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.
Paula Treick DeBoard