The Fiance and I are in the process of getting together what we need in order to leave Florida behind and return to California, the state where he was born and where I spent a good chunk of my life. Since this requires money and moving a ton of boxes is a total pain in the ass, we’ve been going through our stuff to see what we can sell or donate. It’s pretty basic — getting rid of games I haven’t touched in years or am unlikely to ever play again, DVDs I’ve watched to death, and sorting through my book collection which has reached proportions bordering on ridiculous.
In fact, I have so many books that most of them are boxed up and kept in storage because I do not have enough room for the bookshelves required to host them all. This is why I found myself digging through a moderately-sized cardboard box last night which I thought would be filled with books, but ended up being chock full of stuff from when I was a kid. I know I sure as Hell didn’t save any of this stuff, so I can only guess that it belongs to my mother and I somehow ended up with it. I’m glad I did, though, because it gave me some real insight into the childhood I don’t remember much of (PTSD will do that to you). In fact, since pretty much all I have to go on with regards to what I was actually like as a kid is the contents of this box, I’m convinced that I was less a mini-Tardbunny and more a mini-Ted Bundy. Or Aileen Wuornos, I guess, but she was really unimaginative and the whole point I’m trying to make here is I was a creepy kid and everything I’ve found will probably be used as Exhibits A-Z at my murder trial someday. ”We never saw it coming!” my family will say, and the prosecution and I will then stand up to call bullshit. If my kid ever brought home the kind of bizarre crap I did, I’d probably stop loving them. It’s that bad.
First up was a folder stuffed with papers from my preschool years, including a “report card” of sorts from one of my teachers. I remember exactly three things from preschool:
- I was accused of punching my teacher in the face and busting her lip, which I vehemently deny to this day as anything other than an accident — she was leaning over me while I was sitting down and I jerked my head up at just the right moment to headbutt her in the jaw
- I punched a boy in my class named Aaron because he refused to wear a dress. Our normal dress-up group was one member short because Ada was sick, and somebody needed to play the mother, and I was always the eldest daughter so Aaron was the only choice according to three-year-old logic.
- I taught everyone in my class a lovely little game on the playground called Funeral, where one of us would pretend to be dead and another would pretend to be the rabbi saying all of the prayers in Hebrew and throwing flowers on our “corpses.” Then we’d drag the supposedly dead person into one of those little run-through tunnel things and leave them there, lather, rinse, repeat until the mini-rabbi was the only one left alive.
If I had been the teacher sending this particular report home, I probably would have phrased what she said as “she tends to be bossy” or something like that. Instead, she wrote “She is a controlling person,” which makes me think that I was a complete freaking sociopath. I was THREE. I wasn’t even a person yet. I was still trying to eat my shoelaces and occasionally peeing my pants which I consider to be two very important criteria for being considered a functioning person, and I failed both of those. And controlling? Not just bossy, but overseeing playtime with a steely glare and my arms crossed over my chest, waiting for someone to step out of line so I could tie them to one of the little plastic chairs with a jump rope and cut them with safety scissors until they agreed to obey my commands? I mean, I may not fulfill the typical serial killer trifecta, but shouldn’t a three-year-old exhibiting behaviors that adults can only describe as controlling be like, a substitute fourth or something?
I managed to shake it off as the teacher in question being a little melodramatic. Then I pulled out a homemade book, constructed from wallpaper-covered cardboard and purple printer paper held together by metal brads, and was once again worried. But not about the design aspect. The color of the paper really pulls out the accents of the wallpaper I chose, which is actually a combination of two different but extremely complimentary patterns.
The title page tells me that I wrote this in Mrs. Knoebel’s class in 1994, meaning I was just about to turn 7 (having a summer birthday meant I was forever screwed out of being able to have cupcakes in class, which may just be part of my motive, who knows?). It’s a compilation of five original short stories and fully illustrated by me, the author, though I feel slightly uncomfortable admitting my own guilt in that regard. Granted, all little kids write and draw nonsensical crap that their parents are then obligated to read while smiling awkwardly and promising that it’s the best thing ever and they love it. I imagine this is how 50 Shades of Grey got published. The problem is that, thanks to knowing what I know now as an adult, the stories do make sense. Too much sense. I present to you now these early works of Tardbunny in their original, unedited form, along with my professional grown-up commentary and analysis.
Chapter 1: Amanda and the Princess
Amanda was riding her horse, Eva, down the path in the forest. One time Amanda fell off of Eva. She wasn’t hurt and she giggled. She got back on.
Suddenly, she saw a castle. A beautiful princess greeted her. When Amanda stepped inside she turned into a princess.
The princess and Amanda lived happily ever after.
As for Eva, she became the royal pony and had babies.
On the surface, it sounds pretty innocuous. It’s just a story of an intrepid female adventurer stumbling across a bit of good fortune and apparently remembering the “little people” by sharing it with them.
Except I had this little tendency to create characters in my stories based off of people I knew in real life. In this case, Amanda was a girl who used to beat me up all the time. Eva… well, that’s my name. I could have written myself as the lucky princess-to-be, but no, I wrote myself as the service animal who, upon being accepted into the royal palace, was penned up and left to be bred and used for the amusement of my captors until the day I died. I’m pretty sure this was David Parker Ray’s MO. I’m also relatively sure that it’s considered a fetish among the BDSM community.
So let’s run with that last part, since no one actually died, at least not in the story. We’ve got Eva in a submissive position to Amanda who… rides her? Like… RIDES her? And Amanda lives happily ever after with the princess?
Did I write lesbian fetish porn when I was 6?
On a side note, high five to my mini-self for being progressive enough to write about a princess hooking up with another princess. Guess I wasn’t such a bad kid after all.
Chapter 2: Five Little Eggheads
Five little eggheads, silly as can be
Look at what these sillies see
Veronica sees tea, she’s going crazy
Iggy sees pickles, he’s feeling hazy
Naomi sees love, she feels happy
Carl sees the movies, he gets popcorn
Kenny sees a surprise…
SURPRISE! IT’S TEA TIME!
Where do I even freaking start?
I really don’t know what the Hell I was talking about. I tried looking to the accompanying illustrations for help but all they show is a bunch of anthropomorphic eggs surrounding a teapot and some pickles in the background, and oddly enough, Carl is missing from the group. I don’t even know where I got these names from, but I would guess Veronica from the Archie comics I used to collect, Naomi from Naomi Campbell being the big supermodel at the time… Iggy, Carl, and Kenny remain a mystery.
I’d just like to know what kind of tea Veronica’s drinking that makes her feel crazy. Peyote? Shrooms? The picture of her shows that her eyes are unnaturally large and dilated. Maybe that’s what happened to Carl. In the dark of the movie theater, Veronica tripped out and ate his face, the blood dripping down onto the popcorn he wanted so badly like so much liquid butter. After wiping her mouth and picking the remains of Carl’s five o’clock shadow from her teeth, Veronica walked back into the group photo, hugging her pink teapot tightly to her chest. ”You make me feel so good,” she whispered as she flashed an eerie, cryptic smile that gave the three surviving eggheads chills.
Iggy’s having a pretty extreme reaction to pickles. He’s slipping into an altered state at the mere sight of them. Perhaps Iggy is a survivor of abuse, reminded by the phallic shape of the pickles of the horrors he endured. He sits at the kitchen table every night to drain a bottle of bourbon, his head in his hands as he remembers the birthday party clown that smelled of cigarettes and rubbing alcohol and all of the false promises made that fateful day. Reliving it during the testimony he gave at the trial was the hardest thing he’d ever done but he knew, oh, he knew in his heart that he’d saved countless other little eggheads from Monzo’s greasepaint-stained clutches. But now Monzo was up for parole. Iggy couldn’t let that monster back out onto the streets. He claimed he was reformed, cured of his unnatural urges, but Iggy knew a man like that would never change, never stop. The night of the parole hearing, Iggy was hungry, and not only for justice. He took a quick detour through the drive-thru burger joint just down the street from the courthouse. ”A double cheeseburger,” he called through his car window, then paused and reached between the seats, allowing his fingers to trail over the cold metal of the gun he’d stashed there. ”Hold the pickles.”
At least Naomi’s reaction to love is perfectly normal. But why does she merely see love, instead of experiencing it for herself? That’s the question she asks herself every day as she looks in the mirror, studying herself from every angle. Her impossibly thin frame is reflected back to her as the very picture of obesity. ”No one will ever love you, you fat pig,” she murmurs as she pinches an imaginary handful of flab on her protruding hips. A single tear rolls down her face. It’s as if Iggy looks right through her, no matter how many times she’s been there for him while he deals with his demons. ”I can’t love you, Naomi,” he had sobbed into her shoulder at the restaurant last night. ”I’m too broken. I can’t… I can’t…” She had pretended to shrug it off, nodding in sympathy as she numbly ate one of the pickles he’d pulled off of his sandwich and tossed onto her plate. It was the first thing she’d eaten in three days. But he never notices, not like Carl did, always shoving his greasy, buttery popcorn at her and acting offended when she turned it down. The mere memory of all those calories makes her nauseous even now. It doesn’t matter, anyway. He’s perfectly happy with Veronica these days, Veronica, the adventurous one, the party girl, the one that all the boys have wanted since the first grade…
I might be reading too much into this, though. If anything, it might just be the first signs of the obsession with tea that haunts me to this very day.
Chapter 3: The Easter Bunny
When Peter woke up he found a basket with an egg in it. He was surprised to see it hop away. It was the Easter Bunny!
He went home and told his children about the stranger. He cautioned his children to be careful around humans. Peter was also telling the children about the bunny.
Peter became best friends with the Easter Bunny.
How the Hell does a grown man (I’m assuming he’s an adult, since he’s telling “the children” about the Easter Bunny) mistake a rabbit for an Easter basket with an egg? Unless, of course, the Easter Bunny we see depicted on advertising materials and chintzy Hallmark cards every year is not his true face. No, perhaps the Easter Bunny himself came into existence only through the interference of human scientists.
Kenny was just a humble assistant back in those days. He thought the entire practice of animal testing was barbaric, completely deplorable, but he was just a poor college student trying to make those loan payments in any way he could. The internship paid like shit, but at least it was money coming in, unlike the free labor internships his classmates had taken. They razzed it for him daily. ”All that studying worked out, eh, Egghead?” they’d ask, but it was all in good fun. They liked Kenny. He had a way with people that probably stemmed from his ability to see the magic in the world around him. It was impossible to be in a bad mood when you were hanging out with Kenny.
The test subject on the table before Kenny made him cringe to even look at. The fluffy white rabbit sniffed the air, blissfully ignorant to its caved-in back, or the gigantic tumor that had begun to grow in the crater where its spine used to be. If the experiments were successful, their laboratory would be heralded as the birthplace of genetic reconstruction, manipulating genes through radiation and a cocktail of cellular catalysts to regrow bones, limbs, organs… anything at all. The possibilities were supposedly endless. This rabbit’s spine had been carefully crushed into powder by the scientists (“under anaesthesia,” they had told Kenny, as if that were somehow supposed to make the whole thing better) and a substitute mesh put into place to protect the fragile spinal cord and serve as a template for the bone they were hoping to regrow. But they had overestimated their research. A weak layer of bone had begun to grow over the mesh, sure, but the rabbit still could not move anything below its neck. The mesh hadn’t held its shape, either, and an extreme case of scoliosis had set in, the inverted curve pressing against the poor creature’s vital organs. Worst of all, the radiation and chemicals had caused horrific tumors to grow all over its body. At first, the scientists had removed them as they appeared, but with the rabbit’s current condition, they were no longer certain that it’d be able to handle the stress of surgery. It was just a matter of time now before its body gave out. The failed experiment was uninteresting to these men of science now and they had left it to die.
That is why Kenny now held in his hand a syringe filled with the telltale pink of liquid sodium chloride. ”Poor thing,” he whispered, reaching out with his other hand to stroke the top of its head one last time. ”You can sleep now.”
“I have no interest in sleeping.”
Kenny jumped back from the table, the syringe clattering harmlessly on the floor. His mouth opened and closed as if speaking, but no sound came forth. The rabbit turned its head and focused its small red eyes on the quivering intern.
“For months I have waited,” the rabbit spoke haltingly as if struggling to form the words with its mutated vocal chords. ”I have laid perfectly still to avoid drawing suspicion, to lower your guards. Now I have my opportunity to be free.”
“How… how?” Kenny stammered, crawling back over to the table and marveling at the creature before him.
“I am the thing that should not be. You and your kind have created me, a God among the lagomorphia. My children have fallen to your scalpels and poisons. I am dying, this is true, but I am still strong, thanks to you.”
The young intern’s brain could barely process the information being given to him. ”I’m sorry. I never thought anything like this would… could… happen,” he said, momentarily recoiling at how weak the apology sounded.
“Surprise,” the rabbit chuckled darkly, and in a flash of teeth and fur, his liberation had begun.
As he hopped down from the table using the intern’s lifeless body to cushion his landing (a final, well-deserved indignity, he thought), the rabbit noticed that Kenny’s cell phone had fallen out of his pocket. With a bit of effort he managed to use his paws to manipulate the slide-to-unlock feature on the touch screen and sort through his contacts. It was the perfect list for the rabbit’s vengeful purposes. Kenny had stored the phone numbers and addresses of all of the other scientists. One other name gave him pause. ”Peter Smith,” the rabbit mused, taking a moment to glance at the name tag clipped to Kenny’s bloody jacket. Also Smith. A brother? A father? It mattered not. It was yet another opportunity for revenge. A plan immediately began to formulate in his head. He would investigate this Peter Smith — the irony of the name not entirely lost on him — and befriend him. Perhaps this Peter had children of his own. If only he could get close, he could remove the Smith family that had become such a stain on rabbitkind once and for all.
And this, my friends, is what happens when you let a Jewish kid write about Easter.
Chapter 4: The Grave
“Cathy!” Cathy’s mother called.
“Yes?” Cathy answered.
“Would you get some water from the well?”
“Yes,” Cathy said.
It was night when Cathy got home. As she passed the graveyard, she noticed the gate was open. So she went inside.
As she passed a grave she stopped to look at it. The grave was open. Suddenly she lost her balance and fell in.
That was the end of her.
Ah, yes, how could I forget the rip-roaring literary romp that was The Grave, where a young girl’s blind and unquestioning obedience to her neglectful mother results in her death? It took Cathy all day to reach the well and retrieve the water, a perilous journey for a young girl. What kind of mother would send her child on such an errand? Maybe if Cathy’s mother hadn’t spent yet another day drinking, she would have been able to drive to the well herself. Her alcoholism had cost her a well-paying job down at the factory, the last employer left in that dying town, after her inattention had led to a spoiled batch of dried tea to make it through the quality check and into the teapots of consumers everywhere. One of the main components in that tea, as it turned out, was rye, and the result was a case of ergot poisoning so severe that a college girl three towns over had torn her date’s face off in a movie theater after drinking a few cups of it. The lawsuits flooded in as similar cases cropped up across the country. Cathy’s mother had been given a choice: accept charges for criminal negligence, or resign.
The electric company had been the first to cut off service for nonpayment. Now the decaying, dirty house was without water. Cathy’s mother would often drive across town to the water treatment plant, outside of which was a small cistern of sorts for the reclaimed water, easily accessible if only one had the proper tools. She’d fill a few gas cans with the rancid-smelling water and return home before anyone was the wiser. As a result, young Cathy spent much of her time too sick to go to school. Between her frequent trips to the bathroom she’d find herself caring for her mother and the household, too sweet and loving to complain about the great burden that had been heaped onto her shoulders all too early.
That is why Cathy was the one who had to fetch the water, why the inherent curiosity of childhood was able to lead the unsupervised girl to the edge of an open grave where the heavy, fully gas can threw her off balance and into the yawning earth, snapping her fragile neck in the process. When the groundskeeper came to check on the supposedly empty grave in preparation for that day’s burial, he found the dead child and, after a short police investigation, Cathy’s mother was arrested for child endangerment, but due to mishandling of the case by the prosecution she managed to get off scot-free. The local community, however, was out for her blood, leading the authorities to place her in a protective relocation program somewhere in the Midwest, where she now attends weekly AA meetings and has been sober for three years, but is still haunted by the memory of her daughter’s broken body that seemed even smaller in her coffin.
The illustration accompanying this is of a gravestone and an empty grave featuring not only Cathy’s first name, but also her last. I thought it was a bit too specific so I did some research and found out that the name on the gravestone is that of an adult who used to volunteer at my school and pissed me off one day. In my mind, the only recourse I had was to infantilize and kill her in my story, making her a helpless victim as I saw myself. Because, you know, this is perfectly healthy reasoning for a six-year-old.
Chapter 5: The Spooky Old Woods
On a dark night Danielle got lost in the spooky woods. Her horse, Amanda, was scared. Suddenly a spooky figure staggered through the trees. Danielle could make out the bone-white hands reaching out of a pure white shirt covered by a black cape with a red inside.
The creature headed right over to Danielle. Danielle collapsed on the ground. As the creature went in front of her, Danielle disappeared forever.
Amanda’s saddle was flying while she was running. Her mane was full of knots. While she ran around Creak-Squeak River, she tripped and fell into the river.
Years later, archaeologists found a horse skeleton in the river and the skeleton of a little girl in an old rotting shack.
Granted, I’ve seen horror movies with less coherent storylines than this, but way to go, six-year-old me. She either disappeared forever or her corpse was found years later. Which is it? It can’t be both.
Amanda makes yet another appearance, but this time, it’s as the subservient animal, and she’s ridden by Danielle, another former classmate of mine. At least I was working through my self-esteem issues at this point, but both horse and rider met pretty grisly ends. It’s a prime example of killing two birds with one stone. No one gets to be a princess this time! Instead, your body gets to disappear, leaving your family to spend the rest of their lives searching for some kind of closure over your death! Did I say two birds? I meant two birds and the whole damn nest. Though, where were the parents anyway, and why were they letting their child ride a horse by herself through the woods at night? Must be some of that garbage hippie new-age parenting where you let the kid do whatever they want and hope they don’t grow up to be entitled assholes (spoilers: they do).
I suppose the real question here is who or what killed Danielle? Was it really a vengeful spirit from an ancient Indian burial ground, awoken from its eternal rest by the steady stream of archaeologists digging for artifacts ? Or perhaps the shack belonged to a serial child murderer, hiding in the woods, waiting for his next prey to come riding on by? And if so, what happened to him? Did he die of old age, his crimes having never been discovered, or is he sitting on death row awaiting execution? Maybe Danielle was the last victim, the one he refused to speak about during interviews. ”Where is she?” Danielle’s family would plead, and he would merely flash a sociopathic grin in response. How many years have passed? Is there anyone left to mourn her?
I don’t know what’s up with the name of that river, either. Stupidest river name ever.
So yeah, I was a really weird kid, which makes sense, because I’m a really weird adult. I suppose I’m a pretty benevolent weirdo, though. I don’t stalk the streets looking for victims (yet).