There was a muffled thud outside that seemed to shake the foundations of the house. It was still night time and it woke me up with a start. I glanced cautiously round the end of the curtains unsure of what to expect. At first all seemed normal. It was still early and being the beginning of April dawn was offering only the vaguest suggestion of a new day.
However, in a neighbouring field I could see an indistinct outline of something circular and about three meters high casting the ghost of a shadow. I rubbed my eyes, wiped the window-glass, blinked and looked harder. It was still there but wasn’t round exactly, more oval shaped. An extraordinary illusion presumably caused by somebody playing with mirrors, projectors or such like, a hologram perhaps? Whatever, as hard as I looked it remained nebulous.
With curiosity over-ruling tiredness I pulled on some clothes and old trainers, went downstairs, out of the front door and headed off in the direction of the apparition. The field had been recently designated as open-space and landscaped as part of a new-build housing program. The ground had been flattened and sown with grass seed. Sapling trees, planted in groups, were protected by sharply defined wild flower banks. As the early morning light stretched across the landscape the spectral shape became clearer it gained substance.
The oval object was about three meters tall with a proportional girth and enclosed in a chalky shell decorated with triangular mouldings.
There were no port holes or windows as such but facing me was a near full height door with red rope hinges and a door handle in the shape of an extended open hand.
I tried to take a photograph each time the shutter was pressed the ‘phone shut down. With a mounting spirit of enquiry I walked up to the door and manfully shook the handle.
A large buck rabbit wearing a Bow Tie, Dress Shirt and Studs, a vucana Waistcoat and Tails opened the door. He beckoned, ‘Do come in Mr Human-Being. You must be the messenger from the collected clouds of continuation.’ He was speaking English with the crystal cut accent of a Royal.
‘Oh no, no it’s fine.’ I managed, ‘ I just wanted to make sure you were okay. Come far have you?’ I was beginning to think I was having an Alice In Wonderland experience.
‘No, you don’t understand, I mean ‘come in’ before I pull you in. His eyes danced with kindness and his open hands were free of malice. ‘I don’t like to leave people on the outside wondering what the inside looks like, do you see?’
I seemed to slide into the leporidae’s conveyance like a wet fish through melting jelly.
‘Nice gloves.’ I said shaking his paw.
‘I’m not wearing gloves, that happens to be my own fur, thank you very much. But I do have a very fine pair made from the cocoons of the Bombyx mori-moth silkworms, which are fed only mulberry leaves. I chose them because they are hypoallergenic and highly uniform in colour and texture.’
‘Are you er, travelling alone?’
‘Always at Easter. Would you like some soft-star nectar?’
‘Sounds good, but no thank you. It will give me indigestion.’
‘Well I will if you don’t mind, it is the best way for me to start the day and I have a long one ahead of me.’
‘Really? What have you got planned? I asked half-heartedly looking round the lush interior.
The Rabbit looked as if he was sorry for me. He took a long pull of his drink, wiped his whiskers with a golden cloth then patted the floor with his feet.
‘Don’t tell me you are not a Christian?’ he said.
‘I wasn’t going to tell you that no, but what has that got to do with anything?’
Because today is Easter Sunday. You know the day that ‘The Man’ came back to life, or was raised from the dead, three days after his death on the cross.’
I looked at the rabbit. Both his feet were still busy tapping.
‘I know the story. I’ve bought an egg. What, if I may ask,’ I said, ‘is your name and where do you come from?
Well, I am not Peter Rabbit nor Roger Rabbit, I am absolutely not Bugs Bunny or the looney White Rabbit no, I am quite simply, The Bun.’ He smiled, mimicked lifting a hat, adjusted his ears and bowed. He went on, ‘I originate from a place where there is a tradition of rabbits bringing eggs and candy to the children at Easter time. Rabbits, breeding like we do, have long been a symbol of fertility.
Eggs being a symbol of birth and renewal just went hand in hand with us guys. The tale spread throughout Europe, and eventually to America, who made the whole Easter Bunny racket into the commercial juggernaut it is today. From giant chocolate rabbits to enormous Easter Baskets filled with remote control cars to mp3 players, the Easter Bunny brings it all.’
‘So you are a travelling salesman?’
‘That sounds a little callous Mr Human-Being. Besides, but I am so not made of anything you would want to eat. Drop all your preconceptions and come and join me as I entertain the local children this afternoon. You can draw your own conclusions. By the way, the word “Easter” does not appear in the Bible and no early church celebrations of Christ’s resurrection are mentioned in Scripture. Just thought I’d remind you.’
‘Thank you. I can’t think what I would do without you Mr Brer Rabbit.’
‘Ah, very good! Very Joel Chandler Harris – now there was a Rabbiteer.’
I sat and enjoyed a half hour of convivial ‘rabbiting’ with this extraordinary Paschal of the bob-tail fraternity.
‘Do you travel far, meet many children?’
‘When the planets glow with a painter’s luminosity in the pre-summer cosmos, and when the wily galactic traders and black diamond dealer’s barter for dancing shoes in exchange for the promises of friendship, I’ll be there. When old flints from distant lands drink to the continuing prosperity of a community that has no need for fear. I am amongst them.’
‘And what of decorating eggs? Do you have a take on that?’
‘Of course. It’s all part of spring rituals and is an ancient tradition. I like to decorate and engrave the 60,000 year old ostrich eggs found in Africa. Usually in gold and silver as it happens.’
‘You sound like a well-informed traveller Mr Bun.’
‘That I am. That I certainly am. By the way did you know that Easter eggs were originally coloured red with the Christian Cross?
‘Depends how you see it.’
‘Like everything I suppose so. Are you friends with any hares?’
I have some very good friends who are, through no fault of their own, hares. Do you know that female hares can conceive a second litter of offspring while still pregnant with the first? An original little trick known as superfetation.’
‘I think I have heard about as many factoids as I can absorb for the moment Mr Bun.’
‘Well, you are welcome to stay here in the hutch if you like. I am going to collect fresh moon flowers being sold by a lonely old lady who sits on the tail of a whale. She asks for only ten good words in exchange.’
‘And what will your ten good words be?’ I was intrigued.
‘Today I have chosen; Smile, kind, gentle, caress, listen, hug, peace, tranquillity, dream and belief. Then after that I must find the magic box.’
‘The magic box?’
‘Yes, the Rhodium Box of Secret Colours. It has a diamond ‘drop’ flanked with a pair of rubies. I need it for prize giving at the children’s party this afternoon.’
‘Can I help? I mean I could pick-up the box for you if that’s of any use?’
‘Very generous of you but the trouble is I don’t know quite where it is.’
‘What exactly is this Rhodium Box of Secret Colours?’
‘You dip the brush into the box and it paints movies for you. I’ll explain more later.
‘Sounds pretty cool. Where do I start?’
‘Well, if you really do want to look for it you must first go into my hutch, blow the dust off my brief case and follow the mist.’ With that he hopped off.
I did as he bade and soon found myself searching under pillows and behind chests, beneath unborn stars. I asked sages and artists, urged fortune tellers and begged harlequins. I offered pewter medals for information but still the search went on.
I interrupted two chatting gentlemen dressed in country clothes who blocked my way forward. They were talking music.
‘When a major interval is raised by half a step, it becomes augmented don’t you know.’ Waffled one of them, ‘but when a major interval is lowered by half a step it becomes diminished.’
‘Minor.’ interrupted the other. ‘It becomes minor not diminished. That’s two half steps.’
‘Quite. Well the thing is of course intervals can be inverted and…’
‘Excuse me Sirs, but do you know where I mind find somebody selling a Rhodium Box of Secret Colours?
One of the men turned and squinted at me, ‘Rhodium you say?’ his fingers on his chin.
‘Yes sir. Rhodium.’
‘Erm, Erm, Erm. Oh! that might be the crystal tent owner. He is just past the boy over there with nettle coloured hair. Try him.’
Sure enough inside the glass building there were boxes tied up in bunches with violin strings but none of them were made of Rhodium.
‘Are these, by any chance, magic boxes of colour?’ I asked hopefully.
‘No, dear traveller, these boxes hold cello bridges, guitar taps and ivory and ebony veneers. We have some small pots brimming with reeds, needles and angel hair for bows treated with rosin, but no magic colours – you need to talk to the juggler over yonder.
The juggler was smiling as he tossed three happy dreams into a triangle above his handsome face. ‘There is a grey haired lady dressed in spider webs that sells magic boxes at the far corner of the market. Probably carved at dawn this very morning. But you must hurry, they sell easily.
Much encouraged I thanked the entertainer and headed off swiftly to the town square and sure enough there next to a stall trading in signed cricket bats and antique curling stones was the grey haired lady. Composing myself and not looking over interested I walked past her stall without stopping but slowly enough to recognise one Rhodium box. I turned back to find she was already holding the box and offering it to me.
‘Would you like it gift wrapped?’
‘How did you…’
‘Three hundred eurokunas – gift wrapped.’
‘I’ll take it!’
I whistled for the Elk cart, climbed aboard and was back in the field in less than no time. The Bun had covered an area of half a football pitch in fresh clover on which stood kiosks for egg painting, fortune telling, paper cutting, lolly licking and much else besides.
Some children were having balloon lifts, playing with giant skittles and dominoes, jumping on trampolines, running in egg and spoon and sack races, chasing each one another with water bombs whilst others lay in hammocks big enough for six. Down one side games of Tag, Ring a Roses, Tug o’ War and Capybara wrestling took place. The Best Looking Animal At The Show was won by an Okapi who had overcome his duality crisis about being a sort of giraffe or a sort of zebra and was giving rides to toddlers. There was the Panda Grooming Parlour and a Turtle Polishing competition and a load of other entertainments.
As the sun dipped over the horizon and the children began to slow up, The Bun announced that it was Prize Time. Standing on a suspended platform about 2m off the ground held up by hovering cherubs he called for quiet. He nominated two of the older children to pass out the prizes and started to read for all to hear the names of the various category champions and then, to finish, he declared the prize of prizes, the Victor Ludorum.
A hush spread over the crowed, even the smallest of competitors stopped and looked up at The Bun who was busy ‘teeth chittering’ (the nearest a rabbit gets to purring, a genial little noise) With a click of his fingers he summed up an oversized, gaily decorated cardboard egg. The crowd fell quiet itching with anticipation. Talking into his microphone he thanked everybody for coming, he thanked me for helping collect the day’s biggest prize and most of all he thanked The Spirit in the Sky for the Easter Passover. A conservative round of applause followed.
‘Now,’ he said with a huge hop into the air, ‘for the moment you have been waiting for, The Victor Ludorum. ‘As you know each year a new creative idea is voted as the most innovative invention since the last one. This year it is… (pause for effect) … The Rhodium Magic Box. The crowd erupted. It had been, as far as they were concerned, a no-brainer.
The winner just had to be the magical treasure chest that allowed you to dip your brush into its pot and paint a movie. Simply, you put on the head pads, think of an idea then paint it onto a screen the best you can with a simulated brush.. The concept is the talent, not the operator’s skill. It digests the story, assimilates the colours, edits itself, adds effects, dubbs music and subtitles then runs a pre-production screening. Changes of mind are absorbed and dealt with and then the final print is delivered.
‘Tonight, The Victor Ludorum goes to Conrad Whistle Top for his contribution to arm chair creativity.’
The roar of approval rocked the field, children cheered, adults clinked their glasses and hats were thrown skywards.
Suddenly, as if all lights had been turned off, the sky put to bed and everybody packed away, I was alone looking out of my bedroom window. On the grass outside I could see written on the lawn in marking out paint …
‘HUNT-THE-GOWK’ as they say in Scotland or, as the Sassenachs would put it: –
Note : Easter Day 2018 falls on the 1st of April.