I’m walking home from All Saints Cathedral and heading across the empty parking lot east of the ArtsHab. I’m moving toward one of the waist-high wooden dividers that run the length of the lot, and as I get close I do a short pre-jump stagger-step; aiming to land on top of the board-rail with my right foot and sail lightly down on the far side, I leap. An angular tan form is suddenly beside me in midair. My foot plant is a near miss, but I clear the rail and touchdown in a heap but without damage.
I look back beneath the railing and I see the jackrabbit. He’s looking back at me with what I imagine is nervous consternation. I settle into a squat, not ten feet away.
Comfortably aware of the cool mid-morning and the sun coming down 105 Street I calm myself and stay still. The rabbit looks at me sideways, one large deep-brown eye shining and alert, his weather-vein ears oscillate, and his nose—a wonder of articulation—turns every direction, samples every cubic inch of air and tests each aimless mote still swimming from my dust-up landing.
The air is Sunday-still and the traffic absent and we sit, the two of us, on our haunches, looking and wondering—each the other.
He’s healthy with a sleek coat, seemingly well fed and heavy enough and perhaps even big for a jackrabbit. I trace the lapping patches of his changing coat down to his hind legs, see the sinews along one metatarsus. He extends one foreleg. I watch it vibrate and release and know now that he’s stretching. He shakes loose the other fore paw, then raises himself and makes a horseshoe with his back.
I have awakened him. He was sleeping in a small spray of grass and chickweed below the parking divider, and as I jumped—the toes of my shoes spitting small stones—and swung my legs up, I became a large looming shadow, jolting him out of his salad-green dreams and sending him skyward, if only a few feet.
Now, limber and loose, and sinking back down from his stretch he surprises me with a huge rabbit yawn. A thing I had not seen before, and marvellous. Even when I kept rabbits as a boy, I hadn’t seen a rabbit yawn. A small pointed mouth, abruptly unhinged forms a tall oval, slight lips drawn back reveal narrow yellow incisors.
In my human idiocy I decide to extend an empty gloved hand. He starts; all hare systems tense; but I take it back slow. He doesn’t leave, and in that there is tolerance, maybe forgiveness.
We spend the morning. I tire before he does, get up and walk the two remaining blocks home. I look back once to see an empty parking lot—the jackrabbit, reclining in chickweed, once again hidden.