Guide to Moral Living in Examples: Foxes

"When I marry, it'll be to a man rich enough to buy a star, way up there in the sky," Micky would say as she set down her wash rag, turning away from the filthy dishes and greasy candlelight towards the floating fireflies and shimmering starlight. She was an unfortunate young woman with an unfortunate name. Her parents kept Micky around the house, mopping and cooking and shoveling. They sent her older sister, Melissa, off to work in town. Melissa felt bad for her younger sister and would often speak well of her to the fawning local boys.

"Micky is quite beautiful," Melissa would say, and the boys would immediately get a mental image of a punchdrunk boxer with ears the shape of something you'd harvest from a garden and a nose like a rusty shovel. No matter what else Melissa said, their first impressions would never leave.

"Oh, what's the use," Micky said aloud, leaning on her hoe out in the eastern field, the one nearest the Forest of Wishes. She'd been toiling away for the better part of the morning as the dew, then the fog, then her sweat had burned off as the sun ascended. "If wishes were fishes, I'd still have to scale, gut and cook them for those good for nothing parents of mine."

"Maybe not," said a voice.

Micky picked up her hoe.

"Who said that?" she asked.

"Me," said a small, mangy fox. A series of acrobatic fleas performed for one another on a clear patch of skin upon the fox's back. Micky screwed up her face.

"Foxes cannot talk, and when they do they are always quite fancy, sly creatures," Micky said.

"Unfortunately, you can't negotiate yourself free of fleas. Believe me, I have tried," the fox said. It scratched at its ear, a purely symbolic gesture as the fleas almost immediately regrouped.

"Well, there must be a way to get rid of them," Micky said.

"Alas, these are a wish put upon me by an unreasonable farmer, and so can only be broken by a counter wish," the fox said.

"Why don't you go make a wish?" Micky asked.

"I already used my wish to turn into this badass fox to escape my crappy family," the fox replied. "They were horribly rich, and horribly horrible, so if I ran away they'd only send their goons after me to pick me up. I turned into a fox and they never figured out where I went. But these fleas! Terrible!"

"So you need somebody to wish you back? I have never visited the Forest of Wishes," Micky said.

The fox's scaly ears perked up.

"You still have your wish?"

Micky nodded, slowly.

"My dear, if you wished these fleas away I would, I would, uh, do you like money? I would be able to tell you where you could find more money than you could spend in a lifetime. Believe me, my parents have been trying."

"Is the fortune enough to buy a star?" Micky asked.

"You bet your flealess behind," the fox said.

The fox led the way into the Forest of Wishes. The verdant green canopy soared high over head, supported on thick, ancient branches growing from gnarled trunks that had all the texture and sturdiness of a mountain. No birds chirped, no insects buzzed, and nothing rustled. All that Micky heard was the trees whispering to each other.

"Micky of the Muddlelubb family, you have come to the Forest of Wishes for one purpose, and that is to receive your one wish, is it not?" asked the trees.

"It is, your emerald grace," Micky replied.

"Then state your wish and have it granted," the trees said.

"I would like you to turn this fox back into a man," Micky said.

The trees rustled, drowning out the fox's surprised cries. The rustling subsided.

"What happened?" Micky asked, staring at the fox.

"That fox was never a man, so you cannot turn him back into one," the trees said. "But though your wish is impossible, you've still used it. Leave the Forest of Wishes and never return."

The fox grinned a sly grin.

"You tricked me!" Micky said.

"Of course I did," the fox said, "these fleas are damned itchy. But you tricked me! You said that you'd wish my fleas away but instead you want to turn me into a smelly old human!"

"Because I wanted to know a rich man who owed me a favor," Micky said. "And besides, that fortune that you described to me is worthless. If I wanted a fortune that took hard work to utilize, then I may as well...oh, right."

Micky strode out of the Forest of Wishes. She went to the town council, fake cried a bit, and had the deed to the family farm transfered to her name, then sold it out from beneath her parents. The first they heard was when Mr. Slopp rode up with his slop-wagon and began dumping garbage on the petunias that Micky had so carefully cultivated for years.

Half of the money went to Melissa, a few dollars went to send the fox to a groomer, and the rest went to paying a fellow who was on vacation from a distant land to go into the Forest of Wishes and wish that Micky had the wealth that the fox had described.

The Forest of Wishes, however, mixed up which Micky the wish was for and so a bouncer from the local tavern with a gently pulverized face suddenly found himself sitting upon a very uncomfortable ruby, the cherry on top of a glistening scoop of silver coins. Micky managed to track him down, he turned out to be a very understanding and sweet man, and the two lived happily ever after.

The Moral: if you use your wish to wish for more wishes, you are given fleas.

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