THE MIGHTY CARROT
Carrot leapt over the garden hose, keeping just ahead of the wet,
flapping tongue. The thud, thud, thud of its owner echoed in Carrot's
long ears. He dashed away from the Nice People's back step, a blur of
brown fur, and in between two tidy rows of beans.
Woof, woof, woof!
The dog barreled into the garden after Carrot, her rear end skidding
in the grass as she struggled to make the turn. Her damp breath
pounded on Carrot's tail. He ducked underneath a tomato plant where
his paw caught the wire cage, throwing him into the dirt. Carrot's
nose plowed into something soft and red.
Carrot sniffed. Whatever it was, it wasn't alive.
The dog, a Great Mutt more blessed with brawn than brains, ground to a
halt behind him. She pushed her head down between her front paws and
shoved her tail into the air, waving it high as Carrot pulled the
bright red bundle flat with his teeth.
It was a handkerchief. A very ordinary handkerchief, really, looking
slightly the worse for wear. Carrot smoothed the frayed edges with his
paws before sitting back on his hind legs to study it.
The dog squeezed between two tomato cages and poked Carrot with her
nose. He'd already interrupted her game of chase for a small eternity,
so after another long moment's wait she grabbed the handkerchief in
her mouth and galloped away. Several ripe tomatoes splattered on the
Carrot raced around the cage and leapt over the beans to cut the dog
off. When he landed on the handkerchief, his weight yanked it free and
pinned it to the ground. After nudging the handkerchief aside, Carrot
struck the earth with his foot.
Thump, thump, thump.
The Great Mutt caught the scent of some new entertainment and sat
down, her tail beating against the bean plants. As she panted, her
tiny ears bounced up and down.
Just inside the field, Mother Mouse scurried to the top of an old tree
stump, followed by seventeen sets of tiny feet that streamed behind
her like a long tail, each eager for a look at the hullabaloo that had
When Carrot pointed a paw at the pine tree that towered over the
house, the Great Mutt erupted into motion. She tore through the
garden, hurled herself at the tree trunk, and barked up into the
needles at the figment of her own imagination, ready to pursue it
until the end of the world. Or at least until dinnertime. Carrot never
set her loose on anything real if he could help it. Except the cat,
and he didn't think about the cat.
Carrot pulled back his ears and shoved his head under the red
handkerchief, letting it come to rest on his back. He tied two of the
corners together beneath his chin, then hopped over to the fishpond to
admire the effect.
Not bad. Rather dashing, in fact.
As the handkerchief swelled in the breeze, something stirred inside
Carrot. He had lived his entire life in perfect comfort, without want,
nibbling on carrots and playing his part in the great game of chase. A
perfectly ordinary rabbit. Was that all he could ever be?
Carrot had heard stories - he remembered when the Nice People had read
him stories - of people with special gifts who used their powers for
the good of others. Why couldn't he be such a hero of the animal
kingdom? After all, wasn't he faster than a field mouse? Stronger than
a squirrel? Able to leap tall bushes in a single bound?
Carrot landed on top of the worn, wooden fencepost. The field, filled
with possibilities, stretched out before him. Beyond that, a great
forest beckoned him with adventure. Out there groundhogs burrowed,
chipmunks scampered, and the rest of rabbit-kind grazed, yet, at any
moment, tooth, beak, or claw might strike. When it did, the Mighty
Carrot would be ready.
Defender of the feathered, champion of the chased, protector of the
weak and furry. Never again would Carrot allow evil to touch meadow,
wood, or pond as it once had struck his garden. No, he would tackle
evil at its source. When he defeated it there would not be a single
creature, good, bad, or indifferent, who did not know his name.
Leaving the Great Mutt to snuffle at the tree, Carrot flew from the
fence and past Mother Mouse's stump. Her children crowded along the
edge, squealing and waving at their old Uncle Rabbit. Carrot didn't
stop. He couldn't. All that he had ever needed, his garden and the
Nice People had provided, but now he hungered for a greater purpose.
The Mighty Carrot raced through the field, crunching the dry grass
under his paws, as the epic battle of his dreams grew by leaps and
bounds, the Unknown Foe looming so large in his thoughts that the
shadow overhead never even gave him pause.
The eagle cut across the sky. Carrot squatted down in a thick patch of
weeds. A flash of fur sped past, the ground shivering as it ran.
Cotton-white tail and long black ears: another rabbit.
Carrot twitched his nose. Wasn't this the enemy he had longed for? The
great and terrible beast whose defeat would prove him a true hero?
The eagle stretched out its claws and dove, but when the Black-Eared
Rabbit faked a run to her left, the eagle came up empty. Still, the
Black-Eared Rabbit's luck wouldn't last for long. The eagle drifted
higher as it scanned the grass, preparing for its next attack. The
moment had come.
With one mighty leap Carrot raced towards the Black-Eared Rabbit,
throwing himself between her and the eagle.
At least that's what he imagined a hero would do. Instead, Carrot
cowered in the weeds, his feet refusing to move, while the eagle
circled around, ready to strike. When it passed overhead, Carrot made
Back towards his garden.
Blind instinct seized Carrot, driving him back across the field and
towards the garden. He ran under the fence and collapsed beside the
An eagle. Why had the Black-Eared Rabbit gone and let herself be
hunted by an eagle? Any rabbit with sense went straight to ground when
that black dot appeared in the sky.
The pond's lone fish broke the surface of the water, sending ripples
through Carrot's reflection. A splash of red bobbed up and down as
tawny fur streaked across Carrot's memory.
Now the Black-Eared Rabbit would go the same way as the Yellow Bird.
He'd warned the Yellow Bird how the neighborhood cat liked to stalk
its prey from behind the rosebush. Why hadn't she listened? Flashing
those beautiful feathers of hers, was it any wonder the cat hadn't
been able to resist?
The eagle hovered overhead. Its shadow danced on the grass in front of
Carrot. He could still return to the field of battle, he could still
defend the Black-Eared Rabbit, he could still...
Regret pierced Carrot like a thorn. Why had he put on the handkerchief
in the first place? He stared down into the pond. He didn't see a