Twelve-year-old Elgin Fox woke up scared one gray morning. His right ear was nervously twitching. This was not the first time his ear had done this. Years ago, Elgin’s older brother Tully had gotten lost. That’s when Elgin’s ear started twitching as if to warn him that something was wrong.
At first, Elgin’s parents wondered aloud, “Where did this crazy ear come from?”
“No one else in the family had ever had one.”
While Elgin’s parents sought answers, his older sister Celena rejoiced. Elgin’s mysterious ear had received much attention. As the local gossip increased, so did Celena’s popularity.
“So, you’re the one with the wiggling ear?” her peers would ask.
“On no,” she’d reply, while glancing at her polished nails. “I am Celena. I manage Elgin’s famous ear. Would you like to see it?”
And with these words, Celena would lead curious schoolmates to wherever Elgin and his ear happened to be—for a small fee.
The foxes’ interest in Elgin’s ear was fueled by fantasy and gossip.
“Is the one ear really huge?” Celena’s friend wondered aloud.
“No,” interrupted another, “it’s a normal size. It just makes a humming noise when it shakes.”
“I heard the tip of his ear glows when it twitches,” said yet another.
“No, it doesn’t!” said a fourth gossiper, “But Elgin’s head swells when his ear starts moving.”
Despite these rumors, Elgin’s ear did nothing of the kind. It just twitched. It wiggled the way rabbits’ noses do when they smell something in the air. Otherwise, Elgin was a regular fox. He had two charcoal-tipped ears, an average size head, and reddish-brown fur. The only thing different about Elgin was the white triangle-shaped birthmark on his forehead. He inherited this from his grandfather on his mother’s side.
Though he once had a perfectly average life, Elgin was now famous. Celena decided to celebrate his fame by naming his dancing ear, Elvis. Elgin hated this and cringed with embarrassment. Fortunately, Poppy, their father and family diplomat, firmly stepped in.
“From now on,” he said, “let’s just call it Twitch and act like it’s perfectly normal.” All the family foxes nodded in agreement. Good ole Poppy! He had solved the problem, saved the day, and canceled Celena’s tours.
Twitch had first appeared on the cold night Tully got lost. Its non-stop movement bothered Elgin until he had awakened his whole family. That’s when they realized Tully’s absence. A certain chill came over fox families when a young one went missing. Even fox babies were schooled on a simple truth. “The longer the fox stayed away from its den, the more danger it was in.” The concern over Tully’s absence, therefore, went well beyond his family. The whole fox community worked in teams to find and bring Tully home.
“Tulane Jamil Jason Fox!” Mama had said. “How is it that you, a fox, couldn’t find your way home?”
Mama had used her special “you’re in trouble now” voice. Her tiny paws looked like two ornaments on top of a mound of rounded hip. The tip of her tail stood like a soldier at attention. This was her “Mama Fox” action stance. It was the pose she struck when her children did something wrong and had better not do it again. Although Mama was a powerful force, the truth was she was scared. She was just as scared everyone else. Her fussing was just her way of saying: Tully, my sweet boy, I’m so glad you’re home. Don’t you ever scare me like that again!
It was embarrassing for a fox to get lost. So, Tully struggled when Mama demanded to know what had happened.
“It was that crazy dog, Renfro!” Tully exclaimed. “He was loose again and chased me through the fields!”
But Tully was quick. He outsmarted the dog by zigzagging as he ran. The huge barking beast tired quickly and couldn’t keep up. The chase, however, landed Tully in an unknown part of the forest. By then, he had started wheezing and sneezing because of his head cold. This stopped him from sniffing his way home. In any case, it was Twitch who warned the family that danger was near.
This happened three years ago. Yet, Tully’s rescue did not lessen Elgin’s worries about Twitch’s return. I must stay calm, Elgin said to himself. Just…stay…calm. Just…stay…calm. Elgin repeated these words until he finally drifted off to sleep.