.
"That’s the most ominous bird I’ve ever met," Ophelia said before realising she had never spoken to a bird before. Why was she getting used to this already?
It was time to get home, and she followed the fox trotting back where they had come.
She was more relaxed now, and took in the golden autumn trees all around her. Some branches brushed her hair as she passed, and a scattering of acorns covered the ground. The gold grew less dense and a clearing opened before her. Across it, she spotted her house beyond a great spruce that she had never seen this side of before.
The fox dropped the diamond on the ground before speaking.
"Your house," he proclaimed.
"Thank you, Fox."
"Thank you, Ophelia."
She started walking towards the house, which from this angle didn’t seem so gloomy. Maybe a little paint would do the trick.
"Come visit some time," she said back to the fox, but he wasn’t there. He must have trotted on back home.
Who has ever been visited by a fox, anyway? Would he come in for a cup of tea..? Tea?!" Looking down at her hands she was holding the cup of tea. The fox on it stood proud next to the mushroom.
"What on earth!" She ran back to the house to find someone to tell the story no one would ever believe.