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Herbert the hare Herbert the hare
by Asa Butcher
2006-07-20 18:41:31
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Herbert was a hare like any other. He lived a buck's life in his burrow and was contented with life. He had enough leaves, grass and herbs to keep hunger at bay and he had his heart set upon an attractive little doe, which lived beneath the tree stump at the end of the meadow.

There had been something enchanting about the way her short white tail had bobbed that first time he had seen her. He didn't now whether it the March madness or the strange tasting plant he had eating that morning, but he couldn't stop himself chasing her around the meadow, until they had both collapsed exhausted under the dandelions.

The young doe's name was Harriot, which Herbert considered the most beautiful name he had ever heard. Odd things were happening in Herbert's mind and he felt embarrassed by the compliments he helplessly showered upon Harriot, but she appeared to respond to them, so he swallowed his pride and praised her more.

The shyness that plagued Herbert throughout the rest of the year had vanished and couldn't stop showing off his prowess. He would run as fast as his heart and lungs would allow, he'd beat his hind legs until they became a blur and he'd stand his ground while Harriot would 'box' with him, seemingly testing his determination and stamina.

After a week of courting, Harriot and Herbert knew that they wanted to go somewhere secluded and make some leverets. The sun was beating down upon the meadow and they stopped every so often to nibble upon the blades of grass rocking in the gentle breeze and chew the bright yellow dandelions that mirrored the sun above them. There was a small shaded area away from the playground of the other hares and they began the affectionate boxing routine once again.

BLAM! The air exploded into a hundred pieces, as did Harriot's head. Herbert was thrown to the ground by the shock of the noise and he saw a curl of smoke a fifty metres away. His ears were ringing from the blast of the gun, but he heard a sharp laugh and a voice exclaim, "Yes! I shot a rabbit!" Herbert didn't have time to stop and explain the mistake, his beloved Harriot lay silent and bloody on the ground beside him and he knew he had to find shelter.

He began to run towards the wood thirty metres away knowing that he had to run faster than the bullet chasing him. Another explosion rocked the ground and Herbert stumbled, but he recovered and raced into the wood. His heart was fit to explode, but he didn't dare stop; the adrenaline wouldn't let him. Before he knew it, he was rolling head over tail through the undergrowth and his head hit a tree.

Night had fallen when Herbert regained consciousness and he was confused by his surroundings, the events of the past hours flooded back into his brain and he became nauseous. His instinct told him to move, but when he tried to walk he felt an electric sting in his back left foot. Tenderly he brought it closer to his face and he saw a shard of glass deep within.

Herbert let out a whimper, whether it was for the pain in his foot, the headache or the loss of Harriot, he couldn't say. Desperation filled his soul and he began to gently sob, wondering where he was and how he could return to his warm safe burrow. His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of twig snapping and his instincts froze him to the spot.

A fox had picked up the scent of his blood and was carefully following the trail to where Herbert lay injured. The fox moved slowly, sniffing the air, then the ground, making steady progress to Herbert's hiding place. The nose of the fox appeared over the top of the shrub, the two creatures locked eyes and neither moved. The last thought that went through Herbert's mind was, "So this is what they call a bad hare day."

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