The Easter Tail (Yes, T-a-i-l)

Javier watched the mouse every day for a week. He studied the way its tiny feet scuttled across the concrete path, tail like a wire flag waving behind. He admired the effortless rise onto back haunches the mouse used to look around the garden, even though as a rabbit he too could stand up and sniff for danger. And those cheeks! Seemed like an endless amount of seeds and such could be stuffed inside, leaving the mouse looking ready for quarantine in the mumps ward.

Javier glanced down at his own thick feet. The front weren’t bad, but he couldn’t perform the clever tricks of the mouse. He had seen the tiny creature use those paws almost like a human. But a rabbit’s hind feet? They were long and stiff, made for maximum contact with the ground in preparation for each hop. Ugly.

Then there was his tail. He had to contort, rolling onto his left hip and twisting his neck, to even glimpse the stub that sprouted out of his rump. So disappointing to be born a rabbit.

Now, if this were a story for children, our hero Javier would explore the great outdoors and be aptly jealous of the dog’s tail which could wag, the cat’s tail which could twitch at the tip, or the squirrel’s huge fluffy flag of a tail. In the course of finding the moral to explain away his jealousy he would never notice the stub tail of the deer, or the prehistoric finger which poked out of the tortoise rump, or the fact that the frog didn’t even have a tail, having re-absorbed it in the course of growing up. Somehow, through some amazing turn of events, Javier’s tail would save the day and he would be content.

But this is not a story for children.

And although Javier may be a rabbit, he is not a bunny.

Well, not yet.

“You have to go to catechism,” his mother insisted. “And you have to pay attention.”

Why was it called catechism when no cats were allowed? Javier nibbled on his carrots, but didn’t speak out loud. His mother was in a bad mood.

“Why can’t Adelita be the Easter bunny?” His sister would love it, he was sure.

Mother didn’t answer right away. Her ear twitched and her nose wiggled and finally she spoke. “Tradition. It is important to your father that the oldest son have the job.”

Was that sarcasm he heard in his mother’s voice?

Javier worked on his sister. “You’d be great at it, Adelita. Just hop around with that basket and hide all those eggs.”

“We don’t lay eggs.”

Well, okay, maybe she was a little young to understand all the concepts of Easter. She hadn’t even started Sunday School yet, let alone Cat-a-chistics.

“It’s catechism, Son. Don’t be a numbskull.” His father didn’t get the joke.

“But don’t you see? It’s like gymnastics.” Javier hopped up and down, waiting for his father to smile.

“Do your homework.” Father’s big foot zipped out and thumped Javier on the side of the head and the young rabbit slunk to his part of the warren.

Each day Javier stayed out of his father’s way and continued to watch the mouse and the duck and the frog and all the other animals. As far as he could figure, no one else had to go to classes and no one else had to worry about doing a job which made no sense.

“Mother, why isn’t there an Easter duck?”

“Why isn’t there an Easter frog?”

“Mother, people eat eggs all the time, why do they want more on Easter?”

When his mother refused to answer any more questions—she no longer would even nod and pretend—he asked his teacher.

“You shouldn’t question the word of our Lord.”

What kind of answer was that? Javier pulled his long ears tight to the back of his head and thumped the dirt with his hind foot. Of course, this was not an acceptable response to a teacher and he was sent outside.

Ah…outside. Where he could resume his study of his fellow forest friends. Except he was told to come back in after five minutes time out, so he didn’t dare explore the wide, wonderful world.

Now, if this were a story for teenagers, Javier would discover something—oh, say magic—or he would sharpen his teeth and turn into a vampire rabbit or he would at least don a cape and fly out to rescue someone. Probably his younger sister, and it would all come together somehow to make him happy that he was the one picked to deliver the eggs.

This is not a story for teenagers.

“And those of you chosen to spread the word of our Lord by delivering colored eggs must understand this message.” Master Rabbit paced back and forth in front of the chosen bunnies. Thirty young rabbits who would carry on the long, long tradition of delivering baskets full of eggs.

Javier felt his head droop and his eyes close. The master’s voice sounded like the soft drone of a bumblebee. What if he had wings? Could he fly away and never come back? Where would he fly? Was there a place in this world were rabbits were free from Easter?

The next day Javier kissed Mother goodbye, tugged on Adelita’s ear, and hopped off to school. Only he didn’t go to school. He didn’t start out with the idea that he would play hooky, but that mouse was running down the path like there was something exciting and Javier couldn’t help but follow. Of course, it turned out the mouse wasn’t really going anywhere important but by that time a butterfly had caught the truant rabbit’s attention and then there was a mockingbird and a turkey vulture and three crickets and…well any of you who have ever suffered distractions get it. Javier never made it to school that day.

But he was no dumb bunny. Javier made sure to go home at three o’clock, hoping he had some small chance of not being caught for his deception.

“How in the world did you get so dirty?” Mother’s nose twitched double time. “What’s that smell?”

He glanced down at his brown fur. Grass stains, pine tar, river mud, and some sort of yellow pollen. “Uh…I fell?”

Just then Father walked in. One only had to look at his wild-eyed face to know Javier was not going to escape punishment this time around.

Now if this were a story for adults Javier would be abused, and maybe even Mother and Adelita would be abused, or perhaps his father would attempt to abuse them and Javier would stand up for them, or maybe even feel guilty because he didn’t stand up for them and they would escape or not escape. In any case, there would be a lot of emotion and tension and plot development and such.

This is not a story for adults.

So Javier took his thumping and promised never to cut school again and slunk off cursing under his breath that his father was an asshole and he would be sorry. He spent the next day ignoring the lecture on the resurrection and thinking about humans and rabbits and tails. And during lunch break he never even looked back as he hopped away from the meadow where classes were held.

Once out of sight he turned up the speed. The young rabbit raced down the trail as if a fox were hot on his tail. He twisted and dodged and leapt and never slowed for an instant, even when his chest burned and his feet stung.

Javier ran all the way to the edge of the forest and finally stopped when he could see the town. Panting and licking his dry lips, wishing for some water, he stared at the buildings. It didn’t take him long to spot the church with the spire and the bell tower. He kept to the edge of the road, using the tall grass as cover.

It was easy to slip inside, as the door was propped open with a rock. Javier hopped softly under the bench, sniffing the shoes and legs that formed a wall between him and whatever was at the front of the church. He stopped and adjusted his ears, tilting the right towards the front of the room and swiveling the left to catch any sounds from behind.

“And the Lord said…”

Yep, just like his teacher said. Humans went to school too, and all these people were listening to a lecture.

“And so Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, he was buried, he rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures, and he appeared to Peter and then to the Twelve.”

Hmmm…nothing about rabbits. Or eggs for that matter.

Javier listened and listened. Finally the deep voice stopped and another, higher pitched voice took over.

“We only have a few announcements today. The coat drive is over next Friday and we would still like twenty more coats to take to the shelter, so check those closets. Any children who want to participate in the delivery are welcome, call Nancy Penji and let her know. The Easter party will be on Saturday at eleven o’clock. Remember, Easter eggs and rabbits are pagan rituals and we encourage you to come to the party for a true celebration and forgo the tradition which has nothing to do with being a real Christian.”

What? Javier wished for a rewind button, but he was absolutely sure she had just said bunnies and eggs were out. He waited a few minutes to see if there would be more, but she was finished and everyone was standing and he dashed out the door to escape discovery.

He almost made it out unseen, but as Javier raced down the steps he heard a voice.

“Mommy! I just saw the Easter Bunny.”

“Hush, that was just a rabbit. There is no such thing as the Easter Bunny.”

“And then they said ‘There’s no such thing as the Easter Bunny.’” Javier tried to keep very still while reporting to his mother. It was hard to keep from hopping up and down with excitement, but he knew she wouldn’t listen if he acted like a foolish kit.

“You went to town? Haven’t you been told NEVER to go there?” Mother glanced over her shoulder. “You promised your father you would not cut school.”

“But Mother, don’t you see? I don’t need to go to school. What they’re teaching is a lie. We aren’t even supposed to deliver eggs, it’s a…paper, no that’s not right, PAGAN, that’s it. It’s a pagan ritual.” Javier realized he didn’t really know what that meant, but maybe Mother did. Why wouldn’t she just listen?

“It is our tradition, Javier. It’s important to your father. Can’t you just leave well enough alone and do it? One day a year, that’s all I’m asking.” Her whiskers quivered.

Javier didn’t give up. He tried to explain to his mother how silly it was to be something they were not. He tried to tell her that she had been blindly following something that made no sense. He tried to convince her that times change and the old ways may have been fine at one time, but new things were good too. He tried and tried, day after day. He was extra helpful, he threw a tantrum. He offered to take Adelita and her friends to the meadow and watch while they played.

Mother wouldn’t listen. And if she wouldn’t listen what chance did he have of convincing his father? Javier felt the ache of yesterday’s thumping on his hip. The only thing he would get from Father was a bruise on the other side to match this one.

So Javier put on his cape—okay, not really, but this little kit was destined to be a hero—and went out to find the other young rabbits. If the old ones wouldn’t listen, maybe the next generation would.

And the next generation did. And no rabbit ever delivered eggs again.

So you see dear reader, this story is for rabbits. Rabbits like young Javier who were prisoners to tradition and forced—make that enslaved—into delivering colored eggs year after year when nothing about the whole process has anything to do with being a rabbit. But there was a revolution and it worked and that is why you, dear reader, spend the night before Easter hiding eggs for your young and telling them the lie that has been perpetuated by rabbits stuck on tradition.

“Let’s go see what the Easter Bunny left for you.”



From “Day of the Not-So-Dead and other Morbid Little Holiday Tales”