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The Rabbit Who Wanted to Fly 

by

Peter Eaton

Marcus the rabbit sat on a grassy hill. His eyes were wide open as he watched a blackbird pecking at something in the meadow.
'I wonder if he wants to play?' thought Marcus. He hopped over toward the bird, but as soon as he came too close, the blackbird fluttered its wings and flew across the meadow and landed on a fence post.

Marcus' eyes became even wider. He was only a little rabbit and had never seen anything fly before. He turned round and scampered back towards his burrow, his white tail bobbing up and down as he ran.

As soon as he reached the entrance to the burrow, he raced down it as fast as he could go. 'Mummy, Mummy, guess what I've just seen'

Mummy rabbit was preparing a nice juicy cherry pie for their lunch and her paws were covered in flour. She looked up when Marcus arrived in the burrow kitchen. 'Whatever is the matter Marcus dear?'

'Mummy, I've just seen a very funny shaped rabbit, and when I went over to talk to it, it spread out its paws and rose up into the air, then landed on a fence post.'

Mummy rabbit smiled, then wiped the flour off her paws. 'That wasn't a rabbit my dear,' she said. 'That must have been a bird.'

Marcus was puzzled. 'Mummy how did it manage to move through the air over to the fence post?'

'It was flying Marcus. Birds cannot hop around on the ground as well as you can, so they fly instead.'

Marcus picked up a cherry that was lying on the table and popped it into his mouth. 'That tastes nice Mummy may I have some more?'

'Not yet my dear. You must wait until the pie is cooked, then the cherries will taste even better.  Now hop along and play again, but make sure that you are back in time for lunch.'

Marcus popped one more cherry into his mouth then turned to leave. Just as he reached the entrance to the burrow, he stopped and said, 'When will I be able to fly Mummy?'

Mummy rabbit laughed and said, 'You won't ever be able to fly Marcus. Rabbits cannot fly, but they can dig nice deep cosy burrows to live in and to run to when danger threatens. Birds don't dig burrows so they have to be able to fly to be able to get away from danger and Mummy rabbits can make nice tasty cherry pies if baby rabbits don't keep interrupting them. Now run along and play, there's a good bunny.'

Marcus blinked as he came out of the burrow and back in to the sunshine. He talked to himself as he scampered back toward the meadow. 'Other rabbits might not be able to fly,' he said, 'but I am going to.'

He stopped and looked up at the white clouds that were gliding across the blue sky and said, 'In fact, I am going to be the first rabbit in the world who flies. Just you wait and see.'

A crow who was passing above him, overheard what Marcus was saying and almost fell out of the air he was laughing so much. 'Caw, caw. Who ever heard of a flying rabbit? Wait until I tell the other crows about this, caw, caw.'
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As the crow flew along he called to all the other birds that he passed, 'Marcus the rabbit thinks that he is going to fly.'

Soon all the birds in the meadow and the woodland knew about Marcus' dream. 'Who ever heard of a flying rabbit?' they laughed.

Marcus was standing right in the middle of the meadow on his hind legs and waving his front legs in the air. He flopped back on all fours and said, 'It's no use, however much I wave my paws, I can't fly even a teeny weeny bit.'  He felt sad for he so very much wanted to be able to fly. He stood up on his hind legs and tried again, but it was no good. It seemed as if he was stuck to the ground.

'Maybe I am too heavy to get off the ground. Perhaps if I can get onto something high and jump off I shall be able to fly then.'

He looked around him until, right at the edge of the meadow he saw a very big, very old oak tree. 'That will do,' he said, 'I can jump off that.'

'I wouldn't do that if I were you.' said a little voice just behind him. Marcus jumped in surprise because he didn't know anyone was anywhere near. 'I'm down here,' said the voice and Marcus saw a tiny mouse sitting up in the grass with its whiskers twitching.

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'What wouldn't you do if you were me?' asked Marcus.

'I wouldn't climb that tree, if I were you.' said the mouse.

'Why not?'

'Because rabbits cannot climb, that's why, and if you try to climb the tree you will fall down and hurt yourself.'

'Oh dear,' sighed Marcus. 'Rabbits aren't supposed to do anything at all. Everything I try to do I am told, Rabbits don't do that. Rabbits don't climb trees, rabbits don't fly. All I'm allowed to do is hop I think.' He hopped over to the oak tree and looked up. 'Well I am going to climb it anyway, whatever they say.'        
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He stood on his hind legs and reached up as far as he could with his fore paws. Then digging his claws into the bark he started to pull himself up.

'Oh dear, this is difficult.' he said. Then pulling up as hard as he could, he lifted himself a little way off the ground. As soon as he tried to reach up again, he slipped back down to the ground.

'I told you so,' said the mouse. 'Rabbits are not supposed to climb.'

Marcus felt very miserable and sat on the ground, looking up at the big oak tree trunk. Just behind the oak tree was an old brick wall that marked the edge of the meadow. 'Ah,' he said, 'If I can get up on to the wall I will be able to climb further up the tree.'

He hopped over to the wall and right next to the wall he saw a pile of logs. He hopped up onto the lowest log and then hopped up to the next log and the next log, until he had reached the top of the pile. Then with one great big hop, he landed on top of the wall.
        
Then Marcus had a little rest because he felt quite tired after so much hopping. While he was resting, he looked up at the tree again. It seemed even bigger now, but he wanted so much to climb it that he only minded a little bit that it was so big. When he had finished resting he decided to try to climb again.

He stood on the top of the wall on his hind legs and reached as high up on the tree as he could with his front paws, which wasn't very far really, because he was such a little rabbit. Then, digging his claws in as hard as he could, he tried to lift himself up again but it was no use and he fell back onto the wall.

'Oh dear, I still cannot climb.' said Marcus feeling very sad.

He hopped further along the wall to the other side of the tree and then he became very excited. Just above the wall was a low branch that stretched out like a great big fan.

'Oh good,' said Marcus. 'I can hop up on to that branch very easily.' And that's what he did. Then he saw another branch a little bit higher up and so he hopped up onto that one too.

'Hooray' he shouted, 'Look at me everybody, I said I could climb the tree.'

'Do you have to make such a loud noise?' said a gruff voice, 'I am trying to read.'

Marcus looked around and there sitting on the branch he had just jumped onto was an owl reading a book.  
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The owl looked through his spectacles over the top of the book and said, 'You're a rabbit!'

'Of course I'm a rabbit,'  said Marcus.

'Yes,' replied the owl, 'but rabbits don't climb trees.'

'This one does and in a few minutes I am going to fly.'

The owl was so surprised by what Marcus had said, that he almost fell off the branch. 'You may have been able to climb the tree somehow little rabbit, but you will not be able to fly because you do not have any wings.'

'Wings?' said Marcus.

'Yes these things,' replied the owl and he spread out his wings so that Marcus could see his beautiful soft feathers.'

The little rabbit held out his paws and asked, 'Aren't paws any good for flying then?'

The owl chuckled then closed the book and put it into a hole in the trunk of the tree. He patted Marcus on the head and said. 'No little rabbit, I'm afraid not. If you don't have any wings you will never be able to fly.'

'Oh dear, and I did want to fly so very much,' said Marcus and a great big tear rolled down his face onto his nose.

The owl closed his eyes and sat thinking for a little while. Suddenly his eyes opened wide again and he said. 'I know of a way to let you fly and I will help you do it just once, if you promise that afterwards, you will never try to fly again.'

'Oh yes,' said the rabbit. 'I promise, I promise.'

'Very well,' replied the owl. 'I shall help you but you are not to climb any more trees either.'

'No,' answered Marcus, 'I won't. I don't like it up here very much, it is too far from the ground. I think that rabbits should live on the ground, but I would still like to fly just once.'

'In that case,' said the owl, 'We shall need some help.' He looked up into the branches above him and gave a whistle.  After a few moments, Marcus heard a noise up at the top of the tree and then all of a sudden something dropped down on the branch between them.

It was a reddish brown animal with a very bushy tail.
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The owl greeted the newcomer. 'Hello Squirrel, thank you for coming so quickly when I called.'

The squirrel did not look very pleased at being summoned. 'This had better be important, Owl, for I was very busy collecting leaves for a new nest.'

'It is important Squirrel, this young gentleman wants to fly and we have to help him.'

The squirrel turned to look at Marcus and was very surprised to see a rabbit so far up the tree.

'You're a rabbit!' he said.

'Of course I'm a rabbit,'  said Marcus.

'Yes,' replied the squirrel, 'but rabbits don't climb trees.'

'This one does and in a few minutes I am going to fly.'

'Hmmm,' said the squirrel, 'I have never seen a flying rabbit before.'

'That's why we need your help Squirrel,' said the owl. 'This little rabbit very much wants to fly just this once. After that he has promised that he will be a proper rabbit and only hop.'

The squirrel laughed and said, 'Ooh, this is quite exciting. What do you want me to do owl?'

'Well,' replied the owl, 'Rabbit only has legs and paws and doesn't have any wings, and without them he cannot fly, so we are going to make some wings for him.'

'Oh, goody, goody,' sang Marcus. 'I'm going to have some wings, I'm going to have some wings.'

The owl whispered something into the squirrel's ear and then off he scampered up the tree, his fine bushy tail bouncing about behind him. After a few minutes he was back carrying in his mouth a strong twig covered in leaves. 'Will this do, do you think Owl?'

'Yes Squirrel,' said the owl, 'that will do very nicely.  Now go and find another one just like this one.'

'Right Ho Owl,' said the squirrel and he ran very fast up the tree trunk. Owl and Rabbit soon heard him running around in the branches at the top of the tree as he looked for another twig just like the first. Soon he was back with them and in his mouth was another strong twig covered in leaves.

'That's just right,' the owl hooted. 'Now we need something to tie them on and I have just the very things we need in my cupboard.' He reached round and down into the hole in the tree, then brought out a pair of shiny scissors and a big ball of green string.

'Hold out your front paws little rabbit,' said the owl.

Marcus did as he was asked and the owl and the squirrel tied the twigs with their thick bunches of leaves to his paws with the green string.

'Now wave your paws up and down,' said the owl.

Marcus waved his paws and the leaves started to move up and down just like two great big wings.'

'He's a funny looking bird,' laughed the squirrel.

'Never mind that,' hooted the owl. 'Now wave your paws faster Rabbit. No, much faster than that!'

Marcus waved and waved and waved his paws until his front legs started to ache from tiredness. Suddenly, he felt himself being lifted up in the air and he left the branch and started floating toward the ground. 'Look at me,' he shouted. 'I can fly, I can fly.'

He kept waving his paws but they became very tired, so that he was very pleased when he arrived back on the ground. He untied the string and took off his wings. He looked back up the old oak tree and called, 'Thank you Owl, thank you Squirrel,' then ran as fast as he could back to the burrow.

He burst into the kitchen and shouted, 'Mummy, Mummy I climbed a tree and then I flew all the way back to the ground.'

'That's nice dear,' said Mummy Rabbit. 'Now wash your paws, Marcus, you are just in time for a nice piece of cherry pie.'

'Oh goody,' said Marcus. 'I love cherry pie. In fact I love cherry pie more than flying or climbing trees.'                                             
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