Jack the Rabbit

January 18, 2014

 

Jack the Rabbit woke up naked on the floor of his burrow. He twitched his ears a bit, shook some dust out of his once cute nose, and surveyed the room.

My hip is killing me, he thought. Old Father Time rapping on poor Jack’s door. Oh boy. Look at this place. What did you get yourself into now, Jackie-boy?

There were whisky bottles everywhere; most empty, some broken. Beer cans and half-empty glasses used as ashtrays stood at strategic sitting-and-talking points around the room, though it was clear that at some point these were abandoned in favor of the floor. What looked like half of his record collection was splayed out in a jagged semicircular pattern from the nexus of his still-turning record player like the “Rising Sun” emblem on an old Japanese war poster.

Who the hell was over last night? Jack trudged through the thick slushy snow of his memory as he scanned the room for clues. We were all at Badger’s house after we stopped in to see how Duck was doing, then… fuck, those idiots!

He quickly hopped over and shook the gutted remains of a blunt off of his sister’s copy of “Rumors.”

I can’t remember anything, he thought. Haven’t blacked out blacked out like that since the reunion.

The reunion of the day the human family had come out to paint the forest village’s portrait had been hard on everybody. It had been a serendipitous morning, when almost all the animals had just happened to be walking or foraging in the same glen. Everyone was just milling around, saying hello’s and catching up, when suddenly two full grown humans—a buck and a doe—came blundering through the trees carrying a picnic basket and several large bags. If they’d been alone, each of the animals would have bolted. But there was a feeling of solidarity in the air, so they stood their ground, staring at the curious visitors with eyes as wide and blank as if they’d been looking at an oncoming Chevy. The humans stopped, their mouths dropped open, and pointed… and a barely audible sigh rippled through the animal crowd.

“Jesus,” everyone thought at once. “Tourists.”

But these humans seemed friendly enough, for all their stupidity, and they had plenty of food, so it was some time before Duck—ever the suspicious one—noticed the Doe-Human pulling an easel and brushes from one of the bags as the Buck quietly packed up the food… and that’s when the waistcoats and suspenders came out.

Details are fuzzy. No one seems to really remember just how many children’s portraits they all posed for that day, but after the humans disappeared and the forest dwellers were left staring at each other through the haze of their food comas, all who were there remember the gaping chasm of shame and depravity that opened up inside them from their ears to their paws—or hooves, depending on the case.

Nobody could look at one another. They mumbled good-byes and staggered off one by one, never to return to that glen again. Duck was hit the hardest. Some time around when he and Badger had been forced to pose in 19th Century cavalry uniforms holding baseball mitts, he just lost it. He *kept* the waistcoat, and spent the rest of the afternoon babbling about daguerreotypes and cotton futures. Eventually he waddled off into an unfamiliar part of the forest, moved into a cave, and saw no one but the few sympathetic visitors that would occasionally venture out, from time to time, to check on his well-being.

The rest of the animals formed a sort of loose, silent confederacy of survivors. They met in small groups off and on, never mentioning the paintings (at least, never when sober; never in groups larger than two), and once a year they gathered at Badger’s for a reunion of sorts, to check in and see who was left, who was still holding on, and these, inevitably, devolved into bouts of alcoholic nostalgia.

The last reunion was the last time Jack had seen everybody from the old glen, though he could barely remember much more of the night than a game of strip poker with a couple of suburban cottontails on vacation. He’d drawn them all-in with a King-high straight and then—well, he did what jackrabbits do.

Lately, though, Jack had been running with a different crowd. They all lived in the forest, to be sure, but they weren’t faces you saw more than maybe once a year and from far away, or perhaps if you’d ventured a bit too far from home a bit too late at night. There were possums and feral cats, owls, raccoons, and even a few lizards, though these only hung out for a few hours after dusk before slumping into a dark corner to sleep off the sun-hangover. And there were coyotes now, too, showing up late and drunk from the hunt, peddling booze and pills they’d scavenged from the suburbs and half-jokingly challenging some of the smaller animals to a footrace.

“We’ll give you a head start!” Har har har.

Jack put on a pot of coffee and began shifting some of the least offensive rubble towards the door. His coffee table had been reduced to a mockery of splinters in the center of the room. At first glance, he assumed Big Bear had come by last night, gotten severely twisted on clover mead, and belly-flopped right through the thing. Which would actually be a relief, because it meant Big Bear—a master carpenter—would owe him another, better table. Again. But then he saw the bite-marks.

“Ah, Christ,” he muttered.

Surrounding the remnants of the table were a number of gnawed-through branches with green, recently-living flesh, interspersed with what appeared to be fuzzy red berries. These formed a wine-colored trail that lead away from the wreckage to a dark alcove towards the rear of the burrow: Jack’s bedroom. Jack followed the berry trail to the edge of the alcove and listened to the hissed, nasal breath he knew he would find when he got there.

“Dude, Beav,” he said. No answer. “Beav!”

There was a sound of flustered snuffling and scurrying, then two distinct paw stomps, THUMP-THUMP—the sounds of a rodent that knows it is trapped and cornered. A quiet, tense voice came out of the shadows, lisping.

“ ‘the fuck wants to know?”

“Beaver, man,” Jack tried to remain calm. “Beaver, are you chewing sumac again? You know I can’t have you doing that shit here.”

No answer.

“Beav, we’ve all tried to be understanding about this, but man, you gotta—“

“I said, who—the fuck—wants to know?”

“Beaver, it’s fucking Jack! You’re in my house!”

THUMP-THUMP

“Jack RABBIT, dude, what are you gonna do? What’s next? You’re gonna fight me now?

THUMP-THUMP

Jack sighed; they had been here before. The only way to get a sumac-addled Beaver out of his fighting stance was to slowly back away to the other side of the room and feign disinterest. Jack crouched and began lazily sniffing the ground, pretending to aimlessly look for food among the mess of his own living room, as he slowly backstepped into the opposite corner—with one eye cocked toward the alcove at all times.

“Bedroom’s probably covered in vomit right now,” he muttered as he chewed someone else’s leftover lettuce leaf and tried to look as though he was doing it idly.

After a few minutes of snuffling and pretending to be asleep, Jack finally saw Beaver poke his head out of the alcove, sniff the air, the slink the rest of the way out. Jack sat back, folded his paws, and waited for Beaver’s traditionally sheepish apology.

“Ah, dude, er…” Beaver began as he approached Jack’s corner. “Dude, I mean, I’m sorry, y’know? You know how we get.”

“Yeah, Beav, I do. Listen, just tell me—did you puke in there?”

“Ah, jeez there Jack…” Beaver looked at the ground. “I mean, I don’t think so, but ah… I mean, I could check.”

Jack put a paw over his eyes.

“No, dude, don’t worry about it, just—I’ll just do it—man, listen, I’m sorry, but I gotta ask you to take off. I’m still so fucked up and I gotta clean this place.”

Beaver looked a little dazed himself.

“Ah, you sure you don’t wanna hang out or something? I mean, I could just stay, and help or whatever.”

“No, dude, it’s fine, you’ve done enough—no, I didn’t mean it that way, just—I’ll be fine, okay, I just have a long day ahead of me; I think my parents are coming over later, I just wanna—yeah, no, they’re fine, I just—yeah, I’ll see you later, alright? Alright, later, Beav.”

Jack sat back, closed his eyes, listened as his friend Beaver made his way up the tunnel towards the surface, and let out a long sigh as he heard the leaf-hatch close far above.

|REAPS 4 LYFE|

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