Paul the Cottontail

eastern cottontail - 2017 - crop
Eduardo Suré; Eastern Cottontail, 2017; Graphite

Paul sits still in the grass, but is not blending in. The tall fescue is a rich green, while he is gray and brown with specks of black here and there. He is an eastern cottontail, and he is the guardian of this and four other front yards. That is, according to him, he is.

Of the five yards, this one is Paul’s favorite. The lawn is poorly maintained; therefore, it provides clover, crabgrass, dandelions, and other delights. There is also a garden in the backyard with salsa plants, carrots, lettuce, strawberries, and cucumbers. The backyard is surrounded by a fence he can easily crawl under in case the dog is let out of the house. Since the dog cannot go to the front yard, he can leave his fecal pellets scattered around the front yard for later snacking and redigestion.

If we look into Paul’s heart, we will find a great desire. That desire is to be a hero. He feels his large ears are meant for super hearing. His large hind legs are meant for super running. His large eyes are meant for super seeing. He knows not the purpose of his short and fluffy white tail, but it must have a super purpose as well.

Paul goes to the backyard to eat his next course of flowers and to think heroic thoughts. With his super bunny ears, he hears the back door of the house open. A toddler sneaks out of the house into the backyard. The child’s eyes are attracted to the flower bed by the bright colors. There, on the mulch, he sees the rabbit sitting still with a petal hanging from its lip. The child screams with delight and begins to toddle toward the rabbit.

Paul must act eventually: the toddler is not very fast. The child walks toward the rabbit with each step rocking side to side. He appears about to fall, but disappoints. The toddler’s chubby little arms are stretched forward like a sleepwalker on television. Paul imagines the fat little hands pulling at his ears. That must not happen, he thinks.

Paul jumps from the mulch of the flower bed into the grass. He zig zags around the yard at an impressive speed. The toddler is delighted by the erratic movement. Paul runs from the child as far as he can in the backyard. Then, he sprints toward the child as fast as he can. At the last moment, he jumps and knocks the child down. The toddler begins to cry. A few seconds pass and the back door is opened by a woman. She does not even catch a glimpse of Paul’s fluffy tail as he goes under the fence into the neighbor’s yard.

It is dusk and the neighborhood is quiet. Parents are home from work, children are inside doing their homework, and mosquitos deter walkers. Paul sits in the front yard of his favorite home eating clover between a hedge and a blue spruce. Both would provide perfect cover should a hero require it. Days have passed since Paul defeated the toddler in the epic backyard showdown. He is anxious to put his super powers to good use again. He is anxious to test his courage. An opportunity arrives.

From three different directions, Paul sees three little girls come together across the street. All three elementary school girls are completely neglected by their parents while the sun is out and shortly after. Karen, a nosy walleyed girl, lives across the street. Nancy, the Insatiable, lives a few houses to the west. Betty, Le Terrible, invades from a couple of blocks to the east.

Tonight, they threaten Paul’s favorite yard with fire. Betty has a large box of matches. She strikes one on the side of the box. A bright yellow flame beside the head of the match appears and consumes the match quickly. The light illuminates the three little witches and casts sinister shadows on their faces. Karen asks for a match to light. She strikes it against the box and becomes scared as it flares in her fingers, so she throws the match into the street. Karen’s eyes open wide as her mind gives birth to an idea. She takes a match and presses it with her index finger against the box. With a quick and nimble stroke, she strikes it and sends it flying in an arc across the street. The girls are delighted.

Paul watches the girls take turns flicking matches. They become better at launching them longer and longer distances. One lands in his yard just a few feet in front of him. He jumps over to it. With his furry back foot, he thump-thump-thumps it out. Another flaming match lands in a mulch bed to his right. A small fire begins to spread, but he jumps to it and thump-thump-thump-thump-thumps it out. Then, a third match lands in the grass.

Paul is so focused on putting out fires that he does not notice the girls approach. After he puts out a tiny fire in the grass, he looks up and sees the three villains around him. He freezes. He evaluates his escape routes. Running by Terrible Betty is foolish. Walleyed Karen may have the worst hand-eye coordination. Portly Nancy may have the slowest reaction time. He bets against Karen and Nancy and loses. Nancy grabs him.

Paul has never been held before. He is a wild animal with ticks, zero healthcare, numerous predators, and at high risk of colliding with automobiles. He stops moving when Nancy’s powerful fingers press against his chest. He cannot breath. Adrenaline shoots through his body as she lifts him off the ground. It feels like a shock. He flails, but Nancy is too strong. He bites one of her hot dog fingers. She screams and drops him on the ground. After a breath, he sprints back into a neighboring backyard.

Paul hides safely under the cover of a bush. His heart beats like a drum roll. He can taste Nancy’s blood in his mouth. He does not like it. He also has a bad sensation weighing down his mind. He tries to think through the reasons he should be relieved. He thinks he prevented a fire in his yard. His bite may have sent the girls home. He left the danger behind him. Perhaps a hero would not have left. His mind is heavy because he did not see the situation through. He needs to go back. He is afraid, but needs to go back.

Paul takes a deep breath and runs out of his cover back to the front yard. He tries to think about what he will do when he gets there, but nothing occurs to him. He does not know what he will do if the girls are still there playing with matches. It takes him less than a minute to arrive. He sees the yard is empty. The girls are gone. There are no fires.

The weight is off Paul’s mind. He is proud to be a hero. With his large ears, he hears the front door across the street open. Karen’s image falls on his eyes. She glares at him. He defiantly picks up a fecal pellet and chews it as he looks back at her. It tastes much better than Nancy.


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