Bouncer Bunny sat quietly on a moss-covered tree stump, listening to his new friends complain.
"That Mrs. Hopper's a real grouch," muttered Buster Bear as he slumped against an old oak tree. "Yesterday I wanted to get just a tiny taste of that scrumptious honey from that huge tree in her backyard. But before I even reached it, she rushed at me with pot and ladle in hand, screeching for me to get out and leave her bees alone. Hmph! I wonder if they know they're her bees!"
"Yeah right," Sammy Squirrel snorted, "Just like those yummy acorns are hers, too." It still hurt his pride remembering how just a few days ago, he, one of the fastest-moving forest animals, scampered frantically from her yard to avoid being smacked with her broom. Squirrel turned to Bouncer, sitting quietly on the grass.
"What do you think of that old grouch-face, Bouncer?"
"W-w-w-e-ell," Bouncer began slowly. He was a shy little bunny and had just moved to this part of the forest. So far, Buster and Sammy were his only friends so he didn't quite know how to answer them.
"Well what?" demanded Buster impatiently.
Bouncer gulped, "The trees are in her yard so…. It's not right to go in there without asking first."
"O-o-oh," groaned Sammy, smacking his paw to his forehead,
"Please tell me you're not one of those bunnies, the kind who never does anything wrong!"
Buster looked scornfully at Bouncer and said in a sing-song, high-pitched voice, "I never do anything mommy and daddy tell me not to. I'm an oh-so-good little bunny!" He groaned, "Oh brother!"
"No!" protested Bouncer, "I'm not like that!" He looked sheepishly down at his feet, "At least not all the time. I do things I'm not supposed to."
Buster and Sammy exchanged glances and rolled their eyes.
"I do!" insisted Bouncer.
Before anyone could say anything further a delectable smell wafted through the air, making their sensitive noses twitch… the aroma of freshly-baked peach pie.
"Mmmm!" Buster licked his lips, "Peach pie! My favourite!"
"Yeah, "agreed Sammy, rubbing his small, round tummy, "Sure would love a taste of that pie!" His nose followed the delicious smell and he burst out laughing. "Hey! Guess where it's coming from? From cranky Mrs. Hopper's kitchen window!"
Buster and Bouncer turned their heads to follow his gaze. Sure enough, they were just in time to see Mrs. Hopper put another pie onto the windowsill.
Sammy and Buster exchanged sly glances over Bouncer's head and Buster challenged, " Hey, Sammy, I betcha old Bouncer is too chicken to take a pie from Mrs. Hopper!"
Sammy snickered, "Yeah! That would be too bad for a Mama's boy!"
Bouncer gulped. He knew what he was about to do wasn't right, but he desperately wanted to keep Buster and Sammy as friends! He bounced to his feet.
"I'm not a chicken and I will get that pie for us. You just see if I don't!"
Sammy and Buster grinned widely and patted him on the back. "Good goin', bud! We knew you weren't really a chicken!"
Bouncer's face broke into a huge smile. "Yes," he thought, "This is what I've got to do. After all, it's only one silly pie. She can easily bake another one!" With that thought pumping through his head, Bouncer scampered down the hill to Mrs. Hopper's house.
He slowed down as he drew nearer. Suddenly he didn't feel quite so brave. What if he was caught? What if his parents found out? What if the forest police chased after him and caught him? Would he be locked up in jail the rest of his life?
So many "What ifs?" crowded into his brain that he nearly turned around and fled. And, he knew stealing was wrong. His parents had always taught him Jesus honoured those who did what was right and he tried every day to make the right choices. But, when he looked behind him, Sammy and Buster were cheering him on.
Bouncer gulped. He had to continue no matter what. He bounced over the fence and raced across Mrs. Hopper's lawn. Thankfully, he couldn't see her anywhere. She must be in another room. Quickly Bouncer snatched one pie (he hoped it was peach!) and flew back across the yard.
A screeching cry of "Stop thief!" made Bouncer glance quickly over his shoulder. As he did, his large bunny feet got tangled in the garden hose and he stumbled, crashing to the ground. The pie went sailing from his paws and he landed with a loud "OOMPH!" his face burying into the dirt. Oh shoot! This was one of those consequences he'd always heard about; the ones you brought on yourself when you did something Jesus didn't want you to.
Instantly, a strong hand dragged him up by his furry neck and dropped him on his feet. Bouncer looked up fearfully, dirt covering his face and ground into his fur. To his surprise he found himself looking into a pair of rather amused brown eyes.
"Well, well," a rabbit a few years older than Bouncer said, "You must be the new bunny I've heard my cousins talking about. Your name's Bouncer, right?"
"Y…y…yes, " Bouncer nodded a little confused. Why was this bunny smiling at him? He certainly wouldn't be smiling at anyone he'd caught stealing pies!
The rabbit looked steadily at Bouncer, "You don't look like a starving bunny to me. Why did you steal Mom's pie?"
Bouncer ducked his head, feeling very embarrassed. "Sammy and Buster dared me. I didn't want them calling me 'chicken' and I wanted them to be my friends because they're the only ones I have, so I stole the pie." He looked up at the taller bunny, "I know stealing's wrong and I'm really sorry."
The other bunny smiled, "I figured you'd be. You look like an honest-enough fellow to me." He put out his paw, "Hi. I'm Twitcher. Now, how about coming with me to a birthday party I was just heading off to? It's my cousin Loppy's birthday today and I was just about to take these pies over there. Most of the forest kids from Sunday School will be there and we'll play games, have tons of fun, and end off with a sing-along to thank the Lord for making Loppy. I doubt Buster and Sammy will be there, though. They're the neighbourhood bullies and hardly ever have anything to do with us. We pray for them whenever we get together but so far they haven't joined us for anything. So, are you coming along?"
A delighted grin spread across Bouncer's face. "Oh yes!" he cried, "I'd love to!"
"Well then, let's go!" Twitcher laughed, handing him a fresh pie. "Uhhh, maybe we should get you cleaned up first." Linking arms, the two new friends ran into the house to get Bouncer looking party- worthy. Then, with happy hops, skips, and jumps, they bounded merrily into the woods to the birthday celebration. Bouncer had bounced back to making good choices. He prayed in his heart Buster and Sammy would soon be joining them.
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