THE BASSET AND THE HARE • by Nathaniel Johnson

There once lived a lazy basset hound named Alexander who loved nothing better than eating, washing his paws, and daydreaming about chasing hares.  Successfully snaring a hare, however, remained only a fantasy for, unlike most of his breed, Alexander was too lazy to rise up and actually pursue one. Hares move rather too quickly, he reflected, so why chase the prey? Someone always brings me my food.

One day, Alexander woke from his reveries to discover a remarkably large hare squatting directly front of him. Mottled, with long spotted ears and a stubby tail perched over muscular hind legs, this was, indeed, a classic rabbit.

“Good morning, Basset,” said the hare, wrinkling his inquisitive nose.

“Say, are you real, or am I dreaming?” said Alexander.

“As real as you are, Basset, and twice as fast,” the hare replied.

Alexander meditated for a moment. “Is that a challenge, Hare?”

“Yes it is, Basset, to a race — between the two of us. Think you’re spry enough to try it?” The hare grinned tauntingly.

Alexander mused a moment, wondering whether or not to accept the hare’s dare.

“Right! Where do we start?”

“We’ll begin at the barn, cross Smith’s pasture, circle Farmer Boardman’s pond, and finish back here by the barn… or will that be too much for you?”

“Excuse me?” said Alexander.

“You’re rather fat, Basset, with regrettably short legs,” observed the hare. “You’ll never make it past the pond.”

“All right, impudent Hare, you’re on!” Alexander sat upright, panting. “Hey, what do I get if I win?”

“Well, you could have me for dinner, fat boy!” The hare then rolled over backwards with laughter.

Alexander considered himself a clever basset, and instantly hit upon a plan: unbeknownst to the hare, he would be laying a trap. “Agreed, Hare, I’ll accept your challenge, but on one condition.”

“What’s that, Señor Basset?”

“We must take the garden path around Smith’s pasture.”

“Why?” asked the hare, suspiciously. “That only makes our run longer. You’ll be all worn out!”

“Not necessarily,” replied Alexander. “I don’t mind the extra distance, but those brambles in the pasture will catch my fur and scratch my ears, so if we take the garden path, I won’t be hurt.”

“Those ears of yours are just too long, foolish Basset,” laughed the hare.

You should talk!” said Alexander. “Yours are huge!”

“At least mine don’t flop down and fall in my food,” replied the hare. “Okay, Mr. Hound, when shall we start?”

“In exactly one hour — at three,” replied Alexander, “I’ll need my nap before we run.”

“Cool! One hour, Basset — better be ready.”

“I’ll be there, Mr. Hare.” Alexander paused a moment. “By the way, what happens if you win and I lose?”

“You must vow never to chase Leporidae ever again,” shouted the hare, already halfway down the road. “My kin don’t appreciate you dogging them as you do.”

“That’s a deal, Mr. Hare.” After the hare disappeared around a bend in the road, Alexander muttered, “Your relatives probably wouldn’t be very tasty, anyway.”

Amused by his clever scheme, Alexander chuckled aloud; he remembered that hares loved carrots more than anything. He also recalled that Farmer Boardman’s carrot patch grew near the garden path, and that old Boardman himself might be working in his gardens that afternoon; farmers were not terribly fond of rabbits on their properties.

Alexander and his challenger met at the appointed hour, shuffled over to their starting point, and crouched down.

“On the count of three, old man!” cried the hare. “Ready?”

“Ready!” replied Alexander.

On three, the hare leapt forward and shot off ahead of Alexander, now in furious pursuit of his competitor who was already far down the road. Nearing the garden path, Alexander watched the hare make a sudden turn next to the carrot patch, and then slow to a stop; before him stretched endless rows of delectable ripe carrots, just ready for picking.

It was a warm summer day; Alexander, already sweating, took an abrupt a detour past the carrot patch, raced across the pasture and disappeared into the woods. Just then, Alexander heard someone shouting. Glancing over his shoulder, he saw old Farmer Boardman charging out of his house toward the carrot patch waving a long stick. Suddenly, there was a flash and a loud explosion; Alexander knew that long sticks usually meant deep trouble for animals.

As he rounded the pond, Alexander looked back to see if the hare was behind him; now, the basset’s legs were weak and his paws felt sore from running over rough stones and broken branches. Panting heavily from the heat, and slowing to a walk, Alexander limped back to their starting point, flopped down, and imbibed from his water bowl.

Alexander almost felt pity for the hare. Oh well, why worry? Alexander said to himself. That impertinent animal was just begging for trouble, anyway. Just then, his competitor slunk into view — head down, eyes remorseful.

“Looks like you won, Basset,” mumbled the hare.

“Seems like you lost more than the race,” replied Alexander, observing the hare’s wounded tail. “Will it grow back?”

“Perhaps,” said the hare. “Anyway, I’d better be off; since I have no one to serve me, I’ll need to find some dinner. My! That was a heavenly carrot patch. Perhaps I’ll try again after dark.”

“Better beware, Hare,” warned Alexander, settling down for his nap. Alexander folded his paws, closed both eyes and yawned contentedly.  I have been a noble hound — a truly beneficent basset, he thought, and then fell fast asleep.

In his worst nightmare ever, Alexander was being pursued by an entire family of furious hares — some without tails, all demanding retribution. Someone kept shouting his name and when he woke, trembling and fearful, there before him stood his owner, holding a bowl of fresh rabbit stew. Much to his owner’s bewilderment, Alexander jumped up, knocked the bowl over, and let loose with a long, mournful howl.


Nathaniel Johnson lives in Rockport, Massachusetts, is active in local writers groups and on-line at Francis Coppola’s Zoetrope Virtual Studio. His most recent works have appeared in AlienSkin, Boston Literary Magazine, SNM Horror Magazine, and Absent Willow Review.


Rate this story:
 average 5 stars • 1 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • T L Jones

    This would make a good kids book. Anyway, I thought the dog was going to eat the rabbit if he won, but he just let him go without even saying anything about it.

  • C.M. Marcum

    Readable and concise. I am fond of anthropomorphic tales.
    A kid’s story, yes. But children stories usually incorporate a lesson for the child. What is the lesson here? The hare should not get distracted? Even a fat hound can win? 🙂 Also, dogs don’t sweat. Favorite line…regrettable short legs….

  • fishlovesca

    Interesting.

  • Bob

    Too long and unfocused to be a successful fable.

    The hare’s exclamation of “cool!” was a jarring interjection. Until that moment, the hare seemed a little haughty and erudite – “cool” was out of character with the rest of his diction.

    The conclusion was, as TL Jones noted, another departure. At what point did the dog become an admirer of the hare?

  • Very cute. I liked it. And I thought the ending was a nice twist, too. Five carrots.

  • I was expecting a fable and got flash fiction, not well done at that. The voice of the rabbit did not seem to fit. The last paragraph was totally not needed. To me it changed what had been a low 3 to a high two.

  • Jen

    I liked this story. Good tale about being good to neighboors and helping each other out. It *would* make a good kids book!

  • J.C. Towler

    How is it that these rabbits always come up short in these races?

    I wanted to like this story, but found myself getting distracted by moments of clunky dialog, elements that were either jarring (Bob’s aforementioned “Cool” was one) or inconsistencies (Example: The animals have proper names for “ponds” “brambles” “barns” “carrots” etc., and yet we get the “long bang sticks” description of what is obviously a gun).

    The author will get the equivalent of a “crit group experience” by the end of the day on this one. I hope he can use some of it (not everyone will be “right”, myself firmly included) to improve this story, because it does have potential.

    –John

  • Margie

    Cute!

  • 3 ***
    Nice little kids story.
    Happy ending and all that.
    Is it outta place here ??
    or is it just me ??

    What do you think Robins Fury ???

  • Robins Fury

    Hmmm…I definitely think this would be classified as a childrens’ story…not sure how children will feel about the rabbit ending up as rabbit stew. There is too much in common with the “The Turtle and the Hare”. Kind of surprised it ended up here on EDF – I don’t see a childrens’ category.

  • Paul Freeman

    Hmmmmmmmm!

    A 4 from me. Must agree that last paragraph was superfluous.

    If only the hound was rewarded with a few juicy cuts of meat for ‘chasing’ the hare off the carrot patch.

    Keep it as a fable, and this story’s fine.

  • This one didn’t do it for me. Rabbits are not the same as hares.

  • This time, I decided to wait and see if anyone else would pick up on the factual inaccuracies. They did, so the author who criticised me for doing so on an earlier occasion was clearly mistaken in thinking that they don’t affect readers (2 out of 13 so far did care enough to point them out, and 3 out of 14 if you count me) and that they shouldn’t be pointed out.

  • I liked this a lot. It took a while, but I found myself thinking about it long after reading it. Is there a loose end where the Basset should have had the Hare for dinner anyway?
    I loved the relationship between the two of them and phrases like “I have been a noble hound, a truly benificent Basset” were delicious.
    Have to agree with Robin’s Fury. Not sure many children’s story characters get fed to the other characters at the end (!).

    P.S. JC Towler has a point. Quick! Someone write a story in which the Hare just plum WINS!

  • Natalie S Ford

    I got as far as “Mottled, with long spotted ears and a stubby tail perched over muscular hind legs this was, indeed, a classic rabbit.” and stopped reading. Is it a hare (brown with black ear tips) or a mottled rabbit? This is a bit like saying that a donkey is “Dappled, with long spotted legs and a flowing tail with over muscular hind legs this was, indeed, a classic horse.” A donkey is no more a horse than a hare is a rabbit!

  • Arthur

    Some inconsistency. Why would the hare want the basset to stop dogging his kin when we know that the basset was too lazy ‘to rise up’ and chase these animals?

  • Hasmita

    This was interesting and well written except for the ending, which fell flat. It needed a solid, strong end.