Sunday, June 16, 2013

Not Zen 63: Not a Contrarian

A vixen lost one of her cubs to a hunter's trap. She warned her surviving cub to stay away from the hunter, his prey, and his snares. The next day, while the vixen was gone, the cub spotted a thrush that had been wounded. He stalked the bird. Then he sprinted after it and chased it into a thorn bush.

When the vixen returned, she found her cub bleeding from his snout. He'd been cut by thorns. She held him down and cleaned him.

"Can you imagine what would have happened if the hunter had been following that bird?" she said. "You would have been caught."

"He wasn't anywhere around." The cub winced as she licked his wounded face.

"He injured the bird. He must have been someplace."

The next day, the vixen left after giving her cub a warning. Nevertheless, when she returned a few hours later, she found him gone. Fearing the worst, she dashed from place to place across her territory. She discovered her cub alive but dangling by his hind legs from a grass-twine snare.

"Didn't I tell you that the hunter sets his traps here?" she said. She climbed onto a tree branch to chew the cord.

"I saw the snares and went around them."

"You missed this one." She broke the twine. Her cub fell to the ground. "You're lucky it didn't get your neck. You're lucky that you're big and didn't have to fall far."

On their way home, it became clear to the vixen that her son still had not learned his lesson. As soon as sensation returned to his limbs, he began to stray. He was a contrary child and would not obey her.

"Perhaps you'll listen to your father," she said. She ran off to find her mate.

The cub's father was not surprised to hear the latest news. However, he didn't think he could persuade his son to listen.

"You must," the vixen insisted. "Take him hunting with you tomorrow. Help him learn enough wisdom so that I may have peace."

"That's fair," the fox agreed. "One way or another, you deserve peace."

The next morning, the fox met his son at the mouth of the den. He led the cub through a bramble patch. Instead of running with heads held high, the cub learned, they could crouch low and pass unharmed. At the other end of the thorns, they stopped to study a rabbit warren.

"This is a good place," said the fox. "The hunter knows it, too, and has set snares."

"I smell rabbits," said the cub.

Not long past dawn, the hunter arrived. He cut down two snares, one that had missed and another that had caught a young rabbit. He had taken a hare from a different set of traps, so he made small pile of the bodies. Then he knelt to dress his game.

The fox cub's mouth began to water.

"I'll bet I could get those," said the cub.

"Sure," his father agreed. "That way your mother will get some peace. Try it. You could grab a rabbit and run. They're not heavy. His back is turned. Go!"

"What?" The fox cub inched forward. He eyed the rabbit carcasses. He turned his wary gaze on his father. "But mother said the hunter would kill me!"

"Only if he catches you."

"Are you trying to get me killed?" squealed the cub. This, the hunter overheard.

He picked up his knife and game bag to chase after the foxes. Through the brambles they ran, although the father was not in too much of a hurry to make sure they kept low. They escaped without injury.

After they got home, the father gave his cub instructions to go out and hunt for himself. Then, laughing, he set off. A few hours later, the vixen returned. She found her cub waiting for her at the mouth of the den.

"You're still here?" she said. "I thought I told your father to take care of you."

"Yes, and father told me to take a rabbit from the hunter. He tried to get me killed!"

The vixen sat down to hear the whole story.

"Ah," she said as her cub concluded his version of the events. "Your father knows how to give you instructions."

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