He fidgeted with the Pez dispenser, knowing that by this time tomorrow, it would be full again. Click. Click. Click. Donald Duck’s head nodded, controlled by a grimy thumb.
He had spent his 10 cents on a Coke this morning, money made from picking up trash, helping check oil and pumping gas at the Standard station in front of his house. He was mostly a good helper, and Sam paid him well. A dime a day, and usually it went right back into the cash register for candy. But not today, he would need no Pez, no Milk Duds, no bubble gum. All that would be coming free tonight.
What was Easter about anyway? As far as he knew, it was about eggs, candy and baskets. Wasn’t there something else though, a bigger reason? He strained to remember, his forehead wrinkling from concentration. If there was, he would have to think of it later, right now he was too busy considering the eggs.
Oh, it was about being good. Mom had told him the Easter bunny only came if you had followed the rules… gotten to bed on time, didn’t talk back, finished your supper… and as the big day drew closer, he had made sure his record was spotless. He smiled, then frowned. It was 9 o’clock. He was pretty smart for a 6-year old, he knew 9 o’clock meant bedtime on the weekend. And Mom wasn’t home yet.
There were rules with people like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, rules that must not be broken! In addition to the “being good” rule, there was the “can’t be awake” rule. He scrunched his nose, deliberating. He didn’t know where Mom was tonight, so he couldn’t call her. He walked to the window and peered into the dark. In the distance, red lights began flashing and the bell started to ring. As the arm lowered into position, he knew the nightly train was about to pass.
Was Fairfield, California at the beginning of the Easter Bunny’s tour, or near the end? He didn’t know, but he certainly didn’t want to take any chances. He watched and waited for the train to finish, hoping the headlights he could see flickering between the boxcar wheels were Mom’s. They were not.
Worried, he turned from the window and paced the kitchen. The parrot stirred in his cage, so he offered his finger between the bars to calm the bird. He considered going to bed now, so if the Easter Bunny came before his Mom got home, he would at least be asleep and ready. That made the most sense to him, so he put on his pajamas, brushed his teeth, washed the day’s dirt off his hands and slipped into bed. He got back up quickly, having forgotten an important detail. The milk and carrot!
He poured the milk, then searched the fridge for the rest of the snack. No carrots! Mom had assured him she would remember! He looked around thoughtfully, and decided if a cookie was good enough for Santa, surely the bunny wouldn’t mind. He placed the items carefully on the table and scurried back to bed.
He awoke with a start, the sunlight streaming through the window making him aware of the morning. He lie in bed looking at the ceiling, trying to clear the fog.
It’s Easter! He sat straight up and looked across the room. It was a small house with only one bedroom, and Mom was sleeping soundly across the room. A big smile crossed his face, but it was quickly replaced by a frown of uncertainty. Did she make it home and to bed in time, or was she awake when the bunny arrived? He bounded out of bed and rushed toward the door, then remembered to tip-toe. He knew how his mother hated being awakened early on the weekend. He imagined how silly he must look, trying to run and tip-toe at the same time, but he knew what waited for him beyond the door.
There would be eggs hidden around the house, a huge basket in the living room, and candy everywhere. It was something he especially enjoyed, the hunt for the eggs. Last year, the bunny had taken extraordinary steps to make them hard to find.
He stepped gingerly around the corner and into the living room. The basket wasn’t in its usual place. He frowned, wondering why. Surely the Bunny wouldn’t have hidden the entire basket… but he MUST have. What a clever creature! This would just add to the fun.
He poked around behind the chair, checked under the table, in the bathroom. He slipped to his knees, then onto his belly to see what might be under the couch. Nothing there… no basket, no eggs. In a flurry, he ran around the house looking everywhere - under, above, behind things. Nothing. He pursed his lips and folded his arms. Hmmm…
Under the sink! It was one of the last places he could think of, so surely it would be there. He ran into the kitchen and dropped to his knees, his flannel pajamas helping him slide to the cabinet. He peeked in carefully, gingerly, wanting to prolong the excited surprise he would feel when he saw the basket.
Nothing. The frown returned as he walked back into the living room. Surely there was something he had missed. Surely Mom had gone to bed in time. Surely he had been a good boy. Surely.
He considered the day a few weeks ago when he was late walking home from school. He had stopped at a friend’s house to see his new bike, and Mom was waiting for him on the porch. It was not a pretty sight and she was very unhappy.
He remembered the time he had brought home the puppy. Well, the puppy had actually “followed” him home, with some coaxing. Mom wasn’t too excited about that, either.
Then there was the time when he was made to sit at the table until he finished his ham and cheese sandwich. He had some important playing to do, so he slipped the sandwich behind the refrigerator and walked into the living room licking his fingers. He was SURE it would go unseen until he could return later and toss it outside, but the dog discovered the hidden food and exposed his transgression.
Could it be? Had he not been good enough this year? He rubbed his chin and realized it was wet. He couldn’t hold back the tears that began rolling down his face. He wanted to awaken his Mom and ask her advice, but it was pretty early. So he curled up on the couch and turned on the television.
An hour later, his mother woke up and walked into the room in robe and slippers. She looked at the television and noticed it was an Easter church service. She looked at him and realized what had happened.
As he questioned her, she struggled for answers. Sometimes, she said, the Easter Bunny just forgets. Sometimes he runs out of candy and has to finish the next night. It could be a hundred things, but she was SURE it wasn’t because he was a bad boy.
He began considering her thoughts. He couldn’t imagine the Easter Bunny could forget him, and he’s never been known to run out of candy. Was she sure it wasn’t the sandwich or the puppy? All she could do was shrug her shoulders and hug him.
Oh well. Sometimes things happen that aren’t happy things. He dressed and got ready for the day.