Friday, August 24, 2012

Fox and Rabbit

Once there was a trickster named Rabbit, who often fell into misfortune and always dug her way out of it. Fox, who lived close by, was in the habit of finding her way into trouble and falling out of it.

A few miles from the pair of them, there lived a farmer who raised chicken and planted lettuce and corn. Now, Rabbit could live fine off what she could find in her neck of the woods, but lettuce was her favorite treat, so sometimes she'd sneak into the farmer's garden and run off with a few leaves of lettuce. She would always wait until the farmer was asleep, and she'd always only barely get out before the farmer shot her.

Fox could also live fine off what was around where she lived, but she happened to have a weakness for chicken. She wasn't much for planning, so she just copied whatever Rabbit did. Fox'd check every night to see if Rabbit was setting off to make the journey, and then Fox would follow. While Rabbit was sneaking silently into the garden, Fox would trot into the chicken coop. But, as Fox didn't choose for herself when she ate the chickens, she always took as many as she could, and so raised a great ruckus among the chickens and the metal in their coop.

As the farmer's sleeping quarters were nearer the garden than the chicken coop, she would awake to see Rabbit snatching a few leaves from her lettuce garden, and run off to shoot her before checking on the chickens--by which time Fox would have run off, scared from the shots and with a fat dead chicken in her mouth.

"Fox," Rabbit grumbled one day, when she'd nearly got her tail shot off the night before, "Why do you always make such a noise when you take the chickens?"

"Why not? It's never hurt me." Fox gave a smile and eyed Rabbit in a way that mad Rabbit a bit more careful.

"But what of the dead chickens you leave in the chicken coop?" Rabbit asked earnestly. "Wouldn't you rather have them, too?"

"I suppose..." said Fox.

"If you kept quiet, then you could take more than one back," Rabbit said. "And if you learned to pick your nights, then you wouldn't have to wait on me to want some lettuce--you could just go and eat a few chickens whenever you wanted."

"Very well. What can you teach me?"

"Well, you surely know that chickens are harder to catch than a few pieces of lettuce." Fox preened a bit as she nodded in agreement. "So you'll need to follow three rules if you want to catch them quietly. First, you'll have to go on a full moon." Going on a full moon wouldn't make any difference, but Rabbit didn't much like the idea of Fox eating up all the chickens--after all, rabbit meat was mighty tasty to a fox. "Second, you've got to go in quickly and quietly. And, third, when you leave the coop with your chickens, you've got to wash up in the water basin--as long as you've got water on your snout, the farmer can't follow you home even if she finds some chickens missing the next day." These rules struck Fox as reasonable, and so she agreed to them.

The next full moon, Rabbit snuck into the lettuce patch, and Fox snuck into the chicken coop, each as quiet as could be. Rabbit listened for Fox's footsteps into the chicken coop, then settled into some bushes a ways off to munch her lettuce and wait.

Fox splashed in the water barrel, being as thorough as she could, and naturally being quite loud in her splashing. A lamp lit in the house, and the farmer came out with her gun. As soon as she saw Fox, she shot after her, and Fox took off running, two chickens in her mouth.

When Rabbit came back to her home--after the fuss had died down--she found Fox waiting for her. "I nearly got my tail shot off!"

Rabbit hid a smirking twitch of her whiskers. "Didn't you wash up?"

"Of course! That's what got the farmer after me in the first place. I don't think your rules did me a lick of good."

"Well, did you get to eat more chickens than usual?"

"Yes...but that was just because I was quiet and quick, not because of anything you told me!"

"Then you've learned a good lesson, Fox." Fox started, realizing she'd been tricked, and Rabbit hopped into her home. By the time Fox recovered enough to chase Rabbit, she'd had already hidden herself neatly away.

Fox did learn, and she's come up with many tricks since then, but she learned her first from Rabbit, and has run three steps behind her ever since.

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