I am a big proponent of always learning to stay sharp, engaged and creative. There are so many learning opportunities online, either structured or self-guided. I discovered Coursera.org a few years ago and occasionally take a class, just because. Recently, I have been working on my Creative Writing certification. I just finished my final assignment for module three – Creative Writing: The Craft of Setting and Description.

I have found the majority of the discussions in the certification tend to be more non-fiction or based in reality when I personally find the most enjoyment writing about fantastical worlds in the sci-fi or fantasy genre. But, because we only can really grow when we go outside our comfort zone, I decided to let go and really try and write more from my personal experiences.  While I have explored this in my poetry, I haven’t done much in the way of free-writing or story craft in the “real world.”  I found the exercise to be bittersweet, bringing back good memories and bad, but also teaching me a lot more about myself.

Anyways, below is my last assignment and I thought I would share it with you.


When the Fox Cries

Rays of dappled sunlight made their way through the leaves, casting an amber glow into the woods.  A woman in her early twenties walked slowly through the paths her father used to laboriously mow through the acre or so of woods ever since she was seven. It must have been hard work all those years: work she would have done gladly – had she been able, work her new husband could do – had he been a go-getter like her father.

Feeling irritation rise like bile, she frowned and pressed on.

It was so peaceful in the woods, especially in the evening before the creatures of the night awoke. She tried to commit it all to her memory – the light, the smell of the decaying leaves, the sounds of the forest floor beneath her feet. A sigh shuddered from deep within her as tears rose to her eyes.

After walking for a bit, she stopped at the neatly piled stones of the property line. Unknown hands had stacked them more than a century ago. The fence row stretched long, but low – many of the stones having toppled off to one side or the other over the decades that had passed. It was crooked and decrepit, much like she would become sooner rather than later. Again the frown crept into her visage, this time tinged with bitterness.

The sun was setting, so she turned away from the old stones and made her way back. Once out of the woods, she walked down the grass covered hill. It was the hill she used to sled ride on as a child. She grimaced at the recollection of the time she managed to ride right into a tree and broke her pinkie – the very digit that now, years later, was so swollen, inflamed and deformed by the disease.

Once down the hill she headed across the stone driveway, passing the large stone boulder she used to play upon as a child. It was at that stone that her mother had been bit by a garter snake and immediately flew into unfounded hysterics, convinced she was going to die from snake poisoning. A smile flitted across the woman’s lips; it was funnier in retrospect. Her eyes traced the numbers her father had carved into the rock. It was the year the house was built: 1979. Where had the time gone?

Crossing over the driveway, she passed the front of the house and headed to the “barn.” It was just the first floor walls that remained, but those four walls contained the memories of her childhood. A pang of sorrow washed over her, crashing harder with each step closer to the edifice.

It had all started with a few chickens and a little coop. Over the years it blossomed into rabbits, turkeys, various breeds of chickens and other fowl. It was a zoo and she loved it. Well, she didn’t exactly enjoy hauling water down for the animals in the freezing winter or dredging out the potent rabbit hutches, but all that taught her that anything worth enjoying took work.

She walked up the little hill that, long before her time, used to lead up to the non-existent second floor of the barn. Sorrow choked her when she looked down into the bottom floor. The barn was empty now, the chicken coop rotted and broken down.

Toby, Chico, Roostie, Hennie, Fluff, Dutch….the names kept rattling off in her brain as she remembered the year everything changed. In one swoop her childhood was gone in a blur of pain, tests, pills and hospital visits. There was no time or physical ability to do what she once did with her beloved pets.

And then there was that sound – that eerie call from the wilderness, like a crying baby. She would hear it outside her window when the pain kept her awake at night. The morning would bring with it news that a fox, undoubtedly emboldened by the absence of her constant scent among her pets, had yet again exacted its tithe.

But that was years ago. Looking over at mountain that lay beyond the barn she watched the fading beams of the setting sun until they were gone. And after one last sigh, she turned and took the final step in a path torn away.