As John lay in bed staring out the window, he heard his mom clanking around down in the kitchen getting ready to start breakfast. It wasn’t long before he could smell the fresh aroma of bacon cooking. “Yeah, she’s making bacon and eggs for breakfast,” John said to himself. “Maybe she’ll fix some of her great biscuits and gravy, too”.
“John, breakfast will be ready in 20 minutes,” his mom called from the bottom of the stairs. “You’d better get up and get dressed. The cattle need hay and I need some more eggs. Your dad also needs you to clean out that rabbit hutch first thing after breakfast, so he can put those baby chicks in it until he gets a better place made up for them.”
John sat straight up in bed. “Oh NO!!” John was out of his bed, clothes on, teeth brushed, and downstairs within five minutes. “Hey Mom! Where’s Dad?”
“Well, that was quick,” his mom said, looking up as she flipped the bacon. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you get dressed and ready that fast before. What’s the matter? Are you sick?”
“Ha . . . that’s funny, Mom. So where’s Dad?”
“He’s still upstairs,” Mom said, as she stirred the sausage gravy then took the rest of the bacon out of the skillet.
Just then John heard his dad coming down the stairs. “Do I hear John up and about this morning?”
John looked up at his dad as he came into the kitchen. “Hey dad. Why aren’t you going to work today?”
“Well, I took a vacation day today in order to get that rabbit hutch fixed up and some things done up around the barn.” Charles answered. “I’m glad you’re up, though. I think we have enough time to go up and check out that rabbit hutch this morning before breakfast. I want to put those new chicks in there while I make a better coup for them. It’s just too dangerous with them in that big chicken coup with all those month-old chickens. They’re gonna get run over. We’ve already lost three. I don’t want to lose anymore.”
John’s dad, Charles, worked as a machine operator at a local factory. He’d worked there for nearly twenty years working himself all the way up to Senior Foreman. He had earned himself four weeks of vacation and several weeks of sick time. It was a good job and close to the house so if he needed to get home quickly to take care of anything on their farm or at the house, he could. He enjoyed his work but he enjoyed farming more. He owned about 100 acres just outside of town where he grew feed corn and beans. His job at the factory would provide a handsome retirement for his family, more that the farming would. Crop prices hadn’t been too good for the last couple of years due to the fluctuating weather. So, having a stable job helped out with financing. And since he’d been with the company for so long he had the flexibility of taking off when planting and harvesting season came around.
“Dad, do we have to do it now? I’m really hungry.” John said as he tried to stall his dad.
“Yeah, come on. Breakfast won’t be ready for about thirty minutes. Isn’t that right, ma?”
“Yes, that’s right,” John’s mother agreed. “I’ll call you when it’s ready. Go on and check that thing out so we can move them after breakfast and get a new chicken coup made this afternoon.”
John just stood there. He thought, What am I gonna do now. What are Mom and Dad gonna say?
“Come on, boy! Let’s get crackin’!” His dad said as the door slammed behind him.
“You’d better get going, John. You know how your father gets when he wants you to do something. He expects you to be right on his heels.”
John turned and walked out the door. His dad was already half way to the shed. John picked up the pace and caught up with his dad. “Dad, wait. There’s something I have to tell you before you get to the rabbit hutch.”
John’s dad turned around. “What is it, son?”
“Well . . .” John stammered around wondering how he was going to tell his dad.
“Out with it, boy; we’ve got work to do and not much time to do it!” John’s dad was starting to get impatient.
“I found something a couple of days ago. Well . . . Pete, Billy and I did. It’s kind of some weird animal. We didn’t know what to do with it, so I brought it home and stuck it in the rabbit hutch.” There, he’d said it. That hadn’t been so bad. Whew! John was glad that was over with. He didn’t like keeping secrets from his parents.
“What KIND of animal?” John’s dad looked at him with his left eyebrow quirked up like a mountain top.
“Weeellllll, it’s kind of like a cat, dog, bird, and squirrel all mixed together.”
“What!! Where is this thing?” John’s dad started heading to the hutch.
“He’s really gentle and friendly,” John yelled after his dad, trying to catch up to his long strides. “We all found this really cool place inside the mine just out of town. That’s where we found Rasafrats.”
“Rasa . . . What?”
“Rasafrats. That’s his name. He told us.”
John’s dad turned around and just stared at him. He couldn’t believe his ears. His son had been out in the sun too long. He had missed his yearly check-up this year. Maybe they needed to make him an appointment.
“Really, Dad. He told us. He kind of speaks this weird kind of gibberish, but we could understand him when we asked him his name. It was pretty cool, weird at first, but cool.”
His dad turned around and continued on to the hutch shaking his head. As he rounded the corner of the shed and walked over to the hutch, he could see something moving in the back corner. As he crept closer, suddenly the creature turned around and started hopping up and down, excited to see John. When he realized that John was not alone, he stopped and snuck back off to the corner peering out from behind his feathers.
“What is the world? What IS that?” John’s dad said with astonishment.
“That’s Rasafrats! Isn’t he cool?”
John’s dad just looked at John and then at Rasafrats and then back at John again. “What do you plan to do with him?” He said as he raised his eyebrow again.
“Well, Pete, Billy, and I are going back to the mine where we found him to see if we can find his home. I’m sure that’s where he lives. We went back there yesterday and Rasafrats showed us this COOL place in the mine, Dad. You wouldn’t believe it!
“No, I’m sure I wouldn’t.”
John continued. “There was a lake and flowers and sunshine. It was so cool. We all played for about an hour or so, swimmin’ and runnin’. It was great! We’re thinking that that’s where Rasafrats lives but there didn’t seem to be any other life around. And we ended up leaving early, because we didn’t want to be late for dinner. So we were all gonna go back today to see if we could find out anything more.
“John, I’m not so sure that’s a good idea. You know how old and dangerous that mine is. There was that tragic accident years ago and it’s just not safe. I don’t want you boys getting hurt. Besides, what are you gonna do if you find out something? We can’t keep him, you know. He’s obviously a different breed of some sort and probably needs a certain environment and type of food; things that we wouldn’t be able to give him.”
John hung his head. “I know, dad. But we have to try and get him back home, if that IS his home. I’ll be careful, I promise.” John hesitated for a moment. “Are ya gonna tell mom?”
“We have to, son. But, I’ll hold off telling her until you guys get back this afternoon, okay?”
“Great! Thanks Dad! I’ll be careful, don’t worry.”
“Okay, now we’d better head back to the house. Breakfast is probably almost ready.”
Just then, John’s mom hung her head out the back door and yelled, “Breakfast is ready! Come on in and wash up!”
John’s sister, Gretchen, was just coming out of the chicken coup carrying a bunch of eggs. “John, you’re gonna have to get the eggs two days in a row since I had to get them this morning.” Then she stuck out her tongue and ran to the house.
“That’s fine, sis. I don’t mind.” John leaned over to his dad, “You don’t suppose she saw the rabbit hutch or Rasafrats, do you? That’s the last thing I need is ‘little miss big-mouth’ nosing around and telling everybody.”
“I don’t think she saw anything. Don’t worry and be nice to your sister. Come on. Let’s get to the house before your mother tans our hides.”
John and his dad picked up the pace and headed inside to wash up for breakfast.