“Can I have a bunny rabbit for my birthday?”
This was Anna on the way to school last week. It was World Book Day and as such, she was dressed as Mary Poppins, hat with flowers – the whole shoot. Also, as I was driving, I could only glance over periodically at her earnest freckles.
“I don’t know, buddy. Rabbits aren’t much craic.”
“But I would like to have one. I would love it.”
“What does hmmm mean?”
Another glance. More earnest freckles.
“It means just what I said: They’re not much craic. I used to have a rabbit when I was wee. In fact, I had three – Thumper I, Thumper II and Thumper III – although not all at the same time.”
“Thumper was the rabbit in Bambi.”
“Ah. Can I have a Thumper?”
“I don’t think so.”
“If I don’t get one for my birthday, I’ll put it onto my Santi list. And I’ll write it in capital letters. ONE RABBIT. A REAL RABBIT. NOT A FAKE RABBIT.”
“I think the elves only do toy rabbits.”
Another glance. More earnest freckles. And a scepticle frown.
I tried to explain: “You know the way that Waffle will play with you. And he’ll come over to you if you call him.”
“Well, rabbits don’t do that. They just sit in a heap with twitchy noses.”
“Awwww, I love their wee twitchy noses. Waffle doesn’t have a twitchy nose.”
“He does so, have a twitchy nose. A wet one too. Honestly, buddy. Rabbits are no fun. Would you think that having a mouse is much fun?”
“Well, think of a rabbit as being a big mouse. You can’t play with them at all, unless you count playing as sitting beside them staring into space.”
“I’d love to sit beside my rabbit. I’d call her Candy and I’d tie a bow in her hair and sing songs to her.”
“Sounds like wile gas.”
The conversation lapsed for a while as I remembered my own no-craic rabbits. Like Anna, I couldn’t be told and it wasn’t until Thumper I arrived and I began to appreciate its no-craic attributes, that my own penny belatedly dropped.
“How come…” Anna began. “If rabbits are no fun that you had three of them?”
Another glance. More earnest freckles. And this time, a grin. No flies on her.
“My first rabbit was killed,” I said truthfully. “So granny bought me another one.” A little less truthfully, I added, “Thumper I was killed by a dog.” It had actually been a cat what done the killing but I’d had a cunning idea and I needed the white lie.
“Yep. Dogs hate rabbits – did you know that?”
“No.” Another glance. More earnest freckles. And another frown.
“Have you never seen Watership Down?”
“I don’t think so.”
“You’d remember. We shall have to remedy that. Yes, dogs hate rabbits even more than they hate cats.”
“Waffle doesn’t hate anyone.”
“Not yet, he doesn’t. You might not be able to imagine it now but if Waffle saw a rabbit, he would probably try and eat him up in his tummy.”
“Eat him up in his tummy?” Anna scoffed. “This isn’t P1 and he’s not the troll under the bridge in The Three Billy Goats Gruff.”
I ignored this blatant insult to my story-telling.
“You think that now,” I said. “Waffle looks like a bit of a teddy but I don’t think he would take too kindly to a rabbit arriving at the house.”
“What about the hens? Waffle didn’t eat the hens up when they arrived.”
“The hens lay eggs. Waffle knows they’re an important part of the family.”
“My rabbit would be an important part of the family too. PL-eeeeeease!”
This was not going to plan. But I stuck to my guns.
“Rabbits can be vicious enough too,” I tried. “They bite.”
Anna laughed. “They do not bite. They eat carrots and they snuggle into you and keep you warm like a hot water bottle.”
“Waffle can snuggle into you and keep you warm.”
“Waffle licks his own butt.”
She had me there.
“Look,” I said with another glance over at Mary Poppins (more earnest freckles). “Waffle is as much animal as we can handle at the moment. He’ll give you all the snuggles you need. He always wants to play. A rabbit would never want to play – couldn’t play. Waffle is your best friend.”
“You keep telling Waffle to get to Fintona.”
She had me there too.
I think there comes a time in every parent’s life when they wonder if their child is casting some kind of magic spell on them. It wasn’t helping either that Anna was dressed up as Mary Poppins. A spoonful of surrender was called for.
“I give up! OK, yes, frig it. You can have a stupid rabbit. But if the rabbit ends up eating Waffle, then it’s your fault.”
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