feed the bunnies and eat the pickles

by sybil priebe

Hi. My name is Tate and I like pickles. Well, I used to hate them but my best friend Herb taught me not to. It was last summer when I was about umm . . .nine and a half or ten. You see, me and Herb have been friends since we was just babies and we kinda got to know each other like blood buddies. In fact, that's how it all got started. We had a treehouse out behind Ol' Mister Shandler's place. He helped us build it even though his back gives him problems. Anyway, it was one of those rainy summer nights when you can hear crickets and smell the rain on the green leaves.
"Hey Tate, didya bring 'em?" Herb asked me when I reached the last rope of the ladder. He was talking about the matches.
"Cours' I did."
"Did anybody see you?" Herb was always so suspicious about everything. He even looks spooky. He has dark brown eyes and hair as thick as mud. He is real short and speaks in whispers. Mom said it's cuz he got in trouble for screaming at his mom once. I guess that's not allowed at his house.
"Okay. Light those candles so I can see."
Just then lightning struck the tree next to us. We vibrated a bit but kept on with our planning. Herb pulled out his Swiss Army knife and laid it on the table I built.
"Okay. Come sit down on the other side and roll up the sleeve of your right arm." I did as he said and he did the same. He cut my wrist then his.
"Now repeat after me," Herb whispered as another boomer roared in the distance," I vow never to be unkind to my blood buddy and to remain true friends forever."
After I repeated this he took my wrist and his and smooshed them together. We became blood buddies for life.
"Herb, do all best friends become blood buddies?"
"Nope. Some are too chicken to do it. They don't wanna get diseases." I was shocked. Diseases??
"What if I get a disease?'
"I will still be our friend and if you die, I will die too."
"Thank you Herb."



The next morning, the woods were dewing and the sun lit up everything. The green leaves shined and reflected the sun down to the forest's feet. The rabbits we had in a cage had gotten out again but I could see one returning now for breakfast. I turned around to say something to Herb but he was still asleep. His hair was in his eyes as he slept. I just stood there looking at him and his darkness. You see, Herb was part Indian but since I was part Norwegian we called it even. Herb was also three years older that I but we were the same height and wore each others clothes. Suddenly, one of his eyes opened and he looked at me.
"Good Morning."
"Good Morning yourself sleepy head."
"Did the rabbits get out?"
"Yep, Eight Ball is coming back for some food though."
"Good. I wonder if will." Herb loved Wilson. Wilson was the bunny that had bright white hair and pink ears.
"Sure he will," I glanced out the window again, "Hey! Look Herb!" Below us two bunnies and three baby rabbits were nesting. It was Wilson and Tate (the one named after me) and their babies that must have been born last night.
"Oh Wow!!" I have never seen Herb climb down that ladder as fast as he did. He was amazed and once I got down there so was I.
"Whatya gonna name 'em?"
After some deep thought he answered.
"Domino, Marla, and Pickle."
"Why Marla? That's odd."
"It's Marlie's real name."
"Sorry." Herb didn't hear me. It got really quiet in those few seconds the he turned around and gave me a hug and began to cry. So did I. Marlie was Herb's little sister. She was only one year younger than me. I can still remember the day she died. Herb and I were swimming with her and all of a sudden she had the urge to go off the high dive. Herb told her not to cuz he couldn't swim that deep. She did anyway and drowned. Of course we tried to save her but Marlie was so small and the pool so large. Herb blamed himself. I blamed my mom for not making me take swimming lessons.



After that day we grew pretty inseparable. The rest of the summer we spent in the woods caring for the rabbits that meant so much to us.
One terribly cold day we sat up in the trees and fed the rabbits.
"Herb, why do people die?"
"I think it's cuz God needs them to do chores. You know how our moms always tell the maids when they have to do something and they gotta stop doing whatever they were doing and do that one chore?" I nodded," Well, that's what happens. People stop doing whatever they was doing and go help God." I often wondered where Herb found all his answers. It must develop in your head as you get bigger.
"Then why did God need Marlie? She wasn't even doing nothing but growing up?" Herb grew silent and I wished I had said anything.
"I don't know." Whoa. Herb didn't know somethings after all.
"Hey, wanna go downtown?" I interjected to break the seriousness. We rarely went downtown. It was like a treat.
"Yeah, sure." We grabbed warmer jackets and took off. As we began to walk I realized how far we lived from other people. The next neighbors on our road were at least two miles closer to the city. We rarely even spoke to anyone in our area. Sure, I had friends at school but I had never gone to their homes and my parents, along with Herb's, had friends that usually flew in from Europe every other weekend. Herb and me lived mostly by ourselves. Our parents were always away on business and I never saw my older sister. She lived somewhere in California with a hippie. My parents disowned her or something cuz she does drugs. I don't know her at all since she ran away when she was eleven and that's when I was like six.
And as for role models, we have Mister Shandler. Ol' Mister Shandler is my dad's "Exterior Keeper". He mows the lawn and waters the flowerbeds and stuff like that. If you are wondering, Yes my parents are rich but I would rather they weren't. I never see the and I miss them a lot even though I barely know them. I was never shown off as a baby and I don't go to a private school or have tutor. This doesn't bother me it is just some of the questions I get from the kids at school.
"YOU live in a mansion?"
"Actually I live in a treehouse." They all laugh at that one.
"Why don't YOU go to school in Paris?"
"Cuz Paris is too far away to walk everyday." Again laughter.
"How come YOU don't wear fancy clothes?"
"Cuz the rabbits would just poop on them anyway." Duh.
It all got to be sickening. All people thoughts about was money and it mad me and Herb mad. Money is suppose to make you happy but all it did was kill people and put you in danger. Just like the night me and Herb went to town.
As I was saying, we lived about three miles from town. We enjoyed each others company and talked about our rabbits. Once we got there, we decided to see a movie and then sit in the park.
After the movie, Herb was bound determined to get me to eat a pickle. It's one of those games we like to play - make the other person eat something they don't like. We stopped at the grocery store and bought a jar of pickles and a cucumber (Herb likes 'em). As we strolled down the park's hill, I heard footsteps. Herb and I moved closer to the side by a bunch of trees. Out from behind the trees came a big man and he grabbed me around the neck so I was close to choking.
"Just go away kid and I won't hurt you." He began tugging at my pants. I realized that he was going to rape me. Herb looked mad but I knew he was just as scared as I was.
"Hey, you're that rich dude's daughter ain'tcha?" He threw me on the ground and sat on me like a horse," You is. Hey, Indian go away!"
That got Herb really angry and he took the jar of pickles and smashed it across the old guy's head. He slumped to the ground and I escaped. We ran all the way to the treehouse. When we got there I began to cry and Herb did too.
"Shhhhh........ lie down."
He covered me up and laid down beside me and fell asleep remembering how stupid we thought our game was and how, tonight, it saved me.


What I didn't know until a few days later was that Herb didn't sleep that whole night or any night since.
"I worry someone like that guy will wonder into the woods and find us up here. We are very vulnerable up here you know. They could burn us down easily. Somehow we gotta protect ourselves." He was right.
"Like boobie traps you mean?"
"Yeah like boobie traps."
The next few days we were like scientists plotting a poisonous mixture. Herb got some materials from Mister Shandler and measured out our area. We had wire all over and the funny part was that if you weren't us, you wouldn't know where to go. If anybody tried to attack we were prepared. We told Mister Shandler what happened and why he should stand about thirty feet away and holler to us.
"You two are pretty smart youngin's."
We both smiled at that. Mister Shandler was the greatest adopted grandpa. He cared more about us probably than our parents did put together. His little cottage was really neat. It was made out of logs and wood shingles. Inside he hung up all kinds of paintings from all over. People with funny names like Van Gogh and Michelangelo. Weird. Me and Herb love him a ton though and often go to him for help.
"Tatum, I hope you are more careful next time. A beautiful little lady like you could get hurt. I thank God Herbert was with you and had that jar of pickles." He always used our full names. It kind of bothered us but we rarely corrected him.
Mister Shandler was very intelligent also. He went to a college named umm..... Havert or Harvard. Something silly like that. Anyways, he had brains and could figure out his taxes in his head and stuff like that. His outside was as interesting as his inside. He had dark brown skin and hair. What was the most amazing about him is his height. Almost seven feet. Most kids at school think that that isn't too big but next to me ( I am about four eleven) he is a giant.After finally finishing our security system, we took a long vacation and did absolutely nothing but swim and lie in the sun all day for a whole week. My skin got really dark but Herb beat me any day. I learned to do a double flip in the air off the high dive. Herb could do three though.
"Herb, what are you gonna do when we get big?"
"Don't know. I like to build things. Maybe I'll be like Mister Shandler and build my own house and fix things for people. Why? What are you gonna do?"
"Maybe I'll have my own rabbit farm. Or I'll live in this treehouse til' I am old. Then I can die here too," I wiped the droplets of water from my cheeks," Maybe I'll be like my sister and run away to live with a hippie." Herb sat up and almost looked mad.
"You can't run away and leave me here."
"I was kidding Herb," I frowned at his being so uptight," I wouldn't run away until you and I got so big that we'd go 'our separate ways'." He relaxed.
Miss Kate, one of our maids, came out and gave me a letter.
"This just arrived for you Miss Tatum."
I tore into it without even thinking to tell Miss Kate to stop calling me that. It was from my sister. Herb made me read it outloud.

Hey Tate,
Hi sweetheart! Howz it going? What are mom and dad up to? Well, would you tell them I am coming up this weekend? I'd tell them but you know. Howz Herb? I hope you guys don't still live in that stupid treehouse. You know mom doesn't like it. Oh, I am bringing a friend. You know Paul. He is dying to see the house and I thought what the hell. So I'll see ya in a few days honey. I love ya-

What a joke! Sweetheart, honey, stupid tree? Me and Herb laughed til' we had to pee. I wasn't gonna even tell the maids! She had done this before and, boy, did she get into trouble. So, Paul wanted to see the house! Yeah Right! He and Gabby were gonna mooch money off of dad again. I am not blind. I took the letter and walked over to the shredding machine and used the letter for rabbit poop catcher. Oh, sure, I told my parents. I put a note on their bed, but they would never be home to see it until it was too late.
When she arrived and when she left, I knew nothing of. Me and Herb stayed out in the forest and the only time I even realized she was home was when I could smell this awful smoke. It sounds sad but I didn't want to communicate with something not able to communicate back. Besides, we were two different people now. I just prayed never to turn out like she did. Herb called her a worthless piece of flesh. I simply agreed.



School had started early again and Herb and I were separated everyday. He in high school already and me taking advanced courses because of my parents' power. I was still too smart for the grade I was in. We only had the weekends now and I missed the times we had. Sure we still had our adventures but they were occasionally stepped on by the kids at school constantly putting us down. They mocked me and Herb for living in a tree and caring for rabbits. This tension usually got Herb into fights. I couldn't understand them though either. All they did was go to the mall and go on dates with boys or girls. I know I wouldn't be happy with that lifestyle. I wasn't a barbarian but I wanted a simple life. Not one of worrying about my hairstyle or who I was going to be seeing next week. But the girls called me a tomboy and the boys rejected me cuz I could throw a football farther then them and could climb all the way to the top of the pegboard in gym class. I often wondered why it was bad for me to be me. So I asked Mister Shandler about it.




(..more to be added soon that is done but not done.. know what I mean?...)