Killer Bunnies

Once upon a time there lived a very mean king with a large herd of bunnies. They were bred as killing machines, the meek ones serving as prey to the others. The guards had developed a carnivore breed, bigger and stronger than normal rabbits but with deceptively soft fur. They were all brown except for a white mark on their breasts that identified the bad gene.

They bred easily and were resistant to illness. They were also highly trainable – their teeth were deadly weapons. The king had many enemies, but they stayed away from his castle. He was prone to improbable fits of rage which paralysed his entourage. As he was the king, they feared questioning his orders because they wanted to protect their families from his wrath.

Outside the walls, ordinary people grumbled about the high taxes he levied on them. They feared the brown and white bunnies who sometimes attacked their cattle en masse. There were so many of them but the ranchers’ claims seemed so ridiculous… “My cow was killed by a herd of bunnies” hardly seemed serious. They were shamed into submission. Over time, as the bunnies became more brazen, the people started fighting back with lawsuits against the King, which he disregarded haughtily.

Escalation was inevitable and soon the brewing discontent reached a boiling point. Foreign powers were happy to provide bunnies without the mean strain but with the same markings to make them indistinguishable from the mean ones. It was hope the interbreeding would dilute the strength of the bunny army. It was easy to turn the guards against the mean king. They were being ridiculed, attacked verbally every day. The dignity of their position was gone.

The diluted bunnies were easily spotted because they grazed incessantly, as was their wont. The mean ones looked you in the eye. They attacked if you made a sudden move, instead of running. People killed them from afar, and left the meat to rot, afraid as they were of becoming mean themselves. They had noticed that the temperament of birds of prey seemed to have changed, as they ripped little bodies apart with glee. The mutant bunnies were polluting their environment, spreading a meanness previously unknown to these parts.

The villagers met to discuss. The normal strain was not equalizing things quickly enough; meanness was one leap ahead. They were reluctant to kill all the bunnies. After all, the bunnies were only expressing their genes, it was no fault of theirs. They could not be held responsible for the conditions of their lives. Was extermination possible? The good people did not want blood on their hands. You always missed a few and the genocide made the others more determined. Could they be convinced to change? A lull while people thought the new idea over. Could we learn to live with it? Agitated grumblings.

Finally, someone uttered the solution nobody was willing to contemplate. What is the root of the situation? The person who ordered the strain to be created. Could we set the bunnies on their creator and against each other? How could we do that? Jodi piped up. She was the shoemaker’s daughter, a fine poacher. The whole village was assembled; you never knew where the next bright idea might come from.

“I’ve been watching them closely,” she started. Her father looked up sharply. “From far away,” she added quickly, afraid of his temper. “After the heavy rains the other day, I saw them attacking each other. The bunny that was attacked was covered in dirt. I think if they don’t see the white marking, they assume the other is prey.“ “What about the other animals that have also been contaminated?” But nobody listened anymore. Once they found an idea, they had no room for another.

Voices rose excitedly. They spoke well into the night, expanding and planning. They wanted the brood neutralized by any means. Each was assigned a piece of land to sanitize.  And so, over the week, bunnies were spray painted, covered in shoeshine, muddied and they started turning on each other. The numbers dwindled but soared again. The bunnies felt pressure to replenish their ranks.

The villagers met again, sullen. Regicide was on everybody’s mind, though no one spoke it out loud. An edict had been proclaimed whereby anybody caught staining a bunny would be fed to the bunnies. At that point, there were rumours that the killer bunnies had moved to nearby towns, terrorizing the townspeople. They were looking for ways to exterminate the vermin. Desperate suggestions were put forward – burning the castle and breeding grounds, poisoning the bunnies, unleashing wolves. Someone objected that if the wolves mutated and became mean, there would be hell to pay.

The priest spoke at length, but nobody could follow his rhetoric and most people fell asleep. They were grateful for his intervention as nobody had been sleeping much because of their fears. Being all together under one roof listening to him drone on afforded them a bit of sleep.

The king’s advisors were also trying to limit damages. They had convinced the king to use the bunnies as bodyguards but advised against a widespread use of them, explaining they had become unmanageable. The mean king ordered them all killed. Large cages were overstuffed with bunnies and the ones who did not suffocate to death were drowned. He wanted the furs intact and commissioned local seamstresses to make a cape out of the furs, as well as various garments that he gave as presents to his allies. The seamstresses created beautiful designs with the white marks. It made the enemy easier to spot.  Thirty rabbits had been kept as bodyguards as well as three couples of breeders. Males and females were kept separate and only allowed to mate infrequently to replenish the stock.

The king loved his new capes. He had a royal one made for important occasions, and a shorter one for riding. Local women had gathered to design the capes. Without the court’s knowledge, they had drawn upon Jodi’s observations and designed what they hoped would be the equivalent of a target on his back. They had alternated the white marks in such a way as to create a design that was pleasing to the human eye, but a symbol of distress in animals, a sort of Morse code if you will. They were hoping it spelled the doom of the king. Few were in the know, and those who were trusted with the information were sworn to secrecy. Every seamstresses’ life depended on them sewing their lips shut.

As the king was out on a hunting trip, the bunnies had been released to flush out pheasants. The hunting party had stopped to eat in a clearing. Long tables had been set up, but the food was not yet being served. The hunt had been extremely successful, and the king wanted to show off the bunnies. It had been a chilly morning, and though the sun was now out, the king had kept his cape on to show it off. His fellow hunters were also showing off their garb, allies proudly displaying the garments the king had had made up for them. They were eager to show their allegiance, and how much the king valued them.

To everybody’s surprise, as the king turned his back on the bunnies to address his allies, the bunnies attacked him and devoured him, despite the cape or because of it. No one reacted, because the king had forbidden that his precious bunnies be slayed. As the king lay dying, he cursed his misfortune at missing the elaborate picnic. As descendants donned the cape, the bunnies turned on them and so the king’s bloodline no longer flowed. The remaining bunnies were exterminated to the last, freeing the kingdom of their tyranny and removing the mean king and his family from the throne. The seamstresses had wittingly created a design that spelled his death.

The Gandhi of journalism

She had never taken journalism classes. She fell into journalism by chance. It was free fall, more than freelance, until she somehow latched on to a parachute. She had her own brand of interviewing techniques. She would spend time with the interviewee, watch the person interact with others, get a feel for them and their politics. She might ask them to act out how they felt, but generally did not question them. She relied on intuition, proximity, chemistry and good old observation. After spending as much time as possible with her subject, she would then proceed to write stunningly accurate portraits of them. She had decided early on that words were misleading, that people lied or hid behind words. Everybody was afraid of being misquoted. Based on that, and fearless in her approach, she had decided that body language was a more adequate interview technique than anything she had run across.

What first attracted the attention of the New Yorker editors was a piece she did for a minor competitor. Of course, scouts were forever reading competing journals, in an attempt to poach the good writers before they even knew their value. They got them cheap and kept their salaries low as long as they could muster it. She had done a vivid portrait of a rap artist, without ever quoting him, except that the rhythm of the piece mimicked his sound so well that you felt you were inside his skull. She had asked if she could be part of his entourage for a day, and just hang out. She had done her research, studying his lyrics but not polluting her mind with articles on his success or shows. She strove to be a blank slate, wanting to feel the imprint of the person she was doing a piece on. He had reacted to her – as a woman, a journalist and a possible fan. She had not tried to dispel any of his preconceptions, letting the scenario play itself out.

He had soon forgotten about her. She took no notes, did not ask questions, nor request time alone with him. He could feel her gaze upon him but that did not faze him. He wore glitzy clothes when he went out in public, was generous with his time. She felt him to be a lonely person putting on a show, eager to please yet full of integrity. It matched the tortured voice that resonated so well with his young audience. She presented him the piece before sending it for publication. He was shocked at how well she had perceived his contradictions and rendered them without qualifying him and, against his handler’s advice, had given his okay without requesting any changes. He was not above controversy and thought she showed the real him, which was a rare present. He was rarely conscious of himself anymore so seeing that benevolent version of himself renewed his faith in himself. He bought one hundred copies for himself and close friends, but ended up keeping a few in the end. His friends were disappointed because they did not appear in the piece, had not been asked for their opinion.

This early success had led to others as the rapper was well-connected and eager to promote the journalist. She did not lack for work and actually had a waiting list. She did not seek fortune. She wanted genuine contact and had to prepare herself mentally and emotionally for the task. She only “interviewed” on her own terms and became sought after. Rolling Stones offered her a lucrative contract, which gave her free rein for the following year, provided they could impose five subjects. For the most part, it worked out fine. Artists were clamouring for attention. She was the darling of the day as far as journalists went. As much as some artists wanted to be photographed by someone in particular, everybody wanted to see their true self on paper.

She did not disappoint. She had a way of finding the hidden gem, the redeeming quality. Her employer did not try and trip her, nor saddle her with impossible candidates. If she felt like pursuing someone who appeared nasty, they let her do it. Often, the nastiness had resulted from bad chemistry between the interviewer and the interviewee. She did not have favourite subjects. She would be reading and come across someone she was curious to know better. She would notify her boss and set up an appointment then get to work erasing herself, become an absorbing agent that would blot anything pouring out of her subject. She had a good handshake, a bit long and uncomfortable, but that initial contact gave the tone of the interaction. She could feel the energy of her subject, either nervous or binding. It thrilled her to mix her vibrations with extraordinary men, women and children. She travelled around the world, visiting remote villages and ordinary suburbs. She was at ease everywhere since she took on her surroundings with the same technique she applied to people.

Nevertheless, her work took its toll on her. She was quickly exhausting her reserves, so enthusiastic was she to apply her craft.  She eventually had to mostly give up her career, touring the speaker circuit for a while. She was surprised at how few people genuinely understood what she did. Real followers were few. The test was for them to spend time with her and write a piece on her. The select few who handed back a blank piece of paper were part of her inner circle. However, journalism attracted another type of person which meant her brand of journalism did not catch on much. She was an oddity in her chosen profession. The ones she vetted did very well, but their careers were short-lived because it took so much out of them if they chose to put themselves in the line of fire.

Truth was handled with care and though the journalists got paid, the pieces did not always get published. Indeed, the Secret Police recruited among her followers and soon they were put to work for the State. Others tried to fake their way and “do the blotter” but their pieces rang false and they were denounced by those in the know. Still, many were exposed to this approach and benefitted from it to some extent in their personal lives. She was the object of books and a movie was made about her. With no degree and no credentials, she managed to break into this stronghold. She was the Gandhi of journalism.

Meditation

Observing the breath, being the breath, breathing in the cosmos, falling into the stars. I am the northern lights dancing around the blue planet, released by the sun to wow you. I am stardust floating away from the hands of the deity.

I’ve got the whole solar system inside me. I house constellations and stars, planets and black holes, infinite worlds. My thoughts as comets orbiting my sun and creating shooting stars as I breathe on them. My moon eclipses my sun as long-dead emotions twinkle and shine. I wish upon them as I would a star, pray they would have been other, remark on the brightness of my memories. I suckle on the Milky Way all the way back to my childhood.

I lose myself in the infinity of my worlds. They expand and contract as I breathe in and out. I am looking for stillness but experience dizziness as I explore my inner self. I never knew there were so many planets within.

Sex Symbol

She passes him, waves and flashes a perfect smile. She on foot, walking her dog, he driving. He does not smile back, keeps staring ahead. He never smiles, she thought. Why does he never smile? She’s being disingenuous, of course. She knows he stopped caring for her ever since she had told that joke in his presence. He hadn’t said anything at the time. It had seemed harmless to her, but he has stopped acknowledging her ever since.

She feels ashamed but doesn’t want to admit it. She shakes her blond mane free, her blue eyes tucked behind sunglasses. Chad, her fancy Boston terrier, does not seem to suffer from her angst. If someone ignores him, he gets on his hind legs and pedals his front paws in the air. If all else fails, he might grab your pant leg between his teeth and pull. He might get kicked or gently shaken off. He might get a treat. It’s all in the begging. You have to choose your mark carefully, not use up your cuteness potential indiscriminately.

She tries to get this minor annoyance out of her mind. What does it matter if he doesn’t see her? It’s not like they were ever best friends. He lives four doors down. She would never had noticed him were it not for Mac, his beautiful great Dane. But she has noticed him, and she hates feeling invisible. She’s too shallow to go any further, prefers to think of him as a prick. She thinks insults are a valid weapon when you’re under attack.

She walks briskly, repeating “Prick” under her breath, happy for the insult that expresses the sting on her fragile ego. ‘These people’ have no sense of humor. She’s not sure who ‘these people’ are. She vaguely sees a mass of people unlike her in any way, but would have been hard-pressed to articulate a thought. Her main quality is having been born white. She scoffs at the epithets hurled at her. “White privilege” is just an excuse for losers. She’s worked hard to get this job.

Again, she feels unsure. “Hard” does not really match reality. She’s been raised to speak the truth and it pains her to have to admit that she didn’t have to do much to get her receptionist job. A friend of her father’s had needed a pretty thing at the front desk. Her mother had made sure she took diction. She is polished but there is not much behind. You scratch the veneer and the real her is lacklustre. She knows it at her core. That’s why rejection is so hard. In some ways, she feels she’s getting what she deserves.

She tacks a toothy smile on her face. If she knew how to whistle, she would, because you can’t cry and whistle at the same time. Like you can’t sneeze and keep your eyes open. Try it. Anyway. The smile helps her feel better about herself. She’s been doing that since she was a baby. You see it on those family rolls. Something annoys her, and she frowns, then she thinks better of it and smiles and heads towards her mama to get it fixed. Her cousin pointed it out in front of the whole family. Now she’s self-conscious when she smiles. Her mama says she has the prettiest smile. It gets her plenty of attention from the men but still she isn’t married and already 23. She doesn’t want to end up an old maid. She’s living independently, with Clarissa, who loves orange lipstick and sappy movies.

She’s got a crush on Chet of the great Dane but may have to settle for someone else if he keeps avoiding her. She’s waiting for a diamond ring. She supposes they’ll want children. She’s vague about the first years. Maybe her husband and her would employ a maid. She’s daydreaming and realizes Chad has already brought her back to her apartment. Another evening in front of the tv, listening to Clarissa’s commentary. But first a light dinner to keep her figure, then the Price is Right with Vanna, her model. If only she had her prestigious job. Millions would idolize her. She would marry, but would have to hide it. Her job would require she keep a façade of availability. She likes the idea of being a sex symbol. It doesn’t seem like too much work.

 

Poison

The recipe called for a cup of poison. She cut it down by half. There would only be 7 ladies, plus herself, for the afternoon bridge. And others would bring food. She was known for her treats. The ladies always clamoured for more and she obliged though she herself stayed away from them. She had noticed the first signs of poisoning amongst the most enthusiastic consumers. They complained of joint pain which they put down to aging, the great equalizer. She believed it impacted memory as well, and frowned when her partner indulged, which was seldom. She wanted a crisp mind on her team when they played cards. She was intent on winning at all cost.

The young ladies who served them sometimes developed acne. She knew this to be another of the signs so could tell when the help was helping themselves to the poisoned foods. She took it all in and said nothing. She herself abstained, pretexting an upset stomach. She did not suffer tooth decay, sluggishness or irritability, all signs her addicted companions showed. Their waists were also widening she noted. They said it was bloating and tried combating it by drinking tea, liberally sprinkled with poison. She wondered why it was legal.

The first casualty took a while to happen. It was a slow-acting poison. Her heart gave out and we all rushed to her bedside. She was quite large by then, her joints aching, and irritable to boot. It might have to do with the painful inflammation throughout her body. We had to find her replacement for our weekly game. It was someone from the other table, as my group of four was focused and healthier. The other table did not take the game as seriously. They indulged in gossip and poison.

The new lady was the youngest and she offered to prepare tea for them. She almost spit it out when she tasted the poison in it, then remembered Mithridates who ingested small doses aiming to develop immunity. She noticed no ill effect but started taking hot water with lemon from that day forward. The others made good-natured fun of her and she replied amicably but did not alter her behaviour.

When she ran out, she went to the grocery store and asked for a new bag of it. She always thought she would get arrested, but the police never showed up, though little by little the ladies’ health faltered. She and her partner won all the games.

The Mailman

They had voted to use pressure tactics. The easiest was to distribute the mail so that a neighbour down the street got yours. He knew the neighbourhood well, and he felt bad about it. He had his idea about his clients. He didn’t like the old man, for example, because he reminded him of his dad. However, the old woman treated him well, offering him coffee or chatting him up.

There were some single people on his route. The slim shy baker, the outgoing farm girl with a taste for the bottle, the two middle-aged sisters, the retired fireman. Why each ended up alone was a mystery to him. His plan was to get them acquainted. There was no harm in playing matchmaker. Maybe something good would come out of this strike! By the looks of it, he thought the fireman and the farm girl had a chance. He was old-fashioned so he delivered Jacqueline’s mail to F Cooper. They both subscribed to Lee Valley which seemed a good starting point. As a bonus, the old dear would probably tell him how things were going. He misdelivered a few days in a row to force the issue.

The old lady stopped him on the street. She held the offending catalog and mail in one hand, the other she used to point at him. She chided him for being absent-minded. “Young man, you will lose your job if you don’t pay attention!” He tried to explain about pressure tactics but she just wouldn’t listen. She handed him back the mail. “Frank was upset. He asked for my help.” Here, she made herself taller. “Make sure they go to Jacqueline now. ” He had never felt so humiliated. What a poor matchmaker he made. He thought about the baker but he seemed too shy for this hearty girl. His plan was unravelling fast but he still thought it was a great idea. If only they didn’t get the old lady involved.

He had gone past Jacqueline’s house and had to backtrack. He was pretty sure the old lady would check up on his delivery. He decided to try pressure tactics the next street over, where he wouldn’t run into the old lady. All the while, he had been greeting people out in their gardens or washing their car. It wasn’t even a holiday. Were they on vacation? Retired? He felt suddenly exposed. He gave up on pressure tactics that day and was reprimanded by his colleagues. What an impossible situation to be in. He slept poorly, he was miserable and bleary-eyed the next day and made delivery mistakes he did not bother to correct, happy to report back early that he had botched the job. Disheartened, he went for drinks with a few colleagues.

It felt like they were playing hooky, something he had never done in his life. He felt unmoored and unhappy. He didn’t share his matchmaking idea with his mates. It was bad enough that it had backfired. The others were putting on a brave face, joking around, but he was a people watcher. He knew when people were pretending. They drank too quickly and spoke too loud to be happy about the situation. He went home, going over his route. He felt his idea slipping out his grasp, things going too quickly. It seemed to him that once you stopped following the rules, order could never be restored.

He heard the metallic clank of his mailbox. He was hardly ever at home to hear his mail being delivered. It felt odd being on the receiving end. He got up, curious to see what mail he had received. He lifted the lid. The letter was addressed to one Evelyn Wilson, three doors down.

His heart beat faster.

Hair

He’ll try this new place. He’ll drop in and see if someone can take him. No biggie if they can’t, he’ll go another time. He’s in his car, getting his courage up, psyching himself. He flings the door open and hurriedly gets out. His mind is made up. Too much waiting and his resolve will fall to pieces. He heads to the door with a firm step, checks the business hours, and comes in. There is a receptionist, not too charming, so he doesn’t have to reciprocate in kind.

She asks “First time here? No appointment?” He nods to both, relieved that his approach is validated. “We have two sections: Quiet and Talkative. If you choose quiet, you may choose to fill out this form and have as little verbal interaction and eye contact as you choose.” “Quiet,” he says. “Yes,” she says, perking up. Then, in a conspirational voice, “The Talkatives are in a sound-proof room.” First smile. He smiles back, relaxed. She hands him his form to fill. “I won’t see your selections until you press Submit so you can adjust as you read more. We’ve tried to make it self-explanatory but any feedback is welcome.”

He sits on a long wooden bench, a clever way to allow patrons to space themselves, also indicating they won’t be left waiting. He gets to decide who will cut his hair, male, female, don’t care. They actually wrote “don’t care”. He loves this place. He checks “Don’t care” with a flourish of the stylus on his electronic tablet. There is a Submit button beside every line and a Submit All, if preferred. His shoulders drop, he suddenly realizes there is no chemical smell in the place. The absence of noise too is relaxing. There follows a series of choices in two columns, one titled “Under 30 minutes”, the other “Longer”. He aims for the first, and reads the first section called “Preparation”. “Wash vigorously (head massage)”, “Wash and condition”, “Wash only (no conditioner)” “Wet”, “Dry”. This is great!

Before the section about the actual process, there are a series of questions to ascertain if this is an annual haircut, a trim, or special occasion. It’s interactive so that if he chooses Special occasion (which he do to see if it’s interactive), then it becomes complicated. He studies the software, intuiting he may be back. He attack the main section: “Cut, Style, Blow-dry, Air dry.” Drawings show different kinds of cuts which you can select as is or modify. You can also select “Shorter”, which he does, and then length and “Top, sides, back”. Also a section about parting the hair. He makes his selections and hits Submit. A total appears and suggestion for a tip. Pay now or later. He takes his credit card and swipes, giving a large tip. Done. He is anticipating the next step with pleasure.

There is a third section, about music, movies and books. The podcasts are around 20 minutes each. You can choose as many as three. He chooses one on dinosaurs, the other on bacteria, and the last on urban architecture. He is shown to a booth. There is no mirror, another relief. There is a console where you can upload the podcasts and switch to the next if they don’t suit you. You can also listen to music or see a short movie. A switch shows “Talkatives.”

A short woman comes in, wearing neutral colours. He’s chosen: “Trim, Dry, Cut, Shorter back 6 mm, Sides 4 mm, nothing for Front, No part, Air Dry, No chemicals.” She says, “I’m Doreen. You want Mirror or No mirror?” She’s cute, he can’t decide. “Mirror”. The panel becomes a mirror. You can turn it off and back on at any time. She indicates a switch. He turns it off. Nice.

She brushes his tangled mess of hair and starts cutting. He’s in her capable hands, all decisions have been made. He’ll live with the results. He listens to the dinosaur postcast, forgetting about the scissors, the hairdresser. Her touch is light and she doesn’t speak. The podcast is over. She’s waiting patiently for him to turn the mirror back on. No drastic change. He is told he can ask for changes. A camera whizzes around to show him his head from different angles. It’s still a bit scruffy on the sides, which he likes. He nods and thanks her. She shows him the door. He shakes her hand. They did it in 20 minutes. He feels like a champ, not even tired from the visit. What a great experience. He never knew dinosaurs had fur.