Fluffin stretched his legs and wriggled his long toes in the cool riverbank muck. He would go no deeper here, he knew that the current in the river proper was far too fast and strong. Rabbits are fair swimmers and like most furry forest animals they enjoy a dip in warm weather. Despite an enthusiasm for swimming, a rabbit's small hands and narrow feet make poor paddles. And so Fluffin knew better than to try his luck in the quick river even on the hottest day.
for Fluffin, the river itself was not the only option. The remains of a
beaver dam had created a small sheltered eddying pool that was the
perfect depth for a rabbit bath. Grainy silt had swirled around the
downriver portion to form a soft rounded rim over which fresh cool water
continuously lapped. The resulting small basin was protected from the
current on the upriver side by a tangle of branches and thickly packed
mud. The old beaver dam had been as formidable a piece of architecture
as could be found in the forest at one time. It was only through
seasons of abandonment that the dam's center had succumbed to the steady
press of the river. Fluffin and a host of birds, frogs, and other
small critters had been utilizing the cozy little whirlpool all summer
Fluffin had just waded in waist deep and was busy
picking panicked fleas from his belly when a firm wet slap sent him
spiraling under with a splash. Rabbits aren't fighters. Like most
furred vegetarians, they startle easily, run first and fast, and only
pause to consider the threat when they are well and truly away. Fluffin
shot out of the water like a rocket and it wasn't until he had beaten a
wet path to the edge of the clearing that the sopping bunny risked a
The small pool was roiling and boiling,
great splashes popping up and slapping back down into the churning
brown mess. This went on for a few moments as the curious rabbit
watched, but then there was calm. Fluffin's sharp eyes spotted the
culprit of this chaos. A heaving black fish with long shining whiskers
around its mouth occupied the center of his bath, inky lidless eyes
flashed just above the troubled surface.
A fish! Only a
fish. Fluffin looked sheepishly at the wet trampled grass that marked
his hasty escape. Still, as his mother constantly reminded him, better
to be fast than food.
"Say there, uh, fish, you've smacked
me in the face", Fluffin called out, "And that is my pond you're in",
he added a little more boldly.
The fish's voice came out
thick and muddy but haughty, "Well I wouldn't be here if I didn't have
to be, I belong in the open sea", Fluffin looked doubtfully at the small
river but the fish continued without pause, "It is poor luck and
treachery that bring me to this... wooded burgh, I assume you are the
owner of this area?" The fish groaned and gurgled and rolled his wide
head and one fin back and forth in a way that vaguely indicated the
"Oh I don't own the..." began Fluffin, but not quickly enough.
course you wouldn't own the entirety of the woods or river, the woods
are far too large for a young animal such as yourself to hold sway over
effectively, and this river, as you must know, goes to the sea and the
sea is never the domain of furred creatures", the fish carefully rolled
his r's, "But you did mention that this puddle was yours, did you
"Well, yes, but not..."
This time the interruption
came not from the fish, but from a fat marbled tabby who had managed to
approach the frustrated rabbit and chatty fish unnoticed.
going to eat that?", inquired the cat with a purr, the fish frantically
splashed to the far end of the shallow pool, his thick tail and sides
twitching just under the muddy water. Fluffin opened his mouth to
respond but closed it quickly as the fish had yet again beaten him.
course not, cat, everyone knows rabbits do not eat fish, and if this
small thing were to try and eat me he'd get a taste of my razor sharp
barbs and soon think better of it!" With this the fish wriggled his
thick neck and head and his long whiskers waved lazily under the water's
"Oh, well if you're not going to eat him," the
cat blithely ignored the fish and responded directly to Fluffin, "I
will. If you'll fetch him for me, as I cannot get wet, I'll let you eat
from my farmer's garden. Plenty of delectable treats there for a
rabbit like yourself, don't be foolish, let's have this done."
me? I dare say he shall not! See here, bunny, if you help me escape
this accursed bath, I will bring you treasures the likes of which you've
never imagined! There is a whole world of wonders to behold in my
home, the sea!" The fish managed to spit out the word "bath" in a way
that was vaguely offensive to Fluffin, though he couldn't quite
"I don't have all day", chided the cat,
"my farmer grows carrots and celery and lettuce, horrible to taste
though I enjoy rubbing against them," the cat paused to leisurely lick a chubby paw before going on, "I've drawn blood from more than a few rabbits
who were fond enough of our crops to risk my claws for a nibble, I'm
certain it would be a good trade for you. A fish you cannot eat for a
"What kind of treasures, fish?", asked Fluffin, stepping into the pond.
rabbit", said the fish, more animated than ever, "You cannot even begin
to guess at what treasures lay at the tips of my fins were I able to
leave your confining and yet very comfortable pond!" The fish's tone
had warmed somewhat.
Fluffin had been wanting to give his
mother a present, and it would be very impressive if he returned to the
burrows laden with unimaginable treasures and wonders from the great
open sea. Fluffin wondered what a treasure or a wonder looked like, and
thought today he would find out.
The little rabbit
fluffed his chest and made his announcement. "I will help you escape,
fish!" The cat shrugged, stretched, and strolled away into the forest
without a word.
"You will not regret this, brave and kind
rabbit, may I have the pleasure of your name? You are the smartest and
most wise creature it has ever been my great and profound good fortune to
"Fluffin", grunted the rabbit as he struggled to push the heavy fish over the basin's sandy rim and into the deep river current.
have to pull me, use my whiskers, and I'll be over in no time!",
suggested the fish helpfully. This seemed practical to Fluffin, he
positioned himself on the rim and gripped the slippery black tendrils in
his small paws.
It worked! In a flash, the fish's body
was atop the rim and ready to slide down into the fast moving water on
the other side. With a wide grin and a flick of his strong tail, the
fish shot past Fluffin, who unfortunately still held a barbed tendril in
one paw. The little rabbit was jerked in with a splash and tumbled
head over tail along the rocky floor of the quick river, trying and
failing to get purchase with his paws on either the bottom or the
surface that shimmered tauntingly above. It wasn't until the nearly
drowned Fluffin was swept round a bend that he was buffeted against the
bank and able to grab onto a reed.
The haughty fish was
nowhere to be seen. Fluffin climbed onto the bank and collapsed in a
panting wet heap. Again, the rabbit didn't notice the cat's quiet
approach until it lay stretched out beside him. "So how was the
treasure? Was it unimaginable?", asked the cat, grinning.
sorry we couldn't make the trade, cat. I'm sure the fish will be back
with his portion of the bargain we struck," Fluffin looked up and down
the river anxiously, "he was very enthusiastic about his offer, after
all, and I'm certain he must have been in a very big hurry to get to the
sea and collect my reward or else of course he would have helped when I
"Oh of course, of course," purred the cat.
"Don't worry about me, rabbit, one meal is as good as the next. I ate a
few baby birds. I don't mind waiting with you, I'm anxious myself to
see your prize."
It wasn't until the shadows from the
trees on the far side of the river stretched across to lay their chill
on the pair that the cat suggested what they both were thinking.
"Little rabbit, it looks like the fish might not be coming back with your reward."
hopped to the bank and sent his powerful rabbit sight up and down the
river as he had done repeatedly in the hours previous. "But why would
he offer those things?", he lamented woefully, and not for the first
time. "I didn't ask for unimaginable wonders and treasures, the fish
set the terms himself. If he had only asked for help and offered
nothing, I'd have given it."
"Well", suggested the cat
in an uncharacteristically kind voice, as he'd grown fond of the rabbit,
"How could the fish be sure of your help? If you'd no intention of
paying and your life hung in the balance, what might you offer?"
"I suppose," responded Fluffin, somewhat soothed. "That doesn't explain why he swam away after I fell in the river."
"Oh," replied the cat. "That one is easy. He's a dick."