by C.A. Rowland
Enjoy this never before published Easter mystery short story by C.A. Rowland.
“You came,” said the rabbit thoughtfully as she slowly walked across the room towards the only window. Moonlight flooded the dirt hovel and the woman could see the furnishings of the room more clearly now, the round cherry table, the chairs. She set her notepad and pen on the round table and waited.
“You said you wanted to tell your story. My editor told me I had to come,” the woman said. “Something about you having a story the world needed to hear.”
“Yes,” said the rabbit. “Are you sure you’re ready to hear it?”
“If it’s a good story,” she said.
“Why don’t you sit down. I’m going to move closer to you.”
“Can we turn on a light?” she asked.
The rabbit moved to a small corner table and flipped the lamp switch. A soft yellow light illuminated her.
“Dear God!” the woman whispered as she stared at the rabbit.
The rabbit was not the pristine white, perky, soft Easter Bunny one would expect. In its place, this rabbit was disheveled with dirty dishwater fur. One ear hung listlessly down the side of her face and the other flopped backwards. Her face was marked with long furrows of wrinkles and a cigarette dangled from the side of her red costumed lips.
The rabbit belched an ugly laugh. “Not exactly what you expected, I see. But I wasn’t always this way. That’s what I wanted to tell you about. And the role of Santa’s head elf in all this.”
The woman drew a deep breath and forced her shoulders to relax. “I’m ready when you are,” she said.
The crimson lips curled into a smile that was at once genuine, cruel and sad. “I was born four years ago. My father was the current Easter Bunny. I was the runt of the litter but my mother always had a soft place in her heart for me. She made sure I got plenty to eat. As a result, I soon gained enough weight to hold my own with my siblings. But I was a late bloomer and they had all moved away to start families when the tragedy happened.”
The rabbit stopped and stared at the woman. She finished her notes and looked up at her. “What tragedy?” she prompted.
“Do you know how long rabbits live?” the rabbit asked.
“A few years,” the woman said. “ But you’ve lived longer than that.”
“Wild rabbits live about 2-3 years. My family is protected since we are the Easter Bunnies but we only live about 10 years. My father was seven years old. He was expected to be the Easter Bunny for several more years. He had what would be a mid-life crisis in human terms.”
The woman coughed, covering the embarrassed giggle that went with the whole idea of it.
“Yes, I know,” sighed the rabbit. He must have thought he was some kind of Peter Rabbit incarnate. Stealing vegetables from a human farmer at his age is dangerous business. Especially for a rabbit that’s lived a pampered life.” The rabbit paused. “I can almost understand the need to do so after going to an office everyday and dealing with candy and sugar sweets all these years.”
“What happened?” the woman asked.
“A bullet to the head. It was a clean shot. I know he didn’t suffer,” the rabbit said. “Imagine. I was less than a year old thrust into the world of being the Easter Bunny with no training whatsoever.”
The rabbit watched the woman choose her words carefully.
“I understand you had no training, but its once a year, right? You have to deal with the weeks running up to Easter, the whole whoopla and all. And the hiding of the Easter eggs. Didn’t you have others to help you?” the woman asked.
“Of course,” the rabbit said frowning. “It’s big business. Who do you think comes up with the ideas, the chocolate, the plastic eggs, the baskets. It’s mindboggling the responsibility I had.”
“That’s all corporate businesses, isn’t it?” The woman paused, realization dawning across her face. “You had? Don’t you still?”
The sly smile crept over the rabbit’s face. “You’re supposed to think it’s just business. Do you really think the idea for Cadbury came from a human? But I see I’ve jumped ahead. To answer your questions, I should begin at the beginning of where I left off, then continue to the end,” the rabbit said.
“Now, where was I? Oh yes, my father was tragically taken. I was the only single bunny at home–so naturally, I was being groomed to take over. Only not that quickly. I was thrust into the world of manufacturing plastic eggs, recipes for chocolate and all the varieties of baskets,” the rabbit said.
“Weren’t there others to help and advise you?” the woman asked.
“Of course, but who do you trust?” I was so inexperienced and my mother was no help. She pined away for my father and died shortly after him. It was sad but she’d never been part of the business really so she didn’t know what to do either. Then the recession hit. And the stock market tanked. There was so much pressure to keep profits up. I mean, what’s a rabbit to do?”
The woman fought her giggle as she frantically took notes.
“So what did you do?” the woman asked.
“Alas, I bowed to those who did not have my best interest at heart. My uncle and cousin who had been in the business much longer suggested outsourcing to China. It all sounded so easy. I was sucked in.”
“Isn’t China where they banned things being brought into the US?” the woman asked.
“Yes. It was our products. But that’s not the issue. If we had known about them or if someone had simply told us about them, we would have changed our practices. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened,” the rabbit said.
“Then what did?” asked the woman.
“It was Santa’s head elf. He’s always thought the Easter Bunny bringing toys to children infringed upon Santa’s role,” the rabbit huffed. “It’s a totally different time of year. There’s no real conflict.”
“I don’t understand,” the woman said shaking her head. “What does that have to do with China?”
“It was the elf who notified the FDA. Did he come and talk to us like civilized animals? Oh no, he set out to ruin us. Kinder eggs, melamine in the milk and chocolate.”
The rabbit rung her paws and shook her head. “I had no idea the elf had it in for us. I would have tried to have better relations but I listened to my uncle. He said not to worry.”
“Isn’t all that getting fixed?” the woman asked.
“Yes, but not before the stockholders demanded my head. I was too inexperienced they said. No matter that it was my uncle’s idea. I should have researched this better. I was ultimately responsible,” the rabbit said. “And now look at me. I am a wreck of a bunny. Four years old and my life is over.”
The woman stared at the rabbit. “Why am I here?” she asked. “It doesn’t sound like much of a story.”
“Ahh,” the rabbit said. “There’s more. It was a conspiracy between my cousin and the elf.”
The woman rolled her eyes and began to close her notepad.
“No, wait,” cried the rabbit. “I can prove it.”
The rabbit paused to let her words sink in.
“Don’t you think the world has a right to know the truth?”
“Sure,” the woman said, “ but I’d need hard evidence. Assuming I believe any of this, I don’t see how your cousin and the elf could control products in China. Why would your cousin want to hurt the company?”
“They didn’t control the products. Only when the problems were discovered, they took advantage of it. My cousin wanted power–my position,” the rabbit said.
“Let’s see your proof,” the woman said.
“Everything is in here,” said the rabbit reaching for a binder. She opened it as the woman reporter leaned in. “I have pictures, dates of meetings and a recording of a conversation after it all happened. I tried to show it to the stockholders but no one will meet with me.”
The rabbit smiled her wily smile. “Plus they embarrassed me publicly. Seems I should return the favor, don’t you think? It might be the story of the century. Interested?”
The woman considered the rabbit’s words. “If you’ve really got proof, I’d love to see it. I’m not promising anything but if you have what you say you do, it’s a great story.”
The rabbit smiled. “I realize it’s a lot to digest. It’s like a nightmare I wish I could wake up from.”
“This is all so unbelievable,” the woman said, shaking her head.
“Perhaps a cup of tea would help,” the rabbit said. “Sugar or cream, Alice?”
You can find more Easter and mystery short stories in KRL’s Terrific Tales section.