Adventures in Retirement: Jose
By: Margaret Steiner
Leo and I are sitting around last night, Lay-z-Boy reclining actually, when the phone rings. It is our neighbors Leda and Soloman (and, no, he is not very wise); strange folks, they are. (An example: once Leda called and asked Leo if she could use his pick-up truck. Use it. His vehicle. She had something she needed to pick up. Leo said no but that afternoon he drove her, picked whatever up, carried it up a long flight of stairs. I do remember that whatever it was was heavy and required Leo to complain all night long. He came home cussing because Leda had said thank you but had not offered him a beer or any form of liquid nourishment. I said, next time say that your truck is broken. And he said, Theo, you’re the liar in the family. And I let him get away with that one. I did not remind Leo of the time Leda called me on a hot, hot summer’s morning to say, you know, we don’t have ac and I was just wondering if you would mind if I come visit with you this afternoon. Wits alert and antennae twitching, I had quickly replied, so sorry, but I am going to be out all afternoon. That was the day I hung drapes in the garage so no passerby could see if our vehicles were home or not.)
Anyway tonight Leda asked to speak to Leo. I held my hand over the mouthpiece and whispered, “It’s Leda. Get your lie ready.” (I think Leda is still miffed at me because where our property line touches on hers way back next to the woods, there is an old fence, probably a hold-over from the days when all of this land was a farm—that grows every vine known to the human race—honeysuckle, wisteria, ivy, trumpet vine—and Leda, who tries to organic garden (Really! As if the bees are going to respect that no-pesticides rule!) wants all those vines dead without using pesticide. I had no interest in the project, especially in the manner she chose, vine pulling by hand. PLEASE. I said, I have allergies, terrible skin reactions to such elements, but, honey, you have my permission to come on my part of that land and pull my share of vines all you want. I could feel the contempt through the phone line. Leda, I say, chemicals are our friends. Go forth and spray. Kill. Put on your spurs and Round Up. Agent Orange it all. She hung up and hasn’t called me since.)
Leo puts her on speaker phone. “It’s Jose,” I hear her say. And then a tight sob. “He’s run away.” “Who’s Jose,” Leo asks. “One of our rabbits.” A sniff. “He’s white and black. If you see him.” Another sniff. “Please call. He’s been gone since morning.”
Then I remember. Before she stopped talking to me, Leda had invited me to come to see her weave her five rabbits’ fur into wool. I almost went. I do love an entrepreneur. But this day one hare had hared. (Don’t you just love it when you use a verb like hare and then look it up and see that it does exist and that you haven’t just malaproped it into existence.) “When Soloman called him, he didn’t come,” Leda continues.
“Well,” I tell Leo, “Jose has a rabbit sized cranium so what did she expect.”
Later that evening, Leo and I feel some sort of guilt and put on real clothes and go out into the dark to see if maybe we can help. “We’ll give it a shot,” Leo says, “but I think Jose’s new name might be Coyote Snack.” (What is it with the coyotes! They get lost or something? Suddenly they are everywhere. Well, I do admire that entrepreneur spirit—coyote or no.)
“Bunny, here Bunny Wunny,” I say, mostly because I have had my half of a bottle of red. Then I tried, “Here, Fiver. Here, Flopsy. Here, Mopsy.” I have to think for a moment (see previous statement about wine). “Oh, yeah, here, Cotton Tail.” And just like that, (I am snapping my fingers as I write) there was a flash of white. Right in the bush where my neighbor Wendy threw all the vegetable peelings and such from the last cookout we had. “Look,” I yelled, “it’s Jose.”
He was huge. Think Jimmy Stewart’s Harvey. What my uncle would have called frying size. Bigger even. Major pot. Long time boiling. Black and white and gray and very, very dirty. He picked up a lettuce leaf and bounded away. Throwing his legs back. Showing his scut. Proud and wild. “Jose,” I screamed. You would have thought I had found my long lost Latino lover. He took off again up the bank. “Do something, Leo.” Lord knows, I have said this before. And Leo says, “Herd him this way.” So up I go, slipping and sliding. Herding, for those of you who have never done so, is easy. You just walk forward. I circle. I walk down the bank and Jose looks back once before Leo grabs him by the foot and puts him in rabbit prison, our back porch.
When I phone, I hope Soloman answers (see previous statements at the beginning of this story) and for a moment, I want to tell him half that rabbit is mine but I remember the Biblical Soloman’s answer to the riddle so I just say, come and get your baby.
So we saved a hairy hare. I feel good. I hope he had himself an amazing night. King of rabbits. The does, family Leporidae, probably swooned and showed off their own more common scuts. Maybe there will be little Joses. Somewhere the legend is growing already. Maybe a new religion. And if he crapped on my back porch, well, sobeit and amen.
Yours in Retirement, Theo Mentant, reporter of the insignificant
I grew up in Galax, Virginia, an Appalachian mountain town, and ran from the poverty that was my heritage. I find that I love that place still: the high rolling hills, the green land, the people who say kn i fe with that long i, the strength of mountain women that makes me me. But I cannot go home. Instead, I write about the South—because I have to. Now I live in Asheville, type on my back porch, and watch the wild turkeys eat all my blueberries.