My stuffed toys have been very naughty this past summer. Rosie the Alligator went to Florida and didn't even find one senior citizen to frighten on the golf course. And my teddy bears all had a pizza party and ordered exotic toppings and now my apartment is a mess of honey and salmon and bamboo. Of course, this meant I had to teach them what happened to adorably naughty animals (as I'd already taught them about good, enterprising animals with Corduroy last week). So, it was time to retell them the The Tale of Peter Rabbit!
Once upon a time, there were four anthropomorphic rabbits.
Their names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, and Peter. They lived with their Mother, who only bestowed proper Christian names upon her male offspring, in a sand bank under a tree.
"Now, my dears," said Mrs. Rabbit one morning, "you may go in the fields or down the lane but don't go to into Mr. McGregor's garden. Your father had an accident there. And after the McGregors finished mopping that up, they put him in a pie."
Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail, who were good little bunnies and coped with the loss of a parent by sublimating their grief into productivity, gathered blackberries.
But Peter, whose predilection for typically lapine behavior could not be suppressed, ran into Mr. McGregor's garden, disregarded the warning about his slaughtered father, and, worst of all, got his beautiful little jacket with the brass buttons dirty.
First he ate some French beans, then he ate some lettuces, and then he ate some radishes.
Round the end of a cucumber frame, who did he meet, but Mr. McGregor!
Farmer McGregor was on his hands and knees planting young cabbages (and making life difficult for 80s parents seeking the number one doll for their kids).
But he jumped up and ran after Peter, screaming, "Stop, tiny humanoid rabbit!"
Peter was dreadfully frightened--and slightly less adorable--for he had forgotten his way out and lost both shoes. He started to run on four legs and then lost his sweet little jacket with the brass buttons.
Mr. McGregor ran up then, and Peter rushed off into the shed.
He leaped into the watering can. And he would have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn't for all that water in the watering can. He sneezed and ran out. After he'd finished being a prop in an Anne Geddes drawing, he ran away.
Out of breath, he still couldn't find his way. He came to a door. An old mouse was rushing around underneath, carrying peas and beans to her family. Peter asked her the way out, but she couldn't talk, having a large pea in her mouth. Peter didn't know how to escape.
And now that his sweet little jacket had come off, he'd have to resit for his portrait that would adorn bowls and cups everywhere. Peter began to cry.
But, much like in sports, there is no crying permitted for long in a Beatrix Potter book. Peter found his way across the garden where there was a pond. A white cat was staring at some goldfish. She sat very still but every now and again, her tail twitched.
Peter thought it best to go away without talking to her. He had heard all about cats from his cousin Benjamin Button who had the complete works of Andrew Lloyd Webber on tape at home.
Finally, Peter wandered aimlessly some more. But as there were only a few pages left, it became convenient for him to find the exit. There, in the distance--the gate! Peter ran after it, with Farmer McGregor on his tail. But he managed to get out and run all the way home.
Mr. McGregor hung up Peter's little jacket and shoes as a scarecrow to frighten blackbirds with a phobia of dapper, headless young gentlemen.
At home, Peter was so tired that he flopped down on the floor. His mother wondered what he'd done with his clothes and how she'd make him some more without the use of opposable thumbs.
I am sorry to say that Peter was not very well. Sitting in a damp watering can with no jacket on will do that to wayward little rabbits. His mother gave him a tablespoon of camomile tea and put him to bed.
But I am happy to report that a sense of moral equilibrium is upheld, even among the animals, and Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail, the good little rabbits, all enjoyed bread, milk, and blackberries for their righteous, but less marketable in the publishing world, behavior.