When I moved into my apartment complex a few years ago, it never occurred to me to ask whether it was located in a good or bad neighborhood. Maybe it was the sight of the elderly residing in adjacent apartments and strolling daily around the complex like clockwork at 7 a.m., noon and 4 p.m. that put me at ease. Perhaps I was simply too eager to move out of my parents’ house to ask pertinent questions (“And does this cardboard box have plumbing? No? But I see it has mood lighting. What? That’s just daylight streaming in from all the cracks? I’ll take it!” – me, end of rope, 2009).
After more than three years of living here, however, the truth about this particular neighborhood finally came to light – just as the sun peeked over my neat, charcoal gray rooftop.
Rabbits. Bunnies. Menaces to society. Whatever the term, it was spring, they were everywhere and we were clearly on their turf. It was a problem that multiplied in severity faster than you could locate a BB gun.
At first, though, it was cute.
“Look at that baby bunny!” I remember saying prior to “the incident.” “He doesn’t know how to feed himself! Where’s his family? I’m going to give him blueberries – do bunnies eat blueberries?”
It was a dumb question, because bunnies devour everything, my soul included. Completely incapable now of cooing at even the most adorable baby animal, I have become as heartless as Kanye West’s singing career.
Eventually, ominous gangs of rabbits were seen flocking around the complex at all hours of the day, perked ears and wide eyes on our every move, as if they were…casing the joint. Whaaa??
It couldn’t be.
But, as our luck would have it, of course it could.
As Clayton and I warily plotted our garden in the courtyard, I couldn’t help but notice we didn’t seem to be the only ones doing the plotting. Despite the fur balls attempting to look busy eating grass without a care in the world, it was clear their main focus was us. Get an honest day job, ya hooligans, I thought, shaking my fist like the saltiest of veterans.
I jokingly nudged Clayton and told him they had been devising their strike from the very beginning.
My discomfort level rose each day I left for work, passing rabbits that stopped in the middle of their breakfast to stare at me as I drove by, not blinking once (The rabbits, not me – their stony gazes were enough for me to dart my eyes nervously back to the road ASAP, fingers tightly gripping the steering wheel). I soon grew as twitchy as the noses on those seemingly innocent cottontails. Hippity-hopsters. Vermin. At once I knew my nerves could only be calmed by the ultimate rabbit kryptonite: a white fence about a foot tall we wrapped around the exterior of our patio garden. Then, we waited.
It seems we weren’t the only ones.
I knew there was a case of Mr. McGregor’s garden going on when a leaf or two went missing from the sweet basil and surrounding flowers. It was sporadic and not overly-suspicious at first, so I grew accustomed to blaming a few small caterpillars who had recently moved in. This neighborhood is going to hell. Chucking them as far from the garden as I could, my worries disappeared along with them – until a few weeks ago.
It was morning. Going out to check on the vegetables before work as I normally do, I discovered we had been brutally and mercilessly robbed. As if someone took a shovel and scooped every remnant of lettuce from the planter, the dirt had been pushed to one side — an obvious signal that the battle was now fully ON.
As far as evidence, there was none, although I didn’t have my magnifying glass and spy kit from my Boxcar Children fan days to verify that completely. And the crime scene? Well let’s just say it was so neat and clean you could perform triple bypass surgery on it. Even…eat off of it?
Gah! Foiled again!
I was noting with pride that the fence remained untouched when my eyes lit on a rabbit munching clover and eyeballing me rather rudely about ten feet away, a cautious look in its eyes. Owning the look as only a big fat thief could. Because my hair resembled a bird’s nest and I didn’t want to give the elders a heart attack before their time, I rethought my decision to run outside in my skivvies. Still, I glared from a crack in the blinds and, sizing him up, determined there was no way he could have been the perp.
Later that morning, we bewilderedly ran through the list of likely culprits. A bunny was an obvious offender, but they wouldn’t dig the entire string of lettuce out, they would bite it down to the stem like any other animal. A larger animal then, maybe a raccoon? What beef would a raccoon have with lettuce? Keep thinking. The neighborhood ducks – that must be it! Except Sir Quacksalot and Lady of the Lake would NEVER.
By mid-morning, I was 90 percent sure our crop had been stolen by…
I know. It was so hard on us after that, losing that sense of security and all. I no longer felt safe with only a screen door lock, sliding door lock and sturdy pole placed between the door and wall to protect me. Security alarms and outdoor cameras began to float through my mind. If they’re willing to steal lettuce, what else are these thieves capable of? I was abruptly filled with horror. Not the marigolds! Surely, not the marigolds!
No, as a matter of fact, I don’t think I was overreacting.
Fuming, I repeated my story to any coworkers who would listen that day, which were quite a few because hey – this was a huge deal. With each account, I grew more and more certain, and by the time a coworker told me he just had his cucumbers jacked and caught kids stealing it, I was ready to take action.
I returned from work that day ready to wage war, or at least sternly tell my kitten that staying up all night on surveillance was now her sole job, except of course for catching spidies – per usual. As I opened the front door, I noticed Chloe wasn’t lazily lying in the foyer waiting to greet me. Instead, she was sitting in between the patio blinds, intently looking at something (wait for it!)…
…in the garden!!
The robber! And sure enough, opening the blinds quick as lightening, it was a rabbit after all (bet you didn’t see that coming) that stared up at me from its comfy spot in the (painstakingly empty) lettuce bed, a confrontational look in its eye that dared to say,
It was not my imagination that it rolled its head forward toward me like that of a challenging, snarky teenage kid as it gave me that look. The rabbit even had the audacity to sit there until I began to slide open the door, screaming at it to get away. It ran as far as the clover patch and that’s when I knew: it was the one.
As any irrational girlfriend would do, I called Clayton to yell about a whole lot of overdramatic, trivial stuff in the greater scheme of life. Breathlessly explaining the situation, my anger mounting by the second, I opened the door and took off at a full gait toward the rabbit, the phone still firmly attached to my ear. Clayton’s attempt to sooth me went unnoticed as I gave a warrior cry and flicked off my flip flops to get better traction.
Guys, I chased that bunny around the complex. Three times. That dagnam marmot didn’t take me seriously until the second lap. It was so full of our veggies, in fact, that I almost caught it until, running blinded by fury into the parking lot, I realized I had spectators and stopped dead in my tracks. A car of parents saying goodbye to their son looked at me like I was crazy. A neighbor watched me curiously from his deck. A head ducked behind a curtain before I could make eye contact.
My arms fell limply to my sides, the phone still tightly gripped in one and Clayton’s voice a dim, “Hellooooo?”
I decided it would be in my best interest to return indoors.
Later that evening, I knew I had to let it go after maniacally attempting to run over the rabbits with my car after taking a couple gratuitous laps around the complex.
I am now affectionately called the “Bunny Chaser” among those who witnessed the tirade. Even weeks later, neighbors seek me out, telling glory stories of how they killed a bunch of black crows with strategically placed moth balls or chased other rabbits all the way to the bank (literally – there was one across the street).
In the meantime, I’ll be shining up my new BB gun out back in a rocking chair in plain sight, just waiting until next spring.