Sunday was special for the whole family. They rode the horse-drawn wagon down a rutted, bumpy road to the old fisherman’s cabin by the sea. The father carried their weekend bags into the bedrooms while the children pedaled around on wooden trikes the fisherman had carved in the old days. Mother put tea on and opened all the windows. By the afternoon the kids would be exploring, sometimes up by the abandoned lighthouse, sometimes in the second floor crawlspace. The dog, a blue-eyed Australian sheepdog, would either be along for the adventure with the children or sitting at the hearth, presiding over the cabin.
Today was no different from any other Sunday and the family was spread out when the storm came in. The little boy and girl were up top the lighthouse, lying on their stomachs telling rude stories. The mother rested in the cabin with a book on the daybed by the window. The father was using one of the fisherman’s ancient scythes to cut some grass by the back shed and the dog lay nearby.
The sky turned an ugly violet and then almost black before unleashing massive torrents of rain. The father made a run for the house, arriving at the front door soaked to the bone, holding his dripping scythe. They put wood in the stove and lit all the candles, waiting for the children. The dog kept vigil at the front door, growling. What are you on about? It’s just Mother Nature, said the mother.
God’s angry about something, said the father, tamping his pipe with a pie-nail. Don’t say that, said the mother.
Why shouldn’t he be? There’s a lot to be angry about, the father said, walking through a cloud of his own pipe smoke on the way to the front door. What’s all this?
On the lawn outside the front door, in the rain, there were maybe fifteen or twenty foxes, bedraggled, all sitting and staring in at them. The dog’s growl didn’t let up. Just then there was a terrific thunderclap and the father jumped, his pipe falling and breaking on the wood floor. Marty! the mother called, rushing to stand behind him. The rain poured down and it became suddenly dark as night outside.
I’m going up to the lighthouse, the father said. I’ll bring the kids back. But he didn’t move from where he stood. We’ll go together, the mother said.
You stay dry, the father finally said, pulling on his mackintosh over a heavy coat. I’m taking this, he said, picking up the scythe. The dog followed him out into the night and the mother stood alone by the door, her eyes straining to see into the blackness. There was lightening and a powerful thunder blast and she saw the silhouettes of the foxes still there. Go away, she whispered.
Soon the foxes were scratching right at the door and howling with terrible, shrill, almost human voices. The mother backed toward the kitchen and took a long blade from the knife block. To get away from their howling she moved into the back of the cabin and finally up the ladder into the crawlspace. She lay up there, trying not to doze off, holding the knife to her breast and listening to what sounded like a hundred babies crying outside.
Her eyes closed and she dreamt of waking in the morning when the storm had moved on. In her dream the windows of the cabin had all been smashed, leaving wet puddles and broken glass. Her dream self walked up the stone path to the lighthouse and entered the stone building. All the way up the winding stairs she called the names of her husband and children.
When she got to the circular lantern room she found her family surrounded by the foxes in an odd tableau. We’ve become friends, the father said, his hand resting on the withers of a large fox. The children giggled, staring at her strangely. The dog lay with its head down, eyes following her movements. GET THEM OUT OF HERE, she wanted to say but she’d lost her voice. She went to lift the scythe but she found it was much too heavy for her. As she struggled with the scythe she was pulled out of her dream by her real-life husband shaking her by the shoulders. Wake up, the children are waiting outside in the wagon, he said. There’s another storm coming so we’d best leave now.
Dawn was just rising as the horse drew their wagon up the hill and out of the valley. A lone fox watched the family depart as once again the drops of rain started to fall.