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David Charters.

"THERE'S a dead fox on the side of the road," said the good man with strongly curved legs, which many years before had ghosted and dummied on the frozen mud of football fields. But this was a new Saturday and the eager sun spread up the sky over the curtained bedrooms of young lovers, who curled warm and snug in those loving hollows, where old couples sigh in memories - while, down the road, the beery, heavydrill snores of the moonlight's crazy carousers trembled the furniture. Soon they would all have to unplug their hangovers. For on Saturdays, the tingling stresses of offices, factories, studios and the other work places are transferred to the domestic front. Puffing cars honk over pot-holes along the maddening queues.

Chattering hordes trample the aisles of gardening and DIY halls, lit for the Damascus Road.

Children of the electronic age rush their breakfasts.

Plug holes gush. There's dead on the side Battering trolleys spark in the supermarkets. Everywhere, pulses itch and nerves are jingle-jangled. Sports fields and arenas await the thunder of feet and the old hotdog vendor, whose hands always smell of ketchup and onions, wheels his wagon - watched through the a lip-steamed window by the lonely aunty, who has filled the biscuit barrel again in the hope of quick and dutiful visits from her nieces and nephews, who are ever so much taller now. In this urgent mood of the modern Saturday, I strode up the hill to the village, where you know everyone by sight but few by name.

A little crowd had gathered on the pave-ment ahead.

People were pointing and gesturing and shaking their heads. As an old reporter, I am used to such scenes.

They usually betoken some sort of tragedy that is about to be taken out of their hands and placed in the care of the emergency services and then the bureaucratic authorities, who run our lives. "There's a dead fox on the side of the road," repeated the good man, whose blurred blue eyes can clearly see the heaven promised by the holy sacraments, taken faithfully in the little red-brick church. His devoted golden Labrador tugged a little on the lead, so as to sniff the body of the fox. "Come on, boy, there's nothing you can do now. He's dead," said the man, before walking away. "You see so many foxes around these days, even in the shopping centre," said a woman.

"But it is sad he's dead." "It must have been hit by a car," said another villager.

Although there were no signs of injury, that did seem the most obvious explanation.

He was very young, little more than a cub, and would appear to have been fit and strong before it happened.

So I nodded agreement without much sympathy and stared again into the sly slits of the animal's eyes, seeing his teeth in a mouth now slack and useless.

I haven't liked foxes since one sloped into the night with all the black, silent cunning of his kind and left with our brave rabbit, Milly, struggling for life in his razored mouth.

a fox of Of course, this wasn't the same fox.

It was illogical to feel like that. Animal lovers would tell you quickly enough that the fox is governed by his instincts, like all creatures.

If you wear leather shoes and eat meat, you have no right to complain about nature being red in tooth and claw, you hypocrite. But that is when you think of "the" fox and "the" rabbit, as members of a species, rather than as individuals.

It is different when you think of how a particular fox killed your son's beloved pet.

Then, because of him, you want to condemn all foxes for having to survive by their cunning and wits.

Yet the same qualities can be found in some humans and we shouldn't celebrate their deaths - or, maybe, just occasionally, we should. On returning home for dark tea, musing and biscuit-dunking, I realised that, for a few seconds, the fevered spin of a Saturday had been slowed by thoughts of life and death, which is what it's all about in the end. * LISTEN to David Charters on his picture podcasts at www.liver-pooldailypost.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Aug 31, 2010
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