Mrs Smiths morning routine had never altered much from the time she had married and moved to town some 18 years ago as a newly wed. She had watched her two children grow up to be teenagers, dressed them for school and picked out Sunday clothes for them every week.
Children growing up, Sunday school, and gossip is about the extent of anticipated excitement in rural Mississippi towns. Well, that and reading the small town newspaper every morning before breakfast; but then, that was routine too.
Like every morning of her life, except for Sunday, when it was turned off, the alarm clock was there to help her remember that life is still moving on. So, like any other Tuesday morning of her life, she clamored out of bed reaching for the house coat hanging on the back side of the bedroom door.
She was glad to feel that the floor wasn’t so cold this morning to her bare feet as she made her way to the dresser to shut off the irritating buzz from the alarm clock. Sleep was trying to beat back the idea of opening her eyes to a new day and the miracle of life.
So much had changed since the passing of Mr Smith last year. So many days she just didn’t want to get out of the bed. If she could just pull the cover up and pretend. If she could only pretend that none of it happened and everything was the same: that he’d never died? It seemed as if the world wasn’t real anymore. She kept wondering if she was stuck in a dream that she couldn’t get out of?
But even so, something was different this morning. Something was just a little better. Mrs Smith felt good this morning. She had after all, lived through the winter and made it to spring. The mornings smelled different, and the floors weren’t so cold. Maybe she was slowing waking from it all, now?
Ambling through the living room towards the kitchen feeling the warmth of daylight filtering into the living room, new life encased her being. She could feel the beauty of the day finding it’s way inside the room and her soul. The light only now beginning to overtake the darkness endured for the past 9 months. Since Jim’s passing.
A new day was waking in her now. She could tell that everything was alright after all, as her eyes squenched from the brightness of the kitchen light coming on. She could face the coffee pot without the longing this morning.
It had been their sacred time together for so many years. She and Jim sipping early morning coffee and quietly reading the daily news paper before the day burst into being with the noise of children. She couldn’t help remembering the closeness and safety with Jim as they awaited the suns arrival together each morning.
Life would never be quite the same, she knew. But he rituals she and Jim had enjoyed for all of their life together was all she knew. Reaching under the counter for the coffee canister and filters for the Mr Coffee machine, she still half expected him to be in his chair. Why couldn’t he be there right now, she wondered?
The morning light was so beautiful as it flooded and filled the room. The air was fresh as she stood there at the kitchen sink mindlessly looking out the window. Somewhere in the background the water was quietly making it’s way through Mr Coffee’s innards into the glass pot.
Musing over the view of Azaleas that filled the lawn she couldn’t help but wondering if they weren’t too early this year? Had time stood still while they budded, bloomed, and set the neighborhood on fire with such beautiful color? Maybe so? But she was alive this morning with the fullness of life. Coffee in hand now, she wanted to touch the blooms and feel them with her hands. She wanted to feel the softness and the miracle of life in them this morning.
Making her way out the front door she stopped and spoke to them, the ones closest to the door, as she touched the blooms and the leaves. She remembered Sister Bounds telling her yesterday that the weather would be beautiful for the next few days. Temperature today would be warmer, in the 70s.
Feeling her body and soul soaking in the warmth of sun in the still cool air, she made her way through the pine trees and the blooms of the Azalea bushes. One red bud tree was fired up with purple blooms, but it was still too early for the dogwoods to come alive.
Slowly making her way across the lawn toward the end of the driveway toward the news paper, she heard the rumbling of old Doctor Shicklegroover’s Buick start up. She never could figure out why he loved that old Buick so much. An antique, and he still insisted on driving it everywhere he went. And why didn’t he replace that worn out muffler she wondered? It was so loud and obnoxious.
Chuckling to herself, she could hear Mr Smith calling it Doc’s “luxury liner”, because it was so large and bundle some compared to the smaller, more modern automobiles. “Could that possibly be those little bugs on that Azalea bush, so early” she said outloud, to herself?Surely not this early in the spring?
A step to the left for a closer look when the world abruptly exploded all around her— a little rabbit lunging out from under her feet, running with all it’s might for safety! Only moments before hiding in the azaleas, slowly grinding and munching on tender leaves, thoughtfully watching as Mrs Smith made her away to where he too was enjoying the morning .
It was only a few yards to the street from where the hare exploded into her quiet world. She could almost hear the rabbits heart pounding over her own as he shot like a bullet across the yard on his way to a less disturbed dinning area on the other side of the street.
Jerked back to reality with the sound of Dr Shicklegroovers luxury liner barreling towards the waffle house for coffee she looked up the street. He said he never even saw the young hare himself, only heard the deafening scream of Mrs Smith. The scream that was louder than his own worn out mufflers.
The tires on the old Roadmaster Buick were almost twice as wide as tires on today’s cars. Mrs Smith somehow noticed that as she watched wide black marks streaming out from under Doc’s tires. She noticed the black tire prints as if in slow motion—combining like cake mixture with smoke and that awful squalling sound of all four tires biting at the early morning pavement.
Her attention went back to the poor rabbit. He was gone. Gone to wherever rabbits go when they’re no longer up and vibrant with life. She wondered if he would go where Jim had gone. But how could Jim recognize it as a rabbit now? It had no life and was as flat a pancake. The Buick had not only relieved it of its life, it had flattened it ’till it barely even had any thickness.
Later she told the ladies at Sunday school how she had no idea how so much got packed into flashbacks in such short little mili-second bites. She told them as she recounted how she, in mili-seconds had re-lived Jim’s heart arrest there in the living room. How she could feel the touch of her friends and hear their soft voices as they sought to soothe her from her shock and grief. There at the end of the casket where she stood with Jim that final day. How final and insulting and numbing it was to see them close the casket over his face that last time.
She told them how she was suddenly jerked back to the moment when she realized that ole Doc Shicklegroover was running from his car to her to see what had happened. How she knew he was too old to be running like that.
“My god” he said “I never even saw it, what is it a rabbit? Yes I see now. It was the radio. I was trying to get the radio to work. You know it’s time for Roberts morning show, I never miss it.”
“It’s ok Doc” she said to soothe his nerves. She was glad he was there beside her as she tried to take it all in. As they stood there side by side “Wait a minute” he said “maybe I can do something for him?” Suddenly he was trotting back to the Buick. She saw him quickly open the trunk, and come trotting back with a spray paint can in his hands.
She wondered to herself why on earth he want to paint a dead rabbit? Would he need to mark the place of the accident. Maybe paint the flattened rabbit so other drivers wouldn’t flatten him out anymore?
Then she was hearing with unbelieving ears as she tried to digest what he was saying: “Now, I can’t promise this will work but it might help the ole boy.” As he was leaning down and spaying and spraying and spraying—the rabbit was becoming sodden with something?
It wasn’t paint at all, but something that seemed to be glistening in the morning light. Something wet and glistening? It was just a rabbit! But now she was suddenly and completely dumbfounded by the whole episode. First she had re-lived her husbands death, burial and grief in a moment.
And now? What did this old man think he was doing? Spraying a dead rabbit? For what? What in the world was he doing? She was trying desperately now to pull herself back from it all- when she heard the Buick fire up and take off again.
She looked back at the rabbit and saw the miracle.
He was suddenly standing upright on his haunches. The rabbit was sitting up on his back haunches with one little paw raised up in front of it’s face. He was waving it at her from side to side. There was nothing now. She had nothing, not a thought, not a word, nothing. She just looked without even knowing she was looking. The moments of time had frozen.
But then the little rabbit got down onto all fours and slowly hopped across the street into Mrs Sneely’s yard. The minute he was there he got a bite of grass in his mouth, stood back up on his haunches, and looked straight at Mrs Smith again.
He raised his little paw and almost smiled as he waved it from side to side. The rabbit and Mrs Smith seemed to be joined in time as he made his way across Mrs Sneely’s yard. He never went very far before stopping again and again to wave so sweetly. She could never recount how many times he had waved before he was out of slight and gone. But she told the ladies at Sunday school class that it must have been at least a dozen.
She suddenly had a thought of what surreal must mean as she began to come back to reality one more time this morning . She heard the front door of her house open and looked back to see the kids standing in it. But now she could only think of the spray can—turned and dashed after the Buick to ask Doc what he had done, what he had sprayed the rabbit with? She had to know something about what just happened, didn’t she?
Then she saw it there in the ditch besides the road. Doc had thrown the empty spray can in the ditch on his way back to the car. Simply discarding it as he blasted off again in the old Roadmaster. Roaring away to the waffle house for a few cups of coffee with his retired friends.
She reached for the can as she heard her son from across the yard asking what was going on so early in the morning? Why had he been abruptly awakened before his own alarm went off? What was all the excitement about anyway?
Mrs smith was attuned to the fact that she was having a difficult time staying in reality this morning as she ever so slowly attempted to assimilate and understand the words she was reading on the label of the can. The spray can, the one she thought was a paint can until she saw the rabbit was only getting a wet and shinny look.
Her brain was laboring to wrap itself around the words on the label through the now nearing voices of her children asking for explanations about the excitement.
Trying desperately to understand how life really worked, what it all meant this morning, she slowly read from the can’s label—
Hair Restorer and Permanent Wave!