The following is a teaser from Chapter Three of my novel, The Hunt for Elsewhere (c) Beatrice Vine. This is a raw cut from the draft as I have not yet begun the editing and rewriting process yet. Please let me know what you think of the cut and if there’s anything I can do to improve upon this scene. I’m sure there are plenty of grammar errors and overly “flowery” writing to be dealt with.
One thing: I am debating on whether or not I should switch from past tense to present tense for the prose. I’ve recently started writing in present for another project and I’m liking it. I’m not sure, however, if present tense will work for a long story. Beyond that, ugh… I’d have to run a comb through every sentence in the rewrite if I make such a change.
“We should settle for the night. We’ve already made it across the state border. New Town should be about two to three days away if we keep moving at this pace.”
The crow nodded.
“That’s great!” Saxton happily skipped about in a circle. “I’ll be home soon!”
Though he would never admit it out loud, Quill was relieved that he was very close to completing his task and being free of the burden he had willfully placed upon himself. When they sought haven beneath a cottonwood for the night, Saxton fell asleep almost instantly and Quill watched him from his perch. What would he do, he thought, if the kit’s family was nowhere to be found and he would be hampered with this fox forever?
A hoot and flutter of thick wings descended from above him. Quill looked up. It was his friend Echo, the owl. He greeted her with a small bow of his head. She returned the gesture in kind.
“May I speak with you?” Echo whispered, “Away from sensitive ears?”
He glanced at the dozing fox. “Yes, but not too far away.”
They flew three trees over, just close enough that Quill could watch for any danger approaching Saxton, and just far enough that Saxton would not be able to hear their conversation should he rouse from slumber.
“His fur is turning red,” said Echo, a frown forming between her large, orange eyes. “Before long, he’ll be a fully grown. If he decides to eat you, what will you do then?”
“He will not eat me.” He said this defiantly, but without true confidence. He said it more to himself than the owl.
“That’s quite a leap of faith,” warned Echo. “Must I tell you the cautionary tale of the man who owned a giant python?”
“Watching the news through the windows again?” Quill said dryly. “These days it’s a load of rubbish.”
Echo rolled her eyes. “Be that as it may, a dead man is dead man. Partially digested, no less. Imagine the mess the landlord had to clean-up when the tenants noticed the horrible stench seeping through the floors!” She huffed. “At least in the wood, you can die with dignity.”
“You make it sound as if my premature demise is a forgone conclusion,” Quill said stiffly.
“Keep in mind a fox’s nature.”
“A fox’s nature is cunning, self-reliant, and opportunistic.” Quill paused and exhaled reluctantly. “I had been hoping that perhaps my influence might sway his view of things… I seem to have taken on a task greater than I thought it would be.”
“Yes, well, that always seems to be your problem.” Echo shook her head. Having known Quill since he first arrived in Montana, she wasn’t at all surprised by his current situation. “You should end this here, now, before it’s too late.”
“Too late? Please, I have time to waste.” Quill snorted, but then he grew visibly exhausted. “I just didn’t imagine this is how I’d be whittling it away.”
“You’re getting old, Quill,” said the owl. “You ought to fly home now. This year might be your last chance to see what’s left of your family.”
Unbeknownst to the owl and the crow, Saxton had awakened upon sensing that he was alone. Suddenly alert, Saxton softly called out Quill’s name to find out where he had gone. When no reply came, he raised his nose to the air and quickly found Quill’s distinct scent. He followed that scent until it grew stronger, and discovered the tree at which the two birds roosted and conversed secretively.
But his large ears were powerful, and his chest tightened upon hearing both the owl and the crow’s words. Worse, Saxton recognized that the owl was right: he was growing larger and hungrier, and every so often felt enticed by the notion of attacking and devouring his one and only friend.
Saxton’s eyes narrowed at the word, ‘friend.’
Quill had mentioned that he might one day make one. Though the word was very alien to him, out of the blue Saxton knew what that word meant. He couldn’t, at least not yet, define that word verbally, but he could define it by the complicated feelings it left him.
When he thought of Quill, he thought of his father, a protective and practical figure familiar with the ways of the world. Yet Saxton admitted to himself that Quill was far better than his father. He was kind, patient, and displayed an enlightened sense of knowledge that far surpassed that of Saxton’s family. With Quill, Saxton enjoyed the luxury of asking him questions without fear of being reprimanded. He felt safe and happy with the crow. He would do anything to return the generosity the crow had given him, even lay down his life
That was when Saxton realized he couldn’t- wouldn’t – remain.
Treading lightly on the soil and dry leaves beneath his feet, Saxton scurried away before the birds could notice that he was even there.
When Quill returned to the tree Saxton and he had rested at, his heart leapt to his throat. At the bottom of the cottonwoods, Saxton was nowhere to be found. Feeling that his eyes might be deceiving him, Quill circled the tree two times before acknowledging that the young fox had indeed left.
Instead of feeling grateful that the fox’s welfare was no longer his problem, Quill felt a wave of dread. He took to the air.
“Saxton!” The crow hollered. “Saxton, where are you? Saxton!”
Hearing Quill’s cries, Saxton began running. Quill had taught him the directions of north, east, south, and west, and with this information perhaps he would be able to locate his mother, father, brother and sister on his own. He hastened his pace, sprinting, hoping beyond hope that the crow would never find him.