When I was a wide-eyed early twenty-something, I moved from my hometown of Auckland to Sydney to work at a hotel in King’s Cross and no, it wasn’t offering ‘private client services’. At work, I made many wonderful friends, most of whom were gay because (a) the hotel industry is known for being a pink profession and (b) this particular hotel was located within a stone’s throw of the gay mecca that is Sydney’s Oxford Street.
My education there was manifold. The (male) switchboard manager knew more about face creams than I did and during Mardi Gras another manager offered me a ‘bonus’ of those little tablets that would make you see the good side of Ted Bundy, serial killer. I declined. Perhaps Obama is right when he says we need to regulate bonus structures.
One of my best friends from that time was a Japanese girl called Kay. If there was a gay man in the room with her, she was prone to fall in love with him. If the man was straight, she wasn’t interested. Kay was one of those girls who thought that her special breed of love could make a gay man straight so, as she lived in the gay capital of Downunder and worked in a predominantly gay environment, she was in a near-constant state of heartbreak.
One day, Kay went shopping at a big weekend market down by Chinatown. There, she spied a rabbit in a cage and stopped to stroke it, thinking it was a pet. The Chinese stallholder was keen to make a sale, chatting away about rabbit preparation techniques. Realising that the caged fluffball was ‘fresh meat’ destined for someone’s dinner plate, Kay was horrified, quickly pressing a crush of dollars into the stallholder’s hand in a bid to save the rabbit’s life. And so, a bunny named Minnie went to live with Kay in an apartment overlooking Rushcutter’s Bay.
At work, Kay kept us all intrigued by her tales of house-training the rescue bunny and from her brightened eyes we could tell that this was one love for Kay that wouldn’t be returned to sender. Then, one day Kay (and Minnie) invited me over for lunch.
I already knew that Kay’s landlord had a no-pets policy, so we’d have to be discreet about Minnie’s existence, but hey, how much noise can a rabbit make? I wondered. As Kay prepared a delicious Japanese lunch in her tiny steam-filled kitchenette, I watched Minnie. At first, she lay full-length along the top of the sofa, looking at me hard with her stony little eyes. I wondered what she was thinking because she was definitely thinking something. It was as if she was trying to work me out in the same way as I was trying to get her measure. You have to realise that this was no ordinary bunny. To this day, I’m sure she didn’t like me.
A little later, Minnie moved, jumping down to the ground and across the pristine living room carpet to the bathroom. Then she jumped up onto the toilet seat.
“Kay, I think we have a problem,”
I called through to the kitchen,
“Minnie’s on the toilet seat. Should I get her down?”
“Oh, no, don’t worry about that. She probably just needs to go.”
“Yes, you know. To go pee pee or something. Didn’t I tell you she was house-trained?”
“But I thought you meant house-trained like cats with kitty litter and stuff.”
Kay laughed at my lack of sophistication.
“No, no. Kitty litter stinks. This way is better because I can flush. More hygienic.”
Meanwhile, I’d watched open-mouthed as little black rabbit poo pellets fell straight from Minnie’s bottom into the bowl of the toilet. When she was done, she jumped back to the floor and headed for a patch of sun to bask as bunnies of leisure tend to do. Apparently.
Kay and I sat at her tiny table, chatting over our meal, the rabbit dozing nearby. As we polished off the home-made red bean dumplings with some green tea, Kay suggested we go for a walk. With Minnie. Images of rabbits disappearing down holes, never to be seen again, flooded my head.
“Are you crazy?”
“She’ll get lost!”
“No, no, don’t worry about that,”
Kay reassured me,
“I’ll just put her on the lead.”
An already surreal afternoon was about to intensify as we smuggled Minnie out of the no-pets building and let her bounce along at our feet as we walked to Rushcutter’s Bay.
Minnie’s collar was regular enough. Kay had managed to find a little pink one with a bell – something you’d usually see on a cat. But she hadn’t yet located a store with little pink leads, so Minnie was currently tethered to her adoptive mother by a length of pink curling ribbon.
“Minnie’s a girl so she has to have pink.”
Kay explained. That’s when I thought I’d seen it all.
A couple of years later, I was living in London and there I received a letter from Kay. On opening the envelope, out dropped one of those photos with a printed greeting down the side. The photo was of Kay’s wonder bunny and the greeting said:
Dear Friend, I am sad to say that my daughter, Minnie has now passed away. Thank you for being a friend to her during her short life.
Oh, my sainted trousers, I’d just received a death notice for a rabbit! Now, that sort of thing doesn’t happen every day. Poor Kay was devastated. There would be no more bunny plops to flush in her loo and the little pink collar with the curling ribbon need was no longer required. On the other side of the world, I smiled as I remembered the day when I first met a toilet-trained rabbit and took it for a walk in the park.