Is there anything more stressful than starting a new school?
Starting a new school while awkward and pubescent. The first day started with the principal’s daughter giving me shit for not wearing the right socks with my shoes. It sure was nice coming home and being able to hang with Mac. Mac was our new border collie puppy. He joined our family a few weeks before school started. He was my only friend at the time, in this new town. He kept me sane. He didn’t care what kind of socks I wore. He hung out in the back yard chewing his toys, and the deck chairs, and whatever else was around, waiting for me to get home.
There was a family that lived across the street from us, the Romeros. The youngest daughter, Kelly, was a senior at my school. She drove me to, and sometimes from, school. It was a job her Dad volunteered for her I think. I can’t imagine she begged for the position, anyway. Straight A’s smart, was nice to everyone, except people that were dicks, even if they were “popular”, and smoked pot. Pretty hot too. One of those “I’m popular and I know it, but I don’t care” types.
Being that I was quite shy, especially around hot senior girls, on our morning rides to school. Just some chit-chat to forcibly fill the silence. But I learned a lot through that. I learned that she liked rabbits, and that she had one. We talked about rabbits for a couple days and since I seemed interested, she said she could show me one day when we got home.
She kept her rabbit outside in a little enclosure on her deck. It was a small pen, with a tiny dog house in it. You could tell she really took care of it well. Everything was really clean. The rabbit wasn’t like the “normal” rabbits I had seen in pet stores. It had this really cold grey fur with a steel blue hue, and had ears with long, wavy fur that flopped on the ground. Apparently, they are pretty rare (and probably expensive), only for the experienced rabbit keeper. Its name was Holland.
After a while, I was able to make friends that liked me enough to volunteer their older sisters to drive me home, but Kelly still drove me to school in the mornings.
The weeks and months went by and winter became spring. By then, I had settled in to this new town and school pretty well. I’d made some friends, hockey was wrapping up, I’d learned the tricks to ordering the perfect sub in the cafeteria, and soccer season was about to start. My relationship with Jenny had improved. We were more relaxed and able to talk about more things. Maybe I had a chance!!! Isn’t spring great?!
One day, a Friday, I came home and went straight back to see Mac as usual. He seemed extra happy to see me. Not in the jumpy, tail wagging way, but a sort of proud, “Look at what I did!” kind of way. His front legs seemed dirtier than usual.
“What is it Mac? Whacha got?”
He trotted to his dog house and stuck his head in. When his head came back out, in his mouth was a mass of grey. At first, my reaction was, “Oh, gross, what is that?!”
Slowly, I made out more details. In addition to being grey, it was furry.
The “Oh, gross” quickly turned into an “Oh, shit!”
He brought it closer and layed it down at my feet. The mass of fur before me had this grey, steel-blue fur with floppy ears with wavy fur.
“It can’t be!”
It had to be something else, because what I thought would be unthinkable, and you can’t think of unthinkable things. Alas, such logic was no match for the truth.
The physical weight of panic is an amazing thing. I could feel its full crushing power as it dropped onto the place inside me where I kept my feelings. Mac seemed content with his catch, but confused by my reaction. He’d never seen me act this way. It was new to him. It was new to me too.
The longer I stared at it, the more details etched themselves into my eyes. It was dirty, covered in that black, Mississippi Valley mud of spring, still wet from the melted snow. Its hair was gone in several places, showing that its actual skin was pink. All signs of a very violent struggle for life and death! Death had definitely won.
Panic not subsiding, there was only one thing to do! Actually, there were a million possible options. All of them stupid, none of them could save me. I had a dead, dirty rabbit that belonged to a girl that I wanted to like me on my hands. I did the only logical thing. I shampooed it. Growing up in a female dominated household, the only shampoo we had was Pantene Pro-V. “YES! That’s perfect!” Holland’s fur was soft and delicate as I did my best to wash out the dirt and blood. But there was a delicate balance. The more I washed, the more fur came out. It was quickly plugging the bath tub drain.
“Careful, Careful…Gently” I told myself. “Rinse and repeat? NO!”
“Should I condition? No! What if Kelly uses it too and she recognizes the smell?!” These are the things I thought.
With that, I had a clean, but still very dead, and now WET rabbit on my hands. Hair dryer! YES! To this day, it is the only time I’ve ever used that hair dryer…and to this day, no one knows about it.
With the drying done, I looked out my bedroom window towards her house. Her car was still gone. Her dad’s car wasn’t here either, or at least the garage was closed. Now was my chance. I’ve never ran so fast in my life! Across the street and over the chain linked fence into their backyard. I still don’t remember how I got over it with a dead rabbit in my arms. To the deck and Holland’s little kennel. I placed him gently inside his house, as deep as it could. Looking around, it seemed no one had seen me. Before I knew it, I was back in the bathroom, cleaning up the rabbit hair and washing blood off of my hands. I didn’t know about beer back then, but definitely could have used one. I spent the rest of the day inside.
The next day was Saturday. I slept pretty well considering the events of the day before. Still in my PJs, I peeked out the window across the street. Kelly’s car was parked in its usual spot on the street. The garage was open and her dad’s car was inside. My sister was outside playing with Mac. I went and joined her. I thought about telling her what happened and asking her what I should do a few times. But a part of my brain told me, “You don’t have to tell her now. Just wait ten more minutes and see what happens…probably nothing! You’ll be fine.” So I just waited and watched.
Nine minutes later, I heard a scream from across the street. I knew I had to come clean and tell her what happened, and what I did. I made myself across the street and went up to her fence. She was there and her dad was too. She was crying. Her dad looked confused. I began to speak, to tell the truth, but all that came out was, “Wha…what happened?”
Sobbing, with tears in her eyes, Kelly whimpered, “We…(sob)…we…we buried Holland three days ago, and now, he’s BACK!!!”