The Laying-Out

By Aileen Hunt

A fox walks along the shed roof, graceful and sure-footed, turns to look at me, one heartbeat, two, then jumps onto the neighbour’s wall, sun shining on his red fur and oh, the colour of his fur, the same colour as my son’s hair, the surprise of a first red-haired child, a wiry boy, fearless, impetuous, who jumped into the deep end of the pool and had to be rescued the first time I brought him swimming, who leapt off the couch and hit his head on the coffee table when he was three, and I held him in my arms while blood poured down his face and the neighbour who’d called to welcome us to our new house stood holding a plate of newly-baked cookies and that same neighbour stepped in front of my car one day, shouting and pointing at the gates of the complex where we lived, the gates half-closed and my son wedged in the corner, on his knees, the gate compressing his neck and the motor grinding, grinding, trying to close further and somehow two men in business suits appeared and managed to shift the heavy gates off their runner and I lifted my son, pale and limp and laid him on the grass and even as his eyes flickered open and even as I burst into tears of relief, I knew for one second the grief of mothers who feel the weight of their child for the last time, and I remember the dead fox I saw at the start of the summer, his red fur luminous in the morning sun, lying graceful and unmarked on the footpath, and imagine the driver of the car who hit him, his shock at the fox’s sudden appearance, the panicked stab at the brakes; and how he must have stopped his car and cursed his luck; known that if he’d left his house a minute earlier or a minute later, he wouldn’t be kneeling over a dead fox now, lifting him off the road and carrying him to the footpath to lay him out in the sun, still warm, still beautiful.


Aileen Hunt is an Irish writer with a particular interest in flash forms and lyric essays; her work has appeared in various online and print publications including Cleaver Magazine, Sweet, Hippocampus, Entropy and Slag Glass City.


Art by Colin Laing.

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