[Dedicated to the wild bunnies of Tolovana Park, OR]
Ginny was grumpy. It was the second day of their beach vacation, and she couldn’t go to the beach. The first day, Ginny had rushed off to the beach with her brother Jamie and his new puppy, Oliver, before she even put on sunscreen. By the time her folks made the three-block walk to the beach with all their gear, she was so busy playing in the waves that she forgot all about it.
The sunburn wasn’t too bad, considering, but her mom said she had to stay at their rental house out of the sun, today. She could only play in the yard, which was shady from the surrounding thick shrubbery and trees. She told herself that she didn’t want to play with her older brother or his stinky old puppy, anyway.
Ginny wandered the yard, and began to pick bright yellow flowers off dandelions and dainty white flowers off another weed she didn’t know. She stretched out on her stomach in the shade — the cool grass felt good on her hot skin — and began to braid the flower stems into a crown that fit delicately into her dark hair.
The grass was green and cool, and her sunburn made her sleepy. She cradled her head on her arms amidst the humming of the insects, bird calls, occasional buzzing from the bees and the gentle swish of the wind against the leaves.
Ginny became aware of the quiet sound of, well, nibbling. Could she be dreaming — her eyes were still closed. But there it was again, “Munch, munch.”
Something tugged on her crown.
Carefully, she opened her eyes. Her arm pillowed her face and she could see the green grass in her fingers. But there, what was that brown thing next to her arm?
“Munch, munch, munch.”
One of the dandelion flowers dropped in front of her eyes. Suddenly, a small brown furry nose lowered quickly onto the flower, and a dark, round eye briefly came into view.
“Munch, munch. Nibble, nibble.”
“It’s a bunny!” she thought, “A bunny is eating my crown.” She lay very still. Soon the munching stopped and the bunny slouched against her, comfortably leaning against her arm and her head. Ginny’s vision was filled with brown fur, tickley and soft against her cheek. Her breath moved the fur in barely detectable waves to and fro.
She blew softly against the fur, sensing stillness and alertness in the small body against her. She puffed a little harder, and the bunny shifted a bit. In a few moments, she blew a harder still, and suddenly the bunny leapt up, turned around and landed eye to eye with her.
The abrupt movement startled her and she jerked her arm back and head up. The bunny hopped back a bit and eyed cautiously — ears twitching and nose wiggling. With her free arm, she very slowly pulled a dandelion out of her crown, and held it out in the bunny’s direction.
For what seemed forever, they both stayed very still, Ginny barely breathing. The flower shook a little in her hand so she lowered her arm and rested it in the grass. The bunny watched her.
Another eternity passed. Ginny became aware of the noises again, the insects, the birds, the breeze, sounds from the surrounding houses.
The bunny crept forward and began to nibble gently at the yellow petals.
“Munch, nose wiggle.”
“Munch, nose wiggle.”
“Munch. Nibble, nibble. Wiggle, wiggle.”
Ginny noticed her nose wiggling at the same time as the bunny’s, and giggled. The munching stopped … then resumed. When the first flower was nearly gone, she pulled another from her hair and offered it to the bunny.
The munching continued.
This bunny was definitely brown, but her undersides were a much lighter color. (Ginny had determined that such a nice bunny could only be a girl.) The ears were twitchy and a little floppy, but pulled upright whenever Ginny moved or a strange sound intruded.
The bunny suddenly sat upright, tense and listening. Ginny heard nothing at first, then heard footsteps on the sidewalk beyond the shrubs.
“Here, Oliver,” Jamie called, and the gate swung open. The bunny crouched stiffly, willing itself invisible in the grass. Jamie clumsily blundered in through the gate, carrying a folding lawn chair and a football with a beach towel wrapped across his shoulders. At first he didn’t notice his sister lying in the shade — or the small brown lump next to her.
Oliver burst through the gate with the energy and lack of grace common to puppies and young boys, and spying Ginny, galumphed over to her eagerly, anticipating an opportunity to wrestle and lick the defenseless girl lying in the grass.
But as he approached, a brown mass sprang from the grass and dashed away. Taken aback, Oliver stopped — then the canine instinct to chase whatever ran from him, kicked in and he took off after the bunny.
“Oliver, no!” Ginny yelled and leapt to her feet. Surprised, Jamie stumbled forward, dropping the chair on his foot and tripping, but somehow retaining his grip on the football. Ginny charged after the pup, yelling for Oliver to stop. Jamie yelled at Ginny for scaring him, then ran after her and the dog.
“What is it?” he cried.
“A bunny,” she yelled, exasperated with his slowness.
The bunny reached the shrubs way ahead of Oliver, but puppies have neither the agility nor maturity of bunnies. Oliver crashed right into the shrubs where the bunny had disappeared. As the puppy untangled himself from the bushes, the bunny leapt out a few feet away and dashed across the lawn. Then, another bunny, this one nearly all black, burst out of the bush almost beneath Oliver’s feet, and the black bunny and puppy raced across the lawn.
“Another bunny!” Ginny shouted, and resumed her attempt to corral Oliver. She narrowly missed crashing into Jamie who hadn’t yet changed course.
The black bunny reached the shrubs on the other side of the lawn ahead of Oliver and disappeared, only to bounce out again when Oliver crashed into them. As the black bunny sped off, Oliver turned and a white and gray bunny exploded out of the shrub nearly beneath his nose. The puppy yelped in surprise and shot off after the new bunny.
“Another bunny!” Ginny yelled, turning to follow Oliver. This time Jamie was too close behind her and when she turned, Ginny became tangled in his towel, pulling it off his shoulders and spinning him around. They both charged after Oliver who was determined not to let this one get away. It zigged … then zagged … and the puppy lost ground but charged ahead with a single purpose, not stopping,as the bunny leapt again into the shrubs.
Oliver crashed into the thick brush and the white and gray bunny scampered back out into the yard. Suddenly, a yellow bunny burst out just beneath Oliver’s nose and dashed away. Oliver yelped and ran after the new bunny, barely avoiding being trampled by Jamie who was trying to watch the white and gray bunny, the yellow bunny and Ginny. He narrowly missed crashing into Ginny, and in the process got the towel wrapped around his arm that held the football. As Ginny changed directions with Oliver, the football flew into Ginny’s arms, and she instinctively held onto it.
So as Oliver raced after the bunny, Ginny charged after Oliver while holding the football like a crazed running back trying to make a touchdown, and Jamie followed her with the beach towel flapping behind him. Oliver briefly appeared to gain on the yellow bunny, but at the last moment it veered away from the shrubs, circled around Ginny and Jamie, leading Oliver into a tight loop and then dove into the bushes. Jamie and Ginny spun with the pair and, somehow in the process, traded off the football and the towel.
Oliver careened into the bushes as the yellow bunny scampered out across the lawn from behind him. At the same time, the black and white spotted bunny popped out of the shrub right in front of the dog.
Oliver turned quickly and zigged directly into Ginny’s legs, causing her to topple forward, but catch herself just in time for Jamie to thump into her back. As they both collapsed, Ginny managed to grab the puppy and roll sideways so as not to land on him, the towel wrapping around them both. Jamie also managed to land without squashing Oliver — or Ginny — and managed to hold onto the football.
They all lay in the grass gasping for breath. Oliver wheezed, Jamie groaned and Ginny struggled to unwrap the towel but quickly gave up.
Across the yard the brown bunny, black bunny, gray and white bunny and yellow bunny sat in a row along the edge of the lawn watching the recumbent trio and thoughtfully nibbling the grass. The black and white bunny hopped over to join them. Slowly, they edged back into the bushes.
Jamie recovered first and said, “Was that all bunnies?” he asked, trying to look around. There were no bunnies that he could see.
“Well,” Ginny replied, out of breath, “One of them was Oliver.” She scritched Oliver behind his ears.
Jamie laughed, and said, “Which one.” Ginny giggled, then they both began to laugh.
Finally, they just lay in the grass, catching their breath and listening to the humming of the insects, a few bird calls, occasional buzzing from the bees and the gentle swish of the wind against the leaves. Oliver appeared to fall asleep, Jamie seemed to doze, and Ginny reveled in the cool grass and the dog pile they made together.
Slowly Ginny became aware of the quiet sound of, well, nibbling. She might be dreaming; her eyes were still closed. But there it was again, “Munch, munch.”She felt gentle tugging on her crown.
“Munch, munch. Nibble, nibble.” Slowly, she opened her eyes.
By Steve Tarlton and Jennifer Fay