Annie and the Rabbit’s Foot
A sharp rap on the door brought Annie to her senses and she went to see who was there.
‘Hello Annie, where’s your Mum?’ said Mick the milkman, smiling.
‘She’s gone shopping,’ Annie said, as she carefully took the pint of milk and laid it down on the kitchen table, not thinking about paying him.
Mick sighed and scratched his stubbly chin. He stooped down and patted Annie’s thick platinum blond hair, ‘Well, I’ll see her next time, bye bye smiler.’
‘Bye, Mick.’ Annie absently closed the door, and stared out of the window, but instead of seeing what was happening outside, slipped easily into her special world dreaming of elves and fairies. She jumped when she heard the back door creak open and her mother appeared loaded with shopping bags and looking irritable.
‘Did you pay Mick a shilling for the milk?’
‘Ooops, I forgot!’
‘What? I told you the money was in the biscuit tin. Annie, you’re just a
dreamer, never paying attention. You’d think I could at least rely on you. you’re the only girl in the family and you’re eight, not four years’ old! I’ve had enough, Annie! If only your father was around more, and not always at work, never taking any responsibility for you children,’ she finished lamely.
Annie felt suddenly quite cross, it was always her mum telling her off, and never her brothers. They could get away with anything, just because they were boys.
‘I just forgot, mum. It’s not my fault.’
‘Well whose fault do you think it is? You’re getting far too cheeky for my liking these days!’ and with that Annie received a stinging slap across the back of her legs.
Smarting with pain, Annie thought it would be a good idea not to be around for a while, so slipped upstairs into the back bedroom to hide under the bed. In the dusty gloom she saw something wedged up against the back wall. It was mum’s wooden sewing box. Annie reached out and slowly slid the top open. Buried inside were so many muddled buttons of every shape and size, mixed with needles, scissors, black tape, wool, a plastic mushroom used for darning socks, and a few old faded ribbons.
She grasped a handful of coloured buttons and began to sort them into twos, threes and sometimes more. But it was a small rabbit’s foot on a silver chain that caught her eye. ‘I remember this, Granddad took this to war and he said it kept him safe in the trenches.’ Once, Annie’s mum told her it was a lucky rabbit’s foot, but when Annie looked at it, she thought it was sad. She liked to see rabbits’ feet on bunnies when they were alive, not dead! She stroked the smooth silky white fur on the rabbit’s foot, rolling it between her fingers. Hmmm... She shouldn’t really, but how would her mum know if she just took the rabbit’s foot out for a little while? She’d show it to Thumper, her best friend Harriet’s poor old rabbit. She knew Harriet didn’t care for him much, and rarely cleaned out his cage. Annie thought it always smelt of wee. She closed the sewing box quickly, and slid on her stomach backwards from under the bed. Grasping the rabbit’s foot tightly, she tiptoed down the stairs, careful not to step on the squeaky board at the bottom. She could hear her
mother in the kitchen and sniffed the sour smell of boiled cabbage. Good, at least she was busy cooking dinner and wouldn’t notice Annie as she passed by like a shadow.
Annie charged down the cobbled street, past the children rolling marbles on the pavement.
‘Hey, Annie!’ Mr. Field the old gentleman at number fifty-seven, beckoned her over and Annie knew he wanted to show her his budgie called Timmy. Annie’s mum had told her he was a lonely old man since his wife had died. He liked talking to children because they brightened up his day. Especially chatterbox Annie with her sparkling blue eyes. Annie followed him into his living room and he closed the door behind them. His Bakelite wireless was playing ‘Lullaby of Broadway’, and Annie tried to sing along, even though she wasn’t sure of all the words.
‘If you hold out your hand flat, I’ll lay Timmy down and you can tickle his tummy.’
Annie beamed and quickly tucked the rabbit’s foot into her pocket. Timmy felt strange in the palm of her hand, so tiny, but warm and soft. She could even feel his heart beating fast as his tiny chest rose up and down. His beady eyes shot this way and that as Annie tickled him. He began to chirp, more in fright than anything else, and Mr Field laughed.
‘I think he likes you Annie.’ Timmy took the opportunity to fly around the room and then landed on Annie’s head.
‘Ouch! He’s got sharp claws.’
‘It’s OK, I’ll put him back in his cage, Jack’s just come in, anyway.'
Jack was a fat, over fed ginger cat with stripes, a long tail and a pink nose, who was always brushing up against Annie’s legs when she came to visit. She stroked him and he purred to show he was happy. But she knew he didn’t like Timmy, because he was always sitting near his cage and watching him hungrily.
‘Want to see my secret?’
‘Look!’ and Annie showed him the rabbit’s foot.
‘My word, who does that belong to?’
‘My mum, she says it’s special because it’s the only thing she’s got left
to remember my Granddad by. He had this in the war.’
‘Do you know what they say about rabbit’s feet? You keep one in your
pocket, and if you rub it, it brings you good luck, maybe even something you’ve really longed for.’
‘Well it kept my granddad safe in the war, so it must be lucky! Anyway I’m going to show it to Harriet, so I can’t stay.’
By the time Annie reached Harriet’s house, she was out of breath from running so hard. She arrived at Harriet’s door and found it open. Annie could hear everyone in the back garden. It wasn’t really a garden, but a bare patch of concrete with a broken down washing line, the outside toilet, coal hole and a few weeds. Annie walked through to the garden where Harriet was pegging out some clothes with her mother. Annie could see Thumper the rabbit in his cage. He looked unhappy. His coat had once been snowy white, but was now a dirty brown colour. His eyes looked red and watery. His nose twitched as he poked it through the broken wire netting, looking for food.
‘I’ve got something to show you,’ she told Thumper, kneeling down in front of his cage. ‘At least you’ve got all your feet!’ She dug into her dress pocket, searching for the rabbit’s foot, but withdrew her hand in panic. ‘Oh no, it’s not there!’
‘What’s not there?’ asked Harriet coming over.
‘My dead rabbit’s foot,’ said Annie unhappily.
‘You never had one in the first place,’ said Harriet, wiping her nose on
‘Of course I did, I must have lost it somewhere. I must find it or else I’ll
be in big trouble, I’ve already had one smack today. I’m off home to look for it.’
On the way back, Annie remembered she’d been in Mr Field’s house. ‘Maybe I dropped it in his living room?’ But after knocking several times, she realised Mr Field had gone out. Back at home, she sat down miserably on the doorstep wondering what to do. After a while, she crept indoors and was surprised to see her mother leaning against the oven, arms crossed and frowning.
‘And just where have you been?’
‘I went to play with Harriet.’
Annie looked around and saw her four brothers sat at the kitchen table.
It was unusual to have the whole family together; usually one of them was missing. She also spotted the sewing box. Her heart sank, especially when her mother said, ‘Your Granddad’s rabbit’s foot has gone missing, do any of
you know where it is? He always swore it was lucky, especially when a bullet bounced off his helmet which could have killed him in the war. Now that Granddad’s dead, I keep it as a good luck charm.’
‘No,’ they all chorused, including Annie, who felt herself going red. Annie’s mum’s eyes narrowed suspiciously, but she said nothing more and gave out the dinner. Annie noticed the sad look in her mum’s eyes and felt horribly guilty. Tomorrow she would definitely find it, but where had she dropped the rabbit’s foot? What if someone had picked it up and now they were going to keep it?
On her way to school the following morning, Annie saw a group of girls in a tight circle. She spotted Geraldine, the ring leader. Geraldine was the teacher’s pet who could do no wrong, yet was always copying from the other children to get good marks.
‘It’s mine, I found it!’ Geraldine cried, triumphantly waving something in the air.
‘Found what?’ said Annie, heart racing as she edged closer to see what she had in her hands.
‘Mine, all mine!’
Annie paled when saw her mum’s rabbit’s foot.
‘That old cat belonging to Mr Field was playing with it. So, finders
keepers, losers weepers!’
‘No!’ Annie’s voice rang out loud and clear. ‘It’s my mum’s, I was
going to show it to Harriet, I must have dropped it in Mr Field’s house yesterday. Give it back!’
‘Shan’t, make me.’
Annie thought for a while, ‘If you don’t let me have it, I’ll set my big brother on you and he’ll bash your head in.’
Geraldine smirked, ‘Ooh, think I care? No. I want a penny for sweets in exchange for your rabbit’s foot.’ The circle of children crowded in on Annie chanting, ‘Sweets, sweets, sweets!’
Annie knew it was no good arguing. Geraldine was a nasty child. She turned slowly, biting her lip. ‘Alright, I’ll get the money after school.’
‘Good, after school then. I’ll be waiting on the corner with your stinky old rabbit’s foot.’
While Annie’s mum chatted to the next door neighbour, Annie sneaked into the kitchen and stole a penny from the biscuit tin which contained the milk money. She felt guilty, but knew this was her chance to get the rabbit’s foot back and make her mum happy again. She clutched the penny tightly and ran to meet Geraldine on the corner.
‘Here’s the penny,’ Annie shouted.
Geraldine snatched it and laughed. ‘My mum said it wasn’t a lucky rabbit’s foot. She broke her favourite tea cup yesterday and my brother tripped over and gashed his leg on the fireplace. We don’t want it in our house!’
‘You’re a liar, it is lucky. It saved my Granddad from being shot in the war!’ and with that Annie punched Geraldine, grabbed the rabbit’s foot and raced back home. She couldn’t help but think that the rabbit’s foot looked dirty now and no longer snowy white. Her mum would be so upset.
Later that evening, Annie heard her mother arguing with her father. ‘A penny’s gone missing from the biscuit tin. You probably took it to go to the pub with!’ she shouted at Annie’s dad. Annie stood on one leg in the doorway and quickly put the rabbit’s foot behind her back when her mum spun round to face her. ‘I’m missing a penny, are you sure you haven’t taken it Annie?’ She looked cross, her mouth turned down.
‘No,’ Another lie, to add to yesterday’s one. ‘How come you never blame my brothers? It’s always me, it’s not fair!’
Annie sprinted upstairs, she could see her mum was brewing like boiling hot tea, ready to erupt. Reaching the top, she stopped and listened.
‘Ever since that rabbit’s foot disappeared, things have gone wrong here.’ Her mum said bitterly to her dad.
What was Annie to do? Her first thought was to get rid of it. She’d hide the rabbit’s foot in her brothers’ bedroom on their window sill behind the net curtains. It was their turn to get the blame. After all, it always seemed to Annie they were allowed to play and not help around the house. How Annie wished she could be a boy at that moment! As for the penny, that would soon be forgotten.
Annie thought her mum would find the rabbit’s foot before long, but it didn’t happen. Whenever the subject of the rabbit’s foot came up, Annie felt horribly guilty. Very occasionally, Annie saw her mother’s bright eyes filling with tears as she tried to figure out where it could be.
‘Nothing to remember Granddad with now. Not such a lucky rabbit’s foot after all, was it?’ her mum would say sorrowfully.
As for Annie, perhaps the worst part, was looking at poor Thumper’s feet every time she visited him at Harriet’s house, which always bought a pin prick of guilt to her heart.
© 2013 Tina Shaw