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A Rabbit's Tale

by William Dexter Wade


Winnipeg Tribune
September 13, 2009

Shortly after sunset on Saturday, a
semi-trailer truck overturned into
the ditch beside Highway 10 north of
Brandon. An RCMP spokesperson said that
no other vehicle appeared to be involved
in the mishap and the driver of the truck
has not been located. The RCMP are trying
to reach the truck's owner to determine
the identity of its driver.
Anyone who may have witnessed or who has
knowledge of this accident is asked to
contact the nearest RCMP detachment.

Never in the lore of the creatures of the woods and fields has there occurred such a dauntless, albeit bad-tempered and foul-mouthed, creature as Ralph Rabbit, better known today, of course, as 'Macho Bunny', or just 'M.B' among the many admirers who now claim to have known him well.

His meteoric rise to fame began one twilit evening as Macho grazed his way across a lush field of alfalfa. His reputation as a badass bunny already well established, the other rabbits allowed him a generous lane in which to forage. Munching steadily on only the softest leaves and most fragrant flowers, M.B. pushed his way through the hay that had overgrown its field and spread into the ditch. Beyond the ditch, he climbed the bank and suddenly found himself standing on his first stretch of paved highway. Stunned to silence, Macho eventually recovered himself and began to storm back and forth on the tarmac, raging, "What F.I. put this here? I'll kick his ass! I'll bite his privates! I'll call his heritage into question! I'll blaspheme interminably!"

This, you understand, was just M.B.'s way of warming up, a sort of verbal stretching exercise. Before he could get rolling with really devastating execration, however, M.B. suddenly noticed a pair of eyes glowing in the distance. Glaring with hard-eyed intensity at the far-off apparition, Macho was sure he had identified the wrongdoer and, with grim resolve, prepared to do battle with this brazen, would-be king of the road.

What M.B. couldn't have known was that, hurtling toward him, behind schedule, on eighteen whining black retreads was a Kenworth-hauled flatbed overloaded with portable toilets urgently needed for a classic rock festival near Onanole, Manitoba. The driver was a tough little 19-year-old named l'Aimée d'Aoun, the product of her Chicoutimi mother's hasty coupling with a local tour guide while on holiday in Cairo. On the door of her cab were the words 'John's Johns' in Gothic script, beneath which, in smaller Roman letters was the message 'Tired of all the shit? Let our John take care of it for you.'

As the semi thrust its headlights into the night's soft belly, flatulent exhaust stacks blaring menace, Macho began to realize that this dumb, diesel-stinking creature was bigger than he had first thought. It's possible that he had second thoughts about confronting this snorting behemoth. But never a backward step did our hero take.

Out in the weeds, the little bunnies gazed in awe at M.B., with many a nervous glance at the great beast looming out of the distance, lighting up the night like God preparing Moses for some serious talk. A few shouted words of encouragement, but not too loudly, hedging their bets: "Kick butt, baby!" and "You da bun, Macho!"

From somewhere among them a small, clear bunny-voice began to sing softly the moving strains of Hares of Harlach. One by one, others joined in until there was a growing swell of blood-stirring choral encouragement. Just as the charging colossus met their hero, the bunnies roared rabbit defiance across the prairie. If M.B.'s spine needed stiffening, the thundering chorus of bunny-voices may well have provided it. That's not ours to know.

When the crucial moment came, there was no bobbing and weaving, no footwork or head fakes, no set-up jabs. Old M.B. just stood flat-footed and unloaded the big right paw, aimed dead centre between those big, dumb eyes, threatening more sudden mayhem than the little bunnies could, in the end, bear to watch. They closed their eyes just as a sickening WHUMPSPLATTER! sent poor Macho flying far out into the dark alfalfa field, where, miraculously, he had a few seconds to reflect and to murmur softly, "the horror...," before he passed on up into Bunny Heaven.

That was the sad, untimely end of Ralph Rabbit.

But not of his story. Oh, no, the best is yet to come. Listen.

Though a respected veteran of many barfights and despite her reputation among the boys as being meaner than Jean Chrétien with a hangover, l'Aimée was not unsentimental about the death of a small furry mammal. At the last moment and against all judgment and experience, she cranked the wheel in a desperate attempt, all muscle and reflex, to spare the foolhardy rabbit. Too late, of course.

"Oh, le pauvre petit lapin!" she whimpered, but, as the flatbed behind her became the radius of a rapidly scribing arc, this changed to a frantic litany in which "Merde!" and "Tabernacle!", words learned from her grandmother, figured prominently. As the overloaded flatbed toppled, it scattered its small, one-room dwellings along the verge, the uppermost among them sliding into the ditch. L'Aimée's cab slid on its side along the asphalt, eventually coming to rest in a growing cloud of steam from its broken rad. Down in the depths of the cab came an occasional soft imprecation, "Lapin foutu stupide!" and the like. After a few moments of quiet broken only by the hissing of steam, l'Aimée kicked open the door of her cab, climbed out, brushing little bits of safety glass off her jeans, and, without a backward glance, walked away into the night.

After a time, the bunnies crept up to the highway through the weeds, gazing in awe at the destruction M.B. had wrought. Later, as they made their way back to their safe, cozy warrens, the little bunnies recounted the glorious event again and again in reverent, awe-struck tones.

The fateful events of that warm summer evening established the legend that grew with every re-telling until it became the crown jewel of local rabbit lore. Although his famed deed took place long ago, the chronicle of Macho Bunny has remained intact, faithfully rekindled by generations of foolish fathers to wide-eyed bedtime bunnies.

Little Benjamin Bunny, born long after the famous event, has heard the story recounted many times, including some wildly embellished versions. Sometimes, when little Benny finds himself near a night highway, he crouches in the grass and waits for another overconfident Goliath to come rolling out of the distance, its headlights lighting the way to its disastrous end, felled by the fearsome Macho Bunny.

Benjamin's passionate hope is that he will be the lucky little bunny who witnesses the triumphant return of the legendary rabbit hero.

THE END

THE END


© 2010 William Dexter Wade

Bio: William Dexter Wade is a Senior Scholar in Linguistics at the University of Manitoba. In retirement after thirty years as an academic, he has so far published a number of short stories and poems. His story The Poet was Winner of the 2007 Hemingway Festival Short Story Contest, Sun Valley, Idaho.

E-mail: William Dexter Wade

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