ALL THE RABBITS HIDING IN TOP HATS by Catherine Lacey


The cars moved slow through the heat, like wrinkled ladies in pool aerobics. All the car grills smiled nice and drowsy, and the tires rolled slow slow slow. And we were walking down the Avenue and I was hoping you were going to say something just for the sake of saying something, just for the sake of breaking something up, for crumbling a piece of limp day into my hands.
But then sirens came. An ambulance, four police cars, a fire truck and another fire truck and they all got stuck on the avenue of sleepy smiling cars and the cars could only move and inch this way, an inch that. The sirens went and went and went. A stoplight flashed to red, then green again. The sirens said move, move, move, but everyone was stuck in their little spot on the avenue and locked in their rollable cages. They were unmoved and they shrugged, plugged their ears.
You leaned in close to my ear and told me that it made you sad, so sad. I asked, What makes you sad? thinking you would say something about me, but you didn’t. You said, a fire truck being stuck, an ambulance being stuck, how the traffic can’t move, how someone is out there needing something that can’t seem to make its way to them.
The police car lights were flashing and the policemen were rolling their eyes, and the firemen were holding their heads and this was what made you so sad the saddest, in fact, the saddest you could possibly be.
I thought of you as a child, hands over your ears, gritting your milk teeth. And this child asks me, why can’t an ambulance just fly? Why can’t it just have wings to lift it so far away—this is not asking so much, for an ambulance to be where it is needed.
Finally the sirens left. The avenue was an award-winning quiet.
We kept walking down the avenue, the sirens rounding a blocks-away-corner now. The sirens trickling, trailing off, away, unstuck.
We walked down a stairway, sinking into the warm, wet subway air.
A woman came onto the train singing Jesus Loves the Little Children and stepped with her hips swinging. It was operatic; Jesus LOVES the little children. We watched her going, swaying, singing. All the little children of the world. She wasn’t handing out pamphlets or asking for money. She didn’t want anything from us other than their ears and if we wouldn’t give them, if we plugged them or turned away, she didn’t seem to really mind. She swayed. She sang. She squinted, always looking forward, into the future of Jesus’ endless love.

That night I had a prophecy:
Over there in that future Jesus loves us and we love each other, but here in today Jesus loves us too much for us to love each other. For now we’ll stay still and won’t walk into any other futures and Jesus will love us, will love us, will love us, we are little children.

The next night I have an alternate prophecy:
A season passes, then another. The avenue is not pretty and everyone gives up trying to see the beauty in anything. The sky is always metal colored. The people on the subway move like robots with robot feelings. I take up the violin, but then un-take it, put it away.
Some nice-seeming day, a nurse calls on your behalf and she tells me what has happened and this turns the day into a bad-seeming day and I say, Are you sure?
Oh, quite sure, I am sorry to say, but yes, certain.
All I can do is make a tiny cough and an, oh.
We pumped it all out of him and he will be fine, yeah, he’ll be fine, just fine.
You tried to prove that there was no room for you in this world but all you proved was the
opposite. You have a nice view of the avenue, which looks somehow nice from all the way up here and all the prettiest nurses are running around and flashing blue eyes at you. Everyone you have ever met has sent balloons and bouquets. I come with a bar of chocolate and put it on your tray and what I want to do is tell your that it’s ok for us to say that we love each other now even though it stings to say but I don’t say that and I feel doomed to only say tiny little things that don’t make any difference to anything.
The avenue looks pretty from up here, I say. It doesn’t look like winter at all.
I sit with you for a long afternoon and we talk about how, exactly, a magician might pull a
rabbit out of a top hat.

There is also an alternate ending for this alternate prophecy:
Let’s say a week passes. Let’s say you have a revelation. Let’s say you have a renewed faith in life, that your brain starts letting you see in Technicolor again, that you believe in all the rabbits hiding in top hats out there. Let’s just say that happened.
And let’s just say I invite you over for pie and coffee as if that is something people in this
century even do anymore. I take all day to make that pie, weaving the lattice, brushing the butter, watching it turn colors in the heat and while I do this I think about The Vagueness. I want to make TheVagueness finally unvague. To do all the things that sensitive people do. I think about this in the same way someone might meditate on a crossword clue.
There is a solution and I need to find it. Maybe 7 letters long. Another word for Vague. Top Hat.
Sensitivity. Rabbits. I think and think and think and get no where and realize nothing.
You arrive and we hold each other for a few moments longer than usual.
I say, Please, have a seat… on the floor.
I have been going on without furniture for so long it is no longer a problem, because problems
become eccentricities if you let them stay long enough.
We talk and this time it doesn’t matter what about, just that the words came easy, the muscles in our faces move beautiful and soft and slow. We talk for a long time. We eat the pie and sit close to one another.
I make a decision: soon, in the future, I will hire someone to de-vague The Vagueness.
I stethoscope my ear to your chest and can hear your heart going like a machine. This de-vagues a little of your Vagueness, makes it less vague to my Vagueness.
Do you know about what is happening in there?
I point to your chest. I mean your organs. I mean the gristle and slime of you.
I suppose I don’t, you say.
Oh. Oh. Ok, well.
(You see, I didn’t want to be the one to break this news. I felt it was only fair to have a third party tell you about the machine that your heart had become.)
See it’s impossible for two people like us to do this the right way, you tell me, reading my mind.
We should hire someone to tell us how we feel.
This, we agreed, may have been the best imaginary idea I have ever had.

If we could go back in time to the day on the avenue we could tell our old selves to just speak. Go for the throat. Terrify each other.
Maybe, instead, we’ll go forward in time and I’ll eventually tell you all this; we can sit down in the future and we’ll speak. Maybe you can tell me what my insides are really doing, then, or maybe, by then, I’ll be qualified to assess them on my own.
Here’s something:
That night, with the pie and the stethescoping, I was jealous of you having an organ that could tell you a truth. I think mine is maybe on vacation.

Catherine Lacey has published fiction and non-fiction with 52 Stories, elimae, The Believer, Everyday Genius and others. She is a co-founder of 3B Bed & Breakfast, a cooperatively owned business that supports the creative lives of 7 artists in Brooklyn.
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