BOB AND THE MONSTER



In the great forest along the lake, there was a wide clearing. In
the middle of the clearing, rabbits played in the sun. All the
rabbits lived in the big warren in the middle of the clearing, far
enough away from the forest so foxes and other Enemies of Rabbits
could not jump out of the forest and eat them.

All except for one rabbit.

This rabbit's name was Bob. Other rabbits had grander, more
descriptive names, like Mottle who had a light spot on his rump, or
nearsighted Wince, who closed one eye to see things close up. But
Bob was different in more ways than his name.

Bob had moved away from the warren and the other rabbits after the
misunderstanding about his ears. He had dug a little hole in the
roots of a huge oak tree which stood at the edge of the clearing.
Here, he lived alone and never went out when the other rabbits
could see him. While they ate the grasses and flowers that grew in
the clearing, Bob ate the foods he could find in the forest. At
first, he ate them because he did not want to be seen by the other
rabbits in the clearing. But Bob found that he liked the foods in
the forest. He ate ferns and wild berries, pine nuts and the little
green shoots from the pine trees. When he went out to eat, he
usually went at night, when the other rabbits were asleep in their
warrens. He really did not want to be seen by them, and he didn't
want to see them, either. He was still very upset about the ear
episode.

In the warren, the grownup rabbits knew about the foxes and wolves
and owls and other Enemies that lived in the forest. They also knew
about Mack, the mean dog that lived with the farmer at the far edge
of the forest. So they only went to the edge of the forest to eat
during the day, and were very careful even then. They never went
very far into the forest. And they never, never went out after
dark.

Bob was the same age as the oldest of the young rabbits, so he knew
about the Enemies, too. He worried about being in the forest at
night with them. So Bob made lots of traps and tricks and put them
in the forest. If an Enemy chased him, he could run through them
because he knew where they were. But the Enemy would be sorry! He
had one trick that would just about knock a big fox over backward.

For a while after Bob left the warren, some of the other rabbits
his age wondered what happened to Bob. They had forgotten all about
the Ear Episode, and missed having him around. They expected him to
come back to get away from the Enemies, but they did not see him
for such a long time that eventually they figured that the Enemies
had gotten him, or else he had travelled to a different warren and
begun living there. And after a longer while, they stopped thinking
about Bob at all.

When the grownup rabbits went down into their burrows at night,
they counted up the littler rabbits and made them come down, too.
But the young rabbits didn't want to go down, and sometimes the
braver ones would sneak back out after everyone else was asleep.
Then they would meet at the middle of the clearing, and sometimes
go to explore the edge of the forest.

One night the oldest of the young rabbits agreed to sneak out and
meet. They were going to actually go WAY into the forest, something
no rabbit had ever done and come back to tell about. There were
three that met that night. Clouds covered the moon and stars,
making it extremely hard to see. Even though each one of them would
have gladly gone back to bed rather than go into the forest,
together they were brave enough to move to the edge of the
clearing, and there they sat for a long while. Then the bravest
rabbit whispered, "Follow me", and hopped into the forest!

The other two rabbits stayed put. After a while they heard a
whisper: "Well, come on..." And then they heard a big clanking, and
a screech, and a whirring sound, and something big came flying out
of the forest at them. The rabbits turned and ran as fast as they
could back toward the warren. They heard a thump behind them, but
they didn't slow down or even look. They just ran and ran until
suddenly there wasn't any ground underneath them to run on anymore.
Then they fell.

They didn't fall very far, and they landed on something soft, and
right away they knew where they were. They knew because the soft
thing they had fallen on got up and said, "What is the meaning of
this? Who are you? Do you know the penalty for pouncing on the
Mayor Of The Warren? Speak up, I say, speak up!".

The two rabbits were too frightened and out of breath to say
anything. They just stood there shaking. But it didn't matter
anyway, because just then the third rabbit dropped on top of them
all, and it took a good deal of time and many more words from the
Mayor Of The Warren before they got a chance to speak again.

The Mayor Of The Warren was the highest official in the clearing,
and he liked to remind everyone about it, in case they should ever
forget. To help them remember, he had the other rabbits dig him a
new burrow at the edge of the warren. (Mayors don't dig their own
burrows.) He said it was at the edge so that he could look out for
Enemies, but it really was because he couldn't stand the noise of
the little rabbits. It had rooms that went way down in the earth
away from the noise. The Mayor's bedroom was the furthest room of
all. The burrow also had an extra-large hole, because the Mayor was
well on his way to being an extra-large rabbit. That was how the
young rabbits fell through it in the dark.

Because the rooms way down were cold in the summer and stuffy in
the winter, the Mayor had to sleep in the upper rooms. Tonight he
chose to sleep in the very top room to get a little breeze. That is
why the young rabbits fell on him.

The Mayor was still very upset when he finished asking the young
rabbits why they had jumped in his hole and woken him up. They were
still upset, too, and they all started talking at once. The Mayor
could not get them to talk one at a time, but he understood enough
of what they said to hear about the terrible MONSTER in the forest
and the way it roared and shook and threw one of them so far that
he bounced three times when he landed, and then rolled into the
Mayor's burrow hole. This made the Mayor so upset that he sent the
young rabbits home and laid down to finish his sleep without even
scolding them for being out after dark.

By the time the Mayor woke up in the morning, the young rabbits had
told the whole warren about the terrible MONSTER, and they had all
gathered around his burrow (being very quiet so they didn't wake
him up). As soon as he came out of his burrow, everyone asked him
at once what he was going to do about the MONSTER. Since he had
already had a great deal of time to sleep on the problem, he knew
immediately what to say. Most of what he said had to do with how
wise he was, and how young rabbits did not appreciate the
seriousness of their actions, and how they didn't have the proper
respect for the Mayor. But at great length he came to the solution.

"We will stay far away from this MONSTER", he said loudly, "And in
time it will go away." The rabbits cheered their brave Mayor's
speech, and went to find something to eat. They were very careful
to stay in the very center of the clearing, as far away as possible
from the great MONSTER.

After a very little while, there was nothing to eat in the very
center of the clearing, and the rabbits had to go closer to the
edge of the forest to find food. In a few more days, the only food
left was outside the furthest burrow holes. The rabbits were too
afraid of the MONSTER to go any further toward edges of the forest.
Any whisper of the wind through the forest or strange smell in the
breeze made the rabbits run for the nearest burrow. Sometimes, two
rabbits would try to dive into the same burrow at the same time.
They would get stuck, with their tails sticking up in the air. By
this time, everyone was sure that the MONSTER was as tall as the
trees and had teeth longer than a rabbit's ears, but it didn't need
them because it swallowed rabbits whole.

Once again they all gathered at the Mayor's burrow. The Mayor's
speech was even longer this time, but eventually he came to the
end. "The MONSTER is still with us," he said, "And we will have to
drive it away. The three young rabbits who are responsible for
angering this terrible MONSTER so that he will not leave will have
to go convince it to leave. Give them food and whatever else they
need." To the three young rabbits, he said, "Go tonight to see the
MONSTER. And don't come back to the warren until the MONSTER is
gone." And then he settled down for a nap, looking very pleased.

The three young rabbits were not so pleased. They did not want to
go back to the forest, but all the other rabbits made them go. They
gave them some old dried-up food for the trip, because that was all
the food that was left.

It seemed to the rabbits that night came very quickly. They took
the food and slowly hopped toward the edge of the forest. The night
was again cloudy, and they could hardly see. They stayed close
together until they came to the very edge of the forest. Then they
sat down to try to think of how to get rid of the MONSTER. Since it
was as big as a tree, it didn't make sense to try to fight it. And
if they tried to talk to it, they would have to get pretty close,
and since it ate rabbits whole, they probably wouldn't get to say
much before they were all swallowed up. They thought and thought,
and at last they came up with a plan. And the plan they thought of
was brilliant.

They snuck back to the warren and hid in an abandoned warren until
it was almost light again. When the other rabbits peeked out of
their holes to see what had happened to the three young rabbits,
they saw a curious sight. The three would first dashed into the
forest. After a while, they came out again, dragging or carrying
things. From their holes, the other rabbits could not see what the
things were. After many trips, the three young rabbits sat down and
ate the food they had brought. Then they started to carry into the
forest the things they had just brought out. Soon the rabbits in
the warren could not see anything left, and the young rabbits
disappeared into the forest.

A little way into the forest, the three young rabbits found the
spot they wanted at the top of a small hill. They started to work
hard. They took a vine they had found and stretched it between two
trees, about four inches off the ground. They took another vine and
strung some old cans together, and hung it from a tree branch.

The three rabbits hid in the bushes with some bigger cans. Then
they settled down and waited for night to fall. They did not have
to wait long. In the forest, night was even darker than it had been
in the clearing.

Nothing happened for what seemed like a very long time. Then they
heard a rustling sound coming up the hill. And then things started
to happen very fast.

"AAHHH!," yelled the first rabbit, as he banged on his big can.
"AAAHHH!," yelled the second rabbit, and he banged on his can.
"AAAAHHHH!," yelled the third rabbit, banging on his can.
"AAAAAHHHHH!" The MONSTER yelled back!

When he heard the MONSTER yell, the first rabbit could sit still no
longer. He jumped up from his hiding place and started to run.
Unfortunately, he ran smack into the vine they had stretched
between the trees. He flew into third rabbit and knocked him into
the second rabbit, and they all rolled in a tangle down the hill
and into the MONSTER! Now they were ALL in a tangle!

Then it was quiet. The rabbits were afraid to move.

The third rabbit whispered, "I think the monster has a hold on my
leg!"
The second rabbit whispered back, "Sorry. I'm holding your leg. Is
that you holding my tail?"
"That must be me", whispered the first rabbit. "I guess I have your
ear."
"Not mine", said the second rabbit.
"Nor mine", said the third rabbit. "It must be the MONSTER'S!"

Then first rabbit screamed. "EEEEEEEKKKKKKK!"
And the second rabbit screamed. "EEEEEEEEKKKKKK!"
And the third rabbit screamed. "EEEEEEEEKKKKKK!"
And the MONSTER screamed. "EEEEEEEEEEEEEEKKKKKKKKK!"

Then it was quiet again.

After a while, the first rabbit whispered again. "It sure feels
like a rabbit ear!"
"What other kind of ear would a rabbit have?", said Bob. "Would you
let go of it now, please?"

"Bob?", whispered the first rabbit.
"Bob?", asked the second rabbit.
"BOB!", hollered the third rabbit.
"What?", said Bob.

"You're alive!", said the third rabbit. Said Bob, "Yes, I know. But
just barely. You almost scared my ears off!" "Was the MONSTER
scared, too?", said the second rabbit. "That was our plan, to scare
the MONSTER." "What monster?", Bob said, sounding confused.

First everybody let go of everybody else's legs and ears and tail,
and they all got untangled. Then the three young rabbits told Bob
the whole story of the MONSTER, starting from when he first
attacked them in the forest until they ended up tangled with Bob.

Bob started to laugh. He laughed for a long time. "There is no
MONSTER in the forest", he told them when he stopped. "You walked
into some of my traps and tricks. You almost scared my ears off
that time. I though you were badgers."

The rabbits were very pleased that there was no MONSTER, and just
as pleased to see that Bob was alive and well. They even laughed a
little. Then they got up to go. "Let's go back to the warren", they
said to Bob.

Bob had always thought that he wanted to move back into the warren
with the other rabbits, but now that he was being asked, he found
that he really did not want to when he had the chance.
He had begun to think of the forest as his home. So he told the
three young rabbits that he had decided to live in the forest
permanently. So the other rabbits said goodbye and started off.

So the three young rabbits went back to the warren, and told
everyone that the MONSTER was gone, and that Bob was fine, and
nothing else. They knew the Mayor would be angry if he knew that
there had never been any MONSTER, and he had been woken up for
nothing.

And Bob went home and started to dig. He decided that since he was
going to stay, he might as well make himself a suitable burrow to
stay in at night. From now on, he would look for food during the
day.

THE END... FOR NOW.