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That Thermochromic Element

by Channie Greenberg

Anthony Theophrastus rabbit scratched behind his right ear. He stuck his snout skyward and sniffed. Patiently, he watched a dragonfly circle and dart. At last, convinced that no one would suspect him of intemperance, he dove for the drupelet-covered fruit.

“Bramble bees!” he exclaimed. The reddish object did not yield sweet juices. Rather, it had the consistency of a sun-baked owl pellet, minus the bones, teeth, hair, feathers, scales, and insect chitin. He sighed and hopped away.

Two leagues later, he had a sudden, for him, cognition; he ought to return to retrieve the object. At least it was the color of the crushed root of the common madder plant and as such might prove effective against protozoan infections.

At best, his possession of that article might make Cantankerous Henry a bit tetchier. Ever since Henry had embezzled Anthony Theophrastus’ store of sweet timothy, eating that precious collection instead of transferring it to Madame Ralph’s orphans (her mate had suffered a premature demise after an episode with a lawnmower), Anthony Theophrastus had regarded that other buck as mendacious, mean-spirited and downright impudent. Anthony Theophrastus would never have conceived such a plan despite the fact that he was good with Ponzi schemes (he had acquired his surplus grass in that manner). Unlike Cantankerous Henry, Anthony was no critical thinker.

So, with a hop, a pump, and a bit of a bump, Anthony Theophrastus returned to the patch where he had first espied his treasure. En route, Anthony Theophrastus all but nosed into Old Saw, a coney of more than five seasons.

“Pretty fruit.”

“Mine. I dropped it.”

“Glitters, though. Kinda odd. I need a look.”

“Mine. I forgot to eat it.”

“Really? I need a sniff, too.” Old Saw batted at the pulpy-looking thing. The more he whacked at it, the purpler it looked. No longer did it resemble madder root. Instead, it glowed the color of mulberries.


“Well said, young fella. I also needed a taste, but not of something that won’t die properly.”

Cantankerous Henry hopped over. Pressing gently against Old Saw, he reached the edible. He pushed at it with his nose, hoping to somehow, surreptitiously, abscond with that rarity. Thus enriched, he would auction it off to passers-by. The forest, after all, was thick with stupid foxes.

Amazingly, the more Cantankerous Henry rooted at that ripened seedpod, the brighter became the yellow lines that were rapidly covering its formerly purple face. Cantankerous Henry stopped moving. Anthony Theophrastus and Old Saw, too, stilled themselves. While Cantankerous Henry and Old Saw stared at each other, Anthony Theophrastus grabbed the swag and sprinted away.

That night, Anthony Theophrastus had an odd dream. He imagined himself observing costumed mice, engaged in dance on the neighborhood drumlin. Those imps moved in fantastic patterns which in turn, caused a rainbow-like radiance to color the hillside. Despite the encompassing gaiety, one little mouse, indistinguishable except for her lack of participation, merely gazed at her toes.

At daybreak, Anthony Theophrastus hopped over to Cantankerous Henry for a measure of interpretation. When he wasn’t angry with that lout, Anthony Theophrastus considered Cantankerous Henry his best friend. He also respected that other bunny’s ability to fashion fabrications.

“Woe be to ripe clover,” thought Anthony Theophrastus as he traveled to the wordsmith. Only a tall tale, the likes of which, Cantankerous Henry could be relied upon to produce, could dissolve his nightmare.

Anthony Theophrastus brought his esteemed orb with him. There was no telling what the members of his newest litter would do if they found it.

“Kinda early, ain’t it?” growled Cantankerous Henry.

“For the love of all that’s verdant, ya gotta help me!”

“Well, well, well, the stud who bests me at gin rummy, who makes impossible calls when we’re square dancing, and who defeats my efforts to collect shiny items, needs me. In plain talk, it’s gonna cost ya.”

Anthony Theophrastus raised a paw in a somber gesture. He was not in the mood to wrestle, either with words, or corporeally, despite Cantankerous Henry’s unambiguous, ever so tempting provocation. Simply, he did not want the blood of that varmint on his newly cleaned fur.

Old Saw appeared. He demanded, “Harris, tell me what my dream means. I can’t be bothered attaching substance to images. There’s a new doe down in the meadow and no one’s yet been neighborly to her.”

“Chicory tea? I haven’t washed behind my ears yet.”

Old Saw measured those extremities with his eyes. “Ain’t got all day. Just tell me why a woodlet of chipmunks could celebrate while a lone juvenile sat aloof, on a stump, regarding her toes.”

“Shades of cricket viscera!” exclaimed Anthony Theophrastus.

“And two pawfuls of purslane, too,” offered Cantankerous Henry.

Old Saw pulled his mouth into an unglamorous expression. Mentations were burdensome things which got in the way of his making like a rabbit. If only Harris would give him a quick dash of rhetorical fooy, then Old Saw could hop on to embrace his kismet.

For his part, however, Cantankerous Henry began to leisurely groom an ear. After ten or twelve languid strokes, Old Saw struck that somnolent bunny. Anthony Theophrastus was so surprised at Old Saw that he dropped his colorful morsel.

A crow, who had been trying to decide which lapin would make the best breakfast, bore down upon the small collective. Instead of a breathing furball, though, the avian reached for the rock. The bird’s prize shone green as that sky fish winged away. Such was natural for a mood ring’s stone since the crow had been in a fowl mood.

Copyright © 2009 by Channie Greenberg

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