At dusk on Holland Mountain Road, heading toward Milton, I swerved slightly to avoid a fox trotting purposively along the shoulder, his resplendent tail caught in the headlights. There was no one coming in the other direction. I was sleepy though and the road was slick, which meant the maneuver was a little more heart-stopping than it should've been. People tell you to steer into a skid, but the action is hardly instinctual.
I wound up some seven, eight feet into some deep wet grass bordering a golf course. My heart thumped and the car filled with a sweet damp smell. Wet leaves. Mud. The engine running. I remember it sounded normal. An odd phrase ran through my head: "Keep the home fires burning." I was uninjured and so, apparently, was the car. I've been driving a Subaru for many years -- up here in winter a four-wheel drive is mandatory -- so I wasn't worried about getting out of the mud. I looked in the rear-view mirror. A frightened and embarrassed ape grinned back at me. The right thing to have done would've been to back out slowly onto the road and drive away, into the supposed safety of the routine.
But it was too quiet there, and an eerie light hovered above the manicured fairways, and I could hear a stream somewhere splashing over rocks, and I thought to myself, so much of this miraculous world I take for granted. Why tonight? The effin ape wanted to pray, to tell someone or something that he would do better, that he would live inside his skin the way an animal does, conscious only of the present, without care for the morrow, or regret for the past. But the ape couldn't pray. The ape had lost the ability and the tongue. The best the dumb brute could do was follow the fox into the brush.
I stared out at the dark green serenity of the golf course. The oncoming night was warm and the mist had lifted. I shut off the engine. Hush. Who amongst us is still good at it? Prayer. Acknowledging the great unknown. Honoring the sacred. Anyone you know, poot? I sat there and remembered Father Capon -- what was it, thirty-five years ago? -- out on the Island, in Garden City, at the Mercer School of Theology. Hunting the divine fox, he called it. Yeah, right. Just like tonight. Tell me, Father, who is hunting who?