Watching the Rabbits

I always thought there might be a hidden path there. I’ve walked by that patch of ground a million times. But for some reason, tonight, I noticed something odd. As I walk the path late at night the rabbits usually jump when I go by. I never really thought of rabbits as nocturnal creatures, but there they are. If they just stayed put I’d never even know they were there. I always like to watch the rabbits, too. They watch me for a few minutes–I’m usually completely oblivious to them–and then they hop away as if they had to decide how dangerous I was. After they start hopping I watch them disappear into the woods, and they stop to turn around and watch me again.

But tonight the rabbit didn’t turn around. It hopped into that place between two trees, the place that looks like a hidden entryway to a path or a road–but you know it can’t be. On the other side of this narrow patch of trees is another sidewalk and another building. It’s a tiny island of forest among the civilization. If there is a path it only leads to another sidewalk. But the rabbit hopped between these two trees and completely disappeared. I saw his white tail flash in the air as it rose up above the ground, passed between the trees–and then was gone. The rabbit didn’t land on the other side, it just vanished.

I stared intently into the trees for a moment or two. Sometimes when the rabbits run away and then stop I can’t see them. They sit on their white tails and blend in to the fallen leaves and for the life of me I can’t spot them. Is that what happened here? Slowly, I take a step forward and squint. There’s not even a break in the forest floor on the other side of those trees that could be a rabbit. No rocks, no stumps, nothing. That rabbit is gone.

I rub my eyes and shift the books in my arms. I glance at my watch and realize I need to get going. The blaring of the alarm clock will come early tomorrow, and I have a few things to finish up tonight. The responsibilities weigh down. But something tugs at me and I have to know what happened to that rabbit. I’ve passed this patch of ground a million times, and the imagination couldn’t pick a more perfect spot to start its alternate realities. I slowly step off the concrete sidewalk, setting one foot on the soft ground, and placing a hand on the nearest tree, as if to see if it’s really there.

I still don’t see any rabbit, and I know there’s no way it took off without me knowing. It has to be there. Setting my books down, I place my hand on the other tree and take another step toward the woods. The perceived responsibilities press at my mind, reminding me that I have more important things to do. But I shake them off. With that I step forward, between the two trees that the rabbit had jumped through.

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