Sunlight streamed across the dining room table as Bunny and Clarissa walked into the house.
“Fannie is that real?” asked Bunny with her refined Texas accent looking at the two foot tall chocolate bunny sitting on a white doily adorning the red table cloth.
“If you mean is it real chocolate, no.” I said smiling, “though it does look good enough to eat.”
Bunny lifted the rabbit from the table. “All it’s missing is the smell,” she said examining it and handing it to Clarissa.
“Fannie, I hope this means you are serving something chocolate today,” Clarissa said smiling. Putting the rabbit back on the table she said, “or this bunny may not make it out of here alive.”
“I’ve heard that before, but you’re in luck,” I said laughing leading them into the kitchen. “Aunt Verla gave me a chocolate mold for helping with the clean up when their hot water tank ruptured. So I molded some chocolate last night. What did you two bring?”
“I bought French Vanilla Tea,” said Bunny opening a small black foil bag of loose leaf tea. Vanilla perfume filled the air.
“That should be illegal,” Clarissa said smelling the air. “I brought short bread cookies and some home made jam.”
“Where did you get the rabbit?” asked Bunny as I put the tea kettle on the stove.
“It was our turn to host Easter Dinner this year,” I said, “but we didn’t have any decorations. I wanted something for the hearth.”
Richard grabbed a shopping cart and followed me into the store. Fluorescent lights flickered above our heads. Walking passed the video display we turned right and headed for produce. On a display in the floral department seventeen chocolate bunnies of various sizes shimmered among roses, lilies and carnations.
We gathered with seven other people in front of the display.
“Richard, that looks good enough to eat,” I said wiping the drool from the corner of my mouth, “what do you think?”
“Which one do you want?” he asked his blue eyes locked on the display.
“I think the medium sized one wouldn’t overwhelm the fire place,” I said lifting a rabbit from the display.
Placing the two foot tall rabbit in the cart, we strolled through the store like proud parents along with seven other proud parent, smiling an nodding in the frozen food section.
Richard buckled the bunny in the middle seat of the Love Wagon while I climbed into the passenger seat.
“What should we name him?” I asked.
“How about Ears,” Richard said.
“That might not be a good idea, I’m like Sally Forth and would be tempted to eat them,” I said imaging the tastiest part of a chocolate bunny, “if we’re going that route, how about Chocolate?”
“Chocolate it is.”
Richard parked the Love Wagon in the driveway. I unbuckled Chocolate and carried him into the house. Richard cleared the hearth.
Placing Chocolate on the right hand side of the fireplace I asked, “What do you think?
“He’s too close to the wood box and might get broken,” Richard said moving Chocolate to the left side of the hearth. “How about now?”
“Much better,” I said.
Wicket and Sadie, our Orange Tabbies, leaped onto the hearth and sniffed Chocolate. Wicket looked at Chocolate, looked at us and bathed a spot on his left shoulder. He sniffed the statue one more time. Loosing interest, he and Sadie walked over to the sofa. Shoving a throw pillow onto the floor with his head, they curled up together.
“Well I guess we don’t have to worry about the cats,” I said picking up the pillow. “I’m going into Tacoma tomorrow to pick up some candy, do you want to come.”
“You don’t have to ask me twice.”
Walking into the tiny entrance of Johnson’s Candy Company, chocolate and caramel infused the air. We moved single file into the store. Glass display cases filled with hand made chocolates of every description drew multiple lines three people deep. We shuffled passed the glass cases into the seasonal section. Squeezing through a gap between die hard candy fans I picked up a basket.
Richard tapped me on the shoulder. Leaning down to my ear so he could be heard he said “Fannie, look over there on the far side of the counter, dark chocolate bunny ears.”
“Where?” I asked my head snapping around almost hitting him in the nose.
Richard guided me to the basket filled with the ears.
“My family will go crazy,” I said staring at pure heaven. Picking one up I said, “Richard, it’s 90 percent ears. It’s got a tiny head and body. Pure genius.”
“Get at least a dozen, maybe more. Once your family see this, it’ll be a melee.”
The day before Easter, Aunt Verla called.
“Fannie, Bud’s home for a week, I want to make sure you have space available at the table for him,” Aunt Verla said in her crisp fashion.
“Of course, Aunt Verla, we’d love to see him,” I said.
A weak sun filtered through thick gray clouds Easter morning.
“Richard, would you help me set the table?” I asked taking the tablecloth from the rough hewn oak chest my grandfather made.
“Sure,” Richard said grabbing the plates from the china hutch. “You know, it’s a good thing we got extra ears, make sure you stash a few otherwise Bud’ll snitch ‘em all.”
“Way ahead of you,” I said, “I’ve got ’em in an empty orange juice concentrate container in the freezer buried beneath a pork roast and a lasagna. If any one will find it, it’ll be Lenora Jane.”
“I swear your older sister is part blood hound,” Richard said with a wink.
“I think she would’ve made a great CSI,” I said laughing.
The aroma of honey roasted ham filled the house. The doorbell rang. Richard answered the door. On the porch stood my parents, aunt and uncle.
“Velverlorn, Verla, you look stunning,” Richard said smiling and biting his tongue.
The women floated into the house wearing matching Betty White wigs and lavender polyester pant suits from the Eighty’s. My father and Uncle Carl sported tan polyester pants and matching Polo shirts.
“I see you’re all outfitted for Easter,” Richard said.
A few moments later, Lenora Jane with husband, Steve, arrived with cousins, Butch and Bud. The last to arrive, my younger sister, Eleanor.
Lenora Jane, the first person into the living room asked, “Is that real?” Pointing to Chocolate on the hearth.
Laughing I said, “no, we did name him Chocolate though. If you like that you should see what we have in the dining room.”
Everyone filed into the dining room. Each plate featured chocolate bunny ears. We experienced an involuntary moment of silence.
Bud broke the silence, “no way.”
“That’s just wrong,” Eleanor said, “where’s the body?”
My mother and aunt in unison said, “dark. . .chocolate. . .ears.”
After everyone left for the evening, Richard walked out to the freezer. Removing the lasagna and pot roast he found an empty orange juice container. Shaking his head, he walked back into the house in time to hear me yell, “Where’s Chocolate?”
Richard joined me in the living room staring at the empty space where Chocolate used to stand. A yellow sticky note read, “Chip and I’ve gone on a road trip. Be back soon.”
The tea kettle whistled. Bunny grabbed the tea kettle from the stove and poured the boiling water into the Brown Betty teapot.
“Chip, who’s Chip?” Clarissa asked.
“Chip’s the family poltergeist who, according to my grandmother, haunts this house,” I said. “When we were young, my grandmother would tell us the story every time we came over. So my sisters, cousins and me used to blame anything that happened on Chip.”
“Whatever you do,” Bunny said, “don’t mention Chip when Verla or Velverlorn are over. Fannie warned me, but I made that mistake once. I’ll never do it again.”
“They did give you an ear full didn’t they,” I said laughing. “You can’t say I didn’t warn you.”
“So what happened to Chocolate?” Clarissa asked.
“Two days later, a picture showed up on our front door,” I said smiling, “it was a picture of Chocolate on the Bogue viewing platform in downtown Gig Harbor. The next day he was at the fisherman’s statue at Jerisich Dock. We got a picture a day until Friday.”
The doorbell rang. Richard opened the door. Nobody stood there. He closed the door and walked back to the kitchen.
“Richard, who was at the door?” I called from the bedroom.
“Nobody, I think someone pulled a ding-dong dash.”
The doorbell rang again.
Joining Richard, he opened the front door. No one stood on the porch. I looked down. Below the door bell stood Chocolate with a note. “Chip couldn’t open the door, it’s cold out here, let me in.”
“Richard and I laughed,” I said. “We walked outside but didn’t see anyone. So I brought Chocolate back inside and put him back on the hearth to get warm,” I said smiling.
“Honey, now that’s funny. Chocolate’s a regular traveling garden gnome,” Bunny said, “have any of your relatives confessed?”
We jumped, startled by a thud.
“That sounds like it came from the dining room,” I said.
Chocolate lay on his side on the dining room table.
“Where are the cats?” asked Clarissa looking under the table her bright red ringlets falling across her face.
“Over there,” I said pointing.
The cats stared at us from their supine position on the living room sofa.
“How’d they do that?” Bunny asked pulling her blond pony tail.
“Ladies, I think you just met Chip,” I said grinning.