Big Bunny

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Originally published 28 February 2003 at

When I stood I could see my reflection in the large mirror above the fireplace. I wiggled my whiskers at myself. I drew each long ear between my paws, smoothing the fur and straightening them out. Homunculus Jones shifted in his desk chair, the creak drawing a twitch from my nearest ear. Looking over my shoulder at my backside, I played with my fluffy tail, puffing it up after sitting on it had flattened the fur.

"Like, Watership Down?" I asked.

"No, those weren’t anthropomorphic, not really," Jones answered.

He returned to his computer. I slipped over behind him, peeking over his shoulder, but once he detected my presence his mouse clicked on "Show Desktop," and his windows were gone. I think he had been reading something, or typing.

"What’cha doing?" I ask.

"Some writing. Some web design. Nothing."

With an indifferent grunt, I walk away. A few clicks, and his monitor refilled with text-laden windows.

"Remember Uncle Wiggly?" I asked. "I liked that game. My grandma had it, the old version. Like that?"

"Kind of," he responds, "but I don’t think he ever encountered people."

I stared at the back of Jones’ head, waiting for him to explain why the presence of humans would make a difference, but he just continued clicking at his mouse.

"I’m going to the fridge, you want anything?" I offer.

"Code Red, if we’ve got one."

Of course, we do, and I grab myself a hard lemonade.

On my approach, Jones again clicked the windows away, leaving a nearly blank desktop. Recycle Bin, My Computer, Network Neighborhood – a bunch of non-proper-noun words given title status and capital letters. "Thanks, Az," he smiled, as I set the bottle down on the clearest three square inches of desk I could find.

I wander the room, sipping at my drink, studying the paintings. The walls are covered with pictures of rabbits, but not the 4H blue ribbon variety of bunny. These are tall, lanky rabbits, posed dramatically behind a dignified seated gentleman. Sometimes he stood on the left, sometimes on the right, yet each painting focused on the exact same subject matter. Jones easily had a hundred, probably more.

Jones monitored online newspapers for productions of Mary Chase’s Pulitzer Prize winning play, Harvey. In Act II, Scene 1, Elwood Dowd’s niece brings out a painting as evidence of Elwood’s insanity. The image Dowd had commissioned was of himself and his best friend, Harvey.

Just before each show closes, Jones contacts the theatre and offers to buy the prop painting from them. Fifty bucks is usually enough – well worth the price of the wood and canvas. The little flat is always destined to be painted over and reused in next month’s production of Kelly and Du or Falsettoland or Baltimore Waltz, whatever it is little theatres alternate opposite the classics. The lead actor in Harvey was included in the painting, so the work had no reason to be stored for future use, leaving it abandoned by the prop department and left to be recycled. A week or two after strike, UPS arrives at Jones’ front door with a large rectangle box. Inside each is a man and his giant rabbit.

Every single painting is artistically striking. The ones from professional production houses are works of a Master, something commissioned from a professional artist and well worth the money. Each whisker and hair has a level of detail approaching photorealism, if you could ever photograph an invisible rabbit. Still, community theatres rarely lacked a qualified artist, and even high school productions mustered up a level of realism unusual for such a low budget. The base requirement of the script is that the painting is easily recognizable as Elwood and Harvey, at least from around the tenth row, preferably from the back of the house.

Odd perspectives betray a projected photograph, traced over and filled in ala paint by number. Still, the loving brushstrokes of a true painting make all the difference. While the subject matter is extremely limited, Jones’ gallery doesn’t skimp on true works of art.

"Hey, Azrael," Jones called. "Ever see Donnie Darko? There’s a big rabbit in that."

"No," I said. "Looks scary. Even the DVD box is too creepy."

It took me a while, but with some scanning I found my favorite. It easily could be me, standing behind Jones. The rabbit in the painting has slick, clean fur, and his bowtie and collar are impeccably straight. The Elwood Dowd, the Jones dead-ringer, sits happily, pleased at the fact his rabbit friend is there with him. The Harvey rests a paw on Elwood’s shoulder approvingly.

"Want to go do something?" I asked after a long gulp of my hard lemonade, still staring at the painting. "Go out, go to a bar or…?"

After a long pause, Jones answered, "nah."

I wait long enough to give Jones the opportunity to changes his mind, and then I change the subject. "How about Bugs Bunny?"

"Closer," he said. "Bugs represents a something human, a symbol of society. He’s something everyone wants to be. Funny, successful, never failing, immortal."

"There’s a lot of comic bunnies," I said. "Bucky O’Hare, Captain Carrot, Usagi Yojimbo…"

"Yeah…The original Bucky O’Hare was really cool."

"Oh. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it. How about Booga? Wasn’t he a rabbit?"

"Kangaroo, actually."


Lifting my bottle for a better view, I swirl around the last gulp in the bottom before tipping it up and drinking it.

"You know," Jones said, "you can go out of you want. You should be able to find someone at the Bison Turf, and I won’t mind. I’ve got stuff to do. Or, maybe go to O’Leary’s. There’s always someone there."

"Nah, I just make a fool of myself. Say stupid shit, act like an idiot, when you’re not around."

"That’s what people like. I’m quiet, no fun. Hell, I’m kinda creepy."

I laugh. "Well, it’s a ‘Steve Buscemi’ kind of creepy, though."

Jones spun around in his chair. "And that’s…good?"

"It’s endearing. And, you’re smart. And funny. I wake up embarrassed, but you make friends, meet people."

"It doesn’t accomplish much."

"You’re not supposed to accomplish anything. You go out to be…out. You get the chance to go let your hair down, and just be yourself for a while."

Jones turned back to his computer.

"I’ve got it figured out, you know," I said.

"What have you figured out?" Jones responded, not turning away from the monitors.

"I figured out why it’s Harvey, and not some other rabbit."

Jones started typing.

"In the play, Elwood’s explaining why all he does is barhop and hang out with Harvey.

"He says he goes out, has a drink, and he starts talking to people. Hears their stories, their big troubles, their major faults, their big dreams. He says something like, ‘nobody brings anything small into a bar.’ When the time is right, he introduces them to Harvey, and Harvey’s so much bigger an grander than anything they’ve got in their lives that they’re left awestruck."

Jones didn’t comment, but I could tell he was listening.

"You want that, meet someone and have an impact. You want a Harvey -- but you’re no Elwood. You don’t go out, don’t have that drink, don’t get to a point where you can introduce your pooka. If you’d just take the time to go out, maybe call up a friend or two, and make yourself available to the world, things might be different."

I could see pictures of naked women on his monitors, so I now knew Jones no longer heard me.

Leaving my empty bottle on the coffee table, I retired to my room.