4. The Rabbit

She said, “Meet me at nine under the bridge’s middle lamp. I have something special. Don’t be late.”

He thought nothing of the request at first. Another romp in the night, blinking at the ceiling, maybe a bottle of wine shared on her balcony downtown, and sparrows balanced on the rain gutter. The cab turned up 8th. On the way, he stepped back through the cadence of her voice. What “special?” Why nine? He stepped into a dusty gust of wind at the curb. In the elevator Henry sniffed at the hole in a coffee lid and said, “Another long day. I heard late meetings. Will we survive; will we die?”

“Why so late?” he asked, ignoring Henry. She’d chuckled, said she couldn’t wait to see that shadow of his, and hung up. Jane, the boss, erupted in his office and motioned him into hers. “I need you in Washington at eleven,” she said. “Don’t leave until it’s settled.”

He called her from the terminal. “Should be back in plenty of time.”

“Like the last time when you said ‘Should be back in plenty of time’ and missed everything I had ready.”

Above the world he watched the clouds come apart like wet rag. He sensed rain at the horizon, maybe snow. The cabin hummed and a man flipped through a magazine with a wetted thumb.

Rumors of an intersection pileup came during the cab ride into town. Bike riders bounced onto the sidewalks. “We may be here a while,” the cabby said. He paid and made his way down East Main.

The firm’s lobby doors swished aside and he rode hot and thirsty to the fifteenth floor and clicked through some slides to two men and one woman. One of them nodded, the other two shook their heads. “It’s never going to happen,” the woman said. “We can’t turn back,” he said. “We already have,” the woman said. “Ed’ll be back at three. You’ll have to talk to him.”

“Sorry, I’m due back,” the man said.

“What?” the woman said.

He sought a quick bite on the trip from the airport at an empty diner on Fifth. He ordered a beer and a hamburger and stared out the window. At a pet store across the street, he bought a rabbit. Outside, he paused, stared at the rabbit in its cage, and thought, “I just bought a rabbit. I’ve been in two states and the sun’s still up.”

It was routine from then on, at the office–“You didn’t stay, you didn’t stay, my god, what have you done?” Jane said, “what are we going to do?”–the ride home, the rabbit snuffing in the passenger seat. He made the bridge at eight thirty, rows of lit windows yellow in the current. A ball of fire ruffled in the slow quiet water. Stars settling, the gray moon soft. He could see far, out to the edge, snow somewhere. He left the rabbit in its cage at the middle lamp with a note attached.

“Be good, rabbit,” he said. “Be good.”

Then he walked away.

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