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Hare's Bride by Ellen Cornett

Hare’s Bride by Ellen Cornett, Grimm Reading

The one thing Florida hares appreciate the most is a lone woman and her daughter. And what they hope to find is a lone woman desperate to see her daughter matched. In fact, the marsh hare of the Keys, the S.p. hefneri, named for playboy founder Hugh Hefner, knows how to play such a situation to his advantage. This means that susceptible young ladies frequently go missing.

Detectives of the Keys constantly have to check the places where the marsh hare lives – protective briers, dense clumps of magnolia trees, and the mangroves along the shore. And what the little playboy lacks in size he more than adequately makes up for in charm and persistence. Many a young lady has become ensnared.

The marsh hares meet young women of the island on the garden patches of their homes. “Wanna play?” they say, nibbling a piece of sawgrass or clover, their eyes gleaming with predatory spirit, their mouths secretly watering with the capture of a young woman. Their endangerment has them thinking irrational mating outside the species.

They sit in yards, the sound of the surf burrowing into their long ears , the breeze ruffling their coats, their noses twitching to the smell of salt, dead marine life, and fresh grass. They hop. They hop some more. They spring about, stretching their sleek bodies for the benefit of their observers: admiring young women. So they hope. Someone will take note of them, they believe. That is their confidence. And they are very proud. And over-confident.

One day, a marsh hare hopped into the yard of Brynn Violet.
“What a wonderful tail she has,” he thought, observing her dark hair and lovely slim figure. “I will make her mine. She will ride on my back and I will take her away.”

But Brynn Violet only said “Shew you dirty rabbit!” just like he was any other common rodent.

And yet he thought: “She has a fire in her eyes. She is in love, she is entranced. If not, I can certainly make it so.”

Brynn Violet’s mother was watching from the window. She was pious. She had always taught Brynn Violet the hare was a witch’s familiar. She had warned Brynn Violet to never, ever go anywhere with them. They were evil, useful only for evil purposes she said. She called the girl inside and instructed: “Go out there and tell the Devil’s pet to go away.”

The old mother had told Brynn Violet tales of her great, great grandmother swept out to sea by a category five, when people were whipped about like rag dolls and drowned in the bay. Her great, great grandmother had survived it, and the only explanation: She was a witch. In fact, there was a whole line of women in the family that were witches. Except for Brynn Violet. Except for her mother.

Her mother had reminded Brynn Violet that all of the witches had died eventually, that they were not all powerful. Her mother was concerned lest the child fall prey to what those poor on the island were susceptible to – practices and beliefs, evil, shortcuts to hard work.

“Take a ride on my tail,” the hare said. “Let me take you to my home where you can stroke my warm coat and drink my tea.”

Though she shooed him away and stomped her feet, he came the next day. Yet she refused him once more and stomped her foot until he hopped into the hedge.

On the third day, however, he stood still as a statue. He twitched his nose. He looked at her with his melty brown eyes. She broke down and leapt on his tail.

Her mother, seeing what happened, raced from the house, calling out for her daughter, her heart racing. But she cannot catch them. Police and detectives cannot find them. Another island daughter, taken prisoner.

When Brynn Violet returned home after days and days and days, she told her mother the tale of how the dirty thing tried to make her his sixteenth wife, how he tried to force her to entertain the wedding party of a crow and magpie by having her cook the wedding feast. And so she collected a large bundles of mangrove twigs just outside the window. She made a huge doll of the twigs that stood at the stove, as if cooking the wedding stew and tea.

It was later said by townsfolk the impatient hare approached the doll, ordering it about, and lopped its head off in frustration thinking to goad his soon to be bride into action. When the twig head rolled off, the hare cried out in shock, alarm, and grief.

“I was so alone,” Brynn Violet told her mother when she was safely tucked away at home, enjoying her mother’s stew. She cried as she described the abusive hare was and how the crow looked at her with mean black eyes, how the magpie cocked its head and pecked her arms and hair.

“Well you are home now,” says her mother, kissing her on the forehead.

And that is how the clever Brynn Violet, whose middle name is a nod to the island of Islamorada, or purple island, restored herself to her happy life with her mother in their humble abode by the sea.