“My life is a sham.”
Those were the first words that Martin ever said to me. I must admit, they caught me off guard. Partly this is because Martin had lived with me for years without ever uttering a syllable. It is also, of course, because Martin is a rabbit.
“I’m sorry, but did you just speak?”
“Why yes, I did. Thank you for asking.”
“And what was it you said?”
“I said that my life is a sham.”
“I’m terribly sorry to hear that.” It seemed like the thing to say, although to be honest I’d never before considered proper conversational etiquette for addressing a rabbit. Still, it felt impolite to leave the subject alone.
“So, why is it that your life is a… what was it again?”
“Ah yes, of course. Why is it that your life is a sham?”
Martin’s nose twitched, his whiskers brushing indignantly against the fluff that lined his wire cage.
“I haven’t accomplished anything.”
“You must have, at some point.”
“No, not a thing. I sit in this cage, except when you let me out, and then I frolic about for a bit and eventually go back in.”
“But isn’t that what rabbits are meant to do?”
Martin pondered the question.
“I suppose I would know if it were, wouldn’t I?”
It was my turn to think for a moment. Finally, I stood, adjusting my bathrobe, securing it for the task at hand.
“Well then, we shall have to find what your purpose is.”
With that, I unlatched the entrance to Martin’s cage and he sprang eagerly into the room, prancing about.
“A mid-morning frolic,” he mused. “What a day this is already.”
“So, how can I be of assistance?” I asked. Martin’s short nose and fluffy tail twitched as he weighed the problem in his mind, a spectacle I rather enjoyed.
“Why don’t you tell me about your life?”
“My life?” I asked, startled at the question.
“Yes, your life.”
“But you’ve seen my life, every day.”
“I’ve seen what I can see from my cage, and from the times you let me out. But what is it that you do when you leave?”
“Well, my job.”
“And what is a job?”
“It’s what keeps one busy throughout the day,” I replied. “Keeps the lights on and all that.”
“Shall I get a job?” asked Martin, his ears now raised in eager curiosity.
“You? A job?”
“Yes, that’s what I said.”
“But you’re a rabbit.”
“I suppose I am. Do you think that will impede my getting a job?”
“Perhaps. Have you any skills?”
“That may prove to be an obstacle,” I conceded, attempting to sound sympathetic. Martin’s ears drooped slightly.
“What a shame,” he said, “I should have enjoyed having a job.”
“To have a purpose.”
I took a sip from my mug. “I suppose…”
Martin observed me for several seconds, and asked, “And why is it that you are not at your job today? Or the last few days?”
“I’ve been let go, I’m afraid.”
“Laid off. The company is downsizing. Hard times all around.”
“But what will you do now for your purpose?”
I sat next to Martin on the floor, and together we stared out the window, observing a seemingly pleasant morning.
“The thing is,” I said, “I don’t know that it ever gave me purpose. It kept me busy, but that’s not the same. It’s not unlike being in your cage, that job. It’s where I spent most of my time. They let me out, I frolicked, and I returned.”
“Is that not what humans are meant to do?”
“No, I don’t think that it is…” I sipped my mug again. We sat in silence and watched the flowers outside flit in the breeze. With each listless dance of a leaf, I felt the layers of presumptions and notions I carried with me as constant companions to be drifting away. Finally, there was only one thought that was left in my mind.
“My life is a sham.”
“Oh come now, don’t say that.”
“It’s true, Martin. I haven’t accomplished anything. And I haven’t any excuses. After all, I’m not a—”
“A what?” Martin’s nose twitched again with indignity.
“Nothing. A person who derived purpose from his work, is all I was going to say.”
Martin eyed me a second.
“Would you like some tea?” I asked, finally.
“Yes, thank you. No sugar please.”
I prepared Martin’s tea and bent to set it on the floor before him, then paused and placed the saucer on the table.
“So how do we go about finding you a purpose?” he asked.
“I’m supposed to be helping you with that.”
“Perhaps we can help each other.”
“That would be the most productive solution,” I agreed.
Martin’s ears lifted up. “You said your work was not unlike my cage, correct? Perhaps your being let go is not unlike unlatching your cage,” Martin continued. “Therefore, I shall teach you to be a rabbit.”
“Me? A rabbit?” I asked, shocked at the suggestion.
“Well, you don’t have to say it like that.”
“I only meant that I do not think I could be a rabbit.”
“Why not? Are you and I so different, after all? We both enjoy a good frolic, and take our tea the same. We are both looking for a purpose, and now have a chance to pursue one.”
“This is true, but a human simply cannot become a rabbit.”
“I don’t see why not.”
“I… well, what will people say?”
“Just… people. What would a person say, to see another person behaving as a rabbit?”
“Depends on the person, I suppose.”
“Yes, that is true…”
“Then there is nothing to be done about other people.”
“But how are you to teach me to be a rabbit?” I protested.
“Do you know anyone more capable of teaching you?”
“Then you haven’t any better options, have you?”
“No, I suppose not.”
That was the truth.
Christopher R. Muscato is a former writer in residence for the High Plains Library District. Recent publications can be found in Gotta Wear Eclipse Glasses, The Shitlist, and The Gateway Review. He spends his time in the mountains and with his newborn twins.