Lenny was Lily’s guinea pig. He lived in her back garden in a wooden hutch. He had lots of soft straw to lie in which Lily changed every couple of days. He had fresh food daily and as much water as he could drink. He had a great view over the whole garden and into the neighbour’s garden too. There was a break in the fence where the wind had blown it down and it hadn’t been repaired. Lenny could see next door’s cat, Dorothy, lazing on a low branch of an orange blossom tree. Dorothy licked her fur and eventually settled down for a snooze. This was a daily ritual. At the foot of the tree loped a rusty spaniel. Chester chased a ball around the tree moving it with his nose. Every couple of seconds he’d lower his front legs and upper body and then suddenly pounce, darting around the ball. He looked like he was having great fun. Lenny pressed his nose closer to the mesh of the cage and sighed. Oh how he wished he could play like that. Why did he have to be a boring guinea pig with short little legs that lived in a cage and pottered around and snoozed all day. How he longed for freedom and adventure.
Lily noticed that Lenny looked sad. He wasn’t eating his food and every time she came out to him his nose was pressed up to the mesh with a sad, faraway look in his eyes. He must be lonely, she thought and so she decided to get him a friend. One day, to Lenny’s surprise Lily’s dad built a second hutch right beside his and Lily placed a grey furry bundle onto some straw.
“Hello, who are you?” whispered Lenny softly. The furry bundle moved and two floppy ears unfurled to reveal a rabbit.
“I’m Lenny”, excitement was creeping into his voice. A friend to talk to. This was a wonderful surprise.
“I’m Ronald, Nice to meet you Lenny”, grinned the little grey rabbit.
Soon Lenny and Ronald were great friends. Lenny still wished for adventure but at least he wasn’t lonely. Ronald was always in good form and kept him entertained. As spring wore on Ronald’s nose twitched more often and his eyes were drawn towards next door’s vegetable garden. They had rows of lovely green lettuce leaves, carrots and gooseberry bushes. Dorothy kept guard from her lofty station in the orange blossom tree. She blended in with the flowers that had sprouted and if it wasn’t for the swish of her tail you wouldn’t know she was there. Chester barked fiercely at any birds that flew low looking for an opportunity to take a bite. Carol, the owner was Lily’s auntie and had placed a large scarecrow right in the middle of the patch to scare away any scavengers. She was very proud of her plentiful garden and took every opportunity to show it off. Her neighbour Emmet who was Lily’s uncle was on an all vegetable diet was particularly impressed and Auntie Carol enjoyed showing off her prized produce.
Ronald and Lenny watched with interest at the animals that tried in vain to reach the luscious prize. A hare egged on by his friends, crows that circled around longingly, wild rabbits and even small field mice but none could get passed the sentry. Ronald’s whiskered nose twitched even more. One night he prodded Lenny through the mesh barrier with his little leg.
“Wake up Lenny, I have an idea”
“Whaaaaat“ slurred Lenny coming out of his slumber
“You’re always saying how you’d like an adventure well how about we have one?”
“What?”, squeaked Lenny rolling over onto his paws immediately , ready for action.
“Adventure? – count me in but how, where?” He was so excited.
“Wellll what do you think about the vegetable patch in Auntie Carol’s garden? She has the freshest carrots and lettuce you‘ve ever seen”, Ronald was almost drooling.
The excitement faded from Lenny’s voice and his shoulders hunched over.
“Auntie Carol’s vegetable garden is a fortress Ronald, you know that. That’s not an adventure. That’s adding us to a menu as the desert option for the foxes. Lets go back to sleep.”
Dejectedly Lenny shuffled back to his bed.
. “No Lenny, listen. I have it all worked out. You and I know the layout. We know when Dorothy and Chester go for their snooze and we’re not afraid of the scarecrow.”
“We can do this. I believe in us.”
Ronald sat back on his hind legs after his little speech and waited for Lenny’s reaction. Lenny, who had his back to Ronald digested this information. Ronald watched as Lenny slowly turned around. Lenny raised his head and looked directly at Ronald who was turning a slight tinge of pink. A huge grin spread across his face and Ronald released a huge breath.
“An adventure, you say. Count me in.”
Ronald outlined his plan. It was so simple it just might have a chance of success. They would wait for Lily to feed them the next day and when she opened the hutch they would place some straw in the door jamb so the latch wouldn’t lock properly. They would wait till the moon was high and Dorothy went for her snooze. Chester usually guarded the outer fence but no-one ever looked at the break in the fence between the two gardens. They would make their way along the plants and over to the vegetable patch where they would feast on the tempting carrots and lettuces and then they would make their way back undetected. If they succeeded they could make this a regular thing.
That night they could barely sleep. The next day they napped often so they would be able to stay awake long into the night. Towards evening Lily came out to replace their bedding and when she opened the cage they both wedged some straw into the opening where the door locked so the clasp didn’t quite latch shut. They grinned over at each other in anticipation and lay down close to the mesh barrier dividing them to plan their adventure for the night. Before long the sun set and was replaced by the moon casting a silvery glow over the garden before them. It was time.
Ronald cautiously tapped his foot to the door but it didn’t budge. He tried harder but although the straw was wedged into the door jamb the clasp had managed to barely lock. His disappointment was palpable. He turned to Lenny, dismay etched across his face. His nose had stopped twitching and his eyes were solemn and downcast.
“It didn’t work. My plan didn’t work” he squeaked dejectedly
Lenny felt deflated. He dragged his feet back to his bed and curled up.
“I’m sorry, Lenny.”
“We’ll try something else Lenny.”
Still no reply.
Ronald pushed a piece of straw through the mesh and poked Lenny. Lenny let a scream and jumped back. He lost his footing and stumbles backward hitting off the door. Suddenly the soft straw was no longer beneath him and before he knew it he hit hard, cold grass with a thump. Winded, it took him a few moments to realise that he was no longer in his hutch but outside on the lawn. Ronald’s trick had worked for him. The clasp on his door hadn’t locked. He got his bearings and looked up to see Ronald staring back at him wide eyed.
“You did it Lenny.”
“Go on your adventure. I’ll keep watch here and I’ll hoot if there is any sign of trouble.”
Lenny didn’t move.
“Go Lenny, GO – before its too late. Hurry”
Lenny spurred into action and stealthily crept along the fence till he came to the spot with the gap. He stepped over the the broken wood and paused. He scanned the garden looking for Chester and Dorothy. Dorothy was asleep in the orange blossom tree but Chester was still awake chasing his tail not too far off. Lenny hunched down and sniffed the air. It was ripe with the scent of vegetables ready for harvesting. The scarecrow flapped its arms in the gentle breeze oblivious at what was about to happen. Lenny glanced back at Ronald and could just make out his silhouette. A noise at the far end of the garden saw Chester cock his ear to one side and go completely still. Before Lenny could make out what the noise was Chester had bounded off. It was now or never. Lenny edged closer to the carrot patch expecting to be rumbled at any time.
He pulled up one carrot and then a second and a third. Nothing happened. He pulled up some lettuces and dragged them back to the gap in the fence. He made the run four more times without incidence. He hid the vegetables under an overturned wheelbarrow in his own garden. On his fifth run he heard a hoot in the distance. It must be Ronald warning him of impending danger so he changed direction and crept over towards a chestnut tree on the border. The hoots seemed to get louder. He was now further away from the gap on the fence than he had been all night. There was no sign of either Chester or Dorothy. He peered out into the silvery moonlight and stalked along the fence. He heard another hoot, this time it was closer.
He looked up to see the large wings of an owl flying towards him. Panicking he ran as fast as he could towards the gap in the fence. He was so close. A few more paces and he would make it. He could now hear the frantic hoots of Lenny. They sounded nothing like the hoots overhead. The noise woke up Dorothy who mewed loudly alerting Chester who answered with a ‘woof’ in the distance. Within inches from the gap Lenny felt a pinch at the back of his neck and his running paws felt air rather than ground.
‘Oh no’, he was in trouble. The Owl was flapping fast to gain height. Lenny was terrified. He looked around to see if there was anything he could hang onto but all he could see was the bare vegetable row getting smaller. He hadn’t gotten to taste a single vegetable and now he was going to be the main course for the owl.
“Some adventure, maybe he was better off in his safe hutch”.
“Lenny, hang on”, Ronald was shouting as hard as he could and ramming his little body against the hutch door.
Lenny wriggled but the hold of the owl was tight. He could heard Ronald’s voice echoing in his ears and wriggled harder. The owl tottered of balance slightly. Lenny wriggled again with all his might. He felt claws dig into him and a large body hurled itself against him and winded for the second time that night felt himself being hurtled through the air towards the ground. He braced himself for a hard landing but it never happened. He blinked and looked up into two sets of eyes – Chester on one side and Ronald on the other. They had held paws and had broken his fall.
“You’re one lucky guinea pig,” drawled a voice and he looked around to see Dorothy spitting feathers out of her mouth.
“I hope the vegetables were worth it”
“Vegetables?”, he squeaked looking down quickly.
“Do you really think that you managed to do what hares and foxes and rabbits couldn’t ? Hmmm?” asked Dorothy.
“Do you think we are that stupid?”
“No of course not” replied both Lenny and Ronald hastily looking up into her eyes.
Dorothy took a deep breath and softly spoke.
“We look at you everyday in your hutches, fresh food brought to you, beds made very other day.” She paused.
“What we wouldn’t give to live like that,” sighed Dorothy, Chester nodded vigorously in agreement.
“We have to fend for ourselves. No bed, no set dinners”.
“What? but we want to live like you. We don’t want to be locked up every day. We want freedom. We want adventure” exclaimed Lenny.
“Well you certainly got that tonight. Was it worth it little guinea pig?”. Dorothy’s eyes softened and she swished her tail.
Lenny paused in contemplation, then nodded his head empathetically.
“If it wasn’t for tonight we wouldn’t have made two new friends and realised the grass isn’t always greener on the other side”.
“Well said, little friend” grinned Dorothy.
“Now lets celebrate. I believe we have some vegetables to eat. “
“Do you like vegetables?” asked Lenny in surprise.
“No,” smiled Dorothy slowly but I’m sure Chester can rustle up something for us”.
That night the four new friends feasted and chatted. The next morning a scream was heard echoing from Auntie Carol’s garden when she saw her bare vegetable patch. She immediately got on the phone to blame poor bewildered Uncle Emmet. He denied any involvement but Auntie Carol would hear none of it after all her garden was a fortress. Was he suggesting that her dog and cat ate them all. Who ever heard of a dog and a cat who ate vegetables. Did he think she was some kind of fool.
Lenny and Ronald giggled and turned over for a snooze. Lenny was exhausted and had had enough adventures for quite a while. He looked over into the garden and saw Dorothy’s tail hanging down from the orange blossom tree. It looked like his new friends were catching up on sleep too. Maybe they could all go on an adventure again some time. He snuggled over in his straw with a big grin spread across his face and fell into a blissful slumber.