Welcome to the summer redux series. I will be re-posting some stories you may not have read in the fashion of a summer re-run. We’ll get back to our regular posting schedule in a few weeks. The original Chocolate and Chip story posted back in August 2012. It’s been embellished a little since then.
* * *
The hot mid-morning rays of an August sun raced across the hilltops, which crowned Gig Harbor, Washington, on their way to a small brown and gray rambler in a cul de sac. The sunlight streamed through the windows. It illuminated the dining room table as Bunny Gutierrez and Clarissa Taylor walked into our home.
“Fannie is that real?” Bunny asked, with her refined Texas accent. Pointing to the two-foot tall chocolate bunny sitting on a white doily adorning the red table cloth. Her long blond hair swept back into a pony tail behind her head, crowning her statuesque figure.
“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. She handed it to Clarissa.
“Fannie, I hope this means you’re serving something chocolate today?” Clarissa asked, 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, 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,” Bunny said, opening a small black foil bag of loose leaf tea. Vanilla perfumed 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?” Bunny asked, 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 Cranium grabbed a shopping cart. “Wanna go for a ride little girl?” he asked. The devil on his shoulder winking.
“Very funny,” I said, laughing. “I know I’m short, but I’m not that short.”
“If you change your mind, your chariot await madame,” he said, laughing.
He followed me into the store. Fluorescent lights flickered above our heads. We headed for produce. Nestled in a display of lilies, carnations and roses, seventeen chocolate bunnies statues of various sizes shimmered like the chocolate Venus statue summoned Alfred Molina.
Seven people stood in front of the display in chocolate induced silence. We joined them.
“Richard that looks good enough to eat,” I whispered, 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 this medium sized one,” I said, removing a rabbit from the display. Breaking the spell, seven of our rabbit’s siblings found new homes.
We strolled through the store like proud parents along with seven other proud parents. Nodding acknowledgments to our fellow chocolate bunny enthusiasts in the frozen food section.
Richard buckled the bunny in the middle seat of the Love Wagon. A red Ford F150 with queen futon and miniature disco ball. I climbed into the passenger seat.
“What should we name him?” I asked, running my fingers over his ears.
“How about Ears?” Richard asked.
“That might not be a good idea. I’m like Sally Forth. I would be tempted to eat them,” I said, reliving eating the tastiest part of a chocolate bunny. “If we’re going that route, how about Chocolate?”
Richard nodded his head. “Chocolate it is.”
Richard parked the Love Wagon in the driveway. I carried Chocolate 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 other side of the hearth. “How about now?”
“Much better,” I said.
Wicket and Sadie, our orange Tabbies, leaped onto the hearth. The cats sniffed the statue. Wicket looked at Chocolate, looked at us, and bathed a spot on his left shoulder. He sniffed the statue one more time. 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.”
We entered the tiny entrance of Johnson’s Candy Company, chocolate and caramel infused the air. We shuffled single file into the store. Glass display cases filled with hand made chocolates of every description drew multiple lines three people deep. We passed the glass cases into the seasonal section. I squeezed through a gap between die hard candy fans for the last basket.
Richard tapped me on the shoulder. Leaning close 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 ears.
“My family will go crazy,” I said, salivating. I wiped my hands on my pants. Picking one up, I said, “Richard, it’s 90 percent ears. It’s got a tiny head and body.” Clasping it to my chest, I said, “Pure genius.”
“Get at least two 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,” I said, a rolling my eyes. “We’d love to see him.”
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 oversized 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, 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. He removed the lasagna and pot roast. An empty orange juice container leaned against the back wall. He shook 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. Clarissa grabbed the tea kettle from the stove. She poured the boiling water into the Brown Betty teapot.
“Chip, who’s Chip?” Bunny asked.
“Chip’s the family poltergeist who, according to my grandmother, haunts this house,” I said, smiling. “When we were young, my grandmother would tell us the story every time we came over. So my sisters, cousins and I used to blame anything that happened on Chip.”
“Whatever you do,” Clarissa said, shaking the short red curls framing her round face, “don’t mention Chip when Verla or Velverlorn are over. I made that mistake once when we were kids. 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, “Chocolate on the Bogue viewing platform in downtown Gig Harbor. The next day standing at the fisherman’s statue at Jerisich Dock. We got a picture a day until Friday.”
The doorbell rang. Richard opened the door. No one stood on the porch. He closed the door.
“Richard, who was at the door?” I asked, from the bedroom.
“Nobody, I think someone pulled a ding-dong dash.”
The doorbell rang again.
I joined 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?”
“Not one,” I said, shaking my head.
Thud. We jumped.
“That sounds like it came from the dining room,” I said.
Chocolate lay on his side on the dining room table.
“Where’re the cats?” Clarissa asked, 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.