A Walk In The Woods


This short story is the first I submitted to a magazine (Prima, UK) in November, 2012 for their ‘Winning Story Competition’ and which, to my delight, they published as runner-up. I based this story on my happy memories of the walks I used to take with my dad and of the wonderful stories he told…

A Walk in the Woods

Shards of dappled light cut through the canopy of trees, remnants of the late afternoon sun. The girl and small boy followed the man as they trudged their way along the overgrown path in the woods.  All around them ancient trees creaked and groaned, like old ships straining against the tide.  Tired from their long walk the girl nevertheless was very alert and as she walked she turned at every noise, sharp eyes nervously piercing the ever-darkening shadows closing in around her.

Then, as always, it happened. The man stopped in his tracks, putting up his hand signalling the children to stop, which they immediately did with quiet gasps.  The man began breathing in the air deeply, eyes closed.  “He’s here, I can smell him!” he said with a quick rush of excitement.  That was all the girl and the boy needed to hear.  They rushed over to the man, huddling close together, excitement and fear all at once consuming them. “Shhhhhh,” he whispered, “Keep still, he’s very close.”

Not daring to move, they waited, still as posts, straining for every sound and looking for any movement nearby, hoping beyond hope that at last they might see ‘him’.  Minutes passed, seemed much longer, but nothing.  “He’s gone,” said the man, no longer whispering.  “He beat us again but I know he was here. Maybe next time.  Come on, let’s go home.”  Disappointment weighed down the little group but the girl never gave up hope of seeing ‘him’.

The girl grew up and she always fondly remembered those walks with her dad and brother, although it never failed to amaze her that they never did find ‘him’.   The years passed by and at last, whilst driving home one summer evening, she did. In the middle of the quiet road just ahead of her he arrived, completely unannounced.  Childhood excitement she thought was long-buried surged up inside her as she quickly braked.

He looked up at her just long enough allowing her to admire his beauty and magnificence, although he was much smaller than the mythical creature she had long imagined.  He allowed that much before darting into the nearby hedgerow, disappearing, gone.  Breathing out a whoosh of air as she flopped back into her car seat she smiled, incredulous that she had waited so long for his appearance, that illusive, mysterious fox.

(c) Sherri Matthews 2012

15 Responses to A Walk In The Woods

  1. Steve Rebus says:

    Fantastic! You have such a gift for writing, i love your style, so descriptive and gripping! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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    • Sherri says:

      Wow, what a beautiful compliment Steve, thank you so much, I am really humbled by your lovely words. This little story is based on my walks I used to take with my Dad when I was a little girl and the stories he used to tell my brother and I about a very mysterious fox who lived there! I share it as something special from my heart and to know that you enjoyed it so much blesses me tremendously 🙂
      (I actually entered it in a short story competition to Prima magazine last year and was a runner-up! This is my original story, which I prefer, but the one I entered was 100 words shorter for their requirements. I won a year’s subscription to Prima but just having my first ever piece of writing published in a national magazine was prize enough!)

      Like

  2. Denise says:

    I’ve just come over to read… congratulations on doing so well in the competition! What’s amazing to me is that this came runner up in the short story competition and skilled and evocative as it is, your writing is even more than that when you add in all the emotion and background of your family life, and the complications of human emotions as you know and understand them.

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    • Sherri says:

      Oh thank you Denise for reading my little story! I really am very humbled by your lovely compliment of my writing, coming from you, who is so very skilled, this is quite wonderful. You glean so much from the words here and of course, you are absolutely spot on, knowing my family background as you do. Your ability to do this never fails to amaze me. I’m not sure what the winning story was about, I can’t remember but it was quite different to mine 😉

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      • Denise says:

        I still can’t get over it… you came runner up in a national competition and (without meaning any offence at all) you have demonstrated on your blog that you have so much more potential inside you than what you wrote here.

        You really should get your story onto paper. Do you think it’s time, or distractions, or confidence, or just needing more structure that is stopping you?

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        • Sherri says:

          Yes, yes, yes and yes!!!! To all these things, but ultimately I would say it is lack of structure. I find writing from home and not getting distracted extremely difficult. I KNOW I need to be more structured. I think once I get over this hurdle and get into the swing of it all I will be able to move ahead. Just got to do it!
          (No offence taken, infact I am greatly encouraged because this shows that the old addage of improving in our writing by doing more writing really is true 🙂 )

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  3. Julia Lund says:

    An evocative story that shares something real, whilst hinting at something mysterious, something elusive. Perhaps that’s the way it is with becoming an adult, becoming a parent; suddenly some of the things we waited for in our own childhood is revealed….

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    • Sherri says:

      You are indeed very perceptive Julia! Thank you so much for taking the time to read this story and to offer your thoughts. It means a great deal to me 🙂

      Like

  4. cardamone5 says:

    This is so wonderful, Sherri! And, congrats on winning the competition. Just wonderful!
    Thank you for sharing this post with me. Through our documentary watching (one really good one by the BBC), we learned foxes do have a distinctive odor, so your dad was absolutely right when he said he smelled the fox. I’ve been in my backyard trying to catch a whiff, but if it’s there, it’s too subtle for me to catch.

    Fondly,
    Elizabeth

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    • Sherri says:

      Oh thank you so much Elizabeth for coming over to read my little story and for your very kind wishes. Yes, they do have a very distinctive smell. I would often smell it when walking in the woods and still do now. So many years later, my husband is very good at sensing the presence of our sly and mysterious visitor! You may yet sense it, when the conditions are just right…a very distinctive, musky smell…and yes, the BBC can’t be beaten for great wildlife documentaries 🙂

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  5. 1WriteWay says:

    Right up to the very end I was expecting something like Bigfoot or Yeti 🙂 I love how you gently increased the tension to the end, where then I could sigh in relief that it was a fox. Your story says a lot, although I can’t quite put it into words, about the children and the father. It was sort of like a game for him, it seems, and yet, if he really was smelling the fox, what could he do but admit when the fox was gone? But surely he knew that your imaginations would run wild since he apparently never explained who/what ‘he’ was. Well done. Such a short piece but so much depth.

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    • Sherri says:

      Ahh..so you were surprised that it was a fox all along? I’m thrilled that you gleaned so much from this little story because I wrote this story based on walks I took with my dad as a little girl and the stories he would tell my brother and I about this mythical creature who lived there. In this story I tried to capture the fearful excitement the children felt when their father played this game so setting their imaginations alight. Yet was it really a game? I think that perhaps he really did smell or possibly even see a fox! Thank you so much Marie for leaving your feedback on this story and for such great encouragement, really means a lot to me. And of course I’m so pleased that you enjoyed it 🙂

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  6. Pat says:

    I can why you won, Sherri. This little story captures so much in childhood fantasy, love and tenderness. I’m glad you finally saw him and once you did, you instantly knew it was the one all of you had been looking for in the years before. Beautifully written . . . the world needs your gift of writing. Love and hugs xxoo

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  7. Pingback: Sherri’s Red Fox | Patsy's Creative Corner

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