Wednesday, November 28, 2007

the tan corduroy lazy-boy recliner

A small grey and white rabbit. Not a looking glass rabbit, but a domestic Dutch dwarf rabbit bred for the companionship needs of a young girl -- a girl of ten or eleven -- who was still lonely, even with two dogs, two cats, a tank of hermit crabs, two gerbils, a hamster, a sister, and two brothers. Her name was Lily -- the rabbit's, of course -- and she was a gift from a group of friends when one of the above pets had died. Perhaps it was the hamster. Lily had short, two-inch ears, grey at head and tail, with a wide white stripe around her middle.

One of the friends also had a rabbit, a boy rabbit, and after reading countless volumes about "you and your pet rabbit," the books always ended with a glossy technicolor chapter on the breeding of rabbits -- checking estrus cycles, keeping the animals from killing each other, the dietary needs of the pregnant and nursing mother, followed by a time progression series of photos of baby bunnies, looking like hairless rats.

So of course there was a wedding. Favorite church dresses, and "Bind us together, Lord" played, quite poorly but with great spirit, on the sister's electric piano. There were plenty of other instruments available: a piano, violin, flute, french horn; but the coveted nature of the keyboard with a programmed bassa nova beat and soft version of Hey Jude was the only instrument for a wedding ceremony.

There were fresh flowers, roses and some white flower with a red center that grew profusely, scattered about, and tied to the rabbits, and worn in our hair. A short ceremony was held, and I cannot recall what undoubtedly emotional promises and pledges were made between the rabbits belonging to two best friends. The bride had an embroidered veil.

Twenty years later, the best removed from the friend by disparate paths of life decisions inspired and enforced by parents and disposition, the photographs from the wedding still reflect the harshness of an early summer day in Texas. While the albums of my childhood were purged many years ago, copies of several remained, treasured, in the once upon a friend's belongings. The photographs have obviously been kept, loved, cherished, serving as a window into the past. Copies of the event arrived this past summer, reproductions of a past which only existed briefly, and in harsh daylight.

There were no baby bunnies despite our efforts.


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Small. Purple: a bruised purple, the purple of the tow jammed into the door a week ago, or the mysterious spot on one's calf which is always sore from chairs and coffee tables. Not round, nor ovoid, but very similar to a small, fluttering heart that has grown full of blood and then become frozen. Stopped. Hardened. Calcified.

All this in a potato. Death, Decay. The potato blight, the potato famine, the mass relocation of a people across a body of water, crammed into boats, to suffer the humiliation of immigration at Ellis Island and to then become police officers in Boston, helping ducks cross the street.

The bruised toe: where did the door come from? How does furniture continue to shift, slightly, in increments across the floor? Reading the New York Times, set down the coffee, crash into the table that used to be conveniently placed, but now is singularly responsible for sharp pain, which will echo through shades of blues and greens for some time.

The table was designed for beauty rather than function; the coffee was made -- too strong -- by the friend who has taken the best parts of the paper with no intent to share them, excepting when she grows weary and moves on to other interests.

So I drink my bitter coffee and read the business section, watching the ocean and wondering if there is a point in every friendship, every relationship when the magazine and the style and the front page sections will only reside in the other's possession, whether we have reached the limits of our congeniality.

Coffee prepared badly produces melancholy. The steel grey of the sky is reflected by the ocean, the horizon indistinguishable from the water leading towards it; broken only by the line of small white fishing boats and, in the distance, the slowly passing towers of freighters and container ships.

Someone on one of the ships is bicycling from end to end, keeping an eye on the cargo and watching New York slip away. Would I change places -- leave my coffee, too strong though it may be, and the paper, even if only the business section, for a presumably more primitive life on the high seas? There is no longer the romance of the flapping sails, the challenge of negotiating the Cape in the teeth of a gale; distant ports are filled with tourists who arrived more efficiently in jets with around-the-world ticket packages. Perhaps there is a world that can only be viewed from the deck of a freighter, perhaps the lonely call of sea monsters unseen can still be heard on the midnight watch. Perhaps, though, the nineteenth century is well and truly over, the visions of adventure as impossible now as they always have been.

What would it take to be the person to cast away Life as it is, and board the ship, and find out? What would it take to ask for the Arts and Leisure section?

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reading George Ella Lyon
weather winter