Teddy was up on a low limb of the oak, clinging to the trunk and sobbing in terror. His thin body trembled in the cold moonlight. He’d broken two of his carefully-manicured, black-lacquered fingernails. His mascara was running down his cheeks in sticky black rivulets, and his lipstick was smeared.
A half-dozen clubgoers were gathered nearby, staring up at him curiously, helplessly. A couple seemed irritated. None were doing anything to get him out of the damn tree.
“Teddy?” I called, stepping toward him through the crusty snow. “What’s the matter?”
“Stop it!” he shrieked. His pupils were hugely dilated. “Bunnies! You’re h-h-hurting the bunnies!”
He began to wail loudly, so loudly that anyone within a five-block radius was bound to hear. The cops would surely come if we didn’t get him down and get him quiet. His sister would never forgive us if he wound up in jail.
I turned to Rose, who was puffing on a clove cigarette.
“What the hell is he on?” I asked her. “Acid?”
She blinked at me behind her silver granny glasses. “Uh uh. I think he took a bunch of motion sickness pills.”
“Scopolamine?” I asked.
“I guess. He’s tripping balls,” she added helpfully.
I began to walk toward Teddy more slowly, picking up my skirts and stepping carefully around imaginary rabbits.
“What do you see, Teddy?”
“B-bunnies. Pink bunnies. All over the ground. They bust when you step on them. Got b-bunny guts a-all over me,” he hiccuped.
“There’s no bunnies,” I said gently. “Come down from there. You’re going to catch your death up there. You’re ruining your fishnets on the bark.”
He shook his head, his eyes wide. “Don’ wanna hurt the bunnies.”
I walked back through the parking lot to the club. The Project Pitchfork song thudding within made the pebbles near the door jump with every bass beat.
“Sorry, can’t let you back in,” the bouncer said.
“I don’t want back in,” I replied. “I just want to borrow Osiris for a couple of minutes.” I pulled ten dollars out of my pocket. “Do you think you could find him for me? It’s kind of an emergency.”
Osiris’ real name was Shaquim Johnson. His father had briefly played as a middle linebacker for the Chicago Bears, and was deeply disappointed that his only son had no interest in sports aside from some casual weightlifting.
The bouncer took my money and disappeared into the club. A few minutes later, Osiris emerged, stooping low to get through the door. When he straightened up, I was staring him in his leather-clad solar plexus.
“What’s up?” he asked. He had the kind of deep voice you imagine gods having.
“Teddy’s freaked out and climbed a tree. He’s yelling so much, I’m scared he’ll bring the cops. Can you get him down and get him to our van? Please?”
“No problem.” He flashed me a dazzling white smile, and strode across the snow to the gaggle of goths around the tree. His hobnail boots left prints bigger than my head.
Teddy screeched when he saw Osiris approaching: “No, not the Candyman! I didn’t eat that fish!”
Unperturbed, Osiris lifted Teddy out of the tree, slung him over his shoulder, and carried him to Rose’s minivan.
We bundled Teddy under a blanket, gave him a piece of bubble wrap to play with, then piled in around him to take him back to his sister’s house in Urbana.
“Bunnies,” he whispered. “Poor little bunnies.”
It was going to be a long drive home.