Thinking Inside the Box
by Sly Squirrel
©2003 Sly Squirrel -- all rights reserved
I've always wanted to play golf. I can see it now: Max Clayborne, master of the greens, terror of the tee, priest of the putting green. It would be a hoot: go out, buy some clubs, pay my green fees, rent one of those fancy golf carts, spend a day on the links with my fellow yuppie brethren in the biggest waste of time known to man. Yeah, that's the game for me; sit in a neat little golf cart, drive around a huge course, hit a white ball with a stick, waste an afternoon on green fairways and greener greens...
Okay, so nowadays the greens would be really nice. Rabbits have that sort of attitude about them; dreams of white chocolate truffle cheesecake take second place to a nice carrot or leftovers from a relish tray. It's something you never quite get used to, but still get along with. Maybe it would be nice if I had someone to talk to -- if only bunnies were that chatty. Worse, the chances I have of talking with another human are slim to none. Who would want to chew the fat with a fuzzy rodent chewing on a carrot?
This is where stories like this are supposed to do the "it sucked at first, but everything's peachy-keen, goody-goody-gumdrops" thing, but I won't lie to you. Being a rabbit sucks -- no, let me clarify that. Being a pet rabbit sucks. First I change into this cute li'l albino bunny, then it's as simple as Click! Swing! Snap! The cage drops, and suddenly I'm sucking water from a nipple bottle and eating kibble from a ceramic bowl, wondering what exciting event will happen the next time I go to the litterbox.
God, I sound like a married man. Makes me wish I had a doe in this wire hutch; we could share my chew-toys and snuggle. I may even be able to talk to her... no, that's a stretch. It'd be a snuggle-snuggle, sniff-sniff deal, just like rabbits were supposed to do.
One tasty wild mushroom was all it took to send me on this wild journey... Yeah, wild. Let me tell you what constitutes "wild" for the pet bunny. "Wild" is playing with the metal ball on the water bottle, then dribbling the water all over the floor. "Wild" is rearranging the chew toys just to put them back into the same old order. "Wild" is not grooming for a whole day, then sleeping on the wrong side of the nest box. And, if I'm feeling like a real daredevil, I'll go all the way and even try to open the cage door!
I never escape, of course. It's not safe out there, and there's no need to find any food. Much easier to stay in the nice hutch and sleep and clean my fur and let the little girl pet me between the ears...
Oh yes, there is Molly. She's playing outside right now on her little bouncy ball. God, I loved those balls when I was a kid. I'd jump on them all day, revel in the feeling of my stomach shaking all over my abdomen, let the tickling feeling seep all over my body. And when I was alone I'd close my eyes and imagine that I was... well...
I try to think of my kids playing on those toys, sometimes. Helps keep them fresh in my mind. It's not that I forget about them; sometimes the rabbit part of me overcomes conscious thought and I go bye-bye for a while. Seconds, minutes, days -- it all depends on my mood, and whether or not the agreeable Florida weather decides to snap me out of it with a drenching storm.
For the first few months -- days, years, whatever: I don't know how long I've been here -- I was terrified of the shift. It felt like someone put lead weights on my brain, then dragged it down with a tow cable. Drowning. Thing is, after being drowned so many times you kinda get used to it. Nowadays I just take a deep breath and let the bunny side go about its business. A few days pass, then I wake up. First thought? "Oh, I just had the strangest dream!"
Then reality snaps down. Hard. That's one thing I can't quite get used to, no matter how hard I try.
For a moment I try to plant my daughter's face onto Molly; nothing comes to mind. I'm about 50/50 on recall; a rabbit's life isn't exactly the most stimulating thing for a mind, and mine is starting to get really dull. There's only a few things to do in this hutch, and most of them are made for rabbits. Chew, sleep, drink water, hop around.
"There has to be something to do!" I try to scream, but all that comes out is a nervous little hop towards the nipple bottle. Trying to say that line can actually be kind of entertaining, if you're standards are low enough. Mine are getting down there pretty quickly.
With a sigh I make the trek back to the kibble bowl, and pull out a few of the larger pieces to bat around. Before I know it I'm playing one of the few games I can: kibble bowling. Throw a piece of kibble and try to hit the resting board. Fun! Molly bounced and laughed outside, and I kept throwing kibble at the board. I tell you, we can have a knee-slapping good time!
Let me tell you one thing: I'm really good at kibble bowling. Out of the handful I toss out, only two fall through the cage's wire bottom. All fine and good, but I really shine at the second half: bringing back all the pieces. I hop over so quickly, take a second to revel at how accurate my kibble shots are...
Staring up through a mess of chewy pellets was a sight that almost knocks me flat. For a moment I just huddle down and scratch my eyes. This isn't possible; it was just my rabbit mind playing tricks again; it was wishful thinking. When I looked again, though, my mind put it all together. An "O." The kibble made an "O"!
Curious, I batted at the pieces, played with the round shape, tempered one side in. "B" came out clearly. A sign! I could make a sign! If I could only scrape up enough kibble to put together a message, tell them that I'm really a lonely human victim of misunderstanding...
There wasn't time to lose. For the first time in what felt like an eternity a surge of adrenaline started to pump in my veins, the likes of which I hadn't felt since the neighborhood cat found a way to the top of my cage. Lead weights start to pull at my mind, and I thrash against them with all my might. Not this time, bunny! Max has a job to do. Instinct screams out as I turn the orderly hutch upside down, spilling kibble all over my comfy little resting board.
Slowly -- oh, so slowly! -- the words start to form over the wood grain. It is a painstaking process that makes me want to give my right hind leg for an opposable thumb, but at least I'm making progress. With my cheeks I pushed the little pellets into straight lines, rear back to check my work, then tinker some more. Minutes passed, minutes that felt like hours.
Then again, I have nothing but time as long as the rabbit side of me was at bay.
Molly is just getting tired of bouncing around as I finish my message. HELP, the crude sign screams, I AM HUMAN NAME -- and the kibble runs off the board. It's a shame, too: I had years and years of built-up conversation to get out, and all I can fit is "I am human name." What a joke!
The joke ends as Molly skips over to my hutch, though; my tiny heart starts pounding through my chest. Years of boredom-driven insanity are finally coming to a head. It's going to be over, all over!
"How's my little Floppy?" Yes! Come and see Floppy! She would see the sign and get help! "You're a nice rabbit, Floppy..."
And her eyes bulge as she sees the message. For a moment she stood stonily still, then reached for the cage latch. I watched her hand eagerly as it grew close to my face, ready to coddle and console me after years of torment I had suffered inside this box...
"Floppy! You made such a mess in here!" With a little chuckle she sweeps my hard work away; the sign that I had worked so hard to create is gone, gone, gone! Then, as I look into her eyes, I feel the punchline coming on.
How could I have been so stupid? Molly couldn't read; she was a preschooler!
I can only sigh and let the rabbit side of me help my little girl clean up. With the exciting life of a rabbit, it is only a matter of time before my mind clams up for good. There just wasn't enough stimulation for a human mind to find pleasure in! When things feel like they're going to finally get better, the rabbit in me decides to take over for a few days and I lose all the progress I made. By the time I get a second chance to pull this message move I'll probably have forgotten how to write altogether! My mind will be all but... gone.
My mind will be gone.
Even the rabbit in me gets a cold chill from that thought.
"Oh..." At least Molly notices my shaking. "Floppy's not happy? Poor bunny..." She cradles me in her arms, scratches me between the ears, makes the rabbit in me start to stomp all over my conscious mind. At that point I don't really care; if I lose my mind I won't have to worry about the failure. Just fall into a state of mindless bliss...
"I know what'll cheer you up!" And with that she tosses me back into the cage, so I can only watch with confusion as she darts back into the house. When she returned, she carries a cardboard box with all the care a preschooler could possibly give, walking slowly, eyes focused intently on the ground, holding the box just so. One sniff of the air told me exactly what was in that package; when she set it down in my cage I was right up at the box's mouth, ready for my prize with overwhelming rabbit delight.
"We found her in a trap out in the woods," she said, "Mommy said she would make a good friend for you. Come on out, Trixie! Floppy won't bite." She tapped on the box tentatively, and out came the most beautiful being I have ever seen.
A doe. A real, live doe. The rabbit in me let its mind race with the possibilities. The human in me cracks a few bunny love jokes and tries to sink away.
"I'm Max," I sniff-sniff-snuggled to the doe, "You smell nice." Molly whispers something about "silly rabbits" and goes about her daily business of catching grasshoppers and playing make-believe in the treehouse.
Maybe I am crazy, because when she leaves I stand up on my hind legs and try my best to act like a gentleman. Maybe it is the years of human social conditioning finally coming to light, but it doesn't feel right to greet a lady on all fours. You stand up and shake hands with her, and even though it may be difficult I'm going to try my hardest to give her that courtesy.
With an eye that just screamed of latent intelligence, Trixie clumsily stood on her own hind legs and made an attempt to shake my paw, a ghost of a smile itching the sides of her mouth, her eyes sparkling with the kind of hope that infested anyone and everyone with an ardent fervor, a feeling that things would get better with time.
At least some things go right, I think, smiling as we touch paws and revel in a silent state of understanding.