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The Better Bunny


Charilette Rai Sweeney

Madness is like death in that we all know it happens but, until it touches us personally, we do not really have a clear understanding of it. 

Many years ago my father bought my younger sister and I two stuffed bunny rabbits. Robin’s bunny looked so real at first glance one might mistake it for a real rabbit. Robin squealed happily and scampered off to show our mother squeezing the bunny tightly in her arms.

When my father handed me my bunny, however, he could see the shocked look upon my face. The disparity between the two bunnies was undeniable - my bunny looked as though it was purchased at the dollar store. I said nothing and thanked my father for the gift.

My father told me that there was only one bunny like the one he bought for Robin and he knew that if he had given me the better bunny, Robin would be upset and cry. However, he thought if he gave her the better bunny that I was older and I would understand.

I understood, and Robin definitely understood. She named her rabbit The Better Bunny. In response, I named mine Not-As-Good-A-Bunny.

Time passed, as time does. One day I received a six page, handwritten letter from my sister, then twenty-three at the time. Robin rambled on in the first paragraph about how I was always jealous of her because she was blonde and my hair was red, her eyes were blue - mine were green, she was younger and I was nine years her senior. She said I was jealous because mom and dad loved her more, and she got more presents than I did at Christmas and, most of all, I was jealous because she always got the better bunny.

I have never read the rest of that letter. I just folded it and put it away.

No one could have possibly foretold Robin’s fate nor intervened to prevent her descent into madness. I found her one night near the beach in La Jolla, California, walking in small circles in the rain, talking in gibberish to things in the air around her that I could not see. The sister I had known was gone forever and a stranger had taken her place - someone that I did not know and who did not know me.

A decade has now been put behind us. Robin gave birth to a baby boy whom she named Michael. Michael's father, Robin maintains, is a 14th century pirate named Christopher LaSaint. Robin's schizophrenia and bipolar condition prevents her from caring for Michael and I have raised him as my own. Robin's madness frightens him so she seldom comes around.

One of the last days I saw her, she was standing before the bathroom mirror screaming in terror for hours at a time. During one of Robin's infrequent moments of lucidity I asked her, “So what is it that you see in the mirror that terrifies you so?”

Robin leaned forward suspiciously and whispered. “They are all around us,” she confided, “always watching, always waiting.”

“Then perhaps it is just as well that I cannot see them.” I replied. “I have been blessed by ignorance of their existence.”

“Perhaps.” Robin said blankly. Then after a moment she continued, "If something ever happens to me. . . will you make sure Michael receives all of my belongings?"

"Yes," I vowed, "I will see to it."

"You see," Robin smiled wryly, "you still don't get The Better Bunny."

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