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Long Beach, CA

Felton and the Wolf: Chapter IX

“You wait here, Grandpaw.  I’ll run ahead and tell mum and paw that we’re having company tonight.  I should at least do that, eh?  I’ll be back directly.”  Felton ran down the path to his foxhole.  The sky was thrown sideways in a deep violet, and Grandpaw stood anxiously as fireflies danced around his head.

“Shoo now, you meddling things,” he said, “shoo…can’t you see I’ve got important things to attend to?”
Moments later, Grandpaw stood in the front doorway and pawed the ends of his scarf.  Mortimer, his son, was standing in the center of the room.  Sara stood to the side, but she was the first to speak.  “Grandfather!” she said, moving towards him, but Mortimer held out a paw to block her path.  Then he moved toward the old fox and shifted his head from side to side, as if inspecting him.  Grandpaw stood there awkwardly and then slowly held out a paw, proffering it to his son.  Mortimer ignored it, but placed his paw on the old fox’s shoulders.  
There they stood, face to face, and Mortimer chuckled, shaking his head, “It's very strange for you to show up like this.  But…I’m glad you have come.”  
Grandpaw seemed to sigh, and he glanced at the ground before looking back at his son.  “I…am glad to see you.  I have things to explain, but no excuses.  I have no excuses.  I have not been who I should…”

“Father,” interrupted Mortimer, “Don’t you want to see your grandchildren?”  

Grandpaw seemed to break down, lowering his head to his chest, but he quickly recovered.  “Yes, I should like that very much.”

Mortimer turned to Sara and said, “Well, get the young ones.  They will all want to meet their Grandfather.”  
Madge and Margaret came bouncing in at once, followed by their younger brother, Morgan, who was carrying along a ragged blue teddy bear.  They had obviously been waiting at the door for the slightest signal that it was safe to make an appearance.  Madge and Margaret slid to a quick stop in front of Mortimer as Morgan, trying to catch up, ran into them.  Each looked up, mouths agape, to survey the old fox.  He towered over them like a wizard.
“This,” said Mortimer, “is your Grandfather.”
Madge, recovering, stepped forward politely, curtseyed, and offered her hand to Grandfather.  “Very pleased to meet you, Mister Grandfather.”
Grandfather got down on one knee, “Well, what a lady.”  Then, sweeping his paw forward in a dramatic bow, he bent over, his hand still holding hers respectfully.  “The pleasure, madame, I assure you, is all mine.”
Madge smiled and leaned her head against her shoulder as Margaret stepped forward and said, “I’m Margaret,” and touched the stooping fox on his bald spot, fascinated and unafraid.
“Well, Margaret,” said Grandpaw, “I must tell you sometime how I got that great spot on my head.  And this, I presume, is Morgan?”
Morgan stepped forward.  “You old.” he said, and Grandfather embraced the young fox and laughed until his belly shook.

They had dinner of buttered garlic trout served over field mushrooms and pickled vegetables and deep mugs of hot chocolate for dessert.  The conversation went swimmingly, and Felton marveled to see his Father and Grandfather sitting at the same table, smiling and laughing.
The young ones were sent to bed, leaving just Mother and Father, Felton and Grandpaw.  Grandpaw told stories from the past, when Mortimer had been young, and Felton listened gleefully to tales of his upstanding father getting into all sorts of trouble.  He particularly enjoyed a story about a large jar of crickets and a prank which shut down Mortimer’s school.  
When the fire had begun to grow low, the embers burning red and soft, the smell of winter seeped in through the oak door, and Grandpaw turned to Father and said, “Son, there were…some thing—things I wanted to say.”
Sara graciously interrupted, saying, “And we,” looking at Felton, “were just going to clean away these dishes and send this young fox to bed.  It is entirely too late for him to be up.  Look at him yawning.”
“I wasn’t yawning!” said Felton.
“Come, young fox.”  There was no pleading against that tone of voice.  They cleared the dishes and Felton was excused to his room.  Looking out through the crack in the door before he crawled into bed, he saw his father and grandfather deep in conversation.  It was a serious talk; he could see that from the way their bodies faced each other.  Sara interrupted them for a moment and kissed them both on the forehead as she said goodnight.  Then they sat alone against the light of a dying fire.  Felton smiled to himself and soon fell asleep.