My bunny issues began when I was seven years old. In the middle of the night, the Easter Bunny stood outside my bedroom door and observed me for what seemed like hours.
I should have taken this as a sign:
When I grow up I am going to be a lobbyist for the Fur Information Council of America and begin a very personal bunny eradication process.
Besides, if the Easter Bunny was so benign, then what’s the deal with the eggs? Bunnies do not lay eggs—chickens do. Bunnies and chickens don’t have a history of just hanging out together.
So what does the Easter Bunny have to do each year to procure the necessary egg inventory? Whatever it is, it sounds pretty shady to me. I theorize he is in cahoots with members of the National Chicken Council and U.S. Poultry and Egg Association which essentially makes Jim Perdue a Mob Boss.
I was also served my pet chicken at a family dinner once—but that’s another story.
Many years later in college, with numerous bunny-free Easters behind me, I was hired to perform a very unique public service: I was a somewhat notorious singing-telegram messenger at Columbia, Missouri’s You Gotta Be Kidding store.
So yes, I must confess to being the source of other children’s nightmares as one of my more popular characters was a 6-foot (plus) singing bunny. I can’t say that all my young targets were fans of the mutant singing-bunny concept and secretly, I respected their screams of horror. I was even twice hired to hop around the backyard of Wal-Mart heirs Bill and Nancy Laurie for the Easter Day amusement of their family and friends. I mean, if even Wal-Mart was “pro-bunny,” then something was clearly wrong with me.
During my second year of employment at You Gotta Be Kidding, Vicki, the owner, decided she just had to have a French Lop bunny as a store pet. Foolishly, she purchased one and named him Benson. Benson was constantly at the store, delighting all the children, dutifully using his litter box, and showering everyone with love and affection.
The irony was that I loved animals: dogs, cats, horses, guinea pigs and chickens. I never met an animal I didn’t like—until Benson.
My relationship with Benson started out fine. Every day, he would tail me as I toddled around the store. As I would stand at the helium tank preparing balloon bouquets, he would sit quietly and watch. Even as I changed into my various costumes in the back dressing room, the ever-present Benson was never far away, occasionally nuzzling my lower legs in hopes of receiving affection which, I dutifully provided to the adorable little creature. After all, I loved animals.
But as time wore on, my personal and professional relationship with Benson began to deteriorate. If left alone with me in the store (meaning: no witnesses,) Benson became more aggressive—almost herding me around and demanding my attention. And, if I did not comply, Benson developed an annoying habit of nipping at my heels and feet in defiance.
I expressed my concern to Vicki, my boss. Not just because of my discomfort but what of the consequences if Benson ever took issue with a child visiting the store. As she cuddled the beast, Vicki summarily dismissed my concerns and scolded me, “Randy, he’s just a wuvable wittle bunny wabbit. YOU must be doing something to antagonize HIM.”
Less than a week later I arrived at the store, after hours (meaning: alone and unprotected), to prepare for yet another Flasher-Gram. And yes, by “flasher” gram I am referring to a tiny g-string protecting my family jewels topped off with the obligatory trench coat—that’s pretty much it.
Benson, of course, had begun to pace irritably as I prepared my balloon bouquet. When it came time for me to change into what little costume I was to wear, I negotiated a path past Benson despite the fact he clearly didn’t want to let me pass.
I retrieved my g-string and trench coat and disappeared behind the dressing room curtain in the back of the store. Moments later, Benson pushed the cloth curtain aside, entered the dressing room, assumed a seated position and glared at me. Then something snapped—I suspect in both of us. We locked eyes for a moment as if we were mortal enemies on the verge of a dual. Of course, I was the only mortal present. I began to feel silly. After all, he’s just a wuvable wittle bunny wabbit.
I guess out of some odd sense of modesty, I turned my back to Benson, dropped my shorts and underwear and stood there completely naked. As I stepped into my g-string and began to pull it up, Benson jumped three feet in the air and took a big chomp out of my right butt cheek.
I yelped and quickly swung around—the force of my movement just strong enough to release Benson’s death grip on my bottom and hurl him toward the floor again. Benson was slightly disoriented from the fall and, though my butt was aching a bit, I took advantage of his vulnerable position and nudged him out of the room with my foot. And it appeared he moved on.
Images of my Easter Bunny stalker began to creep into my mind but I dismissed them. I mean, this is absurd. He’s just a pet bunny—not the spawn of Satan.
I was wrong.
Now clad in my g-string and coat, I exited the dressing room at the rear of the store and made a left turn up the small hallway that separated me from my balloon bouquet, the front door, and freedom. Another quick left into Vicki’s office to grab my contact information and I was home free.
I picked up the necessary paperwork and turned to exit. But it was too late—Benson, having returned, had already assumed a power position in the small office doorway. His labored breaths caused his entire body to heave and, as he exhaled, his little nasal flaps trembled from the pressure of the forced outbound air coupled with the intensity of his little bunny emotions. I’m not sure I have ever seen so much hatred in a pair of eyes and I have lived through a divorce.
I was cornered. I knew it and Benson absolutely knew it. I decided my best alternative was to make a quick dash for the front door but, just as I started to make my move, World War III began.
With teeth exposed, Benson charged and seized the top of my right foot. I screamed. My pained reaction only seemed to encourage him to alter positions and bite even harder. I screamed again and began to use both of my hands to try to pull the rabid creature from my injured foot but he was resolute in maintaining his grip.
I then began to kick my injured leg into the air hoping the movement would, once again, dislodge the hostile bunny and set me free. Yet I was powerless to the rodent. Finally, having exhausted all reasonable methods of freeing myself from the grasp of my competitor, I simply began to kick the shit out of Benson with my free foot.
You would think the odds would have been in my favor but when you’re engaged in battle with an enraged Lagomorph, the odds are far more even than one would suspect.
Just minutes into combat Vicki returned to the store and entered the office to discover me, well, kicking the shit out of her “wuvable wittle bunny wabbit.” Understandably, she began shrieking at me to stop beating the animal but moments later, as she saw the blood streaming down my foot, she stood there both shocked and speechless.
Yes, I did get cleaned up and yes, I performed my Bachelorette Party “flash” that night, albeit with bandages and thicker socks than usual.
The next day I marched into Vicki’s office with an ultimatum, “Listen, I make you money and he doesn’t. I am good and he is evil.” And in the best B-Movie Western voice I could muster, I lowered my tone, looked her dead in the eyes and growled, “It’s…the…bunny…or…ME.”
Benson left You Gotta Be Kidding that afternoon never to return. And yes, Benson also left a small yet permanent scar on my right foot which remains to this day.
But other scars were even more permanent. Despite the good folks at Wal-Mart, between my disturbing childhood Easter Bunny encounter and my Benson experience, I ultimately developed a fear and outright hatred of all things bunny rabbit. If one of those dirty hopping creatures crosses my path in the yard, I freeze.
When a family of bunnies moved into the bushes outside my front door, I used the back door for months. And when a small animated bunny inadvertently scared Anne Hathaway’s friends in the movie, Ella Enchanted, my then 14-year-old daughter, Maribeth, put her arm around me in the theater and exclaimed, “Are you okay, Daddy? Did the wittle bunny scare you? Do you need to hold my hand? Do you need to hide your eyes? Do we need to go home now? It’s okay daddy, I’m here for you!”
In the years since I came out of the closet and began to openly share my overt “leporiphobia,” my editor-friend Nancy shared the existence of Bunnicula, a children’s book series about a vampire bunny that sucks the juice out of vegetables. (Ah—realism!)
My friend, and pro-bunny maniac, Sharron has spent years trying in earnest to respect my distaste for floppy ears and even shared the existence of a 1972 B-movie cult horror film called Night of the Lepus. “I could never watch it but you may like it—it’s a horror movie about giant mutant rabbits that terrorize the Southwestern United States.”
To which I responded, “Horror movie? Don’t you mean DOCUMENTARY?”
Moral of the story: Personally speaking, bunnies suck (and bite).
Another moral of the story: Professionally speaking, know when to draw the line in the litter box and stand up for yourself.
Marketing guru, business humorist, professional-courtesy advocate, branded-content writer, creative-development consultant, and entertaining motivational speaker Randall Kenneth Jones is the creator of RediscoverCourtesy.org and the president of MindZoo, a marketing communications firm in Naples, Florida.