The Tale of Lucy Rabbit

Reads: 92  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 0

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic
Winter is coming! Lucy Rabbit rallies the animals of the yard to ward away an insect invasion.

Submitted: May 15, 2013

A A A | A A A

Submitted: May 15, 2013

A A A

A A A


I

 

It was the first morning where there was a real chill in the air, and Lucy’s legs felt much too springy to remain any longer in her burrow. True, rabbits are nocturnal by nature and prefer the soft light of moon and stars to the hard light of the golden sun, but it was early yet and a pearly light mingled with the shadows, a gentle light, rimmed in rose around the edges. And besides, the humans were out with their coffee, and probably had toast and crackers, too.

Once out of her den, Lucy stood up on hind legs, licked her paws and smoothed the dark gray fur of her face until it was presentable. The long grass inside her cage (it was a large cage, and easy for Lucy to hop in and out of) left droplets of dew on her whiskers and coat, and as she squeezed beneath the cage’s bottom bar and bounded the distance between her home and the humans, she glittered in the early light.

High, light human voices greeted her coming, their words carrying the unmistakable tones of delight and humor, but nonetheless utterly incomprehensible to the little rabbit. She stopped just where the ground became gray and hard beneath her paws and looked at the humans there in front of her: there were two of them this morning, the large female and the small female, and they both held crackers and coffee mugs in their hands.

“Any luck this morning, Sampson?” Said Lucy to a large yellow dog that lay on his side and fixed his eyes upon the crackers with unwavering attention.

“Not a single bit.” He said in a voice that was both slow, dim, and gentle all at the same time. And although there were cracker crumbs all about his muzzle, Sampson was telling the truth, for “luck” from his perspective meant nothing short of a quick and ready hand feeding him all sorts of nice things until he could bear it no more and simply burst.

Lucy hopped a few feet nearer and pressed her nose to Sampson’s—an act in which the humans seemed to take a great deal of amusement, judging by their sounds—and came to a stop just beneath the smaller girl’s chair.

“Ah, Rheechichi!” The girl seemed to say, and a cracker quickly slid into view.

Lucy snatched the cracker and quickly fell to munching. “Delicious!” She said in-between bites.

Sampson lumbered to stand upon his four paws with a groan (he was both rather old and rather fat, so such an act proved rather difficult) and placed his chin on the large human’s knee, his tail swishing through the air with hopeful expectation. Laughter followed, and more treats, then the humans got up and went inside their large, curious, above-ground den.

Lucy stood on the cold, gray stone of the back porch and looked out at the little kingdom that Sampson called his “yard”. Long stretches of green grass patched here and there with yellow swept away to silver fences. The large sweet gum tree that stood in the middle of the yard (and under which lay Lucy’s den) was a piebald array of green, crinkled brown, gold, and orange, and littered the earth below with its spiky little seeds. At the end of the yard, in a pen of their own, were the chickens—cackling, scratching, the whole lot of them pressed against the fence with the thoughtless impatience of empty stomachs.

The rabbit looked at the chickens and shivered. She did not think much of their intellect or conversation, for they were utterly indiscriminate in their eating habits, and it seemed that all they ever said was, “Bug!” or “Move!” or “Gimmie!” This rule applied to all the chickens except one: a tiny banty rooster named Maurice. His feathers were glossy and black, his comb bright crimson, and he was mean through and through. Many times, Lucy had barely escaped the wrath of his sharp spurs, and a few in which she hadn’t. Presently, he sat alone atop the fence with his head hunched into a ruffle of shoulder feathers, daring the world to offer him a challenge, the captain of his domain.

Suddenly, Lucy realized the sun was bright and that it was time to go to sleep. “Well, good morning, Sampson!” Lucy called as she hopped toward her hole. “I just want you to know that you are a very bad dog!”

“I am not!” Sampson said emphatically, but the rabbit responded with only laughter as she dived into her burrow.

 

II

 

The dens of most rabbits are far deeper and more comfortable than most might imagine, and Lucy’s was no exception. A few hops down the hole—which entered the earth at a slanting angle—there was the antechamber, a spherical room with a low floor, which helped to catch rainwater and keep it from flooding her apartments below. Past the antechamber and deep down amongst the roots of the sweet gum tree that towered over the yard above, lay the place Lucy called home.

The burrow proper was just large enough to be both spacious and cozy all at once. Lucy nestled into a bed of down between two large columns of roots that stretched from floor to ceiling, and munched on a pellet she took from a gathered pile in the corner. Life was certainly pleasant, she thought, with the coming of winter and the high heat of summer already slipping from memory, and crackers were so very delicious, and Sampson was such a good dog, really. The little rabbit yawned and closed her eyes, and before another thought could cross her mind, she fell asleep.

 

What went on above ground during the daylight hours was largely a mystery to Lucy, but the noises were not: the clatter of lawnmowers, the voices and shouts of humans, the vibrations of footsteps, the sound of growing earth—all of them were quite normal, and rarely disturbed her sleep. On this day, however, the first day where the tide of autumn and the first hints of winter were plainly felt, there was an altogether different stirring in the soil.

The misplaced sound of a low thrum, the whisper step of thousands of tiny feet, and of minute bodies wriggling through dirt, gently roused Lucy awake. For a short time she lay as still as she ever was while sleeping, her eyes closed, listening to the strange sounds around her. Then a tiny voice as high and thin as cobwebs and cold as tin pierced the darkness, and she opened her eyes.

Little rabbita, it is time to wake.”

Just enough light crept into Lucy’s burrow to see that the voice (which hissed its S’s and trilled its R’s) came from a crowd of clustered eyes that surrounded her above, before, and beside. Sharp stings, fangs glistening with venom, and the crimson hour-glass of Widows shone in the twilight of her den. Although never in so great a number, many times before Lucy had stamped the life out of such intruders. She growled and her hind legs twitched, and the rabbit prepared to visit her wrath upon the insects for their temerity.

Not so fast,” the voice said, and the dozen scorpions that ringed her snapped their pincers and pressed their stings to her skin. “You will listen to what we have to say, rabbita, and there will be none of that nonsense.”

“We’ll see about that,” Lucy replied, but, feeling the scorpions’ sharp stings, she settled down and glared at the indistinguishable crowd of eyes from which the voice seemed to radiate.

Inside the red mountain of the humans it is warm all winter long—while we die in the frost! But not anymore, rabbita—for before the icy moon turns the grass rigidly frigid, we shall take the humans’ lair for our own!

When the speech ended, the burrow was filled with the tiny buzz of moving mouths and mouth-parts (which, Lucy presumed, was an insect cheer), which was a sound so small it was hard for even the rabbit to hear.

Lucy bore her teeth and scoffed at the insectoid interlopers. “Fat chance!” She said. “And just how are you going to go about with your plan, stupid bugs?”

If there is one thing insects do not like, it is being called bugs. “We shall do to them what we will do to you, if you do not join us! We shall fill their soft bodies full of venom and feast all winter through!

Suddenly, Lucy’s patience with the intruders was at an end. For her answer, she sent a hind foot down upon the body of a scorpion, squishing him and splattering his insides upon the walls of the burrow and his fellows. THUMP! THUMP! THUMP! went her feet, and with each stomp smashed a spider, a scorpion, or a centipede flat. But no matter how hard the little rabbit thrashed, or how many bugs she crushed, the insects swarmed over and atop her, and there was nothing she could do to stop the stinging.

 

III

 

“Help! Help!” Sampson called, “Help! Help!”

But the humans, who heard only Woof! Woof!, and were quite used to the great yellow dog barking at this thing or that throughout the day, did not come immediately. Indeed, they did not come for several minutes, until Sampson’s incessant howling became something more than an annoyance. And when they did come, they followed the pointing nose of the good dog and gasped, for behind the square, humming air-conditioning units they found a disheveled, limp lump of charcoal-gray fur, utterly still and silent but for the faintest trace of breath, lying pressed against the red bricks of the house.

Immediately the small female human began to cry, while a large male human picked the little rabbit up and carried her gently in his arms. Sharp sounds came from their mouths, and they looked about the backyard for a culprit, until their eyes finally settled upon the hole that was the entrance to Lucy’s burrow. Sampson, who of all the animals was best at understanding human speech, listened hard to hear what they were saying. And, although his comprehension was not perfect, he believed the gist of their conversation went as follows:

“Bad thing down Lucy’s hole! Hurt Lucy bad! Bad! We put big hot down hole and kill that bad thing good!”

The tone and tenor of the humans’ speech excited Sampson very much, and without knowing quite what he was doing, he found himself barking and dancing circles along beside a tall, thin boy-human who gathered armfuls of brown pine needles. When enough needles were gathered, the tall boy-human and a shorter, rounder man-human lifted the large cage away from Lucy’s hole and made ready to light a fire deep within the rabbit’s home. Before taking another step closer to the burrow’s entrance, however, they both leapt back with a startled cry, for dozens of hundreds of black, crawling insects streamed from the hole in every direction, scurrying quickly away from impending doom, and disappeared into the tall surrounding grass.

Their curiosity deterred the humans only a moment. Soon, the burrow was stuffed to the brim, and one of the strange fire-twigs tossed into the pile of pine needles.

Lucy, now lying limply in the arms of the small girl human, opened her eyes just enough to see leaping flames and thick, yellow smoke pouring from her burrow. “Ohh…” she whimpered. The little rabbit closed her eyes, and did not open them again for a long time.

 

IV

 

Peck. Peck peck. Peck. Peck.

Lucy awoke with a start, and found herself staring straight into the blank, unsentimental eyes of a chicken, with only the thin, white wires of a tiny cage preventing the bobbing head and beak from plucking the rabbit’s nose, or whiskers, or worse. Lucy tried to frighten the hen away by growling, but her voice was too weak to emit little more than a squeak.

“Get back, blast you!” A rush of wings and a salty voice as sharp as a cocklebur swept the hen away, clucking her vitriol as she fled. Suddenly, Maurice stood front-and-center before Lucy’s cage, muttering under his breath.

“Bloody hens…” he said, and scratched distractedly at the concrete beneath his yellow forked feet.

Lucy lay very still and, despite the protection of her cage, watched the rooster with eyes full of trepidation. His spurs seemed very sharp, and the wires of her cage were thin, and the little rabbit felt in no state to test her fate.

“I’m the king of the yard!” crowed Maurice, and the rooster puffed out his chest feathers, preened his crimson cockscomb, and turned an angry eye upon the rabbit. When he spoke, his voice was heavy with contempt. “Listen to me, mammal—there are very strange goings-on in my yard these days: whispers in the nighttime…continuous scuttling sounds of activity in the trees and beneath the ground…odd happenings during the daylight hours. Why, do you know that just today, as I was eating a cricket, the little bugger turned to me and laughed! ‘You’ll get yours, filthy fowl—’ it said, ‘you may eat me, but you’ll never stop us!’”

Maurice paused, and stared at Lucy from the twitchy, cocked angles with which he was continually re-adjusting his eyesight. The pause lengthened into a silence, and Lucy felt herself growing jittery and nervous beneath the rooster’s persistent stare.

“I know you know something, mammal.” Maurice said. “And it is my job to know everything that goes on, because…” Maurice seemed to choke, then lifted his head as high as his skinny neck would allow and crowed “I AM THE KING OF THE YARD!” at the top of his lungs.

Lucy cringed at the rooster’s crowing, and turned her head away from the strutting that would inevitably follow. Her eyes went to the hen that had woken her from her sleep, and watched as the wide-bottomed bird dashed about upon twig-thick legs in an effort to catch a jumping grasshopper. Not more than a moment passed before the hen had the insect crunched between her beak, swallowed, and went on her way searching for more. And suddenly, Lucy had an idea.

“Listen up,” Lucy said at last, in a voice so weak it could barely be heard above the normal noise of the yard. “Listen up and I’ll tell you what’s what.”

Maurice stopped mid-strut and, with one foot in the air and his comb quivering atop his head, turned his attention to the rabbit. The rooster listened with an uncharacteristic lack of petulance as Lucy told the story of the insect invasion of her burrow, their attempt at recruiting her for their plans (she returned to this point several times throughout the narrative), and their ultimate goal of overrunning the humans and wintering in their above-ground warren.

By the end of Lucy’s story, Maurice stood still and quiet, his avian features full of thought and alarm. “That would certainly interfere with my plans,” he muttered. Then, to the rabbit, he added, “And who will let the hens out in the mornings? Who will feed us cracked corn in the winter?” These thoughts seemed too much for the little rooster, for he began to pace about in front of Lucy’s cage, clucking rapidly to himself, and cast desperate glances toward the gaggle of fussing chickens cooped in their pen.

Lucy let Maurice’s agitation deepen to the point just before a more permanent psychosis gripped the rooster’s mind. “Don’t worry,” she said at last, “I have a plan.”

 

V

 

Maurice stared at Lucy and shook his head so that his bright comb flopped over one eye, then the next; the rooster’s incredulous expression was only a thin mask hiding the sudden respect he felt for the little rabbit. “But do you think it can be done?”

Lucy thought for a moment, slowly chewing a tasteless pellet with all the persnickety impudence brilliance afforded her. “It will,” she said, “if we can keep it a secret until the time is right.”

At that moment, both the rooster and rabbit turned their head to look at Sampson, who lay stretched belly-up in a patch of sunlight, wriggling in such a way as to scratch his back on the grass. “Oh, boy! This feels so good!” He was saying, apparently to no one but himself.

Maurice scowled and Lucy crinkled her nose.

“Yes,” Maurice said, “I can see how that might be a problem.”

“Don’t worry,” Lucy said, “I’ll take care of him. You just make sure the hens are ready.”

“I can do that, because,” Maurice shifted his stance and arched his neck, and even opened his beak to crow, when Lucy interrupted him.

“Wait!” She hissed. Then, without words, the rabbit pointed with her nose toward the edge of the concrete. Two brown antennae wavered just slightly above the rim of the porch, the body of the insect they belonged to hidden in the grass below.

Suddenly, the antennas went straight and rigid. The insect, in the silence between the rabbit and rooster, realized it had been discovered and scurried toward the nearest crack. Like a flash of black lightening, Maurice shot after the bug, but was too late: the long, black roach (for that is what it was), slipped away beneath the porch. When Maurice raised his head, he held only a segmented leg in his beak.

After several moments of staring at the dangling leg in Maurice’s beak, Lucy sighed. “Well, that’s that.”

Maurice ate the leg and looked at the hens. “I guess it’s time to get to work.” He said, and started toward the chicken pen at the far end of the yard. He did not crow as he left.

 

VI

 

That night, long after the sun dipped below the trees and the last of the yellow lights in the human house turned black, Lucy’s whiskers—which always proved to be excellent barometers—began to twitch. An icy chill descended upon the earth from the clear, wintry stars above, and the rabbit watched through the steamy puffs of her breath as the moisture upon the grass changed from glistening dew into white, crunchy frost.

Then, as if on cue, a small sound at the edge of her ears caught her attention. Quite suddenly, in the yard, along the fence, and atop every piece of clutter, there appeared red, tiny eyes out of the darkness, all turned toward the rabbit in her cage.

Poor rabbita,” said the high, sharp voice of the insect aggregate. “You escaped from us once, but not again.” At that, the bugs began their march and turned the yard into a black, shifting sea of stings and venom.

Lucy’s mind raced, and she lunged against the thin wire walls of her cage. “Sampson!” Lucy cried with all her might, “Sampson! Wake up!”

For a moment, silence was the only response from the doghouse. Then, a slow sound of stirring, stretching, and of claws scratching against wooden walls announced that Sampson was awake. The dog’s large yellow head (which was nearly the size of a pumpkin) emerged from the door of his doghouse. His eyes were shut tight, his face crinkled, and in the starlight his muzzle looked particularly grizzled. “But Lucy,” he whined, “good dogs sleep when it’s dark.”

When Lucy did not reply, but only thrashed and stamped in her flimsy cage, Sampson squinted with one eye, then immediately opened them both in wide circles of alarm: covering the porch and swarming over Lucy’s cage were more bugs than Sampson realized existed in the entire world. The hairs of his neck bristled, his floppy ears stood out straight, and all the sounds of the night were swallowed up by his bark.

“I’m coming ,Lucy!” He howled, and burst out of his doghouse with all the delicacy of a rhinoceros. Within a few charging steps, multitudes of many-legged creatures crawled over his paws and up his legs, and in a fit of momentary panic, Sampson did the first thing that came to mind: he leapt into the air, flailing wildly about, and smashed belly-first into the rabbit’s cage.

Lucy looked up to see Sampson’s white belly floating above, then falling down right atop her. A split-second after the rabbit shut her eyes tight and ducked her head, her cage crashed and shuddered under the strain of Sampson’s prodigious weight, buckling and bending the thin, white wires irreparably. Lucy squeezed through a wide gap and hopped into the fray.

“Get ‘em, Sampson!” Cried Lucy as she walloped away at the bugs, thumping thrice in a hop. She cast a quick glance toward the chicken coops at the end of the yard, but saw only the stillness of night. “Where is that dang rooster?” The rabbit felt a sharp moment’s pang of panic at the thought that her plan might fail, but threw herself deeper into the battle for her fear. For a wild minute, Lucy, Sampson, and the swarming insects fought tooth, nail, and pincer, biting, barking, smashing, stinging, and made such a racket that even the coyotes (who were miles distant) began to howl.

Suddenly, the porch was awash with the strange yellow light that usually meant a human was coming. Lucy looked up, and in the next instant saw the shorter, rounder man-human burst from the above ground burrow.

“Rawr! Rawr! Rawr!” The human said, and even though the rabbit could not understand the words, she knew exactly what he meant.

Lucy looked around her and discovered that the insects had vanished just out of sight into the shadows. Lucy huddled close beside the wreckage of her cage to avoid the human’s wrath, but Sampson approached the man mincingly, with his tail between his legs.

“Rasha Rawr!” Said the man as he shook his finger wildly about and made almost as much noise as Sampson had a moment earlier. The great yellow dog rapidly blinked his eyes and licked his lips, and tried to say that he was sorry in every way he knew how, but that did not stop the human from attaching The Clip (which was attached  to a rope, which was attached to a long stake driven deep into the ground) onto Sampson’s collar.

The human gave one last yell and shake of his fist, then returned to his burrow. Just as quickly as they had come on, the lights went out, and once again the backyard was left in darkness.

“I’ve been a bad dog, Lucy.” Sampson said in a self-pitying tone.

Lucy ignored the dog’s words and paid attention only to rope attached to his collar, and wondered what else could go wrong with her plan.

 

VII

 

Heehee! Thwarted again, rabbita!” From the shadows, the insects resumed their march upon the house in organized ranks, the sound of their feet like the soft roll of a snare. “Nothing can stop us now!

Lucy stood beside Sampson, watching the seeming endless files of black, scurrying bodies pour onto the porch and, for a brief moment, feared that all was lost. Then, at the far end of the yard, there came the sound of feathers and wings, and the angry cluck of hens.

Maurice’s voice rang through the night as sharp as vinegar. “You’ll wake up if I tell you to,” he said, “because I’M THE KING OF THE YARD!”

Never before had Maurice’s crow been such a welcome sound. Lucy looked up at Sampson, her voice full of strain and excitement. “Sampson, we have to get to the chicken pen.” The rabbit leapt atop Sampson’s back and began putting her sharp, rabbit teeth to work on the rope.

“Hurry, Lucy!” Sampson yelped. The bugs began swarming about his paws and stinging his toes, and the great yellow dog danced, jumped, and pranced in a futile effort to keep them from crawling up his legs. “Ouch! Lucy!”

“Hold still!” Cried the rabbit. Then, “There!” And the rope fell limp to the ground beside the dog, and Lucy shouted with all her strength, “Unleash the chickens!”

Sampson bolted like a shot across the yard, the frosty grass crunching beneath his paws, Lucy holding his collar tight between her teeth. Gathered at the gate were more chickens than both Sampson and Lucy could count combined, whipped into a fervor by Maurice’s steady cry of “Bugs, ladies, bugs!”

The horde of chickens clucked madly, “Bugs, bugs! Gimmie bugs!” They pushed and pressed against their pen, each vying with all the others to be the first in line. “That’s right, ladies, that’s right!” Maurice screeched above the raucous ruckus.

Sampson lunged at the gate’s hinge with his nose, and the chickens burst from their pen like water suddenly bereft of its dam. With all speed, dozens of fat, wide-bottomed hens raced to the house, their eyes filled with moonlight and the sight of plump, juicy insects ready for the crunching.

Upon seeing the chickens bearing down upon them pell-mell, too simple to be afraid of either sting or pinch, the organized ranks of insects that covered the porch (and were just then utilizing the talents of termites to bore a hole through the back door) fell into disarray. A high piercing scream of “Nooooo!” and the pleased cluck of the chickens told the outcome of the battle (if a battle it could be called at all), and Lucy, Maurice, and Sampson watched in satisfied silence as the hens wrecked havoc of a kind rarely before seen in the history of bugdom.

When the last of the bugs were either eaten or scurried away to perish in the frost, one-by-one the animals of the yard returned to their coops and houses, satisfied and happy, until Lucy stood alone beneath the silver light of the moon. She smiled at the sleeping human house and the quiet peace of her kingdom.

“That takes care of that,” she said, and hopped down the hole of her burrow and began the process of making it home once again.

***

The next morning, the pleasant voices of the large female human and the small female human greeted Lucy as the little rabbit emerged from her den into the crisp, pale light of the first morning frost. She smoothed the dark gray fur on her face and hopped across the crunchy grass to the porch.

“Good morning, Sampson,” Lucy said to the dog who lay on his side, his muzzle covered over with crumbs.

“Good morning, Lucy,” he said, his tail wagging.

“Ah, Rheechichi!” The girl said, and held out a large piece of buttered toast.

Lucy took the toast and quickly fell to munching. From across the yard, Maurice crowed, welcoming the morning. It was going to be a good day.


© Copyright 2018 Youthanon. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:

More Young Adult Short Stories