It pretty much goes without saying that, since I am an author of fiction, determined to be a storyteller, I spend most of my time talking to people who exist only inside my goofy old head. Sure, most of the imaginary people I create to keep me company are at least loosely based on real people that I either once knew, or still know. You can tell that about Millis, the rabbit-man, pictured here on the right, can’t you? Sure. I had a New Zealand White pet rabbit that I raised as a 4-H project. His name was Ember-eyes… because, well, yeah… red eyes. It just happens that my goofy old memory transformed him into an evolution-enhanced science experiment in my unpublished novel, The Bicycle-Wheel Genius. But he was a real person once… ’cause rabbits are people too, right?
Anita Jones, a character from my unpublished novel, Superchicken, is based on a real person too. I admit, there was a girl in my class from grades K through 6 that I secretly adored and would’ve done anything to be near, though every significant event I remember from my life that involved an encounter with her, involved red-faced embarrassment for me. That’s why I remember her as having auburn-colored hair. Charley Brown’s Little Red-Haired Girl… duh! I would’ve died sooner than tell her how I really felt, even now, but by making her into one of a multitude of imaginary people who inhabit my life, I can be so close to her that sometimes I am actually inside her mind. There’s a sort of creepy voyeurism-squared sort of thing.
Dorin Dobbs, the main human character of my published novel, Catch a Falling Star, is an imaginary character based mostly on my eldest son, though, in fact, I started writing that novel five years before he was born. Like most of the imaginary people in my life, I talk to Dorin repeatedly even when the real Dorin is half a world away in the Marine Corps. And even though the Dorin I am talking to is not the real Dorin, he is still constantly using language that is extra-salty far beyond his years, and is often defiant of my fatherly wisdom, and always argues for the exact opposite of any opinion I express. That’s just how it is to be the father of an imaginary son.
Realistically, I have to admit that even the flesh-and-blood people in my life are imaginary. No one ever actually inhabits another person’s head except through the magic of imagination. Even though I am talking to you at this moment, you are only an imaginary person to me. I don’t even know your name as I write this. And I am the same to you. You may have read my writing enough to think you know something about me… but you really only know the Mickey in your mind that I have worked at putting there with my words. And I really have no idea what that imaginary Mickey you have in your head is like. He is probably really the opposite of who I think I am.
I am, after all, married to this girl panda, Mandy Panda from the Pandalore Islands, and my three children are all Halfasian part-panda-people. Yes, this is the imaginary person who is my real-life wife. The secret is, we only ever know the imaginary people we have in our goofy little heads. We don’t know the real person behind anyone in our lives, because it is simply not possible to really know how anybody else thinks or feels, even if they write out their lengthy treatise about how all people are imaginary people. That stuff is just too goofy-dippy to be real.
And it seems that it goes badly three or maybe four times as often as it goes well.
This has been a bad week for me.
I got a booster shot two days ago to protect against further Covid problems. But I am still ill today just from the injection.
And yet I am still supposed to be funny on Fridays.
So, today, I am going to explain why rabbits’ feet are not going to help.
They are not lucky for me.
I have been a rabbit for forty years, since I was 25 and starting a career as a teacher.
Rabbits are always alert, always ready to face whatever predators may come our way, foxes, weasels, bears, tigers, bankers, health-insurance salesmen, lawyers, and politicians.
Rabbits have a field of vision that stretches for well more than the human 180 degrees of view.
They have to put together sensory input quickly, thump loudly with a hind leg, and bolt down the rabbit hole.
Critics would say that a rabbit doesn’t act assertively enough, standing up for himself in the face of what is unjust, life-threatening, and wrong. But it is not easy to be a rabbit in a dangerous world where bad luck is more common than good.
And think about it carefully, in a harsh and unjust world-environment. a rabbit’s foot is never lucky to the rabbit it came from.
So, feeling rotten, surrounded by crumbling pipes and leaky plumbing in this old house, and getting nothing but spam calls on the phone from scammers, this fat old rabbit, going blind and laid up with arthritis pain, is still happy to count all four rabbit’s feet still attached.
On days when I am still recovering from life-altering blows, I often try to find new realms, alternate realities to live in. (Retreating into a fantasy world is one of the reasons she gave for leaving.) And since, as a youth in Iowa, I raised rabbits for a 4-H project, I know rabbits better than I do human people. Rabbits are people too. So, I have been walking among the rabbit people. Seriously, bunnies are better people than most human people. They are not trying to profit off you. They are not trying to get everything they can off you. They are merely there to wiggle their whiskers, sniff for food, poop, gnaw on stuff, and make more bunnies.
I often see myself as a rabbit person. In cartoon form, I am the bunny-man teacher known to the Animal Town School System as Mr. Reluctant Rabbit.
As a teacher, I am always pulling out carrots of irony and gnawing on the ends of them in front of students. If they complain that eating food in class is supposed to be against the rules, I ask them, “Do you want a carrot of irony?”
“Oh, no, thank you sir.”
“They are good for your eyesight as well as your insight. You really ought to chew on healthier things like that.”
“Oh, no sir,” they say. “We prefer Hot Cheetos.”
And so, I taught on like that… like a rabbit, fast and frumious (a Jabberwocky sort of word), and never really bit anybody. Teaching is like that. You offer the good healthy stuff to nourish their little animal minds, and they always choose the junk food instead.
And so life goes on like that. Looking to rabbit people to ease my pain and need for good, wholesome carrots of irony.
I have recently run a free-book promotion on The Bicycle-Wheel Genius.One of the main characters in the book is Tommy Bircher’s pet rabbit Millis. During the course of the story about invading aliens, Secret Agent Robots from the CIA, and making friends when you need friends, Millis is turned into a rabbit-man by a lab accident. He teaches Tommy that you don’t have to be human to be a good, caring, self-sacrificing person. He also teaches him to eat his carrots and greens like a good boy should.
So, I will spend more time with the rabbit people and heal a little bit. That is what you do with the tragedy that life brings you. You spin it into whole cloth, making humor and poetry out of everything bad that happens… wrapping yourself up in a comforting blanket of lies (you can also call those fiction stories), and eating a little chicken soup on a cold day to heal your soul. (Oh, I forget, rabbits often gag on chicken soup. Let’s make that bean soup with carrot chunks.)
I often get criticized for talking to people who are basically invisible, probably imaginary, and definitely not real people, no matter what else they may be.
The unfinished cover picture is from the novel The Bicycle-Wheel Genius which I finished the final rewrite and edit for and then published in 2018. All of the characters in that book are fictional. Even though some of them strongly resemble the real people who inspired me to create them, they are fictional people doing fictional and sometimes impossible things. And yet, they are all people who I have lived with as walking, talking, fictional people for many years. Most of those people have been talking to me since the 1970’s. I know some of them far better than any of the real people who are a part of my life.
These, of course, are only a few of my imaginary friends. Some I spend time with a lot. Some I haven’t seen or heard from in quite a while. And I do know they are not real people. Mandy is a cartoon panda bear, and Anneliese is a living gingerbread cookie. I do understand I made these people up in my stupid little head.
But it seems to me that the people in the world around us are really no less imaginary, ephemeral, and unreal. Look at the recently replaced Presidentumb of the Disunited States. He is an evil cartoon James Bond villain if there ever was one.
Animated cast of OUR CARTOON PRESIDENT. Photo: Courtesy of SHOWTIME
People in the real world create an imaginary person in their own stupid little heads, and pretend real hard that that imaginary person is really them in real life. And of course, nobody sees anybody else in the same way that they see themselves. Everybody thinks they are a somebody who is different from anybody else who thinks they are a somebody too, and really they are telling themselves, and each other, lies about who somebody really is, and it is all very confusing, and if you can follow this sentence, you must be a far better reader than I am a writer, because none of it really makes sense to me. I think everybody is imaginary in some sense of the word.
So, if you happen to see me talking to a big white rabbit-man who used to be a pet white rabbit, but got changed into a rabbit-man through futuristic genetic science and metal carrots, don’t panic and call the police. I am just talking to another fictional character from a book I finished writing. And why are you looking inside my head, anyway? There’s an awful lot of personal stuff going on in there. Of course, you only see that because I wrote about it in this essay. So it is not an invasion of privacy. It is just me writing down stuff I probably should keep in my own stupid little head. My bad.
I am a captive today. I went to Denton, Texas yesterday to receive my booster dose of the Covid vaccine. I don’t feel any worse than the last two times I got vaccinated. But I am not better either.
And there are two big court cases happening today that have a huge effect on whether life is going to be fair to us rabbit-people, or will end up being more fair to those FOX people.
Three knuckle-dragging crackers hunted down an unarmed black man with guns in Georgia, claiming he was a theft suspect. They repeatedly threatened to kill him if he didn’t surrender to them, and then they finally carried out the threat and shot him dead. And yesterday I heard the main cracker make the excuse that the man tried to grab his gun, so he shot him to death in self-defense.
One Rambo wannabe in Wisconsin, a seventeen-year-old who owned an AR-15 that he wasn’t old enough to legally purchase, went to a protest where he goaded unarmed protesters to attack him, shot and killed two of them, wounded some others, and now is claiming he shot in self defense. Those unarmed protesters shoulda known better than to taunt him and make him afraid when he had his big gun in his hands.
I’ma thinkin’summat ain’t right.
It’s a tricky briar patch they want to throw me in. I live in Texas where you can now carry around a loaded gun concealed on your rabbit fur without having to get any kind of permit first. I may have to think twice about walking into anyplace named the OK Corral.
I am not the sort to solve my problems with a gun. If I am ever in a confrontation where someone has to be shot, it will most likely be me. I would sooner die than kill somebody.
But the world in general does not think like I do.
So, I am thinkin’ all tricksey about makin’ that old FOX throw me inta my laughin’ place. Somehow I gotta convince that old boy that I don’t wanna be there. Cuz them ol’ FOXes is cruel like that.
I will recover from my booster shot I will feel better in a day or two. The FOXes will probably look at this post and call me a racist, because of what I am actually saying. That’s how racists justify being racists. But the only race I really belong to is the ordinary rabbit-people race, also known as the human race. But rabbits come in many different colors, and lots of them are spotted. So what? What ya gonna make out o’ dat?
You don’t solve problems of violence with more violence. So, we gotta try something else. Any ideas?
This is an illustration that goes along with my first good published novel, Catch a Falling Star. I don’t talk about that novel in this blog very much anymore since, in order to actually promote that novel, I am under contract to have to spend hundreds of dollars more to use one of their many expensive promotional packages to get this “award winning” novel promoted in the way the publisher thinks it deserves. I wanted to use a picture like this for the cover of the book. They rejected that. Instead they gave me a silhouette picture of a girl flying a kite at night. That, of course, has nothing to do with the novel inside the book. These two, by contrast, are two of the most important characters from the book, both of them aliens. Farbick is the competent space pilot who gets himself shot and captured during the failed invasion of Earth. Davalon is the marooned tadpole, Telleron child, who gets himself adopted by a childless Earth couple. I definitely like my picture better than the one I got stuck with.
This picture is called, “Long Ago It Might Have Been.” It is a picture I drew in the late eighties, after my girlfriend/Reading-teacher colleague took a job in San Antonio and left me behind. Honestly, she wanted to marry me, and I never got around to telling her that the reason our love life was so difficult was because I had been sexually assaulted as a child, and though I was attracted to her, I hadn’t truly healed enough at that point to become a husband and father. I never told her about my terrible secret. She left. She got married and had more than one blond-haired little girl that probably looked just like her. The boy in this picture looks like a young me with blond hair. He wears a baseball jacket of the St. Louis Cardinals, my favorite team. He’s the child that might’ve been, if only I had grown to adulthood a little sooner.
This picture is even harder to explain without me looking like a real fool. After all, if you are a real fool, it’s rather hard to hide that fact. In that last picture, I depicted something that related to one of the two girlfriends that I had to juggle at the same time back in the eighties. You see, I had set my heart on winning over Mary Ann whom I had worked with in the same classroom as she was the teacher’s aide assigned to the Chapter I remedial program I was teaching. She’s the girlfriend I took on visits to the Austin area on weekends. She had a sister in Austin, the one who lived in the nudist apartment complex, where she stayed during those visits. My parents lived in Taylor, Texas at the time, a nearby suburb. We dated regularly. She knew my terrible secret. She was a divorcee and I knew her terrible secrets as well. Ginger, on the other hand, was looking for a mate, and she lived in the apartment next door. She’s the one who would’ve hopped into bed with me anytime I asked. And she made no bones about wanting me to be hers. Needless to say, I could’ve written a TV sitcom about the majority of my love-life back then. It could’ve starred Jack Ritter as me. And I ended up with neither of those two young ladies. The picture, of course. is in honor of the kids in the eighties calling my classroom Gilligan’s Island because they thought I looked like the Gilligan actor, Bob Denver.
This is, of course, a portrait of Millis the rabbit in his accelerated-evolution form as a rabbit-man from my novel The Bicycle-Wheel Genius. That book, obviously, is a science-fiction comedy with a lot of unexpected plot twists. But the story behind the picture is one of a boyhood spent as a town kid in a farm-town community. Unlike the other kids in the Iowa Hawkeyes 4-H club, I couldn’t raise a calf or a pen of hogs as my 4-H club project. So, instead, I got in as a keeper of rabbits. Of my two original rabbits, a buck and a doe, I had a black one and a white one. The white one was a New Zealand White, a purebred white rabbit with red eyes, because the entire breed was albino. I called the white rabbit, the buck, Ember-eyes because his eyes glowed like fire in the night under the flashlight beam. The doe was a black rabbit I called Fuzz. Out of the first litter of babies Fuzz had, eight of the ten were white And of the two black babies, one died in the nest, and the other passed away shortly after he got big enough to determine that he was a male rabbit. I won’t go into how you determine the sex of a juvenile rabbit. So, almost all of the rabbits I raised before I discovered what a Dutch-belted rabbit was, were white with red eyes.
So, it is my thesis for today that every picture I make has some kind of story behind it. It may be totally boring, but still technically a story. So, there.
Okay, big miscalculation here. My old eyes can’t read the rabbit-talk in this cartoon. So, let me do something about it.
Nope. I can read it now. But that’s the problem. Not only is it not funny, but it’s also sorta racist. But wolves do eat rabbits. Still…
News in the RabbitTown Gazette includes the fact that my son is nearing recovery from COVID 19, and nobody in the house has caught it from him. He gets tested on Saturday so he can return to work if the test is negative.
Of course, the nation-wide news is not so great. This is 2020 after all, even in RabbitTown. The price of carrots is still within reach. But rabbit people are continuing to get sick from the pandemic which will be with us well into 2021.
And the weasel in the really bad weasel-wig that somehow got elected Prexydon’t is still favoring wolf-people, even when they kill an unarmed rabbit. And he blames the rabbits for being mad about how the wolves seemed to get away with murder. He twists the facts to suggest that exercising your right to peaceful protest is the cause of the chaos.
According to the featured editorial in the RabbitTown Gazette, you should be able to say, “Rabbit lives matter!” without having wolves answer back, “You mean ALL lives matter!”
After all, if you can’t admit out loud that “Rabbit lives matter,” then you really mean the opposite when you are saying, “ALL lives matter.”
Rabbits, whether they are black, white, brown, or red, have unique rabbit qualities, and they all have a basic worth. And I don’t mean as food for wolves.
The paper seems to have only bad news about the economy when you look at it from a rabbit perspective. Sure, the wolves are doing great right now on Wall Street, but that doesn’t help those of us who are not invested in the stalk market. We regular rabbits, and especially poor rabbits, are struggling to keep carrots on the table.
So, it is time for all good rabbits to do whatever a rabbit can. And that’s the way it was today in Rabbit News.
Yesterday I went once more into the breech, willingly, stupidly, but also bravely. I put in a whole day of Pre-AP English classes for 8th-grade smarty-bunnies. I know those kids are supposed to be the good bunnies. And many of them were. But Pre-AP classes can also contain many little snarky bunnies who are smart enough to carry out evil plans and do truly sinister and wicked things.
Yes, snarky bunnies can eat you, and some will not even spit out the bones when they are finished.
A good share of the problem was that the weather had turned rainy and cool in the early morning hours. That cranks up the pain input on my arthritis meter and makes me feel cranky and out of sorts. That also makes it harder to control what stress does to my diabetic blood-sugar levels. Yelling at kids makes the blood-sugar levels shoot upwards, and then my stressed body chemistry will make everything crash. Bummer. Pity the snarky bunnies. I took it out on them. (I should here point out that I am one of those teachers who calls it yelling when I quietly recite a sin-list to a snarky-bunny perpetrator and run down the menu of possible consequences just to make him or her squirm before taking them back out of the hallway after forcing them to choose the behavior they will excel in rather than suffer the appropriate consequence. They often don’t realize their actual peril because I tend to smile and enjoy pronouncing sentences.)
I actually only had a handful of snarky bunnies to sharpen my teeth on. Too many good bunnies inhabit Pre-AP classes. But there were two in 3rd period, and a handful in the last 7th-period class.
I told them the story of how English teachers, especially old ones, are often afflicted with Lycanthropy. (That is… werewolf disease. I had to define it for them, as well as the word, “afflicted”. Pre-AP students, yes, but only 8th-grade little ones.) I told them that they didn’t have to worry because the full moon was last week and that I hadn’t actually eaten a misbehaving student since 1863 (at least, as far as I could remember.)
“Are you threatening to kill us?” one bright snarky bunny said.
“No, of course not. I am just warning you that I do not like afternoon misbehavior, and I am capable of growing my fangs in the late afternoon class.”
They were mostly quiet and busy little bunnies. But two of them, who were actually best friends, started arguing with each other just after the last bell. Instead of scurrying home to afternoon carrots and gruel, one pushed the other with two hands, and then that bunny lost control and hit the other on his shoulder-blade with a slap-fist. I got to keep them after class for more sin-lists, confessions, and good-behavior-vows.
So, all in all, I had a good day at Field Middle School. I enjoyed chewing on some snarky bunnies. And I thanked the teacher thoroughly for being out and giving me the chance. Oh, and I think I earned at least a couple of dollars for doing it.