This is a departure from my usual poetry posts, but with Easter's arrival, I've been thinking about Tales from the Holler, autobiography, I swear.
I call this one Animalosity...
Most of my friends are animal people. They wax poetic about their dogs, their cats, their birds. They mourn the fish they flush, the geckos that escape. I, on the other hand, have no affection for furry, fuzzy friends. Let me tell you why...
In 1958, in Appalachia, at Easter, every little girl wanted an Easter dress, a pair of patent leather shoes, a little straw purse with silk flowers around the top, an Easter basket, and a multi-colored, dyed in the fluff Easter chick.
I can still remember following the peeping sounds down the wide tile stairs of G.C. Murphy’s to find the cardboard box teeming with chicks. They were green, they were pink, they were yellow. They peeped and pooped and climbed on one another’s backs, trying to escape the confines of those boxes. And for twenty-five cents, a girl could put her hands into that box, encase a body light as fluff, and give that chick a home.
And so we did, my sister and I. We cupped our hands round the fast-beating hearts of Pinky and Greenie. We took them home and put them in our own cardboard box to keep them safe. They were our Easter chicks!
Now, in 1958, in Hughes Creek Holler, folks lived in what my dad called “wall to wall poverty.” Our family had three rooms and a path. Literally. Our bathroom was the kitchen sink, where Mother filled a washtub for bathing, and our outhouse was, well…out.
It didn’t have a moon on the door, but it really was a little brown shack out back, and believe me, there was nothing cute or romantic about it. Anyone who is nostalgic for that sort of thing never had to go outside and sit in a dark little building on a wooden bench with the hole cut in. They never had to smell the stench of the muck below. They never had to watch the spiders crawling up the walls or fight the wasps that came inside.
They never had to track the peeps and peeps of a missing chick, and they certainly never had to say goodbye to a little green ship afloat… well, I think you get it.
Another Easter, a few years later, the whole school is having an Easter egg hunt, and the prize for finding the most eggs will be a real-live EASTER BUNNY!
With Timmy Proctor’s love offering (he of the f-e-a-r on every knuckle) and with the eggs I found on my own, I won the prize!
I can only imagine how thrilled my mother must have been when I came home – somehow – with a rabbit, a real live Easter rabbit: Thumper.
Did you know that rabbits scratch people? Neither did I, but WonderBoy, my little brother, found out after three short days! And so, after just enough time to for me to bond with Thumper, I had to GET RID OF THAT RABBIT!
At school, I asked my first love, Miss Haygood, if she would take my rabbit, and she agreed enthusiastically. Problem solved! Thumper would have a good home. My bunny and my teacher -- what a perfect match!
Okay. I’m sure you can see this coming. But it’s true.
A few days after giving him away, I innocently asked Miss Haygood, “How’s Thumper? How’s the rabbit?”
She must have misheard. She must not have heard the present tense. She must not have heard the plea in my voice, because she uttered a word I’ll never forget as long as I live, a word that hardened my heart against animal love forever.
“How’s Thumper?” I asked with childish innocence.
Her eyes rolled heavenward, her hand clutched at her middle, and a smile crept into her voice.
“Delicious!” was all she said.