Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Rabbit Man (Excerpt from Saint Pauley)

I'm nearing the end of my second novel Saint Pauley.  It's exciting to be so close to the end, but there is much work ahead.  Part of the fun of this novel is trying to capture regional vernacular in words.  I keep reworking some of these sections to render them perhaps more phonetically.  A good challenge!  

 The Rabbit Man's Message

A man with a strange looking hat entered the clearing near the Mother's House.  The lookout guard at first thought he saw a very tall lop-eared rabbit. Upon thinking twice he recognized the apparatus on the man’s head as a hat with long side flaps. The hat was filthy and looked as if it had never been removed.

"Good afternoon to ya!" shouted the rabbit man.

The guard flinched a bit at such a loud voice. The forest was typically very quiet and this had been like a bolt of lightning. "Hold their!" he cried out.

“Lessee here,” said the rabbit man, “I might expect a betta greetin’ from a brother in arms.”  At this he removed the sticky hat, revealing a bald pate with strands of blue hair strung across the top. "The color never really does come out once it's put in."

The guard looked only a bit relieved, still not trusting the strange man.

The rabbit man grinned, showing the dark gaps in his teeth without shame.  “Why don’t cha tell your commander that Rufus is here.  He’ll know who I am." The guard hesitated for a moment. "Go on an’ tell him, son.  Go on now."

The guard moved only his head to the side and spoke to someone out of the line of sight. After some minutes and while the rabbit man whistled a bold tune, which prompted a quick lineup of guards just within the gate, the commander appeared in the lookout tower.

"What brings you here, Mr. Rufus?" His voice was as sharp as a sword.

"Well, what kinda greetin’ is that commander?"

"It's enough of a greeting for you. What do you want?"

"Well, sir, I got a message for you and those City Fathers of yours. But, I ain't gonna yell it to ya.  I've come a mighty long way to deliver this here message and I was told to deliver it personal-like, face-to-face."

"You can do that at the gate. Meet me there."

"Well, alrighty.  But can ya throw me out some vittles first?"

"Meet me at the gate once you pick up your parcel."

"I thank you kindly, cap’n."

A few minutes later a rather large parcel was thrown over the wall and landed with a significant thud on the turf below. The rabbit man carefully placed his cap back on his head, spit on the ground and tromped over to the parcel. He grunted a bit when he picked it up because it was quite heavy. "Seems you don't want me back around here for while," he said to no one in particular. He sidled up to the gate and stuck his face up close to the bars. Grinning very broadly and wheezing with laughter, he stared at the young guards just inches away from him. "You boys look mighty purty.  I used to half one of those fine coats, too." Then with a whoop he jerked off his hat.  "An’ I used to half purty hair like yours, too!" He leaned back and laughed maniacally until he was winded. Then he doubled over to recover himself. The young guards were disgusted and unsettled.

By the time the rabbit man stood upright the commander was staring coldly at him through the bars of the gate. "I'm listening."

"Well, sir, yesiree." The rabbit man drew so near the gate that his horrible breath caused the commander to blink several times. "I'm supposed to give just you this here message. Tell your boys to back off."

"Fall back!" came the command. All the young guards were more than happy to oblige.  The commander lowered his voice just above a whisper. In a measured voice he said, “Give me the message."

"Lessee here.  Whatted he say? Oh, yes!  These womenfolk you keep needin’ ain’t going to be supplied no more ‘cause your pay is too low.  He’s gonna half to raise it, see?  He’s mighty near mutiny ‘cause his boys need more pay to keep your purty city goin’.  He’s gonna need fifteen per cent more."

The commander clenched his jaw. Talking angrily through his teeth, he glared at the rabbit man. "And what about your promise to bring us the Tall One?  He was supposed to be delivered months ago.  I also have a near mutiny on my hands here because my men are disgusted by having to take those women down the hatch.  They come out stinking and their hair is ruined."

"Oh my, my!" The rabbit man started howling with laughter. "Your purty hair getting all mussed up!  I'd put money on them being more willing to go down that hole than to come out in this here forest.  What kinda tales you tell ‘em to keep ‘em from bolting out this here gate?  Must be some kinda teeeerible thing!"

"You're the only kind of terrible thing my men need to see to understand what it means to leave the City!" he hissed.

The rabbit man doubled over as he laughed hysterically again. Holding his sides he hooted and hollered into the courtyard. "Hey boys, don't want to end up like me, eh?!   Good luck!" With that he trotted toward the forest only turning back to yell out, “Fifteen percent more by New Year’s or this all goes down the tunnel!"

The commander cleared his throat and straightened his jacket before he turned around to face his troops. He took the time to look each one in the eye. Then he spoke with confidence and reassurance. "Gentlemen, there is nothing to fear. He is an unstable man who has never been a part of the City of Promise.  Return to your posts."

The young men stood stunned, not knowing who to believe. The commander immediately became enraged. "Resume your posts!" Hundreds of young, blue-haired men raced to their posts with their thoughts tumbled and confused.

Copyright M.R. Hyde 2013