We’re out for a late-night stroll. Really it’s the only time Peter and I have a moment to ourselves. Chet started grade nine at the local high school. He’s discovered being a minor-niner is like the seventh circle of hell. Honestly, I’m not sure what that is, but Chet tried to explain it after a week of English literature and Dante’s Inferno. It’s supposed to be the worst punishment ever for the most horrific sinners. I can think of one thing worse, having my son explain it to me after quickly reading the book and only picking up what he knew from the pictures.
Ariel is starting middle school, which is also a personal kind of hell. Richmond doesn’t have its own middle school so we have to send our public-school kids to the next town over for grades six and seven. She only knows a handful of people, and is convinced most of them don’t like her. I think that’s hormones setting in. Two adolescents in the house is a handful. Luckily, we have help.
Brian is home sitting Bree. At first we were all a little nervous about having an ex-convict super ninja living in the house, but he really pulls his weight. He does all the yard work, house maintenance, and is good with the kids. He’s teaching Chet ninjitsu; ninjitsu is the art of control, so works well with trying to put a leash on Chet.
“Jess, are we going to have any more kids?” Peter asks as we turn down Channonhouse Crescent. Channonhouse is divided between Upper Channonhouse, the new development with country mansions and half million-dollar houses, and Lower Channonhouse, the rest of us. It’s not that Upper Channonhouse is an issue. They’re new homes in a field that up until a few years ago was a swamp and moor beside the train tracks. The people are nice enough, work for what they’ve earned, and have really nice homes. Everything on that part of the crescent is brand new. I try to convince myself I like a small, quiet, fixer-upper. The truth is another child would mean upgrading to a bigger house.
“I don’t think so,” I answer as we make the right turn onto Ormsby Drive. We walk in silence for a few moments. We’re making a slow left past a brown brick high ranch, when a flash of headlights comes careening out of Temple Street. Peter and I are both deer. We stand completely still, our rather mundane live passing through our heads, when something big and red tackles us off the road.
Peter lands on the pavement, shaken but unharmed. I’m not so lucky as I get turfed onto the grass of a neighbour’s lawn. Most people scoop the poop from their dogs, unless walking late at night without witnesses. My ear squelches into a steaming pile of dog doo. I thrash about, entwining it in my hair all the while mentally screaming about lying in dog poop. I can’t get my mouth to utter the scream.
Standing over us in the light of street lamps and the crescent moon is a huge man dressed in red and wearing a vixen mask. A short brush of tail stems out of his waist. He looks down at us and smiles, but not in a friendly way.
“I am the Fiend Fox,” he snarls. “I’ve saved your life. Now hand over all your money, or I’ll kill you.”