All of the ideas for this story came from class 3P at Iron Ridge Elementary (Blackfalds, Alberta) over the course of two video sessions. After we filled out a planning sheet together (shown at the end of this post), they each wrote their own version of the story. I shared mine with them at the end of the week. We had so much fun!
Bella the fox looked out over the majestic landscape. From where she stood on the cliff overlooking the valley, the sun glinted off the bright blue water of the Paradise River.
She turned her back on the beautiful view to face the forest. After opening her Tik Tok app, she held up her phone, checking to see how she’d look in the video. First of all, she made sure that her legs weren’t in the picture—her right one was white, which was very unusual for a fox. It had always embarrassed her. Then, looking for the perfect shot, she backed up until her heels were at the very edge of the cliff. “This will be fire. The breeze is even blowing my gorge orange fur. #totalfox.”
Bella allowed herself a little smile. She’d come a long way. An orphan—she didn’t even remember her parents—her childhood was spent being shuffled from one animal shelter to another. But since high school, she’d worked so hard, sometimes holding two or even three jobs at once. And look at her now: She had a nice little apartment, a car . . . and a plan. With over a thousand followers on Tik Tok already, she hoped that this would be the post that would make her a viral sensation, and then, a millionaire.
As soon as she hit record, she noticed that she wasn’t quite in the center of the frame. She took a step back . . .
* * *
Bella hobbled along the street, a crutch under one shoulder and a backpack over the other. When she’d woken up in the hospital the doctor had said she was lucky to have survived the fall off the cliff. But thinking back on it all a month later, she didn’t feel very lucky. She’d needed three surgeries on her badly broken leg (the pretty orange one, not the ridiculous white one), and the hospital bills had cost her everything: her home, her car—even her phone!
“All I have left is what’s in this stupid backpack,” she said aloud. The other animals on the street stared at her like she was a crazy person. “I’ll never be a millionaire now!”
Slumping down onto a bench, she shook her head sadly. “I can’t take another night of sleeping on the street. It’s like a jungle out here! What will I do?” As her vision blurred with tears, she looked up.
Across the street, a large brick building came into focus. The sign above the wide glass doors said, Bank.
Bella dumped the contents of the backpack—all her worldly possessions—onto the sidewalk to make space in her bag.
* * *
After waiting for almost ten minutes, Bella had finally reached the front of the line. A badger behind the counter was almost finished serving her customer. Bella would be called up any moment. She ran over her plan one last time. Hopefully she hadn’t forgotten anything.
“Next,” the badger called.
Bella hobbled forward.
The teller, whose name tag identified her as Penelope, smiled in a businesslike way. “Good morning,” she said. “How can I help you?”
This was it. Bella thrust the open backpack toward the other animal. “Um . . . gimme all your money.”
Penelope paused for only a brief moment before saying, “What is your account number, miss?”
“I . . . uh . . . don’t have one . . .”
“I’m sorry, miss, but you must have an active account in order to—”
“No, no!” Bella said crossly. This wasn’t going at all the way she’d hoped. “It’s a stick-up!”
All sound in the bank stopped, and every eye turned toward Bella and Penelope.
The badger raised her eyebrows. “What? You mean like a robbery?”
Bella had heard that badgers weren’t very smart, but still . . . “Of course!” she said.
“Well, I wondered,” said Penelope, “but you don’t actually have a gun, so . . .”
Bella’s face flushed. “Um . . . But I . . . have this!” She raised her crutch and pointed it at the teller.
The badger just shook her head. “No. I’m afraid that won’t do,” she said. “It just isn’t a proper bank robbery without a gun.”
If Bella was being totally honest, she’d have to admit she felt a little silly. “Erm . . . It shoots bullets. Really!”
Penelope sighed, shook her head once more, then pounded her fist down on a big red button that Bella hadn’t noticed before.
Sirens rang out. Lights flashed.
Bella turned to run. But of course, she had a broken leg in a bulky cast, and her crutch remained at shoulder-height.
Seconds later, sprawled on the floor, she felt something cold on her wrists and heard a click. She looked up at a burly grizzly bear standing over her. Dressed in a black security guard’s uniform, he growled, “Those handcuffs oughta hold ya ‘til the police arrive.”
* * *
Bella leaned her head back against the cold cell wall and closed her eyes. All those years, the tough times, fighting her way through life with no family. All her hard work. And now she was alone and homeless, with no possessions aside from the dirty clothes she wore. A criminal.
She fought back tears. Was this what rock bottom felt like?
Opening her eyes, she noticed the guard, a German shepherd, standing with his back to her cell, distracted by his phone. As Bella’s eyes drifted lazily to the guard’s duty belt, a bright yellow object caught her attention. What was it? It almost looked like a toy gun.
Wait. That’s a taser.
Bella figured that she could grab before the dog noticed, but . . . Did she dare?
Slowly rising to her feet, she made up her mind. She literally had nothing to lose.
Bella snuck toward the guard. Foxes can move very quietly when they need to. Within seconds she stood behind the big dog, only the steel bars separating her from her target. Her tiny paw edged forward.
The guard’s head popped up, his pointy ears standing tall. Bella heard him sniff the air.
Then the dog’s cell phone dinged, and he looked down at it.
Bella’s paw shot out, gripped the taser, slipped it out of its holster.
“Hey!” The German shepherd spun.
How do these things work? Bella wondered.
The guard reached for the pistol at his waist.
Bella raised her weapon. “Freeze, mutt!”
The dog stopped, one paw hovering above his gun.
“Git those paws up,” Bella ordered, “and back away from my cell.”
“No buts. I will taze you. I’m a fox on the edge!”
The guard shook his head. “But you’ve got it ba—”
Bella pulled the trigger. Two silver prongs embedded themselves in her fur. Her body seized as fifty thousand volts shot through it, and she dropped to the cell floor.
When it was over and her brain started working again, the guard dog stood over her. He’d re-holstered his taser, and now covered her with his gun. “Fox,” he growled, “you are in serious trouble.”
* * *
The next day, a teenaged fox named Billy sat on a couch, laughing hysterically.
His father, watching the news on TV, looked over. “What’s so funny?”
“You gotta see this!” Billy tapped his cellphone, and whatever video he was watching started up again. Soon the whole family—Dad, Mom and Billy’s older sister Beulah—had gathered round.
The title at the top of the screen said, “Hilarious Viral Video From Inside Jail Cell”. Black and white security footage showed a female fox with a cast on one leg, holding up a taser. A German shepherd guard stood just outside the cell, paws raised.
“Watch this,” Billy said, then burst into laughter as the fox’s tail shot straight out and she dropped to the floor. “She tased herself!”
“Play it again!” Beulah giggled.
As the video ran, they all laughed—except Mom, who watched very closely. “One more time,” she said. “This time, get ready to pause it.”
Her son did as she asked, and when Mom shouted, “Now!” he froze the video.
Mom pointed at the screen. “Look.” She turned to her husband. “She has one white leg.”
* * *
Bella rose to her feet as ordered by the judge.
“Bella Maybelline Foxpatrick,” began the horse seated behind the bench. He snorted, then adjusted his black robes. “You are charged with vagrancy, attempted armed robbery and aggravated assault of a correctional officer. How do you plead?”
Bella swallowed the lump in her throat. She knew she’d be going to prison for a long time, but she also knew that it was time to face up to what she had done. “Your honour, I plead g—”
The courtroom doors swung open, slamming against the back wall.
Bella spun around to see a family of foxes enter the room. “Stop!” The mother ran right up to the bench, peering up at the judge.
“What is the meaning of this?” the horse demanded.
“I’m sorry, your honour,” said the mother as her husband stepped into place beside her, taking her paw in his, “but this is our long lost daughter.”
* * *
The judge listened. He heard how the mother had given birth to their first child, but that on the day they were to take her home from the hospital, the tiny kit was nowhere to be found.
“Kitnapped,” the police had said after a long investigation.
He also heard the father explain how heartbroken they were, how they never stopped looking, how they spent all of their savings trying desperately to find the little girl they’d named Bella.
When the tale had been told, the prosecutor, a rooster, stepped forward. “It’s a sad story, your honour, but the facts are the facts. This fox has committed some serious crimes. Surely you will send her to jail!”
The judge looked the lawyer right in the eye. “Neigh,” he said, “I will not! This family has lost all those years with their daughter and sister, who they obviously love. I cannot take any more from them.”
Now the horse turned his gaze toward Bella. “Young lady, you have committed some very serious crimes. But you have the support of a loving family now. I am placing you on probation for three years. Give me your word that you will learn from your mistakes and become a better fox.”
Tears of gratitude in her eyes, Bella could only manage a whisper. “I promise.”
As soon as the judge’s gavel slammed down, the fox family crowded around Bella, swallowing her up in a long group hug. When they finally stepped back, Bella said, “I . . . never knew. I always just thought my family . . . didn’t want me.”
Her parents each placed a paw on one of Bella’s shoulders. “Oh, Bella,” her mom said. “We’ve always loved you.”
“So much,” her father added.
“You’ll come and live with us, won’t you?” Mom asked. “We don’t have much money, but—”
“About that,” said the lawyer, who had sidled up to them. “I might just be able to get you some cash from that viral video . . .”
Our Planning Sheet
(Click on image to expand.)