Every night, something outside digs around through his trash bins. Whatever it is pops off the tops, topples over the can, and tears open the bags, leaving a mess behind.
He tried exactly three times to stop it.
On the first night, he waited up with a flashlight to see what he was dealing with.
Around midnight, he heard the noise of the cans being broken into. He ran outside and found a little fox kit digging through the now open trash. He shined the light at it and two wide amber eyes looked up at him. It growled and bared its teeth. When he moved closer, it turned and ran down the alley.
He set the cans back up and stuck the lids on tight, wondering how such a small animal could've gotten them off to begin with.
The next day, he set up a cat trap and loaded with leftover rotisserie chicken that had been his dinner. He covered the trap with a blanket and tucked it between the cans.
The noise woke him up that night. He ran outside, still in his pajamas, and found a red-headed little boy, no older than six, prying the lid off one of the cans.
"Hey!" he shouted. He shone the flashlight on the boy. Wide amber eyes looked back at him.
The boy bared his teeth, growled, and then ran away. The cat trap was on its side, the latch broken. The chicken was gone.
The next night he brought the trash bins inside the garage, but left the door leading into the alleyway open. Then, he made dinner.
Once more he heard the noise of the bins being broken into, but this time it came from inside the garage. He went out the front door of his house, went all the way around, and locked the garage's back door from the outside. Then he went back inside, took a coat from the closet, and went into the garage via the adjoining door in the hall.
The fox didn't notice him come in until he'd turned on the lights. It ran to the door, only to find itself trapped.
"I know you're hungry," he told it. "But I can't have you knocking over my trash every night."
The fox bared its teeth and growled.
"You're alone, aren't you? If there were others, they'd be here with you."
He tossed the coat to the fox. It shied away, cramming itself as far into the corner as it could.
"Listen, I know you don't trust me, and you have no reason to. But you're small and hungry and I've got chicken and rolls ready in the kitchen if you're interested. I'm sick of cleaning up the trash, and I figure at least this way you get a decent meal out of it. What do you say, Renard?"
The fox had stopped growling. It eyed him suspiciously with intense amber eyes. Eventually, it stretched itself out of its corner and tentatively sniffed the coat. Then it left the corner and nosed its way under the coat.
The cloth shifted as the fox began to grow. A second later and the fox was gone, replaced by the little red-haired boy.
"I'll get you some real clothes tomorrow. If you're going to stick around, that is." He pressed the button on the wall and let the big car door open.
"You can leave if you promise not to come by my trash anymore." He went into the house, not quite daring to look back.
The fox boy looked out at the street. Then, as though it might hurt, closed his eyes, grit his teeth, and followed the man into the house, towards the smell of hot food.