1420 words • 39 paragraphs
Two foxes walked into a bar.
Well, okay, a diner. But most of those middle-American diners are outfitted with a bar type area, complete with red-and-chrome stools - you know the sort - which is close enough. Both were full of giggles, outfitted with grins and their most casual of “nice” clothes. Somehow managing to look similar without being related, the two got along as though they were brothers. One was taller than the other, and though both were thin, he came off as lanky, whereas the the shorter fox seemed more waifish - more of a track runner than his friend, the basketball player.
Although the restaurant was nearly empty - its only other customer being one of those old hound dogs who sits at the bar, nursing his second cup of coffee while staring at the gold flakes on the formica counter as if they might somehow swirl into formation, revealing the deepest secrets of the universe or the solutions to all his problems - the two jovial friends made their way to the corner booth and plopped down across from each other.
Their animated discussion, more gossip than anything, was interrupted by a cat on roller skates popping her gum loudly by the table.
The foxes grinned up to the waitress, who had picked up on the jovial mood and was beaming down at them. “What’ll it be, you two?”
Straightening up, the larger of the foxes proclaimed, well rehearsed, “A vanilla milkshake, please, and a couple of spoons.”
The waitress’ eyes flicked between the two, but she said nothing, simply taking down the order before rather pointedly asking the other fox what he’d like. The smaller of the two stammered for a second, caught off guard, “Uh.. c-coffee, please.”
The rollercat nodded and skated on off, leaving the two foxes to glance at each other, nervous, unsure as to whether they’d committed some sort of faux pas. Each shrugged at each other at the same time and both giggled, slipping back into their animated chatter.
The feline rolled smoothly up to the table again, this time with a tray holding a shake, two mugs, and a carafe of coffee. Setting the shake in the middle and the two mugs in front of each fox, she poured them both a cup of coffee before zooming back to the kitchen with the kick of a skate.
The coffee sat ignored by both foxes as each grabbed a spoon from the shake, pulling it out to get that first bite: that one where the spoon’s already covered with a liberal coating of shake, whipped cream, and chocolate sauce. Coated spoons made their way into waiting muzzles and subsequently licked clean by attentive tongues.
With much laughter, the conversation continued, drifting from teachers to movies, parents to homework. Slowly, carefully, the shake was diminished, each taking care to leave the maraschino cherry standing in the middle of the glass atop a pillar of sagging whipped cream.
The talking wound down until the two were eating in silence, the taller of the foxes apparently lost in thought as he stared out the window, while the smaller watched his friend with tilted head.
“Whaaat?” asked the larger vulpine when he caught the other’s gaze, muzzle lifted with a half grin.
Laughing, the fox shrugged and dipped his spoon in the slowly melting desert, holding it out to the taller fox. Giggling quietly, he leaned forward to take the proffered bite. Resting his chin on his paws, he smiled happily as he let his friend feed him another few bites of the treat.
Smiling just as much, the shorter of the two fished around in the glass with his spoon to get at the cherry, bright red. Picking it up delicately by the stem, he offered that as the next bite, his movements slow and deliberate. Leaning forward a little further, the larger fox delicate picked the almost-too-sweet fruit from the stem, eyes locked with the other’s.
With his co-conspirator in shake enjoyment still leaning forward like that, it didn’t take much for the smaller fox, still moving deliberately, to press toward him across the table. It was fairly clear what he intended to happen next.
Clear even to the waitress, who had rolled up at this inopportune moment to refill the untouched coffees. With a snap of her gum and a grumpy look, she jotted something on the check, slapped down on the table, grumbled, “I should’ve known,” and pushed off towards the kitchen.
The two foxes sat in stunned silence for several seconds as the insides of each of their ears blushed a matching shade of pink. The larger fox’s shaky paws fiddled with the check for lack of anything better to do, while the smaller fox sat still, eyes wide and welling up with frightened tears.
The check had “get a room” scrawled across it, and “on the house” scribbled hastily at the bottom. Taking that as their cue to leave, the pair made a clumsy escape from the diner, followed by the disdainful gaze of the rollercat.
Once they had made it out onto the curb, the warm evening air a welcome change after the spreading coldness from the shared milkshake, the two foxes gave a cautious look back through the glass into the diner. The waitress was still watching them from behind the counter.
They decided on home instead.
The two walked slowly down the street toward the larger fox’s house, the closer of the two homes, in silence. The taller of the foxes kicked at the sidewalk, more trudging than walking, and the smaller fox gave his friend a few glances with apologetic eyes.
“I didn’t think… I mean, I guess I shouldn’t have done that…”
“I’m sorry, I guess I forgot…” he trailed off once more.
Still nothing. The larger fox was looking down at his shoes as they scuffed along the concrete, his paws stuffed deep within his pockets.
“I think we should call off the rest of the night.” He walked in silence for a few more steps, brow furrowed, before repeating, “We should call off the rest of the night. See you tomorrow?”
The shorter fox, stunned, stood still for a moment before hurrying to catch up with his friend, grabbing lightly at his elbow, “No, wait.”
The taller fox stopped, but would not meet his friend’s gaze, frozen in place.
“I’m sorry, don’t go,” continued the smaller fox.
The taller of the foxes turned slowly and unhooked his friend’s paw from his elbow, taking it in his own, slipping his other paw free of his pocket to hold both of his friends in his own. “I just feel weird about things, you know?”
“Well, shucks, I do too, but,” he paused, then gave a defeated shrug. “It was still a nice night, wasn’t it?”
A smile tickled at the corner of the taller fox’s mouth and the tenseness in his shoulders and posture softened. “Yeah,” he said at last, nodding. “Yeah, it was still a nice night. Thank you.”
They smiled shyly to each other then both looked down the street to where the larger fox’s home lay, the soft glow of the porch light.
The larger of the vulpines turned to look back his friend, grunting in surprise when his muzzle met with another, one which had been aiming to give him a kiss on the cheek. Both blushing foxes mumbled an apology at the same time, giggled together, and pressed into an awkward kiss, noses mushed together and lips not quite hitting their mark.
Two foxes stood on the sidewalk, half in light and half in darkness, working out the logistics of their first, vanilla-flavored kiss: all the little things that make foxkissing nice, like tilting muzzles just slightly so that the nose is out of the way and standing on tiptoes, exploring new intimacies. Ears laid back and tails all atwitch, still holding hands, the couple relaxed back from the kiss and smiled at each other before averting their eyes bashfully.
Still blushing, still grinning, still paw in paw, they continued on their way to the taller fox’s house.
“Times are changing,” the smaller vulpine observed as they neared the low-slung suburban home. “I think they’re getting better, don’t you?”
The other fox was slow to smile, but it was an earnest one. “Yeah,” he offered, nodding slowly, as though his mind was still churning away. “I take back what I said earlier. Do you…do you want to come in for a while?”