Wild Child

Mama bunny looked around the burrow. Where were the children? They should be home by now. Feeling a little nervous, she hurried outside and crouched under the laurel bush that hid the entrance to their home. She looked back and forth, scanning the little meadow. The children weren’t there.

Perhaps they’d gone to pick blackberries. She scurried through the shadows at the edge of the meadows, pausing every few feet to look and listen. There weren’t any bunnies by the blackberries. She circled the bushes, peering into their depths.   And then, on the other side of the last bank of blackberry bushes, she heard something.

“Someone needs to go find Mom,” a little voice said.

“I’ll stay here with him,” another voice said.

“No, I will!” “I will.” “No, me!” three little voices said.

“But someone needs to go get Mom,” the first voice said.

Mama bunny felt relief settle over her like a warm patch of sunlight. Her children were all right. She hopped towards the voices. Her children were all huddled around a little hollow log. As she hopped closer, the children looked up and then rushed towards her.

“Mom!” Mitsy said. And then she and Paul and Flora and Cathy were all speaking at once.

“One at a time,” she said.

“Me first,” Paul said. “I found him.”

“No, me first,” Flora said. “I’m oldest.”

“But I want to tell her,” Cathy said.

“Mom, guess what?” Mitsy said. And then everyone was speaking at once again.

And then there was a soft little squeak. The children stopped speaking and rushed to the log. Mama Bunny followed them.     Inside the log, there was a tiny kitten looking out at them with big eyes. He backed up a little bit and whimpered.

Mama bunny made soothing noises. The little kitten took a step forward. “That’s right, little one. Are you hungry? Are you cold? Come out so we can help you.”

The little kitten took one slow step at a time, until he was finally standing at the edge of the hollow log. Mama rabbit swept him closer with her paws and nuzzled him and groomed him. The little kitten started purring.

“What’s that sound?” Paul whispered. “Is he growling?”

“He doesn’t look angry,” Cathy said.

“Maybe it’s a sound fairies make,” Mitsy said.   “When will he grow his wings?”

“He’s a kitten, Mitsy, not a fairy. Can we keep him Mom?” Flora asked.

“We certainly can’t leave him here,” Mama bunny said. “He’s been away from his Mama too long.” She led her children home. Papa bunny met them at entrance to their burrow. He’d started a vegetable stew that smelled amazing.

The children rushed forwards, cheering.   “Dad! Guess what?” Mitsy said.

“No, I want to tell him,” Cathy said.

“I’m the oldest,” Flora said.

“I found him,” Paul said.

Once again, the little kitten squeaked. Papa Bunny looked down at him, and the kitten tried to hide behind Mama bunny. “Don’t worry,” Papa bunny said. “I made lots of soup. Everyone come in and tell me about our new friend.”

The bunny family named the kitten Peter and raised him as one of their own. He couldn’t hop very high, and he liked to eat bugs, but otherwise he was as well-behaved as any other baby bunny.

The little bunnies thought of him as their baby brother and were very good at looking out for him. They taught him to hide in the shadows and fed him the biggest ripest berries in the blackberry patch.

One day, he wandered off while the children were arguing over which berry he should eat first.

“This one is biggest,” Paul said.

“This one is going to be sweetest,” Mitsy said.

“No, this one is,” Cathy said.

“I have three, that’s better than just one,” Flora said.

“Let’s ask Peter what he thinks,” Mitsy said. They all turned to where they’d seen Peter last.   He wasn’t there.

“Where’s Peter?” Mitsy asked. And they all began to call him.

“I’m up here,” Peter said. They all looked up. Peter was high above them, hugging a branch tightly and looking frightened.

“Peter, that’s not safe. Come down now,” Flora said.

“I don’t know how,” Peter said.

“Someone needs to go get Mom,” Flora said. But no one wanted to leave Peter.

“Let’s gather a bunch of grass and he can jump into it without getting hurt,” Paul said. They gathered a large pile of soft grass and finally coaxed him to jump down. Peter was immediately snuggled in a pile of bunny siblings.

That’s where Mama Bunny found them. The frightened bunnies told her the story.   “No more trees,” Mama bunny said.

“Of course not,” Peter said.

But the next week, he climbed another tree and couldn’t climb down. It was less scary though, because the children all knew what to do. A few days later, he climbed another tree and couldn’t climb down. Eventually it became a new game. The little bunnies would gather the pile of grass for him to jump into, and then snuggled him while he purred. And they were the happiest family ever.