First, a huge “thanks” to Marcia for her fantastic idea and trademark generosity of spirit. It makes this a wonderful community, and what a great way to get to know new writers!
I’d like to send off Excerpt Week with not a bang or whimper, but a laugh, with this Easter-centric chapter from Good Luck With That Thing You’re Doing, a collection of humor essays published in November.
Hope you enjoy!
A Hare Out of Place
Last spring I moved to an Arlington neighborhood whose inhabitants do more than pay lip service to the idea of community. People here make a point of getting to know each other and do things like leave welcome gifts for new arrivals. (An unidentified neighbor left me an eggplant, for example. I thought it was a nice gesture, though some readers feared I had been targeted by a produce terrorist.) The neighborhood also has a robust civic association that puts on well-attended, family-friendly events like a Fourth of July parade, a Halloween parade, and an Easter egg hunt.
My next door neighbors, Toni and Scott, are among the people who play the most active roles in making these events happen. They contribute countless hours of their time to help plan and organize. I’m an engaged citizen too, so I contribute juice boxes, which everyone knows are the cornerstone of any close-knit community.
The annual Easter egg hunt was scheduled to take place today, so I stopped by my neighbors’ house last night with my contribution. To my standard kid-friendly juice offering I had added a bottle of adult grape juice, which Toni and I proceeded to share. I hadn’t seen her in a while, so we had some catching up to do. About-two thirds of the way through the bottle, the topic of conversation shifted to the egg hunt.
“So do you guys have everything you need?” I asked.
“I think we’re all set,” she said. “We spent two hours stuffing plastic eggs on Monday, so we have enough of those, we have snacks, and we’ve got juice.”
“Sounds like you thought of everything.” Knowing Toni, she had.
“Well, except for one thing,” she said, taking an ominous pause and a large gulp of wine. “We don’t have an Easter bunny.” The rabbit makes an appearance at the hunt every year. The neighborhood teenager who usually dons the suit was out of town, leaving a vacancy at a key position in the lineup. “We were hoping maybe a kid who needed some community service hours would do it.”
Any job that’s described in terms a parole officer would use is bound to be a plum assignment. My wine certainly saw it that way, because it took over the talking and said, “I’ll do it.”
“Really?” Toni said. “You don’t have to, you know.”
This did not deter the wine, which said, “Oh, I’ve done time in an animal suit before, so it’s really no big deal.” And then it got to bragging about my stints years earlier as a cow mascot in the Peach Bowl. “I’ve conducted marching bands on national television and done a few commercials,” it said. My spoken resume impressed Toni to the point where she didn’t feel the need to call my references. I was hired.
The hunt was due to start at 10:00 a.m. at a park a couple of blocks from my house. I showed up at 9:45. Toni passed the suit to me on the sly and I slipped into one of the houses adjacent to the park for my costume change. I was pleased to discover the rabbit outfit weighed a lot less than the cow suit I’d worn before; however, this suit featured the same vision impairment, oxygen deprivation, and unlimited heat that came standard in the other suit. Since I could only see my feet, I knew I needed a handler.
On getting the head further situated, I also realized that one of the eyes had popped out. Unless the neighborhood was prepared to foot dozens of bills for toddler psychotherapy, the suit needed some surgery. The people whose house I was changing in –total strangers to me – lent a glue stick to the cause. Once my eye had been newly adhered, off I went, amid much fanfare. Or so I’m told.
Few things polarize the kid world like life-sized holiday characters. Kids either love ‘em or hate ‘em. The sight of the Easter bunny caused more than a few kids to burst into tears, judging by the sound of things. Other kids adored me, which I figured out mainly by tripping over them. It warmed my heart to have a fan club.
And, as all self-respecting public figures do, I also had a stalker. One little girl grabbed my paw and started dragging me around the park. When my handler intervened and redirected me, the toddler clung to my leg like a barnacle to a boat. Meanwhile my bum eye had come loose and was flapping in the breeze. This increased the flow of oxygen slightly and the risk of inflicting psychiatric trauma on the kids exponentially. Even with this expanded opening, breathing was still a bit of a struggle, so I spent much of my time tugging on the bunny head to try to align its mouth to my own. After about half an hour, my tour of duty ended. No doubt the civic association was deeply grateful for my services. After all, it’s not every day that the neighborhood kids get to see a one-eyed, nose-picking Easter bunny. But I won’t be surprised if they ask me to stick with the juice boxes next year.