Etched out ghost town By Melissa Ingoldsby

Red was always trying to figure out who she was. She always sought out male friends over female, even as she usually had many female friends. She felt comfortable kicking back and cursing and talking loudly about crass subjects she had absolutely no idea about, but felt happy to sink into with her male compatriots.

She and her momma never could settle down enough for Red to actually gain long lasting relationships or friends, and this casted a shadow of loneliness on her heart. She truly longed for a place to belong to. She knew that they were different. That she and her mother had to move often for a reason.

Still, it angered the young adolescent and the irrational feelings of hatred spouted out when they would rush out of the middle of the night and leave with their bare essentials.

“Why are we leaving at one in the morning?” Red asked sleepily with an air of frustration. Her mother recognized the frustration. It was the same ongoing frustration that was overlapping between each move.

“Someone at work saw me. We have to go,” her mother almost mumbled as they tumbled their bags of unfolded things in the backseat of the car.

There was no time for tears. No time for over-winded woe-as-me crying sessions and stopping to feel sorry for oneself.

This was about driving. Just driving.

Just the humming of the gravelly road and the pitch dark night and the engine rumbling softly and the air conditioning barely hissing at them. No talking. No worries. Just driving.

Just surviving.

After what seemed like an eternity on endless streams of highways and roads, both backend and country and city, they reached what Red’s mother deemed worthy enough to categorize as their new home.

Red took a look around and saw dirt roads, a small grocery store that looked like a traditional Mom & Pop store, a small gas pump station with one pump and a tiny water spicket, and one attendant in a shack of a building to pay for the gas.

There was a old school house that looked like it had been right out of the book she brought with her, “Holes,” and she lamented that this one was very much still standing and not burnt down, unlike the one in the novel. It looked so old she thought just throwing an old stone at a corner would knock it down.

“Just like The Waltons, eh, Chipper?” Her mother lamely tried to joke and Red put up a half hearted laugh to soften the mood.

“Don’t call me Chipper, mom.”

“But you’ve always been, my love,” she states, and sees there is an office building to discuss rentals and other such adult things Red had no interest in, and so she checked her zipper as her mom left the car.

Letting out a long sigh, she felt it was secure and hidden.

“What a ghost story this stupid place is! This place sucks!” She said to under her breath, playing with her soft fur near her tail.

Her mom came almost bouncing toward the car, almost snagging her fox ear in the door frame as she closed it.

“Oh, Red, we have a small room we can rent! It’s perfect and I can work at the local church and bar to make rent!” She squealed.

Red rolled her eyes. “Seems a contradiction to work at both a church and a bar.”

Her mother gave her an admonishing look. “Oh, child, don’t give me lip! You know this is how we need to do things. You can make some fox and wolf friends. I saw some that looked about your age.”

“How would you know if they were my age. We’re huma-”

A strong maternal palm sprang mushed against a daughter’s mouth, closing it tightly.

Her eyes bulged and she whispered dangerously to her daughter, “Don’t… say… that..”

“How did the last of us go, anyway mom?” Red asked, her eyes watering after much silence and her mother advanced to the other side of the car, faux-paws pressed against the window.

“When we decided to recreate us in them, Red. We decided to humanize them, to let them live as long as us. And then… like everything… they decided they were better than us to rule..” she whispered against the glass window.

“Is it …Because.. we loved them?” Red asked.

Too much,” Her mother choked out.



They turned and looked at each other.

“My mask isn’t even this…” Red looked knowingly at their perfectly fitting fox suits. “I feel different, I feel better fitting in a taller, larger, boxier shape… not so small and feminine…” she felt her body go hot and the explanation she tried to rush out was hard to even imagine much less say out loud.

Her mother nodded. “Oh, sweetie…I know, Red. You’ve always been, my love.” The words of before echoed to Red, and it made her feel loved.

Suddenly, a large wolf with a suit came out and tapped on the roof of their car, and waved to the both of them to come out.

“Welcome to our fair community!” He said, “I got the paperwork all ready.” He looked down at the daughter and foothill smiled. “And looks like we got ourselves a funny new duck staying with us too. What’s your name, foxy?”

Red grimaced. “I’m not a duck, eh, wolfy!”

The wolf threw back his head and laughed before her mother could parent her properly. “Ah, that’s a good one.” He looked at the mother. “Charlotte, your young one has a spark to her!”

Her mother sighed but laughed too. “She sure does..” she casted a sideways glance, giving her daughter a warning glance, making Red turn in her shoulders inwardly with hesitation.

“I’m Red,” The young fox stated.

“Well, nice to meet you.” The wolf grins as they shook paws. “We got ourselves a Red.”

They all settled and went to the office, and to Red’s intense surprise, or maybe a hallucination—she saw tucked away near his pant line—-what looked like an identical zipper to hers.

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