Stone Rabbit

Between the backside of the McDonald’s and an outdoor storage facility on Indianapolis’ east side, where I live, is a through road that connects the restaurant parking lot with the Pep Boys parking lot and then the road. It’s the way I always leave McDonald’s, preferring to chart my return to busy Washington Street via a left turn at a light, which I access via this side road’s connection to a main one, instead of attempting the same type of turn against four lanes in a span of unregulated traffic. I’ve always been that way: I will go slightly farther, if it means I can do something with less trouble.

The outdoor storage facility is ringed by a chain length fence maybe six feet, maybe eight feet high–my only certainty is that it’s there. And just steps beyond that fence, in the corner of the facility’s property, is a tree. It’s a fairly established tree, with a trunk at least a foot across. And under that tree is a rabbit.

The first time I saw the rabbit, I thought it was real. It was sitting up on its back legs and looking toward the southwest–looked in a way that real rabbits look, smelling and sensing the surroundings. Its location and its actions were those of a real rabbit, and so when I saw it that first time, it was.

But the next time I came back that way, the rabbit was still there, and still there in the same manner it was before: propped up and peering inquisitively toward the south. The next blush of thought was a mixture of realization that the rabbit wasn’t real at all and curiosity about why in the world would a stone rabbit be in that spot. The adjacent areas are a building and a fence–no one on the rabbit’s side of the fence will ever walk by it. No one will see it–except people turning out of McDonald’s or cutting through from Pep Boy’s to the Applebee’s.

I have thought about that stone rabbit most days since that day when it transformed from real rabbit to ornament. In a way, it was less noteworthy as the former, although all rabbits delight me: I had one as a pet for seven years as a kid, and I consider Watership Down a favorite. Perhaps it’s for these reasons that I paid any attention to it to begin with, and that initial assessment gave me access to the later oddening of a memory. A view, and a memory, that has now become something of an obsession, because I don’t understand why: why would someone set a decorative animal under that tree?

I think if I were to find a way to scale that fence, or if I were to rent a storage shed so that I might sneak my way over to this corner in the fence line, I would run my hand over the rabbit, just to have the certainty of its substance under my fingers. It would be rough, like the stone lions in my yard that I hauled across the street to my property when the neighbor set them out by the curb. I wanted those stone lions badly, because they reminded me of the stone lion Neo who guards the tomb of George Wombwell in Highgate Cemetery in London–but not out of any sentiment for Wombwell or, even, lions, but rather as a talisman of memory and a direct link to a time and a place and a version of myself.

The stone rabbit sits on the line between what I understand and what I don’t. It is obvious, ordinary, a hunk of molded concrete in a shape I recognize. And it is a mystery, the first or last line in a story I don’t know but wonder about each time I see it.

Today’s prompt: Write a description of an everyday object seen up close. How does this vantage point change it—or your sense of it?

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