Wopper goes to school 01/05/16
‘Today is a special day, Wopper.’ Heather said, pulling on her socks with the careful concentration of a small person who has just learned to do it herself. ‘It’s pets day. You get to come to school.’ Wopper was chewing on one of the wooden legs of the bed. He didn’t really care about going to school, but Heather seemed in a nice mood about it so he assumed it was a pleasant thing.
He was less pleased when Heather’s mother brought in the vet box. This box was not for nice things. It was for being trapped in while he was taken to the place where people pricked him with things, sometimes in unpleasant places, looked in his mouth and dripped things in his eyes. He did not want to go in the box. So he kicked Heather’s mother in the nose.
One hour later, Wopper was being taken out of the car in the box by Heather, who had to use two hands and let her mother carry her school bag. Heather’s mother had a plaster covering most of the bridge of her nose, and was not in a good mood. Wopper was not in a good mood either. This box was not a proper box. Proper boxes were made of chewable materials in which you could make alternative exits. He wriggled around, huffing, and Heather had trouble hanging onto the handle of the box.
Heather, Wopper and Heather’s mother wobbled their way across a noisy area with a lot of small people and medium sized people in it. There were also other animals. Wopper could smell them. He pushed his nose up to the door of the box, tipping it forward. There were definitely dogs. He tried to look on the bright side. Maybe they were small dogs, in which case he was bigger than they were.
In the classroom Wopper had to stay in the box and sit on Heather’s lap while other animals got let out in the middle of the circle. At first he didn’t like this at all, but the small people seemed to hold onto the animals most of the time, and they all got patted by the other small people, at which he assumed he would get a turn. Wopper liked pats. At one point a bird got out of the hands of a small person, landed on the bars of the door to Wopper’s box, and tried to pull out some of his fur, and he liked this less. But there also seemed to be other rabbits in the room. Wopper had a plan.
When it was Heather’s turn to go in the middle, her mother held onto the box and she lifted Wopper out and sat him on her lap so that she was almost entirely concealed by his fur, as though she was wearing a very thick fur coat over her school dress. She stroked his ears and began telling the other children about him.
‘This is my rabbit Wopper. He’s a New Zealand Giant, but he’s very gentle.’ Wopper had different plans. While Heather’s mother was adjusting the towel inside the box, he wriggled and pushed with his back legs and leapt out of Heather’s arms, running as fast as he could over to the black female rabbit being held by a small male human across from them. He sniffed the black rabbit and the small human’s shoes to exclamations from Heather’s mother and the teacher, smelt other rabbits, and decided it was necessary to mark this new human as his territory.
Wopper was taken home by Heather’s mother while she had to stay at school and say sorry to the other small human. When they got there, he was unceremoniously put in his outdoor enclosure and left without a carrot, so he ate some grass and enjoyed not being in the box anymore. Heather came home a bit cross and sat down in the enclosure with her arms folded.
‘Why did you do that Wopper?’ She threw a carrot on the ground. Wopper, however, knew how to fix this. He lolloped straight over to Heather, ignoring the carrot, climbed onto her lap, and went to sleep. Heather would be unable to move until well after her tantrum was over, and he would probably get a cuddle.
Another Day 02/05/16
The steam from Maisy’s coffee drifted across the inside of the van’s windscreen, leaving a curious curved stripe of condensation. She gazed through the centre of the arc it made and watched the magpies peck their way over the lawn in front of the shed she was watching. There was absolutely no sign of the teenager she was supposed to find here, but then it was morning, wasn’t it. She settled down in her seat and rested the takeaway cup on the steering wheel.
After about an hour Maisy thought she saw movement at the rear of the property. She slipped out of the van and closed the door very quietly. Quickly and lightly she crossed the lawn and moved along the side of the shed, listening for sounds of activity ahead. She peered around the corner. On the grass by the back shed door was an odd assortment of rubbish. There was a soft drink can, a sock, some half-finished hot chips in a foam cup, a pizza voucher, and a small plastic bear. The shed door was open and the shed did not contain any teenagers. Instead it contained a half eaten plate of cookies next to a salvaged sofa, some spray paint cans and a jack russel who was looking rather woozy with crumbs on its nose. Maisy rolled her eyes and picked up the wobbly dog.
Back in the van, Maisy used her GPS to deliver the jack russel to the nearest vet. Then she went back to the property and pinned a note on the dilapidated sofa explaining that the cookies left on the floor were a danger to pets, and probably not especially good for their owners either.
‘I will collect and return your dog from the vet when you return the various items that are not yours to the police station on Mill Street.’ She figured she could wait in an arm chair in the office rather than the cold van.
Sammy moved slowly along the market stalls, beaming at each of the stall holders and taking an interest in the specifics of their produce. She particularly liked the honey stall. The young woman there was learning beekeeping from her grandfather and he was with her, ensconced in a wicker rocking chair and a rug, weaving little wheat wreaths that they decorated the tops of the jars with. They had honeycomb in little pots, which Sammy couldn’t resist purely because they looked nice. She put the pot in her shoulder bag to take back to the farm for Olive, who would put it on the tea shelf and admire it for weeks before eating it. She swapped details with all kinds of folks that morning and met the market manager, who gave her the information she needed to get a weekend stall started. Sammy rode home to the farm on her bike glowing and humming at strangers. Cody would be so pleased that there was a stall all ready to come to. And in the meantime, she would sell the sunflowers and herb posies she grew in the borders of the fields, and she would have a source of beautiful writing paper; this market had craftspeople too.
Back in the city, across county borders, and far from the herb-scented hedges of Sammy’s new home town, Cody tried to finish his university studies. Each day he sat in the library amongst the harsh fluorescent lighting and the scent of old carpet, and struggled to tear his imagination from the wafting of wheat fields in the breeze. The sunflowers he knew by now would stand tall above the field’s edges. The way that he and Sammy would be invisible amongst the tall stalks of wheat that went on for great expanses like a dry, gently rippling beige sea. The crackling fire he would light in a stone cottage fireplace not far from the property, but far enough. He often sat before half-written essays, suddenly in a different world with no idea where the thought had been going. After long days of lectures and lab classes he would go to the garden. Plant and harvest and water, but it all felt like a game now, and the things at the plot would fuel his daydreams. It surprised him how much such pleasant scenes in his mind could make his soul ache. So eventually Cody went back to the office where he had once stood scheming to get a garden plot next to Sammy’s. And canceled the lease on their two garden plots. He offered to take care of them until a new gardener took them, and to help them learn, as Sammy had once helped him.
Tess was a much better gardener than Cody had been when he started, and she did not need help for long. She liked talking about the plants, and she invited him to stay as long as he liked, but Cody felt strange working with someone else in the garden. So after the third week, he shook Tess’s hand and wished her luck, and he left the garden in her capable hands. On the way home he felt lost. So when he got there, Cody wrote to Sammy.
‘I said goodbye to the garden today. Now the rent for the plot will go towards our cottage instead.’
Sammy felt sad when she read Cody’s letter. The garden had always still been there, her first home, just in case. But here they could both do what they loved, she told herself. She struggled over what to write back, staring at the beautiful paper she’d bought as she sat at her new market stall. In the end once she started, the words tumbled out in a scrawl and the paper was gone too fast, as she wrote all about the new market and how it was a new home, one for both of them. But Sammy stayed late on the stall, helping pack up and talking to customers about the farm, bubbling over with excitement as she did when she spoke about things that grew. And she forgot to post her letter that day.
So a week passed before Sammy was in town again. And another while her letter traversed the road home to the city. And Cody felt in this time as though the threads that held his plans together were very fragile. Her letter finally came two weeks later. And as Cody read, a picture painted itself in his mind of a young woman half-hidden behind vegetables, her brightness shining as she talked about the garden where she grew them. And he knew then that the city was not home anymore.