The Cottontail Legacy: Part II

 Fiction, Writing  Comments Off on The Cottontail Legacy: Part II
Nov 221987

Once upon a time, not so very long ago, there was a rabbit by the name of Paul Cottontail. If you think you’ve heard the name “Cottontail” before, you probably have. The illustrious Peter Cottontail was the great rabbit who, against the warnings and instructions of his mother, infiltrated Farmer John’s garden to swipe some “easy” grub. Well, Paul Cottontail is Peter The Great’s (as he had been called) son.

Paul was always very proud of his father. However, there was one thing about him that tended to bother Paul. It seems that Dear Ol’ Dad had somewhat glorified the original story of his narrow escape from death by hoeing to the point that he’d actually subdued Farmer John with his fighting prowess and had enjoyed the garden at his leisure. This fabrication really was not so bad, but it tended to make Paul feel like he was never “his father’s son.” Every time he would meet somebody around the warren, they’d always ask, “How’s that father of yours, Paul?” never “How have YOU been, Paul?” Therefore, Paul wanted very much to be a hero himself, instead of the son of one. One day, he finally figured out how.

Paul’s basic plan was simple. He’d duck into the garden, hop about a bit to prove his bravery, then grab a carrot or some lettuce and bolt. He was lucky in that he had inside information about Farmer John’s garden from one who should know: his father. However, he had to be clever and eke information from his father without arousing his suspicions (for were Peter to know of his intentions, Paul would never be let out of his sight again). This task proved to be more difficult than Paul expected. The actual truth about his father’s actions had been so muddled in exaggerations and half truths that he was only able to glean a piddling few true facts. One was that the gate to the garden was just high enough for a slight rabbit to squeeze under, and this gate led right to the cabbage section. Also, he learned that, since his father’s escape, the farmer had acquired a dog.

Paul was unsatisfied by these few solid givens, so he decided to embark on a simple reconnaissance mission one afternoon. By ambling along the chicken-wired picket fence, he was able to discern that Farmer John’s dog was a tired, mangy old Setter who answered to the name “Fritz.” As for the space under the gate, barbed coils had been affixed to the gate bottom. He also noticed that there were some curious lumps just inside the gate and down the garden rows. Oily-smelling lumps. When there seemed to be nothing more to learn, Paul hopped home to mule over his findings. He figured that some specialized help would be needed, so he decided to take a chance and confide in his friend Guido.

Now Guido was a strange kind of rabbit. He kept to himself and had no friends other than Paul. This had something to do with his favorite hobby: Human Warfare. Paul moseyed over to his den and told Guido his plan and what he had discovered on his preliminary cruise by the garden.

“Hmmm,” Guido mused, “I don’t like the sound of this P. What about these ‘lumps?'”

“C’mon, I’ll show you,” said Paul, and they hurried to the garden gate. Night had fallen, and the gibbous moon illuminated the area fairly well. The two rabbits arrived on the scene, and Guido scrutinized the lumps as closely as possible.

“Just as I thought,” he said, “Anti-personnel, pressure- sensitive incendiaries. Mines. Are you sure you want to do this, Paul? Those things’ll blow you to the moon!”

“Yes, I want to do this. But what can I do about these mine things and the barbed wire under here,” replied Paul, pointing at the bottom of the gate.

“Well,” Guido replied, “the wire is easy. I could loan you some cutters for that. But the mines… those you’ll have to just avoid. It should be a snap. It doesn’t look nearly as tough as everyone makes it out to be!”

“Yeah, well just don’t get any ideas!”

“Oh, not me! I wouldn’t want to take even the little risk there is. By the way, what plans do you have for the pooch?”

“Oh him! He’s nothing. He’ll probably be asleep tomorrow afternoon when I do it.”

“Good… good.” And with that they returned home to bang out the final plans.

The next afternoon the area outside of the garden fence was swarming with bunnies from everywhere. It seemed that Guido had informed all of the nearby warrens of “Paul the Dauntless’s attempt on The Garden.” Tickets were only half-a-root and tee shirts were available. Guido had assumed managerial control of our contender and was now standing in the bushes by the gate, working crowd control. Off by the side of the fence stood Paul’s father and mother, looking angry and worried, respectively. Paul, however, was nowhere to be seen; but then again, the designated hour had not yet arrived.

Finally, the crowd’s buzzing, like a wave, began ceasing as Paul came strolling nonchalantly down the gate path.

He was laden with a variety of accoutrements. Over his shoulder was slung a pair of binoculars; on his back was a metal detector; and in his hands, a large pair of wire cutters. The area fell completely silent as Paul stepped up to the gate. He dropped to his knees and quietly began cutting away the barbed coils. He looked up and saw that Fritz had raised his head from his paws and fixed a bored stare upon Paul. He tried not to falter under the dog’s scrutiny as he carefully pulled away the wire. Handing the cutters to Guido, he dropped prone and surveyed the garden with the binoculars.

“C’mon, Paul,” whispered Guido urgently, “Everybody’s waiting.”

Paul looked at the rabbits hiding in the brush by the path. He noticed his father staring intently at him, his expression one of anger and great anxiety. Paul shrugged off the gnawing fear in his gut, ignoring his screaming instincts for the sake of glory, and removed the detector from his back. He slid it under the gate and wiggled after it. Fritz perked up enough to almost get up when Paul stood, took the detector in hand, put on the large earphones, and began gingerly walking toward the cabbage, swinging the detector to and fro before him. He advanced all of the way to the first vegetables with no incidents. Fritz continued to half-stand as Paul looked around and bent to pluck the first leaf.

Just as he touched the head, Fritz let out a yelp/howl, claxons began “whoop-whooping,” sirens screamed, and bells clanged. Paul spun and began to clamber and stumble back to the gate, tangling in his equipment.

The back door of Farmer John’s house banged open.

Paul scrabbled closer to the gate and the faces of his family pressed against the wire. However, just as he was about to scoot under, bars sprang up from under the ground, lining the garden’s perimeter and imprisoning Paul. He fearfully turned back toward the house just in time to see Farmer John raise his rifle and fire.

Paul’s last thoughts, as he slid into oblivion, were “Damn! I knew I should’ve packed Guido’s .45”

MORAL: Anthropomorphism is silly… especially when applied to humans.