The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it and ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is. – Winston Churchill
A house, as you may or may not know, can have what French-speaking realtors call vices cachés.
When they finally reveal themselves, these latent defects can render the house difficult, if not impossible, for anyone to live in. Eventually, to avoid ruin, the occupant will have to abandon the house.
But a house, being a house, will not want to sit empty and lonely and sad for long. She will want a new occupant. But what to do with her flaws, the ones that make her uninhabitable? If she could go back to the moment of their inception, to uproot them before they could grow, how far back in the construction of her being would she have to go?
As far back, I would think, as the day Fanny Fox falls through the trapdoor of the hayloft of the little red barn.
Ten feet down to the uneven cement floor Fanny Fox falls. Right next to the rickety wooden boards of the pigpen Fanny Fox lands. Smack on her back.
No sooner does her breath return, than Fanny Fox is howling and wailing. Old Fox hears it all the way over in the garage, where he is working. He comes running out, but only so far.
“Ça bon!” he yells, then turns and disappears into the garage.
Ça bon, Fanny Fox, ça bon! This is what you get for that time you kicked Old Fox so hard between the legs he saw stars! You’re a bad fox, Fanny Fox! A terrible fox! You deserved to fall down, you deserved to get hurt. And now you deserve to cry! Cry, then! It won’t change Old Fox’s mind. That little red barn is coming down, Fanny Fox, and no one will ever get to play with the rabbits in the hayloft ever again! All because of you, Fanny Fox! All because you’re so bad! Ça bon, Fanny Fox, ça bon!
Not everyone remembers that you fell backward through the trapdoor in the hayloft of the little red barn. Those who do cannot tell you with any certainty how old you were when it happened. You think, and your mother agrees, probably no more than eight or nine. Certainly not 12, which is how old you would have been the year your oldest brother says he helped dismantle that barn. If the estimation of your age being eight or nine is correct, then there are three to four years separating the first event from the second, which means of course that the one couldn’t possibly have had nothing to do with the other.
Let’s get to the heart of what this means, Fanny Fox, because if you were a house, this story of you and the little red barn is at the root of all your vices cachés. These flaws destroyed your marriage to Wally Wolf, which is fine since he was not the guy God would have chosen for you anyway, but they need not ruin a future relationship.
You kicked Old Fox in the balls. We know; we’ve heard the story multiple times. We also know how little it matters the fact that it was an accident, and we get it. Accident or not, that kick you gave to Old Fox’s balls ruined everything. Forever. You’ll never forgive yourself for it. You’ll seek and find punishment where there is none. You will see everything through the lens of a narrative of your own creation, one in which you play the role of an awful little fox who deserves to suffer continual punishment for that thing she did that one time all those years ago, and by which we all understand each other to mean ruined fucking everything.
What if you were brave enough to question that narrative? What if you could go back and watch the scene unfold from Old Fox’s perspective? What story would you see?
The true one, Fanny Fox. You would see the true story.
Old Fox is working in the garage when he hears the howling and the wailing. It scares him to death. One of his foxes is being eaten by a wolf! One of his foxes has been sliced in half by a bear trap! One of his foxes is tangled up in an electric barbed-wire fence and bleeding to death! He runs, bewildered, out the door. But it’s nothing. Just a crying Fanny Fox being led by her sisters out of the little red barn toward the house, toward their mother. They’d been up to some foolish game, probably; something they weren’t supposed to be doing, surely. Fanny Fox got hurt, that’s all.
Let this be a lesson to her, Old Fox thinks. Let this be a lesson to them all. Pay better attention next time; be more careful!
“Ça bon!” he says for effect, then turns and disappears into the garage.
If you will accept this version of the story, Fanny Fox, then you will have no choice but to accept that the barn being ripped down several years later has nothing to do with you. It will no longer be possible for you to believe that Old Fox was punishing you for anything you may ever have done; it will only be possible for you to see the truth. And the truth, Fanny Fox, is quite simply that the barn had to come down. It had grown increasingly dangerous; it would have been imprudent to leave it standing, stupid not to rip it down.
Here you are, Fanny Fox, standing before the problem at its inception. It’s not exactly as you thought, is it? It’s not precisely what you remember. Nonetheless, you agree: the narrative you created and that you’ve been nourishing all these years is false. You’re not an awful little fox who deserves continual punishment. You’re a gorgeous house, Fanny Fox. One whose latent defects aren’t so bad as far as latent defects go. They’re not innate, you see. You weren’t born with them, which means they can be extracted, they can be discarded.
You can only put yourself up for sale once you’ve done this work of extracting and discarding. That’s right, Fanny Fox. This isn’t just about wanting to find a bidder; this is about wanting to find the bidder, the right one. Now get to work, Fanny Fox. You’re about to meet Eddy Eagle times one hundred thousand. It would be such a shame if you weren’t ready to greet him; it would be such a shame if you missed him.