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(Painting by Jacqui Faye)

 

« The fox is in the hole! »  Or is it the other way round?

“Starting like a bucolic tale, the story soon focuses on Ronnie drinking in a place of “netherwordly” secrets, a ghastly hotel packed with debauched, wizened men, whores, and orphan girls forced into prostitution. Tonight a horde of human hounds lost in lust will go hunting a mythical fox in a red dress, endowed with all the attributes of a legendary wyvern of old, with all the fantasies and curses attached to the name. She inflames the imagination of people pent up in a world of dull perversity. The hunt turns out to be a search for sensations, an age-old rite to be performed, a loathsome outlet for the tensions from failure. She is the unattainable, evil deity that challenges the hidden demons in man.

But for Ronnie, it is a quest for meaning. Inner stench versus outer petrichor: he chooses to quit the chase of primeval instincts and roam the city alone in the night, looking for peace. 
While erring in the streets in the storm, at the crossroads between dream and reality, he will meet the unexpected.
The story functions both as an allegory and an elating thriller. Thanks to an array of phantasmagorical images that contribute to the eerie atmosphere, the author explores the animality in man and the role of myths. He delves deep into the chaotic abyss of sexual urges, without ever losing direction.”

– Brigitte Poirson on “Red Fox”

 

***

“Oh, she’s a real vixen, that one,” said The Kid. “Crafty, clever – hard to catch.”

“Has she ever been caught?” asked Ronnie.

“Once or twice,” answered the old man. “She picks a bar, somewhere in the city, sits down and orders a drink.”

“In a red dress.”

The Kid nodded.

“Yes, always a red dress. Always a frozen margarita – with salt.”

The click clack echoes of cheap stilettos upon warped wooden stairs preceded the entrance of another Stardust employee. She entered the bar room. Her eyes were lined thick and black as old motor oil. She was one, crafted by abandonment and abuse, who looked as if she’d been trying a long time to find a way back to herself.

She pulled down at her short, scarlet skirt. Her stockings had holes running all the way up the inside of her thighs like gaping cigarette burns. She had the slightest pink rash upon her cheek – where some stranger’s rough stubble had rubbed up against her face. There were bruises upon her pale arms, matching her eyeshadow.

The heels on her stilettos were worn, Ronnie noticed. She must have been well acquainted with the street corners, where she swayed to men who passed, hoping to tickle their weaknesses.

She smiled at him. She had some lipstick on her teeth and a forked tongue.

Forked tongue. Lipstick teeth. He wondered if she shed her skin between clients. If she fucked the way rattlesnakes do. If she danced like a cobra.

Contrary to popular belief, fishing, and not prostitution, was the world’s oldest profession. Only the bait had changed.

Ronnie looked away, turning back toward the old man beside him.

“What then?” he asked.

“Well, then she waits,” said The Kid. “For some lucky guy to follow her drag, to come in and say those magic words.”

“And if they say anything else?”

The Kid sighed.

“She gets up and leaves, to another bar.”

 

***

“I heard she killed a man once,” said another local, seated at a nearby table. He had a woman in his lap with her thin arms around his neck. His face and throat were covered in dark-red lipstick kisses – perverted jaguar markings, the commonly-spotted Stardust pervert.

“Heard she fucked him right to death,” he said.

Ronnie shrugged.

“I heard she has seven extra muscles in her vagina,” said another local.

“I heard she’s old,” said the drowsy girl in the pervert’s lap. “Like really old. Like seventy years old.”

“You’ve never seen her?” asked Ronnie. “You work with her, don’t you?”

“Nobody knows who’s been with her and who hasn’t. Those guys just vanish. She might not exist at all.”

“She’s real,” answered the girl lazily, her head rolling back, painted eyelids heavy and battering like wounded butterfly wings. “You just won’t find her here. She never comes here – she’s way too good for a place like this. They say she lives alone out there in the hills somewhere. They say she’s got the neon’s disease – only comes out when the nightlights are on.”

They said The Red Fox moved the way dead leaves scattered in the wind. They said, in her arms, between her thighs, a man could receive a grace in oblivion that he had never been given in life, and they whispered that she was the barely living daughter of a world barely surviving.

They said a lot of bullshit, but Ronnie wasn’t really listening.

The girl with the forked tongue was licking her lips, staring at him.

 

***

The Kid smacked him across the back.

“Don’t settle for any of these women, my boy,” he grumbled, glaring about the place disapprovingly. “Not tonight. Join the hunt!”

Ronnie had begun to object between mouthfuls of beer when the old man interrupted.

“You don’t throw a diamond away because you’re distracted by glitter.”

Ronnie swallowed hard.

 

***

He had begun to drift in and out of conversation with these locals surrounding him at the bar, closing in, tighter and tighter like the muscles of a python. With every exhale – the I’ve-Heard’s and Did-You-Knows concerning the elusive Red Fox were choking more and more life out of him.

This place made his soul feel sick.

At the other end of the bar, Ronnie had begun to eavesdrop on the conversations between the Bar Manager and a group of dead-eyed Stardust girls.

The phone on the counter kept ringing; the Manager kept answering and then slamming the receiver back down into the cradle.

“There’s a guy in 201 who wants his diaper changed,” he’d say.

He’d say, “There’s a woman in 609 who is lubricated past the point of discretion. She wants to go ass-to-ass with another woman up there, using a double-sided dildo.”

“In Room 102, there is a man being fucked by another man in a bear costume. They’d like a fresh ice bucket and a roll of duct-tape.”

“The guy in 905 keeps calling, he’s still waiting for his black girl. He’s got the white girl, he says, but the Top Deck won’t be Top Deck at all without the dark chocolate.”

He turns to a young redhead, pressing the palm of his hand into the mouthpiece of the phone and says, “The sucker in 303 wants the Red Fox. Willing to pay an arm and a leg. Yes, yes, I’m well aware you’re not the Red Fox, but get your ass into a red dress and get the fuck up there anyway.”

This place made his soul feel sick.

 

***

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The full story – “Red Fox” can be read in EXPOUND’S “Dirty” Issue – HERE

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