I was killing time at a dinner party when I first encountered the wooden rabbit. I found myself wandering through Ted and Jerry’s house, wineglass in hand, peering at framed photographs on the wall, inspecting curios on shelves, and reading book spines. The photographs were my favorite; Ted and Jerry toasting champagne on a beach, Ted and Jerry in front of the Taj Mahal, Ted and Jerry hugging Mickey Mouse by the Disneyland castle. I took a sip of Riesling and leaned in to inspect the photo of Ted and Jerry in front of the Eiffel Tower. Ted was holding something next to his cheek. At first I thought it was a croissant, but upon closer inspection it was shaped like a rabbit. Not a real rabbit; probably just some knick-knack they bought in an artsy boutique in Paris. I reached the end of the hall (best not to intrude into Ted and Jerry’s bedroom), so I turned around and wandered back towards the living room.
I paused in front of the Disneyland picture again. Jerry was holding the rabbit this time, tucked under his arm like a football. I searched the Taj Mahal photo; there was the rabbit, sticking out of Ted’s backpack. Yep, there it was in the beach scene, too, poking out of the sand between the toasting lovers. I smiled and shook my head. Those guys had way too much time on their hands.
“There you are!” Ted appeared out of nowhere and I spun towards him. “Dinner’s ready — did you want the vegetarian paella or the non-veg?”
“Veg, thanks. Hey, what’s the deal with the rabbit?” I gestured towards the photos on the wall with my empty glass. “Is it like the flat-Stanley of wooden knick-knacks?”
Ted glanced at the photos, then back at me, head cocked slightly. “That’s just our wooden rabbit. You know, to show we’ve been places.”
I chuckled. “Sure, sounds good, man.” I clapped him on the shoulder and we went into the dining room.
I forgot about the rabbit until a few weeks later when I was visiting my mother. She’d invited me over, hoping I’d help her move furniture before she was out of commission with a foot surgery. She directed me around the den like I was a professional mover, pointing at bookcases and tables that inexplicably needed to be shifted three feet in one direction or another. I spotted a photo of her and her boyfriend Phillip propped in a gaudy gold frame on a bookshelf I was trying to move. I picked up the photo. They were eating crab legs at a beachside restaurant. With a small wooden rabbit sitting between them on the table. I stared at the rabbit.
“Hey mom, where is this picture from? Why is there a rabbit?”
She dusted her hands on her jeans and took the frame from me. “Oh, that’s Phillip and me last year in Pensacola. That was the best seafood I’ve ever had.”
“But what’s the deal with the rabbit?”
She looked at me, head cocked. “Sweetheart, that’s just our wooden rabbit to show we’ve been places.”
She set the frame on top of a side table and told me the couch needed to be moved to the other side of the doorway.
The next day I called up my buddy Frank and asked if I could borrow some tools, just so I had an excuse to go in his house. He handed me a belt sander, and I asked if I could use his bathroom. I walked down the hall, peering into rooms. His guestroom had a framed photo collage of him and his girlfriend in Las Vegas. A damned wooden rabbit was in every photo.
I felt like I’d had some kind of bizarre stroke which made me see wooden rabbits in vacation photos where they didn’t used to exist. Or maybe I was just going crazy and they had always been there, and I was the only person who hadn’t noticed. Or maybe this was just an elaborate April Fool’s joke. In July.
That Friday my girlfriend showed up on my doorstep with a duffle bag, asking if she could spend the weekend at my place. Of course I agreed, and asked her what she wanted for dinner. While I was stir-frying, she picked up a travel agency brochure I got in the mail. “I know, let’s take a cruise for our anniversary! Listen, this one’s only $299 a person.”
She told me how she’d always wanted to go to the Caribbean, and about how her sister loved the cruise Jared took her on last winter. I smiled. “Sure, honey. Let’s do it.”
She jumped up from the barstool and threw her arms around my midsection while I was chopping the tofu. “This is going to be awesome! Ooo… I’ve got just the thing.”
I bent to pick up the tofu and veggies that got knocked onto the floor. My girlfriend disappeared down the hall to the bedroom and came back with something rolled up in a fancy red cloth. She stood over me where I was squatting on the kitchen floor. I reached up and accepted it gingerly.
I felt the heft of it, and my mouth went dry.
She watched me, eyes sparkling, as I unwrapped the wooden rabbit.
Amber A. Logan is an author, a Creative Writing PhD student with Anglia Ruskin University in the UK (although she lives in Kansas), a university instructor, and a fantasy art marketer.