Fantastic Mr. Fox: The Masked Bandit
Note: At the end of the movie, Mrs. Fox is pregnant. I propose she is a girl.
Her name is Noni. Around her eyes are black rims that could otherwise be mistaken for a bandit mask. Her ears are tipped with black, and she was born with black paws. Some say she was born to be caught red-handed. From the moment they laid eyes on her, they knew she would be a thief. At the age of nine, in fox years, Noni could already pick any lock presented to her, and could get herself out of almost any predicament, about as easily as she could get herself out of one. She was a wild animal. Out of control. The only one who she ever listened to was her brother Ash, because for some reason she had an affinity for his odd-ness. Her father adored her, her mother was driven mad with concern, as she continued to play pranks and compulsively steal from her neighbors. She had no discrimination.
She had a button-up orange jumpsuit, with two pockets in the front. These pockets were filled with gadgets like the old Mr. Tailor's measuring tape, to which she attached a grappling hook so she could latch onto things and climb them. She also had the little things she would take from her companions at school.
Now it so happened that one day, the teacher filed a complaint. That's where it all started. Ms. Bunny was very upset because all her carrots were missing from the file cabinet. She wanted to give the children the benefit of the doubt, but, being suspicious, she peeked in each of the desks, and what did she find in little Noni's desk but an assortment of carrots, the acorns of Mr. Squirrel, Kristofferson's shoelace, and all of Lacey Rabbit's buttons.
"I knew it would come to this," said Mrs. Fox. "You should have known, from the moment she was old enough to walk, she would be a handful. Always taking things that don't belong to her! You have to do something about this."
Mr. Fox chuckled, proud of his daughter in spite of himself. Still, his wife was concerned, and not without reason. Stealing from the big guys and the farmers was one thing, but he never raised his daughter to steal from her own family and friends. Not on his watch.
"You're right. I'll have a talk with her as soon as she gets back from school."
"You'd better," warned Noni's mother.
When Noni came back, he held to his word.
She seemed to have no sense of shame, and a wild innocence about her and her actions.
"Papa, I'm just a wild animal. That's what you always said, isn't?" She blinked her black lashes at him.
"Yes, yes we are wild animals. But we should never steal from each other. I never taught you that. Now where would you get that idea from? I suppose it's my fault for telling you all those stories about my latest farm heist. Have I ever told you about the time we took all the food from the Boggis, Bunce and Bean? All the animals had to work together to do that, and we all shared the booty, or tried to, before we got flooded with apple cider. But that's beside the point. The point is, we're all part of a big family; we're all in this as a team. Do you get what I'm saying?"
"I guess so," she said, not committing to an answer. She understood, or she thought she did. But there was all this energy inside of her that she didn't know what to do with, and the only way to let it out was to steal. It was in the act, so to her it wasn't about stealing from one person or another. A kleptomaniac was just who she was. She couldn't help it. Somehow she thought her father wouldn't understand, or maybe he would but wouldn't want to because of her mother.
Mr. Fox was unsatisfied with this answer, but it would have to make do for now because it was about time for dinner, and Kristofferson, Agnes, and his brother-in-law would be coming over from the sewage home next door. Mrs. Fox had prepared a chicken from the international food market of Boggis, Bunce, and Bean. Now was not the time to continue this conversation, he decided. Noni had learned her lesson for now, or at least heard what he had to say. Besides, Mrs. Fox could take care of it later, much better than he could, he was sure.
They left the bedroom in response to the dinner call. Following the various echo of voices from the kitchen. They all seated themselves, and proceeded to fill each other in on the week's activities, while Noni incessantly pulled on Ash's ears.
"Noni, stop pulling on your brother's ears! Haven't you done enough for the day?" Her mother snapped, exasperated with the situation.
Noni grimaced and squirmed in her seat. Sitting on top of her hands, playing with her food, sitting on her hands again.
"What exactly did she do, Aunt Felicity?" Kristofferson asked out of curiosity.
Mrs. Fox said she didn't really want to disclose the details, but she had been dying to vent out her frustrations to someone, so she proceeded to recount Noni's first school heist. Kristofferson nodded sympathetically in response, in a way that irritated Noni almost as much as it did Ash. And, because of her affection for Ash, she seemed almost biased against Kristofferson from the start, even though he shared more of a fox's raw talent with her than Ash ever could. So while all this was going on, she crawled under the table undetected.
It was a different kind of world under there; scraps of apple here and there, a couple buttons, her mother's paintbrush…a world of wonder. She slipped a few things into her pockets while her mother's frustrated voice hummed above her, an exchange of fluctuating notes. She recognized Kristofferson's bright yellow shoes, the same ones he had from the major farm robbery. Their perfect lemon-like essence irritated her more and more as he evenly hummed sympathetic tones like when he meditated. She crawled towards their iridescence, until she reached the white loopedy-loops, and, with her nimble fingers, she carefully untied them and knotted them back together, so that both shoes were interconnected. It was a moment of pure epiphany, she felt. It was a raw, beautiful idea acted out before she even knew what happened. She began to giggle in spite herself, and when Kristofferson rose to get seconds from the kitchen counter, he tripped and fell flat on his face, much to the pleasure of Ash, and the dismay of everyone else.
"Noni, get up from under there!" shouted a very distressed manner. "We're sorry; we just don't know what's been getting into her. Noni, get up and apologize!"
"It's okay, Mrs. Fox," said Kristofferson, already up from the fall, rearranging his laces and all. He was somewhat bewildered, and amazed at how much Noni resembled her brother and her father's mad impulse. He wondered what kind of trouble she might start in the future, and if this wasn't just a very minor episode in a greater scheme.
In order to calm down, Mrs. Fox dispelled the table.
"I'm going to get going on my paintings," she murmured more to herself than anyone else. They all wondered if she wasn't steadily losing her mind, and decided to let her be, thinking it might be best. No one wanted to set off that final spark, not even her daughter.
Once her mother was out of the room though, it was nothing but idle chit-chat. Boooring. She wanted to play a game, or something. Her brother was ignoring her, drooling over Agnes like always. She couldn't see what was so special about Agnes anyways. She was boring, predictable, and not terribly bright. Anyways, what could she possibly do…That was when she caught a hold of her father's tail. She thought, wouldn't it be funny if she stole it, sort of like when Ash went off with Kristofferson, and made it a mission to get it back? And anyways, if her father was so good, she wanted to see how good she was, to pawn it off from the grand master himself.
She crawled up behind him and his corduroy brown pants. There it was. The sad, deranged excuse for a tale, with the proud bite marks of a dog that had rabies. Ew. Hopefully the tail didn't have rabies. She didn't know how her father could have avoided it all these years, wearing it around the way he always did. If she were him, she would rather just not have a tail. Anyways, she unpinned the metal safety pin, and snuck back to the other side. No one paid any attention, least of all her father. That's when she decided to put it on.
"Look everybody, I have two tails!"
Everyone turned around and looked, then spun their gazes back on Mr. Fox to see how he would react. Crinkles formed around his eyes and it was hard to tell whether he would laugh or cry. Spit spewed from his mouth as he let out a big guffaw and apologized for spitting on everybody. What irony, everything they had gone through to get it back and now this! His daughter stole it right from under his own bum, and he hadn't even noticed. The kid was a natural!
He chased after her and played the angry father, while everyone joined in on the laughter, once they realized it was okay to laugh. He swooped her up and bounced her on his knee, the great two-tails fox of the hour. Then she graciously gave back the tail and they all headed off for bed. Mr. Fox thought he would visit his wife in the studio and tell her the "tale," maybe try and lighten up her mood.
As he headed in that direction, his wife stormed out of the room. It came as a complete surprise when she flung open the door to Noni's room.
"Where are they?" She spoke in a stern but demanding voice, with much more dignity than she might have mustered before.
"You know what. My paintbrushes, they're all gone! Where are they?" Mrs. Fox did not wait for an answer, but proceeded to pull open all the drawers in the room. There they were, in the bottom shelf of the chest of drawers, not terribly well hidden. Or rather, there was no real attempt to hide them. There were about thirty of them cluttered at the bottom, along with the scarf Mrs. Badger had been looking for all this week.
"What's going on here," Mr. Fox followed her into the room.
"I don't know. You tell me. You're the one who was supposed to have a talk with her. First she embarrasses us by stealing from the classroom, and then she pulls that stupid prank on Kristofferson, and never apologizes. You'd think we never taught her any values. And what do you do, you laugh it off and spoil her like you always do. You're encouraging her! What are we supposed to do?"
"That's a good question," said Mr. Fox. Maybe he should hold off on the details of the two-tails for the night…