A couple of weeks ago, I planted a packet of sunflower seeds. I imagined these beautiful yellow giants swaying in the breeze all summer carrying in their pretty heads handfuls of edible presents for me to plant and for the birds to enjoy. One day some of them peaked through from the damp soil, squinting into the bright Spring sun, all green and fresh and a glorious example of life. The next day, they were gone. All except half a leaf. Who had eaten them? My investigation went a little something like this:
‘Did you eat my sunflower seedlings?’, I asked the Deer. ‘Oh no’, replied the stag with a shake of his antlers. ‘It was not me. But I do know that my dear wife is partial to a nibble of sweet things. She can’t help it you know. It’s terrible awkward. All the neighbours complain.’ ‘Oh, no, it wasn’t me!’ protested Mrs Deer, her shiny hooves pressed to her velvet cheeks in exaggerated horror. ‘Really, it wasn’t. I admit that I do like a little succulent sprout in the afternoon, but I really can assure you that I am quite innocent in this case. See! There is one here that is half eaten. I know I am quite a delicate and gracious grazer…’ (She was not. In fact if she were human, she would buy her clothes from the ‘Plus-size’ range and dine at the ‘eat all you can’ buffet), ‘…but I think you will agree that even my dainty ivory-coloured teeth…’ (a euphemism for her buck-toothed mouth that never ceased to move for she was either eating or talking about eating, and didn’t come from the best stock in the first place – a sad genetic fact that did not support her claim to be dainty in the oral department) ‘…are not capable of removing half a leaf from this tiny – but may I say rather delicious looking – seedling’.
She was, I hate to admit, quite right. The facts spoke for themselves. The tiny half-eaten leaf did not look like the work of the deer. Blaming it on them would have been nice and easy, making this a simple open and shut case and I could have gotten on with my day and rescued the remaining un-sprouted seedlings by placing them out of the way of Mrs Deer and her ‘dainty’ mouth.
‘If you ask me’, coughed Mrs Deer peevishly, ‘I think this looks like the work of Miss Rabbit. She’s not one to pass up a little nibble of new seedlings, you know. ‘Ah, Miss Rabbit’, I sighed. That tricksy little lady. One moment you have a nice green lettuce plant, the next moment you have a bare patch of soil and a white blur of her cheeky little tail. ‘Yes, this does look like the work of Rabbit. There are, after all, no hoof prints to suggest that you deer have sabotaged my sunflowers’.
‘Ha, of course not, my dear’, scoffed Mrs D, ‘with these delicate hooves? I tread with the lightness of a butterfly. My balance exceeds that of the squirrel. Why, my hooves are as shiny as…as…’ here she stopped for poor vain Mrs Deer couldn’t think of what had shiner hooves than she, even though the beady eyes of Woodpecker and the shell of funny old Mr Beetle outshone her over-polished hooves. The above claims to her ballerina-like poise were sadly unfounded and though I could see that the deer were actually innocent (this time) such exaggerations reduced her credibility during this unofficial trial.
‘Mr Deer, would you be so kind as to keep an eye out for Miss Rabbit on your travels and ask her to pop by when she can?’ I asked as I stroked his toned and glossy back.
‘Miss B’, he said slowly. ‘I am as you know, completely loyal to my wife, as a good husband should be, but I am not able to support her on this occasion. I would hate to undermine such an – ahem- intelligent and credible creature, but though I am certain she is quite innocent, I do not believe this is the work of Miss Rabbit’.
‘Really?’, said Mrs Deer and I at the same time. ‘Then who…’ but my question was answered before I could even pose it, for right before our eyes came an ant. A single little ant. A tiny teeny little ant. No bigger than a freckle on the face of Mr and Mrs Deer’s new fawn. And upon his teeny tiny little ant back was the remaining half of the sunflower leaf.