by KJ Hannah Greenberg
Plumper Bunny, sister to Thumper, Bumper, Jumper, Midsummer, and twenty-seven others of her surviving siblings and half-siblings, regarded the site where her right, front paw had been located. The stump had completely healed.
She had paid dearly to protect and to nurture her young, and as an unexpected result, she and they had found themselves relocated to a place of safety. Even though she would remain crippled for life, her kittens would survive to hopefully produce generations of their own.
In balance, after being transported, some of her dearest bunnies had gone astray. Snowflake, for instance, had chosen to nest with Hortance, an narcissistic buck, who fed himself before scouring for forbs for his and Snowflakes wee ones, and who insisted that Snowflake denude her chest fur not only for their helpless newborns bedding, but also for his. It was probable that Snowflake wouldnt live to see grandbabies.
As for Rose Petal, she, like Snowflakes mate, regarded herself as the center of all things. That fair doe knew her attitude was strange, articulated her awareness of her outlandish self-importance, and stated that she had no expectation to change. She rationalized that sharing a littler with ten other kittens had ill-suited her and that she meant to distinguish herself from her brothers and sisters by refusing to settle down until all of the critters of the pasture knew her name. The only exception she made, in terms of promoting her fame, was the hedgehogs. Snowflake considered the esteem of those creatures, who dwelled in the boundary-marking shrubs, to be insincere.
Dandelion, on the other hand, had been a promising kit that grew up to be a bunny with a mouth that rivaled those of badgers. Day and night, he complained about the ambient temperature, about the number of other bunnies also seeking a livelihood, and about his mothers inability to bring enough chow to their warren. That the family had found themselves in comfy digs was, in his eyes, irrelevant.
Oak Leaf, in contrast, was no bother. In fact, it was a miracle that particular young bunny was alive at all. Shortly after he had first emerged from the family home, an osprey, which had made a migratory error, had mistaken him for a delectable fish and had grasped him in its talons. The confused seabird had subsequently dropped Oak Leaf upon discovering that the rabbit had neither fins nor scales. That drop, given its significant altitude, had almost killed the young one. His ability to care for himself remained limited.
Raspberry was remarkable, in a good way, as being different from the other six kits in her litter. It was she who had attempted to care for Plumper when the family found themselves conveyed to an unfamiliar domain. While Raspberry aspired to reproduce as much as did her brothers and sisters, she had made a private oath not to leave the nest until her mothers well-being improved. Only Raspberry knew how Plumper had lost her paw.
More precisely, weeks earlier, after the snow had melted, and Plumpers milk had dried up, but before herbaceous flowering plants of any significance number had pushed through the hard ground, Raspberry and her littermates had begun to starve. Of the bunnies in the neighborhood, only Plumper and her litter had been at risk as no other pregnant rabbit had yet given birth. Among the does, Plumper, alone, had humped before the safe time.
Plumper, who had promised her own mother to continue their family legacy, had had no mating offers the previous year. She knew that if she got much older there would be no babies. So, she allowed an old, smelly buck to impregnate her before the proper season. Consequently, her little ones arrived during a time of no food. First, she starved. Thereafter, they did.
One night, while the ground was still frosted and when she had no milk for her kits or forage for herself, she dragged herself away from their warren and across the field. A restive hedgehog snickered at her.
Plumper wasted no energy to shrug at that furze pig, focusing, instead, on crawling beneath the bushes that marked his domain. On the other side of that green line, great, thin stones soldiered silently. Wondrously, here and there, near many of those stones, the snow had been brushed away and clumps of flowers replete with leaves had been dropped.
Sniffing among those mounds to determine which greens were edible and which would kill her, Plumper, at last, filled her belly. She returned to that place nightly so that she might, once more, make milk for her small bunnies.
Every night, the sleepless hedgehog laughed at her. Every night, she ignored him.
As a result of her graveyard buffet, her children not only survived the harsh weeks that bridged the seasons, but thrived. All was well until Rose Petal and Raspberry shadowed Plumper to the cemetery.
Raspberry stayed on the hedgehogs side of the border. Rose Petal, who was not the smartest of the litter, did not. Rose Petal had realized that more than luck had changed her fortune from starvation to abundance. She meant to discover the flipside of that mystery.
That same night, preadolescent two-leggers had come to the cemetery to permanently borrow some of the jewelry buried with the dead. The long, bitter winter had caused deprivation in their community, too.
So frozen was the ground, though, that those youths were unable to avail themselves of any ill-gotten treasure. After knocking over headstones and barking out foul language, they lit cigarettes, whose butts they casually tossed among the departed. Last, they passed around a single jar of moonshine.
Then they saw Rose Petal. Rabbits foot, and better luck, they squawked before running to actualize their wishes. Plumper, who saw and understood their intentions, dropped the mouthful of leaves she was eating and ran to her baby. She pushed the smaller rabbit away.
Rose Petal had no problem hopping as quickly as she could back to where Raspberry was waiting. She ran past her sister and kept on going until she got home. Only Dandelion learned why she was shaking. In turn, he scolded her for endangering herself. Neither he nor Rose Petal, however, grasped what actually had occurred.
While Rose Petal was fashioning tall tales and Dandelion was encouraging her to do so, the boys began to made quick work out of Plumper. The moment they slid a knife into her leg, she knew she would die.
Nonetheless, after performing that single amputation, however, the young humans were forced to stop. One of their moms, rifle in hand, had come looking for them, having discovered the missing moonshine. She grabbed her own child by his ear and coughed out enough expletives to essentially leash the other wrongdoers.
Plumper hemorrhaged. As her blood warmed the grave beneath her, she hallucinated. She imagined that Big Fur, protector of all small mammals, came to heal her leg. In her distorted perception, she felt him stroke her faced and nudge her closer to him. She imagined that he made odd, cooing sounds to her.
In actuality, the mother of the preteens had returned to tourniquet the rabbit. She hummed as she worked and tried to keep the little creature warm by holding it against her. In her mind, the damaged bunny was too scrawny for the cookpots. Whats more, she had determined that her sons reeducation would begin with caring for the animal he had nearly killed.
The mom had arrived at the cemetery early enough to witness the viciousness with which her child had taken the rabbits foot. The animal had to live if he was not to grow up to be a violent man, one who was like her own father.
Whereas the woman doubted the small beast would survive- it would be unable to hop normally and hawks, snakes and wolverines populated the pasture- she meant to try to keep it alive as an object lesson. Her son would have to take responsibility for it and for any of its surviving young. The mom intended to break the intergenerational cycle of brutality.
During daylight, the woman searched for and discovered the warren containing Plumpers kits. She made her child bottle-feed them. She also insisted that the cost of the expensive, veterinarian-sourced formulae, which they were fed, get deducted from his allowance. Additionally, she charged her boy for her missing moonshine.
Remarkably, the adult rabbit survived the mutilation for nearly a year. She spent her days in a pen near the womans kitchen garden. The womans son, first resentfully and, eventually, lovingly, cared for her. Her young survived, too.
As they grew, except for a small doe whose fur gleamed pinkish at sunset, one by one, those young rabbits hopped out of the yard and into the pasture. They rarely returned to visit their mother.
One morning, when the woman came into her garden to flick beetles off of her roses and to gather greens and herbs for a salad, she noticed that the maimed rabbit no longer breathed. She asked her son to dig a deep hole for it in the family graveyard and asked him to release its remaining daughter into the field. He cried at both events.
In a better place, Plumper reunited with Big Fur. Together, they challenged weasels to wrestling matches and otherwise slowly rid Paradise of other enemies of rabbits. They successfully appealed, too, to the guardian of the two-leggers, to rain blessings down upon on a certain female farmer and upon her son.
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