The Joy Factory Book Worm

Sometimes I like to write stories. I’ll be posting online some e-books in the future and maybe some more short stories.

My friend (and fellow storyteller) Angus gave me a title to write a short story a few years and here is my first piece of creative writing since I was fifteen.

I give you…The Fox.


Swift Leicester licked the fresh blood off his knuckles. The window inched open, thanks to his rather frenzied crow bar work. He had rushed because he had heard a commotion. He mustn’t get caught! The delicious spread of food was within reach, while those idiots were in the other room.

Before he swung the window open, he caught sight of his reflection. A thin faced man, with a pointy nose and a carrot coloured pony tail stared back at him. Had it really come to this? A life of petty crime because his dead end job couldn’t support his pregnant wife?

His “peers” from the estate called him the “fox”. They used to skulk around the back of Morissons and snatch the odd handbag or phone then scuttle back into the shadows. “Leicester prowls around in broad daylight on the scavenge, as blatant as you like!”, they would say.

It was true, Swift did do his work in the day, but to be fair, not everybody was a window cleaner serving the richest area in town, Hillcroft Close. It would be hard for even the most moral guy to resist the temptation of indulging in some serious window shopping. All the toffs in these show homes would exhibit their shiny prizes for anyone to see – a snakeskin handbag here, a media centre lit up like a spaceship there, all the whirlers and gismoes in their magazine clinical kitchens, all seeming to glow through his spotless windows.

All the while, Swift and his pack lived in the most dingy, grotty, unloved dump, just a stones throw from Hillcroft Close, lovingly called Prospects Estate. It stuck in his throat that such rich show offs could live side by side with honest, hard working folk.

Well…kind of honest. If it was good enough for Robin Hood, then…? Swift made his choice as he grabbed his cleaning crate and inched his way through the window and silently dropped to the floor. On the table was a feast of delicious things, a trifle, a roast chicken and in the centre was a sumptuous pie, with steam billowing out of the china blackbird in the middle. He knew the party were next door, watching the rugby. He grabbed as much as he could carry and packed it all quickly into his crate. He heard footsteps so swiftly gathered up his prizes and squeezed through the window. He tried to walk as quietly and quickly across the lawn. The back gate was in sight.

He heard a sound. For a minute, he was sure the china bird was going to chirp out and rat on him. Ridiculous. Again, a noise, a rustle. He whirled around, to see who was there, but nothing.

He made his way safely through the gate, down the road until he reached the tunnel that led to Prospect Close. He was safe. Each step towards his flat, the food smelt more delicious. As he walked up the dingy stairwell, he pictured himself devouring great slabs of chicken. As he kicked open the door of his flat, he almost dreaded the sight of his frail Scarlett. There she sat, like a chick waiting to be fed, her eyes wide with expectancy.

They soon saw off all of the food. It disappeared in a flash, as they hadn’t eaten in days. The pie was all but finished, except the crumbs and the china blackbird laying beached in the bowl.

The next day, as the sun inched through the blinds, Leicester woke with a start. He felt hot, sweaty. He drifted in and out of sleep but the swelling of discomfort grew and roused him. He swallowed and swallowed and he knew the inevitable was coming. He rushed to the toilet and heaved his insides out. He spent the whole day living out this cycle. Each time he rushed to the bathroom, he eyed the food remains with regret. On one of the trips, the smell of the pie stuck in his nostrils. His eyes were drawn to the bowl. What? The blackbird had disappeared! How strange.

Later in that week, Swift and Scarlett felt a bit better. They were able to stomach some food again. One morning they were sat eating breakfast and Scarlett brought Swift the paper. She had circled a job, working in the local council. It was a great wage and Swift felt a prophetic surge of relief of being able to provide for his unborn son. The interview was next week. He had the skills, he had the chat, did he have something to wear? His Next jumper and dated pinstripes probably wouldn’t cut it. He put the job out of his mind.

He set off to Hillcroft Close to start the days work. Each step through the tunnel, his resentment grew, that ball of bitterness tightened just a little bit more. He reached the close and approached the first job of the day. He made niceties with the lady of the house, then set up his ladder to work. He climbed up the rails with all of his gear and brought his sponge up to the window. He stopped. Through the glass, he could see an exquisite suit hanging on the wardrobe. This was the kind of suit David Beckham would wear. He suddenly saw himself, strutting through the council and totally nailing his interview. Scarlett would be so proud to see him in that suit.

He cleaned the windows on autopilot. He had already worked out the whole thing. He came down the ladder, knocked on the door, found himself asking Lady Snooty, “Could I please use the bathroom?” Then he was in the hallway, in the bedroom and running his hands over the suit. The creases were as sharp as a knife, the material felt so expensive and the colour was like a wolf grey. It was in his hands behind his back, as he swept down the stairs and out the door. As he ran across the drive he sensed someone was there. He looked around as quickly as he could and saw a flash of red. He freaked, but then figured he must have just seen himself in the car window.

He grabbed his gear and ran. He was soon back at his flat and was delighted to find that the suit fitted him like a second skin. He saw himself in the mirror and thought he looked more like one of those rich red foxes you see in the countryside rather than the manky city ones you see.The suit gave him the confidence he needed. He thought about the owner, did he need it today? But the thought left his head when he thought about his salary.

Everything was going well. He had prepared and made it to the council in good time. He smiled at each person he met, until he found himself in the interview room. He suddenly felt tight, trapped, like the suit was trying to strangle him. His hands started to sweat. He had accepted a coffee and it now came towards him. He felt sick. His heart started to hammer in his chest and his hands were shaking, as he picked up the mug.

The lady extended her hand towards him and startled Swift. The next few seconds ran in slow motion. He held out his hand, but it was the wrong hand.The coffee sloshed out of the mug and travelled in a huge wave towards the woman’s chest. Great blobs of coffee hit her expensive suit in splashes and she let out a piercing scream. The next few moments were very quick. Swift didn’t hang around to take the heat, he ran for it.

He couldn’t bear Scarlett’s disappointment, so he stayed in the pub till late. He staggered home past all the foxes who were rooting in the bins, ripped off the suit and fell into bed. He hated that suit. Snooty git probably had ten!

He woke the next morning and his eyes felt like they had acid in them. The events of yesterday came slowly back and he suddenly thought he would cut that bloody suit to pieces. But, when he looked around for it, it had gone. Completely vanished.

In the next few weeks, the Leicesters prepared for the the birth of their son. They did their best to make their flat safe for him, but it was hard. They had no room for the baby and no proper cot. Swift would have to work all the hours he could, to get all the gear for the baby.

He took his old banger to Hillcroft Close as he had lots of windows to do. It was a Wednesday morning and all the layabout wives had gone out shopping. At around eleven they’d all come back with their chelsea tractors laden. He drew his car up the drive next to a shiny silver people carrier. He felt ashamed of his old car. The owner was chatting away over the fence. He noticed she was heavily pregnant. He got out and opened the boot to pull his stuff out. As he reached over to pick up his equipment, he noticed that the car next to him was full of baby stuff. There was a pram, a cot and bags stuffed with baby clothes. He could see they were for a boy. He glanced over at the woman – she was deep in chat with another lady over the fence.

He went around the side of the car to see what else was in the back seat. He saw a glint through the glass and noticed a silver rattle and spoon sitting on the passenger seat. The driver’s door was open. He found himself sliding into the seat. It was then he noticed the key was in the ignition. He glanced at the woman and turned the key. He didn’t look back as he as he went screeching out of the drive and sped out of the close, with all his clients staring at him, open mouthed. Well, ex-clients now. He was finished. What was he thinking? He would never work around here again. He had left his car and stuff on the woman’s driveway. But they didn’t know where he lived. He would flog the car tonight and cover his tracks.

As he swung out of the close and into Prospect Estate he screeched to a halt. There was the most red fox he had ever seen, stood perfectly still, in the middle of the road. It looked him square in the eyes. Unnerved, Swift hooted and the fox scarpered. He got back to the flat and one of his neighbours came running up and said, “Quick! Scarlett’s gone to hospital, the baby’s coming!” Swift went flying back to the car and drove as quick as he could to the hospital. He swung the car up to the front and ran through the doors to find Scarlett. He eventually found the ward and rounded the corner into the room, only to be stopped in his tracks by the sight of his new born son in his wife’s arms. Suddenly everything was forgotten, the car, the job – nothing mattered more than his baby boy.

Scarlett, Swift and their new son who they named Red, were able to return home later that day. It was dark by the time the new family got back to Prospect Close. As they got out of the car, Swift spied something in the darkness. Suddenly a fox came into the light. Swift suddenly realised this was the same fox he had seen earlier that day. It stared at him, as it had done before, then it ran off. Swift carried up all the goods from the car and the three of them entered their flat, which seemed like a different place with Red there. They laid him in the cot, after they ripped off the label, placed the silver spoon and rattle next to him, as a sign of better, more lucky times to come. Swift laid down, next to Scarlett, who was fast asleep and he nodded off, full of hope.

Swift stirred early the next day, he wasn’t sure what time it was, but he could see a stream of light and the orange hue of the street lights outside through the chink in the curtains. In a moment, he remembered stealing the car, rushing to the hospital and holding his new son. He suddenly felt an urge to go and see him. He tiptoed into the next room and gingerly approached the cot. The first thing he noticed was that the silver rattle and spoon were not there. He then saw to his horror that the cot was empty. He felt a sudden icy cold sickness surge through him. Red was gone. He frantically ripped through the flat, but found nothing. He grabbed his coat and flew out of the door and down the stairs.

As he reached the final step, he froze. There in front of him was the fox, staring straight at him. He found that he couldn’t break the fox’s stare this time. He knew he was searching for Red, but he was in some kind of trance. The fox continued to eyeball Swift, then it turned on its heel and starting walking away. For some reason, Swift knew he needed to follow the fox. So, despite himself, he found himself following the animal. It walked through the estate and towards the tunnel to Hillcroft Close. Swift followed behind. As they came through the tunnel, the fox shot though a gap in the hedge. Swift scrambled through behind it and kept on following. On they went, thought the undergrowth, until Swift had no idea where he was. Now they were amid the tree trunks and Swift kept following the bright red dot ahead.

Suddenly, Swift couldn’t see the fox. He found himself at the opening of a tree trunk, with deep fox tracks trailing into the hole. Swift knew he must enter. He got down on his knees and squashed his body through the hole. He kept crawling, in the pitch black, reaching out to feel the ground beneath him and the scratchy walls around him, with tree roots poking into him. He could see a chink of light ahead. He kept going forward, getting cuts and scratches, as the light ahead became wider and wider until suddenly, he found himself in an open space. There was the same fox he had been tracking. He was able to stand up in this space. He raised his body up and something caught his eye. It looked like a china bird. He rubbed his eyes. It was the same blackbird that was in the pie he had stolen, the one that had disappeared after he got so ill. He looked to his left, and there was the wolf grey suit he had planned to cut up. He was completely bewildered. He looked up at the fox and it looked to the right. Swift saw a tunnel, and at the end of the tunnel he could see….Red! He was holding the silver spoon in his hand. Before he scrambled through the tunnel, he looked at the fox again. They were locked in that stare again and just like that, Swift understood.

He scooped up Red, carefully crawled back through the tunnel, ran through the woods and back to the flat, as the sun was coming up. Scarlett was still asleep and didn’t even know what had happened that night.

From that day on, Swift was a changed man. That next day he had returned the car and all the contents to the owner, who was so amazed at his honesty and their poverty that she gave Swift his job back. Swift and Scarlett brought Red up to never steal and Swift never stole again from that day.

Red grew up to be a delightful bonny boy. One day, when Red was four, father and son took a walk to Hillcroft Close. As they walked up the road, Red went running over to someone’s front garden. “Daddy, look at that Truck! I want it!” he said, pointing to a red firetruck a young boy was playing with. Swift told his son, “No, Red, it doesn’t belong to you, you mustn’t touch anything that doesn’t belong to you.” His son looked disappointed, but Swift was sure he had made himself clear. A lady across the way waved at him and beckoned him over. He walked over to say hi. They had a little chat and Swift looked over, to check Red was ok. But, when he turned around, Red wasn’t there and neither was the red truck. In front of him, stood a bright red fox…

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