UP THE RABBIT PATH
“and tied around the neck of the bottle was a paper label, with the words ‘Drink Me’ beautifully printed on it.”
L. Carroll “Down the Rabbit Hole”
Up the Rabbit Path
Every town in rural New York had a road named “Rabbit Path.” Alex’s Rabbit Path was quite different than most. You see, he spent the majority of his teens (thirteen to nineteen to be exact) and the minority of his twenties (twenty and twenty-one to be minimal) on Rabbit Path.
Alex’s Rabbit Path was a passage through (and to) oblivion. On a more mundane note it was a bicycle path that slowly rose from the valley up to a mountain top. Several dim and dark (not to mention enigmatic and murky) occurrences were experienced by Alex. These events left him confused, befuddled and confounded.
It all started when he visited an establishment named the “Cardinal Café.” Alex thought it was a misspelling of the “Carnal Café.” However, in later years when he thought about it he distinctly remembered the image of a bright red neon bird that flashed on and off over the portal of the establishment. I should hasten to add that it really did not start at the Cardinal Café. It was only reinforced there.
It really started (although Alex did not realize it) when he joined a friend for a spring night of bullhead fishing. They sat on the bank of the muddy Susquehanna waiting for some action. His friend reached into his rucksack (back packs were not yet named) and pulled out a pint sized Mason jar. On the lid was written in very skilled calligraphy “Drink Me.” You would know if you lived in the 1950’s that Mason jars were used for pickling cucumbers. This Mason jar was full of blended whiskey and was used for pickling young minds.
And so, Alex was sent on his way up the Rabbit Path. He peddled slowly up the hillside. After a few months he saw a decrepit farmhouse. The paint was mostly gone and the clapboards were as dry as the Ancient Mariner’s deck. There were several outbuildings; all in worse shape than the house and all in worse shape than the previous one.
Alex saw an old man in the yard. His beard was matted. His hair was yellowed from age and neglect. He did not smile. He did not frown. He simply stood there motionless and emotionless.
Alex waved to him and got off his bike. The dirty old man waved back, once again, without emotion. Sewn on his filthy bib overalls was a very clean embroidered tag. Alex squinted his eyes to see if it denoted the manufacturer’s name or sports logo. It said “Eat Me.” Not knowing if the tag was a joke or an invitation Alex hopped back on his bike and peddled away. He turned to see if the old man was still there. He was; and so were several little boys and girls (one behind each building). They all wore the same unemotional look as the old man.
Alex kept on peddling his bike for several more months and finally reached the summit of the hill. There were a few impediments along the way that may have made his trip a little longer.
Some of these delays were caused by groves of trees that stood right in the middle of the bike path. On these occasions it always happened that the bike path bifurcated with one fork to the left and another going to the right. It was also always true that the left hand path was the one less traveled. This reminded Alex of his long-shortcuts in which he had learned those little things about life. These instances gave Alex a chance to take the lesser used path. It had more ruts and blackberry briers (which grabbed at his legs), however, he learned how to make the ruts work to his advantage. The briers cut his legs but it really was not that bad. Alex learned that pain could be dealt with.
There were other groves that held strange lessons. One grove had no right hand fork. The only way that Alex could get around the grove was to take the singular path to the left. As he reached the other side of the grove the road did not continue on as expected. Rather, it continued in a circular path around the grove. As he peddled he realized that the road was circular and led to nowhere. After four months of peddling the road suddenly continued on (as one might suspect). Alex departed this entrapment much wiser for his experience.
Alex was deeply saddened by his loss of years.