A short story for Easter – for children and those of us who have never fully grown up!
Finn the deerhound, Lord of the Glen, was scenting the air in the beautiful woodland that lay within a short walk of the walls of his wonderful garden. He was taking his morning constitutional which he liked to think was a regular thing, though the duties of a celebrity made it more of a weekly than a daily event these days. It was also nice to have escaped on his own for a change. Though he loved his household (the Maid and the Butler, Flower the lurcher, Rubbish the young greyhound-come-rabbit hound and of course Jeffery the marmalade cat) it was marvellous to be able to just clear his mind of his responsibilities (and Jeffrey’s ego!). He could smell something strange in the air. What was it? Animal? Maybe. Vegetable? Possibly. He walked in the direction of the scent, stopping occasionally to take another snort of air. Yes, it was this way.
The woods were a little thicker and the path was getting a touch more overgrown when he thought that he caught a flask of brown between the trees to his right. He stopped and looked again. Yes, there was definitely someone moving – someone nearly as tall as himself (and he was considered tall for a deerhound) and he could make out a short tail (what they called a scut) and big ears. Who could this be?
He moved as quietly as he could towards the figure. He could see them more clearly now. It was a very big rabbit, with long brown ears, a brown coat and long legs. Yes, indeed, it wasn’t a rabbit but a hare. Finn remembered the Winter Hare, Eira, who he had helped to escape from the clutches of human hunters and their dogs a few years back but this hare was much taller. They also carried a wicker basket and wore a bright green bow tie. Finn was much closer now and could hear the hare singing to themselves. Every now and again they would reach into the basket and take something out and tuck them into the grassy undergrowth, whispering something as they did so.
Finn took another step towards the hare and made the cardinal sin of stepping on a twig which snapped with a cloud crack! The hare froze and turned towards Finn. They looked terrified. Finn introduced himself, “Good morning. My name is Finn, please don’t be frightened,” he bowed politely. The hare relaxed and broke into a broad smile. “Ah yes, the Lord of the Glen!” It was a gentleman hare (Finn should have guessed by the bow tie). “I am Eric. I am the Easter Bunny.”
Finn bowed again.
“Well, I’m not THE Easter bunny. I’m a Trainee Assistant Easter Bunny.” He blushed a little. “If I earn my bunny points I can graduate to Assistant next year, then Easter Bunny Grade 3 the year after.”
“I never realised that there was such a well-developed career structure,” Finn replied. He really was surprised. Eric smiled and nodded, “Oh yes, from leveret to fully-fledged Easter Bunny Grade 1 is possible with skill and dexterity and great customer care. The only thing is, we mustn’t be seen by anyone.” At this both Finn and Eric frowned. “This could be a major setback.”
They stood quietly in a small clearing, both feeling a bit awkward for a minute, until Finn spoke again to break the embarrassed silence. “Are you, er, related to Eira, the Winter Hare?”
Eric nodded. “Yes, she’s my fourth cousin on my mother’s side. My Mam was an arctic hare.” Eric looked upset again. “She was ever so proud when she found out I was going to be a Trainee Assistant. She’s going to be really disappointed when she finds I’m going to be downgraded.”
Finn put his huge hairy paw over the hare’s shoulder to comfort him. He could see tears slowly sliding down Eric’s face to congregate on his whiskers where they formed pools that dripped off onto his huge feet. “I’ve got another three of these to distribute. Now I’ve been seen it’ll never happen.” The disconsolate hare tilted the wicker basket to show Finn a pile of eggs, all painted in fantastic colours, some with stripes, some with dots, some with stars and moons, and some with coloured bows that sparkled in the dappled morning sunshine.
As Finn hugged him gently, Eric produced a huge yellow and blue spotted handkerchief from an invisible pocket in his fur and proceeded to wipe his eyes then blow his nose loudly. This caused four families of local chaffinches to take off from surrounding trees, not too happy to have been woken at this still unearthly hour.
“Is there anything I can do to help?” Finn asked. “I can deliver the eggs with you if that’s ok?”
Eric shook his head, “I don’t think that’s allowed. There are strict rules, you know.” From the same invisible pocket the hare produced a well-thumbed dog-eared book entitled, “Easter Bunny – Rules and Regulations. Edition 37. (Cost 3 shillings and 6 pence).”
“Rules are rules,” Eric’s smile sagged again.
“Let’s get these eggs delivered, and I’ll sort out the rules afterwards. I think I can call in a few favours,” the old deerhound chuckled. Finn sounded so positive that Eric raised his smile, and the Easter Bunny (Trainee Assistant) leaned behind a tree and lifted up another basket of coloured eggs which he gave to Finn.
Eric ran through the correct procedure for distribution of the eggs; for young and baby animals only (birds were excluded for some obscure reason involving unsubstantiated accusations of cannibalism), one per household/drey/den/sett. Don’t knock or make a fuss, just deposit the egg upright and slightly out of sight (there had to be some element of surprise for the recipient). Finn took the forest on the right of the path and Eric the forest on the left. The hare had two baskets to Finn’s one (Trainee Assistant though he was, he had received more training than Finn and, with two-handed delivery, was much faster).
For the next hour (though it only felt like ten minutes) Finn sped through his part of the woodland taking out eggs and putting them on the ground outside the homes of various animals. For the tree-dwellers he did his best to put the eggs on branches but this did cause some confusion when he left one outside what he thought was a squirrel’s drey but turned out to be a woodpecker. He had some difficulty explaining this to the furious woodpecker who had a serious sense of humour deficiency.
Finn was shattered by the time he met up with Eric again. Eric was so pleased that Finn had been able to assist, and that he had delivered his order of Easter eggs within time and before the rest of the animals had woken up (or the nocturnal ones gone home to bed). As he shook Finn’s hand he asked him, “Will I still get in trouble for being seen?”
Finn winked. “Don’t worry. Tell them that you were in Finn, the Lord of the Glen’s woods and that I offered to help. If they have any issues, let them speak to Eira, or failing that, Father Christmas will vouch for me.”
Eric bowed again to the Mighty Finn, Lord of the Glen, deerhound extraordinaire and all round good egg (no pun intended. Well, only slightly). With a wave the Trainee Assistant Easter Bunny was gone.
As he strolled home, Finn contemplated a number of things. Such as, why is he called the Easter Bunny when in fact he’s a Hare? He mused on this, and then changed the subject to his favourite one; breakfast. Was it going to be porridge today? With or without bacon and some chopped sausages? What about cooked tomato on the side?
When he got to the tall green door in the even taller red brick garden wall his stomach was rumbling. From the other side he heard an ancient moggie voice call out, “I heard that!” The door opened and Jeffrey was there to welcome him home and accompany him as he sauntered down the garden path to the patio.
“Been anywhere interesting, old chap?” asked the impeccably well spoken old moggie.
“Oh, just strolling in the woods.” Finn replied.
A face peered around the kitchen door. “Breakfast is ready!” the Maid called. On the patio on their dog beds lay Flower the butterscotch-coloured lurcher and Rubbish the brindle greyhound who both smiled and wagged their tails as they saw Finn approaching. “Morning!” they called, in unison.
Jeffrey laughed, “They do practically everything together these days!” he said to Finn under his breath. Finn grinned.
The Butler brought out three dog bowls and two large dinner plates. In the bowls were porridge, and on one plate a mix of sardines and cat biscuits, and the other plate chopped sausages and chopped crispy bacon. He set out the bowls and plate, then asked the gathered dogs (and cat), “And how would you like your breakfast?”
They all looked to Finn. “The works, as usual,” came the reply. The sausages and bacon were added to all the bowls (including Jeffrey’s).
“Bon appétit!” the Butler said as he left them to it.
“Quite so!” replied Jeffrey.
They all tucked in.
As the meal was coming to an end (Jeffrey had finished first, despite having very few teeth) the Maid came out with a box. “Finn,” she said. The old dog looked up. “This is for you. It was left on the front doorstep.”
She put the box on the low table at which the animals ate their food. It had a beautiful yellow ribbon around it, and a tag on which was written, “To Finn, Assistant to the Trainee Assistant Easter Bunny, with thanks. E.” When the Maid opened it, inside were four beautifully coloured and wrapped eggs. Each animal had one, and when they cracked them open each one was the very favourite treat they loved; for Flower, it was pasty flavour, for Rubbish sausage flavour, for Jeffrey, tuna and cheese, and for Finn, venison and gravy. Amazing!
Finn stopped munching to announce to everyone, “Happy Easter!”
Chris Dignam, 04/04/21
Copyright Chris Dignam/Crafty Dog Books
To be reproduced by permission only