Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Easter Bunny - Part Two

Brer Rabbit careered through the dingy alleyways, tipping rubbish bins over as he ran. Trying to be quiet at this point was useless; his pursuer knew exactly where he was, and all he could do was try to slow him down. A cat screamed at him as he threw aside the garbage bag it had been hiding behind. Brer tripped and landed face-first in a puddle but was up again in an instant, his feet scrambling frantically on the wet ground. He reached into the left pocket of his overalls and pulled out a small revolver; no easy task when running for one’s life. He reached into another pocket with his other hand, pulled out a small handful of rounds and set to work loading the diminutive chamber. Bullets spilled out of his hands as he sped towards the street lights at the end of alley, but he didn’t mind losing a few as long as he had a fully-loaded gun in his hand by the time he reached the streetlights. The rumble of a large motorcycle echoed through the alley behind him and he slowed down slightly to risk a glance over his shoulder. The silhouette of a helmeted head with two large ears poking out the back cast a colossal shadow on one of the buildings and Brer heart leapt to his throat. ‘Surely not,’ he thought. ‘Isn’t he one of ours?’ With renewed energy Brer burst out of the alley into the quiet main street, being careful to hide the gun back in his front pocket. There weren’t many late-night shoppers about, but it was well-lit, so his chances of survival were higher. As he ran past a pawn shop he snatched a large fur coat off a rack and threw it around his shoulders. It was distasteful for a rabbit to wear fur, but desperate times called for desperate measures. There are worse things to cover oneself in than mink – Brer knew that from experience. He slowed to a jog and crossed the street, intent on throwing his pursuer off the scent. How the hell did they find him?

Until earlier in the evening Brer rabbit could have been the poster child for the Witness Protection Program; he was living a new life with a new name in a new place every three months. Life was good and, for the most part, normal, if you ignored the fact that there was a large bounty on his head. The whole saga had started four years previously when Brer found himself unable to pay off debts to the Tar Baby, a particularly successful and violent loan shark. Brer had turned to Tar Baby for money after the banks had rejected his application for a boat loan, citing the insecure nature of Brer’s job as an insurance salesman. Tar Baby agreed to lend Brer the money for his boat on the condition that the money was paid back at a rate of twenty percent interest per month. Brer agreed on the spot and was soon the proud owner of his dream vessel. Shortly after the deal was struck a drought crippled the region and the river levels dropped, taking the fish stocks with them. Brer’s fishing business went under, and he was unable to maintain his loan payments, so Tar Baby sent a couple of goons around to Brer’s house to ‘rough him up’. Brer, beaten, bruised and terrified for his life, went straight to the feds the next day and offered to trade information on Tar Baby’s illegal dealings in return for protection. The feds agreed. The racketeering case against the Tar Baby had come to a standstill and they needed reliable witnesses to take it to trial. Brer was held in protective custody for a week before being spirited away to an undisclosed location in preparation for his entry into the Witness Protection Program. He stayed successfully hidden for four years.

Shortly before Easter during the fourth year Brer received a letter from the Tortoise Consortium congratulating him on his lottery ‘win’ and subsequent promotion to ‘Easter Bunny’. He did not know how the Consortium knew of his whereabouts, and he hated the idea of being the Easter Bunny, but he knew that he was species-bound to accept. Any rabbit that declined the ‘invitation’ disappeared permanently. Maybe it was time that had relaxed his guard, or maybe he felt that the threat of a cruel execution at the hands of Tar Baby had passed; whatever it was, Brer accepted the post of Easter Bunny.

The next day he was running for his life.

Brer glanced behind every couple of minutes, scanning the scant crowd for his pursuer. His fur coat hid his dirty mechanic’s overalls well, and its softness reminded him of his mother. She had been a good rabbit, and was taken from him too soon. Myxomatosis was a cruel disease. Brer sniffed and wiped a tear from his eye before stopping in a shallow alcove to light a cigarette. As he inhaled the pungent smoke a thudding rumble of a motorcycle filled the street. Some of the late night shoppers paused to look at the black and chrome beast, but most of them just continued about their business. Brer whipped around and saw the bike come tearing across the street towards him. All he could do was reach into his pocket and pull out his gun.

‘I don’t now who you are, but I swear, man, if you come any closer I’ll kill you!’ he yelled, his outstretched arm shaking. A deep laugh came from inside the rider’s helmet as he slowly took of his gloves to reveal large fluffy paws.

‘I swear I’ll shoot!’

The large paws rested on the bike’s fuel tank for a moment, and the helmeted head cocked to one side. ‘I don’t think you have the plums to pull that trigger,’ said the deep voice. Something about the tone triggered something deep within Brer’s brainstem, and he pissed himself.

‘Oh look what you’ve done now, Brer,’ said the helmet. ‘You’ve gone and ruined an expensive coat!’

Brer still had the gun pointed at the figure, but his hand was shaking so much that an accurate shot was out of the question. The rider’s paws moved up to the black helmet and slowly pulled it off. Two massive fluffy ears, their tips flopped over, sprang to attention as not-so-little Bunny Foo Foo’s face was revealed.

‘Oh Jesus fuck,’ whimpered Brer.

Foo Foo grinned. ‘What’s up, Brer? I’ve been looking for you for a long, long time.’

Brer just whimpered. His whiskers were twitching like trees in a hurricane.

‘The tortoises would like me to pass on a message from Tar Baby.’

Something tweaked in Brer’s head and his brow furrowed. ‘Wait, what? The tortoises? What have they got to do with this?’

‘Oh, quite a bit. See, the Tar Baby paid them to rig the lottery to bring you out of hiding. Ingenious, really. I was paid quite well for that idea,’ said Foo Foo with a faint smile.

‘Oh you piece of shit,’ said Brer. ‘You’re working with the tortoises and Tar Baby?’

Foo Foo slowly clapped his massive paws together. ‘Well done.’ His booming voice seemed to fill the street.

‘Why? You’re one of us!’ Brer punctuated the statement by stabbing his gun in the air.
‘I know which way the wind is blowing, I’ve seen the writing on the wall. The tortoises were shamed and embarrassed by that stupid bet Basil made up years ago. Sure, they won the race in the end, but only by disqualification. They managed to make the result seem more honourable with their “Slow and steady wins the race” campaign.’ Foo Foo unzipped his leather jacket and pulled out a sawn-off shotgun. ‘Turns out they want to go even further than that though. They want to wipe out all the ‘famous faces’ in the rabbit population. They figure that once they’re gone, the public will have no reason to like us anymore.’

‘This is about a petty grudge?’

Foo Foo nodded.

‘But you’re one of the famous faces,’ said Brer.

‘I’m fully aware of that!’ snapped Foo Foo. ‘And I had a choice: I could either be ‘One with the Dodo’, or I could work with the tortoises. It wasn’t a hard decision to make – I fucking hate most of the famous faces. They draw attention away from me, from my stories, from my struggles! When this is over, I’ll be the last one standing. I’ll be the one that will be remembered.’

Brer’s shaking had calmed down while Foo Foo talked, and he was focusing every ounce of concentration on aiming the gun.

‘You’ll be remembered as a traitor!’ Brer pulled the trigger and a few things happened at once: the sound of the gunshot bounced off the tall buildings, frightened shoppers looked around for the source of the sound, Foo Foo moved slightly as the gun flashed, and Brer stood open-mouthed as he watched the bullet punch a hole in Foo Foo’s left ear. Foo Foo yelled out in pain and lunged at the high-beam switch on his bike. Bright light cascaded over Brer like a spotlight and he was frozen to the spot. Foo Foo raised his shotgun.

‘Like a rabbit caught in the headlights,’ he mused. The shotgun was louder that Brer’s handgun and made a much bigger mess too. Foo Foo took a photograph of the vaguely rabbit-shaped blood splatter on the wall for his client before picking up one of Brer’s paws. Foo Foo tapped the paw on his own paw and laughed. ‘Guess they’re not so lucky after all.’

He climbed back on his bike and took his time fitting his ears into his helmet. His left ear hurt like hell, but after examining it in the mirror decided that he liked the addition of a bullet hole – it made him look even scarier. The bike started with a rumble and the rider hummed ‘Little Bunny Foo Foo, riding through the forest…’ as he reversed the bike off of the footpath.

He put it in gear and roared off down the street.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Easter Bunny - Part One

Peter walked with a limp and winced with every step. ‘Easter Bunny Lottery,’ he muttered as he set down his basket. ‘Stupid fucking idea.’ He sat down on a convenient log and rubbed his aching, blistered feet, cringing as he applied pressure. It was a few hours before dawn and he still had a long way to go before his work was finished. Sure, the job had its perks; the shiny new waistcoat with gold buttons was nice, but something didn't sit easy with him. The others thought the same way - there was something going on and none of them could work out what it was. Peter gingerly got to his feet and stretched his back before picking up his basket of chocolate eggs. He only made it a few steps before he tripped over a tree root. ‘God-fucking-dammit!’ he yelled to the sky as the eggs spilled out of the basket. ‘Why me?’

A sparkly sound filled the air as if in answer, and a spectacle-wearing tortoise appeared in mid-air. ‘Because you won the lottery,’ it said as it looked over a clipboard.

Peter got to his damaged feet and brushed the dirt from his waistcoat. ‘I know why me, but I don’t get why is has to be me. This is bullshit and you know it, tortoise.’

The tortoise smiled. ‘Tut tut, Peter, you know the rules.’

‘You’re an arsehole,’ growled Peter.

The tortoise cleared his throat. ‘Section III, paragraph seven: “Easter Bunnies shall not engage in profane behaviour or language which may cause distress to minors”.

‘I don’t care. I’m not doing it, you prick. This is bullshit. I refuse to do this anymore. I’m tired, I’m sore and I didn’t sign up for this. I swear, if you tell me to do it one more time I’ll take a shit inside every hollow egg and rewrap them. The kids won’t notice until it’s too late.’

The tortoise’s face turned mean. ‘Do that and you’ll get calicivirus’d.’

Peter’s face fell. ‘You wouldn’t dare,’ he said.

The tortoise grinned silently and looked at Peter over the top of his glasses.

Peter was nervous but put on a brave face. His whiskers hardly twitched at all. ‘How did it come to this, tortoise?’

‘You know exactly how, Peter. The previous owner was a terrible gambler, PLUS he was a cheat.’

‘He didn’t cheat! He was shrewd!’

‘No, he cheated. He substituted his runner with a narcoleptic hare at the last minute, and was subsequently disqualified, despite the hare losing anyway. So now we control the Easter Bunny Company and manage it how we see fit. The Selection Lottery model is just the first stage of our company-wide sweeping changes,’ said the tortoise.

‘And the lottery is random, is it?’ said Peter, arms crossed across his chest.

The tortoise scrunched its face. ‘Yes. It’s random, and I don’t appreciate your tone.’

‘It just strikes me as odd that this year’s Easter Bunnies are all well-known individuals.’

The tortoise continued to frown and made a mark on the sheet on his clipboard. ‘Lotteries are random. The results are random. You think that just because well-known rabbits are working together on the one night is a good reason to be suspicious?’

Peter raised his eyebrows. ‘I didn’t say anything about it being “suspicious”.

‘Thinking something is odd is to think of something as “suspicious”. Do not put words in my mouth,’ said the tortoise.

Peter opened his mouth to speak but thought better of it. The tortoise was right about both things; the previous franchise owner was a terrible gambler and a drunk and an idiot, and just because well-known bunnies were on ‘duty’ tonight didn’t mean anything was wrong. Still, he didn’t like the direction the company was taking. The Tortoise Consortium was slowly running the place into the ground, and there was nothing the employees could do about it. Word on the street was that anyone who spoke up against management went to the Big Farm in the Sky.

An owl hooted somewhere overhead. Peter looked around and took a deep breath. ‘Fine. Whatever. No more questions, I’ll do my job, even though it sucks, but you’ll have to find a new Easter Bunny for next year.’

‘Oh of course,’ said the tortoise. ‘You know very well that’s how it works. Once you’ve been an Easter Bunny your name is permanently taken out of the lottery. You won’t ever have to do it again.’

Peter picked up the basket and started loading the eggs back into it. ‘I still don’t trust you,’ he said.

‘You’re a rabbit,’ said the tortoise, ‘Your species is jittery almost by definition. Good night. You will be finished by sunrise.’

The tortoise disappeared with a popping sound and glittery crap cascaded to the ground. ‘I hate that fucking tortoise,’ said Peter to the owl.


‘Yeah, you said it.’ Peter brushed the last of the dead leaves off his knees and ambled off into the forest.