A dazed bunny landed inches from my head. It was the night before a race, the precious hours of sleep before my 4am wake up call.
My bed was in the basement next to a window well. Animals fall down there once in a while — mice, toads, and the occasional rabbit. When discovered during the day, I will jump down, coax the critter into a bucket, then lift the rescued rodent up to my boys who beg to play with the little guy before we set it free. When discovered at night when I am trying to sleep the options are different. I could go outside in the dark and try to fish it out. I could find another bed, move to a room where the noise doesn't penetrate my slumber. Or I can try to tune it out, hope the deepness of my sleep is heavier than the squeaks and scratches. That night I decided to try to sleep through the adventure playing out on the other side of the glass.
Boxes of fruity cereal and a childhood of Disney movies have taught me that rabbits have personalities. This little guy was a fighter who found himself trapped in a prison cell. Against all odds he was determined to escape.
He could see the sky above and he knew in his heart that if he gave it everything he had he could jump high enough to clear the wall and find freedom.
He crouched down, summoned every ounce of strength in his tiny muscles and jumped.
Up he flew. Higher than he ever jumped before. Up, up, up. It seemed nothing could stop him.
With freedom only a few feet away he hit the apex of his trajectory. Down he fell, crashing hard on the rocks below.
Thumper couldn't be discouraged so easily. He leapt, again and again, each time convinced that he could reach new heights.
Eventually, panic set in as he realized his natural talent, jumping, couldn't get him out of this predicament.
Desperate, the tiny hero decided to try climbing to freedom. He dug his claws into the slippery walls and tried to lift his body upward. Bunnies aren't natural climbers, but he believed in himself. Again and again he fell back to earth. Silly, rabbit.
Through the night, Thumper never gave up. He would rest for a few minutes until he devised a new strategy. Each attempt ended with him crashing to the ground. As sunrise approached, his claws were scratched raw, his legs were jelly, and his head ached from banging against the walls.
Soon the sun would be up. An alarm buzzed on the other side of the glass that separated Thumper from and a sleep-deprived runner. I ran a half-marathon while Thumper kept fighting in the trenches.
That afternoon we rescued the rabbit. My oldest son, wearing thick gardening gloves, held the rabbit for a moment before setting him down on the grass. This is usually the part where the animal pauses, looks back over his shoulder to thank us for saving its life, then bolts away to reunite with his jungle friends.
But Thumper didn't run. He hopped towards the nearest tree and sat down. Did I detect a stiffness in his body, an odd wobble in his movement? We left him alone, assuming he would find his mother and soon they would be back in my garden eating my vegetables.
The next day I found Thumper lifeless, curled up by the fence.
It's hard not to see yourself in the limp body of an animal whose life you might have been able to save. Who can't relate to the plight of a curious animal who accidentally fell into a trap? From the bottom of a well we see a blue dot above, a world where all our effort will be rewarded. We paint our cell in rainbow colors, believe in a cartoon version of ourselves grinning on a box of fruity cereal. We have boundless energy, convince ourselves that the fruits of our labor will redefine reality. Orangy-orange. Lemony-lemon. Grapity-grape. How long can you maintain the optimism? How long can you believe that your next leap will lift you out of the hole? Have courage, friend. Eventually the sun will rise, helpful hands will appear and you will be lifted out of your predicament. Unless of course, it kills you first.
Thanks for reading this week's addition to my archives. This isn't my first attempt at stretching metaphors out of my animal encounters. There was the fawn that explained the secrets of inspiration. A wise eagle once gave me the courage to quit my job. And there was that vulture who broke my reality illusion. I write every Saturday so follow me so you don't miss my next tale. Stay creative.