What I told Eleanora Pearline Tomasa Billy-Lea was the same thing I told Cloyd—that plain and simple it wasn’t quite the massive problem she was making it out to be, that the straight of it was, rabbits didn’t need pose the same kind of threat to her sanity’s she thought they did. Wasn’t easy, what with Eleanora P.T.B-L. not speakin English proper, but I think I just about got through to her. It was popular understanding in the neighborhood that the long-eared sexmachines pretty much obsessed Eleanora P.T.B-L. and were in her eyes some kind of lèse majesté, to the best of her mental conception. I said, look, they might eat your veggies but they’re not gonna break down your door. But, like I previously broke the news to you, Eleanora didn’t quite understand English, not in any real useful way. So’s like talking to a brick wall. I pantomimed a bit, lookin like I was a rabbit free and easy and not breaking down her door. Ellie (I’ll call her that, so as to not unduly try your tolerance for repetition and all) spoke real slowly and even wrote out her words for me, but it’n just looked a bunch of chickenscratchings anyway, not much use to me. Ellie had like her own private language, not one anyone else could’ve understood anyway. But when she drew a rabbit, crudely as she did, it was still pretty obviously apparent what her intention was, the two-eared hoppin critter just about decapitated on her sheet of paper, its head lopped off with what could’ve been either a machete or a bread knife. She went and left the room and when she came back had with her a pitcher of something like orange juice and a red marker, what she used to finish her work of art. The red marker pretty well made her intentions clear, the rabbit’s death not so much in question. As I came to understand it, her interest was the rabbits dead and buried, if not dead’n burnt. And she wanted me to do it.

What was a mystery to me was how I was to go about taking on the rabbits—taking on, as it were, the long-eared foe. I hadn’t so much as penned a domestic-type rabbit in a cage, much less tracked down and exterminated a wild-type rabbit, much less numerous wild-type rabbits of indeterminate temperament. Fact being I didn’t even know how many rabbits there were. I’d seen one or two from time to time, but hadn’t ever really entertained any kind of census of the critters. And Suburban Ecosystem Population Dynamics (Bio/ES 318B) (with Prof. Gloria Rasmussen) was a class I didn’t really do so hot in, to put things mildly. So first things first I went soon as I could to see Winston Shea, who was like an accountant or something and known for his proficiency with numbers. No problem was what Winston said; sure he’d help me in my little mission. Winston and I drove around the neighborhood real stealth with a disposable camera a light meter and a notepad and took survey of the local environs, noting visible rabbits and visible signs of rabbits, Winston sometimes even pointing out invisible signs of rabbits, which I thought was extraordinarily clever and pretty obviously a sign of the keen intellect for which he was so widely renowned.

It took three rounds of the block and several heated arguments, but our results were basically incontrovertible. It seemed that, in the 1300 block of Wainsmither Avenue, there were somewhere between 4,900 (the low estimate, which Winston said he didn’t put much stock in) and 45,000 rabbits. 27,450 being our best estimate. To me it seemed slightly astronomically high—seeing as I couldn’t recall ever seeing the beasts in groups of more than three or four—but as I’ve mentioned previously (and with some trepidation, as it’s something I generally like to keep private), Bio 318B wasn’t quite my pizza pie, if you know what I mean.

Knowing there were probably twenty-some-thousand rabbits to take care of in the fashion yet to be decided upon, my heart fluttered with nervousness. Ideally I also wanted something like a reassurance of the ethicality of what I was doing, wiping twenty-thousand odd lives off the face of Wainsmither Avenue—particularly since, as now seemed blatantly clear, relocation was completely out of the picture. One rabbit, or even two or four hundred, maybe. But 27,450? Impossible.

It was clear I was in way over my head. I hoped Ellie would be happy when I was all done.

First casualty of the battle wasn’t so much a rabbit as it was one of their sympathizers, 8-year-old Awilda Rowe who keeled over in a dead faint when she heard about the massive plans in the works to clean out the rabbit-scum of the neighborhood. She literally had to be dragged away across the front lawn of her house and into its somnolent enclosure, dark and away from the soon-to-be smell of blood in the air. Her mother apologized, Barry dragging the girl away, said, she didn’t know how the girl got these ideas in her head, me wanting to exterminate the placid creatures, ridiculous! I said sorry but it’s true and Mrs. Rowe nearabout keeled over too, limping wordlessly back into her abode. It’s for Ellie, I shouted before she slammed the oak door shut. Ellie, I murmured. Wondering, why the hell’d she have to pick me for the job?

I went back to Ellie’s house, wanting to set things straight and just about willing to lay down my soul on behalf of the rabbits, which I didn’t so much love or hate as was indifferent towards. I knocked on the door and Cloyd answered. ‘fore I even got so much as a syllable in edgewise, he divulged how Ellie’d gone and booked a room at some cottagey bed-n-breakfast off in the hills somewhere and wasn’t coming back till all the rabbits were dead’n gone. Was the short of it, anyways. So I asked, could he help me figure out how we were going to accomplish this task? ‘s your task, he said, shrugging. Cloyd was never a terribly ambitious man, and wasn’t one to tread on someone else’s job, never mind if that job was putting out the fire on his own house. “Complacent” was the word some people used. The words “lifeless” and “unindustrious” weren’t unknown in descriptions of Cloyd’s disposition toward things.

Having exhausted that avenue and not exactly having much in the way of ideas, I treaded, trepidant, onward to the residence of a known rapscallion, Osvaldo. Osvaldo I didn’t much like, but I thought he’d enjoy the job, figuring out how to rid the rabbits. I walked up the bramble-lined lane rather quickly, eventually making my way over the pretty insubstantial hump of Mt. Arnick and approaching the quasi-gothic ranch house in which Osvaldo was known to live. Name on his mailbox said, OSVALDO BLANKENSHIP; white lettering on a plain black mailbox. The door opened before I had a chance to even contemplate knocking on it.

“I’ve been waiting for you,” Osvaldo said slyly, whole herds of shivers traveling down my spine.

Cloyd had called ahead and told Osvaldo that I was coming, is what he meant. Didn’t know why or how or much of anything, other than that I was to show up sooner or later, which I did as was pretty obvious to everyone present. Said, did I want to come inside and discuss the situation? Saying ‘situation’ like that and making it seem so improbably gargantuan a task so as to be practically impossible, or at least befitting of a righteous historical figure of larger stature than my own. I said, no, I didn’t mind standing outside and talking it over. “Though I wouldn’t call it a situation, is all,” I clarified.

I more or less clarified how Ellie (“Eleanora Pearline Tomasa Billy-Lea”, I said for the benefit of Osvaldo, who wasn’t exactly known for his abundant socialization in amongst the rest of the neighborhood) had this maybe vaguely morbid or psychiatric fixation on the lagomorphs that dwelt in and around her house—how she wanted them dead being the gist of the situation. Though I wouldn’t call it a situation, I re-clarified.

I told Osvaldo I was wondering if he might have some kind of scheme for ridding the twitch-nosey mammals. He gave it some thought, standing there and hmming and hawing and hewing, scratching his chin thoughtfully and maybe once or twice digging wax out of his ear, and then said, sure, he didn’t see it would be a big problem. How many were there, anyway?

And I said, twenty-thousand, give or take.

Osvaldo? His eyes lit up like tiny lights, bright and deranged.

We set to work on his plans at once.

Chain reaction was the idea Osvaldo had, rabbits being somewhat apt to a communal existence (as was his understanding). Easier than going around and, one by one, lopping off the rabbits’ heads—which, among other things, would be especially gory and likely to rouse something of an outcry in the neighborhood, never mind how much the people liked or didn’t like rabbits (Eleanora excluded)—we’d start with one rabbit and, through the magic of physics or something like it, have that rabbit become so much as the downfall of the entire rabbit culture.

Fire was one of a large subset of possibilities that Osvaldo presented to me. He’d never seen it done in like movies or read it in books or anything, but it didn’t seem impossible; we’d be all Prometheus-like and give an unsuspecting rabbit fire, via maybe a specially-constructed rabbit-scale torch or something, that rabbit then going on to spread the flame (literally and so to speak), burning all of rabbitdom to the ground. He’d (or she’d) carry the torch (literally, again), all the rabbits so entranced and fascinated and in wonderment of the dancing orange tongue that they’d be entirely oblivious to its real-life ramifications, e.g., it burning their warren to crisp blackness and decimating them most impolitely. Was one idea he had along this theme of lettin the rabbits do the work for us.

Another idea was something of like germ warfare. Contaminate one rabbit, have it spread the dread disease amongst its kind. Problem being that neither Osvaldo nor me really had much in the way of epidemiology. Which isn’t to say that we didn’t have a copy of that gorgeous Scientific American paperback, Investigating Disease Patterns, on our respective coffee tables, or that we hadn’t read Hot Zone, etc., but neither of these books quite read like a how-to manual on rabbit decimation, which is really what we were looking for. And look at Australia. My reasoning was, if something like rabbitpox could be real effective-like on a massive population of rabbits, Australia wouldn’t’ve had such a problem as it did. Excluding for a moment the possibility of Osvaldo’s sheer and utter brilliance above and beyond any other human being ever to walk the face (or crawl under the surface) of the Mother Goddess Gaia.

“I read in a book once,” said Osvaldo, thinking, “how these people spread this disease to their target by like infected blankets or somethin. Could work.”

I pointed out—remaining of course affable and deferential to Osvaldo’s presumed genius in his limited field of expertise—that, far as I knew, rabbits didn’t have much need for anything like blankets, not in the real world outside of, e.g., Beatrix Potter and so forth. They don’t even wear shoes, is what I said.

“Besides,” I added, “what’s to say we wouldn’t create a rabbit-human-virus hybrid, a supervirus so virulent that it might as easily wipe out six billion persons as twenty-thousand rabbits, no difference one way or the other to it.”

Osvaldo’s eyes lit up, but he agreed it didn’t seem so plausible for this particular task.

Poison, of course, was another outlet. But again, it wasn’t something either of us’d had much experience in. Not with rabbits, anyway.

What about specially-trained parasites, Osvaldo asked.
What about prescription drugs, he asked. We could get them addicted, he said (meaning the rabbits).
What about we give them rock-n-roll and get them to die young?
What about we introduce them to the thrill and excitement of interstate highways?

No doubt about it: the man was brilliant. Too brilliant, almost. But anyway, I knew Ellie wouldn’t have to wait much longer fore she could come back and enjoy a de-rabbited neighborhood, clean and safe and luxurious and even (maybe) a wee bit bucolic. Perfection.

I thought long and hard about Eleanora Pearline Tomasa Billy-Lea as Osvaldo and I sat working away at our fool-proof way of outsing the rabbits out of this life and into the next, makin the world a safe place for civilization and so forth. Me thinking and wondering not a little bit maybe why I was the one had to instigate the whole thing—getting rid of the rabbits, who hadn’t really done me any particular harm. Me wondering not a little bit why Ellie wanted me to do the thing, being as her and I weren’t exactly like Bonnie and Clyde or anything. I knew her name and, to hear Cloyd (since I couldn’t ever right understand what she said, her not speaking English), she knew mine; beyond that, us not really having much interaction day-to-day, now least of all with her off in some bed-n-breakfast waiting for me to exact her wishes.

Osvaldo and I sat on the ground outside his hut, books and magazines piled up in minor mountain ranges of paper around us, a sea of crumpled papers in front of us, sketchy ideas we’d thought through and then discarded as impossible or improbable or unfeasible, and a large glossy photo of a rabbit propped up against a tree, just so O. and I didn’t forget what it was we were dealing with, didn’t get distracted by specifics. Was best we could easily call to mind the face of evil, long-eared and doe-eyed. (Rabbit-eyed, sure, you wanna split hairs.) All around us the night began to come out, stars peaking through the dimming fabric of sky and crickets slowly yawning and crawling out of bed and whirring to life, telling us how it’s about 72º Fahrenheit (what with them not knowing Celcius real particularly well). I’m thinking, maybe we need a candle. A flashlight.

The plan we’re working on goes like this: Osvaldo and I construct a gigantic, faux-garden. Rich, lucious California carrots (or whatever it is it the grocer says rabbits like best, when we get to the grocery store), magnificent heads of cabbage, and so forth. The most delightful feast a rabbit’s ever laid eyes on, is what the plan is. Us then going about ‘planting’ these delicacies in a neat patch of ground. But not just any patch of ground. What we’ll do first is, we’ll lay a giant, humongous square of burlap out on the ground (burlap because it’s most like soil, least likely to be recognized by the rabbits as alien, assuming for the time being that they’d care anyway, what with the most amazing feast a rabbit’s ever set its rabbit eyes on), tying each of the four ends to like a metal cable or something, four cables which we’ll then real subversively knot together at their far terminus, what knot we’ll then hook to a well-concealed crane. The plan is that the rabbits will come in one hopping horde to devour the goodies, enter the burlap garden, and be hauled into a giant gunny-sack by the crane.

Which honestly is as far as our plan’s gotten. We’re thinking that we’ll either toss the sack over a cliff or into a lake or something: into a non-rabbit-friendly environment, in short.

Osvaldo says it will take care of like (he’s estimating) 18,000 rabbits or so, his margin of error something like 3%. The rest of the rabbits, he says, we’ll take care of when the time comes.

Lots of people aren’t going to be happy at this, which is why I’m thinking long and hard about Ellie and why she wants me to go about doing this job. Wondering if it’s going to be worth the harassment by my fellow neighbors who don’t bear any real what you’d call animosity towards the rabbits all around them.

Osvaldo and I’d just about worked out all the glitches in our plan and I said, I’d meet him at the grocery store, there were some things I had to do. He nodded at me, grinning silly, and I walked back down the lane into town.

My plan was, I wanted to visit Ellie’s house, perhaps have a good-nature chat with Cloyd, voicing my doubts and whatnot. And as I walk through town, I realize I’m humming, like I’m happy or something, and as I’m walking, I realize that everyone’s coming out of their little houses to watch me. They’re coming out in their nightgowns and robes and glaring at me. Sulking on their front lawns. Ellie’s house looming out in front, a beacon in the midst of a metaphorical fog; a fog of people not being able to understand how’s we’ll be so much better off with all these rabbits gone. Ellie’s voice echoing in my head even though I can’t really understand much of what she’s saying. Can’t understand anything, really.

As I’m walking down the street, it occurs to me how Osvaldo wrote out everything he wanted to tell me. He’d talk too, but I couldn’t really understand him, is what I’m realizing. His voice, as I think about it, sounding more and more like the garbled noise of Ellie.

Distracted, I nearly trip over a rock that’s inexplicably on the sidewalk. Like, who’d leave a rock on the sidewalk? A little dazed from my stumble, I realize that my shoe went flying off into the darkness. Everyone standing all around me, watching, glaring, their robes and nightgowns and boxers and pajamas rustling slightly in the breeze, like leaves. I sit on the curb of the sidewalk to put my shoe back on (after I find it) and realize: I’m putting the shoe, which isn’t so much a shoe as it is a cloth bootie, onto a rabbit’s foot, that rabbit’s foot being mine. And as I scratch my head, I realize: I’m scratching my head with my foot.

Counting people as I look around, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Counting, 11,023, 11,024, 11,025. Counting, 22,453, 22,454, 22,455. Counting, 27,833, 27,834, 27,835.

I look at Ellie’s house and realize it isn’t so much far away as it is tall, enormous.

Me remembering how, when I rode around in the car with Winston, I was like a little kid in the seat next to him; me remembering how gigantic everything was around me, how the seat-belt just dangled, lifeless and useless behind me.

There are whispers all around me.
Do you think he realizes?

I sit there on the sidewalk, winking, blinking, twitching. Realizing.

The door opens on Ellie’s house, and Cloyd stands there, looking around with a flashlight. He shouts out something, but it doesn’t make much sense, it’s hard to understand. Me realizing, I’m the one who doesn’t speak English proper.

I let out a mad squeal and a cheer goes out, everyone realizing that I understand, and we surge forward, a giant, seething mass of rabbits that tramples, claws, and bites Cloyd, the combined weight and fury of twenty-some-thousand rabbits utterly and completely destroying him, a limp mangled body all that’s left behind, gigantic and sticky and sick-smelling.

After that it’s Winston. Then we go back for Osvaldo. We track down Ellie and catch her while she’s sleeping.

Then we push onward, towards human towns and housing developments and cities, me telling everyone, Now we know how they think, now we can use their wisdom against them.

Us leaving a wide swath of sick-smelling desolation in our wake.