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ALFRED, THE CLASSROOM BUNNY by

Devon Pitlor

I. A pretty woman in shock

On the morning of Friday, May 10th 2002, a


babbling West African taxi driver did his best
to escort an hysterical young woman past
police security and into the emergency section
of Corrington County Public Hospital in
Valleyview. The woman, screaming wildly
and frozen in a paroxysm of terror, had no
hands. She flailed her arms before her,
curling up the stubs of her blunt wrists,
scanning them again and again in disbelief.
Attendant physician, Vijay Singh, noted on
his initial examination report that the woman
was in complete traumatic shock over what
Singh characterized as the “recent” loss of
her hands. She seemed, he noted, to suffer no
pain from the stumps left above her wrist
joints, which gave Dr. Singh reason for pause
as he noted with some disbelief that the
excision, though undoubtedly recent, was
perfectly cauterized and that not a drop of
blood was visible on the stumps or anywhere
else on the woman’s body. Her hands had
been surgically removed with such precision
that it was doubtful that any morbid scarring
would result at the end of her arms. Dr.
Singh, who had removed an entire array of
limbs during his nine year career in
emergency medicine, had never seen an
excision so cleanly executed. Sedated, the
woman lapsed into a comatose state and was
summarily assigned to a ward bed along with
the night’s entry of knife, broken bottle and
shotgun wound victims. The on-duty police
officer recorded that the cab fare had not
been rendered to the Ivorian driver and that
the man, almost in as great of grip of shock as
his unfortunate passenger, asked only to be
allowed to leave. He had simply seen the
woman running about screaming near an
entry path to Bethany Hill Park in the trendy
intown neighborhood of Tower-Town . His
civic duty had been to deliver her to hospital
emergency, and now, from the officer’s best
understanding of the driver’s broken English,
his only desire was to drive away and forget
ever seeing a young woman with missing
hands.

Further investigation revealed that the neatly


attired lady carried full identification in her
shoulder bag and that she was an elementary
school teacher named Andrea Paxton, age 28,
single and a resident of a rather plush
townhouse above Tower-Town Square, an
area rarely visited by central Valleyview’s
nightly round of violence. As the woman was
unwilling or unable to speak, little other
information was gained at the time.

II. A blessed event in the making creates a


temporary job

Welcome pregnancy and the happy


anticipation of her first child had at last
compelled kindergarten teacher Melody
Tarken to call her former University of
Montana roommate into Goodfriends
Neighborhood Charter Academy to substitute
teach for the remaining four weeks of the
school year. The entire transfer had been
neatly arranged weeks in advance when
Melody had glowingly recommended to her
principal that Andrea Paxton, who was
recovering from a bad live-in romance, take
over her class during the Melody’s maternity
leave. Andrea was certified, as required, in
early childhood education and by Melody’s
account a “caring person” who would nourish
the young minds in Melody’s class with
commitment and purpose. Melody comforted
herself that “her” children had at least been
turned over to a friend. This was important
to Melody, who, like many elementary school
teachers, felt she was on a mission to save and
uplift tomorrow’s children. Andrea would
finish the good work on these kids that
Melody had started, and Melody could go
have her baby with a clear conscience. If
Melody had even the slightest qualm about
the transfer of class, she kept it to herself.
And, in fact, she had only one little nagging
doubt: Andrea, who had never shown much
interest in getting a teaching job after college,
had just suddenly become a little more than
eager to assume control of Melody’s class.
But Melody credited it to finally wanting to
“get her feet wet” in the teaching profession
for which she had been trained---this despite
the fact that Andrea had literally begged for
the $90/day subbing job and, coming from a
well-to-do family, had no particular need for
the money. But for Melody it was a quick
thought and just as quickly dismissed in the
glow of oncoming motherhood.

III. Andrea takes charge.

The class transfer took place on Wednesday,


May 8th. Of the twenty-two children in
Melody’s class a shocking total of twenty-one
parents took the morning off from work or
chores to meet the substitute. At
Goodfriends, parental involvement was
primordial and expected. Andrea, always a
charmer, made quick friends with both
children and parents during the first day and
gave great assurances to even the most
solicitous mothers that their privileged
offspring would be in excellent educational
hands. As it is generally accepted,
kindergarten is the most crucial year in a
child’s schooling, and Goodfriends, though
boasting a rainbow of ethnicities, was united
in its unflagging mission to aliment the minds
of its upper middle class children for whom
the families held the highest of professional
expectations. General assent was that
Andrea, graceful and charming, was more
than qualified to satisfy this need.

Though not written in its name, Goodfriends


was a school for gifted children, kids from
homes charged with books and computers
and where early parental intervention in
academic stimulation was pre-assumed. The
children of Goodfriends, with only a few of
the usual exceptions, issued from the homes
of college professors, physicians, technicians,
researchers and CEOs of Valleyview’s leading
companies and organizations. They were five
and six year olds already awakened to the
demands of the scholastic world upon arrival
at Goodfriends, children who would be
tomorrow’s cutting edge, children destined to
succeed, children who covered their mouths
when they coughed and were capable of
blowing their own noses and finding their
own tissue to do it with.

All day Wednesday, Andrea and Melody


bustled about the school together. Melody
introduced Andrea to everyone, including the
custodians, and all agreed that Andrea had
the kind of spark that characterized an
excellent teacher. It had something to do with
energy. Something to do with her winning
smile, her neat dress, and, yes, a great deal to
do with her stunning looks. A couple of male
teachers were immediately smitten and told
Melody so in private. Schools often become
spousal hunting grounds among young
teachers, and Andrea assuredly was fair
game. However, toward these men, Andrea
showed little interest.

IV. Alfred, the classroom bunny

What Andrea did show sudden interest in


near the end of the day, when the last child
had been hugged and packed off home, was
Alfred, the classroom bunny. Alfred, a floppy
Angora, like most classroom bunnies, lived in
a cushy cage under a table at the front of the
kindergarten classroom. And like most
classroom bunnies, Alfred was sleek, overfed
and seemingly content. Classroom bunnies,
not being called on to perform any sort of
tricks, are endearing by just being there, by
being fluffy and harmless, by eating from any
child’s hand at any time, by staying in the
room all night and being there all ready to be
petted and caressed the next morning. Alfred
seduced by his essential harmlessness. In a
rough world, Alfred was a block of fuzzy
security, an island onto himself symbolic of
childhood’s innocent tranquility.

Melody Tarken, who noticed many things---


including the fact that her children took right
away to Andrea---paused to wonder briefly
why her old college roommate was so
delighted by the rabbit, who, after all, was a
common if not expected feature in many
elementary classrooms. She and Andrea had
kept tropical fish in their college dorm room,
and it was, Melody remembered passingly,
Andrea who had let them die over one
semester break. It was Andrea who had
casually tossed them into the trash.

V. Andrea alone

On Thursday, May 9th, Andrea took the class


on her own and began the routine process of
reinforcing all the skills that Melody had
labored all year to instill. Many of the
children were now six year olds, and first
grade loomed in their future like the next
gigantic step toward an ultimate life of
brilliant achievement. And Andrea duly
noted their evident intelligence. In so many
way, very little actual teaching was required,
just stimulation and the essential TLC that
kindergarten must provide.

Read aloud story time was scheduled each


day at eleven AM right before lunch and nap.
Andrea assembled the class on the reading
rug at the front of the classroom where they
eagerly awaited the next chapter of Dion the
Dopey Dinosaur. But Dion’s next adventure
remained closed and unexplored in the book
on the table. Instead, Andrea was going to
teach something further about numbers and
something new about….the regional lottery.
Like all bright children, Andrea’s class was
primed and eager for anything new. A little
nose blowing and hugging, and Andrea was
ready to start.

VI. The state and regional lottery

After a record of twelve weeks of winnerless


rollover, the weekly six number, five state
lotto game prize had risen to an astounding
one hundred million dollars for the coming
Saturday drawing. It was touted across the
country as the highest jackpot in lotto history.
The lines at gas stations and convenience
stores in some locations spilled from the
counters into the streets, as the hopeful
queued in huge numbers to buy a chance at
the elusive dream of sudden wealth.

Andrea did not explain this to the children.


What she talked about was the lottery itself
and the magical number six. She produced a
handful of playslips from her shoulder bag
and passed one out to each child to hold and
feel. Then she carefully collected each slip
and replaced it in her bag. Over and over
again, she spelled the word lottery for the
children and even sang a little song about it---
a song which the children, now growing
somewhat restless, could not totally follow.
“Lottery…lottery…lottery,” she sang. “ The
five state lottery…because, boys and girls, you
are living in Valleyview in one of the states
that has it.” Jennifer yawned. Keenan asked
to go pee. Rafael giggled and said “lottery…
lottery” under his breath. Alisha tried to get
up and dance to the somewhat fractured
lottery tune. And Scotty, always a bit cheeky,
told Ms. Paxton that “Everyone knows we’re
in Valleyview.” Andrea, obsessed, did not
seem to notice the impertinence.

Lunch and naptime came and went. Near the


end of the day, Andrea reminded the whole
class again about this thing called lottery.
They didn’t seem to care. The five state
lottery had been a poor substitute for Dion
the Dopey Dinosaur.

VII. History

This had all been a part of a chancy plan that


Andrea Paxton had formulated in her
fantasies some weeks before. In fact, she had
thought of the scheme on the very day that
her father, the owner of a plastics
manufacturing firm, had been arrested for
embezzlement and stock fraud. Her family
fortune would, she knew, be depleted, and she
faced the grim prospect of going to work in
the drab education business which she so
dreaded. In effect, Andrea had little use for
children and had even successfully managed
to rid herself of one in the past before it
became “real” and entered the daylight of
life.

It was in the central computer room of her


father’s assembly shop that the idea had first
taken form, and it had been inspired by a
person that up until that moment Andrea had
always considered to be the most boring man
on Earth: Harrison Doyle, chief technician of
Paxton Plastics, “computer guy,” nerd, or
whatever they were commonly called. Doyle
had spotted Andrea drifting about by the
main server and had tried as usual to make
conversation, something he was very bad at.
He asked Andrea if she was interested in
computers, to which she had summarily
replied “No,” and rambled on to tell her that
the seven units currently in operation could
easily be replaced with one small server, “as
big as a small television box.” Then he lapsed
into his usual tech-talk rhapsody.
“Technology moves faster,” Harrison said,
“than anyone can imagine.” Blandly, he
continued that “We can’t even imagine today
what the next day holds.” Harrison, a thin
sallow man with an uneven goatee and a
pocket full of breath mints, liked technology
and liked to make banal pronouncements of
this kind as often as possible. He had been
single for as long as Andrea could remember,
and it was clear that his interests did not
intersect with those of the females he
accidentally encountered. His love of
technology and its wonders would continue to
bore most people, even in the face of the
firm’s financial ruin, of which he was no
doubt blithely unaware. But today his flat
patter sparked a sort of nascent interest in the
distressed young woman who feared the
imminent end of her accustomed lifestyle.
Fantasy overtook her nervous brain, and a
plan was hatched.

VIII. The plan

And so the scheme unfolded. On the morning


of Friday, May 10th, a little more than thirty
hours before the big lotto drawing, Andrea
Paxton, substitute kindergarten teacher,
assembled her class of bright charges on the
reading rug at the front of the classroom.
Dramatically, she pulled a large hypodermic
syringe from her shoulder pack and waved it
before the amazed eyes of the children sitting
cross-legged before her. She had filled the
syringe with a triple dose of insulin stolen
from her diabetic mother’s medicine chest.
The children had no idea of what insulin was,
so Andrea called it “poison.”

“It will kill you or anything else,” she began.


“But today we are going to kill Alfred.”

The children gasped. One might as well have


said “kill Ms. Melody or Mr. Sholtz, the
lovable janitor.” The children to a one
adored Alfred beyond all bounds and
measure, and now their new teacher was
threatening to kill him. A horrified hush
filled the classroom. Stifled cries and sniffles
broke out. The children watched in
uncomprehending horror as Ms. Paxton
ripped the gentle bunny from his cage and
flung him face down on the table.

“Your rabbit is going to die right now,” she


muttered in a pitiless voice filled with
intentional malice. “Right now. I am going
to stick him with this poison, and he will die.”
Several children began openly sobbing.
“Shut up,” Andrea snapped, “and watch and
listen.” She brandished the needle and its
poison before their eyes. “You all said the
date with me this morning as we always do.
Today is Friday, May 10th 2002. Do you
hear?” She repeated the date three more
times then grew less threatening and smiled
almost pleasantly. “You see, boys and girls,
you are some of the brightest and luckiest
children in the world. You have great
futures…astounding destinies…awaiting you,
and (summarizing Harrison Doyle’s little
aphorism) you are growing up into a world
where technology…science….is moving faster
than anyone can imagine. You will see
incredible things in your lives, astonishing,
surprising things, and one of them will be
people visiting yesterday, going backward in
time, maybe changing what happened before.
Do you understand? Time travel. Dino did it
in your stupid book, and someday you will
live in a world where everyone can do it. If
you want to save Alfred’s life, you’ll need to
come back and tell me those six magic
numbers for the lottery this very morning
before I kill Alfred. I’ll be in this room, like I
was today, starting at 6:30, sitting at my desk
waiting. Come back, one of you, and tell me
those numbers, and Alfred lives.”

With that, Andrea lifted Alfred by the scruff


of the neck and plunged the syringe into his
side. With a shudder the rabbit convulsed
and died immediately. Andrea flipped its
motionless corpse over on the table as if to
prove its death. The children screamed.

IX. Conclusion

And one did return, a little Chinese-American


boy who had sat quietly all year near the
corner of the room. His name was Tanzie,
and when he returned it was Robert, and
Robert was old. Lines of worry and stress
from an uncharted lifetime in the unknown
future creased his face, and he carried with
him the technology of his times, something
small and concealed which couldn’t possibly
have even had a name in 2002. And three
times Robert put this thing to use without
saying a word. Three times. And then he was
gone.

Andrea Paxton, substitute teacher, came out


of her psychotic coma twenty-six hours later.
She searched for her still missing hands and,
not finding them, immediately relapsed into
an even deeper traumatic stupor. She lay
half-asleep mumbling for another hour or two
until a caring Indonesian nursing assistant
was assigned to undress and bathe the
patient, who had lain so far in her original
clothes. Upon removing Andrea’s neat blue
business suit, the assistant was horrified to
see the name Alfred tattooed in red across her
back. Under the name were six numbers
about which Ketsia, the assistant, knew
nothing. And it was a full week later in the
psychiatric ward that a police investigator
stumbled onto the fact that these were indeed
the six winning lottery numbers from the big
drawing which had taken place the Saturday
before. There had been a huge jackpot, and
like so many others, the detective had played
and lost. Once again, there had been no
winners.
_____________________________.
Devon Pitlor -- July, 2009

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