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Guests in the garden
This bundle of long earred siblings, mistaken, at first for--gasp--rats, takes on rabbit characteristics as time goes by.
EDIE GROSS/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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By Edie Gross
Before he could object, I lifted the pile of twigs, stems and leaves to reveal a den filled with five or six thumb-sized writhing, gray bodies. My husband tightened his grip on the BB gun.
"Stand down," I said. "I don't see any tails."
Tails, of course, being the primary indicator of rats. I also know from extensive urban zoological training that gills indicate fish, and feathers indicate birds and/or rogue Easter hats.
My husband set the BB gun down long enough to snap a photograph with his phone.
"Look at the ears," I said. "They might be baby bunnies."
Four out of five Facebook friends agreed with me (the fifth, my brother-in-law, insisted they were lambs), and who am I to argue with that kind of overwhelming consensus?
We carefully replaced the covering over the hole and, not wanting to disturb the brood, planted our tomato plants elsewhere.
Every few days I'd go out to check on the babies, making sure their hole hadn't filled with water and that the covering was still intact so they wouldn't be visible to predatory critters, birds or Easter hats.
Then, about two weeks after we found them, I walked into the garden to discover the hole empty.
No signs of a struggle. No goodbye letter. Just a hole.
I complained to a friend that I thought it was rude of them not to at least leave a forwarding address or a thank-you note.
"Perhaps they've grown into teenagers and will come sneaking back into the hole late at night, smelling of cigarettes and with suspiciously rumpled fur," she said, almost as if she'd done that very thing once or twice.
Alas, they never returned. What's worse is they seem to have sublet the place to a colony of ants who were none too happy to see us when we showed up last weekend with shovels and onion plants.
Then again, there are worse squatters to have in your garden than ants. I'll take ankle bites over empty promises any day of the week.
Edie Gross: 540/374-5428