“I’m going to the compost bin. I’ll be right back,” Blake Jorgenson said to his wife.
“Okay. I’m almost done with the tea. We can have a cup on the back patio if you want. It’s a beautiful morning.”
He grinned, “Sounds good.”
Blake stepped out the back door with his pail of breakfast scraps: eggs shells, coffee grounds and a banana peel. He stopped and took a moment to breathe in the lovely scent of a nearby climbing yellow rose bush. Ah, roses so sweet! he thought poetically to himself. Wasn’t life grand?
He was feeling wonderful. A warbler chattering away in a nearby clump of honeysuckle seemed to echo his jaunty mood. Morning dew sparkled on the lawn and the sky was glorious robin’s egg blue. It was the last week in June and the sun was shining, the temperature a pleasant sixty-five degrees. It was going to be a perfect day.
Blake was an avid gardener; it was not only his hobby but his passion. He planned to spend the morning working in the front yard, weeding and hoeing the many gardens he’d planted there over the years. It was the sunniest spot on his property and that’s where all the sun-loving flowers were planted: delphinium, garden phlox, coneflower, sunflowers, daises and black-eyed Susan’s to name but a few. When he was finished in the front, he’d move to the backyard, where he was now, to the shady gardens and do the same with the hostas, ferns, wild ginger, Solomon’s seal and foxglove. He prided himself on the gardens he and Alicia maintained. They’d won a disappointing second place in the Long Lake garden contest last year and he was ready to do battle.
“Not this year,” he’d told his wife a few months earlier at the beginning of the season, “No siree. This year we’re going to kick some ass. We’re going to win!”
He hadn’t noticed when Alicia had turned away, rolling her eyes at him. Sure, she liked to putter around with the flowers, but that was all. She could have cared less about the garden contest and didn’t care one whit about winning. And she certainly wasn’t like her competitive husband, who had waited and dreamed and plotted all winter long for the chance to wipe last year’s second place debacle from the books.
Blake happily sauntered from the back door to the far side of the garage where the compost bin was located. Suddenly a movement to his right caught his attention. Thinking it might be a robin searching for a worm he glanced out into the yard. It took a moment to locate the movement and when he did his blood pressure suddenly sky-rocketed, his good mood vanishing in an instant. “Shit!” He dropped his pail and ran back to the house yelling, “God damn it, anyway!”
Alicia hurried to meet him as he burst through the backdoor, “What’s the matter? Is it your heart? What’s wrong?”
“I’m fine, but I’m not okay. I’ve got to call Toby.”
“That damn rabbit is back. I can’t friggin’ believe it.”
“Why call Toby?” Toby McCourt was Blake’s best friend.
“He’s got a trap. I’m going to catch the blasted thing and when I do, that’ll be all she wrote for mister bunny rabbit. Mark my words. That thing is toast.”
Alicia sighed a heavy sigh, thinking, “Good grief, here we go again.”
Toby’s trap was called a “Havaheart.” It was a rectangular wire mesh box-like contraption that an animal was enticed into with food. Once inside, a trip-lever shut the door so the animal couldn’t get out. The idea was that the trapper could then take the animal far away and let it go to run wild and free in some woods or fields somewhere; anywhere but where they could do damage and destruction to humans. Toby used his to trap squirrels. He was a gentle and compassionate man who drove twenty miles away to the other side of the Minnesota River down near Jordan where he set the unharmed animal free. Blake wasn’t sure he’d be that kind and considerate with the rabbit.
“I might just drop the whole thing in the middle of Long Lake and be done with it,” he told Alicia when he returned home from Toby’s, hauling the bulky Havaheart, “I’ve had it with the damn thing.”
The “Damn Thing,” the rabbit, had been the scourge of Blake’s for a couple of years right up until last year when it had mysteriously disappeared. “Yea!” Blake had said earlier that spring as he prepared his prized gardens for the garden show judging (only to awarded the gut wrenching second plate silver metal. It still grated on his nerves.) “Maybe a fox got it or something. Hopefully, the stupid thing is dead. Good bye and good riddance is what I say.”
But, now, a year later, apparently it was not dead. Now it was back, hopping around in his yard, and it had Blake’s blood pressure up in the danger zone.
“Blake, sweetheart, you’ve got to calm down,” Alicia told him, as he stalked his property searching for the perfect place to set the trap, “You’ll give yourself a heart attack.”
Blake was a recently retired product development specialist for Heartland Incorporated, an electronics control manufacturing company. He’d worked there for nearly forty years, as long as he and Alicia had been married. He’d been a dedicated employee and was a devoted husband. He was also fiercely competitive, and he wasn’t going to let a measly cottontail rabbit ruin his changes at winning first place at garden show this year. In his words, “No friggin’ way.” He’d already picked out a nice spot on the fireplace mantel to be home for the shining golden trophy, much to Alicia’s chagrin.
After an hour’s contemplation, and trying various locations, he finally decided to place the trap in the front yard, in the middle of his favorite flower bed. He baited it with fresh romaine lettuce, sliced radishes and succulent baby carrots. The mixture looked so delectable that Blake fought back an urge to eat some. “Nope, save it for the rabbit,” he muttered to himself, “I can’t wait to get the damned thing.”
With the trap and bait in place, he impatiently waited. One day went by. A second day passed. A third. Nothing. At the end of the fourth day, with still no rabbit, Blake was starting to calm down somewhat and to think, “Maybe the blasted thing has moved on to another neighborhood to terrorize another gardener.” Or, now that he was thinking about it, “Maybe something even better has happened. Maybe it got hit by a car and is dead.” To that end Blake got in his brand new Ford Focus and took a drive around the neighborhood looking up and down the streets to see if he could find evidence of the smashed remains of rabbit’s demise. He found nothing.
But that was fine with Blake. At least the rabbit wasn’t in his yard or his flower beds, or anywhere nearby. Apparently. He allowed himself some cautious optimism. His bachelor buttons had just popped up in his front yard garden and were growing with enthusiasm. They’d be the final colors of blue and pink and white to fill in amongst the deep violet delphinium, the terra cotta coneflowers, the yellow sunflowers and the deep fuchsia and reds of his phlox. The judging was next week. He and, more importantly, his garden, were ready. “First place, here we come,” he told Alicia, “No doubt in my mind.” To which his poor wife sighed and, again, rolled her eyes.
The next morning he took the breakfast scraps to the compost bin. On a whim, he decided to take a little stroll to the front yard to check on the trap. He walked on yesterday’s freshly cut grass along the side of his house, reveling in the beauty of natural world and the fact that, with the rabbit seemingly nowhere to be found, all was right with it. He turned the corner to the front yard and let his eye run over the riot of color, the beautiful combination of flowers of all types and varieties. He’d definitely win first place this year. Easily. Then he happened to glance at the Havaheart, tucked carefully among the bachelor buttons. At first he didn’t believe what he saw. He had to blink twice to make sure it was real. Unfortunately, it was. There, sitting calmly and unafraid on top of the trap was the rabbit. His nemesis. Blake stared, his blood racing to his brain, his heart pounding. He put his hand to his chest to ease the pain. It subsided, fortunately, but he was frozen in place, a combination of anger and numbness stopping him in his tracks.
The rabbit, a doe, a big female, sat staring back at him. She calmly munched on the new growth of the bachelor buttons growing right up beside her. She was taking her time, all the while watching the man clutch his chest, speechless and consumed by rage. Munching, munching, munching, she was, enjoying every bite, in no hurry at all.
When she was finished, she lightly jumped to the ground and leisurely hopped away, turning every now and then, keeping an eye of the crazy man standing nearby with his eyes bugging out, silently moving his mouth, speechless. Then she spied a delectable delphinium. She stopped next to it, daintily bit it off at the stem and started eating, savoring every bite, watching as the female who lived with the man ran out to help him. She put her arm around his shoulder and slowly they made their toward their home.
When they had gone inside, she hopped past more of the man’s succulent gardens, so full of good food. For now, though, she ignored them. She was heading for the yard next door. At the back of the garage she’d dug a borrow for her nine babies. They’d only been born last week. She was still feeding them her rich mother’s milk. Soon they’d be old enough to go out on their own. Then she would teach them the ways of the world and how to survive: where the safe places to hide were and where to find food, like this particular garden, this lovely banquet of healthy food, so abundant and tasty.
But that was still a few weeks away. Until then she’d be busy, feeding mostly, both herself and her babies. She was glad there were so many flowers nearby. The man’s garden held the best food in the area; in fact, the best food she’d ever eaten. She was sure her babies would grow strong and healthy from it. Her milk was good. The garden was big. The food source was almost unending. There was no doubt about it, she would definitely be back, if not this afternoon, then tonight. After all, she had a growing family to care for. She had a lot more eating to do.