The first time I gave him a lift, he told me that the publican had kicked him out of his room after discovering droppings and chewed bits of furnishings and bedding all over the floor. The guy opened his bag and up popped the head of a rabbit. For a split second I almost lost control of the van.
“I have Aspergers. It’s my way of making friends with people, because everyone loves a rabbit.”
It was a rather dear little thing, tawny like a wild one. Just the nose flickered. Was that from fear or confidence? I wanted to stroke it – but did not dare take my hands from the steering wheel.
“Is it desexed?”
“I don’t suppose so. I’ve had it since it was a kitten and I didn’t do the deed.”
Visions crossed my mind of bunnies and warrens spreading across the land and farmers enraged at cattle and horses breaking their legs in the holes.
“Do you keep it quarantined?”
“Never out of my sight. I have a cage for it, but it does need more exercise. It’s a bit fat.” He pulled it out and placed it on his lap. It was a balloon with fur.
“Gosh, you need some sort of shelter in the wet season. What will you do for a place to sleep tonight?”
“Rent a tent in a caravan park.”
“I don’t think they have spare tents but I’ve got one I could lend you.”
He seemed to have no idea of tact or norms, so I negotiated a patch of ground for him at the park, and then showed him how to erect my four-man dome. The car battery helped me blow up an inflatable mattress for him. Feeling good, I left him there with his few belongings and the rabbit in its cage looking more like someone’s prospective dinner than a pet.
The next day he called.
“Cuddlepie ate a hole in your mattress and through the wall of the tent.”
“Did you manage to catch her?”
“No problems. She can’t hop very far. Only thing is, the park man wants me to leave. Some friends have offered me a space to put up the tent in their back yard but I need a lift.”
I had an old lawn-mower style chook pen so I loaded it into the the van, thinking that at least the rabbit would get more exercise and be less likely to be let loose in the tent.
The new site turned out to have beautiful rural views from the top of a hill at the back of an old farmhouse. The owners were suitably eccentric, having their own menagerie, including a pet python that enjoyed lurking on the Hills hoist, or having a cosy embrace with a human. Minus a mattress, Gus and Cuddlepie finally had a home – a very satisfying feeling.
That night, a cyclone blew and so the next morning the phone rang.
“I’m terribly sorry but the flexi-rods snapped in the wind and the tent collapsed.”
“I could get some stronger replacements from the camp shop.”
“Um, well, I don’t think I should stay here. Boadocia has fallen in love with the rabbit and keeps slithering around the cage.”
“What will you do?”
“Some friends of these people have a downstairs granny-flat that they need to rent out. It’s very close to your area. You might know them, the Caseys.”
“Oh! Kevin and Kirsty. Yes, very nice people, two kids and a goat. A bit far out of town for you, I guess, but at least you’ll be comfortable and dry.”
So I gave him, the rabbit, and the belongings another lift to their new abode.
A few weeks passed and, apart from some regrets about a ruined mattress and the hassle of having to fix my tent, I felt happy that it had all ended well.
Another call. Cuddlepie had died – probably heart attack. Did I know of anyone who might have bunnies? It just happened I had a girlfriend who bred them for pet shops and she did have a new litter, but I lied and said no.
Months later, there he was on the side of the road again, with his thumb out. I stopped.
“How’s it going?”
“They kicked me out.”
I raised my eyebrows.
“Caught me dealing grass. Didn’t want that energy around their kids. Some people blow their stacks over nothing.”
He opened his bag and two little heads popped up with blue eyes - white rabbits, but one dyed mauve and the other dyed pink.