If I were to tell you a story, would you believe me? There’s really no reason for you not to. I am very credible. I would be a spectacular eyewitness in any kind of murder case or impromptu City Hall wedding ceremony.
I want to tell you about the afternoon I met Sandy. It happened totally by accident. She just walked up to the roof of her new apartment building, my apartment building, to see the “view of the historic Hollywood sign,” and instead found me massaging a baby rabbit’s eyeball with my index finger.
To explain, I had a surplus of baby rabbits. I had to get rid of them. Unfortunately, they were defective and would be near impossible to give away. The natural progression was to make a little game out of tossing them off my apartment building.
The average baby rabbit flies roughly forty feet straight out when tossed granny-style from the top of my three-story apartment building. It takes about twelve seconds for it to thump on the street below, give or take a few seconds depending on the amount of wind. Sometimes the baby rabbit will thump on the windshield of a passing motorist before it gets a chance to reach the pavement.
I give myself three points for each baby rabbit that lands in the trashcan across the street from the apartment building. I receive two points for each baby rabbit that lands within ten feet of the trashcan. I receive only one point for each baby rabbit that lands in the street. I do not receive any points for each of the baby rabbits that hit the windshield of a passing motorist, or the head and face area of any of the Armenian or Russian Americans who live in the neighborhood, or for any of the baby rabbits that don’t even make it as far as the street.
As soon as I noticed Sandy on the roof I could sense her staring at me, judging me. Her eyes darted quickly around uneasily as she tried to take in the whole scene. They lingered briefly the ten-gallon aquarium squirming with fuzzy life on the roof next to me, my tight khakis, the hairy pile resting next to the fire hydrant across the street (two points), my veiny wrists and forearms, and my sideburns. When her eyes finally came to a rest on the black baby rabbit in my hand, I felt like I had to explain.
“Tossing cute little baby rabbits granny-style from the roof of my three-story apartment building and into the trashcan across the street in front of the building is just what I do when I’m not working,” I said. “I don’t do it all day long and I certainly don’t do it for money. I am not a crazy person. I could never plead insanity.”
Sandy still didn’t say anything, but her attention was directed fully and completely on my face. She was probably drowning in my eyes. That seems to be a common occurrence around me.
“Besides,” I said, “this baby rabbit is blind.”
She took a few steps closer and asked me, “Are you for real?”
Now it was my turn to stare. She was exactly the kind of girl I needed. Her face was a beautiful blank canvas, just waiting for someone like me, or more accurately, me, to come along. I hoped that she could sense this too. And I hoped she was as dumb as I hoped.
“I have lived on this Earth for thirty years, ten of them here, in Los Angeles and I have never before seen a girl quite like you,” I told her. “Your cheeks are as silky as the pillows of a princess. Your eyelids resemble glorious lace doilies draped across white grapes. And your lips are the luscious North American Northwest Region before it was razed by industrial logging.”
“Thank you,” she said. She seemed sincere. I am normally a great judge of character. “What’s the black bunny’s name?” she asked.
“This one is called Number One-Hundred and Ninety-Seven,” I said. Then I kissed the black baby rabbit on the forehead for luck. I know she thought that was funny. I am a funny person.
“Please don’t throw the bunny,” she said. “It’s so cute and little. I don’t care if it’s blind. I don’t want you to throw the rabbit, and I’m not going anywhere. I have to take a picture of the Hollywood sign for my parents. They haven’t seen the hills. They haven’t felt the Santa Anas blowing through their hair. They haven’t been thrown off balance by a tremor. They’ve never bought a tamale from a shopping cart off a man walking down Sunset Boulevard. They haven’t lived, like I’ve lived for the past eight days. It’s time for me to send them a little piece of the Los Angeles experience, a little piece of me. And it’s time for you to stop throwing “baby animals” off the roof of this apartment building.”
“First of all,” I said to her, “I do not toss any other baby animals from the roof of my building. I only toss these baby rabbits.”
I stroked the baby rabbit’s head again with my palm tickled it between the toes with my fingers.
“The thing with these baby rabbits is that they’re useless,” I said. “These baby rabbits are blind, sometimes in both eyes. They stink like perfume. Some of them have lipstick stains on their teeth. Others bleed from the nose or anus. These aren’t cute rabbits. Little kids won’t want them. Parents definitely won’t allow them in their house. Actually, they’re rather disgusting.”
Sandy crept up to where I was standing and reached out to the baby rabbit. I firmly held its mouth shut, so it couldn’t bite her. She stroked its back as it squeaked softly.
Her face was within a few feet of me. There was an enormous amount of potential in that face. Nobody in this city wants a face with potential. Sandy desperately needed someone to make her into a beauty. Everyone wants a beauty. From that distance I could see every glistening pore and each individual eyelash. They were crying for my attention. With my help, Sandy could be beautiful.
Sandy slowly worked the baby rabbit out of my hand and cupped it between her own. It didn’t bite her. It didn’t bleed on her. It didn’t pee on her. Number One-Hundred and Ninety-Seven just curled up in her palms and gently breathed.
“Do you use a foundation?” I asked her. “I think you’d be a cameo, or possibly a natural beige.”
Sandy didn’t respond. She walked over to the aquarium, crouched down, and looked inside. The baby rabbits, the ones with working olfactory, stood up and anxiously sniffed the air.
“Of course, I’d have to do a foundation test to really be sure,” I said. “That would only take a few minutes. Well, technically that would be the second step. First, there would be skin care with exfoliates, purifying astringents, and some overnight renewal. But with the help of adequate skin care, a flattering foundation, and some barely-there blush, I could make it all happen for you.”
Sandy placed the baby rabbit into the aquarium. The wriggling mass of fur quickly swallowed it up.
“Please don’t throw any more of these bunnies off the building,” Sandy said. “Would it help if you had something else to throw? I could buy you some tennis balls or something.”
I don’t have any problems with baby rabbits. I didn’t have any traumatic experiences as a child involving Floppy leaving bunny puffs under the dishwasher or Ms. Cutesy Boots chewing on the Atari wires or anything like that. I’ve just never wanted any of the baby rabbits that I use for my testing and research to have to go back into the world.
“What are these baby rabbits going to do on their own?” I asked. “I can’t take care of them. Maybe if they were just one, but they are many. This is faster and it’s painless. They don’t even get a chance to find out how ugly and useless and disgusting they are. It’s just twelve seconds of the sheer jubilation of flight, and then it’s over. I’m sure all of these baby rabbits have wanted to be a bird at some time or the other.”
“I’ll take care of the bunnies,” Sandy said. “I don’t have a job right now. I need something to occupy my afternoons. I’m trying to be a personal assistant anyway. I could use the practice pampering.”
I had a few dozen more baby rabbits in my apartment. They have their own spacious bedroom. They are well cared for. I’ve read plenty of books on grooming and breeding. My apartment’s properly ventilated. I feed them twice a day. I didn’t tell Sandy about these other bunnies.
I couldn’t get rid of all my baby rabbits. The world of cosmetics is constantly changing. I run a small business out of my home. In order to keep up with the latest face luster or long wearing lip-liner, I have to continually research and test. I’m not going to test anything on myself.
“I just don’t want you to kill them. Please don’t kill them,” she said.
“Alright. I won’t kill those baby rabbits,” I said.
“Thank you. You’re making the right decision,” she said. “Doesn’t it feel good to make the right decision?”
Sandy picked up the aquarium filled with baby rabbits and balanced it awkwardly with her forearms. Inside was a flurry of life and movement as all of their pink noses worked overtime to explore the scent of their new caretaker.
“I’ll name each one. They won’t be identified by numbers. They’ll be pampered. I want to make sure they get the star treatment,” she said. “I can start right away. I won’t tell my roommate. She always stays in her room. Don’t tell my roommate, okay?”
She started to walk off toward the steps with her new aquarium. I reached out and snagged her by the elbow.
“Wait, what about the picture for your parents?” I asked. “It’s the magic hour out here. You don’t want to miss out on the perfect light.”
“I’ll take it some other time,” she said.
“I could take it for you now. And that way, you could be in the picture. They’d be getting the dreams and the girl who’s chasing them. They’ll love it.”
Sandy set down the aquarium and took a disposable camera out of her back pocket. I had her stand near the edge of the roof, where I could get the most beautiful backlighting.
“Close-ups are the most interesting,” I said. “They’re more intimate. It makes you feel like you’re standing there with the person, and you’re sharing the same experiences.”
“No. Don’t get too close. I didn’t wear any make-up today,” she said.
“I’ll make you look beautiful,” I said. “I’ll give you the star treatment.”
Then I ran, as fast as I could, down the steps to get my kit out of my apartment. I hoped it would just be the first of many pictures.