The Fox gingerly lowered his fork, resting it softly on a pillow of pale eggs. He smiled to himself and took a deep breath. Even though they weren’t making eye contact at the moment, the Platypus squirmed in his chair when he saw the Fox smile. He found him painfully attractive from every angle — especially when he wasn’t looking back at him. Finally, the Fox swallowed, shifted his gaze to somewhere beyond the window and said, “Because I think you’re a silly, odd animal. But you make me feel important. And I can’t remember the last time I felt important.”
The Platypus was a silly, odd animal. He was chubby and he spoke with a lisp, but he was also smart and he had a knack for making the other animals laugh. The Fox, on the other hand, was quiet and elegant and took himself very seriously. He was a handsome beast with a fine, sleek coat and shimmering eyes like two river rocks. And although he was beautiful, he wanted to be valued for other reasons.
Outside, the rain was falling so lightly that it seemed to be second-guessing falling in the first place. If rain had a choice in the matter, that is. Inside The Crate Myrtle Café, the Platypus and the Fox couldn’t even hear it — like outside was on mute. Still, the Fox watched drop-after-drop soak the grass, imagining what it would be like to run a moist blade across his lips, which were red and chapped from kissing the Platypus. The beat of silence between them was interrupted when the waitress, a skinny raven with clumpy mascara, sauntered over and squawked, “How’s everything taysten, y’all?!” The Platypus squeezed his eyes together and pinched the base of his snout. “It’s lovely. Thank you,” he mumbled. The Raven flashed her service industry smile before swishing off towards the kitchen. When she was out of earshot, the Platypus sighed, “How’s everything taysten? Jesus, I hate when waitresses say that. It makes me want to gag. Like you want me to describe the taste of what’s rolling around in my mouth? Great, now I’m thinking of the half-chewed larvae wedged between my teeth, as if the act of eating larvae isn’t gross enough.” This made the Fox laugh, which made the Platypus smile with the unabashed glee of someone in love, which he was.
A few hours earlier, at sunrise, the Platypus snuck over to the Fox’s dugout under the cover off wild grass. He was greeted by the gorgeous creature standing there in all his amber radiance. And without so much as a good morning, he kissed him right there in the doorframe. They had chemistry; that was for sure, but their mismatched snouts made kissing difficult. Still, they did their best. In the dugout, everything was in its place (nothing like the Platypus’ dirty, slapped-together nest) and this made the Platypus feel embarrassed, occasionally pulling his focus away from their kiss. On the walls hung a congregation of framed photographs of the Fox and a large grey wolf. The Platypus kissed the Fox but kept a sideways stare on the image of the Wolf. Dear God I hope he doesn’t come home and catch us like this, he thought. He'll tear us both to shreds! He saw visions of his blood splashed across the immaculate dugout. The meticulously places photographs flecked with crimson drops — still boiling from the kiss.
“My turn,” said the Fox, the Raven refilling his coffee. “Why are you doing this?” The Platypus felt the weight of his own tail. For two feral animals, they were behaving awfully sheepishly. “To be honest,” said the Platypus. “I’m crazy about you. It's unfortunate that you’re with someone — someone who can swallow me whole — but I can't help how I feel.” He was still a little shaky from their earlier encounter; a mixture of anxiety and adventure. “But you knew that already, didn’t you?” The Fox caught a heavenly band of mid-morning sunlight across his face and closed his eyes. “Rain and sunshine,” he said. “Can’t do anything with that.”
At the next table, a chipmunk and a field mouse shared a dessert. They giggled and rolled their eyes and made fussy faces. First date, thought the Platypus. Lucky fucks. “I wanted it to happen with you,” said the Fox suddenly. The Platypus looked back at the Fox; into his shimmering river rock eyes. “What do you mean?” he asked. The Fox straitened up and looked down at the table. “I don’t want you think that I had an affair with you because I’m unhappy with the Wolf. I am. But I wouldn't settle for the first animal who came along. I think you’re a silly, odd animal. But you make me feel important. And I wanted this to happen with you.”
The Platypus tried to smile but he couldn’t. His heart was curling up like a snail. “That’s a relief,” he lied somberly. “I figured you weren’t happy and you needed something else. Someone else. But you’re so regal and beautiful.” He was beginning to feel small. “I just,” he paused. “I didn’t think you could want someone like me.”
There was silence between them. The nearly inaudible sound of pit-pit rain drowned out with the hum of effortless banter between friends over breakfast. The Platypus looked down at his heaping belly then he glanced over at the Chipmunk and the Field Mouse. The Chipmunk was sitting on one ankle, letting his free leg swing back and forth. He said something that made the tiny Field Mouse burst into laughter — his little squeaks drawing the attention of everyone else in the dining room. The Field Mouse covered his face with a napkin but continued to giggle into it. The Chipmunk looked at the Field Mouse like he was meeting his new best friend for the first time. The Fox was staring out the window again, and without looking at the Platypus, he said, “The Wolf is going to work early again tomorrow. Stop by around sunrise?”
And right there, in the middle of the breakfast crowd at The Crate Myrtle Café, the two small creatures were flash-flooded with the details, but flash-frozen in time. Everyone who came before didn’t matter; everyone who comes after won’t measure up. And acknowledging the awe and majesty of this moment, the Platypus made up his mind to never see the Fox again. Because even an animal as silly and odd as he should still have some dignity. And even the hot-and-fast affection of the Fox could not inspire the feeling he would get from just saying no.
This is the second story in collection of fables about woodland creatures in complicated relationships.
It is proceeded by the chipmunk and the field mouse.