Hazel Part Six
Hazel and the Dragon
It took us an hour to get home from the airport. In all, it had been just over five hours since Karl and I left campus. We found a box and shredded some newspaper and settled Hazel in it. She pooped and urinated immediately. The newspaper in the bottom of the knapsack was clean.
I didn’t think a rabbit was capable of such control. My parents were very impressed. I told them about the x-ray and the luggage screener. They didn’t say so but I think they thought I was putting them on.
If Hazel felt uncomfortable with the sudden change of environment, she showed no sign of it. She hopped around my room, exploring. She nibbled a little on the side of my bookcase and would have gone after the wires if I hadn’t stopped her. She was so bright in other ways, why did she want to eat electrical wires?
Mom, Dad and I did some taste testing with foods Mom had in the refrigerator. Hazel had never tried cantaloupe, honeydew or grapefruit before. She liked the melons but didn’t care for the grapefruit.
“Her favorite is tomatoes.”
“Regular tomatoes or cherry?”
“She’s never had cherry tomatoes.”
“Let’s find out.”
My Dad was a scientist and I think the experimental aspects of the taste testing especially appealed to him.
When given the choice between a sliced tomato and a whole cherry tomato, Hazel chose the sliced. When we sliced the cherry tomato in half, she had no interest in anything else until she’d eaten both halves.
“I guess she has a new favorite.”
“I bet I know something she’d like better.” said Mom.
Mom left the room and returned with a Hershey bar. She broke off a piece of a square and sliced another cherry tomato.
“I don’t suppose it’s very good for her,” Mom said.
“A little won’t hurt her,” said Dad.
Hazel went back and forth between the cherry tomato and the chocolate several times. She sniffed the chocolate thoroughly and then returned to examine the tomato. She looked genuinely torn.
She chose the chocolate.
“And a new winner!”
Mom was very intuitive and a great fan of chocolate herself. It didn’t surprise me that she knew what Hazel would like.
“You know, Carol Lynn and Bruce are arriving tomorrow.”
“I think they’ll like Hazel.”
“They’ll be bringing Grendel.”
Grendel was my sister’s cat. She was a year old but still more like a kitten than a cat. Grendel’s second favorite game was playing fetch with the hoops that came from the caps of plastic gallon milk jugs. Her favorite game was violence and mayhem.
Grendel would lie in wait for people to pass by. Her favorite ambush was on a stairway where she could be at eye level with her prey. When her victim got close enough, Grendel would lash out with claws unsheathed.
If the people around her got wise to her stair attacks, she would hide under chairs and attack the ankles of anyone who sat down.
I suppose that’s what happens when you name a cat after an ancient dragon.
You couldn’t spend a day in the same house with Grendel without a few claw marks to show for it. It wasn’t a big problem. It was even funny most of the time but we were humans.
It might not be so funny for Hazel.
“I guess I better make a cage.”
There was no worry about finding materials. If I needed to make Hazel a one bedroom cottage, the only materials I wouldn’t find in Dad’s workshop would be the concrete foundation and the waste pipe to hook up to the town’s sanitation department.
“Dad, do you have some chicken wire?”
“Yes, but you should use hardware cloth. Grendel’s paws can get through chicken wire.
I didn’t make a fancy cage. We were only there for a week. Dad wondered if we should put hardware cloth on both sides of the supports so Grendel’s claws couldn’t extend and scratch Hazel.
“I’ll just keep my door closed while Grendel’s loose anyway.”
It was a smaller cage than Hazel had at school but she didn’t seem to mind. Even in a larger cage, a rabbit can’t get much exercise. She had the run of the room when I was there to watch her.
* * *
Carol Lynn made a great fuss over Hazel. I wasn’t surprised. My sister was a great fan of Christmas, Disney movies and small animals. She agreed that Hazel and Grendel should be kept apart.
“Everyone will be here tomorrow for dinner. I’d like to bring Hazel downstairs for a while so she can be a part of it.”
“We can put Grendel in a room for a while so Hazel can have some family time.”
My sister Cammy arrived early the next afternoon and my brother Mitch and his wife Robin followed shortly afterward.
Everyone was sitting in the living room waiting for dinner and Carol Lynn grabbed Grendel and closed her into the bedroom she and Bruce were staying in.
I came in and asked Hazel if she was ready to meet some people. She pooped before I lifted her out of her cage. It seemed a wise precaution on her part.
I brought her down to the living room and set her down on the carpet. The family was sitting in a circle around the room. Hazel started moving in a clockwise motion; greeting each person she came to. Hazel took her time and got a good scratch from each person before she’d move on to the next.
My sister in law was talking about some book about rabbits that I wasn’t familiar with. She barely looked at Hazel as she bent over to pet her. Hazel looked curious. She wasn’t used to being ignored.
The last person in the circle was my brother Mitch. He was sitting back in a big cloth chair we’d had as long as I could remember. Hazel started sniffing at his pants leg as he bent over to pet her.
Hazel leapt up into my brother’s lap and rubbed her head against his stomach. There was something about Mitch that made an immediate connection for her, and she didn’t just want a short scratch behind the ears.
My brother was at first surprised and then looked very pleased. He knew he’d been honored.
Hazel and he were content to sit like that till dinner was ready.
There was some rumbling from my sister’s room and it sounded like Grendel wasn’t happy. Mitch handed me Hazel and I took her back to my room while Carol Lynn went to release the feline dragon.
I plopped Hazel in her cage and ran downstairs to eat. I thought I shut the door but I guess I just pulled it to.
Grendel began the meal in her usual fashion, lurking under the table and attacking any foot that moved. You could gage where Grendel was by the sudden jerking movements of the people around you.
I hadn’t seen any Grendel spasms in some time.
I peeked under the table. She wasn’t there.
Mom looked over at me. “Is your door closed?”
I ran up the stairs with Carol Lynn and Mom close behind me. My door was open about four inches, just wide enough for a cat to slip through, or, for that matter, a rabbit to slip out.
I had put Hazel in her cage but I didn’t think I’d put the top down. She could have hopped out at any time or Grendel could have hopped in.
We hadn’t heard any noise. Neither Hazel nor Grendel was more than ten pounds but if there were a struggle, wouldn’t we have heard? Could Grendel have killed Hazel without a struggle? Maybe Grendel was still stalking her. Even if Hazel was unharmed, she had to be terrified.
I didn’t want to open the door but I didn’t dare hesitate.
They were both there. Hazel was in her cage with the top off. Grendel was on the outside looking at Hazel…
And Hazel was nose to nose with her, looking back. Hazel didn’t appear to be the least frightened and Grendel the dragon cat wasn’t acting hostile.
Both heads turned to me as I entered the room as if I was interrupting a conversation.
Carol Lynn entered and swooped Grendel into her arms. There wasn’t anything to scold the cat for; she was being perfectly civil.
Hazel was happy to see me but no more than she ever was. She hopped out of her cage. She didn’t give a thought to the predator only a few feet away. She knew when I was there, she could hop around and that’s what she liked to do.
I was much more frightened for Hazel than she was. It left me with some questions. Was Hazel ignorant of how dangerous cats were? Didn’t all rabbits have an instinct that detected predators? Did my presence in the house give her a false sense of security?
Or was Hazel ever really in danger? Grendel did not seem hostile but a cat will stalk before pouncing. Was Grendel lulling Hazel before her attack or were they actually just have some sort of amiable animal conversation, as they appeared to be having?
Were all rabbits like this?