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May 3, 2014

As Time Goes By: The tale of Harvey, the Easter gift rabbit

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The Daily Star

---- — When I was just a little boy, my mother and father had a complete loss of mind and bought me a little white fluff of a live bunny for Easter. I was told that I would learn responsibility and love at the same time.

I quite frankly was aghast because I wanted to be much like every other kid on the block who got a chocolate bunny — the size of which we equated to how much your parents loved you. I usually did OK and would get an 18- to 24-inch bunny.

After Easter we would see who was the strongest willed, as evidenced that no part of the bunny was eaten. Once the least-willed one of us started munching (usually the ears) then it was “Katie bar the door” with chocolate smeared all over our faces.

Receiving a small white bunny did not pull my rank with the group but it did improve my meeting young ladies who are apparently suckers for bunnies and horses or ponies.

My father constructed a rabbit hutch outside that had a wire screen floor and a shelter with nice, fresh hay. My little, white friend took no time at all to make himself a nest where he was snuggly and as warm as toast. It became my job to feed the rabbit and to keep his nest warm and dry. This meant at least once a week I had to put in fresh straw and clean up any “nuggets” in the nest area.

The rabbit had to have a name. Homo sapiens are very uncomfortable if their pets have no names. Girl friends preferred calling him (yes it was a boy) “Fluffy,” while other friends suggested “Bugs” or “Jack” or even “Peter Cottontail.” We finally settled on “Harvey,” which I believe was a great stage play on Broadway.

Harvey was a hoot! The only thing I didn’t understand was how his nest got so wet in just one week. I gave him water and lettuce and carrot ends along with rabbit “kibbles.” You would think that Harvey hadn’t been fed in a year — Harvey sucked up kibble and lettuce plus gallons of water and grew very fast. He was very plump, and with all the brushings he got, was as soft as a feather. 

Girls made a fuss over him, while boys made believe that they were hunting by aiming a pistol-finger and going “Blam!” They would blow on the end of their pistol finger and smile contentedly.

I was shocked. Hurt my “Harvey”? No way! I made it known that Harvey died only over my dead body.

That fall, cold weather came early and hearts melted with the thought of Harvey in his hutch, shivering. The same people who decided to get me a real bunny decided that Harvey could come inside. 

Harvey mistook this for a stage revue and performed by doing flips (backwards) and snuggling into laps of my spinster aunt. He was a knockout at show-and-tell in school. I must confess I started getting jealous. I wondered what rabbit stew would taste like. It ranged from pure delicious, like hot dogs, to the bitter taste you get from biting into a green hairless caterpillar. (I only did that once on a dare.)

Harvey sealed his own fate. Running loose, Harvey decided that the Berber carpet needed trimming. He ate huge sections of the Berber without a burp.

Then Harvey started to get lost in the house. “Where’s Harvey?” my sister would ask. In my best “I am not my rabbit’s keeper’s voice,” I would say “How should I know?” A room-by-room search would be initiated and Harvey would be found in a nest made out of clean, dry clothes surrounded by little nuggets.

One look at the nuggets and my mother decided that Harvey had to go. It was a “him or me” argument. My mother won. (My father would never enjoy life with all those nuggets around him.)

Now the dinner time conversation rotated around “What will become of Harvey?” The initial answer was that Harvey was going to an “Old Folks Home.” I was quick to point out that Harvey was a rabbit and not a “folk.” After scrambling around, my parents said they stood corrected that Harvey was going to an “Old Rabbits Home” to spend his days in sweet clover. Why didn’t I believe them?

I fretted. I was really worried about Harvey. My friends in school were raising their hand pistols and going “Blam!” again.

Then, one fateful day, I came home from school and Harvey was gone. The hutch was driftwood and the rabbit food was all sealed up on the top shelf. Harvey was gone. I heard the doors slam in my heart. At the supper table that night, I asked where Harvey had gone. Not keeping to a simple answer, I was told that Harvey had “gone to a farm” in upstate New York to a nice “Republican” family. This only resulted with a new spate of questions. In my heart I had only one feeling. Harvey had bought the farm. (Anyhow, Harvey was a Democrat.)

Months went by, and one day I was helping my father make deliveries when we stopped at an animal farm in lower Jersey City. (I was told that rats from the Jersey swamps were bigger than dogs.)

There was a sign out front: “Rabbit meat 49 cents a pound.” In an instant I knew where Harvey had gone. As time goes by for Harvey, it was: “The End.”

Henry Geerken is a three-time NYSUT award-winner writing humorous articles addressing retiree and senior citizen concerns. Geerken also writes for Sail-World, World Cruising Newsletter, regarding his many humorous sailing episodes through the years. He can be reached by email at hgeerken@stny.rr.com. ‘Senior Scene’ columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/seniorscene.