McGinnis: The dark side of being a mascotWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
It was a rainy night on the streets of the lonely city. Not a car drove on the road. No one was there to see the lone figure sprinting down the sidewalk, a package clutched greedily in his paws.
The rabbit ran as fast as he could, his eyes seemingly scanning every way at once. He held his prize tightly, his grip turning his already-white knuckles even whiter. “I can’t go home,” he thought. “They’ll be expecting me there.”
The rabbit finally darted down a seemingly empty alleyway. He crouched by a Dumpster and slowly unwrapped the package, revealing the bounty within. Oh, the glorious, crunchy, fruity bounty. And it was all his, finally. All. His.
Suddenly, from the darkness, a figure appeared. “Hey,” it said.
In a flash, the rabbit turned, producing a knife from no discernible hiding place.
He snapped it open like they did in the movies, holding it in the direction of his perceived attacker.
It was a bird. He had a long beak and wore a red and white striped sweater. The bird had a crazed look in his eyes, nothing the rabbit hadn’t seen before — in the mirror every morning.
The bird immediately held up his wings. “Whoa! Whoa. It’s okay. Be cool. I don’t want trouble.”
The rabbit didn’t move. One hand brandishing the knife, the other clutching his precious cargo. He couldn’t let his guard down. He saw how the bird was eyeing the package. Not now. Not when he was so close.
“I don’t want trouble,” the bird repeated. His eyes were still fixed on the box the rabbit clutched. “That’s not … chocolate, is it?”
The rabbit stayed still for a moment, then answered, “No.” It was the longest sentence he’d said in days.
“Good,” the bird said. “I really can’t be … around … chocolate.”
The bird slumped down on the wall opposite the rabbit. The rabbit relaxed slightly but did not lower his blade. The bird reached under his shirt and produced a flask. He offered it to the rabbit, a gesture of friendship.
Or maybe it was understanding.
“What kind is it?” the rabbit asked.
“Skim,” the bird replied. “I’m trying to cut down.”
The rabbit lowered his blade, slowly. Something felt trustworthy about this feathered fowl. Like they shared a kinship. He took the flask and drank. The milk tasted good. So good.
He handed it back to the bird, then his attention returned to his package. He began to open the box, slowly at first, then faster, as if terrified he’d be interrupted any second. He was almost in when the bird spoke.
“Can I ask a question?”
The rabbit’s gaze didn’t move from the box, but he answered. “Sure.”
“Why are you so scared? That’s not illegal, after all. I bet you didn’t even steal it, did you? You just bought it. So why are you so paranoid about it?”
The rabbit stopped. He looked up at the bird. He felt the first tear of many roll down his fur-covered cheek as he began to speak.
“The children,” he said.
“The children?” the bird asked.
“They’re everywhere. They come to me at every hour. ‘Silly rabbit,’ they say. ‘Silly rabbit. Silly rabbit!’ Why won’t they leave me alone? I just want some cereal! A little cereal, that’s all! But they tell me it’s not mine. It’s not for me. I can’t have it. Why? Why not? I just want … ”
The rabbit broke down, head in his hand. He didn’t expect the bird to understand. But when he paused, he could hear a sob from his companion. He looked up to see the bird weeping, as well.
“They’re after me, too,” the bird explained. “Everywhere I go. I’m a cocoa addict. I can’t get away from it. They chase me down and all but force it down my throat. It’s killing me!
I can’t take it! I just want to live, be cuckoo on life. But the kids … the kids are everywhere! And they say, ‘Just a little more! Just a little more!’ They’re pushers, man! Pushers!”
The bird stopped and wiped his eyes on his sleeve. He looked at the rabbit. It was like looking at a reflection. “Why do they do it?”
The rabbit thought for a second. Two. Then he looked up. “Because of the advertisers.”
“Yeah. We’re creations, you know. You and I. We were made, not born. Made to sell a product. And what better way to tell kids how great their cereal is than to make it an obsession?”
The rabbit held up the package in his paw.
“I love this stuff, but I can’t have it. You’re the same way, but for different reasons. We are two of a kind, created to obsess. We show kids how awesome this is and make it our whole world. A world we can’t have. But they can. Every morning.”
The bird thought, and then gasped. “Oh, my God,” he said. “No wonder the obesity rate is so high.”
“Exactly,” the rabbit said. “So maybe we shouldn’t fear the kids who do this to us. Maybe … maybe we should pity them.”
Suddenly, a loud sound echoed through the alleyway.
The two looked up, startled. They struggled to their feet and ran around a corner toward the sound.
They saw a figure on the ground. He wore a rudimentary black mask over his face, and a black and white striped shirt, now stained red. Over him stood a small man. He had red hair and wore nothing but green, a pistol clutched in his hand.
“I told the bastard to stay away from me charms,” he said.
This column was inspired by a Facebook conversation with Toledo Free Press Star staff writer and friend Jim Beard. Thanks, Jim!
Email Toledo Free Press Star Pop Culture Editor Jeff McGinnis at PopGoesJeff@gmail.com.