Hare and Raccoon

Caroline Peyron September 19, 2022
Animals
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Once upon a time when the earth was flat and man had no name, there lived a hare old as oak trees, beneath a sky that roared with thunder. Trees were bent and splintered, their limbs scattered across the forest floor, and all the world was a grey and brown terror that the hare raced through. Hail battered his eyes, and puddles found his four feet as he slipped and stumbled. The darkness was no friend to the hare; the storm was not from heaven.

Through his blindness, the hare at last found refuge in the hollow of a dying tree, with thick bark walls thinned by some fellow’s claws, and by the bugs’ teeth. The hare filled his little lungs with sycamore air, and shivered into sleep, sung ear-splitting lullabies by the screaming trees, and the angry horizons.

The hare awoke to a whimper, and he raised his ears, alert. The sky raged on outside of the hollow tree, turning ponds into lakes and dry extinct. The whimper came again, turning the hare’s ears upwards. He followed the sound with his eyes, and in the darkness of the empty tree he saw eyes glowing like lamplight. Two eyes, only, from a single creature. The hare’s fear was diminished as he heard a third whimper, and as he watched the eyes open and close, and disappear during the moments when the fellow turned left, or right.

“Who are you up there?” asked the hare. He was an old hare, and he suspected his neighbor to be much younger, and maybe even more afraid of the storm than he. The eyes fixed on him fast, and the creature held its breath. “Oh, come, now, don’t be scared of me. I can see you, and hear you cry. Who are you?”

“I am Raccoon,” a small voice replied weakly. The sound was absorbed by the damp log around them, and a crackle of thunder pulled a whimper out of Raccoon’s throat just after. The hare was afraid, too, for most of earth’s children fear the sky, but the hare was not so young that he would think that the sun would not prevail. He knows better than to forget the day, even as he hid from the storm.

“Well, Raccoon, if you are afraid, and if you are tired of clinging to the walls like that, then you may come down to the tree-floor with me and wait out the storm. There is plenty of room.” Raccoon did not move, and clung still to the damp and dying sycamore. His eyes shifted to each side as he thought over his decision, until a bolt of lightning that lit up the entire trunk of the hollow tree cast a violent whimper from him and he leapt to the floor besides the old grey hare. Raccoon curled himself into a ball against the wood walls, and hid as far from the hare as the space would permit. He was a small raccoon, just a child, with a black mask like a thief’s and a ringed tail all matted down with storm water. As Raccoon began to cry, the hare spoke softly, saying, “it is alright, friend. You are safe from the storm. I have lived through more storms like this than leaves on the trees, and each one has frightened me, too, but the earth takes just a day or two to dry, and she is thirsty no more for some time. The color will return come morning, and we shall be on our way.” The hare continued to speak as Raccoon’s whimpering slowed to a snore, and sleep had taken them both quicker than a fox.

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