By Audrey W.
John Gage glanced at his partner Roy DeSoto as they headed for the automatic doors. The two paramedics had just left an injured victim from a construction accident in the care of one of the doctors at Rampart General Hospital and were on their way out of the building to their squad.
“So what’s up with you today, man?” Johnny wondered. “You haven’t said much since we came on duty three hours ago.”
Roy shrugged. “Nothin’ you’d understand.”
He immediately cringed inwardly at his own words. Roy knew they were only going to encourage his partner to be more inquisitive. It only took seconds for his thoughts to be proven right.
“Now wait a sec,” Johnny said as he put out his left arm to stop Roy beside him. The two then turned to face one another. “How can ya be so sure?”
Roy pondered his answer for a brief few seconds. “Let’s just call it a gut feeling.”
He started forward again, leaving an open-mouthed John Gage behind. Johnny watched him go outside just after the automatic doors opened. He then hurried to catch up.
“Roy, c’mon, man. When’ve I ever let ya down when I’ve helped ya with a problem?”
“Do you want the full list?”
Roy had paused in step to give his reply, then continued on to the driver’s side of the squad. With a hurt expression on his face, Johnny climbed in on the passenger side. Roy was already situated and ready to head back to Station 51.
“Look,” Johnny said as Roy drove the squad toward the parking lot exit. “I may’ve gotten it wrong a few times--”
“A few,” Roy agreed.
Johnny turned in his seat to face his friend. With a grin, he added, “But ya gotta admit, I have gotten a few right, too.”
Well, he’d take that. It was better than none.
“Right. So why not fill me in on this one? Maybe it’ll be another one of those.”
Roy took a quick glance at him, saw the now hopeful expression on Johnny’s face, then returned his gaze to the street ahead.
Maybe if I just ignore him, he’ll take the hint and drop it. . .
Another quick glance told him otherwise. Gage was still looking just as hopeful. However, Roy still wasn’t sure he was ready to lean on his partner for advice.
“Is it Joanne?” Johnny asked as they climbed from the squad once they’d arrived back at the station.
Johnny wrinkled his brow. If it wasn’t something to do with Roy’s wife, then who?
The person who annoys Roy the most!
He hurried around the front end of the squad and stopped Roy before he could get very far.
“It’s your mother-in-law, isn’t it.”
Roy looked at the so-sure-of-himself Gage and with the same firmness in his voice answered, “No.”
Johnny’s mouth dropped open for the second time, then Roy disappeared from his view, behind the rear of the squad.
“Not Joanne,” Gage mumbled. “Not her mother. . .”
He screwed up his face.
Who else could it *be*?
He glanced in the direction Roy had gone and followed suit. As he came around the corner, he saw Roy seated on the rear bumper of their truck.
“You’re not going to give up, are you?”
Gage shook his head. “Nope. Something or someone’s really got you bothered, man. For your own good, you need ta fill me in.”
Roy let out a sigh. “Okay.”
“Okay?” Johnny asked as he pulled back in surprise. “You’re really gonna tell me?”
“If it’ll get you off my back.”
The younger man nodded. “”Course. Of course it will.” He put his left foot up on the bumper near Roy and rested his left forearm on his thigh. “Good deal. Now jus’ start from the beginning an’ tell me the whole thing.”
“We took the kids to that new animal habitat yesterday. . .you know, the one that opened a few months ago, just north of San Diego.”
Johnny first nodded, then shook his head ‘no’. In actuality, he hadn’t heard of the place. He waited for more.
“Well, they have a lot of different animals there, everything from giraffes to prairie dogs, all in settings that resemble their natural surroundings. But the ones who caught the kids’ attention most were the rabbits. . . if our timing'd been better, we may have spent the rest of the day at that exhibit. We got there just in time to catch a mother nursing her baby. At first we thought it was great when we saw this little head peek out from under her before it started nursing again.”
Johnny again nodded, this time with a lopsided grin on his face. But he was kind of puzzled. Where could Roy be going with this story?
“Did the momma rabbit get mad and attack the kids?” He snickered.
“You want to know what’s wrong or not?”
“Yeah. . .yeah, I do,” he assured, his face serious again. “I really do. Go on.”
“We’re there watching this mother bunny feed her baby. Jennifer is all excited because we told her that was the Easter Bunny.”
“Yeah? That’s a great idea, Roy. Great idea.”
Roy nodded. “We thought so too. Until feeding time ended.”
“So? What happened?”
“Well, the mother moved the baby forward with her nose, guided it between her two front feet right into a really small hole in the ground.” He glanced up at Johnny. “And she buried it.”
Johnny pulled back, his face screwed up. “Buried it?”
“That’s right. Right there in front of the kids, she buried her baby. Turns out that’s what they do in the wild. They dig a hole to have their baby and then cover the hole with dirt, with the baby inside. They come back once in a twenty-four hour period to feed it again, then it goes back in the hole and gets covered again.”
“Well, what’s the problem then?”
“Try explaining it to a three-year-old little girl.”
“Ahhh, I see your point.”
“That ended our visit with the rabbits right then and there. And now Jennifer is horrified about the Easter Bunny coming into our house next week. So we’ve had to assure her that won’t happen; we’ll keep the bunny away. But in the meantime, Christopher is upset because we said the Easter Bunny won’t be coming to the house.”
Johnny pulled his foot away and stood up straight with both feet on the floor.
“Man, you’ve really got a dilemma there. No wonder you’ve been preoccupied.”
Roy nodded. “No matter what we do, one of the kids is going to be upset on Easter.”
Suddenly Johnny snapped his fingers. “Wait a minute! I think I’ve got a solution, an’ it’s really kinda simple.”
“What?” Roy hesitantly asked, not so sure he wanted to hear what was coming next.
“I used ta have a coupla rabbits as a kid. Carrot Top and Puff.”
“Let me guess. Carrot Top was a red hare?”
Johnny mimicked a snicker. “Real funny, Roy. Nah, he’d only eat the tops of carrots an’ leave the rest behind. When I learned that, I changed his name from Ruff.”
Roy had no idea why a kid would name a rabbit Ruff. Maybe it was because it rhymed with Puff? But he wasn’t about to ask to find out. Right now he just wondered what idea Johnny had come up with and found himself now wishing he’d get on with it.
“So what’s this got to do with your idea?”
“Since I owned rabbits, I know what makes a kid love ‘em. Besides bein’ cute and cuddly, I mean.”
“And. . .?”
The other shrugged. “They’re alotta fun when they play with each other. Just take Jennifer back to the rabbit habitat. Let her see ‘em playin’ and chasing each other. I guarantee you, by the end of the day, she’ll be a big bunny fan all over again. Just keep her attention off the momma with the baby. Oh, an’ convince ‘er you had the wrong rabbit picked out for Easter. That one of the boy bunnies is the real Easter Bunny. Just like Santa, it is s’posed to be a boy, ya know.”
The idea sounded good, which kind of worried Roy. Anytime a theory by John Gage sounded right to him, it scared Roy. Gage was impulsive and not afraid to go out on a limb. Sometimes literally. However, Roy was usually cautious and more likely to think longer before doing some things.
Maybe it was a good thing Johnny did hear his problem though. With Easter a week away, he didn’t have the time to wait and think it all over too much.
Roy’s expression brightened. “You know what? I like it.”
Johnny’s face brightened too. “You do?”
The dark blond medic nodded. “I do. I’ll have to run it by Joanne, of course. But I have a feeling we’ll be going to San Diego day after tomorrow.”
Gage’s grin widened. “Well, now, see? You’ll be havin’ a happy Easter after all.”
“Yeah, just tell me one thing.”
“Sure,” he shrugged again.
“How do we know the male bunnies from the female bunnies from a distance?”
The blank look on his partner’s face gave Roy the notion he’d just found a major flaw in the plan. However, Johnny quickly recovered with, “Well, if you can’t tell, neither can Jennifer. So it won’t make any difference. Just pick one that ya like and call it a ‘he’.”
Their conversation ended there as the klaxon sounded, and the men were sent out on a rescue.
Just as he’d expected, Roy found himself and his family back at the animal park at the rabbit habitat. It was going well, too, with the rabbits very active as they played. The mother bunny was away from where her baby was safely enclosed in the hole, so Jennifer didn’t pay any attention to that part of the exhibit. She was too busy watching some of the rabbits charge one another, the ones being charged jumping straight up as the other ran underneath.
Roy was figuring he owed Johnny a big pat on the back and thank you for his idea.
And then it happened. The bunny that seemed to be playing the nicest, the one that Roy and Joanne had declared a boy and the real Easter Bunny, did the unthinkable.
With several parents and children gathered around the exhibit watching the activity, the ‘sweetest’ rabbit of the bunch clung to the back of another and promptly proceeded to make it obvious, he was indeed a boy.
Adults’ hands quickly moved to cover their children’s eyes before the youngsters had a chance to see too much. Joanne slapped hers across Chris’s, eliciting an “Ow!”
“Mooom,” he whined.
“I’m sorry.” Joanne looked to her husband, who’d managed to pick up Jennifer and hold her against his chest, away from the sight. “Roy!”
What could he say?
“Well, we were right about the gender. . .”
The glare on her face confirmed that wasn’t the response she wanted.
In the meantime, the offending bunny was bucked off by the female and landed on the ground in a seated position that resembled that of a human. He quickly recovered and chased after the girl who’d more than awoken his hormones.
The following morning, Roy came into the locker room with two large stuffed bunny rabbits, one pink and the other yellow.
Johnny was in the room, in the process of getting changed into uniform.
Gage cut himself off in mid-greeting when he saw his partner with the toys in his arms.
“Who’re those for? You hiding the kids’ Easter presents here?”
“Did you take my advice?”
Roy nodded as he set the bunnies down on the floor in front of his locker and opened it.
“We sure did.”
“Well, how’d it go?”
It wasn’t long before he had the whole story. In fact, when Roy was done rattling off what had happened, Johnny had yet to put his shoes on. That left him unable to make a break for it.
“Yeah. Oh. And you know what else?”
“After the bunny sex demonstration ‘bonus’, we found out that when rabbits charge one another like that, it’s like a mating ritual. The male rabbit does the charging and the female is the one who jumps straight up.”
“Wow, I’m sure sorry, Roy. Mine were domesticated. I didn’t know they did that in the wild either.”
Johnny sat on the edge of his locker to put on his shoes while Roy pulled a uniform shirt out of his locker.
“So why did you bring those with you?” Johnny asked with a nod toward the toy bunnies.
“After what they saw, my kids won’t look at rabbits the same way for a looong time. It’s strictly jellybeans, colored eggs and stuffed chicks this Easter for both of them. . .delivered by an Easter Chicken, we promised. I figure we can give these bunnies to any kids we encounter on shift, you know, if they’re scared or upset; maybe if they just need to be distracted.”
Johnny smiled slightly. It may not have all gone according to plan, and the results weren’t exactly what he and Roy had been going for. But overall, things had worked out. At least Roy and Joanne no longer had a dilemma between Chris and Jennifer about Easter.
But Johnny figured he’d give it a few weeks before he went over to visit. Chicks may’ve been a workable answer for Easter, but that didn’t mean Roy’s ‘chic’ wasn’t ready to give him a good pecking. . .and he wasn't thinking kisses.
This story was inspired by our wild bunnies in the yard. Years ago we were looking out our livingroom window on Easter morning and watching the bunnies. Our daughter was filming them with her Digital Blue Camera, when lo and behold, a male bunny decided to make his move on a female he'd been chasing. Poor Chels ran to her room to delete the bunny 'porn' off her camera. lol Recently we discovered rabbits bury their babies while they are away.
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