The Fox Upstairs

1 March 2019 in Writing

The man upstairs is a fox. The day I moved in, he stood at the corner of the parking lot, his dark eyes following boxes in and following empty-handed delivery men out. He stood there too long, and I thought maybe he’d lost his car, though there are fewer than twenty spots in the lot. I’d just finished counting–boxes, parking spots–when he stepped forward, extended his hand, folded at the waist, “Hello. I live upstairs.”

His shirts are always tucked in. His hair is always neatly combed. As he walks, his eyes dart left and right, scanning the territory. He is a fox, I tell the tiny jade bear totem on the bookshelf. “What do you think of that?” The bear gnaws his half-eaten fish, silently, in his own demonstration of always.

I hear the fox upstairs peeing, and it fits: The toilet is a cultured object, like the fox and his tucked-in shirts. There is joy in the precision aim of that peeing. I can hear it.

I also hear a hum. The fox owns a machine, I think, trying to Nancy Drew the situation with my ear pressed to the wall. What could it be? A minifridge full of Champagne? A computer mining bitcoin? A humidifier soothing his slender sleeping fox throat? What could it be?

I lie in bed at night following the hum through its arc and radiance. It grows around me, like a net I did not see. The fox has set a trap and I am caught.

I imagine approaching the fox on his terms, my shirt tucked in, clipboard in hand, and a polite inquiry to inspect all the outlets in his apartment. His eyes flicker to and fro and then he shrugs, sure. He goes into the bathroom to take another precision aim into the toilet. The half-eaten fish falls from my mouth.