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By the River

There wasn't anything at all for Mike and Frankie to do on a Friday night in Perrytown so they went down to the creek to see if they could root the jackalope out of his hole.

Frankie took some of the whisky out of her daddy's liquor cabinet - not a lot, just a little - because they'd heard jackalopes were especially fond of rye whisky. Why that was, neither of them knew. They'd tried Frankie's daddy's whisky before and they thought it tasted about the way motor oil would.

On their way down to the river, though they ran into Mr. Banks, who was on his way back from a day of fishing.

"How's the river looking Mr. Banks?" Mike asked.

The old man pulled his wide-brimmed hat out of his eyes. "Look at this fish I caught here, kids. This one here's as big as a goat."

Mike and Frankie peered behind Mr. Banks at the little cart he was pulling, which sure enough was practically overflowing with a single catfish.

"My uncle caught one the size of a cow last week," Mike said.

Mr. Banks sighed. "You kids are never impressed, are you?"

"We're going to go look for a jackalope," Frankie said. "Seen any today."

Mr. Banks shook his head. "Look kids, I wouldn't go to the river right now if I were you. I saw a river rattler slinking up just as I was drawing my line in. Those things are nasty."

Mike shivered. River rattlers were no joke.

Frankie laughed. "We'll be fine. We're not going in the river."

Mr. Banks pulled his hat back down. "Just be careful kids."

They nodded, Frankie with a little more confidence, and marched on.

When they got down to the river banks, they found a spot to sit and unscrewed the lid of the whisky flask, wedging it between two pieces of limestone.

Mike swatted down. "Maybe we should step back from the river a little bit more."

Frankie rolled back onto her jeans, straight into the dirt. "What? Afraid of the river rattler?"

"No!" Mike kept glancing at the river, though.

"How long do you expect we have to wait for?" Frankie said.

Mike gulped. "I don't know. I hope not too long."

"I don't think it'll be too long now."

Mike looked at Frankie. "Why's that?"

Frankie looked at him. "I didn't say that."

They both looked at the flask of whisky in front of them - which had been tilted over onto one of the limestone rocks. And a jackalope squatted beside it, lapping up the whisky from the rock surface. i

Frankie gasped. "A jackalope!"

"Wow, I can't believe that worked so fast," Mike said. "I didn't even have time to get bored."

Frankie stood up and put her hands on her hips. "So, now that we've caught you, are you going to grant us any wishes?"

The jackalope looked up and wrinkled its nose. "Wishes? That's not how it works."

"Frankie, I don't…" Mike started, but he was distracted by bubbles rising out of the river.

"Yes, it is," Frankie insisted. "We found you and you have to give us a wish."

The jackalope lapped up the rest of the whisky. "Look little lady, the most I can do for you is sing a song for you, but wish granting really isn't my thing. You'll have to go find a great mountain bird or a desert fox spider for that."

The bubbles rose faster. "Frankie, we should go," Mike said.

"What?" Frankie said. "I know my brother's told me he got a wish from a jackalope once. How else would he have come home with that $500?"

Suddenly, the water burst and a river rattler shot up its head. With a head the size of a car, white shiny fangs and a brown, leathery skin, the thing made Mike and Frankie both scream. On the other end, its big rattler stuck out of the water, shaking and making the most terrifying sound.

Frankie and Mike scrambled back and both fell into a sage bush.

"Well, look now," the jackalope said. "You went and made the river rattler angry."

It all happened so fast that looking back on it, Mike wasn't quite sure what he'd seen.

The rattler dove for them, its fangs glinting. At the same time, the jackalope stamped one of its big back paws on the ground. And in that instant, a lightning bolt cracked from the heavens down to the river and struck that river rattler clean on the head.

The beast screamed, writhed, and dove back into the river.

Mike and Frankie lay there in the sage bush, panting.

The jackalope stretched its legs. "Well," he said as he turned to hop away, "I'd say that's fulfilling a wish, wouldn't you?"

It was a long, long time after that before Mike or Frankie were willing to go down to the river, and even then, they stayed far away from the banks and brought no more whisky with them.


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