From the Frying Pan: A Tribute to Beatrix Potter

The Flashback Track Friday Prompt graphic

This is my response to this week’s Flashback Track Friday prompt, where we were asked:

Write a story from two perspectives.

It’s funny. I wrote the prompt a while ago and left it on the backburner. Separately, I wrote this flash a few weeks ago. And realised the story might fit the prompt, so held off publishing until now.

This was great fun to write. A fairytale wouldn’t be a fairytale without a pinch of darkness, now, would it? I’m just shy of 1,200 words on this one – 8 minutes.


One autumn morning on the edge of the glade, Peter Rabbit emerged cautiously from his burrow with a rumble in his tummy.

Looks like it’s going to be another fine day, he exclaimed, to nobody in particular. Aware of the ache in his belly, he decided to treat himself to a hearty breakfast.

“Try the grass over there”, suggested his mother, “It’s full of dew, lovely and moist. I’ll make some chamomile tea. By the time you’ve eaten, it’ll be brewed”.

But Peter had grander plans! He racked his brain. What can I have? He scratched his head, certain that too much thinking, this early, could not be good.

After a great deal of deliberation, Peter made his decision. A few nice, juicy carrots would be perfect. But where could he find them?

There was only one place. Mrs MacGregor’s Kitchen Garden!

Putting on his thick, woolly scarf to protect against the crisp morning air, Peter prepared for his expedition.

“It’s far too dangerous”, pleaded his mother, tying the ends.

But know-it-all Peter would have none of it. “Don’t fret so, mum. I’ll even bring some back for you!”

Peter sauntered off across the field, whistling “Hi Ho”, but as he came closer to the farmhouse, he grew more and more cautious, waiting an age outside the wrought-iron garden gate to make sure the coast was clear. But even Mr Macgregor’s saggy old scarecrow, still wearing Peter’s now-tatty blue jacket, was fast asleep.

Peter stealthily crept in. In the still of the dawn, he soon recognised Mr Macgregor’s prizewinning carrots right in the middle of his abundant vegetable patch, and using his enormous back legs for which rabbits are so famed, quickly dug up the juiciest carrot you ever saw!

But Peter was being watched. Mr MacGregor had just woken up. From his bedroom window, he spotted movement in the gloom.

Clad only in his ivory long johns, he quickly fastened his boots. Opening his bedroom door, he was greeted by his hungry black labrador. “Shhh, Jasper, you silly old thing. I’ll make your breakfast in a moment, but first, we have work to do.”

The dog obeyed, eagerly wagging his tail, trotting one step behind Mr MacGregor as he crept down the stairs, taking care to avoid the creaky step close to the bottom. The last thing he wanted was for the rabbit to be warned off. Once in the kitchen, he stole over to the cupboard and removed his shotgun, sitting silently at the table as he deftly loaded each barrel.

Grasping the cold metal door handle, he primed: “Now, Jasper, get ready, boy.” And for his own benefit, Mr Macgregor began to count down. Three…  Two… One… GO!!! In a swift movement, Mr MacGregor flung the door open, at the same time raising his gun to his shoulder.

“BANG!”. MacGregor fired his first shot straight at the carrot patch, without even taking proper aim.

But Peter was wily. The moment his hyper-perfect hearing picked up the sound of the latch, he was off! Instantly dropping the carrot he had been enjoying, Peter began to flee the garden, leaving Mr MacGregor with nothing but the pummelled remnants of his beloved vegetables!

As Peter scurried for the perceived safety of the lane, MacGregor aimed his second barrel, firing just as the terrified rabbit reached the garden gate.

BANG!

But Mr Macgregor’s eyes were no longer young, and he succeeded only in destroying his new, pea green mail box, which clattered noisily to the ground.

Once in the lane, Peter might have considered himself safe, were it not for the angry voice of Mr Macgregor. “KILL, JASPER, KILL!”. he commanded the dog to give chase.

There was to be no let-up. Peter darted into a field as Jasper came bounding out of the garden. Easily able to fit under the bars of the gate, Peter hugged the dry stone wall, passing bale after bale of recently-harvested golden hay as he ran for his life.

Jasper, however, was not so lithe. A tiny bit tubby around the middle, he struggled to squeeze under. When, eventually, he succeeded, Peter was gone, but his scent remained. Jasper eagerly resumed the chase.

Peter scurried under another gate, at the far corner of the field, as the dog’s barks became louder. But he couldn’t give up! If the rabbit could just reach the wood…

Jasper was gaining rapidly, and almost scared one of Mr MacGregor’s prize milkers out of her spots, when he leapt right over the gate and crashed down beside her as she enjoyed breakfast! Jasper landed off-balance, though, and while he regained his footing, Peter sprinted even harder to get away. He felt an uncomfortable swoosh of air as Jasper’s jaws narrowly missed his tail.

“Rats!”, cursed Jasper. Or should that have been “Rabbits”?

Peter reached the barbed wire fence separating the cows from the wood just in time.

Jasper had to brake quickly to avoid the rusty barbs – he knew from experience how painful they could be! But he was not about to let his prey escape, and took a step back, searching up and down the fence to find an opening.

In the meantime, the exhausted Peter, now in the wood, frantically distanced himself from the dog, but was running out of options. It would only be a matter of time before he would surely become the dog’s breakfast!

Jasper, by now, had found a fencepost which was rotten. There was just enough of a gap for him to squeeze through, if he was careful. In an instant, the dog entered the wood, tearing after Peter’s scent once again. I’m gonna have you, you sneaky little sod, once and for all!

Peter could not believe his luck as he almost fell into a hollow, hardly visible behind thick foliage, under a great beech tree. Big enough for him to hide, but hopefully not his pursuer. Indeed, when Jasper reached the bush a second later, the dog soon found himself stuck. In a panic, he vigorously backed himself out, deciding instead that it might be better to enlarge the muddy entrance, and he began to dig furiously. But the ground was cold, and the earth was caked. The hard crust made digging impossible.

Though Jasper snarled at the entrance, drooling bloodthirsty saliva into Peter’s subterranean sanctuary, the still-panting rabbit relaxed a little, relieved that the furious dog was coming no closer. He gingerly turned so as to properly examine his surroundings.

As his eyes accustomed themselves to the darkness, Peter could make out an enormous chamber, the twisted sinews of roots piercing the earth overhead. The space smelled musty and reeked with damp. Piercing the shadows, though, Peter started to discern a pair of fearsome orange eyes, burning into him. Behind them, a silhouette, statue-still. But this was no statue; woken by the commotion, Fiona the Fox smacked her lips. Neither could she believe her wonderful luck.

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