11 a.m. at the Library

Contributor: Eric Suhem

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Leo squeezed into the tiny little chair in the children’s reading room of the public library. Seated around the room, fittingly, were children, aged 4 through 8. On the walls and shelves were various children’s’ art projects, such as finger paintings, drawings, ceramics. The children waited eagerly for Leo to begin reading the story, he chose ‘Crime and Punishment’ by Dostoyevsky. As he read page after page, Leo became more and more animated, eyes bulging, jowls sweating, yelling intensely. Leo was a professional wrestler who liked to volunteer at the library to help the community, and the tiny children’s reading room chair was creaking under his girth. Many children had already left the room. Some of them were disturbed by the incident and dealt with it in their own individual ways. A couple of the children remained to stare, as they were fascinated by the phenomenon.

Leo decided to regroup and start reading chapter two, but his mind twirled into his last visit with his girlfriend Meba. Their relationship had transformed each other’s lives in innumerable positive ways, but Meba had a number of concerns about Leo’s wrestling, and Leo had become disturbed by Meba’s obsession with rabbits. The other night, after a dinner of carrots and lettuce shreds, he had picked up one of the rabbit figurines and threw it into the sink. Meba’s apartment was filled with them, tiny glass rabbit figurines. Also porcelain rabbit statues, rabbit drinking glasses and mugs, pictures and sun shades with little scenes of rabbits at play. Meba’s vacuum cleaner had a rabbit head which she had constructed out of felt and bean bags, attached to its top. There were brass rabbit door-knockers and a rabbit telephone. In spite of Meba’s rabbit-like bent for sex, which he enjoyed, Leo had become disturbed by it all, and he loudly told her so, one night in her apartment, which she called ‘the hutch’. In response, she threw a number of the glass figurines at him. He picked the silicate rabbits up off the floor and left the apartment.

Now, in the library, the children watched, intrigued, as Leo continued reading ‘Crime and Punishment’, using some of Meba’s glass rabbit figurines as action figures, though dramatically breaking them into shards on the floor, in a rage over Meba’s rabbit fixation.

By this time, the children had pretty much abandoned the reading area, hoping for greener pastures. In fact, many of the children were now on the pastoral library lawn, where a lunchtime outdoor play was to be performed by some of the volunteers. The play was to be George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’, modified and condensed for a younger audience. The modifications called for the performers to merely run around in animal costumes making noises for 30 minutes while the children ate lunch. The library volunteers were randomly assigned the animal they were to portray. Leo was designated to play the rabbit.

Meba happened to be walking by, on a lunch break from her shift at the nearby hat factory, and recognized the grunts and moans of the man in the rabbit costume. She knew it was Leo, and approached him at the end of the play. “I’m glad that you’re taking an interest in rabbits,” said Meba flirtatiously, her left eyelash batting madly, as she chewed shreds of lettuce, “how about if we meet at ‘the hutch’ tonight, and bring the rabbit costume!”

“I’ll bring my wrestling costume, too,” said Leo. They looked into each other’s eyes, knowing their fates were entwined.

The next morning, Leo packed some books in a bag for that day’s reading session with the children: Peter Rabbit, Watership Down, The Runaway Bunny, and The Wrestler’s Handbook.

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Eric Suhem dwells in cubicles by day and scribbles stories by night. He can be found in the orange hallway (www.orangehallway.com)
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