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The Great Escape

by poemsgalore 

Posted: 20 July 2003
Word Count: 1168
Summary: Loosely based on something that happened when I was about 15 (100 years ago).

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The Great Escape

Goldie was notorious on the Crescent where I lived next door to my cousin Stephen. She was always escaping.

Stephen bred rabbits; or rather he helped my uncle breed rabbits. Old English to be exact. Beautiful white rabbits with a black stripe down the middle of their backs and black smudges down each side.

"No two rabbits have the same markings," he told me. "Each spot is like a fingerprint." I wasn't entirely convinced, as most of the rabbits looked exactly the same. Only one day for some unknown reason, one litter was born which consisted of four tiny black and white bundles of fur and one tiny brown one. She (I was assured it was a she) had a gold patch on the back of her neck. I instantly fell in love with her and named her Goldie. After much pleading on my part, mum and dad let me add her to our menagerie of two cats, one dog, a tortoise and three budgies.

Her career in escapology began quite early: but one dull damp Saturday in autumn she excelled herself. I was certain I had secured her cage the night before and covered it with a tarpaulin as it was pouring with rain. When I went out the next morning with a fresh juicy carrot, everything looked normal. I threw back the tarpaulin expecting to see Goldie, her nose twitching in anticipation. But she wasn't there so I assumed she was in the other end of her cage that she used as a toilet.

"Goldie!" I called and tapped on the wire mesh. I didn't want to embarrass her by opening the door while she was - well, you know. I listened but I couldn't hear Goldie scraping or bumping as she buried her droppings in the straw. So I decided to open it; but it was already open. Goldie had escaped again.

"Mum!" I ran into the house startling Pongo, our eldest and most cantankerous cat who was curled up asleep on the flip top rubbish bin in the kitchen. The lid wobbled as he balanced precariously on three legs and tried to save himself. He only succeeded in tipping the whole lot over and ended up covered in potato peelings and tea bags. This excited Pedro our Bull Terrier who began snuffling around for something edible among the debris. He was rewarded by a sharp swipe from Pongo; who fled down the hall leaving a trail of tin cans and bread wrappers behind him.

I hardly dared look at mum. She stood in her usual pose: hands on hips, right foot tapping on the floor.

"You can just get that lot cleared up," she frowned and pursed her lips.

"I didn't do it," I wailed, "anyway Goldie's escaped again and I've got to look for her."

"You should have thought of that before you charged in and scared Pongo. Now clear it up - else."

"Stupid cat shouldn't sleep there anyway," I muttered as I got to my knees. It's surprising how stinky eggshells and things can get after a few hours in a rubbish bin.

There was no sign of Goldie in the garden and now it had begun to drizzle. I sat with Stephen next to Goldie's empty cage and wondered what to do next.

"You don't think someone's took her do you?" I asked. Stephen looked thoughtful.

"I doubt it, you're the only person who can handle her without world war three breaking out. Besides, why would anyone want to take Goldie when everyone knows we've got a shed full of show rabbits next door?" He had a point; Goldie must have escaped all by herself. After all, she was a bit of an expert at it.

At that moment there was a shout from the garden four doors down.

"That damned rabbit's escaped again!" It was Mr Rook; he spent all his time in the garden whatever the weather. His cabbages and carrots were legendary at the local garden shows. He always wore a toupee and was convinced everyone believed it was his own hair. "If I ever get my hands on it, I'll wring its neck and have it for dinner."

"Oh no you won't!" I shouted back. Mr Rook hadn't seen me until then and startled, he jumped and caught his head on the washing line which twanged loudly and knocked his wig, which flew across the garden where Jasper - our other cat - was hiding among the bushes. He considered himself the world's best mouser and thought all his birthdays and Christmas' had come at once when he saw what he assumed to be a giant mouse land just in front of him. He pounced and grabbed the 'mouse' between his front paws, tossed it in the air once or twice, then caught it in his mouth and disappeared over the fence into the fields behind the Crescent.

Mr Rook stood with his mouth opening and closing like a goldfish. Then he jumped again as a brown furry shape with a patch of gold on its neck dashed from his row of prize cabbages and started to burrow down among his carrots.

"That does it!" He spluttered and stormed into his shed. He came out wearing a battered old hat and carrying a long handled landing net.

Stephen and I scrambled over the fences to Mr Rook's garden. Holding the net in the air, Mr rook tiptoed along the rows of carrots and cursed under his breath. Then I saw Goldie emerge from the undergrowth. Unfortunately, so did Mr Rook.

He stood poised for the kill as Goldie headed straight for him; unaware of the danger she was in.

"Do something," Stephen whispered.

"I can't, I might frighten Goldie then we'll never get her back."

"What shall we do then?"

"Wait for Mr Rook to catch her then appeal to his better nature."

"Mr Rook hasn't got a better nature. We should do something," Stephen answered.

The decision was taken out of our hands as that was the moment Jasper chose to come back. He jumped from a tree next to Mr Rook and dropped the limp and battered hairpiece at his feet. Then giving one last disgusted look, sauntered home with his head in the air and tail held high.

Goldie had disappeared; Mr Rook picked up his wig and carried it dejectedly back to the house to a round of applause. Everyone in the Crescent had seen the entire episode. Some had even caught it on video. Mr Rook never got over the embarrassment and soon moved to another area. A lovely family live there now and they like animals almost as much as we do.

Goldie never came back but sometimes on an autumn evening, just as the sun begins to set, a small bundle of brown fur can be seen racing across the bare fields behind the Crescent. I wonder if it has a gold patch on its neck?

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Comments by other Members

Ralph at 20:11 on 20 July 2003  Report this post
Incredible vivacity. Wonderful descriptions, especially of the family cats who seem to bridge the different elements of this piece together... beautifully done. This is one of those rare universal pieces, and it was a real joy to read.

Sarah at 10:52 on 21 July 2003  Report this post
Peter Rabbit would be proud...
This is a sweet story. Goldie, a rabbit with a free spirit. I think the bit I enjoyed most was the altercation between the mother and narrator -- well written. So did the thing with the hairpiece really happen?

The one criticism that I have is that the story changes its focus from being on Goldie, to the Mr Rook and Jasper. And then when it ends on Goldie, it almost seems forced, like, 'oh ya, this is supposed to be a story about the rabbit...' I think you could make this work though, by broadening the focus from the get go. A missing Goldie sort of kicks events off, to the other animals going nuts and the eventual kidnapping (and disdainful return) of the hairpiece. And what did Mr Rook do to deserve such a nast end?

Anyway, I liked readnig this; it's light and funny and a good fiction/memoir.

poemsgalore at 18:42 on 21 July 2003  Report this post
Thanks for the comments, as for the hairpiece really happening - I wish, it would have made a great piece of video.

Becca at 07:12 on 22 July 2003  Report this post
Hi Kathleen,
I could see the whole scene, especially Mr Rook in his garden with the net. Sarah makes a good point about the shift of focus. Perhaps the escape of the rabbit could trigger off a whole series of events around the neighbourhood, (picking up from what Sarah said), and the two children could get to see all sorts of things grown-ups hope kids don't see, nothing sinister, but things like the wig,.. things which show how vulnerable adults really are, or how pompous they can be. It could be turned into a children's story in the old tradition of a lost animal or object, like Where's Wally?

bjlangley at 12:09 on 22 July 2003  Report this post
How odd that I should read a story about an escaped rabbit, only days after my wife's rabbit decided to leave it's designated home.

Luckily we found ours again, having been unable to find it's way out of the garden.

I'll leave that tale there, and tell you that I liked that story, and agree with Sarah that it would be interesting to see this escaped rabbit set off all sorts of events.

poemsgalore at 18:43 on 22 July 2003  Report this post
Well it's certainly something to think about, maybe I could write a sequel. I'll look into it. It could possibly lead to a whole series. Children's BBC here I come (I wish). Thanks for the suggestions.

Nell at 20:47 on 22 July 2003  Report this post
Hi Kathleen, This is a lovely story and I read it with great enjoyment. The dialogue is perfect and I could see the whole happening just as it unfolded. Some very funny lines too, especially with the cat on the bin, and a really good sense of timing and pace. Did the poor man really move?

poemsgalore at 18:39 on 24 July 2003  Report this post
Well actually, there wasn't a Mr Rook - that bit was made up - sorry to disappoint you. It was basically that my rabbit escaped and dad and I chased it through everyone on the crescents gardens with a fishing net - and yes, we were watched from the bedrooms of our neighbours houses.

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