It was morning and the sun was creeping through the blinds like a ghostly brushstroke of boiled lemon-yellow light. BumBuna O’Brien sat up in bed, put on his glam glasses, and looked at his collection of Easter eggs from outer space. They were arranged neatly on tiny individual egg easels inside a glass cabinet hewn from a dark wood. He appreciated their outlandish colors and designs, and for the fact their origins were completely extraterrestrial.
BumBuna O’Brien often dreamt of living somewhere else, out in space, on some different planet that wasn’t so sore and ravaged by hate and greed. He sighed and crawled out of bed. He walked down the narrow hall to the kitchen. He tugged on a string to open the blinds covering the window above the sink. Carrot shavings lay there, now drying and sticking to the stainless steel. He turned on the water and flushed them down the drain. He put on a kettle of water for some hot tea and looked out the window. Bag worms hung heavy and grotesque in some of the tree limbs, and the heat bugs were already shimmering and screeching. He watched ruby red cardinals fly through the leaves. The kettle began to whistle. He carefully poured the hot water over the tea bag in a cup and watched it steam. He carefully carried it to his table and sat down. He sipped too soon, and it burnt his bunny beard.
“Damn it all to hell!” he screamed, and then with one swift swipe of his paw, the cup of hot tea flew across the room and crashed onto the floor.
“Can’t I even allow myself one cup of tea without being all wumbly bumbly about it!?”
He slammed his head against the top of the table repeatedly until it really hurt — then the old green phone on a table began to ring. Once, twice, three times, four.
“What’s wrong? You sound grumpy.”
“Yes. It’s me. Who would you think it was?”
“Where in the hell have you been? I haven’t heard from you in three days.”
“I’ve been away.”
“What’s going on with you? You sound strange, Caroline.”
She paused for a long time. “I’ve been thinking.”
“I’ve been thinking that maybe we should start seeing other rabbits.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means exactly what it sounds like, exactly what I said.”
“No. It means you want to start seeing other rabbits.”
“Yes. We’re getting stale.”
Sarcastically he breathed, “Are we bread?”
“Of course, we’re not bread, you dumb bunny! But I think it’s time to explore other meadows.”
BumBuna O’Brien could feel the venom boiling in his guts and it was crawling up and stinging his throat like acid.
“So, what you’re really saying is that you’ve already started seeing another rabbit.”
There was some silence and maybe even a little whimper on the other end of the line.
“No, you’re not!”
“Things happen. Rabbits change. You’ve changed. You’re not the same silly little bunny I used to know.”
“Who is he?”
He could hear her swallow.
“Carlos!? Carlos is a douchebag! And he’s Cuban.”
“You’re a douchebag! And a racist pig! I hate you!”
“Fuck you, Caroline! Just fuck off!… And I’m a rabbit, not a pig.”
“Don’t talk to me that way! Don’t ever talk to me that way again! Maybe if you weren’t such a bum and maybe if you knew how to satisfy me — then maybe I’d still love you.”
“I’ve satisfied you plenty of times, Caroline — don’t lie to yourself for the sake of that over the ocean Caribbean hack.”
“You’ve never satisfied me the way Carlos satisfies me. I don’t have to fake it with him. You’re not even a real rabbit.”
“I never thought I’d say this, Caroline. But I really hate you right now. I hate you to the end of the universe and then some! Don’t ever talk to me again. Enjoy your future life running to the sun in your silver rum truck!”
BumBuna O’Brien slammed the phone down on the table repeatedly until it was in pieces and then ripped its wire completely out of the wall. He screamed out a whole belly full of bunny pain. He was dripping and panting, and his heart was racing with fury. His head drooped and he began to weep softly in the sparkling sun fuzz of a new day, a day which he already hated.
BumBuna O’Brien stretched out on his bed, smoked some high-grade grass, and stared at the ceiling. He felt really goopy inside. He felt used up and spit out. He felt like that old bottle of ketchup that was almost empty, inverted in the refrigerator, the cap all sticky and crusted up. His stomach could barely take what his mind was feeding it.
“I’ll never fall in love with another rabbit ever again. Yarbles to you, Caroline. Big bolshy yarbles to you!” as Alex DeLarge would surely say.
He laid on his bed for a very long time and then he fell asleep, roughly, and he dreamed brutal dreams of betrayal.
It was a while later, perhaps a different day, when BumBuna O’Brien’s eyes flickered open as he awoke to the sound of someone furiously pounding on his front door.
“Hold on a minute! Jesus effin’ Christ! Who’s there?”
“Caroline?” he wondered, and he pressed his face against the door. “What the hell do you want?”
“I’ve left some things here and I would like to pick them up.”
“Tough shit! I’m busy right now. I’ll set them outside for you later.”
“I have a right to get my things. I can call the Rabbit Patrol and then you’ll have to let me in.”
“You’re being a real pain in the ass, Caroline. A real pain in the ass!”
BumBuna O’Brien reluctantly unlocked the door and slowly pulled it open. He peered out at her. He could smell her recent sex with Carlos. It drove him mad.
“Come in but make it quick. I’d rather not look at you more than I have to.”
“I won’t be long. Just a few things in the bathroom — and my records. Where are my records?”
BumBuna O’Brien pointed to the cabinet where the stereo sat.
“Right there. Where else would they be?”
“You don’t have to be snotty.”
“Excuse me. I suppose I should just hop up and down with joyful glee. Perhaps if I were sunbathing nude on a Cuban beach and sipping carrot juice with my lover, maybe then I’d be a bit more cheerful.”
“Fuck you, too!”
Caroline Bunny quickly gathered the rest of her things and made toward the door.
BumBuna O’Brien stopped her. “Hey wait. That one’s mine.”
“INXS — Greatest Hits. That’s my record.”
Caroline was flustered. “Here. It’s a lousy record anyways. I always hated it when you played it.”
“I thought you liked it.”
“Good grief, Caroline. You’re a real piece of work.”
“He killed himself.”
“The singer of that crappy band you like.”
“Yeah. Everyone knows that.”
“Well, maybe you should do the world a favor and do the same thing.”
“You have a hunk of dirty coal for a heart. Do you know that Caroline?”
Her tearing eyes darted away.
“Goodbye forever,” she whimpered.
“Adios, trampola,” BumBuna O’Brien said, and he slammed the door so hard that the entire house rattled.
BumBuna O’Brien suddenly felt all alone in the world. He even felt bad about the way he spoke to Caroline. He took a framed photograph of them together at the Deer Park Carrot Farm and dropped it into the trash can. Then he stomped it down. The glass cracked. He poured the trash can onto the living room carpet and kicked at the pieces madly. He didn’t care. It was over. It was over forever, and his stomach suddenly pained him. He lit a scented candle and sat on the couch. He wanted to call a friend, but his phone was all smashed up and its connection to the world dismantled. He smoked some more of that high-grade grass and disappeared into another dimension.
This time it was an empty, cold beach, not a tropical one. The water was gray and smashing hard against the shore. The cloud ceiling was thick and hung low. The horn of some invisible lighthouse groaned in the distance. He thought he saw someone rowing a boat in the water. He moved closer to the water’s edge and realized it was someone rowing a boat in the water.
“Hey there!” someone called out. “Can you help me pull it ashore?”
“All right!” BumBuna O’Brien called out. “Where did you come from?”
“Hold on. That’s right. Reel me in like a big fat fish.”
The boat hit the shore, the stranger jumped off, and together the two pulled it in until it fit snugly in the growling sand.
“Thanks,” the stranger said. “Who are you?”
“My name is BumBuna O’Brien. I’m a rabbit. Who the hell are you?”
“I’m Pierre Moose. It’s very nice to know you.”
“So, where did you come from? All I see is water.”
“All in good time, my strange little friend. Why don’t we build a little fire? I’m quite cold from being out there so long. Then we can talk.”
“I don’t have any matches.”
“I do. A good seaman always has matches.”
“Well, for situations just like this.”
Pierre Moose was a tall, lean man with a face chiseled by the salty air. His hair was long and gray and now soaked by the sea spray. The hair matched the color of his speckled beard that was kept cropped close to the skin of his face — it surely felt like sandpaper. His eyes, stone gray and constantly scanning the horizon, looked weary and full of ghost stories. He wore a black raincoat, unbuttoned, and beneath it a heavy cable-knit sweater with a turtle-neck collar. His dark pants were puffy and dirty, and he wore rubber boots that went up to just below his knees.
“Have you been fishing?” BumBuna O’Brien wondered aloud.
“Fishing? Oh no. I’m not a fisherman. I am an adventurer.”
“What kind of adventures?”
“Ah, too many to mention. Why don’t you gather some wood before I freeze to death,” he instructed.
BumBuna O’Brien went off toward a cluster of trees and brambles that grew away from the shore. He turned to look back at the man, now kneeling in the sand, and he was rubbing his hands together in the cold and making colors float off from the tips of his fingers, like an emergency flare or maybe birthday candle sparkles for a circus clown. It was strange, really kind of eerie and hallucinatory, BumBuna O’Brien thought, and he wondered if he had stumbled upon some sort of magician or old sea warlock.
“What the hell does he need matches for if he can do that?” BumBuna O’Brien asked himself. “And I wonder if he knows anything about sailing to Cuba — I’d sure like to kill that Carlos bastard.”
BumBuna O’Brien gathered what wood he could and returned toward the spot on the beach where Pierre had decided to build the fire. He was staring off into the waters, smoking an old pipe, and thinking deeply so it seemed. BumBuna O’Brien dropped the paltry amount of wood onto the ground and the man looked at it and then up at him.
“I suppose I should have gathered the wood. I didn’t consider your small arms.”
“I can get more.”
“It’s enough for now.”
Pierre Moose arranged the sticks like an inverted cone and stuffed kindling at the bottom. He fumbled in his pockets for a box of matches and pulled one out and struck it against the side.
“They’re a little damp,” he said, continuing to strike until it lit. He cupped the flame with his bony hand and set it to the kindling. It took right away and soon the flames rose and the sticks took to it and there was fire.
BumBuna O’Brien felt the heat wash over him and it gave him some peace in the growing darkness.
The man stood up tall and he was somewhat menacing in the light of the fire.
“Stay here. I’m going to gather more wood.”
BumBuna O’Brien watched the lanky stranger stroll off in the direction of the wooded area. He seemed like some lost soul or phantom searching for good in a world with so little. He watched the fire and listened to the waves crash. He felt alone, wayward, and unsettled. He missed Caroline. Yes, she was unsavory and cruel, he thought, but the good memories soiled the bad ones. The thought of her with Carlos made his guts hurt. He saw some blinking lights in the distance. A ship was passing. Then Pierre appeared without warning and dropped a pile of sticks at his side. It startled him.
“You can start feeding the fire,” Pierre told him.
BumBuna O’Brien added the sticks, and the flames grew. Then he set on a larger log. Then another. It was roaring and warm and Pierre settled into the sand and lit up his pipe again.
“You’re welcome to stay on the beach with me tonight if you like. Then in the morning I can take you to my island.”
“An island? Is that where you live?”
“I suppose you could say that. It’s not much living really. But it’s peaceful. No one bothers me out there.”
“Do you like being alone?”
“Yes. People have it all wrong nowadays. They’re all screwed up. I don’t want to be a part of that. And you? What brings you wandering to this place?”
“I’m not really sure. I got a little high.”
“You don’t know how you got here?”
“Or isn’t this just a dream?”
“Not to me.”
“I thought I was dreaming.”
“You also seem to think you’re a rabbit.”
“But I am a rabbit.”
“No. You’re just a man who thinks he’s a rabbit.”
“Why would any man want to think he was a rabbit?”
“I haven’t figured that out about you yet.”
“But just look at me. Don’t I look like a rabbit?”
Pierre Moose studied him as if he were a fine piece of art.
“Well, it is true that you’re small and you have larger than normal ears and an unruly beard. So, yes, I suppose it is possible one could mistake you for an animal, and yes, possibly a rabbit. But I assure you, friend, you are a man.”
“How can that be?” BumBuna O’Brien wondered aloud. “How can that possibly be? How have I managed to live within such a charade?”
Pierre pointed his pipe and with straightforward honesty said, “You must be severely delusional.”
“So, then Caroline must be a real woman?”
“My girlfriend. I mean my ex-girlfriend.”
“Well, she must be a real woman. I seriously doubt any sane dame in the world would date a rabbit.”
BumBuna O’Brien dipped his head and thought about it. His mind was a gigantic jigsaw puzzle with half the pieces missing.
“Don’t worry about it so much,” Pierre Moose reassured him. “Tomorrow, I will take you to my island and you can be a man and even live there if you want. There’s plenty of room.”
“I’m not really sure what’s going on, Pierre. I think I need to speak to a priest.”
“Yes. Do you know any?”
“Well, I think there’s an old minister who lives out on Rocky Point. A Reverend Abrams, I believe. It’s on the way. Maybe he can help you readjust your marbles. I have to stop for supplies anyway.”
“I would like to do that. Thank you.”
Pierre tapped his pipe out on the bottom of his sea boot, set more large logs on the fire, and then laid out flat on his back and folded his arms.
“I’m going to try to meditate for a while before going to sleep,” he said. “Stay close to the fire. It’s going to be cold.”
TO BE CONTINUED. FIRST OF THREE PARTS.