My thanks goes out to the two dozen brave and talented souls who
contributed stories for our fan-fiction content. The results were thrilling!
I had great fun simply curling up for a weekend and losing myself in the
wonderful adventures these folks came up with. In fact, more than once I
berated myself for starting this competition. How in the world was I
supposed to choose a winner when all were so good?
There were several stories that prompted particular attention. Some for
their intricate plots, others for their true-to-life characters, and others
for the sheer value of the drama and hard-hitting emotion:
But in the end, the prize for the best story goes to one that succeeded
on multiple levels. It wasn’t just a good drama, though it had conflict and
resolution in it. It had an inventive plot. It was one of the best at
gauging the audience, teasing our brains, and making us imagine the scene.
But best of all, it had heart and charm.
The winner can expect an email from me with details about his prize, a
brand new copy of the Pixar coffee table book, To Infinity and Beyond. And
with no further ado, let’s sink into the story. Congrats to our winner!
Dawn was dawn. It came every morning, painting the sky the color of
strawberry lemonade, always with a whisper, never with a complaint. And yet
as Bismarck sat there, studying the familiar horizon of buildings and
foliage punctuated by the peak of the White Mountain, he could not shake the
feeling that something was not quite right.
He took another bite of breakfast, chewing carefully. The grass tasted
exactly as it had the night before. So what was different?
He studied the wrought iron perimeter fence of his patch, its shadow
creeping across the lawn as the sun floated higher. He absently licked his
paw, his customary morning ritual, and suddenly it hit him.
The grass was dry.
Dry as if it were dinnertime. In fact, it was as dry as lunch grass,
baked under the sun, teeming with buzzing insects. Breakfast grass was
always deliciously wet, with a delightful crunch to it. Bismarck felt
the suspicion growing inside him. Juneau had been at it again.
He loped over to the fence, right up to the very edge of it. With a
wiggle of his nose, he took a sniff. He detected it immediately: the raspy
smell of paper mixed with a faint dose of wax. A man smell.
It was a paper cup. The people served them somewhere not too far away,
usually filled with a sugary concoction that tasted pleasant enough.
Careless humans sometimes tossed spent cups onto his lawn, but he never
managed more than a few licks. Anything thrown over the fence into Partner's
Corner was almost immediately retrieved by an army of roaming spear-people.
Somehow they had missed this cup. It was wedged deep into a nondescript
hole near the fencing and covered over with cut grass. There were four of
these rain holes, roughly the same distance from each other, all around the
perimeter of the patch. Every night like clockwork, rain would burst from
the holes, drenching the entire lawn and the small juniper bush planted in
the center. The rain would gush for fifteen minutes or so, and then abruptly
Last night, there had been no rain.
This human cup was wedged tightly against the black plastic disc at the
bottom of the rain hole. With the disc blocked, there was no rain to drench
the grass. Bismarck hopped along the fence, inspecting each hole, and was
not at all surprised to find that the other holes had been similarly stopped
Grumbling to himself, Bismarck hopped back to bush at the center of
Partners' Corner. He ducked under the thorny branch that hid the entrance of
"Juneau, wake up," he said, nuzzling against his bigger brother. The
other rabbit snorted in his sleep, but didn't budge.
Bismarck nudged again, harder this time. When Juneau still wouldn't
answer, he took hold of his brother's scruff with his sharp front teeth and
bit down just hard enough not to be ignored.
"What's the matter with you?" Juneau growled. "I've not had a lick of
"So I noticed. You stopped up the rain holes this time. That will mean
more of them tonight, stomping all over the turf, cleaning them out. And
then how will you sleep?"
At this Juneau gave a smile, a smile that Bismarck didn't like one bit.
"Maybe we won't be here tonight."
Bismarck scowled. "I thought we agreed that we would just ignore Denver
from now on!"
"Come on, Bismarck! Don't you ever wonder what life is like outside of
"Why would we want to leave? We have a great life here."
"That's because you were too young to remember."
And there it was again. Their arguments always came down to this. Juneau
was older, therefore he knew best.
"I may be younger, but I know better than to listen to a cracked
Juneau rolled his eyes. "This has nothing to do with Denver. Of course
he's a little nuts. But not all squirrels are like that. I remember
squirrels from before you were born. When we lived in the wilderness. I'm
telling you, you've never seen such a place! You've never even left the
lawn, so how would you know?"
"Oh, big deal!" scoffed Bismarck. "I hardly think peeking your head
through the bars makes you worldly."
Juneau gave a knowing smile. "And what makes you think I haven't been
beyond the bars?"
Bismarck stopped and looked at him. "Where did you get the cups?"
"What cups?" Juneau asked, casually cleaning his face with his
"The cups you used to stop up the rain holes. I can see you getting your
paws on one, but not four. Where did you get them?"
"Alright, I'll tell you. But if I do, will you finally admit I may know
more about the world than you do?"
Bismarck merely pursed his lips and waited.
Juneau leaned in closer, and said in a whisper. "I got them from a
"You went outside the lawn?" Bismarck exploded. "Are you out of your
mind? Don't you realize how dangerous that is?"
Juneau crossed his paws and looked down his nose. "I do. Do you?"
Bismarck huffed and then hopped back up the run. Juneau sighed and rolled
his eyes. They had this fight all too often lately. He had no worries about
chasing after his brother. There were only so many places Bismarck could go,
all of them within ten feet of the rabbit hole. He licked some of the mattes
out of his fur then headed up the tunnel himself.
He caught up with Bismarck in a sunny patch near the iron railing. For a
while, they just nibbled the grass together, not saying anything. At last
"I'm going to the wilderness, Bismarck. I want you to come with me, but
if you won't, I'm going anyway."
"But what does the wilderness have that we don't have here?"
"Freedom," Juneau said simply.
"But we have freedom."
"What good is it if we don't ever use it?" Juneau gave his brother a sad
smile. "Come on, with me out of the way, at least you'll have the run of the
They both chuckled.
"So why did you stop the rain holes?" Bismarck asked, changing the
"I had some work to do, and I didn't want to get all wet. I figured you
might not come, if I asked, so I wanted to make sure you had a way to find
me. When you're finally ready to leave."
"And how do I do that?"
Juneau grinned. "You'll just have to ask the stars."
Bismarck punched him and for the next several minutes, they enjoyed a
good tussle on the dry morning grass.
With the sun beating down, Bismarck was content to doze in the shade
while Juneau nipped a light lunch. Early afternoon was always a lazy time
for the rabbits. People went by in a blur, hurrying this way and that-any
way but Partner's Corner. The brothers were free to move about their lawn at
leisure. But all that changed with the onset of a piercing shriek.
Bismarck awoke with a start. His first thought was for Juneau, and though
he looked frantically, he saw no sign of him. He heard the shriek again,
accompanied by a high-pitched gurgling. His heart leaped in his throat as he
finally caught sight of his brother.
A human child had Juneau by the ear. It had climbed the railing, or been
put there by its parents, and was now rampaging across the lawn, dragging
Juneau with it.
By the glee on its face, it could have been just another happy person, no
different than the children they saw every hour of every day. But loose
inside the boundaries of the railing, naked except for a gleaming white
diaper, drooling and screaming at the top of its lungs, it was a terrifying
Juneau was on his back, unable to get leverage to even use his claws. He
squirmed, trying to turn over, but the child seemed remarkably adept at
dragging him the opposite way.
Shrugging aside his own fear, Bismarck bolted from the run, skirting the
bush, trying to keep pace with the child. He had no idea how to help. He
could strike at the child, but that would likely bring the parents, and the
parents would bring the groundskeepers, and then Juneau really would get his
wish to leave. He had to think of another plan.
Out of the corner of his eye, he caught sight of something white sticking
out of the ground. It was one of the paper cups. Bismarck skidded to a halt.
It seemed to him that he was on the verge of a plan, but he couldn't quite
make it take shape in his mind.
He whipped his head around and saw to his horror that the child had
spotted him. It had released Juneau and was now lumbering directly towards
him. It would be upon him in a second.
"Run, you idiot!" shouted Juneau, who was himself sprinting for the
safety of the juniper bush.
Bismarck hopped backwards, unsure which way to bolt, and tripped over the
edge of the paper cup. The child's shadow clouded over him.
Without thinking, Bismarck bit hard into the paper cup and ripped it
Latent pressure exploded from the rain hole in a geyser, catching the
child square in the face. Bismarck leaped through the spray and darted for
the burrow. He was a good body length into the run before he skidded to a
stop. He smiled in relief at his brother, but Juneau's eyes were wide,
staring at something behind him.
Drenched and gurgling happily, the child was now speeding for the juniper
bush. Its thick hands suddenly stabbed into the branches, grasping for the
"Get down!" Juneau yelled.
The brothers pressed themselves to the dirt as the screaming child pushed
its way deeper into the foliage. A finger grazed Bismarck's back. He
squeezed his eyes shut, willing himself to become smaller. He could hear the
thrashing of the arms, the snapping of branches, and the screams of glee
from the child. He had never been so scared.