He hadn’t always been a sterling silver rabbit. Once he was a REAL rabbit, like the Velveteen Rabbit, only his story worked backwards. Instead of becoming real, he had become a shiny silver knick-knack on someone’s baby grand piano. He missed the days of hopping freely through the meadow, nibbling on clover and chatting with his friends about the scarcity of garden lettuce. He missed snuggling in the warm burrows with 20 or 30 of his favorite cousins. He missed licking his fur dry after a summer rain.
Now the closest he had to grooming was a quick polish with the silver cloth once a week. The closest thing to a friend was the crystal candlestick sitting beside him on the piano, and on warm days the candle wax got all melty and emotional.
How could this happen? He guessed it had started with the witch. She wasn’t a real witch - just an herbalist who lived in a hut at the edge of their rabbit meadow. But she knew a bit of magic, all the same. And she had a temper. She also had an amazing garden. An absolutely irresistible garden.
His great great grandfather had been a famous lettuce thief. Someone wrote a book about him and got famous herself. But at least he ended up back home to tell the tale. He had only stolen Farmer McGregor’s lettuces. If only young Peter had learned from his predecessor’s mistake.
On the fateful day, Peter woke with a voracious hunger. The meadow clover and a few sprigs of parsley didn’t make a dent. He knew the witch made her market run today, so he decided it was safe to risk a foray into her garden for that mouth-watering bibb lettuce. And it was, oh, it WAS. He’d never tasted anything so crisp, so green, so deliciously thirst-quenching. He was happily munching away when it happened.
“You’ve pilfered my lettuce for the last time, young rabbit! Now you’ll grace my piano!”
Peter saw her raise her cane in his direction, and started to run, but it was too late. His spine began to tingle, spreading out in all directions in a wave of freezing cold. His body turned to ice. He felt himself being scooped up and carried, and then set down on the warm burled walnut of the piano, next to the crystal candlestick. “Now you’ve done it,” the candlestick whispered in her frigid voice. “You’ll be here forever!”
“Forever?” He tried to keep the whimper out of his reply.
“Unless you can get her to take back the curse, yes.”
“How do I do that?”
“In order to keep the curse fresh, she has to polish you every week. If she lets you tarnish, you’ll revert to a real rabbit. And she’s a real stickler for housekeeping, even if she does live in a hut on the edge of a meadow.”
That was three years ago. And she hadn’t missed a polish day yet. Sometimes Peter wondered if he’d ever be able to move again, even if he did get un-cursed.
And then one day it happened. The unthinkable. The undreamed of. The miraculous.
The witch ran out of silver polish. And it took a month to deliver to that part of the world (there was no Amazon Prime.) By the middle of the first week without a polish, his feet began to tarnish. They also began to warm up. Then one morning he could wiggle his toes again. The next day his nose had a distinctly darker hue. He sneezed. It was happening!
The witch came back from the post office empty-handed, again. She looked at the empty silver polish jar with real regret - and she looked at Peter. Then she smiled. “I think it’s time the candlestick has a new companion. Maybe a silver stoat would be nice.” She picked Peter up and set him outside the garden fence, on the path to the meadow.
That night it rained, a wonderfully warm, soft, summer rain. With every raindrop it seemed to Peter that a part of him tarnished and broke free, until he was a real rabbit again. Older, and definitely wiser, but real. And he could still hop!
He took one look back at the fateful garden, with its delicious lettuces dripping with the remains of last night’s rainfall, and turned his back. From now on, meadow clover would be his gourmet treat!
He wondered if the witch would write a book about him. It might be nice to be famous someday.