[This Commentary originally appeared in the July 27, 1989 issue of The Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel.]
I don’t often take walks thought the maze of trails in Mendon Ponds Park. Too many snakes. Yes, I don’t like spiders and snakes. This is probably the result of watching an unhealthy amount of those atomic mutant movies that came out of the Red-Scare ‘50s. (Do you remember those movies? The pretty girl always ended up getting eaten by some oversized tarantula.)
Well, the other day, while contentedly strolling along a not-so-well worn path, a snake suddenly slithered in front of me. Momentarily startled, I jumped to the left, my foot landing in a concealed hole. I tripped, falling flat on my face and skinning my right knee (I wore shorts that day) on an exposed root.
“Shoot!” I would have exclaimed if I didn’t decide to employ a mild oath instead. I quickly pranced up on all fours, figuring the snake, seeing my vulnerable position, might choose the opportunity to do something yucky like touch me. On my hands and feet like a relay runner poised to start, I slowly turned my head with an eye for the snake.
The snake, probably frightened by my spasmodic fit, had left the scene. In its place, and nose-to-nose with me, sat a rather complacent looking bunny rabbit. It seemed unnaturally familiar with me (or should I say, people in general). I stared back, unmoving.
“Hi!” said the white rabbit.
“Hello,” I replied as a matter of reflex, not fully absorbing the fact I had just heard a rabbit speak.
“Are you OK?” inquired the rabbit with what appeared to be genuine concern. I remained as still as a statue. I think this is when I began thinking I had hit my head when I fell.
“Oh, I’m sorry. How uncivil of me. Allow me to introduce myself,” continued the talkative bunny. “I’m called…” he wiggled his nose and whiskers a bit, “…which means, as far as I can tell, ‘Angelo’ in the language of the North American Cotton Tail. Angelo Rabbit. That’s my name. I’m really a human, but that was a very long time ago and I’m afraid I’ve forgotten my real name.”
Still on my hands and feet, I lurched cautiously backward, keeping my eyes glued to this strange care-free rodent. My hands felt the ground behind me. I might have been looking for a loose rock, but I don’t know if I wanted to throw it at the rabbit or use it to knock me back to my senses.
“Please stay a bit,” asked Angelo, sensing my trepidation. His eyes turned big and sad like you see in those paintings of cute puppy dogs. Instantly guilt ridden, I paused for a moment. Thoughts of the rock left my mind and I sympathetically sat on the cold earth.
“Where are you from?” I offered tentatively.
“A question! A question!” voiced the rabbit excitedly, his foot whacking the ground Thumper-like. “You don’t know how long I’ve waited to be asked a question – in English, that is, not this silly North American Cotton Tail language!” the rabbit rambled. I politely listened.
“Actually,” began the bunny in a somewhat serious tine, “I’m CIA – counterintelligence to be specific – or, rather I was CIA. I got hooked up with some of those chemical experiments in the early ‘60s. I guess the LSD Division robbed all the headlines from the Polymorph Division.”
“Polymorph division?” I wondered aloud.
“Yes, yes. Polymorph – the ability to change shapes. Heck, I haven’t always been a bunny rabbit. For the Russian job, I became a Siberian Hound. During the South American assignment, I used my toucan cover. Yep, each time my orders changed, so did I. They’d send me into this room full of doctors as one animal, and several hours later, I’d come out as another species. Actually, it was a lot of fun.”
“So, what happened?” I didn’t know if I knew the rabbit well enough to ask such a personal question.
“Well…,” Angelo said with spiteful reluctance. “Remember the big anti-CIA crusade Congress went through in the mid-seventies? You know, funding got cut and all that. It turns out, upon returning from a certain mission – I’m sorry, but its precise nature is still classified – I hopped on over to the room with all the doctors in it. Much to my dismay, no one was there. I think they were even using the room as an abortion clinic or something.”
“Interesting,” I pondered. “It’s a long way from Langley to Mendon Ponds Park. How did you get here and what do you think?” I figured changing the subject might serve as the more prudent thing to do.
“Mendon is Maaahvalous,” said the rabbit. “I like it for all the same reasons everyone else does – it’s quiet, peaceful and the closest thing we have to a landfill is the gravel they keep grading on the old Wert’s Stop-In property.”
“I thought that was Pittsford,” I interrupted.
“Maybe it is,” responded the former spy, “but my point is I’m really fascinated by Route 65, particularly the section south of the Thruway and north of Route 251. Why, I could spend years just watching all the different people driving by. Hmm,… I actually have spent years just watching all the different people driving by.
“In fact, I’ve noticed there seems to be a little heavier traffic pattern these days. Although, from a squirrel friend of mine up Barker Road way, I hear things are a bit worse there. Personally, I don’t care. I just love those drivers.
“Sometimes, when I can’t sleep at night, I hop along Clover Street. It works better than counting sheep and, I must admit, I’m just not particularly fond of Letterman. Ha! Watching those drivers! It’s amazing! I can’t tell if they’re more afraid of one of those dumb deer popping out of nowhere or of those sneaky troopers hiding just off the road. It’s great watching people slow down to 35 every time they approach to within radar range of one the entrances of the park!”
Angelo Rabbit was on a roll. I let him talk. After all, even though he used to be a person, he lives the life of a rabbit now, and I’ve always wondered what rabbits did in their spare time.
“Then,” continued the chatty bunny, “you get your people who drive 35 miles an hour down the whole stretch – even when the speed limit goes back to 55! It cracks me up, especially when the guy in the red Porsche who thinks 90 mph is slow gets stuck behind one of those Sunday drivers. The state is great – the way they marked up the road and all. The passing lanes are so short it’s nearly impossible to pass a slower car. Get this – there’s only maybe two or three good clear straight-aways for cars to pass, and I betcha nine out of ten times there’s cars coming the other way! HA!”
“And then, (giggle, giggle), and then, when these tailgating folks finally get a clear break, the slower guys actually speed up!” The rabbit rolled on his back consumed with laughter.
As he spoke, old Angelo reminded me more and more of ALF. I couldn’t say anything, because I was sure that I was one of the drivers he was talking about. Embarrassed, I pressed the first part of my question.
“How did I get here?” Angelo looked up as if remembering fondly and smiled to himself. “That’s a whole ‘nother story…”
Last Week #18: The Thrill and Beyond (originally published July 20, 1989)
Next Week #20: What Do You Think? (originally intended to be published August 3, 1989)
[What is this and why is here? See Interested in Discovering My Time Machine? for more details.]