Bunny’s New Home – a story from Bangan Forest by Laurie Fraser

This is the 4th story in the Runt Rabbit series.

photo by Laurie Fraser

photo by Laurie Fraser

Bunny’s New Home

“No, Bunny. We can’t get a fence. That’s advertising. A fence says: Someone tasty lives here.”

“It will keep me safe.” Her face was pink.

“No, it won’t. This is not Town. In Forest, we must hide… at least be discreet.” Runt Rabbit was fed up with Bunny’s refusal to face facts. “Hollow Log looks like any other fallen tree. That’s what keeps us safe.”

“What about a mailbox?”

“Absolutely not!”

“A pool?”

Runt hopped up and down. He twitched wildly, “No! No.” He put his small twitchy nose right up to hers. “Bunny. You live in Forest along with Hawk, Wolf, Hungry Fox and Cougar. You are an undigested meal.”

Bunny stormed across Clearing, her long strawberry blond fur flying around her like a model.

“I want to go home!” she shouted, but Runt had ducked back into the safety of Hollow Log.

Runt had told her only good things about Bangan Forest. That it was full of delicious greens and forbs. He had told her of Widest Path where all beings were safe. He had told her about the sound of Wind in Leaves. Those things were true. But the reason that Bunny was really very angry, was that Runt Rabbit had failed to mention a few things about life in Bangan Forest that she considered worthy of her fair consideration before moving here.

First of all, Bunny had expected a proper hut, not a rotting log for a home. Secondly, her clothes were all wrong. Animals of Bangan Forest were trending a decade behind Town and she looked bizarre in her heart-shaped sunglasses. They were still wearing hoop earrings; she was wearing long dangly earrings. If she could go back and pack again, she’d bring her old leggings, a short stretchy skirt, and her hoop earrings. And another thing: She’d bring groceries. Candy, pancake mix, cookies, ketchup, chocolate milk. Anything sweet. He hadn’t told her that there was no sugar here… and Bunny was a sugar addict.

That wasn’t a secret between them. He knew well and good she couldn’t get along without her sugar. He knew well and good she would be in a bad mood forever more.

She plunked herself down beside Mushroom Family and had a good cry.

Tall Chanterelle asked, “What is it today, Bunny?”

“Runt won’t build me a fence.”

Most mushrooms giggled, but Littlest Chanterelle asked, “What’s a fence?”

“It was different for us in Town. I was in charge. Now he’s so bossy, like he knows everything about Forest life. Do you know he told me there was no Winter here? Just because he left here in Fall, before Winter arrived. He’s not too bright, my Runt – a dropout, I already told you. No skills at all.”

Now, it is true that Runt was small and yes, he had quit school. His tan overcoat was oversized, and his feet were oddly large. He had been the runt of the litter, barely a rabbit at all, really. Runt Rabbit was one twitchy guy. He had a twitchy nose and a twitchy brain too. The faintest sound could make him jump right up to the ceiling, even if he was asleep. I mean, you can say all those things about Runt; those things are true, but Bunny was wrong to say he had no skills. He had a few.

Runt had gotten the 2 of them out of Town (during the human’s pandemic, no less) and all the way to Hollow Log which was their new home in Bangan Forest. That took skill.

And smarts. Runt had used his downtown connections to hire Magnificent Moose. Like many moose, she was a shapeshifter. For personal reasons, she was committed to getting Town animals back to Forest. In fact, she was willing to pro-rate her fee if necessary. Runt had paid with a ruby ring from Bunny’s jewelry box.

Magnificent Moose had shifted her shape to Young Girl Human. She put Bunny in her skirt pocket as if she were a toy and not a real breathing rabbit. She pulled a red wagon borrowed from Small Human who shared Bunny’s backyard. The wagon was piled high with Bunny’s stuff: a trunkful of clothes and accessories, a box of kitchen supplies, some blankets and toothbrushes and perfume. A few old moldy designer shoes. Every jewel. Oh, and Runt, of course. Runt buried himself in all that stuff, so that he too, looked a toy, with just one leg hanging out of the red wagon.

When they finally reached Danger Road, Magnificent Moose looked like Moose again. She looked both ways and waited for Silence. Then she took Silence’s long finger, crossed Danger Road, and put her clients in the capable hands of Boundary Bear #9 at the top of Widest Path. Then, to Bunny’s complete surprise, Magnificent Moose turned into Crow and flew back to Town.

Plenty of Bunny’s stuff was lost along the way: designer shoes had fallen overboard before they even got to Forest, and then at Customs, to Bunny’s dismay, all the sugar packets had been confiscated, and her kitchen knives too. Her new pawprint ID was accepted without question, as Magnificent Moose had promised it would be, although Bunny had, in fact, been born in Town, to Town parents. When they finally got going down Widest Path, Runt pulled the red wagon, and Bunny perched on top of her remaining stuff like a beauty queen.

Bunny was astounded by the change in her surroundings: massive groups of trees – maples and pines and poplars – as far as she could see. Widest Path was busy with animals of all sizes. She was dumbfounded to see so many animals in one place: skunks, snakes, a bunch of squirrels walking in a row, their arms linked together. Bunny saw animals she’d never seen before: Buffalo, Bear, Beaver.

She once thought that Ricky Raccoon would be the hero who got her to Bangan Forest. Who could have imagined it would be Runt Rabbit pulling the red wagon.

Runt was torn. He felt proud of Bunny and her stuff. You remember, he had left Bangan Forest a pauper, not a thing in his coat pockets except Clover snacks. So there was some pride for Runt, who was small, the runt of the litter, and yet somehow, had managed to mate with a beautiful female and to accumulate all this cool stuff too.

On the other hand, he saw Wolf watch them pass with one bushy eyebrow raised. Wolf valued humility. Well, it all started with the ancestors, who lived in Beginning Times. They made seven rules so that all of Bangan Forest’s plants and animals would get along.  One of the rules was about humility: “We are all equal. We are all a sacred part of Bangan Forest. No one is less. No one is more.”

So, you see, Runt was torn. He was proud of Bunny and all he had accumulated, but he knew it was dangerous to parade down Widest Path with his possessions on display. All beings were respected on Mnaadendmowin, as Widest Path was traditionally known, so nothing untoward would happen there, but safe passage did not extend to any other path in Bangan Forest. They’d be on their own as soon as they turned a corner.

By the time Runt had chosen Hollow Log for their new home a week later, the red wagon was almost empty. Bunny had survived the journey from Widest Path to Small Hill, but many of her belongings had been lost to theft and trades. Otters had carried her over Debwewin River, and they got a human raincoat in return. Raccoons had robbed them constantly on Narrow Path between Tall Birches. Finally, Runt had hired four skunks to act as escorts. They did repel raccoons, but Bunny’s gratitude had not been gracious when she learned that the only payment skunks would accept was her precious perfume.

Runt plunked himself down on Messy Moss, who had agreed to be their bed in Hollow Log. He could hear Bunny complaining to Mushroom Family. At least, she had stopped crying. He shook his head. He thought Bunny would be alarmed to learn about Hawk and Hungry Fox and dangerous paths. He thought she would become timid and careful and learn the ways here. But no, Bunny was upset about sugar and linens and welcome mats. Bunny didn’t get it. She didn’t understand Forest life.

All Bunny really cared about was sugar; she was an addict, after all. Runt knew that she would struggle and overcome because there just weren’t any treats here. Her body would learn to live without sugar, and she’d be in a good mood eventually, he reminded himself. She cared about earrings too, her emeralds and diamonds. She still had some of her jewelry, and she liked to flash it around. Crow and Magpie followed her every day; she was due to lose her shiny bling.

Bunny was plump and slow and sweet as pie. She was Hungry Fox’s favourite kind of meal. She refused to exercise or run drills with Runt. She boasted to her new Forest friends about her belongings and her extra roll of fat that came from overeating Town treats. She was proud of the beautiful things she’d brought in the wagon: a Gucci shoe, a diamond tiara, many silver chocolate bar wrappers.

Poor Runt loved Bunny. He’d loved her since he first squeezed under her fence in Town a few years back. In her backyard, Bunny had lived in a hut with a door that locked; she had eaten regular meals. At one time, the infamous “Sticky” Ricky Raccoon himself had brought her elaborate treats. It wasn’t her fault, but Bunny was spoiled.

“All we do is fight,” thought Runt. “Maybe she can’t change. Maybe she’ll hop back across Danger Road just to get sugar. Addicts do things like that.” He didn’t think he could protect her. Bunny was actually bigger than Runt, and her boastful lifestyle brought danger to him too.

He heard Mushroom Family singing to Bunny. Mushroom Family under Beech was Chanterelle genus. They had long thin stalks and pointed yellow tops that could clang like cymbals. Chanterelles love to hang out in groups and sing and sway together. This group under Beech was one of the reasons Runt had chosen Hollow Log for their home. Bunny liked to sing too, and he had hoped they would become friends.

Runt heard a bang on his roof and bits of debris fell on his head.

“You, you make me, make me, make me wanna cry,” Bunny sang Jag’s song; it had gone viral. “And now I beg to see you dance just one more time.” She had learned some cool dance moves too. “So, I say, dance for me, dance for me, dance for me,”

Chanterelles were singing back up, “Oh oh oh, oh-oh, oh-oh.”

Bunny’s singing became much louder then, “I’ve never seen anybody do the things you do before,“

More debris fell on Runt’s head. He crawled out of Hollow Log to see Bunny dancing on his roof and singing with a microphone. “Bunny! BUNNY! STOP!” He twitched wildly.

“Ay, ay, ay.” She stomped her pom pom feet.

“Bunny, it’s too loud. You MUST STOP drawing attention to us here.”

Bunny locked eyes with Runt and sang into the microphone, “Move for me, move for me, move for me, ay, ay, ay.“

Runt hopped up and down in one spot, he was so angry!

“Ay, ay, ay,” Chanterelles couldn’t stop singing either.

Runt hopped over to their spot under Beech. “Don’t encourage her!”

It was then, when Runt’s back was turned, that Hawk swooped in. Listen, I’m sorry, but I have to tell you: hawks rarely miss their target. Bunny was the target, and she looked easy enough to snatch, strutting there on top of Hollow Log, yelling, “Here I am! Here I am!” to Hawk.

It might have been luck, or it might have been stupidity, but as Hawk dove down from Sky, Bunny stomped her pom pom feet and fell right through the roof of Hollow Log.

“Bunny!” screamed Runt as he ran to her, oblivious to Hawk who had returned to circling above, thinking that the fat one would be tastier than the little runty one.

Bunny was flailing and crying, almost buried in dirt and bits of wood and debris. Runt grabbed her pretty feet and pushed her deeper into the mucky mess with him on top of her. “Shush, Bunny, please, shush.”

She cried more quietly.

He reached for her bleeding ear. “Hawk is still out there. Shush now.”

“His claws are like knives!” Hawk had ripped off the tip of her ear and it hurt.

“We’re safe here. Shush now.” He hugged her very tight and wrapped Moss over her wound. When she whimpered, he held her tighter. “Shush!”

She could hardly breathe in the dust. Silence arrived. After a time, Bunny actually fell asleep. That’s how long Runt made her stay still in the dirt. When Chanterelles softly sang, “Move for me, move for me, move for me, oh, oh, oh. Hawk is gone away, ay, ay, ay.” Runt cautiously crawled out of hiding. Log was Hollow no more- he was Broken Old Log now.

Runt fetched the red wagon. Bunny helped him load it up, and they left Goldenrod, Purple Asters and Chanterelles behind on Small Hill. They went only a short distance to Main Meadow where Queen Anne’s Lace shielded them like umbrellas. Runt knew this place from childhood. He chose a soft spot beside Milkweed Family. There, Runt burrowed right into Mother Earth and made a warren with a tight tunnel for the entrance.

Bunny even helped build a little. She didn’t mention doorbells or patios. She put a bunch of Long Grasses by the front door, making it a bit difficult to find.

Runt did all the work inside, burrowing and digging until he had built rooms for babies, rooms for Bunny’s stuff, and even a room for karaoke. Bunny sat by the entrance and watched Sky. She was on the lookout for Hawk. Once she thought she heard him, and she was in the tight tunnel in one long hop. When she did creep out again, well, you’d never believe that she was Bunny at all, she was that careful!

When Runt came out to check on her, she was still sitting motionless under Milkweed, watching Sky. Red-wing Blackbird sang: “Summertime! Summertime!” but Bunny didn’t join in.

Runt sat on his haunches beside her, and he slung one scrawny arm around her neck.

“I love ya, Buns.”

“What can I eat?”

He pulled Sweet Potato out of his overcoat pocket.  “After 2 weeks of no sugar, your tastes are changing. This guy might be sweet enough for you now.”

Bunny accepted him with interest. She gnawed one end. “He’s not bad,” she admitted.

“He is giving his life,” reminded Runt.

“Thank you,” Bunny said to Potato. She put her head on Runt’s shoulder and gnawed some more. He rubbed his chin against her floppy blond ear, the whole one.

“You’re detoxing the sugar, Buns. Already, you crave it less. Soon you will be free.”

“Free? I will always be hiding now.”

“Free from sugar. Free from fences. It’s a clean life here, Bunny, healthy. You should attend The Honourable Harvest Workshop. Or volunteer with The Humility Project. Wolf invited you specifically.”

“I don’t want to work.” She watched Grasshopper leap this way and that way as if he didn’t know where to go next.

“Well, how about a swim?”

“We don’t have a pool.”

“Let’s go for a swim in my childhood buddy, Creek, just a few hops away.”

“Really? Who is Creek? A kind of pool?”

“Yep. And maple syrup is a kind of treat and Blue Jay is a kind of mailbox. Everything is here, Buns. It just looks different in Forest.”

Bunny snuggled her head deeper into Runt’s overcoat. “Really?”

He kissed the top of her head.

“Bunny, my Love, you are from Town and you bring class and style to Bangan Forest. You bring new ideas like designer shoe-beds and make-up and karaoke.”

“Runt, my Love, you are from Forest and you have the skills to keep us fed and safe.” She kissed his twitchy nose.

It was upside down for Bunny to live in Forest, and sometimes even Runt missed Town. As time passed, Bunny’s culture shock lessened, and her Forest skills grew. Wolf was fairly insistent about her joining The Humility Project, and in the end, she made friends there: a loud-mouthed trout and Boastful Boa (who was just garter). Creek never did pass as a pool in her opinion, and Mudbath offended her beyond words, but Bunny did allow Runt to mollify her with Sweet Corn, Sweet Potato and Sweetgrass. She came to love Wind in Leaves and Night Air and Cricket Orchestra. She came to savour Stream’s sweet spring Water. Her acne cleared out and Insomnia moved back to Town.

One day, when Bunny and Runt were visiting Chanterelles and Dusk started creeping in, Bunny said, “I want to go home,” and she meant Warren, not her old hut in Town.

“Let’s go,” said Runt, and he meant, “I love you,” not, “This is the end of my patience.”

And so it finally came to pass that Bunny and Runt lived together peacefully in Bangan Forest.

Well… until all those babies arrived.

photo by L. Fraser

photo by L. Fraser