Meet the Parents
En route to Denver, Colorado
January 29, 2006
Diana and I took a short nap in our motel room, then we packed up the truck and checked out. Diana told me that the desk clerk looked at her very strangely because it was after 10 o'clock at night, a time when people arrive, not leave. We left the Motel 6 and set out traveling east on the highway. We crossed over Hoover Dam half an hour later and found ourselves in Arizona. We drove through the desert, seeing very little other traffic other than 18-wheelers. I would have liked to stop and see the Grand Canyon, but it was too dark. We drove all night through northern Arizona, passing through the Four Corners just after 4 am. Then we turned north and headed into Colorado.
Diana was driving. She had been very reserved and quiet since the unfortunate incident with the crazy FBI agent. I sat staring out the passenger-side window, contemplating ... something. For one thing, I wondered why we were going north. Then, out of the blue, she turned to me and said, "Hey Fox, I have a great idea. Let's go see my folks! They live in Denver, about 160 miles from here. I haven't seen them in a while and I think I can convince them to help us."
"Sounds nice," I said, "but you're forgetting a minor technicality. Will they still be willing to help us when they see that I'm not human?"
"Oh, I'm sure we can work something out," she said. "When I was growing up I brought home some pretty odd boyfriends. One guy was so hairy you kind of wondered which way he was facing sometimes."
That was a bad mental image for me, and I hoped she was exaggerating. "I think you should call your parents first," I said. "Even if they let it slide with him ... he was human. I'm not."
"Hmm..." she said thoughtfully, "I never thought of it that way. I've always treated you as a human --"
"Except for those 'mascot' sessions at the SPCA," I briefly interrupted.
"Except those," Diana chuckled. "But seriously, I've pretty much always considered you to be just like a human in thought, emotion, morals ... even more so in some areas."
I was a bit unsure of what she meant. "Such as...?" I prompted.
"Well, you're very well-rounded. You're fun to be around -- when there's no shooting going on, anyway -- and you're kind -- again, when there's no shooting going on."
"Yes, I suppose that's true," I said. "But still, all this doesn't answer the initial question: what will your parents think? I may behave and think like you, but I don't look like you."
"Well of course not," she joked, "you're male."
I shook my head. "You know what I mean. If you introduce me to them as your 'boyfriend', I guarantee the first thing they'll think is either that I'm a fursuiter or that you've gotten into bestiality."
Diana looked at me and took on a disgusted look. "Eww, I never thought of it in those terms," she said. "At least not about the second part."
We were drifting across lanes. I pointed forward. "Watch the road!"
Diana swerved back into our lane. I continued, "As I was saying, neither of those two possibilities is very pleasant. If you tell them I'm a wearing a fursuit, they'll think I'm weird. If you tell them what I really am, they'll undoubtedly think about what their grandkids will look like."
"We'll see," she said. "I'll call them on my cell in the morning."
We continued driving. Diana was in noticeably better spirits since I got her thinking about something other than shooting the agent. I glanced over at the gas gauge and saw that it was hovering just above empty. "We need to stop for gas soon," I observed.
We pulled over at a Texaco station along the highway in an unincorporated area and filled up. It was the cheapest gas I'd seen in ages, which was good because we were nearly broke. While we waited for the tank to fill, Diana and I used the pause as an opportunity for a stretch break. We decided to change drivers so that Diana could get some sleep. The sun was starting to peek over the eastern horizon when we left the station, and the dashboard clock said it was 5:30 am. I pulled back onto the highway and we continued on our journey.
By the time we reached Denver, it was after 9 o'clock. I couldn't help thinking that it was probably a bad idea to have given Diana the night driving duty. Now I was exposed in full daylight. Thankfully it was a Sunday and I didn't have to negotiate commute traffic. I looked over at Diana. She was snuggling up against my tail, sound asleep. I didn't want to wake her, but I didn't know where her parents' home was. Very gently I woke Diana from her nap and asked her how to get to the house.
"Tell you what," she said. "Let's pull off the road and I'll let them know we're coming."
I got off the highway at the next exit and stopped. Diana pulled out her cell phone and dialed her parents' home number. "Hi, Mom!" she exclaimed. "Yeah, I'm in town ... on business. Yeah, do you guys mind if I come over for a visit? I have a friend I'd like you to meet. Is he good looking? Oh, yes ... he's a real fox."
This last part was a clever bit of wordplay, I thought. But it was the next bit of the conversation that piqued my interest.
"You're planning a trip to Canada? That sounds so cool! Leaving when? Tomorrow? Wow. Well, we're using up my cell minutes; how about we talk about it over at your place? All right, see you and Dad soon, Mom. Bye."
"So it's all cool with Mom and Dad?" I asked.
"Yeah, we can go over there now," Diana said. Then she sighed. "Boy, won't they be surprised."
Diana directed me to her parents' house. It was a typical suburban tract house on a quiet and shady street, painted white with slate blue trim. There was a neatly trimmed front yard and a hunter green Lexus LS400 in the driveway. I parked the El Camino on the street in front of the house. "You stay here for now," Diana said to me. "I'll say hello to them first and put in a good word for you so they don't freak out. I'll motion for you to come out when the coast is clear."
"Fine by me," I agreed.
Diana walked up the path and knocked on the door. An elderly man answered it; I guessed he was her dad. Her mom followed. The three hugged and began talking. I couldn't make out what they were saying. After a couple of minutes, though, Diana gave me my cue to get out. I took a deep breath and opened my door. I couldn't believe I was so nervous about this. I got out of the truck and stood up for Mr. and Mrs. Foxworthy to see.
I was worried about how the Foxworthys might react to seeing me. For all I knew, they might have suffered a coronary or gone running for the shotgun or whatnot. Instead, Mr. Foxworthy only raised and eyebrow and said to Diana, "You weren't kidding. He is a fox ... but we weren't expecting it in the literal sense." Then he directed his speech to me. "Let me introduce us to you. I'm Bill and this is Jean."
"My name's Fox Tayle," I said.
Mrs. Foxworthy was gawking at me. "Don't stare, dear," Bill said gently to her. "He's ... our guest."
I could tell this was going to be an interesting visit. Bill shook my paw and we all went into the house.
Jean busied herself in the kitchen, making breakfast for us. Diana and I were famished. We hadn't eaten anything since the night before, and, after buying the gas, didn't have enough money left over to buy decent snacks.
Bill, Diana, and I settled down on the living room sofa. "It's so good to see you again, kiddo," Bill said to Diana. "We were surprised to hear that you were already in Denver. Usually you give longer notice. But we're glad to see you just the same."
"I'm here on business," Diana said. "I thought it would be nice to surprise you guys."
"Well, you certainly did that," Bill laughed. "So, how did you meet your friend?"
"It's a long story," Diana said. "I met him at work, and it pretty much went from there."
"Is he a 'friend-friend' or a boyfriend?" Bill inquired. "Sorry if I sound like I'm prying. It's just that you've introduced me to some very interesting characters in the past and classified them in both categories."
Diana was silent for a moment. "He's ... a little of both. Fox came to the San Francisco SPCA office one day several months ago. He knew one of my friends from college ... you remember Wanda? Anyway, he came to ... work at the SPCA. We've been friends for several months now."
I remained silent this whole time, until Bill directed a question to me. "So, Fox ... do you guys have a rally or something you need to get to? I see you're already in costume for it."
This was the question I had been dreading. "Umm ... actually, no," I said. "It's not a costume."
"Oh, come on, Fox. You're pulling my leg." Clearly Bill didn't believe me.
"I'm serious," I said. "This isn't a costume. I'm ... like Diana said. I'm a real fox."
Bill was still smiling. "What?" he said lightly.
I said slowly for effect, "I'm - a - real - honest-to-God - anthropomorphic - fox."
The smile faded from Bill's face. "Oh," he said. "Really?"
"Yes, Dad," Diana said, sounding somewhat irritated.
Jean came back from the kitchen and sat down in a leather recliner. "Food's ready if you want it," she said.
"Tell you what," Bill said to me, "how about you go into the kitchen and help yourself? You've had a long drive. If you don't mind, Jean and I need to talk with Diana alone for a bit."
I figured this was probably going to be about me. "As you wish," I said as I got up and went into the kitchen.
Jean had prepared scrambled eggs and toast ... and a plate of canned dog food. I felt a bit insulted by this, despite my knowledge that dog food is very healthy. To me, it spoke volumes about my first impression on Jean. Her way of thinking was that I looked like an animal, and therefore must think and act like an animal.
I took a slice of toast and ate it. I could hear Diana's conversation with her parents in the living room. I decided to eavesdrop. I positioned myself just around the corner from the living room, out of viewing range.
"Are you two pursuing each other ... romantically?" I heard Bill ask.
"In a way, yes," Diana answered. "Fate kind of brought us together."
"I see," he said. "I'm asking you this because I'm concerned. As your parents, it's our job to support your choice unless it's clearly going to be harmful to you. Believe me, your mother and I want what's best for you. We're just worried about this 'Fox' fellow."
Jean chimed in, "You always have brought home the odd ones, Diana. That's probably why your first marriage didn't work out. But I have to say you've outdone yourself this time. I hate to say this, but Fox is ... very strange. He doesn't even look human. I don't think he even is human."
"That's exactly it," Diana said. "He's not human. He's a fox. He wasn't lying to you, he really is a fox."
Jean continued, "I'm just not sure I can handle my daughter cavorting about with an animal, no matter how human he may look. Diana, he resembles an orange werewolf. Just think what the children would look like..."
"Not to mention it would be bestiality," Bill added, "having children with him."
Ah yes, I thought, I was right on both counts. First they thought I was a fursuiter, then they brought up bestiality. Am I good or what?
"Would it really?" Diana argued. "Fox is more human than many of the humans I've met recently. He loves me and I love him. He's a wonderful person to be around."
"He's a fox," both of her parents said emphatically. Then they started shooting rapid-fire questions at her.
"How do you know he can 'control himself'?"
"What would you do if you found out you were pregnant by him?"
"How do you know he won't turn on you one of these days?"
"How will you live together in society with him looking like that?"
Diana stood up quickly. "That fox saved my life -- more than once!" she yelled. "I love him. I never said we were going to get married. I never said anything about kids. I just wanted to introduce him to you! Look at this. We're leaping at each other's throats over it, while we leave Fox in the other room, excluded from the whole thing." She motioned toward where I was peeking out into the room. "Come on in, Fox."
I padded into the room to where Diana was standing, unsure of what was to come. Diana looked her parents square in the eye and pointed to me. She said, "You want to know, is this fox worthy..." She then pointed to herself, "...of this Foxworthy? I say yes." Then she turned and kissed me right in front of them. I think I was as surprised as Bill and Jean were.
I sat down on a chair. I think I was turning red under my fur. Bill and Jean glared at me. I decided it was time to tell the truth about myself. "Mr. and Mrs. Foxworthy," I said, "I'm sorry for dragging Diana into this. She has spent the last several months helping me escape from people who want me dead. As you have said, I am not human. I'm actually ... a science experiment, created in a lab in Southern California. I began life as a normal fox and they made me into what I am for the purpose of being used as an expendable soldier."
"You have to be kidding," Bill said.
"Do you really think I would lie to you?" I said. "You're Diana's parents. I don't lie to her; I'm not lying to you."
"Are there ... more like you?" Jean asked.
"No," I answered. "The experiment was canceled. I'm the only one left. Technically I shouldn't be alive right now."
I was noticing a change in Jean's character. "That's ... that's terrible," she said.
I continued explaining. "When Diana mentioned to me that she wanted to visit you, we planned to come over and ask your opinion about what we should do. Then I overheard the phone conversation she had with you this morning. You mentioned that you are leaving tomorrow on a trip to Canada."
"Yes, that's true," Bill said. "We're taking the plane up to Alberta tomorrow morning."
"I started thinking, perhaps Canada's the answer," I said. "I wanted to ask you if maybe, just maybe, we could go to Canada with you."
Bill was a bit taken aback. "Well, we're taking our own plane," he said. "But it's not very big."
"What kind of plane do you have?" I inquired.
"It's a Cessna 172," Bill said. "Four seats, limited baggage space."
"Diana and I packed very light," I told him. "We might be able to fit in with you. Would you be willing to take us along?"
"Please, Dad?" Diana begged.
Bill and Jean looked at each other. "Well ... I suppose we could," Bill said. "But we can't leave any earlier than tomorrow morning. We haven't finished packing yet. You can stay here for the night if you want."
"That would be great, Dad," Diana said. "We're totally out of money."
Jean frowned. "Well, why didn't you say so? We'll give you some cash."
Those issues now resolved, I felt better. I decided to have a heart-to-heart conversation with Bill about my relationship with Diana. “Bill,” I said, "What is your true position on this thing between Diana and myself?"
"Well ..." he began, "for sure you're the most interesting ... guy she's ever shown us. I must admit I'm still a bit surprised. I had no idea that anyone of your kind existed."
"Does my being of a different species bother you?" I asked. "It seemed as though you were firmly against it a little while ago."
Bill's face fell. "Yes, I was. You see, Diana got burned once before. She married a man who she thought was the perfect match for her. Turned out he was abusive. She endured it for two years before she finally divorced him. He never changed. Now he's in prison for assault."
"Sounds like a real loser," I said. "But that doesn't answer my question. What do you honestly think of me?"
Bill sighed. "When I found out that you were an animal, I really didn't know what to think. Part of me is intrigued by you, because you're a miracle of science."
"So I've been told," I muttered, remembering what Cardiff had told me back at the lab several days before.
Bill continued. "The other part of me sees you for what you look like. As human as you may be on the inside, on the outside you are ..."
"A freak," I finished. "A monster, an animal, et cetera, et cetera. I know that, Bill."
"I don't really know what to think about you, Fox," Bill said. "I don't know whether you're more human or animal. My daughter has been in love with some really weird people over the years, like I've said. And yet, as odd as it sounds, you seem to be the one who cares for her the most. This is a very tough decision for me, because, as an old man who's been around nothing but people my whole life, it's difficult to give my blessing to a human-humanoid animal relationship. You can see where I'm coming from, right?"
"Yes, I see. If there's any way I can prove to you --"
"No," Bill cut me off. "There's no need. If it's truly what Diana wants ... it's my duty to support her in that decision."
"But what about everything you and Jean just said?" I wondered. "About the chances of me attacking her or getting her pregnant or whatever?"
"I'll have to trust your and Diana's good judgment," he said. "I personally doubt that you would hurt her. You seem to have very good control of yourself. Children, however, are another issue entirely. I might be able to learn to live with furry grandkids, but is the world ready for them?"
"I honestly can't answer that," I said sadly. "I don't know if it's even possible. And I've always behaved myself around her anyway."
"If you really think you and Diana can be happy together, I'm willing to let you go through with it. We'll see whether it works out." Bill then excused himself to the kitchen to get a glass of water.
I sat quietly on the chair, contemplating just what he meant by that. I wondered also, if the FBI had jurisdiction in Canada, and whether I would have to stay there until things cooled down. For all I knew, that could be forever. Would Diana come with me when I separated from her parents? Would anyone in Canada be willing to help me out? I still wanted to find a way to plead my case in front of someone influential, someone who would get my pursuers to leave me alone. From the looks of things, I still had a long way to go.