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The One That Got Away
by Mike DiSalvo

  The alarm jangled me out of bed; I swung my feet and touched them down on the icy floor. I ambled my way into the kitchen, and put on a pot of coffee. I stared out the window, and noticed Jack Frost had left one of his masterpieces on the panes. The newly fallen snow glittered in the dim starlight. I poured a cup of coffee strong enough to carve, dang must be the good stuff, I thought. I walked into the backroom and uncased my shotgun. The pungent smell of Hoppe's and WD-40 permeated the air. I slid back the action to check the chamber I knew was empty, better safe than sorry, I always say. I shrugged into the heavy overalls and put three shells into my pocket. I shouldn't need more, I hoped. I opened the backdoor and stepped out into the new snow. The stars above looked like diamond dust spread across the black velvet of the night sky. I still had twenty minutes or so to get to my stand before first light. My feet cast up tiny mute explosions in the newly fallen powder. I quickly walked down the old logging trail, passing the ancient hemlocks that stood like silent sentinels, watching me as I passed. I trudged through the snowy field and into the creek bed on the far side. The creek though covered in its winterine shroud of snow and ice still burbled contentedly. I could hear it faintly as I stopped to catch my breath.

The sun was just bloodying the eastern horizon as I got into my stand. I quickly set up the speaker and unroll the wire of the electronic call. I hunkered down against a huge old oak, and waited for enough light to see clearly. Finally the pale winter sun illuminated the scene enough that I could see clearly all around me. I pressed play on the caller, and the plaintive squeals of a dying rabbit, raped the still morning air. I scanned the surrounding countryside looking for a red fox eager to get an easy breakfast. After a few minutes I noticed movement on a brushy hillside to my north. A blood red dot was moving in on my position at an amazing clip. As it got nearer I could see it was a huge red fox decked out in his best winter coat. I slowly swung the shotgun off my knees and onto my shoulder, so as not to alarm him. He pulled to a stop at about 40 yards away, looking over the area. I placed the bead of my shotgun on his chest, and started to pull the trigger. I had gotten the trigger about half squeezed, when he disappeared like a magicians handkerchief. Gone, no trace, no noise, just some footprints in the snow, almost as if he had not been real. He pulled a vanishing act that would make David Copperfield green with envy. I turned off the call and rolled up the wire, looking at where he had been.

As I started on my back trail to the house, I started thinking of that fox; was I upset he got away? Well maybe part of me was he had a beautiful coat that was red as blood. I was out of work and that was twenty-five bucks I could have used badly. Still another part was glad he got away, it means he and I might just cross paths again someday. If we cross paths again, maybe I'll let him get away, just for old times sake.