Fluffin rarely fought with his mother. Timidity is not an unusual characteristic for a rabbit, but Fluffin had been graced with a very high amount. While his brothers and sisters wandered their field practicing their sniffing and running and jumping, Fluffin could usually be found within ten yards of their gentle dam. "Dam" is only what we call rabbit mothers. Because Fluffin wasn't a zoologist or a scientist, he called her "Mama".
Mama and Fluffin's fight hadn't been a big one but it was made worse by the mockery of the young rabbit's siblings. The fight began when Mama suggested Fluffin join the others in the field.
Fluffin was stricken by the suggestion. "What do you mean? I thought you liked my company, Mama!" the small brown rabbit cried.
"Of course I do, Fluffin, but I'm worried for you. I won't always be here to care for you", she chided in her sweetest voice. "You will have to learn to find your own food and you will have to be fast and strong, like your brothers and sisters".
This was Fluffin's sibling's cue to chime in. They'd crept up when their trained little noses had smelled trouble brewing. Although his siblings were far more adventurous and independent, they all coveted the favor Fluffin enjoyed through being a constant at his mother's side.
"Mama's little bunny boy Mama's little bunny boy" they chanted. Mama sighed wearily and Fluffin puffed up his tiny chest and flared his inexperienced nostrils.
"I am not Mama's boy!", he cried indignantly. "I'm not afraid of anything and I can go further than any of you!", Fluffin spat the last out before dashing into the brush.
"Let him go", whispered Mama to his brothers who tried to follow. She started after him herself. But Fluffin had flown through the bushes and crossed the beaver's new dam in his high state of chagrin. The beaver howled and chattered as his hard work was shaken loose and flowed downstream, and Mama watched helplessly as her timid baby's small white tail disappeared into the tall grass on the other side.
Fluffin hadn't gone far before his chagrin turned to fear, and the young rabbit hadn't gotten much further than that before his fear had changed into hunger. He was a growing rabbit, after all. If he hadn't left his field, his Mama would have shown him where to forage for the best roots and most delicious grasses. Fluffin lifted his tiny nose and sniffed.
The young rabbit's keen though unpracticed senses eventually led him to a large farmed field. He remembered his Mama warning him away from farmer's fields, she'd told Fluffin and his brothers and sisters to avoid anything with a fence. Fences meant farmers. But he was so hungry, and while Fluffin wasn't exactly sure what a farmer was, there didn't appear to be any of them about. Fluffin scurried past the great gap in a split log fence and began to eat. The timid brown rabbit was in rapture with the largest and tastiest orange root he'd ever seen when he was interrupted by the baying of a hound. Of course Fluffin had never heard a hound before, but an animal's instincts being what they are, he knew to run. So run he did.
The hound was a large yellowy white beast with dark rimmed eyes and the most giant teeth the young rabbit had seen, even bigger than his uncle Ezra's teeth when he'd gotten too old to chew them down. And the hound's teeth were pointed like giant claws. Fluffin could feel the earth shaking with each pound of the great gnarled paws behind him. Even a timid and unpracticed rabbit, though, can beat an old dog in a race. The small brown bunny was a blur and made it past the split rail fence in no time. In fact, it took the rabbit a few moments to realize the dog hadn't crossed the fence himself. Instead, the dog bayed and whimpered on the opposite side, though there was more than enough room for him to climb between the rails.
Fluffin was relieved, but puzzled. The young rabbit was timid but he was no coward and he was a victim of the curious nature that strikes most young things harder than is good for them. He headed back for a look at the dog, who appeared to be held back by an invisible hand.
The dog's whimpering grew as the rabbit approached the edge of the bushes just beyond the fence. "Oh go away, rabbit, just go away, please!" he howled, but made no effort to cross over, instead running from side to side in a well worn groove just beyond the posts. Fluffin remained partially hidden. "I can see you!", barked the dog, "Just go away!"
The young rabbit's voice called from the bushes, "Great beast, pardon me for asking, but are you stuck?", Fluffin was seriously considering this great mystery. He'd met very few non-rabbits in his young life and was struck with a mixture of pity and wonder at the apparent helplessness of the giant creature.
"I'm not stuck, I'm broken!" growled the hound proudly. "I don't go out, and you don't get in!"
Fluffin puzzled for a moment. The hound didn't appear to be broken, he looked to be in good health, as far as the rabbit knew. This monster was bigger than anything Fluffin had seen and though he had worn patches on his fur that showed his age, ample muscles rippled under his short summer coat.
"You don't look broken," the rabbit replied, emboldened by the hound's assertion that it would not leave the fence, "you seem fine to me!"
The hound laughed at the rabbit's naivete. "I'm as strong as I was at two summers of age, little thief, by broken I mean I have a job to do. I don't leave this fence, or I may be lost. I chase rabbits and birds from the garden and at the end of the day I get stew. That is what broken means"
Fluffin thought for a moment. "But how did you get broken?"
"Well," said the dog, who while not used to company was learning to appreciate it, "The farmer took me to the fence and when I crossed, he beat me. When I returned, he scratched me behind my ears and patted my belly and gave me treats. And so I learned that to cross the fence is bad, and to stay inside is good."
"But you want to cross the fence?", asked Fluffin.
"Oh, with all of my heart, little rabbit. I would love to shake you back and forth in my jaws until the light leaves your eyes and nudge you along the ground with my nose until your fur is filled with garden dirt, and then leave you on the steps of the famer's house as a gift", the hound replied in a matter of fact voice.
"But you can't?", Fluffin asked again, suddenly unsure of his position.
"Oh no, I wish I could, and if I could I would, believe me, you're as juicy a prize as I've seen, the fault doesn't lie with you. But I am thoroughly broken. I shouldn't even be talking to you, but it's been so long since I've talked to anyone."
Fluffin thought again and said knowingly, "A little while ago my Mama told me to go explore and practice. She was trying to bend and then break me, but instead I left.", Fluffin casually patted the ground with his large furry foot, paws behind his back.
The hound chuckled again. "Little rabbit, I had a Mama once too. She taught me to sniff everything, to follow my curiosity no matter where it took me. She rejoiced in my comfort and laughed at my mistakes. That is not breaking, that is love!" The dog's laughter raked across Fluffin's fur, for by now the young rabbit had moved very close to the fence.
"Well, what about when everyone chimes in and wants to tell you what to do, is that breaking?" asked Fluffin, somewhat chagrined again.
"That's what we call encouragement around here", answered the hound. "Though the only ones left are the farmer and his family, my mother and my brothers were given away. My sister lives in a few farms over and she bears pups now and then." The old dog laid down and sighed, "Look, rabbit, breaking is breaking and loving is loving. The two are as different as whipping and licking."
"Well what is the value of being broken?" asked the confused rabbit.
"When I am broken, I know what my purpose is. I know what I am for. I know where my good lies, I understand my job.", answered the hound, proud once more.
"So when you're broken, you're helpless?" asked the rabbit, confused again.
"No," the hound answered. "When you're done loving you're done loving. When you're broken, that means you're done choosing."
The rabbit hopped back towards home