Sunday, September 11, 2005

the bunny story

After reading BSC's Sunburn story, I realized that I, too, have a story that, while being of epic proportions, has not been recorded in written form and "published" in the verbal sprawl of the World Wide Web. This is a story that I have told countless times, and am somewhat famous for. It is true in both fact and spirit- I would not lie about something as serious as the bunny story, people. So, without any further ado- I give you "The Bunny Story".

As pets go, rabbits are not good ones. While intelligent, they are not percievably affectionate.While soft and cuddly, they can turn fierce as cornered mountain lions at the slightest provocation. You may not have known this, but I consider myself to have some authority on the matter, because, for a time, I lived with a bunny.

Christmas before my Senior year in HighSchool, my sister came bounding down the stairs to find that Santa has left her the cutest, furriest, most adorable little bunny in the world. It was a lop-eared Norwegian rabbit, white with brown and black spots all over the thickest and softest fur you can imagine. She immediately named him "Freckles". He came complete with food and cage, although in the months to follow, Freckles became well trained enough to live in the back yard, pretty much on his own. He would come when called, knew his name, pooped in the same little spot in the yard, and was generally not much trouble at all. My sister would bring him in to play with, mostly consisting of her holding him and then setting him down and then holding him again. That was about the extent of the bunny play. But- what he lacked in affection, he made up for in cuteness. My sister loved him.
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Soon, it became evident that Freckles' "male urges" were changing his behavior. He became downright dangerous to hold because, at any moment, he would pump his unbelievably strong haunches and flare his razor sharp claws to scramble out of your arms. He also became horribly territorial. Our poodle, while outside to "do his business" would be subjected to a literal "bounce-by peeing", as Freckles would run past him, jump into the air and spray the most acrid-smelling urine all over our little dog, who was terrified of this bunny that was bigger than he was. In fact, Freckles would sometimes chase the poodle as he ran, hell-for-leather, frantic to be saved from the lop-eared menace. Freckles, who was once a cute little bunny, was now a full fledged "buck", and (our vet informed us) was most assuredly sewing his seed all over the neighborhood with the Cottontail girls.

None of this mattered to my sister. In her eyes, he was still the cutest, most lovable little fuzzball around. As much as he would let her, she doted on him.

A year came and went. I headed off to college and in a flash, I was done with my freshman year and back home working for my father for the summer. In that time, Freckles had taken to being gone for long spells of time. He would eventually show back up for a few carrots, but had taken to spending nights away with the neighborhood ladies. He required less and less upkeep, and I pretty much forgot we even had a rabbit. This was a key mistake.

One day, as I returned home from a long day of delivering magazines, I noticed our neighbor's dog loping down the street. It was a beautiful dog, an Alaskan Malamute, and I feared that someone might steal it if I didn't intervene. Plus, the added benefit was that Brooke, our neighbor, was hot. This is a girl that I had said ten words to in my life, mostly because my tongue melted if I got within a hundred feet of her.
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She was a year older than me and, also, home for the summer. Here, finally, was my chance. I whistled to the dog, and it came bounding over to me and I grabbed the collar and led it back to Brooke's house. Knock, Knock.... nothing. Doorbell... nothing. No one home.

Ok, I thought, I can just keep the dog in our yard until Brooke comes home. I'll leave a message that says something like," Hi, Brooke, this is TJ. Your dog got loose but i've got it safe and sound over at my house. Gimme a call or just come on over when you get this message; we can go grab a bit to eat and then walk your dog back home." Yeah. Right.

That was the plan. Brooke would love me for saving this dog, I was sure. As I was pondering the details of such a proposition, I opened the gate to our backyard. As soon as I had taken two steps in, I knew that something was wrong. This dog, that only moments ago I had been gently leading as a family pet- I was now barely holding on to a rabid wolf. There was a flash of white across the yard, and I realized, with horror, what was happening. Freckles, the family bunny, had seen the Predator. The Predator had seen the bunny. Freckles was racing for his life diagonally across the yard, while Brooke's dog, my chance to win her love, is closing in from the opposite angle. One moment, I was in Suburbia, and the next moment it was Wild America. The rabbit bounded through the grass, trying to make it to the shed. In mid-leap, as Freckles was inches from safety, this wolf/dog caught Freckles in his jaws and began to shake him violently (some would say, like a Polaroid picture...).

Until this moment, I had never known that rabbits made sounds. I had always thought them mute, aside from little lettuce chomping noises. This is not so. As the dog began to shake Freckles, a scream, not unlike a baby's cry, escaped the rabbits' doomed throat. It literally sent chills down my spine.

My first inclination was to run over and stop this massacre, but as I got closer, the reality that this hundred pound beast had just savaged our twelve pound rabbit sunk in. I could only imagine what might happen to a hand, leg, or other body part that tried to stop such an activity. As I stand, rooted in horror, the Canine put the finishing touches on the food item in his jaws and the rabbit, mercifully, stopped screaming. Rest in Peace, Freckles.

The dog/wolf lays down, puts Freckles between his paws, and commences eating our family pet. What to do??... While I knew that Freckles was now in the Great Clover Patch in the Sky, I couldn't stand by and let this mongrel tear him apart and, literally, "wolf" him down. Still wondering if his more beastly insticts had subsided, I carefully picked up a stick and threw it across the yard. An interesting transformation occurred. This wild predator that, by now, had the blood of our bunny all over his jaws and face, perked up his ears, jumped up and chased the stick across the yard. I ran and picked up the still-warm, lifeless carcass of Freckles the bunny, and tried to figure out what to do.

I decided that come what may, no one should see the body, so I grabbed a shovel, went to the side yard, and dug a three foot grave and laid the rabbit in the bottom. After covering him up, and not quite knowing what to do next, I walked into the house and called my father. Our phone conversation went something like this...
"Uh, Dad, we have a problem."
" Whats the matter?"
"Our neighbor's dog just ate Freckles. "
" What?! How did he get into the back?"
" I might have let him in..."
" Oh, great. Is your sister home?"
" No, not yet- shell be home in twenty minutes."

As I am talking, I realize that I have also tracked in a mixture of dirt and rabbit blood all over my Mom's new, white, living room carpet. I inform my Father of this, as well.

" Youre really battin' a thousand, today, son."
"Dad- what do I do, Should I tell her?"
"First of all, get that dog out of the back. There was never any dog in our backyard, never. You havent see Freckles all day; you don't know where he could be. And above all, get that carpet cleaned, and cleaned NOW! if your mom sees that, youll wish the dog had eaten YOU."

I hang up the phone, go outside to take the dog back to Brooke's, and find that he is now lying down, covered in dirt, licking the bloody, dirty, dug-up carcass of Freckles the bunny. Apparently, I forgot that dogs dig. I pick up the stick, throw it again, and again the beast bounds off to retrieve it. Fierce, he is. Smart, he is not.

I bury the rabbit again, find some rope, take Killer over to Brooke's house, tie him to the Peartree in the front yard, come home, call Brooke's machine, leave a message that says," Uh, Brooke, about your dog... he got loose and I found him and he ate our rabbit- thats why he's covered in blood and tied to your tree. Sorry. Call me if you have questions."

Now- to the stained carpet. If you are ever in a situation to need blood stains out of a white carpet, "Resolve" is your friend. In five minutes of scrubbing, the carpet looked brand new. As I am getting up from my hands and knees, my sister walks through the front door.

I love my sister. I dont want anyone to think that I had anything but her best interest at heart, but as she walked out the back door and started to call for Freckles, I felt like dirty, low-down, rotten trash. And I was.

"No, I havent seen Freckles", I lied. Through the next few days, the whole family waited for Freckles to come home. My sister was just sure he would come back. I would come in the house and my father would look at me as if to say, " You deserve every pang of guilt you feel, buddy, but you better not tell your sister that a wolf ripped her bunny to peices in the backyard." I didn't. What I did do, was to walk with her through the neighborhood putting up "Lost Bunny" signs.

Eventually, my sister wised up. Almost two years later, when the pain of loss had subsided a bit, I gave her a stuffed bunny that looked alarmingly like an inert Freckles, and informed her that, indeed, a hungry beast-dog had eaten Freckles the bunny. She wasnt too suprised, but she did not forgive me for a long, long, long time.

And that, ladies and gents, is The Bunny Story.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Fare thee well, Landscaping

Well, ladies and gentlemales, the time has come, once again, for TJ to say goodbye to his summer employment. During the four months of sweat, blood, RedBull and tears, I have found more and more reasons why it is better to sell CDs than it is to mow lawns. There are no swarms of killer bees pouring out of hidden holes on the road. There are no frustratingly stubborn mexicanos who ride next to you and pump Psychedelic Mariachi music or Selena tribute albums all day, every day. At the end of the day on a tour, I smell like whatever paper-wrapped fast food item I have thrown the remnants of into my floorboard. During the summer, I smell like gas, smoke, dirt, sweat, oil, gatorade, and grass. Actually, I might rather smell like landscaping... but anyway- the point is... that I am no longer TJ the Lawn guy. I am now, once again... TJMCCLOUD.COM. Yeah right. Mr "McLood", at Ghettocreek High School is more like it...

In honor of my last day of landscaping, I would like to share a story. It comes secondhand, from my "patrone", or supervisor this summer. He and I became pretty good friends during the summer, and he told me this story. It is too good not to tell. It is, very likely, 100% true.

My buddy on the lawn crew is a recovering alcoholic. Since it is called Alcoholics Anonymous, we will leave his name as J.P. J.P. has been sober for a few years now, and helps out occasionally with counseling and treatment of other addicts. Sometimes this can get a little edgier than one would like, especially when a person is extremely addicted and is going through withdrawals. The practice is to rent a seedy motel room, tie the affected person to the bed, and ween them through their sweats, pain, tremors, and dementia with vodka, mixed with gatorade. Usually two adult males sit with the person, administering the cocktail every four hours or so until the next shift of volunteers shows up, eight hours later.

This particular incident stuck out in JP's mind for what will shortly be obvious reasons.

As he walked in to the little motel room, he felt something strange might happen. The two guys whose shift had ended opened the door, handed them the mixture, and said "Good luck, yall.", with a look in their eyes that said they expected the opposite. JP and his partner, newly sober Kenny, walked into the room and were astounded to see a two hundred and eighty pound Mexican American strapped to the bed, mumbling and cursing under his breath. He had an impressive FuMancu, biceps as big around as watermelons, and tattoos covering most of his upper body that could not have been saying nice things at all. He looked uncannily like From Dusk Till Dawn's Danny Trejo- and not the nice Danny,but the roided-out, vampire Danny.

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It was evident, from the first, that this was not a guy who did anything half way- he would switch between pleading like a helpless child for extra rations of "vodka-rade" to thrashing in a way that suggested he might just be able to break out if he decided to stop playing nicely.

Kenny, our new convert, was pretty white-bread, middle class- and was terrified from the start. When El Terrible started to froth and curse for the first time, he just about bolted. His idea of AA was a meeting and a sponsor, not this semi-exorcism in a dank motel room. JP encouraged him to stay, mostly out of self-preservation, and Ken agreed. As he rolled up his sleeves and took his position at the foot of the bed, the Meximonster settled down. His eyes were unmistakably fixed on Kenny. Kenny looked at JP for help- JP shrugged and mouthed "What! I dont know...."

It was then that EL Musculo spoke, for the first time, intelligibly.

" You got big muscles", he said to a quivering Kenny.

No answer.

"You got beeig muusscles", the man said again, plaintively, almost quietly.

Kenny blurted..." Uh, uh... yeah.. thanks. I dont know- I work out...?"

The man's eyes moved slowly over Kenny's stocky physique.

"Show me yo' muusssels."

"Huh?", said Kenny, more in dread than in question.

"Show me your muusssles, under that shirt you got on. " Louder, now... more forceful. "You got big muscles, muscles like Daddy.... Yeaaah.... Mmmm Muscles like Daddy"

Apparently, now he was Daddy, in this exchange.

At this point, Kenny gathers his things to leave, deciding if anyone was going to show any muscles, he would like to be miles and miles away. JP stopped him.

" You cant leave! Are you really going to let me stay here alone? Step outside if you have to, but do NOT leave me here with this. This guy wants to get sober and we are his only chance right now."

Kenny sat back down and, keeping one eye on the door and one on Daddy, he said he would stay.

The man in the bed started to rock the bedframe back and forth, screaming," Big Muscles like Daddy! Big Muscles like daddy! BEEEEEIIGG MUSCULOS LIKE DAADDY!" He was ranting and thrashing and literally foaming at the mouth, and then in one second, it was over, and his voice was a quiet whisper, he said, in a low, quiet commanding tone ,"show me your muscles."

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JP looked at Kenny and let him know that he was to take off his shirt, and NOW. Kenny pleaded, tried to leave, but in the end, had pledged to stay and help this man, who wants to be sober, any way he can. And what was more, if El Furioso continued in this manner, the ties that held him from unthinkable acts would surely break soon. So, not knowing what else to do, and believing this to be quite possibly the last day of his strictly hetero-sexual life, Kenny grabbed his shirttales and pulled his shirt over his slightly pudgy, mostly muscular physique. He then adjusted and cleaned his glasses on the discarded shirt and waited for whatever was going to happen next.

The man in the bed moaned, panted, grunted... and then his eyes rolled back in his head as he passed out cold. The Meximonster was gone, replaced by a hulk of sleeping tattoos, strapped to a metal bed.

Several hours later, JP and Kenny left, handing the cocktails and tattoos over to the next team. JP thought about warning the new team, but , then, they would have no such story to tell.

Farewell, landscaping, I will miss you.