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Knights of the Vine RUSSIA


Sasha’s Treasure Hunt
A ‘Lisa & Friends’ story (no.4).
Story & characters: Ross Hunter
Illustrations: Nika Harrison

asha loved exploring. He had a nose for it, you might say. Ideally alone, about twilight, he delighted in sneaking ever further from home, sniffing out new smells, new creatures, a snack surprised and chased here, a brush with danger there and leaving his scent in a novel spot before bounding home and exaggerating his exploits to the other foxcubs. Sometimes he took the twins with him, but Dasha and Masha were too girly about the expeditions, not wanting risks or going far from home. Brother Boris was better, when not lost or in bother or both. Sasha thought that if you dropped Boris in a bucket of roses, he would come up smelling of pigpoo. But the extra pair of paws was handy.

Such as in the great treasure trove adventure. Sasha had been out for the evening, visiting one of Moscow’s smarter, or as he put it, tastier areas. He had already had fun: attacked a cat, de-plumed a pigeon and provoked the Metro dogs who couldn’t catch him, when all of a sudden his whiskers were hit by a gorgeous odour. His wet nose dried with excitement. Whaaat? Roast chicken! Where!? He raced around and around before accepting the unlikely answer – the big bin belonging to the classy block of flats. Amazing. Except he couldn’t get in it. It was too tall, and the heavy lid was down. One last sniff and a shove, and home to fetch Boris.

Sasha was sharper, but Boris was bulkier, and if free food was hovering over the menu, he was amazingly inventive. Back at their large lunch box, Boris surveyed the situation. Push it up to the wall. Jam stones under the wheels. Up the wall, onto the lid, squeeze between bin and bricks and heave. Heave! Straining and groaning, eventually it tipped, and there was an almighty crash as all the contents spewed out onto the yard, dusty cubs included. The brothers instinctively fled for cover, but crept out again when nobody arrived to investigate.

What a party! They couldn’t believe their luck. Half a chicken beautifully cooked and waiting for them. Table manners were forgotten as it was scoffed in seconds, apart from two tasty chunks saved for their sisters. This was not just generous: more a chance to show off a trophy, and recruit new helpers for further fun. With greasy whiskers and cheesy grins, Sasha and Boris scrumbled through the chaos. Amongst the real rubbish was more food than they could swallow, clothing good enough for nesting in, toys in working order and even a fleecy rabbit destined for fun at the burrow.

The two cubs dragged their booty home, jaws aching from grinning and lugging the loot. It was easy to sign up the twins for the next search parties. Soon, they were roaming all over the city’s better heeled suburbs collecting wondrous things. They got better at searching and pickier about what they collected, there was so much choice. Mum Lisa was horrified at the clutter choking the burrow, and gently steered them towards separating what to keep from what could be passed on.

In no time at all, the four cubs were at the market. The boys did the hunting, or rather scavenging, the girls ran a street stall, selling the accumulated goodies. They made – for them – loads of money. Who cared whether they were reselling essential items, or whether Dasha and Masha’s cuddly salesmanship softened buyers’ purse strings? It was profitable fun.

For a while. Gradually, Sasha and Boris found collecting harder. They got a hostile reception. Not from those who threw the goodies away, they couldn’t care less, but from people who really needed scraps to survive. Shocked and hurt, not by a few things thrown, but by the thought that their fun was serious for others, they asked Lisa to explain: “Sadly, my cubs, some people have so much that they don’t know the value of what they waste. Others have the bad fortune to need help, from wherever they find it. You can’t stop this unfairness, but you should do your bit to make it a little bit better. Only take what you need; never waste what is still useful, and always help where you can”. Foxes can be sheepish, and four cubs sneaked their ill gotten gains back to people who needed it more. And realised that giving is better than getting.

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