Hazel Part 5
Bunny With Wings
My parents sent me a plane ticket to come home for spring break. They didn’t know about Hazel. I’d had her a month but I wasn’t very good about writing letters home.
I knew that a week was too long to leave her alone and I already had the ticket so I figured I’d better bring her home with me. I just didn’t know how I was supposed to take a rabbit on a plane.
I didn’t want to chance putting her in a box and checking her. I didn’t know if they pressurized the luggage compartment I’d seen the way the baggage handlers threw things around. I would have to take her as a carry on.
I had a suitcase and two knapsacks. The suitcase was too big for a carry on and I needed it to pack things in but the knapsacks were limp and they’d be confining for Hazel.
I went out to the trash room where most of my best ideas came from. There were several boxes there including a thick walled one that looked about the right size to fit under an airplane seat.
Would they even let me bring a rabbit on board the plane?
They had to, I decided. People travel all the time. A lot of people must bring their pets along. I’d never seen a pet on a flight but I’d only flown four or five times and that included Nana’s funeral when I was only eleven and not paying too much attention.
Still, I wasn’t sure if they’d give me trouble. Maybe they wouldn’t even notice if I could make things less obvious than a box with holes punched in it.
The larger of my knapsacks stretched over the box without any room to spare. It was as if they were made for each other. Hazel’s lucky rabbit feet held great sway over my dorm’s trash room.
I removed a side of the box that matched the mouth of the knapsack. I could close the knapsack with the flap but Hazel would still get air through the canvas.
Al had gotten a new used car but refused to loan it out. I couldn’t really blame him but I needed a ride to the airport.
Karl, whose position as Hazel’s Uncle had improved his social life, was able to borrow a car and volunteered to drive us. I lined the knapsack box heavily with newspaper both to catch her urine and to make it more comfortable for her.
This time there was no rabbit urine on the car seat.
As I walked up to the airline desk, Carl had that same smile on his face that he had the night Miles met Hazel. He thought I was in trouble and I was starting to agree with him. They had to let pets ride on airplanes but would they just let me carry her on?
“Good morning sir!”
I handed the agent my ticket.
“Do you have any bags to check?”
“Yeah, I have this suit case and I’d like to carry on these two knapsacks.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, Sir. We limit you to only one carry on per flight.”
My knapsack hopped.
“Sir, is there an animal in there?”
I opened the flap and Hazel peeked out.
“Isn’t that an adorable bunny! I’m afraid that’s not an approved animal carrier though. We can rent you one for twenty two dollars or sell you one for fifty.”
I had six bucks.
Karl searched his pockets. “I’ve got eighteen.”
“And then, of course, you’ll need a ticket.”
“There’s my ticket.”
“Yes, but you’ll need a ticket for your pet. Let’s see, you’re going to Logan airport? That’s one hundred twenty seven dollars round trip or eighty three one way.”
Karl stopped smiling. Seeing your friend get in trouble is fun but he liked Hazel almost as much as I did. Besides, his last three dates were with women he got to know with her assistance.
“I can take her back to school but I’m leaving for home tomorrow.”
“We don’t have enough money,” I told the ticket agent.
“Do you have a credit card?”
“I’m sorry, sir. I can’t let to take the rabbit into the cabin with you. It’s against regulations.”
I tried to check my smaller knapsack but the ticket agent must have guessed I was going to try to smuggle Hazel aboard and refused. I was stuck with an extra carry on and no way to get Hazel to Massachusetts.
“Are you still flying today, sir?”
“Yeah, I’m going.”
She looked at me suspiciously. She had reason to. I knew I had to try to smuggle Hazel on and I’ve never had a good poker face.
After she handed me my seat assignment, Karl and I left the counter.
“What are you going to do?”
“Go outside and let her go,” I said. I said it loud enough to let the ticket agent hear. I didn’t think she’d buy it but if she warned the flight crew, we were sunk.
“Oh man!” At least Karl was convincing. He believed me.
When we got back to the car, I began going through my smaller knapsack picking out things I had to have and putting them in my pockets.
“Karl, will you take this knapsack back with you.”
“Sure, what are you going to do?”
“Smuggle Hazel on the plane.”
“You can’t do that. You heard the ticket agent. You could get in serious trouble.”
“I don’t think they’ll send me to prison for bunny smuggling. Besides, when did you ever worry about me getting in trouble?”
Karl’s smile returned. “I can’t believe you’re doing this.”
“I don’t see that I have much choice.”
When I went back into the terminal, there was a different agent at the desk. Was that good news or bad? The agent at the desk had no reason to suspect the knapsack I was carrying but was the other one away because she was reporting me?
Karl looked nervous.
“I think I’m going to go.” I guess he didn’t want to really see me get in trouble.
“Yeah, good luck.”
I headed for the gate.
There was something new. In the late seventies they started x-raying all the carry-on bags before people got to the departure gates. I looked to see if there was a way around it. There didn’t seem to be.
Maybe, I could walk around on the outside and get in that way.
That would look pretty suspicious and they probably had chain link fences to keep people from doing that. I didn’t see any other options.
Do x-rays hurt rabbits? I’d had x-rays at the dentist office and when I broke my arm. Were these any worse? I hoped not.
I stood in line, holding my knapsack to my chest. There were seven or eight people in front of me.
I mumbled into my knapsack. “Hazel, you’re going to have to stay perfectly still.”
I don’t know if anyone heard me. College kids tend to be a bit strange anyway, maybe they just thought I was talking to myself.
I laid the knapsack carefully, flat side down on the conveyor belt. I should have been scared but I was actually pretty excited. I rushed ahead so I could see the screen as Hazel passed through.
The luggage screener didn’t seem surprised that I was watching the screen so closely. It was a new thing; probably a lot of people ran up to see. The novelty had evidently worn off for her. She looked so bored; I half expected to hear snoring.
Her expression changed when my knapsack came into view. The two bags before had been a mish-mash of confusing images. I’d been able to make out a pair of scissors in one bag but everything else was just non-descript shades of gray.
There was no question about what was in my bag. There was a rabbit clear as a bell and nothing else.
She stopped the belt and I held my breath. She looked over at me and I tried to smile casually. Thankfully, the x-ray didn’t show a beating heart, a skeleton or any interior organs. It was just a bunny and to my eyes at least, there was no way to distinguish Hazel from any stuffed bunny you might find in the toy department. Her pose was the same with her front paws evenly before her chin and her hind legs folded beneath her. Her tail was up and her ears were back. And she wasn’t moving, not an ear twitch, not a whisker, she didn’t even look like she was breathing.
The screener was not at all bored now. The expression on her face was so confused it was hilarious. My adrenaline was running high and every cell of my body wanted to laugh out loud. Hazel was doing her job but I was going to blow it! I bit the insides of my cheeks and tried to breathe normally.
The screener looked at Hazel about twenty seconds though it seemed much longer to me. Other than her shape, she showed no sign of being a live bunny. The screener hit the belt control and Hazel didn’t even jump then. She just placidly rolled to the end of the belt where I picked her up and tried to keep from laughing.
I practically floated to the departure gate. Though I’d feared the flight crew only ten minutes before, after the luggage x-ray, I had complete confidence in Hazel.
I got on the plane and found my seat without the slightest self-consciousness. I had the window seat and I put Hazel’s knapsack on the floor between my legs.
A woman in her thirties sat next to me. It occurred to me that we were pretty tightly packed on the plane. A lot of people are allergic to animal fur. Was I condemning a fellow passenger to a miserable trip?
“You’re not allergic to rabbits are you?”
She looked a bit confused by my question. “Not that I know of.”
I had to put Hazel under the seat for take off but pulled her knapsack up into my lap as soon as the seatbelt light went off. Her nose pushed up around the flap of the knapsack. The air couldn’t have been good in there.
My neighbor saw the nose.
“Would you like to meet Hazel?”
“You actually brought a rabbit on the plane?”
I was glad she kept her voice down. We were in the air but I could still get in trouble if the flight crew learned of her.
I unfastened the flap but Hazel stayed in the box while we were in flight. My neighbor helped me keep watch for flight attendants and even shared some of her salad. Hazel gratefully accepted the lettuce and even the carrots though I knew they weren’t her favorite. I guess stress will make a bunny hungry.
Mom was waiting at the gate when I arrived.
“Is Dad here?”
“He’s parking the car.”
“I have someone I want you to meet.”
Mom looked around at the people nearby. She must have thought I was bringing a girlfriend home.
My neighbor from the flight smiled and waved. My mother looked concerned. The woman was nearly twice my age.
“No Mom.” I walked a few steps away from the gate with all the airline personnel and undid the flap of my knapsack. Hazel popped her head out.
“Oh my goodness!”
“Mom, meet Hazel.”