I watched Jack hurry past the far edge of the field and toward a small wooded area. Suddenly he stopped and lifted his head, moving it from side to side and sniffing. Then he turned toward me and lowered his head again and stuck out his tongue to take a small taste of the grass. I was getting close enough that I could see a gleam come into his eye as he turned to his left, sniffing deeply for a few steps and then suddenly he plunged his big square head down behind an old log. The next thing I knew, Jack was jumping backwards and hollering “Ow, Ow, Ow” again. Great, I thought, more snakes, but Jack was rubbing his big rubber nose, not his toes, and his nose looked bright red and seemed to be throbbing. I hurried to Jack’s side, and that’s when I saw the rabbit, who was obviously hopping mad.
She was small with soft, lustrous fur that shone a blue-grey in the sunlight. Her ears lay flat against her back, and she was waving a large wooden spoon in the air toward Jack and yelling at him, “Get out, bad dog before I strike you again. How dare you burst into my warren and try to eat me. And with my son at home, too. Bad dog! Go on now, get out of here.”
Jack looked shocked and gave his nose another lick before saying, “I wasn’t trying to eat you. Honest, I wasn’t. I like rabbits. What I mean is I like to talk to rabbits, not that I like to eat rabbits. Oh dear, I’ve bumbled this all up. I’m trying to find someone, and I thought I smelled her down your hole.”
“Hmf,” said the rabbit, “It isn’t a hole, it’s my home, and you can’t just suddenly stick your head into someone’s home like that. It frightened me. You didn’t knock or announce yourself. You’re a very rude dog. Didn’t your mother teach you better manners than that?”
“I’m his mother,” I said, “and his manners are usually quite good. Please excuse him today. We’re trying to find a lost fairy who is very far from home, and Jack is quite worried about her. We both are.”
“That is no excuse to forget your manners,” the rabbit said, waving her spoon in the air again. “You haven’t even introduced yourselves.”
“I apologize,” I said. “It seems my manners are lacking today. My name is Voyager, and this is my dog, Jack. May I ask your name?”
“It’s Mrs. O’Hare,” said the rabbit.
Suddenly a smaller light brown rabbit popped up and peered at us from behind her. “And this young fellow is my son, Bixby. She turned to him and said sternly, “I thought I told you to stay inside.”
“I’m sorry, Mama,” he said. “but the old fairy is crying again, and I thought you’d want to know.”
“That’s Oma,” Jack cried out. “I knew she was here. Can you bring her out to us? We want to take her home.”
Mrs. O’Hare waved her spoon at Jack again and said, “Not so quickly, Mr. Jack. I haven’t been able to get a lick of sense out of this fairy. How do I know she’s who you’re looking for and how do I know you won’t eat her.”
“I don’t eat fairies!” Jack exclaimed. “Not fairies. Not rabbits. I eat dog food, that’s all.”
“Well,” said Mrs. O’Hare, “you look very well-fed, whatever it is that you eat. Are you sure you only eat dog food?”
Jack is sensitive about his weight, and I could see he was flustered, so I spoke up. “He has an occasional cookie treat, Mrs. O’Hare, but I can assure you that Jack doesn’t eat fairies. If we can speak with Oma, I mean the fairy, she can tell you that she knows Jack.”
“That fairy hasn’t been able to tell me anything that makes sense,” she said. “She keeps going on about being home late from school and saying that her mother will be upset. When I try to get more information, she tells me that her mother doesn’t want her to talk to strangers and then she starts to cry. About the only thing that calms her down is my honey biscuits, and she’s eaten almost all of them. I was hoping to take those to choir rehearsal tomorrow. Everyone loves my honey biscuits, and now I’ll need to make another batch, but even so, I’m not prepared to send this fairy away unless I know she’s safe.”
I crouched down beside Jack and said, “I promise you we’ll take her home to her family and friends. They’re all very worried about her. Oma has fairy ‘forgetting disease,’ and she gets mixed up. She was having an ill-advised adventure with a silly fox who lost her, and she’s very far from her home. We have a car, though, so we can get her back quickly,” I said.
“I hate cars,” said Mrs. O’Hare, “I lost an uncle to a shiny red car that was going too fast.” She turned and said to Bixby, “go see if you can get the fairy to come outside. There are a few honey biscuits left in the tin. Get one and try to get her to follow you.” Then she looked up at me and said, “Are you careful when you drive your car, voyager?”
“Yes, M’am. I am. I’ve never hit a rabbit with my car. Or any other animal,” I added quickly. “I’m sorry about your uncle.”
Just then, Bixby was back, holding out a cookie to a small figure emerging from the warren. Her grey hair had come unpinned and was wildly framing a tear-stained face full of creases. Her dark eyes were troubled but brightened as soon as she saw Jack.
“Hello, young man,” she said. ” I know you, don’t I.”
“Yes, you do. My name is Jack, and I visit with you in the forest where you live.”
“I live by the ocean, not in a forest,” she said, “but you are familiar to me. Do you know where my mama lives? I need to get home. I got lost on my way home from school, and mama will be worried.” Her eyes filled with tears.
Jack calmly laid down on the ground and looked into Oma’s eyes. His own eyes were getting moist, and he said, “Oma, I do know the way to get you home, and if you come with me, I promise I will take you there safely.”
Oma fiddled with the hem of her skirt, and after a moment, she said, “You do seem familiar. What is your name?”
“My name is Jack, and this is my mama, Voyager. We are here to take you home.”
“Oh, I’m so glad. My mom is going to be so mad at me. I’ve lost my books, and I’ve gotten dirty, and I can’t remember how to get home,” Oma started to cry softly.
“That’s alright,” said Jack. “I’ll explain that it wasn’t your fault.”
“That’s very nice of you,” she said. “What’s your name?”
“Jack. My name is Jack. Will you let my human pick you up,” he asked?
Oma was still fiddling with a loose thread on her hem, and without looking up, she clearly said, “Nope. Nobody is going to pick me up. You just lead the way, and I’ll fly behind you.”
“Your wings haven’t grown in yet,” said Jack. “and it’s too far for you to walk.”
Oma let go of her hem and frantically reached up to touch her shoulders, crying out, “Don’t tell me I’ve lost my wings, too. Mom is really going to be mad,”
Jack patiently said, “You haven’t lost your wings. They moult in the winter, and they haven’t grown in yet. It’s only early spring. They’ll grow back soon.”
She picked up her hem again and said, “Will you look at this loose thread. I hope Mom can fix it. Do you know where I live? I need to get home.”
“We’re going to take you home,” said Jack
“Are you sure you know how to get to my place? Who are you?” Oma said, looking at Jack, “I’ve forgotten the way, and my mama is going to be upset. I’ve gotten my dress dirty, and I’ve lost my books.”
“I’m your friend, Jack, and I do know the way,” he said, and he gently laid his big bowling ball of a head on the ground beside Oma and told her, “climb up onto me now and hold on tight. Careful of my nose, please. It’s a bit sore,” he said, looking at Mrs. O’Hare’s wooden spoon before continuing, “Your family will be happy to have you home again. I’m sure no one will be upset with you.”
“You do seem like a nice dog. And you are familiar. What’s your name?” she asked, reaching out to Jack and grabbing a handful of his neck ruff and pulling herself up.
“Jack,” he said patiently.
“What’s my name,” she asked.
“Your name is Oma Troutchen, and I’m going to take you home.”
“Do you know the way,” she asked again as she started to climb up Jack’s neck.
“Yes, I know the way to your home. We’re going to go there now.”
Oma had made it to the top of Jack, and he softly stood up and told Oma to grab onto his collar and hold on tight. She reached out both hands, grabbing on and started to laugh.
“This is a bit like surfing. I often surf with my friend Slippery Seal. Do you know him?”
“I don’t know any seals by name, but I like to surf,” said Jack.
“Well, let’s go find some water, and you can take me surfing,” Oma said, still laughing.
Jack turned to Mrs. O’Hare and Bixby and said, “Thank you for taking good care of Oma. I’m sorry if I was rude.”
Mrs. O’Hare snuggled up to Bixby and said, “You’re forgiven. Manners are important, but it’s even more important to have good friends who remember the things we forget. Bixby, give the biscuit to Voyager in case Oma needs it on the way home.”
Bixby reached up to me, and I gently took the cookie from him. “Thank you both,” I said, “I won’t forget your kindness, and I will make sure that Oma’s family know that you took excellent care of her.”
“Off with you now, before that fairy changes her mind,” said Mrs. O’Hare, and she and Bixby stood together watching us slowly make our way to the car.