New Beginnings

Nothing had broken Leo’s way that year. In January, he lost a battle with his mortgage company that cost him his home. His wife left him in February, taking their two children and the family dog with her. She said she was tired of being ignored. In late March, he was laid off from the waste management company he worked for due to necessary cost-cutting measures, they told him. Leo knew he was really fired because he hated his bosses and refused to play by their rules, which means they hated him too and couldn’t get rid of him soon enough. For the first time in his life, Leo was learning that everyone is replaceable and at risk of being alone.

On Easter Sunday, he decided to walk downtown for lunch at Gunther’s Hideaway. Then maybe he would wander aimlessly around town and try to forget about everything he had lost. As he passed the large Methodist church across the street, he saw something moving in the tall bushes next to the front steps. The service was underway and the streets were quiet, so Leo was alone with whatever was causing the rustling. He stopped in the middle of the block and saw a huge bipedal rabbit emerge from behind the bushes and stare directly at him. The creature was a good eight feet tall and 600 pounds, with bulging blue eyes, steel-gray fur, and marble white teeth the size of iPhones.

The creature reached up and pointed down the street away from Gunther’s. A raspy voice in Leo’s head whispered, “See what you find, pilgrim.” Leo closed his eyes, rubbed them with both hands, and then opened them slowly. The creature was gone. Then the church doors flew open and people began pouring into the sunlight. The service was over.

Leo took a right at the intersection and walked briskly away from Gunther’s in the hope of finding something, anything, of interest that might distract him from what had just happened. Sure enough, a few blocks down the street, he came upon a man standing on the sidewalk next to his car and staring at a flat tire.

“Need some help?” Leo asked.

“Well,” the man said, “I got a jack, but I forgot to put a tire iron in the trunk. Bad timing on Easter Sunday, huh?” His wife and daughter were sitting in the front seat.

“No worries,” Leo said. “Gimme fifteen minutes. I’ll be back with a tire iron, and we’ll get the tire changed. I bet you guys are thirsty. I’ll bring back a six-pack of Coke.”

“Tell you what,” the man said. “You bring back the tire iron, and you’re welcome to join us for Easter dinner if you want.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. My name’s Luis. This is my family. That’s Jacque, and that’s Beatrice. Say ‘hi,’ girls.” 

“Hi,” they said.

Within fifteen minutes, Leo returned with a tire iron, rag, and six-pack of Coke. The men changed the tire, and then everyone piled into the car and headed to the family’s house for Easter dinner. As they were driving down the road, Luis asked Leo what he did for a living. Luis nodded deliberately as Leo explained his work situation.

“Maybe we can talk about that after dinner,” Luis said. “I might have a few ideas.”

“That would be cool.”

Leo turned to look out the window and saw the big gray creature again, this time standing in front of a fitness center. Above the doorway of the center, a sign read, “New Beginnings.” Leo decided right then and there to never say anything to anyone about the rabbit. For now, he was just happy for all the company.