Chapter Three: Fox Shock
"Hello? Is Mr. Fox in?
"Speaking. May I help you?"
"Well, Mr. Fox, this is the old woman calling. I would like to invite you to a tea party at my house tomorrow."
"How nice! But it's summer, you know, and I'm pretty busy raiding chicken coops and stealing grapes from vineyards, so ..."
"The other guest will be Muffin. I think you, er, like him."
"Whoa! Why, yes, in that case, I'll certainly be there. I'd love to eat ... er, see my old friend, Muffin."
She hung up, then called Muffin and invited him, too.
"Hmm," said Muffin. "As long as you're not planning to serve bagels! Thanks. Who are the other guests?"
"Just one," the old woman replied. "It's a surprise, but you'll recognize him. He's an old friend ... of mine."
"Hmm, okay," said Muffin. "What time?"
"Shall we say two-ish?"
"Two-ish, it is. See you then."
Muffin was suspicious. Opening his closet, he rummaged around until he found what he needed. The next day at two, when he arrived at the old woman's apartment, he was carrying a big black suitcase. Jumping up on the case, he pressed her buzzer.
"So glad to see you, Muffin," said the old woman. "Come in, the other guest is already here." She held the door open, but Muffin hesitated.
"Just give me a moment," he said, "I'll be right there. Can you leave the door ajar, please?"
"Okay," the old woman agreed, "of course. But first, I'll tell you a riddle. I haven't forgotten that nice one you told me about the leopard." She had a sly look on her face.
Muffin corrected her. "It was a cheetah, not a leopard."
"Oh, that's right!" she said. "I'm afraid my memory isn't what it used to be. Anyway, my riddle is, 'When is a door not a door?' "
Although Muffin knew the answer, he politely replied, "I don't know. When?"
"When it's a jar!" she shrieked, and went back into her apartment. Muffin opened the suitcase and took something out.
Fox was already seated at the table in front of an empty plate. He had a big white napkin tucked under his chin, and was holding a knife and fork and licking his lips. "Well," he said. "Was that who I think it was?"
The old woman winked. "He'll be right in."
At that moment, they heard the sound of steel scraping on the wood floor, and into the room rolled Muffin. He was inside a small cage on wheels. Pedaling up alongside the table, he did not get out of the cage.
With a smile, he said, "I'll have my tea in here, please." Fox stared at Muffin inside his cage.
"But why ..." the old woman began.
"It makes me feel safer. If you knew how dangerous a muffin's life can be!" He turned to Fox. "I'm sure you know that, Sir, don't you?"
Fox, who had been studying the cage, did not answer. Instead, he suddenly leaned forward and reached through the narrow bars to try to unlatch the door.
"Uh-uh-uh-uh-uh!" cried Muffin, imitating Woody Woodpecker. He pressed a button, and the bars of the cage suddenly became molten red. A giant shock knocked Fox from his chair, unconscious, onto the floor. Calmly, Muffin unlatched the door of the cage, climbed up the leg of Fox's chair, and took his seat. Resting his feet on the fallen Fox, Muffin smiled at the old woman, who looked guilty and confused. "Milk and sugar, please."
Article © Leo Siegel and Ron Singer. All rights reserved.
Published on 2019-12-16
Image(s) © Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.