He slips past me, right into the house.
Not one of those rusty, skinny vixens at the far end of a field slinking into underbrush before I'm sure that it wasn't just a woodchuck or a mutt.
This fox is big, gray, coat full as if brushed by a furrier's hands. Were he a dog, I'd say, "Good dog, go home, go home," in a firm but friendly tone. How does one speak to a fox?
On the mountain road - rutted, strewn with rocks - the other empty houses might be preferable to this.
But I am here, and he is here. We both chose this vista: blue-green hills, a stream; though cattails fill the pond, briars bloom across the fields, and boulders push up from earth's core. Barns collapse, roofs cave in, car parts and tractors rust away. Everywhere must be his source of mice, now that even cats have fled the farm, just feathers in the chicken coop.
As for the house!
But the stone is good, so what if plaster, glass, and chimney bricks litter floorboards sagging toward a mysterious cellar. His den? Spring is the season for cubs.
I've brought a broom.
But he may think I mean to do him harm. I rest it by the broken sink. Morning's best to deal with dust and wells, wasps, windows, latches, locks.
He stands between the front door and me like a stranger not yet sure if he will rob me or, muttering apologies, retreat.
Neither he nor I dare leave, or move. This is his house, though my name's on the deed.
Sleeping bag and broom in hand, I edge into the spare room, close that door, and in the final light delineate my territory. The rest we'll learn to share.