Rabbit Stew: The Perfect Bait

“How on earth did your bunny get stuck up in a tree, honey?”

Wren accepted the rabbit as the kind stranger passed it down. The tall man stood on the middle rung of the ladder. She bit back a growl of frustration,he’d stopped just below the rung she’d sawed half way through, reaching easily to the limb where she’d placed the paralyzed pet.
“I don’t know, mister. Maybe a dog chasedhim.”

The man opened his mouth as if to comment, but hesitated as she hugged the bunny sweetly and smiled to him with seemingly genuine gratitude. “Thank you, mister. I sure am glad to have him back.” She kissed the small, fuzzy head and held the bunny forward “Stew says thank you. He wants to give you a kiss.”

This was the third time today Wren had disarmed a would-be rabbit rescuer with the sugary sweetness of a little girl offering bunny kisses. So far none had pressed her on how a rabbit, any rabbit, could climb a tree, much less one lacking the benefit of working limbs. Unfortunately, it was also the third time a person had retrieved Stew for her without breaking the rung and plummeting to their death.

The Samaritan placed the ladder back by the shed one hundred feet way, right where she’d left it for him to find, and Wren skipped off in the opposite direction, her bunny tucked under her arm, limp legs swinging with each of her bouncing steps.

Half an hour later she was sitting at the bottom of the tree again. Stew was on his limb, patiently waiting for the next hero. In order to avoid stepping on the damaged rung, she’d had to toss the poor creature into the tree. But she was getting better. It only took her three tries this time.
She saw another man round the corner and bit her lip to tamp down her excitement. He was three hundred pounds if he was an ounce. As he came closer, the benevolent smile lines around his eyes smoothed and turned, dressing his face with an air of concern as he saw the little pig-tailed child with her face in her hands, sobbing. It would take a harder heart than his to ignore the sad display and within two minutes, the large man had pat her back, offered her a piece of taffy, and retrieved the ladder, leaning it against the tree.

Wren sucked the candy stuck in her molars as her eyes followed him climbing slowly and hesitantly up the ladder. She liked him and thought he’d make an excellent soldier in The Scientist’s army of reanimated corpses. She looked forward to many more pieces of candy once he was alive again.

The man looked down behind him and offered Wren what he intended as a reassuring smile. Wren beamed back. If she’d truly been concerned for her bunny, his perspiring lip and flickering smile would have done little to comfort her, but as she was anxiously awaiting his demise, his expression seemed just right to her. She picked at her teeth with a fingernail, trying to dislodge the last of the taffy.

Distracted as she was by the candy in her teeth, she almost didn’t notice the heavy foot come down on the vandalized rung. She spotted it just in time as he shifted his substantial weight to the step. The moment seemed to hang when the crack of the wood rang out a half second before the audible gasp of her victim.

What Wren hadn’t anticipated the way he would land quickly and with unexpected force on the rung below, breaking it as well. His soft body jiggled as he bump, bump, bumped down the next two rungs, breaking them, but the third only cracked. How he managed to keep clinging to the rails of the ladder, Wren wasn’t certain. Nor could she understand why he didn’t let go when the ladder began to tilt back and away from the tree. The silent “oh” formed on his lips matched his wide, round, surprised eyes and stayed that way for the entire slow motion pivot as the ladder moved back in an arch, taking his frozen body with it. There was a surprising number of simultaneous cracks when he hit the ground, both from his body and from the ladder.
Wren dashed forward to take a closer look at her work. The hands still clung tight to the ladder. His slack face was framed by the rungs he hadn’t managed to reach. Wren spent a full minute searching for a pulse in his thick wrist as he lay there, not moving. She poked him and got no reaction. She pinched close his nose, again, to no reaction. She gathered the paper her taffy had been wrapped in and lit it on her pilot light, then blew it out and wafted the smoke under his nose. Once more, there was no reaction.

Wren stood, bowed her head for a solemn moment, saying a sincere prayer for his soul, then jumped straight up in the air and did a victory dance.

She was singing, twisting, and clapping her hands when she suddenly stopped short, recognizing the fatal flaws in her plan. She now had a very large body to move and a beloved pet truly stuck in a tree. After a moment’s consideration, she decided the first order of business should be to rescue her loyal pet.

She drew her tattered skirt up from the back, passing them between her legs, and tucked it into her belt in the front. This way, she managed to fashion a sort of trousers from her inconvenient clothing. Stepping up to the tree she gripped it around with her arms and legs, and managed to shimmy up the trunk as she’d sometimes seen the boys do. It was hard going, and her little legs were scraped terribly, but as she inched her way toward her bunny, she was overcome by her sense of pride. With her bunny tucked into the front of her coat, Wren slid back down the tree trunk, landing hard, but not nearly so hard as the man on the ground.

With that done, she hugged Stew’s warm little body close to her with one hand and pulled the ladder from the man with the other. She still hadn’t worked out how she would manage to get him to The Scientist, but she felt such a fortifying sense of accomplishment, she was certain she’d work something out. She looked down on his relaxed face and bent near him to kiss his cool forehead.

Wren sat back on her heels, her thumb moving absently over Stew’s head. The man wasn’t cool at all. In fact, he was rather warm for a dead man who’d been lying in the snow for at least ten minutes. As she mused over how long it takes a body to cool, the man’s eyes suddenly popped open wide.

Wren screamed and shot backwards as fast as her little legs could push her. The man groaned and reached for her. His intention was to reassure her he was alive, but to Wren, the gesture seemed very similar to a corpse trying to exact revenge for its murder. She scrabbled to her feet, nearly spilling Stew out of her jacket.

Wren clutched her bunny and ran, leaving the poor stranger lying on the ground with his concussion and broken ankle.


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About Me

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I have a mechanical heart and green reanimation serun for blood. I have glowing eyes that look like The Scientist's, but they're not his, they just look the same. I don't like swimming on account of I think my pilot light might go out.