Written with my Thursday night group with the prompts: first days at school, Fred said, not in the forest anymore, jitterbugging encouraged, sometimes it feels good to take the long way, she described our story, I love our deck, winter, shared experiences, aura of purple, for the gate, hair love or hare love, her creative brain set in, an errand
“I love our deck,” Fred said as he leaned back on the chaise lounge, gazing at the milky clouds streaking across the blue. “Liz?” he called. “Don’t you love this deck?” But there was no answer. She had gone out to run an errand or two, leaving him to rambling thoughts and memories.
It had been early days at college, and Fred’s high school pals had persuaded him to join them at their first college dance. Fred hated to dance, but they said it would be a good way to meet girls. “Jitterbugging encouraged,” said the young woman at the door. Her teasing tone made him want to escape, but when he caught sight of her pale green eyes and mischievous grin, he was in love. That was Liz, nearly forty years ago. Barely a day’s gone by since then he hasn’t thought of his first glimpse of her beloved face.
Fred sat up. There were rabbits in the field below, small rabbits with chubby bodies and white tails, not the long lean jack rabbits that Liz liked to watch. “Hare Love,” she used to call that one critter. “Hare Love,” she’d say reverentially, as if the name were a title like sir or lord, as if the rabbit had some official standing amid the crowned heads of Europe.
“Do you see, Fred?” she’d ask him. “Hare Love has a purple aura. He’s a member of the ruling class.”
Fred would shake his head. There was no stopping her when her creative brain set in. “Whatever you say, Liz,” he’d tell her.
He stood now. “Liz,” he called, but she wasn’t back yet.
“Sometimes,” she told him once, “it feels good to take the long way home.”
Maybe that’s what she was doing today. Taking the long way—though when she told him that she was talking about stories, how to tell a proper story—starting with the beginning, and adding intriguing details, and maybe a fair amount of embellishment just to make it interesting. She liked to describe their story that way, their shared experiences, their long marriage, children, grandchildren, back packing trips, long hikes winding up mountain trails, ambling atop the levee, wading into streams. They saw coyotes, hawks, beavers, cranes, possum, and rabbits. Always the rabbits attracted her. “Hare Love is my spirit animal,” she told Fred. “Someday I’ll follow him. You won’t be able to stop me.”
Suddenly it was winter. Fred could not remember how long it had been since he’d seen Liz. The deck was surrounded by redwood and pine, but he could not remember when they’d moved the house to the middle of a forest. There were small rabbits everywhere, moving slowly along the periphery of the deck, along the sides of the house, into the neglected vegetable patch, beneath the bare limbs of the apple trees. They were gathering in clusters of twos and threes, forming repetitive patterns as if trying to convey a message to him. As if telling a secret story. He may go out to join them soon, and make a run for the gate.