Master Hippity straightened his fluffy white tail and examined his long ears in the mirror.
"Honestly," said his mother as he combed his whiskers, "you're going to be late for school, you naughty rabbit!"
"Oh, Mummy," Hippity said, hopping across to the kitchen table for a slice of hot buttered toast with strawberry jam, "don't worry, I hop ever so fast! I'm the fasted bunny in the whole warren -- Mr Twitchy says so."
"Hmph," his mother snorted and turned back to the little white sink by the window, "Well, just be sure you get to school on time. And no lollygagging on the way home either: we're having carrot casserole tonight."
Hippity's face fell. "Oh, Mummy," he said with a pout, "I wanted broccoli for tea -- there's some at the big, white house and I--"
"NO!" There was a clattering and a crashing as a breakfast plate shattered on the kitchen floor. "You must never, ever go up to the big, white house!"
"No! You mind me young Master Hippity, you're to steer well clear of that place! Your poor father, Frith rest his soul, never came back." Tears sparkling in her eyes, she bent and picked up the shards of crockery. "The monster got him..."
Hippity rolled his eyes, not even pretending to listen as she told the story for the millionth time.
The sun god blazed in a powder-blue sky making the morning dew sparkle like diamonds on the blades of grass and nettles as Hippity made his way down the long field, across the ditch and past the black strip, where the vroomers roared. The day was going to be a scorcher, far too hot to sit in a stuffy old school room. And he was still hungry, even after three slices of toast and a cup of bunny tea for breakfast.
Sitting up on his hind legs, he peered through the long grass to the north, where a pair of white chimneys poked the sky. The big, white house. Surely it wouldn't hurt to take a tiny morsel of broccoli? He was only a little rabbit: no one would miss it.
Hippity hopped through the long grass to the back fence, staring in through the wooden slats at the strange-looking garden. A square of shorn green, washing flapping on a line, funny coloured plants, a hedge that seemed to stretch all the way up to the heavens, and a vegetable patch that made his mouth water. Rows and rows of broccoli, their purple stems waving in the gentle breeze.
He rested his little paws on the gap beneath the fence. Mummy always told the tale of 'daddy and the monster' whenever anything bad happened. If Hippity was naughty, or got into trouble at school for not paying attention, Mummy told him the monster would come and gobble him all up.
"I'm faster than any monster," he told himself, squeezing through into the garden, "I'm the fastest bunny in school!"
The sour scent of decay came from the compost bin in the corner as he snuck along the side of the fence, keeping his long ears up and his little nose twitching, ready to sprint at the first sign of trouble. Not that there really was a monster -- that was just something the does told their kits to scare them into behaving -- but it never hurt to be safe. 'Better safe than dead', that was what Mr Grimple always said, and he was a very old rabbit indeed.
A small patch of weeds bordered the broccoli patch and Hippty crept through it, keeping very quiet... The tender green leaves and shoots and stems glittered in the sunshine, shiny slug trails weaving complicated patterns on the dry earth. He'd only take a little, just enough to make his tummy stop rumbling, and maybe a bit more so Mummy could have some for tea, instead of nasty old carrot casserole which always tasted of boiled socks.
It wasn't until his teeth nibbled down on the first leaf that he heard the voice.
"Well, well, well, what have we here? A lovely little kit in the broccoli patch."
Hippity turned to see a strange, fuzzy character hopping down from somewhere inside the big hedge, landing with a delicate thunk on the wooden path. "Hello?" he said, when he remembered his manners, letting go of the tasty leaf. "My name's Hippity. I'm the fastest rabbit in the whole school!"
"Are you indeed?" said the newcomer, walking like flowing water, barely making a noise with her paws. "I've never seen a rabbit that fast before. You must be very special."
Hippity's chest swelled with pride. "Would you like to see me run?"
The fuzzy one tilted her head to one side and said, "Yes. I'd like that very much."
"Whoosh!" Hippity leapt straight into a sprint, tearing round the square of mown grass like lightning, before screeching to a stop back at the broccoli patch again. "You..." he panted, "You see?"
The newcomer's long, furry tail snaked back and forth. "Very good! You are the fastest rabbit I've seen for a long time."
Hippity blushed, embarrassed and pleased at the same time. "Thanks!"
"Would you like to stay to tea, and play?"
"Please!" He bounced up and down on his hind legs, clapping his front paws together.
The screaming is the best bit. Batting the squirming kit back and forth with her paws, pouncing on his back hard enough to make ribs crack inside the soft furry body. Hooking a claw into his cheek and flipping him through the air to crash down on the porch floor. Fresh blood mingling with the dark stains of mice and shrews and birds. Holding a pawn down on his throat till his little black eyes bulge.
He twitches and mewls, a back leg trembling and broken as she lowers her muzzle to his tiny furry nose. And bites it off. Crunching her way slowly through his ears and face while the last spark of life leaves Hippity's body. She'll maybe leave a leg and a some of the squishier inside bits where the big, bearded pink thing can step in it later. But for now Grendel's happy to munch and crunch through the baby rabbits skull.
And the moral of the story is: Stay the hell away from Stuart's broccoli you freeloading rodent bastards!
Oh, and it's Grendel's birthday today, she's two! Many happy returns of the day to her and the baby rabbit she was eating at half ten this morning.