Much of the backyard is given over to what we had been calling myrtle, but is actually periwinkle. Gardening and animal-care web sites are all but universal in declaring that it is a bitter-tasting plant. (Hi, Ben!) My love nibbled on a bit, as if it were a perfectly normal and ordinary thing for a person to eat plants from their own yard, and agreed with the bitter assessment. It is commonly listed as an inexpensive and natural way to keep one’s garden deer- and rabbit-proof, as the animals find the taste so repulsive they’ll leave it — and your garden surrounded by it — alone. Here, our pet rabbit shoves his head into a huge pile of the stuff and does. not. stop. eating.
Our pet rabbit had been feeling awfully sour, yes, and he did declare the whole holiday to be a “humbug”. In his defense, we took him in the pet carrier to my love’s parents, so we could spend the time there. While he likes being at my love’s parents’ place, that does require travelling there and he doesn’t like that one bit. So I can understand his fowl mood is all.
Luckily, he was visited that night by four ghosts, one of them a ghost warning he was being visited by ghosts, and he’s in much better spirits now. He’s promising he’ll definitely keep Christmas in his heart and in his paws, and the Christmas tree in his mouth. So all’s happy here, and I hope it’s happy over your way too.
I’ve been known to exaggerate some aspects of interaction with our pet rabbit so I want to be clear this isn’t one of those times. We had brought him in his little pet carrier to the veterinarian. He’ll put up with being in the pet carrier while he’s actually being carried. Set him on the floor with nothing going on and he’ll give you about two minutes before deciding he should be out. He starts punching the bars of the carrier to remind us that he’s inside the carrier and could be outside instead.
The trouble is the vet’s was crowded, and they weren’t quite ready for us, so we had to wait. He wasn’t into the waiting. I told him, “You don’t really want to go out now.” He wasn’t buying it. He punched again. I told him, “You won’t be happy with what you see out there.” He was unconvinced. I rotated the carrier so its door faced away from the wall.
Our pet rabbit has met dogs before, mostly those of my love’s parents. Those were very senior, very shy, amazingly timid dogs terrified by such things as our pet rabbit, or me, or the existence of sounds. He’s not bothered by them. What he hasn’t seen before is dogs that’re still very good about being dogs, such as a German Shepherd snuffling around and working out what might be interesting in the area.
He stopped punching. And while I turned the carrier back around so he didn’t have to acknowledge the existence of dogs any more, he also didn’t start punching again. Back home, he spent the whole day inside the innermost reaches of his hutch, sulking. He’s only come out to eat and glare at me since.
(The German Shepherd left moments later, but I didn’t turn the carrier back around. The only other dog in the area was some small dog, maybe a Pomeranian, I forget which and called it a ‘chinchilla’ when describing the situation to my father. But it was smaller than our pet rabbit and I didn’t figure anything good could come of introducing that to the situation.)
“So you’ve been a bit of a terror, by reports,” I said to our pet rabbit. He was looking at the open pet carrier, and considering whether to punch it.
“They were desperate times,” he finally pronounced.
“They were times at your vacation cottage.” This would be my love’s parents’ house. They watch our pet rabbit when we have to be away more than a day. Our pet rabbit can’t be left unattended that long, because he’ll run up long-distance telephone calls. The funny thing is they’re not even calls that would make sense, like ordering stacks of particularly tasty hay. It’s like he just gets carried away with the fun of dialing. In many ways our pet rabbit is a little kid, except that he doesn’t give us colds or tell us complicated and rambling stories about what happened in school.
“There were dogs chasing me!”
“I know those dogs. They’re four years older than the letter `W’.”
“So they’ve had time to practice their fiendish ways!”
“They don’t have fiendish ways. They’re barely up to falling down anymore.” He sneezed, because somehow our pet rabbit sneezes, and then turned that into a snort. “They haven’t even been growling at me because they can’t work up the energy for that anymore.” And this is true. When I first started visiting my love’s parents, the dogs would take turns barking furiously at me, because they were afraid that if they didn’t, I might go on existing. Eventually they would settle down, only for one or the other to suddenly realize that I was still a thing that existed, so they had to go through it all over again. Since then, sadly, the dogs have gotten more frail. They’ll wander up to me and mutter a half-articulated hwurmf. I tell them that’s very good barking and then they collapse on the floor where they are. I’d pat their heads if that didn’t seem like taunting.
Our rabbit put his paws together and shoved on the front of his carrier, a traditional rabbit way of expressing the concept “I want this shoved over there a little”. It works better on hay and towels and light vegetables. I picked him up by his hind legs and shoved him in the carrier, a traditional rabbit-keeper way of expressing the concept “if you won’t go in I’ll just put you in”. He turned around and punched the carrier’s bars.
Finally he said, “I can scare dogs away.”
“You can scare those dogs away. They’re very timid dogs.”
“I didn’t even have to bite and the bigger one ran away!” The dogs are the same size, but perhaps there are rabbit ways of classifying dogs I don’t understand.
“That dog’s been scared away by clouds. You’re not saying you’re just as ferocious as a cloud, are you?”
“Bring me a cloud and I’ll see who scares who!”
“You’re figuring to make a cloud quiver its knees? What has got into you?”
“I had to spend forever fending off dogs!”
It struck me: the “larger” dog came up to the edge of our rabbit’s pen before running away, while the “smaller” one was too afraid of the interloper to get that close. By “running” I mean “kind of shambling about in a way that isn’t technically falling over most of the time”.
“Luckily,” he said, “I know what to do with dogs.”
“You know what to do with those dogs. You’re an expert at existing.”
“I spent my whole life getting ready to exist!”
“You could be in trouble if you had to face other dogs, you know.”
He almost stopped wriggling his nose a moment. “What other dogs?”
“You know there’s more than two dogs in the world.”
“No, I heard them both.”
“Did you ever notice the dogs going over to the window and barking like crazy, then stopping and hiding from the window?”
He nodded, which is the sort of thing that involves a lot of ear-flapping. “When they forgot where I was!”
“No, that’s when they saw there was another dog walking past, outside. They stopped when the other dog noticed them.”
He pushed the carrier door with one paw, letting his fingers melt through the bars. “So there are … 98 dogs in the world?”
“More than that, even. Some dogs they didn’t notice.” I figured it not worth mentioning some of the dogs were walked past the house several times, mostly on different days.
He sniffed. “More than 98 dogs seems like too many. Let’s get home.”
I don’t agree with him on the dog count, but getting home was what I hoped for too.
“It’s not fair,” our pet rabbit said, as he stood up on his hindpaws and rattled at the pen. To make clear how much fair it was not he grabbed the horizontal bar of the cage and shook it around, which made a little noise, but as far as showing inanimate objects who’s boss is nothing like when he shakes pieces of shredded newspaper around.
I kept taking ornaments off the Christmas tree. “Don’t worry. We’re just keeping you in reserve.”
He said, “I’m totally ready! I could finish that tree off in two minutes. Maybe eighteen, tops. Give me five minutes with it.”
“Is it time yet?” our pet rabbit wanted to know. He was anxious, and I saw him getting ready to chew the wires of his pen to hurry me along.
“For … what?”
He grabbed his pen with his forepaws, which is fine, because that’s not so rattly. “To go outside! I’m all ready and set, let’s go!”
“You mean to play the raccoon?”
Here I have to explain. We put up a wildlife camera in the backyard, and it’s taken a month’s worth of photographs of us checking to see if the wildlife camera is taking photographs. We asked our rabbit if he’d go outside and hop around, so we could know whether the camera would photograph something like a raccoon.
He started to chew on the cage, “Yes! I’ve been doing a lot of research and I’m all set!”
“You really just have to exist. You’re already very good at that.”
He stood up on his hind feet and looked up and raised his left forepaw, and cried, “Arr!”
“It’s threatening rain. I thought we’d wait for … what?”
“Avast ye mateys! Ready with the jibs! We’re off to the Egg Harbor!”
“That’s a pirate.”
He nodded. “I’ve been doing a lot of research for this part!”
“We asked you to play a raccoon. That’s completely different from being a pirate.” He looked at me impatiently. “I’m sorry to be the one who tells you this.”
He rolled his head back and sighed. “I’m playing a raccoon who plays a pirate.”
I lapsed into a dignified silence because I was unprepared to answer something like that.
“My raccoon character is named Berkeley Nishimori, and he’s long been fascinated with the history of piracy on the Atlantic seaboard.”
“You don’t need to have a character, though. You just need a body, and you’ve got one.”
“If I don’t have a character this’ll be lifeless. It’s having someone who wants things that makes for compelling scenes!” I looked toward the back window. “Drama or comedy, put in an obsessed character and you’re in good shape! Mister Brock, we’re off for the Egg Harbor!”
“But all I want is you to be there.”
“Now, Berkeley has gotten particularly interested in the mid-Atlantic coast, and he’s set up his pirate character as operating from the South River, as the Dutch termed the Delaware River, but obviously operating as far afield as possible.”
“… Really doesn’t come into play for hopping around the pond.”
“He reasons that the Delaware Bay area is a good one for operations since even though it’s less active than Boston, the divided authorities between the main of Pennsylvania, the Lower Counties, Maryland, and the reunited New Jerseys will make hiding from official inquiries easier.”
“I figure if you just look at the camera, and then look away from the camera … ”
“Now, Berkeley sets Davis — ”
“Yes, Davis, and I admit Berkeley hasn’t established whether Davis is his first or last name, but it seems one historically plausible enough either way, and he’s leaning towards working `Trent’ in there for obvious reasons, is aware that at this time New-Jersey itself was administered by the Governor of New-York, so that helps the administrative confusion, obviously.” No, I did not doubt that he was using the hyphens for the colony names.
“Maybe stand on your hind feet. I imagine raccoons in the wild do that too.”
“Now, Berkeley has figured that Davis isn’t a pirate for reasons of petty greed, of course. He reasons that Davis was driven to it to support his family, disgraced after being named as accomplices to the theft of the colonial treasure chest from the western capital of Burlington in 1714.”
“So all I mean is, you don’t need to have a recursive mass of character.”
“Obviously, I’m drawing on the 1768 theft of East Jersey’s funds from treasurer Stephen Skinner’s house for this. But Berkeley figures that setting his pirate in that era necessarily involves him in pre-revolutionary politics that he doesn’t want to explore just now, and while it wouldn’t require relocating the action to the North River — ”
“The Hudson. I know.”
“Well, it would bias the setting anyway. I should say I don’t think I’ve completely ruled out the other interpretation of this relocating, besides just making up an incident.”
“I really think you’re over-working the part — ”
“And that is, maybe Berkeley is just sloppy about character development. He might have made it up without realizing there was a strikingly similar scandal a half-century later.”
“You really don’t need a character.”
He sneezed at me, so I knew I was in trouble. “You know you’re terrible at improv? You haven’t given me a single `Yes, and’ all this time.”
“Hold on. First, not all life is improv” — he sneezed again, that little buzzing noise — “and second, you haven’t actually responded to my perfectly reasonable skepticism about you over-planning a little hop in the backyard, so how good at this are you?”
He didn’t sneeze at that, but his ears did droop.
“I need to establish,” he finally concluded, “whether Berkeley is deliberately moving the Skinner treasury theft to Burlington circa 1712 or whether he’s making it up. We can wait.”
I agreed, but said, “You’re getting caught in a research spiral. Carry on like this and you’ll build everything about your character and never play him,” while it started to drizzle outside.
“Happy birthday,” I told him.
He was staring at some sheets of paper in his pen and just grunted a little. Or maybe he sneezed, because he sneezes a lot and it sounds like the buzzing of the restraint bars on an old-fashioned roller coaster.
“Um … and many more?”
He got up on all fours and hopped to the edge of the pen. Then he stood up on his hind legs, using the pen to brace his forelegs, looked at me, and rolled his head to the side while yawning, and sticking his tongue out. He left his tongue sticking out — the shape of rabbit mouths means this comes out from one side, and tilted — dropped back to the ground, ran back to his paper, and flopped over on his side, exposing his bright white belly in a flurry of adorability.
“What was that?” I had to know.
He pulled his tongue back in. “Homework.”
“You have homework?”
“Internet course in advanced cute.” I tried to peek at his paper, but it was printed out in rabbit, but I had some idea now why we keep running out of printer paper too soon.
“You’re taking cute classes?”
“I take my responsibilities around here seriously.” And he licked a paw, to groom the side of his head, while flopped out like that, and reaching for the end of his ears.
“Excellent work,” I admitted. “Good luck.”
He splayed his front paw’s fingers out and licked between them. “Thanks!”
Having numbers worked out all right in September, so maybe I can give that another try.
For the month of October I got 370 views — down from 397 in September, and my third-highest overall for a month. This is from 179 unique viewers, itself up from 162 in September, and (by a nose) almost my third-highest overall. Go figure. 179, interestingly, is known as Grothnik’s Prime Number by people who have never heard of Prime Numbers or of Grothnik.
The most popular articles over the past 30 days:
The top five countries were the United States (304 viewers), United Kingdom (12), Canada (10), Australia (8), and Austria (5). Sending me a mere one reader each were France, India, Mexico, and Spain. France was the only one to send me a single reader last month, and they only sent the one the month before that, too.
The Benjamin Franklin thing is he’s quoted as saying “Cut your own wood and it will warm you twice”, which, yeah, just hush there.
“I can’t help sensing a certain coolness in you toward me,” the savage, bloodthirsty monster said.
I agreed with our pet rabbit. “Well, I have felt a bit put off by you lately.”
“It wasn’t my fault!” He shook his head, flapping his ears together, in that way that starts out being dramatic and ends up comic because, you know, rabbit ears flapping. “I didn’t have any choice when you went and attacked my tail.”
“Uh-huh,” I said, and scratched the part near my knuckle where the scar was. “Me, one of the two people who’s spent the past fifteen months bringing you all the food you could eat — ”
“Not nearly all!” he protested. “I could have a whole box more of raisins if you gave me a chance!”
“— and who gets rewarded for brushing you out with an attempt to sever my finger.”
“I imagine you’re wondering why I’m not talking to you,” said our pet rabbit. This was the first I’d heard he wasn’t talking to me, but I’m like that. I looked thoughtful, or confused, which is about right for me any time. “You know Saturday was International Rabbit Day?”
“I do. And did.”
“And you’ve noticed that I’m a rabbit, right?”
I allowed that I had.
“And we didn’t do anything international!”
“I … talked about you online. I’m pretty sure someone from Canada heard about you.”
“And I’ve never even been to Canada! How international a rabbit can I be when I haven’t even been there?”
“You haven’t even been to Ohio, either — ”
“I’ve missed Canada and Ohio! I’ll never be a world traveller at this rate!”
“You hate travel. You spent two days sulking when we put you upstairs in the air conditioned room this summer.”
“You can’t go to other countries if you won’t even stand going upstairs.”
“You could bring other countries in here. It’s the least you could do for International Rabbit Day.”
I considered telling him he was a Flemish giant, so was already kind of International by not being in … and then I realized I couldn’t explain where the Flemish were from without getting in more trouble. So I promised to do something about it next year.
“I like baby carrots,” said our pet rabbit.
“I know you like them, but why would someone send them?” We’re having enough trouble with mysterious deliveries.
“Because I like them,” he said again, obviously upset that I wasn’t getting this point. “I look like I’m big when I eat the tiny carrots!”
“You are big.” He’s a Flemish giant, which as a breed grows to Mark Trail-esque proportions. “You’re bigger than I was through third grade.”
He nodded, “And I didn’t even go to third grading! That’s how big I am!”
“Where did they come from, though?”
And our rabbit looked at me as if disappointed I was so dense. “They’re cut from full-size carrots to just look like baby carrots. Don’t you know how the world works?”
“Why would the world arrange somebody to send you baby carrots?”
“Obviously the world knows I like them!”
“Because it’s true! It couldn’t know that I don’t like baby carrots, because that isn’t true, and if you actually know something then it has to be a true thing or else you don’t actually know it.”
I like his reasoning, but I feel like there’s something missing.
“You’re making an awful noise,” our pet rabbit said, in his most scolding of tones.
I stopped swinging the rubber mallet and let go of the putty knife. “Yes, I know, but it’s for a good reason.”
He poked his nose between his cage mesh, almost close enough to nibble at the knife’s handle. “I don’t think you understand. It’s you and you’re doing that thing where you make noise.”
“I’m sorry, but there isn’t another way I’m going to get this window open.”
“Windows don’t open,” he said, and crossed his paws together. “Hasn’t anyone ever explained that to you?”
“Seriously,” our pet rabbit said, “you’ve got to let me do something about that plant.”
“Is this like when the `PIP’ button on the remote control was trying to undermine the foundation?”
“And I got to that in time, didn’t I?” He buried his head into his chest-fur. “Don’t see the house falling in on anyone, do you?”
I granted that. “How about the time the keyboard cord was, what was it doing exactly?”
“Someone would trip over that! I saved your life, I bet, and are you even giving me a little credit?”
“This is about me dropping hay on your head, isn’t it? Are you upset about that?”
“How would you feel about someone who dropped bags of doughnuts on your head?” And then he hiccoughed, because somehow we have a pet rabbit who hiccoughs.
Hours later, I still don’t know how I’d answer his question.
“Good, you’re here,” said our pet rabbit as I got downstairs in the morning, so I was suspicious. “Because the amaryllis is making trouble.”
I was skeptical. After a somewhat roudy youth, the amaryllis had settled down to a reasonable maturity, taking up a good part of the living room and holding web interviews in which it rages about other cities’ bike-sharing programs. The plant’s crazy, but a well-behaved, faintly amusing kind of crazy.
“Seriously! I overheard it planning to break through the window and grab the neighbor’s car.” A previous owner sealed the dining room window shut, we suspect by vacuum-welding it. There’s one pane sealed so tight that light can’t get through.
The rabbit rattled his cage bars. “Just let me at it a couple minutes, I can get it under control!”
“I’ll consider it,” I said. If the amaryllis is able to get the window in the dining room to open I might just pay it for the carpentry work.
But I could swear the plant cackled.
“Oh, you again,” said our pet rabbit, between little snuffling noises (his).
I nodded while opening his cage to drop a handful of hay on his head.
Between excited chews he said, “Look, what is it exactly you do around here?”
“I feed you,” I pointed out while rubbing his head. “I’d think that should make you at least a little happy to see me.”
“You’re not very reliable about it.”
“What do you mean? I’ve never seen you go twelve hours without being fed something.”
He sort of fluffed his head while shaking it out. “All that time before you started being here all the time, you barely fed me once.”
I was so unable to dispute this I couldn’t even think what to say next.
“But what I mean is, what is it you do all that time you sit in the forbidden zone and don’t move? Why do you do that?”
“The dining room. Well, I … do … web stuff. For a company.”
He snuffed. “And this is something that needs doing.”
“Don’t get so huffy there. What do you suppose you do all day that needs doing?”
“I,” he pronounced slowly, “eat all the hay. I don’t see you or the other one even trying to help with that.”
Suddenly I realized just how complicated was our relationship.