One day, a long time ago, several people in what was then Ceylon,
Charged with finding ways to confound and frustrate the Japanese,
Hit on a plan to release hundreds of foxes into the sea, from which
They would swim to the beaches, and terrify soldiers and residents.
I am not sure why everyone would be terrified exactly, considering
That there are plenty of foxes, kitsune, there—but that was the plan.
Other plans included inventing an exploding can of pork and beans,
And yellowing the Irawaddy River in Burma to totally freak out the
Burmese and foment revolution against the overlords. But the foxes
Plan, that stays with me. It went terribly wrong. The trial run was in
New York. The foxes were procured, and released into the Atlantic,
But for some reason never explained they swam out to sea and were
Lost. There was some discussion of disorientation and a second trial,
But the Director of the Office of Strategic Services finally overruled
The idea altogether, and that’s the last mention of the idea in history.
But I feel this is a great disservice to the foxes, who were, first of all,
Dragooned into service against the Empire, given no voice or choice
In the whole swimming thing, and second, essentially abandoned by
The Office of Strategic Services, and abandoned at sea, too, possibly
Not their first choice of space to be abandoned. So at least in a poem
Imagine that they kept swimming and staggered ashore in Inis Meain,
Off Galway bay, where they were greeted in the Irish, fàilte sionnach!
That could have happened. You never know. Or they changed shapes,
Or they sang themselves home, or they founded their own War Office
To quietly keep an eye on us to make sure we do not murder ourselves
Any more. Or they landed in Tobago. That could be. You never know.
Whatever you’re sure of, don’t be, and whatever cannot be probably is.

Brian Doyle is the editor of Portland Magazine at the University of Portland, and the author of ten books, including, most recently, the novel Mink River.


  1. Could those sea foxes have grown up and skipped college to become sea wolves, perhaps?

    “The Pacific Northwest of the United States and southwestern Canada is possibly home to a creature more bizarre than the area’s most famous inhabitant, Bigfoot. If Indian tales are to be believed, the waters near British Columbia are home to a creature they called sea wolf, sisiutl, wasgo, haietlik, or any of several other names; this creature is unique among cryptids by having been a totem animal of several tribes, an honor shared only with the thunderbird. Several native representations of the creature have been retrieved; all depict a long, serpentine animal with small forelimbs and a doglike or crocodilian head.”

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