Very superstitious: the fox
And now that I think over it, superstitious beliefs have marked many of the momentous times in my life, especially the ones where some anticipation existed, and I sought reassurance or certainty or at least some hint as to outcomes: the weekend before my daughter was born I swore I saw a snowy owl landing in a meadow, off in my peripheral vision in a snowy field off the parkway. (It was the fluffy white belly typical of a Red-tailed Hawk, considerably less rare in our area, but equally showy).
And the fox. The last sign was a half-rotted fox, tossed behind his studio, possibly by one of the "uncles" of our immigrant neighbors in the rental house. Dead for weeks, it had appeared of a sudden, during a time no one wanted to go out, in the middle of a period when he was lying on the couch disabled by his penultimate "miracle drug." February, doldrums, and snow and ice everywhere.
It pointed out I was the only one capable — of anything, actually, at that point. It might have had rabies, and while my kid couldn't walk yet, those neighbors could, and surely didn't know the risk it presented.
It seemed tragic and sent by fate: because the fox had been one of the good omens of this land, this third-acre in the suburbs, across from the bus stop. I'd found its scat shortly after moving in, and checked on its hideaway periodically. When we built a front yard fence, we left a slit for the fox to get across the street and back the park at dusk, when we knew these animals, common but smartly invisible, travelled.
One night, years before pregnancy, late after a Christmas party, our headlights caught its rich rusty tail and glowing eyes. We were in awe of the chance we'd been given to catch this crepuscular creature out of its hours, on our territory for just a moment. Surely it was a sign; when it was still around, despite changes, in the midst of infertility, fox scat was a sign that nature went on around us, that good things could happen in busy places.
I found that dead fox with a start, as if a bell tolled dully.
Dread, dread, dread. I hated that I'd found it, and that it was my job to take care of it. But what to do?
A call to animal control generated the idea: it needs to be tested for rabies. They offered to fetch it if I picked it up in a grocery bag and stored it in my trash can, safe from the kids.
Our fox was dead. A quiet secret had been taken from us, perhaps by rat poison. I dwelled and dwelled, till animal control followed up: "The raccoon you found….. Was too decomposed to test for rabies, but couldn't have transmitted it either."
A raccoon. It was a raccoon.
My rejoicing was genuine, a jumping inside, but lasted only for a minute, because my dear husband was so far gone, so tired, so low, with so many minor injuries, and the major ones mounting up... no folk religion could hide the truth from me anymore.
Now it was time to start actively pretending.