Striding softly between the empty traps, I attempted to quietly slide open a squeaky door. It was early, though, and silence was not yet crucial. Behind me now lay three baited traps. They lay as they had lain for the past six nights empty and still. I stepped through the doorway, grabbed a milk stool, and opened another door into the henhouse.
Placing myself in a corner, I sat down. The henhouse was empty except for me and a leftover portion of last night’s kill, which left the air stale with the faint smell of blood. Light from the setting sun still penetrated the cobwebbed windows, allowing full vision. I waited in silence. The windows dimmed, dimming faster than my eyes could adapt. I began to hear and appreciate small noises like the padding steps of a mouse on the floor above. The sounds of bugs landing on windows and the creaks of the old barn became oppressive. It was then that I began to fear what I had in my hands. My alert ears would certainly have a rude surprise if I were able to fire my shotgun at the fox in these close quarters. Regardless the job needed done. Driven by blood, only death would stop the monster. I resolved to do justice by the dead chicken in front of me even at the expense of my ears.
Twenty minutes later I sat in heavy darkness. The chicken carcass less then ten feet from me was now invisible. I heard everything, and my mind worked feverishly to decipher the many sounds and assign meaning to them. Somewhere out there was a fanged devil, with nothing on its mind but death. Then I heard it, a faint scratch against something metallic. My mind told me that there were two options. Either the fox was attempting to enter the henhouse through the screen, or he was clawing at the box trap in an attempt to dig the food out from its sides. I breathed slowly with measured calculation. The noise came again, and I failed to place it. Again the sound came. I had it. The noise was from outside the door that I had entered. The fox was stealing food from the trap that lay outside the barn. I stood up, and my knees cracked loudly. Every noise was loud, too loud. Any mistake would now ruin the night and postpone justice until tomorrow. Fortunately silence was on my side, and the henhouse door gave way quietly. Moonlight streamed in through the open roller door that was only feet away. I stepped confidently to the roller door.
Clearing the doorway with the gun at my shoulder, I now stood in the yard. Expecting to see a beady-eyed fox, I was shocked. Nothing moved. The traps lay undisturbed. My eyes darted desperately around the yard searching for the intruder. All was empty and still, but then again came that sound. Outside the scrape came clearer, a mere flutter against something metallic. I looked around confused. Then, above my head a bird stirred in the gutter, and the sound followed swiftly to my ears. Mentally I swore.
Back inside the barn I flipped on a light and kicked a bucket to make a little noise. Stepping back outside, I flung the door down its rusty rollers into the latch, making enough commotion to keep the fox away until morning. The yard was peaceful now, basking in the moonlight and safe from any danger. I headed for my truck and started it up. The fox had escaped for tonight, yet it was not over. While he might be foxy, I knew that he would return every night to fill his appetite, and I would be there to even the score. Tomorrow night the fox would return, and death would threaten again. Whichever night it was mattered little now, for I would be back, and I would be waiting.
Clint Leibolt is a junior from Perrysville, Ohio, majoring in Political Science and Business Administration.