Baleful shifted uncomfortably in his bunny rabbit costume. He tried to nibble on the grass, but it was difficult to manage through the makeshift mouth of the mask. Grass wasn’t nearly filling for a wolf anyway. Nearby, rabbits chewed happily. How did the green wispy stuff keep their tummies full? At least now they were happily munching rather than arguing about the newcomer.
“He can’t really be one of us,” one had said. “He’s big and funny looking.”
“I say we let him stay. He looks like a rabbit – sort of.”
“Yeah, it’s okay if he’s big and funny looking. Close enough is close enough.”
The argument ended when hunger turned their attention to the lush foliage of the hillside. Baleful sighed with short-lived relief. Wise Old Bunny had not hopped away with the others, and now nibbled on grass nearby, even hopping closer for a blade or two. Did he know? Why did he keep stopping to sniff the air?
At last Wise Old Bunny spoke. “You don’t make a very good rabbit.” Not looking directly at Baleful, he nibbled on another blade of grass.
Baleful tried to stifle a whine, which came out as a nervous whimper. Only yesterday Wicked, the wolf pack leader, had made a similar pronouncement. “You don’t make a very good wolf,” he had snarled.
“I can’t eat bunnies,” Baleful had wailed. “They’re too cute.”
“Cute?” Wicked had growled menacingly as the rest of the pack circled and howled in laughter. “They’re not cute, they’re food! What do you suggest we eat instead?”
“Well,” Baleful said with a hopeful sniff, “Maybe we could eat grass like the bunnies.”
This was too much, and Wicked’s snarling mouth was now inches from Baleful’s quivering throat. The pack stopped circling and watched expectantly. Suddenly Wicked stopped snarling and sat back on his haunches. “Very well. You like the bunnies. You shall become one of them. Yes,” he said with a sly, toothy grin, “You will live with them until they become used to the smell of a wolf. That way you can eat all the grass you want and we shall be able to sneak up and catch all the bunnies we can eat!”
The pack had howled approvingly, and a costume was constructed from past hunts. Baleful wasn’t happy, but the menacing pack gave him no choice, and he, a wolf, had gone to live among the bunnies.
Now nothing was going right, and Baleful crouched on the ground with his nose between his rabbit hair covered wolf paws. “No,” he admitted to Wise Old Bunny, “I’m not a rabbit, I’m a wolf. But I’m not a good wolf, either. I can’t eat bunnies.” He resisted an urge to sit up and howl mournfully.
Wise Old Bunny didn’t seem alarmed at the news, and ate another blade of grass before speaking again. “You know, if you really were a rabbit, you would be satisfied eating grass.”
Baleful stopped sniffling and sat up. “Are you saying I could become a real rabbit?”
“It happens. But there is only one way. You have to go to the Big Bunny Master, and ask him to transform you into a real rabbit.”
Baleful had heard the story of the Big Bunny Master, but had not been sure it was true. The story was that the Big Bunny Master had been killed by wolves, but instead of really dying he had somehow become bigger than any mere rabbit could ever be, and now had complete power over the realm of not only the bunny rabbits, but the wolves as well. The story, naturally, was forbidden to be told in wolf lairs. He listened now as Wise Old Bunny continued, “There is one nonnegotiable condition.”
“What is it?” Baleful’s wolf ears twitched under the fake bunny ears.
“You have to drop the mask, take off the costume, and come to the Big Bunny Master just as you are, a wolf.”
Baleful hesitated. “But I’m a despicable wolf. When the Big Bunny Master sees me… and if the other wolves see me… and if the bunnies see me…”
“Well, that’s it. Not an easy choice, but the only way.”
Baleful thought earnestly for a time. At last he removed his costume and spoke quietly, “Will you take me to him?”
Soon after, Baleful and Wise Old Bunny munched grass contentedly side by side while other bunnies nibbled grass nearby and hungry wolves howled in the distance.
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