He couldn't believe it. He was Rambunctious Fucking
Rabbit. More recognizable than The President of the
United States. Maybe even The Pope. Children would literally
flock to him. How many guys did he know who
would trade their left nut for this gig?
He looked up, as Provi's thick-toothed black comb
raked over his hairy white rabbit arms. The speaker,
standing ten feet away, was Danny DeVito tall with an
Arnold Schwarzenegger chest. His face and close-cropped
gray hair had the wear and tear of a fifty-year-old. But the
body, in black nylon warm-up pants and a tight black
tank top, had the muscle tone of a college wrestler.
"I'm Dante, your Character Coach," he said. "Let's see what kind of a rabbit you
are. Don't put the head on yet. Just let me see you walk over here."
Provi gave the suit one final fluff and stood back.
Elkins inhaled, took one bold step forward and immediately
hooked the front edge of one giant rabbit's foot to
the back of the other. Gravity took over and down he
went, floppy ears over cotton tail, onto the rubber-matted
floor. Provi let out a loud aye-aye-aye.
"That's why you don't put the head on yet," Dante
said, helping him up. "Don't want you to break it." "But it's okay if I break my
own head? Why didn't you warn me?"
"You learn faster this way," Dante said. "What size shoes do you wear?"
"Ten and a half."
"Well now you're wearing size twenty-four rabbit's
feet and eighteen pounds of fur. Why don't you try it
again?" Dante said, stepping to the other side of the room.
Elkins hobbled his way toward Dante and made it to
the other side without falling. "How's that?" he asked.
"Fantastic," Dante said, "if you were one of Jerry's
Kids. You gotta be animated. Bouncy, springy," Dante said, bouncing and
springing across the room. "Don't worry. By the time I'm finished you'll be
dancing around the park like Adolf Nureyev."
It took ten hours. "Tomorrow I'll show you how to
find your way around every inch of this park," Dante said. "Then we'll go over
the rules for handling kids. There's a right way and a wrong way, and you gotta
be real careful. Don't scare 'em, don't drop 'em and don't touch 'em in any
They worked with dolls. Eddie had no problem not
touching them in any wrong places. On the last day of
training, Dante introduced him to a squat, moon-faced
woman with a thick mane of bottled blonde hair, a dozen
tiny gold earrings on each side of her head, and eyes that
convinced Eddie there was nothing going on between the
earrings. "This is Noreen Stubiak," he said. "She'll be your Keeper."
Caleo had prepared him for this, but Eddie played dumb. "My what?"
"Every character gets a Keeper. They follow you around the park. Somebody fucks
with you, bam, she's right there to help."
Eddie smiled at her. "So you're going to protect me,"
he said. "You got a gun?" Noreen made a snorting sound
that Eddie took for a laugh.
"Don't give her no ideas," Dante said. "She's got a walkie-talkie. Anybody
starts up with you, she calls Security to bail you out."
Eddie knew the truth. Noreen was a spy. He hated the
idea of having a watchdog follow him around, but it didn't
take long to figure out that Noreen was the best possible
Keeper he could have. She was a highly unmotivated,
twice-divorced piece of flotsam from the Total
Loser's Section of Trailer Park City, and Stubiak, Eddie
decided, was Polish for dumb as shit.' But she had one
redeeming quality. It didn't take much to get her to look
the other way.
Every few days Eddie would give her a little gift. A
Faith Hill CD. A bag of scrunchies for her mop of revolting
yellow hair. Or a bottle of her favorite perfume, Eau
de Wal-Mart. Maybe she knew what he was up to; maybe
she didn't. Either way, she never said a word.
The weeks that followed were the happiest of his life.
Four times a day Eddie, dressed as Rambunctious Rabbit,
would hop on the Easy Street Trolley and head for Tyke
Town. That's where the younger kids were. Just this afternoon,
he had spotted the boy. Asian. Stunning. Six years
old, maybe seven. The perfect age. A little shy, but not
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