Ever since I can remember, I wanted to be a writer. My first book was titled “The Fox and the Rabbit”. I was five years old when I wrote it. It had an illustrated book cover, a title page, and everything. I remember it taking days to write it, it was a secret project I would work on at night in bed after my parents thought I was asleep. I wanted it to be a surprise. When I finally finished it, I took it out to my parents to share it with them. I still remember where my dad was sitting at the dining room table after dinner that night. My mom came in from the kitchen to listen to my dad read it. As he started reading, I thought my dad was going to die. I had never seen him laugh so hard in my life. He could barely continue to speak the words from the pages he was laughing so hard. I remember being impressed with myself that I was getting such an emotional response to my story, but I couldn’t understand at the time what he found so funny. It wasn’t really meant to be a funny story. But when I read the story today, it’s pretty clear what he found so humorous. First of all, my spelling as a five year old. I spelled squirrels “scwrs”. Secondly, the banter between this fox and rabbit was pretty comical coming from a five year old. That rabbit was a total asshole.
This story ended up being one of those childhood memories that no one in my family ever forgot. The story goes like this…..
There’s a fox. And a rabbit. They live together. The fox is, according to the story, clumsy and the rabbit is smart. The rabbit orders the fox around and the fox goes out to do the rabbit’s bidding. Here’s where it gets interesting……The fox, as I interpret it today, appears to be pretending he’s stupid in order to defy the rabbit’s wishes and do whatever he wants. The rabbit sends the fox out for “scwrs” for breakfast. The fox brings home fish. The rabbit scolds the fox, the fox plays dumb, like he really thought they were squirrels and the rabbit sends him back out. The fox comes home with candy (from a candy shop downtown) and gets scolded again. Again, the fox plays dumb like he really thought the candy was squirrels, and gets sent back out for squirrels. The fox goes out one more time and finally brings home the squirrels. He acts like he’s really proud of himself, like he didn’t think he could do it. The rabbit agrees that he didn’t think the fox could do it either because of his being so dumb. And stupid.
On page 4, we find rabbit yelling at fox to wash the dishes after their squirrel breakfast. Fox washes the clean dishes instead of the dirty ones (but did he really?) and gets reminded by rabbit of how dumb he is. I’m wondering if fox washed any dishes at all or just said he did. When fox denies he is dumb, rabbit wants to make him a bet, which fox refuses, and so rabbit calls him scared. Am not. Are too. Am not. Are too. The end.
I told you that rabbit was an asshole. He’s also a bully.
I do not recall ever having been bullied when I was five, except perhaps by my older sister who was kind of just being an older sister. I do find it interesting how my five year old brain came up with a coping mechanism for this poor fox. It seems to me that the fox was actually the clever one and the rabbit was getting played. I’m guessing that the fox didn’t like squirrels. He liked fish. And candy. He’s like, “hey asshole, if you want me to go get you shit for breakfast, we’re getting what I want first!” And his playing dumb, I’m guessing, spares him the wrath of a rabbit who would ever suspect the fox could be cleaver enough to knowingly deceive him.
Upon further analysis, this reminds me all too much of a negative voice I continue to hear in my head today. The one that tells me I’m not smart enough, I don’t work hard enough, that I’m just not enough. Thankfully, after a lot of growing up, a lot of work in recovery (and therapy), this voice is much quieter today than it was in the past. But it will always be there, just waiting for an opportunity. A weak moment. When I fail at something. When I feel rejected or dismissed. After reading this story again, I’m inspired by my five year old self. My plan of action when this moment of weakness occurs is to outsmart it. Like the Fox. That clumsy and clever fox.
Here are the original pages, if you can decipher them…..