By Carrie M. O’Connor
On the eve of my birthday, which was also the tenth anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s visit to China, I saw, for the first time, the village fox nestled in a child’s grave. The vulpes corsac, as I would come to call her years later as a biologist, appeared as a silver streak in the light blue hues of the Eastern China dusk. I had just walked home from fishing at the river that never had a name. A gangly boy, I sat down cross-legged with my plastic bag that rippled as the live eel slithered in circles.
I don’t how long vulpes corsac had been guarding Ho Tang’s body. My aunt said the creature appeared shortly after they buried the toddler in the spring of ‘91. She drowned in the nameless river that I habitually visited.
So much time had passed since I first spotted the fox. I returned to the village for the first time in a decade with my fresh biology doctorate and Levi jeans.
The government leveled all the farms and built high-rise buildings. They filled in the river with no name to create a road. The villagers collected their children’s bones and moved them to the cemetery. I gazed at a sky filled with factory smoke.
My first night home, I filled a mug with homemade hooch that my Tennessee colleagues would have loved. I told my relatives about the squawking chickens I raised in the suburbs and my hipster neighbors who doused collard greens with Sriracha.
That night, I walked half-drunk through the dark house. In the distance, I saw a sliver streak and moon-like eyes staring at me. Vulpes corsac! But then a neighbor turned on his flood lights and a dog walked away at a jaunty pace.
A fourth-generation native of Honolulu, Carrie M. O’Connor earned a master of arts degree in journalism and communications from Marquette University in Milwaukee. She has worked as a journalist in both locales. Her nonfiction has aired on Milwaukee Public Radio and appeared in Ms. Magazine (online), the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and many other publications. Her fiction has been published in Newfound Journal, Stirring: A Literary Collection, Bamboo Ridge: Journal of Hawai’i Literature and Arts, Bartleby Snopes, The Vehicle, Wild Violet and Auscult: A Literary Journal of the Medical College of Wisconsin.