The last chill wind of early spring did its best to wriggle through the cracks of Christopher Rabbit’s cozy little warren, nestled snuggly as it was along the banks of the Main Stream. Christopher was a comfortably plump little rabbit, with tiny impish eyes set narrowly in his chubby little rabbit head, a thick pelt of golden fur the color of alpine sunshine, and a cute little nose as brown as a roasted chestnut.
Yet in spite of his deceptively soft appearance, Chris Rabbit was a surprisingly dexterous little critter. He (or at least his mouth) was said to be as swift as a runaway boulder, and he was known on occasion to make towering leaps (of faith) over seemingly unbridgeable chasms (of logic). But perhaps the most astounding of his abilities was his prowess as a swimmer, a skill not easily mastered by rabbits. Many summer days would find him paddling around contentedly in the Main Stream, always swimming in the direction of the current, and laughing all the way to the bank. It was generally agreed that among the many creatures who inhabited the marshlands surrounding legendary Toady Hall, Chris was far and away the cleverest little “toady” of them all.
On this particular day, Christopher Rabbit was preparing to depart his parents’ burrow and seek his fortune in the big wide world. As he busily packed his bulging bunny bags, his mother said to him, “Christopher, you are a clever coney, and are, no doubt, destined to cut a fine figure in the world. But I’ve noticed that your right forepaw is significantly shorter than your left, which invariably causes you to veer to the right as you hop down the bunny trail. In order to correct this problem and keep you on the straight and narrow, I have for you a most useful present.”
With this, she handed him an empty sack and two small stones.
“Place these stones in this empty sack and carry it over your left shoulder as you travel. As long as you have stones in your sack, you should be able to resist the temptation to gravitate to the right,” she told him. “But remember, you must never cast your stones on the ground, even when you’re obliged to run very fast from your enemies, otherwise you will be left with an empty sack, like your unfortunate schoolmate, Alan the Mouse.” Apparently Alan was regularly mauled with impunity by his closest friend, Sean the Weasel.
Taking his mother’s advice to heart, Chris Rabbit bounded off on the path to a bright and prosperous future. For several months he traveled far and wide, exploring distant continents and meeting countless exotic animals. In the course of his travels, he developed a profound respect for such noble predators as the lion and the wolf, even as he cultivated a private contempt for dimwitted herd animals like the wildebeest and zebra. In the end, however, he discovered that his natural affinity lay with the hyenas, jackals and other carrion-feeding scavengers of the world. “After all,” he astutely observed, “they get plenty to eat at virtually no risk to themselves, even as they enjoy a profitable symbiosis with predatory power.” Oh, what a Wascawee Wabbit!
Armed with this cheerfully cynical philosophy, Christopher Rabbit eventually returned from his travels with an ambitious plan to make a name for himself back home among the Willows. Predictably, he began by offering his services to a few of the local carnivores, sniffing out beehives full of honey for Tip the Tippling Bear and digging up termite mounds for Jimmy the Aardvark. No task was too arduous or too menial for this busy bunny. No doubt about it, Christopher Rabbit worked his furry little ass off.
One day, while Chris was on his way to purchase a can of shinola with which to polish his cute little nose, he noticed that his sack seemed unaccountably light. When he looked inside, he found to his dismay that his stones had disappeared. “Where could I have left them?” he asked himself.
For several days after his disconcerting discovery, Chris kept remembering his mother’s words about the importance of the stones. Many an anxious evening was spent retracing his footsteps, trying to remember just where he might have misplaced them. Yet try as he might, he could not find them anywhere. Finally, he was forced to admit his stones were probably gone for good. If he was ever going to regain his equilibrium, Chris would have to find something of comparable weight with which to fill his sack. Turning his sights northward, he threw the empty sack over his left shoulder, and hopped off in a decidedly northeasterly direction.
Christopher Rabbit hadn’t traveled very far when he came upon a spectacular sight. There in the road before him stood an enormous peacock, spreading its magnificent fan in a dazzling array of colors. Thoroughly mesmerized by the electrifying effect of the iridescent plumage, Chris was (for once) as speechless as a garden variety, run-of-the-mill rabbit.
“Allow me to introduce myself,” the peacock blurted out boldly. “I’m a television network mascot and my corporate master has asked me to be on the lookout for any fast-talking creature who appears unburdened by scruples and demonstrates a pronounced tendency to lean to the right. I couldn’t help but notice that you list about 30 degrees to starboard. Are you, by any chance, a fast talker?”
“You have no idea,” replied Chris, launching headlong into an ear-numbing farrago of inverted logic, unfounded speculation and shamelessly adulterated hogwash lasting several minutes - the likes of which the awestruck peacock had never heard in his fifty years in Hollywood, even from the mouth of Tom Snyder.
“My boss is going to love you,” said the peacock.
“Who’s your boss?” inquired Christopher Rabbit.
“He’s retired military. Lt. General Electric. Maybe you’ve heard of him…”
“Sounds familiar. Makes toasters and stuff, right?” asked Christopher.
“Sort of. Actually, he’s into a lotta cool stuff these days,” replied the peacock, “phosphorus-spraying crowd-control helicopters, depleted uranium dinnerware, television neworks…”
“Television…,” muttered Chris Rabbit with reverential stars in his beady little eyes.
“That’s right. Say, you might want to stick around and talk to the general yourself. In fact, that’s him pulling up in his customized 24-cylinder plutonium-powered Humvee now…”
Long story short, Christopher Rabbit’s Cable TV contract was signed over dinner that night. A seven-figure contract was agreed on, as was the name of the show: “HAREBALL with Chris Rabbit.” As a good faith gesture, the peacock bestowed upon Chris Rabbit two of his (as yet) unborn children.
“At last I’ll have some eggs in my sack,” thought Chris, breathing a sigh of relief.
Little did he know at the time what a cumbersome burden those eggs would prove to be…
For no sooner was the ink dry on the agreement than General Electric received an urgent conference call from Alberto Javelina and his mentor, Karl the Roving Feral Pig. Apparently they had called to caution him in no uncertain terms that a Rabbit with a full sack of eggs was not to be trusted aboard the general’s flagship, the H.M.S. “NBC.”
“Loose hare lips sink ships,” snorted the ever-venomous Karl.
“Wait a minute, how did you guys get wind of this deal so soon?” asked the incredulous General Electric in a shocked voice.
“We’re not really comfortable getting into all that,” replied Alberto. “Let’s just call it a case of fortuitous timing.”
“Yeah, I suppose... Anyway, you could be right about the egg sack thing being dangerous,” agreed the general. “So how do you suggest we keep this rabbit safely in his hutch?”
“Got it covered,” chortled Karl the Roving Feral Pig, as his bristled tongue licked the bacon grease off his shiny pink snout. “First, we load up his guest list with a bevy of barnyard blatherers, you know: Kate O’Mongoose, Muskrat Joe, Tucker the Diabolical Dormouse, etc. And just in case that mendacious menagerie doesn’t bust his hare balls, I can always rely on my pal Rabid Rupert the Fairly Unbalanced Fox to unleash the dreaded zoological “nuclear” option - ‘Cannibal Ann’ the blood-sucking Shrew…”
(to be continued…)
Mark W. Bradley is a schoolteacher and political satirist in Sacramento, California. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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