The Bukowski Agency - Red Fox Road - Excerpt
Red Fox Road

a middle-grade novel by Frances Greenslade


I DON’T REMEMBER MUCH about that night on the road in the middle of the woods, even though I’ve gone over it in my head probably hundreds of times. It must have been quite late by the time Mom and I finally climbed into the truck and zipped ourselves into our sleeping bags. I had wanted to keep the fire burning all night, but I was too tired. The reflection of the flames flickered on the truck windows. I think I fell asleep quickly.

I know I woke at least once because I remember feeling that Mom wasn’t sleeping. I didn’t say anything and neither did she, so I don’t know how I knew. Maybe her breathing.

I jerked awake at daylight. Something had wakened me. I’ve tried to remember what it was—my own gasp, a bad dream, or my sore neck, or a sound. Or was it too quiet? I turned to look for Mom. She wasn’t there. A muffled fog hung in the air. I craned my stiff neck to look out at the tailgate. She wasn’t there either. I was suddenly wide awake. I tried to tear myself out of my sleeping bag, but it was twisted around my legs and I couldn’t get out of it fast enough. I pushed open the door and yelled, “Mom!”

I fought with the zipper of my sleeping bag. Tears were springing to my eyes and blurring my vision. I half fell out of the truck with the bag still around my legs, caught myself with the sideview mirror and pulled my feet from the tangle.

“Mom!” I called again. “Where are you?”

How did I know? How did I know something was really wrong? I still wonder about that.

I ran up the road calling into the woods. She had stepped off the road before to go into the woods to pee. Maybe she’d done it again. I strained to see the blue of her jacket in among the trees. Grey morning light seemed to swirl in a mist among the trunks and hanging beards of moss. Nothing else moved. I ran up the road in the other direction, calling. Then I stopped to listen. The stuttering drill of a woodpecker against a tree startled me.

I ran back to the truck to check the fire. Had she been sitting beside it? My legs felt like they were struggling through deep water. Ghosts of fog shifted shape around me. But the fire when I got to it was cold. When I poked it, the embers sent up a thin wisp of smoke. No wood had been added or piled nearby. There was no sign she’d been sitting out here after we’d left it for the night.

Maybe she’d gone to look for water. I clambered onto the truck bed, cupped my hands around my mouth and yelled as loud as I could, “Mom! Come back!”

I must have kept that up for half an hour, yelling, then pausing to listen, then yelling again. There was nothing. The woodpecker’s drill, the grey fog shrouding the still forest.

Sun began to shred the fog and warm up the morning. I remembered the horn. I climbed back into the truck and leaned on the horn. It blared in the silence. Four or five times I blasted and held it. I was about to give the S.O.S. signal when I noticed a folded piece of paper stuck under the windshield wipers. My heart leapt. How could I have missed it? How could I have been so stupid? Wherever she had gone, I’d probably frightened her now by blowing the horn. She would have heard it and worried that something had happened to me.

I jumped out and pulled the note from the wipers. Mom’s handwriting on a torn piece of my drawing paper.

Dear Francie,

I’ll be back for you. Don’t go anywhere. I know you’ll be brave.

Love Mom



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