It had been snowing for much of the drive north but by the time we had passed Concord, the sky was clear and the side of the highway was already grey and mucked up. It was the weekend, and traffic going both ways was heavy. This far north of the capitol, though, it would thin out quickly. And it looked like we had one more stop to make before getting to the house. The house in the woods, as I called it. It seemed like we were there every weekend in the winter, but it’s hard for me to know for sure. Rabbits, as you know from literature, are not stellar at time-telling.
As we pulled up to the curb in Plymouth, I recognized the old five and dime immediately. I’d never been in, and good thing, too. I’m not above saying that, with my upbringing — childhood in Germany, and then a stint at F.A.O. Schwarz — I was not keen on setting paw in a musty dime store. But the boy loved it. I imagine him jogging through the aisles, agog at the rows of cheap and, to him, exotic wares. He returned to the car with a paper bag containing, most likely, a comic book. Doubtful that his father would stoop to allowing a cheap toy. But comics, at least, were reading. Let’s just leave it at that.
It’s the return to the car that’s consuming my mind right now. There was a flurry of activity. They must feel it’s cold outside, as they rushed to get back into the car and load their groceries into the back. As the boy climbed into the back seat, I felt something give way and next thing I knew, here I was, on my back in the snow. No, in the slush. The dirty, near-water slush of the parking space. “No worry,” I thought, though my worry was almost 100% focused on how well my soft fur would rebound after this mess. “He’ll stoop down to pick me up in a couple seconds.”
But the door slammed shut and even could I have shouted out, it would have been inaudible against the hum of the motor as the station wagon backed out, aligned itself with the road, and sped off, back to the highway.
And now, silence. The family was a little late getting on the road and this is not a major town, and so most road traffic is local, and slight at that. I’m on my back, staring at the crisp, dark sky. As a young kit, I used to look up at the night sky in Germany, wondering at the vastness of it all. The skies were so clear then, it seemed like you could see every star. Where we live, just outside of Boston, it’s clear but not the same, as the light pollution from the city diffuses enough to let you know that you’re not out in the open. You’re not running free in the fields, looking for a safe warren in which to start your families, but you’re in the world. With men, and that world is congested. And not altogether safe. Which is why the boy and I are such a good match. He keeps to himself a lot, which, aside from the benefit of it meaning more time for me, also means that we are, I guess you would say, simpatico. We like our time. While he reads or listens to the prattle of a portable radio, I sit and contemplate, well, rabbit things. but I was talking about the sky...
The sky up here in the green mountains is very similar to the sky back home. And as I lie, on my back, in the snow, unable to move... for I am not ambulatory, did I mention that? I cannot move. I rely on the boy for everything. He’s always been there for me. We have a bond, which is why I’m all the more mystified by this lapse. And I won’t lie. I’m nervous. It’s starting to feel like they won’t be back. What will become of me? I’ve never been truly on my own. Will I be kidnapped? Taken to a strange home with strange people. Made to do unspeakable things? What if nobody ever sees me? And I, with my precious fur and delightful little ears will just sit here in the slush, admittedly the same colors as I — grey and white — until I am ground to dust by other cars and trucks and... oh, this is too much!
After I’d moved to the states, there was an understandable adjustment period. It would be fair to say I’ve never fully gotten over my slight sense of superiority. But I am a practical rabbit. I knew there was no turning back. We were raised to believe in duty, and the market in the states was a force not to be taken lightly. Add into that our matron’s motto, “Only the best is good enough for children,” and, well, you have thousands of tiny stuffed critters like me, doing their best out in the world and, well, probably ending up forlorn and forgotten.
I have faith, though. Faith in the boy, first and foremost. And faith in my mission. If it is my lot to sit here in the slush until who knows what happens, then I will endure that trial and know that, at some point, some child will find me and clean me up, as best as they can, and... after that. It’s a blank. I have no idea what the future will hold. As I say that, I wonder, do I even know what the future is? Isn’t all we have now?
Oh, dear, there are headlights trained directly on me! Here comes a car... will it crush me? No, they’re slowing... it’s them!!
The door opens with a flash and the boy is running towards me. He knows exactly where I am! His eyes are ringed with red, he’s been crying for a while now. So, I was not forgotten. I should never have doubted him. But, it’s not entirely about him, is it? We are quickly back on the road and I’m more glad than I ever could have imagined, to be warm and safe again here in the car. The boy is brushing me with his shirtsleeve, trying to clean the muck from my backside and failing but it doesn’t matter. And here we are in the front seat, that’s rare. I can hear him talking, nonstop. About what, it doesn’t matter. He’s holding me fast, but his focus is on the man.
If we rabbits know anything, it’s children, and the nonstop prattle of this boy to his father lets me know that he is not only excited to be reunited with me — for who wouldn’t be — he is feeling his love for the man who is his protector, his teacher, his ally in this strange world, one who may, at times, seem inscrutable and even strange or harsh but who has, this evening, prolonged an already torturously long day, a day longer than the boy or I can even remotely imagine, and reunited us. Perhaps it wasn’t always so clear that this was an adult we could trust implicitly but tonight... we know.