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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Me, my sister, and Alvin the rabbit


This story will reflect badly on me.  But I was only a child when the crime occurred, so try to forgive me.




Back in the early 1960s my sister Susan had a pet rabbit named Alvin (presumably named after the singing chipmunk).  She loved him. She kept him in a cage in the barn. 



I was maybe five or six at the time.  I was ten years younger than Susan, and always (go figure) trying to find ways to drive her crazy.  (She took me to the barber around this time, and I entertained the whole place by telling the barber and everyone else in the place that Susan had “fat hams and a big rump.”  Where did I even come up with that?)



Anyway: one cloudy Washington morning in 1962 or so, I excused myself from the kitchen table, went out to the barn, opened Alvin’s cage, and watched him hop off into the distance.



Why?  I seem to recall that I felt bad seeing him caged.  I also (guiltily) recall that I might have wanted to irk Susan.




I was just quiet enough about it that no one noticed my quick exit and reappearance.  Susan went out to feed Alvin a bit later, and came back crying.  The cage door was open, and she was sure that she’d been stupid and not locked it securely.  She was desolate.



Fast-forward about thirty-three years, to 1995.



Susan was very ill with ovarian cancer.  We all knew she didn’t have long to live.  I had long telephone conversations with her, Rhode Island to Washington state.  During one of those conversation, I suddenly recalled my childhood crime, and it occurred  to me that I would probably never have another chance to explain myself.  “Susan?” I said.  “Do you remember Alvin?”


I hoped she'd say “Alvin who?”  Instead, she said, immediately: “Alvin the rabbit?”



My heart sank, but it was too late to retreat.  “Yeah.  Susan, do you remember how he got loose?”



Her tone on the telephone was very sharp now.  “Well,” she said, “I think I remember that I assumed I left his cage unlocked.”



In for a penny, in for a pound.  “Susan,” I said, “I did it.  I went out and opened the cage.  I don’t know.  I think I felt bad for him, and I wanted to vex you.”



A very long moment of silence.



Then she said: “I’ll see him in heaven.”  (Susan was a very devout Christian.)



“Susan,” I said.  “He probably hopped off into bunny nirvana. He probably has millions of descendants by now, in the Battle Ground / Venersborg area.”



“Maybe,” she said suspiciously.  “Or maybe a coyote ate him.”



“Nah,” I said.  “What are the chances of that?”



(Susan died only a few months after this conversation. But at least I confessed my crime to her, and she forgave me.)



(I think.)



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