My life as a house rabbit is pretty low-key. Or at least it was. This week, everything changed.
It was a lazy Monday night. My humans had been in bed for an hour. I sat in my cage, chewing on hay and contemplating the meaning of life. As often happens, the hay got stuck. I grabbed the bin in my teeth and thrashed my head, banging it against the bars of my cage. The hay fell out, but then I was just having fun making a ruckus. Rabbits don’t vocalize much, so it’s satisfying to make a little noise sometimes.
I was crashing and rattling the bin pretty good when another noise caught my attention. I paused and pricked up my ears. Thump, thump, thump. Well, that’s a rabbit noise if I’ve ever heard one, I thought. I rotated my right ear in the direction of the sound to hone in on it. My left ear stayed focused on my humans’ bedroom door to ensure they weren’t awake. Thump, thump, thud, scrrrrchh! Now I was sure of the noise and sure that the humans were asleep. I quietly unlatched my cage and hopped out.
I ran into the living room and halted. Rabbits know it’s never good to rush into a new situation. Tentatively, I crept toward the sliding glass door. My nose twitched at the faint scent of a buck. Mustering my courage, I poked my head through the venetian blinds, then jerked back. I leaped straight up in the air – I couldn’t believe my eyes! The Easter Bunny himself was outside my door!
I rushed to greet him. I dove into the secret tunnel I dug beneath my humans’ recliner and emerged outside. My whiskers twitched; I didn’t know how to behave in the presence of such royalty. He is a mighty rabbit indeed. He must weigh at least 25 or 30 pounds, the largest rabbit I have ever seen. His beautiful fawn coat is entirely without blemish.
“Mr. Easter Bunny, welcome! To what do I owe the pleasure?”
“You’re Bianca Trixie Kensington?” My name sounded nice with the lilt in his voice.
“Yes. You, you know me, Mr. Easter Bunny?”
“Ah, splendid! I’ve been on quite a search for you. Please, call me Chester. All my friends do.”
He offered his nose and I timidly reciprocated. He nuzzled me warmly. I was feeling quite shy. I have no friends except my humans, who I love dearly. And I’ve heard that wild rabbits are entirely unpredictable. My house lifestyle protects me from foreign things and uncertain situations. They make me extremely nervous. I’m most content lying under a dining room chair or lounging in my cottage. Our meeting was getting awkward; I didn’t know if I should speak or be silent. The Easter Bunny took the lead.
“Bianca, I came to ask you a favor. Yesterday, I got a nasty thorn in my back left paw. I’ve managed to chew it out, but I’m in no mood to go hopping about for a while. I found you on Facebook. You’re the nearest rabbit of good repute. I need you to take over Easter for me this year.”
I squeaked in surprise and let out a thump. Me? Take over Easter?? When I use my secret tunnel to go outside, I never stray more than ten feet from the apartment. My humans take me out about once a year, but they keep me on a harness and stay with me. If I hunker in fear, my girl picks me up and holds me close.
“Oh, I can’t do it, Mr – er, Chester. Easter is only one week away! How could I get ready? My paws are soft and I don’t know the way and…well, how could I fill your role? You’re an impressive, pure bred Flemish Giant buck. And I’m just an English Spot doe from, eh, less proud heritage.” I nibbled at the grass to hide my shame.
“Bianca,” he said gently, “I know your past. I know you were adopted from the Humane Society. Your humans aren’t even sure of your real birthday. That’s nothing to be ashamed of! Look at your spots – you were born a show rabbit. Besides, you’ve established a relationship of love with your humans. Easter is all about love. To be the Easter Bunny, all you need is love!”
I dug at the ground and continued grazing. A cricket jumped up in my face. I pulled back in disgust, then bit its legs off to teach it a lesson. I hate the taste of crickets, but I love the crunch. Anything that crunches is a good thing.
“I don’t know, Chester. Maybe you’re making a mistake. I’m small and I’m frightened. I just don’t think I’m the bunny you’re looking for.”
The Easter Bunny sighed and nudged me. He took off, and I couldn’t help but frolic with him. We ran about a bit and circled back to our original spot. We hunkered down with the safety of the apartment at our backs. He took a long breath.
“Bianca, I wasn’t going to tell you this, but now I must. Your parents were both show rabbits, yes. They were a fine couple of English Spots, perfectly symmetrical markings. Your litter came in February, and Easter fell in March that year. The breeder saw that while your markings were good, they weren’t perfect. The breeder’s five-year-old niece came to mind…”
I gasped. Was he saying what I thought he was saying?
“Bianca, you were an Easter bunny. A little girl received you trembling and hunkered in a white basket on Easter morning. She adored you, but of course she couldn’t take care of you. Her parents tried, but they weren’t pet people. They were very busy humans. They read up on rabbit care, and the more they read the more skeptical they became. Meanwhile, you kept growing and growing. The miniature cage they bought for you was like a tiny prison cell. Finally, overwhelmed and ashamed, your little girl’s mother drove you to the Humane Society while her daughter was at school. She set you by the door, shouting “Her name’s Trixie!” as she pulled away. It was your new humans who gave you your full and proper name.”
I sat wide-eyed. I would hardly have believed the story, except that the Easter Bunny is all-knowing and good. He never lies. All rabbits know the dreadful tales of Easter bunnies. Those poor rabbits are bought as gifts, usually when they’re barely weaned. Ignorant humans think it’s so cute to put a defenseless infant in the grubby hands of a small child. Children are notoriously bad rabbit owners. They’re noisy, unpredictable, inadvertently rough and prone to feeding us unsafe things. Some Easter bunnies are freed into the wild on the half-wit notion that domestic animals can become wild. Others are returned to pet stores or dropped at animal shelters. Some are not so lucky. I can’t believe I’m one of them.
“Why don’t I remember that?”
“You were too young and the trauma of abandonment was too harsh for you to take in. Besides, you are a new rabbit now. Your past is irrelevant. You have good humans who love you and you keep a fine home. Bianca, you’re a survivor. And Easter is in your blood. You have a chance to promote all that’s good about Easter.”
“Chocolates, plastic grass, colored eggs and wicker baskets?”
“Love, Bianca. And redemption. This is your chance to bring the world the love that you almost missed out on.”
“Oh. Chester? What happened to the little girl who owned me? You said that she loved me.”
“Yes, she did. She cried when she got home that day and found out you were gone. Her mother bought her ice cream and her father felt so bad, he got her a hamster the next day. Within a week, the little girl forgot about you. Don’t feel bad, it’s the way children are. Remember, you forgot about her, too.”
This was a lot to take in. I washed my face as I thought. I licked the pads of my feet and meticulously pulled each ear through my paws. I needed to think more, so I went on to bathe the rest of my body. Soon Chester joined in, licking my face and helping me groom. How strange; I was no longer nervous around him. In fact, I could tell that he loved me. The Easter Bunny loved me! And I didn’t even do anything to deserve it. I was so giddy about his love, I wanted to share it. I wanted to be just like him!
“Yes! I’ll do it!” I shouted hastily. “I’ll be the Easter Bunny for you this year.”
Chester spent the rest of the night teaching me all about himself and his ways. There was so much to learn, but he was a good teacher. Sometimes I got frustrated or didn’t understand something. He was patient and kept working with me. As the sunrise started to warm up the sky, I was feeling pretty confident.
“OK, Bianca. You better get back inside before your humans wake up. I’m going where you can’t see me, but don’t worry, I won’t be far away. Just let me know if you have any questions.”
I tried to watch as he hopped away, but the sun shone in my eyes and I didn’t see where he went. I headed back inside and re-locked myself in my cage. When my humans got up an hour later, I was laying on my side trying to sleep. My man filled my bowl with pellets for the day and my girl petted me good morning and let me out. I retreated under the dining room chair to get some rest.
In the following days, I tried hard to do what the Easter Bunny had told me. He wanted me to exercise so I could travel around delivering baskets of goodies. I darted back and forth to get my blood flowing. I tore down the hall and kicked into the air. I stood on my hind legs to reach for things. The Easter Bunny also told me that to practice my love, I should obey everything my humans told me. My humans are great, but they have a lot of rules that are hard for a rabbit. It took all my willpower not to chew on wires or pull up the carpet. When their bedroom door was open, everything within me wanted to dash into that forbidden place to explore under the bed.
I tried my best, but sometimes I messed up and didn’t follow the Easter Bunny’s instructions. Sometimes I just wanted to be lazy and lounge around all day. The temptation to chew things and go to forbidden places was unbearable. It felt so good when I did it, but I felt bad afterward. I knew I was disappointing my humans and letting the Easter Bunny down. Every day I struggled.
Then came Saturday night. It was time. My humans were barely asleep when I let myself out and crawled through the tunnel. The Easter Bunny was already waiting for me by the hole.
“Bianca,” he greeted me and nuzzled me warmly. I felt the familiar rush of affection as I nuzzled him back. “Are you ready?”
“I, uh,” I stammered. I had wanted to do this, but now I wasn’t so sure. It was such a big task. What if I screwed up? What if I let the Easter Bunny down? What if I looked stupid or got hurt?
“Yes,” he answered for me. “You’re ready. I know you are. I prepared you myself.”
His confidence reassured me, but I still felt butterflies in my stomach. He nudged me firmly but gently, and off I went.
I got into a rhythm quickly. I was delivering baskets left and right at stunning speed. I hopped away from each door or table before any adults spotted me. There were so many children who smiled, laughed, and waved at me as I went. I felt love all around me. It was exhilarating to do the work of the Easter Bunny.
Then things got off track. I don’t know how it happened. I was tired so I decided to rest under a bush. I had the next Easter basket in my mouth, ready to deliver. Suddenly, I started salivating. The basket was woven out of my favorite kind of wood, and it tasted good on my tongue. I tried to resist, but the next thing I knew, I was chewing on the basket. With each bite, my conscience reprimanded me. No! You must stop. But I just couldn’t. It was so crunchy and so tasty. I gnawed off a whole section of the handle.
Then I remembered the words of the Easter Bunny. These baskets bring joy to children who have much sorrow in their lives. Ashamed, I stopped. I surveyed the damage. The handle was still intact, but it was weak and threatened to snap when I tried to lift it. Desperately, I searched around for a way to fix this mess I was in. I bit twigs off the bush I was hiding under and tried to weave them into the handle. It didn’t look so good, but the handle was reinforced. Deflated, I drug the basket to its destination. I couldn’t even look the child in the eyes as I slunk away.
I was so depressed after that, things started to spiral out of control. My speed decreased greatly due to my moping. At this rate, I wasn’t going to deliver all the baskets before my deadline. I didn’t know what to do. I was so mad at myself, and I was mad at the Easter Bunny, too.
Why would Chester do this to me, I thought. He said he loved me. He knew this would be too hard for me. What did he expect? He said I could do this, but he set me up to fail. His expectations are completely unreasonable. I’m just a house rabbit!
I got angrier and angrier. Soon, I was so full of negativity that I couldn’t go on. I dug a hole and crawled inside. The smell of chocolate twinged my nose. I plunged my head into the basket that was crammed in the hole beside me. Pulling out a chocolate egg, I tore the foil off and gobbled it up. I had never tasted chocolate before. It was shockingly sweet. Even sweeter than the wild berry yogurt drops my humans gave me. Even sweeter than fresh apple or banana. It sent a shock through my entire body.
Again, I heard the Easter Bunny’s words in my head. Whatever you do, don’t eat the chocolate. It’s not meant for us. Chocolate is for humans. I pushed the thought away. Who was he to tell me what to do, anyway? He was just trying to keep me from enjoying my life. He probably ate chocolate all the time and just didn’t want me to have any. He was just like my humans. They held out on me all the time. No one really cared about me or gave me what I wanted. It was high time I stopped being submissive and gave myself a little reward. From now on, I thought, Bianca lives for Number One – me!
I plunged my head into the basket again and pulled out a Cadbury Cream Egg. This was even more delicious than the first! Inside the chocolate was a white goo. It dripped on my fur and I tried to wash it off. Rabbits love to be clean, and it was dangerous to eat something so sticky. I got some of it off and gave up. It made me a little nervous, but I didn’t care. I would clean myself better later. My next egg was filled with caramel. The brown syrup was delicious in my mouth, but even stickier than the white goo. Before I knew it, the caramel was all over my face. I tried to wash it off, but it clumped in my fur. In a panic, I wiped my with paws, but that just spread the caramel around more.
I ran out of the hole to look for water. The motion made my stomach lurch. I felt horrible. I couldn’t dart or zig zag to protect myself from prey. I was out in the open and all I could do was crouch down in the grass and whimper. My belly hurt so bad I thought it might explode if something didn’t eat me first. How had things gone so wrong?
Where’s that Easter Bunny now? He abandoned me completely. If he were all-knowing, he would know I was in trouble. I’m not even sure he really is the Easter Bunny. And frankly, I don’t care.
I shut my eyes and ground my teeth in pain. Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, I heard rustling in the underbrush nearby. No house rabbit should face the horrors of being eaten by a vicious predator. I braced myself for death.
Out of the brush came Chester. My relief instantly melted to bitterness as my stomach twisted again.
“What are you doing here,” I sneered. “I thought your paw hurt and you couldn’t travel. Is this all some joke? Did you come to mock me while I die?”
The Easter Bunny looked at me with compassion. There was hurt in his eyes. He came out of the brush and I noticed that he was limping. He was dragging his back left paw and behind him trailed a smear of blood. Fresh blood is a death sentence in the wild. Predators smell it no matter how well you hide. So his wound was real.
“Bianca, I knew you were in trouble, so I came,” he said. “Why did you eat the chocolate? I told you not to.”
I couldn’t answer. I huffed softly.
Screeeeeeeaaaaach! A hawk screamed overhead! We were doomed! Chester immediately threw his huge body over me to shield me. My tummy gurgled in anguish, but I was safe from the bird of prey. The hawk dive-bombed and I felt Chester lurch as the beak sunk into his back. But a Flemish Giant is too large a rabbit for a hawk to pick off. The bird flew away and the assault was over. Chester eased off me as gently as possible.
“Are you OK?” I managed to ask through my trembling.
“We have to get you out of here,” Chester said. He opened his mouth and lifted me by the scruff. I was too sick and terrified to mind the indignity. The Easter Bunny carried me deep into the undergrowth, hidden from danger. He set me down and limped away without a word. Soon he was back with a strange root.
“I can’t eat anything, it hurts so bad,” I moaned.
“I won’t force you to do anything. But this will soothe your stomach. You can trust me.” He set the root before me and retreated a ways. Digging a scrape, he settled in and licked his paw.
Timidly, I nibbled at the root. The taste was horribly bitter. How could anything so unpleasant be good? It was the exact contrast of the chocolate, which was so sweet, but so bad. I steeled myself and ate the whole root. Over time, the pangs subsided. When I was well enough to hop around, I excreted a large number of pellets. Finally, I felt completely better. But my face was still caked in caramel, and now dirt and sticks had gotten entangled in the gooey mess. I shuddered at the thought of how horrible I must have looked.
In abject humility, I approached the Easter Bunny.
“What can I do?” I asked.
“You want me to help?”
“Yes. I do. Please help me.”
Chester got up and began pulling the goop off my face with his teeth. Clumps of fur tore out with the caramel.
“Ow, ouch! Ow, it hurts!” I complained, recoiling.
“Be still. The pain won’t last forever. It is necessary.” He pressed his paw against my face and continued his work. A long and painful hour later, the job was done. My face was a bit scraggly and the fur was thin in patches, but every drop of caramel was gone.
“Now, do you think you’re ready to finish the job?”
“What? It’s too late. The day is almost over and I’ve wasted so much time. I can’t possibly finish delivering the Easter baskets.”
“We’re not Santa Claus, Bianca. Some children don’t get their Easter baskets until Sunday night. If you’re willing to work harder than you ever have before and travel very fast, you can do it.”
“I … I don’t know if I can do it. I’ve had a very rough day.”
Chester looked me over.
“I know you have. I’m sorry for all that you’ve gone through. If you won’t do it, then it won’t get done. I entrusted the deliveries to you. I have no other plan.”
My heart beat fast. I knew he loved me – look at all he’d risked for me. And all I had done was prepare halfheartedly, stray from the plan, disobey him, indulge myself, and blame him when it all fell apart. I was a poor substitute for the real Easter Bunny.
“It’s not too late,” he said again.
I pressed my ears back in determination, picked up a basket, and hopped out of the woods.