Rabbit man is belted into the traction machine at the physiotherapist’s clinic. His giant Easter Bunny costume head is hooked on the coat rack with the rest of the suit. He’s been hired by Mall Supervisor Frats to greet the Great Wizard and her children here in Munyayka.
He has no money, can’t remember his real name, and his back is killing him, but Frats paid in advance, and offered a free physio gift card.
The traction machine hitches up another notch.
“This drag will help get the weight off your feet,” says Barb the Physiotherapist.
“I always wanted to be taller,” Rabbit man says.
There are a few other suits piled up on the coat rack. One looks like a bear, the other could be a chipmunk, Rabbit man notices a long brown tail sticking out.
“We could pull your arms and legs right off and replace them with better ones,” Barb says.
Rabbit man breathes in. His feet are so heavy he can hardly walk. He hauled on two ski poles, staggering from the parking lot to the clinic, his furry suit around him for protection. The workmen setting new floor tiles in the refurbished courthouse asked what happened to his hop.
“I think it’s depression,” He said, “that’s keeping me close to the ground.”
“Poor bunny,” they told him. “For us, it’s our knees.”
The men knelt in short pants. Knitting needle marks crisscrossed their ankles.
“You think the tile workers have been stitched together?” Rabbit man asks Barb.
“Everyone here is part of everyone else,” she tells him.
“I’m not,” he says. “I’m the Easter Bunny.”
That’s the suit he came in on, as he rode the bus today.
Barb’s flat face is like the milky way with freckles. Her voice starts and stops like a tape machine. She rolls back and forth a little in her chair and says, “You can be whatever you want. It’s all up to you, Rabbit Man, depending on the role you choose to play.”
Above him curves the round ceiling of the old, refurbished courthouse. He concentrates on the stained-glass representations of the pioneers in the highest windows. He may need glasses. Everything’s fuzzy behind the glass. It’s like staring through a window in the rain that looks out over the edge of the world.
“Where I lie could’ve grown a giant Douglas Fir,” he tells Barb. “Two hundred years is but a flash in the scope of time.”
‘You’re stretched out like a tree,” Barb tells me. “You must drink more water. Trees and rabbits need water.”
She turns a crank and releases the machine’s tension, one revolution at a time. Each crank frees him, as he shrinks back to normal. He sees that the underside of Barb’s arm is scored with blue knitting needle cross-stitching.
“Once you’re on your feet,” says Barb, “We’ll see how you really are.” She smiles. “Take a restful moment. This is a test.”
He sits and thinks of the grizzly bear he experienced this morning, lumbering beside the bus. Did its paw come up and wave at the end? He thinks it was trying to tell him something. The driver didn’t blink. Rabbit man was the only passenger. How could this be?
After a few moments of bear thought, he opens his eyes.
“Try and tie your shoes,” says Barb. “Bend at the waist. Keep your back straight.”
“The gravity pull of the earth is constant,” he responds. “Holding myself up is the least I can do.”
He does feel taller. He stands without the ski poles and feels the high.
“Easter should be a time of hope and gratitude,” says Barb.
She wheels her chair around. Her foot moves. Maybe it’s responding to his. Then she moves her other foot.
“Are those two the same?” Rabbit man thinks because one foot looks quite a lot bigger than the other.
“Keep walking,” she says. “You won’t need support, if you keep on your toes.”
He pulls on his furry body suit. First, the right leg. He tries not to bend too forward. He’s somewhat restricted by his heaviness, but it could be worse. His other leg goes in. He wants to ask Barb about her stitched arm, but in less than twenty minutes, he’s scheduled to play Easter Bunny in the courthouse square. He stands and pulls the suit up, then lifts the big rabbit head off the wall.
“Those ears look like they’re from an elephant,” says Barb, as she helps set the round hollow structure over his cranium.
“Like me, it’s seen better days” he informs Barb. “Needs a starching.”
He stands, rests his elbows on the window ledge and stares out at the parking lot surrounded by ten-foot-high murals, all landscapes from the past. Old growth forests and portraits of bears, moose and eagles rise out of the mist. The prominent artwork contrasts with a flat landscape drifting away on either side to where it ends in sheets of embedded aluminum.
He tells Barb about the grizzly bear.
“It wanted to inform me about something,”
“Grizzlies aren’t known for good advice,” she says.
He recalls, though, the eyes grew huge as it careened along the driver’s side of the bus. Then came that paw lift wave, as the animal took off back into the bush.
“If you don’t mind my asking,” he asks Barb, “How did you become a physiotherapist?”
“First,” she backs her chair away from her computer, “I worked on myself. Then others worked on me. Then I worked on others.”
“If it’s like a chain, maybe I’ll become a physiotherapist,” he says.
“It’s like an accident,” she says. “How did that bear find you?”
“It came out of nowhere,” he said.
‘Exactly,” says Barb.
He pays her with his special physio card.
“Remember,” she says. “Keep moving.”
He lunges forward, holding the poles to the sides of his bunny outfit, down to Supervisor Frats’ office. He squints out of the suit’s eye slits and turns to glimpse his body reflected in the window, the ears make him almost three feet wide. He bumps into a low sitting table. Frats jumps from her desk.
“You look great,” she exclaims as her thin eyebrows lift and her mouth widens like a jack o lantern. “The Great Wizard and her family will love you.”
Her long chin juts out below a lot of teeth and red-gold hair. Her neck swivels above her yellow yoga suit. A blue line of knitting needle marks crosses it.
“She has those same tattoos,” he thinks, “As everyone else in Munyayka.”
Rabbit Man removes his papier-mâché top and sets it on her desk. Frats circles the bunny suit, tearing off lint and pieces of hair.
“These white outfits sure become dirty,” she says. “Are you having any breathing trouble, I mean, from your bunny head?”
“No, my feet are the problem,” he tells her. “I did a traction session with Barb.”
“You know, she worked in the courthouse kitchen for years,” Frats says. “She was the best dishwasher they ever had. Then she acquired some new hands.”
She laughs until her face turns red, and brushes fluff off his shoulders.
“Your time is now,” she says, and steps back. “You are capable of being anything.”
“It seems a distant memory,” he replies, “When you called me on the phone.”
“It was just this morning,” she tells him.
She loops a huge basket of wrapped oval packages around his neck, secured by bungee cords and says, “The Wizard and her family like chocolate.”
He moves his bunny suit and his body inside it along the courthouse hallways, with Frats leading the way. The floor workers jump to let them pass, their long arms dangling, and he notices more tell-tale knitting needle marks etched above their elbows. He leans forward, tap tapping with his ski poles, the millstone basket of chocolate eggs swaying and his back taking the weight. Frats pushes open the oak door, and Rabbit man stands on the top stair. In front of him the murals rise, in one of them a gigantic bear stands with a raised paw. A cheer rises ahead. A tall curly haired woman with heart-shaped lips raises her arms, and a gaggle of children dash up the stairs. Sparks fly all around the tall woman, blue ones, green ones, she waves her arms and there’s more bursting from her fingertips.
“Eggs! We want the chocolate eggs!” the kids yell.
Frats hustles around, reaching into the neck basket. Rabbit man supports himself with the poles, staring through the Birthday Bunny eye slits. The children scream with joy and abandon, digging their fingers into his fur. He tries to push them back, then staggers against Frats.
“The bunny is yours, Great Wizard!” Frats says, handing the sparkle lady a large blue egg.
The tall woman yells “Yes indeed, girlfriend!” in a soprano trill, stands back and runs her hands all over his costume with a long curly stick. It feels like electric shocks, and he squirms around, hoping his back can take it.
“This is a true rabbit!” the Wizard screams, and he smells her breath, hot and acrid.
A boy yanks on his rabbit ears. A couple of friends join in. He’s wondering why the ears don’t come off. The basket is empty, and someone lifts it off his neck.
“Those ears are real!” the Great Wizard shouts. “Those are part of the bunny!”
She continues tracing him with the electric stick, as Frats runs behind pinching dirt off his shoulders and back.
“He’s needs further straightening!” the Great Wizard calls. “Take him to the traction!”
Hands twirl him from behind. It’s the floor tile crew! They run along the stairs, grab him under his furry arms and the poles drop. They spin him through the courthouse door. Through his eye slits he sees the stained-glass windows far above. The pioneer figures within are all a blur once more. A face peers into his eye slits. It’s Frats, her long chin almost up his bunny nose.
“Put him on the table.”
The crew hold him down and there’s Barb with the knitting-needle stitching across her wrists. She ties him to the traction machine with criss-cross belts. The Great Wizard looks down. Her eyes flash red sparks, with blue lines sketching through the whites at the edges. As she pushes a pair of gnarled hands down on his chest, Rabbit man feels a tightening, not only in his bones but in his suit.
One of the floor tile crew hands the Wizard a pair of long ski poles. Rabbit man perceives they have needles at the end. Blue color drips off the points.
“Now we’re gonna take you apart and find out who you are,” sings the Great Wizard.
“He’s a total unknown,” says Frats.
“That’s the best kind.”
The Great Wizard continues warbling like an opera singer. Rabbit man’s sensitive ears hurt from the decibels.
“Let’s pop these bones!” yells Frats.
Barb’s leaning forward in her chair, pushing buttons. The traction moves.
Rabbit man’s bunny arms and legs stretch, and he shrieks. “What the hell are you doing?”
The Great Wizard looms down on his chest with the pair of ski pole needles. He detects her fiery breath even from behind his costume mouth.
“Keep away from me!” the hidden man beneath screams and jerks his neck. His suit forehead connects with her nose.
“Time for the anaesthesia,” the Wizard screeches off key, jabs him just above the heart with the blue pointy ends.
Rabbit Man feels nothing from then on, but he views it all as he comes apart. His bunny self-separates from the outside, as Barb ramps up the traction, and the knitting needles rip. Frats hands the Great Wizard scalpels the size of butcher knives and there’s two long threads running out of the Wizard’s eyes. She thrusts the ski pole needles and eyehole threads under Rabbit man’s suit and skin. She pushes and pulls and separates and the stained-glass pioneer murals far above him circle and spin. He twirls through history as he focusses on the pictures, and he wonders who he is and what he will become.
“These limbs will be of great use,” the Great Wizard sings, as she spins the string that knits inside the bunny man.
Her breath permeates the room, boiled cabbage and garlic. Around her lean the heads of the floor tile crew. They take up a harmony; their mouths open wide to echo back the Wizard’s song. Rabbit man floats in the stained glass with the pioneers, staring down at bent human heads. On the traction table lies a long-skinned creature. The floating soul views its pink ears stretched out to the far wall of the room, and the feet up against the other wall like fluffy slippers. Beside the traction table sit various sized objects the masonry crew are wrapping in black plastic. Rabbit man can’t tell what they are, and he doesn’t want to know. He concentrates on the tops of the heads below him. The partings on each person’s scalp are all criss-crossed with tattoo blue. The Great Wizard lifts her dripping turquoise hands, and Barb raises her flat face upward to where the bunny man floats, the freckles across her cheek shine like tiny ginger stars.
As they take the body from the table, Rabbit man’s soul descends, settling like a leaf. It’s the weight in his feet, concentrating towards whatever body remains, that pulls him down. Perhaps it’s gravity. The floor tile crew carry him on a gurney down the hall. One lifts a black tarp.
“Over the top,” he says, and the plastic descends across the Rabbit man’s head.
In the background, he hears the Great Wizard chanting.
“I take the body that releases the soul; I take the body below.”
The floor tile crew rumble the bunny man out the courthouse doors. They hoist the gurney down the stairs. Rabbit man imagines the men’s knees straining forward. He perceives bumps and the screams of children in the town square. He hears an engine idling.
“Bus driver, take this animal home,” Frats’ voice trills, as Rabbit man’s lifted in. A door closes, and wheels roll, there’s the sense of turning, and then the acceleration.
“Where are you taking me?” is all he can yell, over and over.
“Stop that noise,” comes the voice of the driver. “Didn’t you hear the lady?”
The bus halts, and footsteps plod up the aisle. The tarp comes off, and Rabbit man stares at a tall thin hombre in a black cowboy hat.
“This is where you get out, big fellow,” the bus driver says.
Rabbit man sits up, and gazes the driver for a moment, frozen. He swings his body around and jumps off the bus seat, then leaps down the aisle and out the door. He stops for a second, looks to one side and bolts for the deep woods beyond.
He scuttles through the undergrowth, stops again, looks up and there’s a bear, sitting on a huge pine branch right above him. It’s a big animal, and as the rabbit man watches the bear jumps off its perch to stand on two legs. Behind the grizzly’s skull the rabbit man knows there’s a person, just like him. They sit and regard each other. The bear opens its mouth and roars. The rabbit man opens his, squeals, “What has happened to me?”
The bear keeps roaring and doesn’t seem to understand.
6 thoughts on “The Rabbit Man of Munyaka by Harrison Kim”
This is one that makes you think when you read it–which is what fiction should do. All in all, Barb got it right on all levels: “Remember,” she said, “keep moving.”
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Great tempo and dialogue in your writing. I couldn’t see where this one was going, or completely understand where I was, but I thoroughly enjoyed it! The ‘reveal’ that he is an Easter bunny is great and comes as a wonderful, amusing surprise. At the same time, there’s a real darkness to the story (for me at least) – a kind of Alice in Wonderland meets Stephen King meets magic realism vibe.
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Thanks, Paul K. for the thoughtful comment. Good last name! I worked for two weeks as an Easter Bunny at Midtown Plaza in 1979, and then in a mental hospital for 30 years, so I guess the two ideas kind of came together.
Excellent surrealism with an underlying sadness. It reminds me a bit of Chief Bromden at the start of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The chief ultimately got better, and I hope Rabbit Man does, too.
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Interesting comment. I hadn’t thought of it that way, indeed, Rabbit Man is in a bit of an asylum style situation.
Surreal and disturbing – nicely propulsive writing!
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