What she doesn't do is write about her father. She writes about a fox.
The fox, it smells a little. It trots across ash, a black, corn-stubbled field, heading for a thorn hedge. It sees, far-off a tractor, a driver, a ruddy man, oblivious, facing the wrong way, birds wheeling.
The fox, its stink, reaches the hedge. It turns, head low, haunches lifted, a gentle trot, tongue lolling, sniffing, waiting.
What she doesn't do is write about her father. She writes about sealions, walruses. She writes about shingle beaches, great fat, blubbery animals, slapping, banging into each other, deep roars, bang, bang, slap-slap, the blood, the splatter, fodder for Attenboroughs, flashed blood, weight, roars, the males, the males, until just one, the heaviest, the most determined.
What she doesn't do is write about her father. She writes about the fox.
The fox sees a pheasant, but the pheasant is in the open. The fox wonders if he can cross the field and kill the pheasant, but the sky is blue, the light is good, there is the tractor and its ruddy man. He will be seen.
What she doesn't do is write about her father. She writes for magazines.
She writes of Henry, he with the startling blue eyes. She writes of Sandra, misunderstood, trying to make a new life. She writes of chance meetings in gentle cafes, of hands touching accidentally, apologies, laughter, and of small obstacles and then, wonderful endings.
What she doesn't do is write about her father.
What she doesn't do is write about her father. Instead, when she writes, she writes to town councilors. She is severe. She writes about improper practices, about holes in the road and careless pavements, of danger, of old people who might break a limb. Did they know how many pensioners die after breaking a hip, do they?
What she doesn't do is write about her father. When her class write to her, when they write for her, when they write, "Miss Hodges is firm but fair!" and when they write, "I will miss you Miss, here are some Quality Street, don't eat them all at once." She briefly wonders about their homes, about their fathers. Never has she said, "Today's Essay, My Father!" She may ask for reflections on a cherry-stone, how to be a fish.
She may ask them, "Why is the sky blue, and is it blue at night?" She will suggest a mushroom, a teddy, to be a trifle, fly upside down in the rain, speculate. But please, no parent stories.
What she doesn't do is write about her father. Not even as the fox, the sly, slow fox trots now, intent, for he knows where a mother buries her babies, where the rabbit hides and the kittens whimper, thinking that, beneath their earth they are safe. They mew in silence, but the sly, stinking fox will hear, he hears. He trots closer, glancing away to the tractor, the man, the sky, the spinning, cawing birds.
To be a mushroom, a jellyfish, to float and to sail, to not be a bucket, I'd fail as a pail. I will be a banana, a ticket, some cream, I will write class-room ditties. I will not hear a scream.
The fox, not her father, digs up the kittens. He kills six, he eats one. He trots away, blood on his face, a live kitten whimpering.