For reasons I will not divulge, I once chased a wild rabbit across a freeway off-ramp.
Enough with the arm twisting. I will divulge. And maybe you can help me make sense of it.
To understand this blog post, you should know that:
1. I love animals.
2. Sometimes I love animals more than I love people.
3. I once saw a cat get hit on a city street and I did nothing about it. I wasn't the driver, and I wasn't in the car, and it wasn't my cat. If I had blinked at that moment, or decided to dig in my purse for a lone stick of gum, I might have missed the whole thing. But I didn't. And it haunts me.
4. One of my MFA professors once told me, "You really have a knack for writing about dying animals."
5. I sometimes do very, very stupid things.
Also, as disclaimer, I wish I could say that this happened a long, long time ago, like when I was 12, right about the time that girls who love horses but realize they will never own a horse decide to settle for a rabbit.
Or maybe when I was 18, and doing stupid things was what I did best.
Or maybe when I was 25, when I still had a job but not yet a career, lived in an apartment and not a house, and sometimes slipped and called my husband "my boyfriend," since it was all so new.
But no. This happened when I was a full-grown, career-minded, mortgage-paying adult who had been married for more than 12 years.
In fact, it happened only a month ago.
We had just turned onto the Briggsmore overpass from Ninth Street, which will mean little if you don't know the area. To try to give this a bit of perspective, locals tend to refer to this area as the "Briggsmore parking lot," since it is often clogged with cars trying to head north on 99, south on 99, west to Carpenter Road, east to Briggsmore Avenue, or north on Sisk Road to Walmart/the mall/Target/Costco. In other words, it was a regular zoo -- even before I saw the rabbit.
Will was driving. (This is only a statement of fact, not of blame or censure.) I was happily musing over the gift we had just bought ourselves -- an eighty-year-old steamer trunk that we absolutely didn't need and probably wouldn't have room to store.
Up ahead of us, there were sudden brake lights, some swerving and a few honks -- and I realized that a van had rear-ended a compact car, and all the occupants were hopping out.
This particular van looked like something that might have toured with the Grateful Dead or Phish; it was packed with people, blankets, and the sort of household objects that suggested its occupants were permanently on the move.
Will put on his blinker, trying to avoid the two lanes that were now blocked, and that's probably why I saw the rabbit first.
My mother tells a story -- a pretty good one, too -- of a deer that ran through our residential neighborhood in Napoleon, Ohio, across a street, through a garage and into someone's backyard. Everyone was amazed: one minute there had not been a deer, and then the deer was there, and then it was gone.
It was the same with this rabbit.
When all the occupants of the Grateful Dead/Phish/Gimme Shelter van had hopped out, so too had their rabbit. ("A wild rabbit," Will would point out, if he were in my head writing this story. But I'm getting ahead of myself.)
I screamed. Yes, literally. It was a largish rabbit, with giant, stand-up ears, and it was frantically hopping toward six lanes of flowing traffic.
A teenage boy from the van followed in half-hearted chase, saw the coming onslaught of traffic, and gave up. At this point, the driver had hopped back into the van, and the boy ran behind it for a few paces, grabbing at the door. You've seen this, I'm sure -- only it might have been a villain, trying to catch a handle and therefore a leg up into a moving train. But the boy made it into the van, and the van took off, and cars started to fill in the space on the road where the accident had been.
And the rabbit was still there, bewildered. Like a sitting duck.
I had my seatbelt off and had opened the door before I could think what I was doing.
Will said, "What -- you are not --"
But I was. I was out of the car, running in my black-and-white tunic, my black leggings, my black boots. "Come here! Come here!" I screamed.
I was calling to the rabbit.
I'm not exactly sure what I would have done with the rabbit if I had managed to catch it. Maybe I would have secured it in the trunk somehow and headed out to the country, popped the back hatch and yelled, "Run free, little rabbit!" Maybe I would have built it a hutch and let it live in my backyard ("No way," says the Will in my head).
But the rabbit was much faster than me, and it immediately darted forward (followed by me, panting; followed by Will, driving slowly with his blinker on) and sprinted down the right lane, crossed in front of two cars stopped at the southbound off-ramp, and ran quick-as-a (well... you know) down the embankment to a wooded area behind an I-Hop and a Denny's and a Sonic Burger.
"Paula," Will said when I was back in the car, my seatbelt fastened, my heart still pounding. He seemed to be struggling very hard to find the right words to say to me -- part-reprimand, part-consolation, part-bafflement -- and in the end, he just shook his head.
I really couldn't even tell you why, unless this was just one more sign of craziness in an entire episode of craziness, but I found myself wiping real tears from my eyes.
And wishing that rabbit all the best.
Every year in the middle of the summer, I start brainstorming about what Christmas cards the W and I will send that year. This is not because I'm one of those people who feels the need to outdo herself each year -- really. But neither can I buy a pack of cards at Target and scribble our names inside them -- I just can't. For this I would like to blame my family, they of the long, newsy annual letters detailing the amazing feats of their spouses, children, and pets, and also they of the stunningly beautiful families in matching Christmas sweaters. For whatever reason, I struggle each year with our card.
For my entire adulthood, I have mailed "holiday" cards in January, around the time kids are back in school and Christmas trees are laying in sad heaps at the curb, waiting for the city disposal system to get around to them. Merry (LATE!) Christmas, and (HOPE YOU'RE HAVING) a happy New Year!
But not this year, I told myself. This year, instead of working two full time jobs, I was only working the equivalent of one, or maybe 1.2. I had time to read, to plan, to get things done.
During these months of introspection, I stumbled across someone else's idea for a Christmas card online and was quickly determined to steal it and make it my own. It was simple, yet brilliant. It said everything I wanted it to say.
I would take pictures of our feet, clad in brightly striped Christmas socks.
You see, the W and I have no human children, and renting a few for the purpose of taking an adorable family picture has always seemed disingenuous. Our pets, although quite lovely in real life, are not at all photogenic. This has something to do with their refusal to sit still in the presence of anything resembling a camera. At the sight of said camera, the cats switch into full Kitty Olympics-mode, running across the back of the couch, zipping down the hallway and tearing in and out of bedrooms, until finally coming to rest behind the shower curtain. Baxter loves the camera a little too much -- in most photos, he is a massive black nose approximately an inch from the lens.
And the W and I -- well, forget it. Neither of us loves the idea our cheesy mugs being affixed to anyone's refrigerator for any length of time.
As I saw it, this left only our feet.
We scheduled the Christmas Sock Photo Shoot for a Sunday night, in between Will's marathon weekend-of-work and our very busy Monday morning. We were exhausted and had deep, painful looking circles beneath our eyes -- but it didn't matter. That was the beauty of taking a picture of our feet.
My idea was that we would prop up our feet on our coffee table in a cutesy kind of way, snap a picture, and be done with it. First, there was the problem of getting Baxter out of the way. Then, the background (a zillion books on our living room shelves) looked too busy. I laid out a white sheet, thinking this would be a nice contrast to our Christmas socks, but then it looked like we were in bed, which wasn't exactly what I wanted, either.Finally, we stood and shot down at our feet, which involved leaning over and bumping our foreheads together at inopportune times.
The W, who is generally willing to humor me in situations such as the Christmas Sock Photo Shoot, submitted to the arranging and rearranging of our legs and feet for a good ten minutes, during which two things happened. One, I shot twenty photos, all of which were incredibly stupid-looking, and two, I realized that feet are incredibly ugly things. Also, three, I suddenly remembered that I do not have an artistic bone in my body.
"It looked so cute online," I lamented, scanning through our pictures. "Maybe what we need to do is just take pictures of our socks, without our feet in them."
We took the socks off and did a few "still life" shots against the white sheet.
"Nothing says Merry Christmas like two pairs of dirty socks on a bed sheet," Will mused, at which point I tossed one sock at his head, and Baxter grabbed the other and ran into our bedroom to chew it in peace.
Somehow, it is now December 21. Our sofa table is cluttered with brightly colored Christmas cards from all around the country. I have read the Christmas letters from my family members, marveling at the different paths our lives have taken. I have affixed pictures of smiling children to our refrigerator.
And of course, I haven't sent one. single. card.
Paula Treick DeBoard