It started with a door bell super glued to the crooked stump near the entrance of my den by an unknown stranger. What followed was the prolonged agony of a night-long bout of ding-dong-ditch. “Ring-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding!” Try that one on repeat all night to raise your hackles. I scratched my head at that one, I really did, but it was a first in what was to become a series of odd events.
It was two days later at the watering hole as Horse rhythmically stamped his hoof when I finally asked what was up. What was this grand conspiracy unto which I was playing the hapless witness? That brought a snort and a flick of the ears from my compatriot.
“Really,” I asked. “Am I missing something here?”
“It’s Morse Code, Fox! You’re supposed to be the expert, are you not?” he snorted.
I had nothing but a quizzical glare and a furrowed brow in response to this exclamation. I consider myself a lifelong student, a curiosity amongst the other animals, perhaps, for this innate desire to learn and know more about the world around me. Unfortunately, my studies have never led me as far as Morse Code, a seemingly rare dialect employed by humans to communicate across long distances when written or spoken words would not suffice.
“Would you care to elaborate, Horse? What motivations have you in communicating through such an avenue as this?”
A snort, the swish of a tail. “You’ll figure it out Fox, you’re a smart fellow.” Before I could continue our exchange further, he had turned and trotted off towards the farm up the lane.
Curious indeed. Although confusion marred any meaning I might have taken from this conversation, for the time, I dismissed such concerns. There were mice to hunt in the fields before the hawks laid claim to my prey. Empty stomachs won’t fill themselves. Such is the life of a predator.
Events escalated from there. Chants of “What does the fox say!” followed me like a shadow. One day loping down the lane, Cow, Frog, and Duck were all lined up. One by one they went down the line making their respective noises, “Moo, croak, quack.” They then went so far as to apologize for the noted absence of an elephant to fulfill their musical quartet.
“And the presence of an organism typically found on the African savannah would make sense in what context?”
“Awww, come on fox! Be a good sport about it. It’s a catchy tune, you have to admit,” cow explained.
“May I inquire as to which song you are referencing?”
“The human song! The famous one, ‘What Does the Fox Say.’ You’re practically famous. I’m a bit jealous, I admit.”
I didn’t know what there was to be jealous about, the prank visits to my house under cover of darkness or exchanges with no rational basis with my compatriots left me with nothing but more questions. I paced a bit closer. “Where does this song come from?”
“It’s on that box the humans obsess over on a daily basis, just staring at it endlessly.”
“Which electronic? TV or computer?” I asked.
Cow cocked her head. “No idea. It’s bright and noisy. We go down and look through the window some nights. They play it all the time, the tune’s pretty catchy, like I said, it’s spread around here like wildfire.”
That much I had gathered. “Thanks for the information. This demands further investigation.”
With that, I was off. The setting of the sun began my first night of reconnaissance. I slunk along the hedge row, past the empty pastures and barn with its animals safety ensconced within. The rattling of the wind through the cornfield set me skittering for cover, a momentary blip in my mission, but I was quickly back on track. It took a full loop around the house until I found the correct window, the computer screen stood darkened, and the room vacant. Two windows later, I found a pair of human cubs sitting before the television, the yapping of the televised program interspersed with bouts of laughter from the humans.
I nodded off once or twice during my vigil, I reluctantly admit, and returned to my den just as the first rays of the sun were bathing the horizon in a gentle glow.
A day later I resumed my night watch. Upon observing the human cubs settle before their television, I deduced that the second night would shape up to be much like the first. I had almost resigned myself to retiring to my den early that night when there was a burst of activity from within the farm house. The television screen went blank; the humans stood, stretched, and trudged into an adjoining room.
I rose from my haunches and leapt down from my perch outside the window. From this vantage point, I had lost sight of them. I loped to the next window over. The most direct route resulted in an unfortunate run in (and subsequent destruction) of a potted plant, but we’ll measure that one as a casualty of a most necessary investigation to root to the bottom of this mystery. I shook the sunflower off my head and rolled on the patio once or twice to dislodge as much of the dirt as I could before continuing my mission.
Resuming my watch, I found the humans huddled around the computer. Fortune was in my favor, the window was cracked open as to allow me to eavesdrop. I slunk closer, ears perked up and at the ready.
“Have you seen that video that’s making the rounds?” one of them queried the other.
“Which one, dude? It’s the internet, there’s not just one video.”
“Trust me, there is only one video quite like this. It’s a trip.”
Frantic clicking. I squinted, even with my keen eyes, I couldn’t make out the fine detail. The window was open, beckoning to me, tempting me, luring me. I was a creature of the open fields and forest. These domiciles were for creatures bent on shutting themselves away from nature.
“Okay, okay, quit teasing me. Pull it up, now you’ve got me curious.”
Truer words had not been spoken; my curiosity was more than piqued. Moment of truth, with a lifetime of experience silently creeping through fields, I hopped the barrier into the house without making a sound.
The floor was a warzone of unmated socks, abandoned textbooks, and miscellaneous objects of whose purpose I could not deduce from a cursory inspection. My attention was drawn back to the boys and their computer as it began emitting noise.
I ducked behind a laundry hamper, wrinkling my nose at the pungent odor. Teenage boys will be teenage boys, a momentary lapse of judgment on my choice of hiding spots, but I was committed at this point. I raised my head just enough
‘Dog goes woof, cat goes meow.
Bird goes tweet, and mouse goes squeak.
Cow goes moo. Frog goes croak…’
Well I’ll be. Maybe there was hope for this generation yet. This was shaping up to be a semi-realistic documentary on the vocalizations made by a variety of fauna. I gave a silent nod of approval. I’m always in support of individuals seeking to better themselves through educational ventures and these two lads seemed to share similar beliefs.
Few times in my life had I been quite that mistaken, as I was soon to learn. I’ll spare you the sordid details. True, I am a well-spoken individual. According to human popular media, I had quite a few things to say. Highlights included such colorful phrases as, ‘Wa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pow!,’ ‘Jacha-chacha-chacha-chow!,’ and ‘Hatee-hatee-hatee-ho!’
Such a basal misrepresentation and abuse of exclamatory punctuation, I have yet to see it rivaled. Perhaps worst of all, almost three-hundred million misguided individuals might actually have been misled into believing that this is what I, as a fox, had to say on the matter.
My tail twitched back and forth in agitation. A sharp clatter broke the intermittent chattering the humans. Every muscle of mine tensed in response.
“What was that, Lars? Did you knock something over?”
I paused. No need to attract a wandering eye and give away my position.
In swiping my tail back and forth, I had failed to account for the radius it would require to swing freely and knocked a mug full of some tepid liquid over; drawing the attention of the room’s other occupants to my chagrin.
“No, it came from over there,” he replied, raising a finger and pointing in my direction.
The second figure wandered over, eyes sweeping the floor for the source of the sound.
“Dude, there’s an overturned mug over here. The floor’s soaked. What did you have in here?”
“Coffee, we had that project, remember? I had to pull an all-nighter to get it finished in time for class. Guess I forgot to get the cup back to the kitchen in my exhaustion.” Lars rose from his office chair by the desk, crossing the room and picking up the mug, his mouth falling into a disapproving frown at the puddle of liquid on the otherwise white carpet. “My mom is going to kill me if I can’t get this stain out. You see anything to mop up some of this mess before the stain sets?”
Before his friend could respond, he was reaching for the hamper. “I think I have a dirty towel in here somewhere.”
More rummaging. “Here it is. What the-“
His eyes locked with mine. I was discovered.
“There’s an animal in here!”
I darted between his legs and straight for the window, making a hasty exit before they had a chance to regroup. With a hop I was through the opening and once again in familiar territory.
“I think that was a fox!” It was the last excited muttering I heard as I loped off into the night.
The next day I was a changed fox. No more did the pop culture references drift right over my head. With each inquiry from my compatriots, I gritted my teeth just a bit more.
“Fox, what is it you say, again?” Frog croaked.
I’ll tell you what I was ready to say. Enough was enough; I was ready to make a stand and a statement of my own. I began plotting toward just that end. It was time to give my perspective in this whole song and dance (quite a ridiculous song and dance if I may say so). There were facts to be made apparent.
I slunk around the farmhouse that evening, approaching from the woods to avoid a run in with Horse or Cow. I was a fox on a mission and there was no more time in the day for teasing inquiries.
As the shadows lengthened, the sky darkened, and the moon slowly made its ascent into the sky, my patient stalking was finally rewarded. The humans emerged from their stronghold.
“Are you sure it was a fox? It just seems a bit farfetched,” one said.
“It had a bushy tail and was red, you know of anything else that would fit the bill?”
“I’m just saying, it happened fast. It seems a little implausible.”
“Well, we’ll find out one way or the other, will we not?” Lars said, as he stepped forward onto the driveway, placing something on the ground and backing away.
A squealing noise shattered the quiet. My ears perked up. That noise meant food. Good food, rabbit. I weighed the options, on the one hand, the humans would see me. On the other paw, my stomach rumbled in response to the noise. A hungry predator has to eat.
Their baiting was successful. I slowly crept into the range of their driveway light, ready to make a hasty retreat at a moment’s notice.
“It is a fox! Look!” Lars pointed.
I retreated at the sudden movement to a nearby bush, slowly working up the courage to try again. The sound of a squalling rabbit too alluring to pass up. What does the fox say? How about what does a squealing rabbit say? To a fox, it says food.
Upon closer inspection, it wasn’t a rabbit but a phone, certainly not edible, but the humans had left it out for me none the less. It would bear further investigation in a private setting. Not a meal, but for the trouble these humans had caused me, now it was mine. With a snap of my teeth, I snatched it off the ground and sprinted for the woods.
“Hey! HEY!” one of them shouted. “He swiped my phone!”
“Swiper, no swiping!”
“It worked for Dora the Explorer, it was worth a shot, right?” one of them replied, laughing.
The other grumbled in response, but whatever further complaints he may have lodged were lost on the wind.
I abandoned the phone in a secure chamber of my den for the evening while I went hunting. Three mice later and with a bellyful of food, I returned home to sleep. This mystery could wait for tomorrow.
The following day, with a spring in my step, tail raised high, and a toothy grin, I carried my prize down to the watering hole.
“Whatcha have there Fox?” Horse asked.
I dropped the phone onto the ground in the clearing aside the pond. “The answer to this puzzling string of events.”
“What puzzle?” Frog asked, hopping closer.
“You all have been haranguing me non-stop about this supposedly catchy human song. It’s my turn to set the record straight. I have one of the humans’ phones. I’m going to give my side of the story.”
“What are you going to send them?” Duck asked, waddling up the bank from the pond and shaking water drops in all directions as he did so.
“A message to stop this nonsense, I suppose,” I responded. “I’ve been trying to get into this confounding device with no success so far.”
Indeed, I had spent the better part of the morning trying everything I could think of. There was a configuration of buttons on the screen when I tapped on it. A riddle of sorts. “I pressed it with my paw, but nothing happened. I tried sitting on it too, that just made the phone buzz at me. Obviously I’m doing something wrong.”
“Let me see it!” snorted Horse. “I live with the humans. I know the way they think. I can do it!”
Before I could protest, he had trotted forward and was pawing at the device on the ground with a hoof.
“Horse! Stop!” I barked. “It’s delicate, it needs a light touch.”
“Are you saying I’m clumsy?” he queried, ears flattening in displeasure.
As I stepped in closer, he pulled a hoof off the phone. I cringed as I saw that the screen was cracked in several places. “I’m not saying anything, Horse. I think the results of your efforts speak for themselves.”
The others had gathered in closer by this point, each eager to try their own hand (or wings, or feet) at the device. I was about to call it a day when Frog’s five minutes of hopping up and down on the thing finally earned a response. The phone lit up. “Guys, I think I got it! Told you I was the brains in this operation.”
I rolled my eyes, but let him keep the small victory. It was his ministrations that had finally broken the code. “Sure, now give it here, please. I have a lot to say and limited battery power to say them.”
I pawed the ground to emphasize my point. It was I who had risked life and limb for this device, and I certainly would be using it to get my own perspective out into the world to temper the circulated misrepresentations put forth by the latest internet sensation.
Just as Horse gave me enough space to step in and start fiddling with the device again, it started chirping.
“It’s talking!” Duck quacked.
I pawed at it again. The chirping stopped.
“Hey! It went through. I think we got someone, or something, on the other end. Anyone there? Hello?”
Finally, the opportunity I had been waiting for. “This is Fox! A real fox, not a man dressed in a silly fox suit spouting nonsense.”
“Anything?” a voice from the other end queried through the phone. “Some yapping and barking. I think the fox still has your phone, man. Is the GPS still enabled?”
“I didn’t think of that. We’ll have to give it a try.”
I yipped another greeting, pleading with them to just listen. “I do not say ‘Wa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pow!’”
A snort of laughter from the other end was the response. “Sounds kind of like that Youtube video, if you can believe that. Let’s try the GPS thing.” There was a click of the line and the voices went dead.
Heathens, the lot of them. Seriously, human speak wasn’t my first language, but I had picked up enough over the years to be able to listen and understand. You would figure the humans could at least repay the courtesy. It’s hard to form human words with a fox jaw set; certainly there was nothing I could change in this equation.
So speaking to the humans wasn’t going to work. There had to be other options.
It was Horse who came up with the next idea. “They sometimes tap on the screen and send messages that way. I’ve seen them do it when they should be feeding me. Maybe that would work.”
I was willing to try anything at this point. Ridiculous was three stops ago. I didn’t read or write Human very well, but it was worth a shot. I pawed at the screen, nothing happened. “Frog, come over here and give this a try. You seem proficient at getting this thing to behave itself properly.”
Frog hopped over. “I can give it a shot.”
“Much obliged,” I responded, retreating a few steps to watch him work. Watching more of his vigorous bouncing on the phone screen kept me mildly entertained for a few minutes until the phone vibrated.
“I got it to do something!” Frog said, stopping his ministrations to examine the screen. “Someone sent something.”
I cocked my head to the side, trying to decipher the gibberish. “What does it say?”
“Looks like we sent this,” he said, pointing to a bubble on the screen. ‘Jlv In ø \ a0ab 34348tu åaugjoi zølbmosdji jsøg ijio sjiw.’
Frog spoke again after gesturing to the screen scribbles. “And I don’t read either, so no idea what they sent back. Maybe they can get some meaning out of what I sent them.”
I rocked back on my haunches and sat down, shoulders slumping. “I guess that’s it then. The humans never will know what I really have to say.”
Frog hopped forward, meeting my forlorn gaze. “You’re a smart fellow, Fox. We know that. Probably smarter than the whole lot of humans that made that video. Sometimes you have to be satisfied with that knowledge and just let the rest go.”
I mulled that piece of advice over for a few beats. “I suppose you’re right Frog, I suppose so. Any idea what we do with this thing?” I asked, tapping my paw on the phone, claws clicking against the smooth surface.
“Wear it as a fancy fashion accessory?” Horse suggested from his position a few steps back. “Can’t say many people around here have such a statement piece.”
I shrugged. “I’ll figure something out. Thanks for the help guys.” With that said, I gingerly picked up the phone between my teeth and trotted back off toward my den with it.
Over the following days the phone rang a few more times, the calls going unanswered as the electronic sat abandoned in the corner of my den. As all things do, it eventually took its finally shuddering heaves in life, monotonous beeping (perhaps a warning of some sort, I know not) fading into silence and screen to black.
I gave it a good run, I am able to reflect back on my efforts and be satisfied. In the end, it may be that the news never will get out. Maybe my side of the story never will be told but as an entertaining tale of adventure to young kits, calves, or colts of the forest before bedtime.
‘What does the fox say?’ some ask. A group of humans will tell you one tale. Here I give you my side of the story as it unfolded. The phone, nothing more than a relic of times past at this point, still sits in the corner of my den. It’s a testament to my adventures, and from time to time, an inquiring individual will come to hear my story, as you have this very day. Perhaps the misconceptions held by those humans will never be rectified, but at the very least, you, a creature of forest will know the truth of that day as spoken straight from the mouth of a fox.