The air had turned crisp and the leaves had only started to fall when the news reached the Burrow about Lady Enfield.
“They say it could happen any day now,” said Bronwen, Beau’s mother, as she fretted with her apron. “I wish we’d heard sooner!”
“How many is she expecting?” Beau’s sister, Betsy, hurried around their tiny kitchen, clanging pots and pans and moving in an almost perfect imitation of their mother.
“They say fourteen.”
From his seat at the table in the corner, Beau watched quietly as the two of them clamored around pulling carrots and potatoes from the cupboards. He had just started to wonder what his job might be in all this ruckus when Betsy whined: “Beau’s daydreaming again!”
“I am not,” he replied. “I was thinking about how I might help.”
Bronwen twitched her nose and thought for a moment. “Somebody will need to take the basket over, once the pies are done and cool enough.”
“I could do that,” said Betsy.
“No,” answered Bronwen. “Beau can do it. It’ll be later in the evening by then, and I’ll need you here to help put the little ones to bed.”
Betsy sulked, but Beau was happy enough with his assigned task. It would be dark once he left Farmer Hutcheson’s place, and the moon was set to be full tonight.
“All right, mother,” he said. “I’ll go and get ready now so you don’t have to wait for me.”
The fact of the matter was this – though he hadn’t been daydreaming just then, Beau did have a dream. A big dream, and one that his mother and sister called ridiculous and impossible. But Beau knew that he could make it happen, only he didn’t quite know how.
“You big dummy,” Betsy’d said, the night he told her about it. “No rabbit can jump as high as the moon.”
“One rabbit did,” Beau had replied. “And if he could do it, then I can, too.”
“And what would you even do up there?”
“I don’t much care,” said Beau. “All I know is, I’m sick to death of brambles and foxes.”
Betsy had only shaken her head, and it hadn’t taken long for his gossip of a little sister to share his dream with every creature big and small from the Burrow all the way to Little Washington.
It didn’t bother Beau that he became a laughingstock. He figured everybody laughs until you prove them wrong. And he was intent on proving everybody wrong. He’d let them talk their empty talk, and then he’d give them something to really talk about.
And so, on the night he took the basket of pies and fresh-picked crabapples over to Lady Enfield, it happened like this.
He had just started out on the path to Enfield Farm when he met Felicity Fieldmouse on her way home from seeing the Lady herself.
“Evening, Mrs. Mouse,” he said.
“Good evening, Beauregard,” she said. “On your way over to see Lady Enfield?”
“Mother and Betsy made pies,” he said. “I’m only the delivery boy. Is she all right?”
“Oh, she’s fine,” Felicity said. “Just fine. But you be careful now. It’ll be full dark and fox hour by the time you head back.”
“I will, ma’am,” he said.
“And Beauregard,” she added, “don’t you go on worrying your mama with your big talk and silly ideas.”
She nodded at him and moved on.
Beau walked a ways longer, almost to the farm. The shadows had grown and the sun had dipped below the horizon. Soon, the moon would rise.
“Almost time,” he said to himself.
“For what?” a voice answered.
“I’ve gotten myself all tangled,” came the reply.
“Who might you be?” Beau asked.
“Well, I’m not sure I should say, on account of I don’t think you’d help me if you knew.”
Beau wasn’t a scaredy-hare, but he knew better than to get too close to a carnivore, especially alone and in the dark. And so he asked, “Well, do you plan to hurt me if I help you?”
“No,” the voice answered.
“And if I help you, you won’t change your mind?”
“No, sir,” said the voice. “I’m a bird of my word.”
Well, Beau thought to himself, that sure could be useful. But he didn’t have a chance to reply before the voice cried out, “Oh! I shouldn’t have said that!”
“It’s all right,” Beau said. “As long as you won’t harm me if I get close, I’ll help you get unstuck. But if you’re a bird like you say, I wonder if you might do me a favor in return.”
“I reckon that’s fair,” said the voice.
“All right, then,” Beau said.
“Oh, thank you,” said the voice. “Thank you very much! I’m just over to your right, I think.”
Beau placed the basket gently on the side of the path, and made his way toward the right, into a thicket of dead twigs and creeper vines. As he tiptoed carefully along the ground, he saw the stranger. He gasped and said, “You’re an eagle! How’d you get all twisted up in this mess?”
And the poor eagle was sorely stuck.
“Well,” said the eagle, “the truth is, I just wanted to see what was down here. My ma says I’m too curious, but I’ve always wondered what it might be like, just to walk around on the ground. Don’t do much of that, you see?”
“I see,” said Beau, and he set about getting the eagle untangled. It was quite the job, but Beau was patient. And the eagle was friendly, as it turned out.
“My name’s Everett,” he said.
“Beauregard Bunny,” said Beau.
“What’s got you out so late, Mr. Bunny?”
“Well,” Beau explained, “the Lady Enfield’s about to have piglets, and my mama and sister baked up a storm this afternoon so she’d have some nice treats once they’re born.”
“That’s mighty nice,” said Everett. “My ma’s not much of a baker.”
“Neither am I,” said Beau, “so I agreed to take them over. But, and here’s where I need that favor you promised…”
“I’m listening,” said Everett.
“Well, see, you might think I’m crazy.”
“No crazier than an eagle who wants to live on the ground.”
“I have a dream,” Beau started, and then stopped. “It’s a big dream. See, I think we’re only as small as our dreams, and I know I’m a small animal, but this dream is pretty big. And I think you might be able to help me, just like I’ve helped you.”
“And you have!” Everett crawled out of the vines and fluffed his feathers. “I was worried I might be stuck in there forever. I surely do owe you one, Beauregard Bunny.”
“Okay, then I’ll just come right out with it,” Beau said quickly. And added, “You better not laugh at me.”
“I would never,” said Everett. “You didn’t laugh at me.”
“I want to hop as high as the moon.”
“Yep,” said Beau. “And I figure, if you fly me up as high as you can, that’ll give me a good head start, right?”
“Why would a rabbit want to go to the moon?” Everett asked, and cocked his white head to the side.
“The same reason you want to explore the world down here on the ground, I reckon. It’s something different, right? And some people say there’s already a rabbit up there, and maybe even a goddess, and I’m just so tired of doing the same thing every day.”
“All right, Mr. Rabbit,” said Everett. “You helped me, so I’ll help you. Climb on up.”
“Well, I’ve got to drop this basket off at the farm first. Would you want to walk along with me?”
“That sounds nice, actually. Real nice.”
And so the two new friends walked along the path together until they reached Enfield Farm. Later on, several of the Bunny family’s neighbors reported seeing them, an odd pair, laughing and talking together. They remarked that Beauregard had always been a bit different, and that they weren’t surprised at all, and what probably happened was that that big old eagle ate poor Beauregard for dinner. But Beau and Everett didn’t notice anyone at all. They found they were a lot alike, really, and then they laughed about that, too.
Lady Enfield had indeed delivered fourteen little pink piglets, and she was grateful for the lovely basket, she said, and for the apples, too. Beau said she was welcome, and wished her well, and told her to send a message if she needed anything.
Everett hid on the edge of the farm. He didn’t want to scare anyone. But when Beau was in sight, he called out, “All right and healthy with the Lady and her littles ones?”
“Right as rain in summer,” Beau said.
“I’m glad,” said Everett.
“Me, too,” said Beau.
“Now,” said Everett, “about that favor. Are you sure you’re not afraid to fly?”
“Oh, I am afraid,” said Beau. “But I’m going to do it anyway.”
“Then climb on up, and hold on tight.”
Beau had wondered what it would be like, to rise up and soar through the sky. It was better and scarier and more amazing than he’d ever imagined. He trembled to be so far off the ground, but he also breathed in the cold air and looked up at the stars.
“I’ve never seen them from so close,” he yelled over the rush of the wind in his ears. “They twinkle like diamonds!”
Higher and higher the friends climbed, until Everett said, “This is about as far as I can go. Is it enough, do you think?”
Beau shook off a wave of fear and doubt. “It’ll have to be,” he said.
“You’re sure about this?”
“I am,” Beau said. And then again, louder and firmer, “I am.”
“Then I suppose I should thank you before you go. I’m glad it was you who happened upon me in that awful mess.”
“You know,” Beau said to Everett, “you’re awfully nice, for a bird of prey.
“And you’re awfully brave,” Everett said to Beau, “for a tiny rabbit.”
“I’m glad you got stuck in that thicket,” Beau said. “Thanks for helping me.”
“Thanks for helping me,” Everett said, his voice thick with tears he was determined not to show. If little Beau could be brave, then surely he could too. So he just said, “Now hop, and hop high, and I just know you’re going to make it. And when you do, I’ll look up every night and I’ll think of you.”
And Beau did hop. He hopped as hard and as high as he could, right off of Everett’s back. And as Everett watched his new friend go up higher and higher into the night sky, he couldn’t help but shed a tear.
“You’re right, Beau,” he said, but to himself, because Beau was much too high up to hear him. “We are only as small as our dreams.” And with that, he flew away.
There are some who say that Beauregard Bunny never made it to the moon, that he fell back to Earth, just like he should have known he would. They say he was a foolish rabbit. Others believe he’s still up there, and on the brightest nights, when the moon is a round, golden orb in the dark sky, you can see him. Everett, for his part, looks up every night, even to this day, and smiles at his unlikely friend.
And Beau? Well, he’d tell you that it’s an awfully good view from up there.
Thank you for reading! This is the nineth of twelve stories I’ll write as part of my 2022 Short Story Challenge. Twelve months, twelve stories, and the theme this year is: Folklore
Here are the first eight, if you’d like to read them:
I hope you join me in the challenge! I think it’s going to be a very good year for stories. But just reading is good, too, and I’m glad you’re here.
The next story will be posted at the end of October.