It was Little Ben
who first noticed the little piece of red Easter-basket grass
in the back yard. It was Taylor who first spotted the little yellow
wisp of Easter grass farther from the house. And it was Little
Ben who was clever enough to realize that these seemingly-innocent,
seemingly-random bits of grass from an Easter basket were really
bits of grass dropped by the Easter Bunny as he left the Loper
house early on Easter morning? And it was LIttle Ben who realized
that the Easter Bunny had made a mistake by failing to leave an
Easter basket for their little sister, Emily Ruth. And finally
it was Little Ben who understood that, because Emily Ruth had
been born a week before Easter, the Easter Bunny had failed to
pick up her birth in hisor hercomputer. It was all
beginning to add up, and what it was adding up to was a chance
to track down the mysterious Easter Bunny whom no one in the world
has ever seen well enough to describe.
"C'mon! Let's go, Taylor!" said Ben. "Maybe we'll be the first ones ever to see the Easter Bunny! If we find him, we can tell everybody what he looks like. And he forgot to bring Emily Ruth an Easter basket. We better go and get one for her. Andhey, Taylor!she won't be big enough to eat the candy in it yet! That means we'll have to eat it for her!"
The trail led to some big, funny-looking bushes in the back yard. They grew so close together you couldn't see what was behind them. There was an opening near the bottom where you could scrunch down and crawl into them. And right there at the opening, the boys saw a very-suspicious-looking bit of chocolate that could only have come from a broken Easter egg.
Little Ben got down on his hands and knees and began to crawl into the hole.
"Wait for me," said Taylor.
When they got inside, they saw that the opening went through the bushes like a tunnel. As they crawled out the other side, they realized that they were in a woods with a lot of big trees in front of them. This didn't look like the back yard.
The woods was all darkdark green, dark gray, and dark black. The trees were as big around as houses. There were round pieces of bark on their trunks that were as big as Ben. Taylor looked upand upand upand upand uptrying to see their tops. The treetops were so high, he could hardly see themat least a thousand feet up. Maybe even a hundred. My, but those trees were big! And it was strangely quiet. There were no bird calls or buzzing bees or breezes in the trees. Taylor felt as little as a mouse among all those great, big trees. There was so much soft moss on the forest floor that it felt like walking on a carpet. And it smelled musty, the way deep woods sometimes smell. "I don't like this woods,." Taylor said to Ben. "How do we get out of here? I want to go home! I WANT MY MOMMY!" He looked around, but all he could see behind him were trees just like the ones in front of him. There wasn't any place that looked like the back yard.
"It's okay," said Ben. "I'll take care of you. We came here to find the Easter Bunny." But he was scared, too.
He looked around, but all he could see behind him were trees just like the ones in front of him. There wasn't any place that looked like the back yard.
Suddenly, a voice behind them said, "What's the matter, little elves?"
The boys turned around. There before their very eyes was the biggest brown rabbit dressed in a pink shirt and a pair of blue jeans Ben and Taylor had ever seen It was sitting up on its haunches and it had pink eyes and little fingers on its front paws like a monkey or a raccoon.
"Are you the Easter Bunny?" said Ben.
"No," said the rabbit. "I'm Robert Rupert Rabbitt, Junior. Who are you?"
"I'm Ben Metzger," said Ben. "and this is my brother, Taylor."
"Where are you from?" said the rabbit. "Are you from around here?"
"I don't know," said Ben. "We're from Okinawa. And before that, we're from Quantico. And before that, we lived in Hawaii. My Grandma and Grandpa live in Huntsville, Alabama. Where are we now?"
"Well, you're in Rabbit Town. Or just outside it."
"This doesn't look like Okinawa," said Ben.
"I never heard of Okinawa," said Robert Rupert Rabbitt. "Or any of those other places, either."
"What's an 'elf'?" said Ben.
"An elf is what you are," said the rabbit. "Just like a rabbit is what I am."
"Why do you think I'm an elf?" said Ben.
"Because an elf is what you're called," said the rabbit. "You could just as easily be called a "grunch', but in that case, you'd be an grunch that's really an elf."
Ben didn't understand this talk about elves and grunches. He said, "We're here to find the Easter Bunny. He didn't bring my little new sister an Easter basket this Easter. It was the week after she was born. But he should have brought her an Easter basket, anyway. We're here to get it for her."
"I don't know about any Easter Bunny," said Robert Rupert. "I never heard of him. But I'll take you to my mother. Maybe she'll know who the Easter Bunny is. She knows everything there is about rabbits. Hop this way. You can hop, can't you?"
"Sure," said Ben, hopping along behind Robert Rupert Rabbit. Robert Rupert turned around and hopped off behind them. He seemed to know where he was going. He went around the trees and the bushes that grew between the trees. Ben worried about finding their way back. He was getting more lost by the minute. Robert Rupert Rabbitt, Junior, hopped past two giant toadstools like the toadstools that grow in the backyard that you mustn't ever eat because they're poisonous. One was big enough for Ben to sit on and one was big enough for Taylor to sit on. Ben wondered if fairies ever sat on them, but he didn't ask. He was too out-of-breath from hopping.
Within a few minutes, Ben and Taylor realized that they were on a trail. After they had hopped quite a little way, they began to smell smoke, along with something that smelled good, and very much like food. They went around a bush and a tree trunk, and then they saw a little house. It was a small brownish-gray house with a roof made of a single, great-big, dark-green leaf. The house had bark on the outside like a tree, as though it had grown there on the spot. They saw a couple of window holes on the sides. As they got close to the first house, they saw that there was a glassy covering over the window like a clear piece of plastic from a plastic bag. By that time, they could see a clearing in the forest, where they could actually see blue sky, and more houses, like a little village in the woods. And there was a mommy rabbit wearing jeans working in a little vegetable garden behind her house. They could tell she was a mommy rabbit because she was much bigger than Robert Rupert and and she was wearing a pretty necklace and she waswell, sort of fluffy-looking. Otherwise, the village looked deserted.
Robert Rupert hopped to one of the houses. There was a hole on the front of the house with what looked like window screen over it. Ben and Taylor couldn't see any opening in the screen. How was Robert Rupert.going to get into his house with that window screen covering the doorway? But Robert Rupert pushed on the screen and went right through. Then the boys saw that the screen was cut from the top to the bottom, and that they could push through it just like Robert Rupert.. They pushed through the slit in the window screen and followed Robert Rupert into the house.
As soon as Robert Rupert got inside, he called, "Mother!"
A lady's voice answered, "I'm in the kitchen, Robert."
The boys followed Robert Rupert into the kitchen, where Mrs. Rupert Rabbit was making vegetable stew for supper. So that's what the good food smell had been! Mrs. Rupert Rabbitt was wearing a pink-and-white dress and a white-and-pink apron, and looked very much like a mother. Taylor felt much better. She looked like a mother who could take care of them until they found their own mother.
"Mother, I found two people lost in the woods. The big one's name is Ben and the little one's name is Taylor and they're elves.
"Oh, my goodness, Robert. They are elves, aren't they? Where are you from, boys?"
"I'm from my house," said Taylor.
"We're from Okinawa," said Ben. "We live on ? Street. We were just playing in our back yard. How did we get to 'Boria?"
"Arboria," said Robert Rupert's mother. "How old are you, Taylor?"
Taylor held up three fingers.
"I'm that many," he said.
"You're awfully big for a three-year-old elf," said Robert Rupert's mother. "And I never heard of Okinawa. It can't be around here or I'd know about it. Where did you find them?" she asked Robert Rupert.
"They were over in the Giants' Arbor," said Robert Rupert. "They were pretty close to the Grandfather Tree."
"How far did you come in the Giants' Arbor, Ben?" she asked. "How far did you walk among the trees?"
Ben knew what he wanted to say but he didn't know how to say it.
"We just came from our back yard," he said. "We didn't walk among the trees."
"Did you just come from Okinawa?" said Mrs. Rabbitt.
"Yes, ma'am," said Ben. "We just came from Okinawa."
"I don't understand this at all," said Mrs. Rabbitt. "How did they get to the middle of the forest like that?"
"Maybe they got there on a magic, flying carpet," said Robert Rupert.
"Well, I only know of one thing for us to do," said Mrs. Rupert Rabbitt. "It's time to go to see Dr. Weisenheimer. If anyone knows how to get you back to Okinawa, she will. We could go back to where Robert Rupert found you in the forest and see if there's a way back to Okinawa from there, but You'd probably have seen it if there were. Anyway, Dr. Weisenheimer is a lot more apt to know the answer than I am. It pays to ask the experts, I always say. But first, let's all have a bowl of vegetable stew for lunch."
So they all ate vegetable stew from Mrs. Rabbit's big vegetable-stew dishes. It was so good with all the spices and seasonings she had put in it that Taylor ate a second helping. Then Mrs. Rabbit said,
"Would you boys like a raisin cookie?"
"Yeah, yeah!" said Robert Rupert.
"Yes, ma'am," said Ben.
"Yes, ma'am," said Taylor.
Mrs. Rabbitt gave them each a raisin cookie, which turned out to be a huge, flattened raisin. But it tasted very good, anyway. Then she said,
"Ben and Taylor, do you have to go to the bathroom,"
"No," said Taylor.
"Yes," said Ben.
"Well, I'd like to have you go there, anyway, Taylor," said Mrs. Rabbit. "Do you need help?"
"No," said Taylor.
And after Ben came back from the bathroom, Taylor went down the hall to the bathroom all by himself.
By the time he got back, Mrs. Rabbitt had written a note to Robert Rupert's father.
"I'll set out some vegetable stew for your father," she said to Robert, dishing out a big bowl of vegetable stew. "He only gets an half an hour for lunch so he needs to have his lunch on time."
Then she picked up her purse and they all went out the front door. Mrs. Rabbitt's purse had an animal face on it, and as they walked out the door, it winked its eye at Taylor. They went to a little car in the back of the house. When the boys looked down at the car's wheels, they saw that the wheels had feet on them. Inside the car were four giant hands. The four of them sat on the palms of the hands, with the fingers forming the backs of their seats. As the car started, the thumb and the fingers of the hands closed around whoever was sitting on them like a seat belt. The car went running over the road, wheeling away from the part of the woods where Ben and Taylor and Robert Rupert had been before they had entered the village. The road went on into the woods on the other side of the village. The car was very quiet, with hardly any noise at all. After they had ridden a minute or two, Ben and Taylor saw a big orange sign shaped like an orange.
"Can we stop at Orange Springs, mother," said Robert Rupert, "and pick some jelly beans?"
"Not this time," said Mrs. Rabbitt.
As they went by the orange sign, Ben and Taylor saw several cars parked in front of a place where orange juice was coming out of the ground. Some rabbits were picking something off the bushes that grew around the orange juice spring.
A minute later, a big animal that looked like a unicorn jumped in front of them, but the car swerved, and avoided hitting it. Now they began to come to houses again. They rounded a bend and suddenly, there was a town in front of them. It had a clock tower that rang chimes just like the clock in Great-Grandma Sanford's house. It had a fire station with a big red fire engine. It had a railroad track and a railroad station. It had a trolley track and a red-yellow-and-green trolley car with a bell that rang ding-ding-ding! It had a little park full of white and yellow and orange and red and purple and blue flowers, and swings and slides and teeter-totters, and a swimming pool and a little train that ran around a track. It had a bandstand in the center of the park where the rabbits could play their guitars on Sunday afternoons. It had some little cars with motors in them that you could drive. And it had motorscooters that you could drive, too. It had a statue of a huge rabbit with a book under its arm in the center of the park.
On they went, until the car turned down a side street and stopped at a house. It had a sign out in front with a picture of a rabbit wearing a purple robe with crescent moons on it, and a very-round, very-high, very-pointy hat. Mrs. Rabbitt, Robert Rupert, Little Ben and Taylor got out of the car and went up to the front door.
Dr. Weisenheimer met them at the front door. She gave each of them a small chocolate drop.
"Mrs. Rabbitt, it's so good to see you again," said Dr. Weisenheimer. "Can I help you with anything this morning or is this a social call?"
"Dr. Weisenheimer," said Mrs. Rabbitt, "we found these little lost boy-elves in the woods, and we wanted to ask you something."
"I see," said Dr. Weisenheimer. "But they don't look like little boy-elves to me. I'd say they're at least fourteen or fifteen.."
Taylor held up three fingers.
"I'm that many," he said.
"Of course, they could be retarded," said Dr. Weisenheimer. "Little elf, where do you live?"
"In my house," said Taylor, "on Okinawa."
"Yes, they definitely could be retarded," said Dr. Weisenheimer. "Let me try some calculations on my pocket calculator."
She pulled a little box out of her pocket, and inside, Ben and Taylor could see a little mouse wearing bedroom slippers and spectacles. Dr. Weisenheimer lifted the little mouse house up near her mouth and whispered some things to the mouse. The mouse immediately pulled out a tiny pencil and pad of paper and began to calculate furiously.
"One of these days, I'll break down and buy a new calculator but this house mouse has worked for our family as far back as I can remember," said Dr. Weisenheimer. "He's getting old now, and I wouldn't think of letting him go."
After a minute or two, the mouse signaled that he had a result for Dr. Weisenheimer. Dr. Weisenheimer put her ear up to the little mouse house and listened.
"I think I've got the answer," she said. "By dividing the square root of the charge on the neutron by the cube root of the outer product of the perihelion of Sirius, I come up with a number!"
"Oh, what is it?" said Mrs. Rupert Rabbitt. "What is it?"
"Three and a half," said Dr. Weisenheimer.
"What does it mean?" said Mrs. Rupert Rabbitt. "Tell me what it means."
"That's how old Taylor is," said Dr. Weisenheimer, pointing to Taylor.
"We knew that already," said Mrs. Rupert Rabbitt. "What we want to know is: how can these little elves find the Easter Bunny?"
"Mrs. Rabbitt, you're a dear to flatter me this way," said Dr. Weisenheimer. "I'm always very flattered when you show me that you think I can answer every question. But this is one of those rare times that I can't. Perhaps you should try asking only questions for which I know the answers. That way, you wouldn't ever be disappointed."
"But, Dr. Weisenheimer, How can I know what questions you can or can't answer until I've asked you the questions?" said Mrs. Rabbitt.
"Unfortunately, dear, that's one of those questions for which I don't know the answer. But I'm going to give you a referral to the world's smartest rabbit, Dr. Mindstein, who lives over in Hopkinsville. Maybe he'll know where these little elves can find the Easter Bunny. And maybe he can tell you how to tell whether or not I know the answer to a question before you ask it."
"Well, thank you anyway," said Mrs. Rabbitt. "You've been as much help as always"
"Would you prefer to pay cash or by check?" said Dr. Weisenheimer.
"I'll pay cash," said Mrs. Rabbitt.
She reached into purse and pulled out a head of lettuce, which she gave to Dr, Weisenheimer.
"It's always a pleasure to do business with a patient as charming, solvent, and pliable as you," said Dr. Weisenheimer, "and the long green is always welcome around here."
When they got outside, Mrs. Rupert Rabbitt said, "That was a lot of lettuce. But it was worth every penny it cost. On the times when you might seem stupid not knowing the answer to a question, it makes you feel so much better when you realize that Dr. Weisenheimer doesn't know the answer either. And it's so nice to hear those big words. It pays to ask the experts, I always say."
"Can I go home, now," said Taylor.
"Not just yet, dear. First, we'll have to go ask Dr. Mindstein where to find the Easter Bunny. Maybe he'll know."
Taylor began to cry.
"Oh, don't cry, Taylor, dear," said Mrs. Rabbitt. "It will be all right. If you could find a way to get here, we can find a way to get you back."
And she hugged him until he stopped crying. My, but she was soft and furry!
They got back in the car and drove to the park, where Ben and Taylor and Robert Rupert played on the swings and the slides and the teeter-totters, and rode the train. Ben especially loved the spiral slide that went around and around and around as it went on down to the ground.
Finally, Mrs. Rabbitt came over and said, "We have to be going now, boys. It's time to take the train to Hopkinsville."
They got back in the car and drove to the train station, where they got out and stepped up three steps to the train platform. It was very quiet. There was a goat standing on the train platform, reading a newspaper. He was wearing a suit, like a daddy going to work. Just then, they heard the train whistle off in the distance!
'Whoo-o-o-o-o-ooh! Whoooh! Whoooh! Whoooh! Whoo-o-o-o-o-ooh!' it went.
Then they began to hear a faint chug! chug! chug! chug! chug! chug! A few moments later, he saw the smoke from the train's smoke stack rising above the low, green trees at the edge of the village. Then all of a sudden, there it came, out of the trees near them.
WHOO-O-O-O-O-OOH! WHOOH! WHOOH! WHOOH! WHOO-O-O-O-O-OOH! went the whistle. Now it was terribly loud. Ben and Taylor put their fingers in his ears.
CHUG! CHUG! CHUG! CHUG! CHUG! CHUG! went the great, big, black, steam engine. It pulled up past the station platform as steam puffed out of its mighty piston drivers, and smoke chuffed from its smoke stack. Its connecting rods pumped back and forth, turning the big spoke wheels. Hot coals dropped from its firebox onto the ground between the tracks. It shook the ground as it went by, and everybody moved back. It was like a fire-breathing dragon. It stopped down the tracks from the station, with its passenger cars spaced along the station platform. Taylor hid behind Mrs. Rabbitt. He decided he really didn't need to get on that train. But just then, the engineer got down out of the engine's cab and walked over to Mrs. Rabbitt, Robert Rupert, Ben and Taylor. The engineer was a pig dressed in a pair of green coveralls with a white visor cap on his head.
"Top o' the mornin' to ye, macushlah," said the pig.
"Good morning to you, too, Mr. Pig," said Mrs. Rabbitt.
(B'gorrah, and Saints Alive! if it wasn't the same Patrick Pig who couldn't talk until his father took him to kiss the Blarney Stone, and who's never stopped talking from that day to this!)
"What foine-lookin' elves ye've got with ye today, Mrs. Rabbitt!," said Mr. Patrick Pig. "And where moight ye be takin' thim on such a foine spring day?"
"We're going to see Dr. Mindstein to try to find out how to get Little Ben Metzger-Elf and Taylor Metzger-Elf in touch with the Easter Bunny."
"Hm-m-m," said Mr. Patrick Pig. "Little Ben and Taylor Metzger, is it? What grand Irish names they be! And today is the very day for the wearin' of the greenwhich they're wearin'. But ye're not wearin' green, Mrs. Rabbitt, nor is your little spalpeen, (shame be unto yer names)! But anyway, I can't say that I've heard of the Easther Bunny. In fact, I can't say that there is such a person. But then again, I can't say that there isn't. But I can tell ye this: there's not a single place on the Auld Sod where he lives. I've laid eyes on every blade of grass on the Emerald Oisle, and as sure as St. Patrick (blessed be his holy name) chased out the snakes, there's not a single place in Erin that houses the Easther Bunny. And as me dear, departed grandfather, Shamus O'Shaughnessy Pig, was often heard to say, 'Paddy,' he would say"
But by that time, Ben and Taylor were on the train and didn't get to hear the rest of what Mr. Patrick Pig's dear departed grandfather, Shamus O'Shaughnessy Pig, was often heard to say.
On the train, they saw several goats and sheep wearing business suits, and lots of rabbitseven some little rabbits with their mommies and daddies. One of the goats who had his wife and son with him struck up a conversation with Mrs. Rabbitt. He explained that he was Bill Goat, that his wife's name was Wilhelmina, and their little one was Billy, the kid.
The train came to a road through the forest. The crossing gate was down and there were red lights flashing on it as Ben, Taylor, Robert Rupert and Mrs. Rabbitt went by. Three sheep and one sheep-dog were sitting on bicycles at the crossing gate, waiting for the train to go by. They were wearing running shorts and T-shirts. They waved as the train went by. It was fun to see the red crossing lights blink on and off from the train side as Ben and Taylor went past the crossing gate. Then the train went across a bridge over a creek.
The train track ran out of the woods and into some fields with ponds. One big pond had a little motorboat on it just about the right size for Ben and Taylor. It seemed as though they rode for a long time, but finally, they came to Hopkinsville, where they got off the train at the train station.
They walked a few blocks until they came to a plain-looking little house. They hopped up on the front porch, and over to the door. The door had a door knocker which was shaped like a parrot, with its head inside and its tail sticking through the door. Mrs. Rabbitt rapped the "parrot's tail" on the door, and they heard a parrot's voice on the other side of the door say, "Someone's at the door! Someone's at the door!"
Mrs. Mindstein answered the door. She was a fluffy, old rabbit wearing a light-blue housecoat and bunny slippers.
"Good afternoon," she said. "So nice to see you. Can I help you?"
"Dr. Weisenheimer made an appointment for us to see Dr. Mindstein," said Mrs. Rabbitt. "Is he at home?"
"Yes, he is," said Mrs. Mindstein. "Right this way, please."
She led them down a grass-carpeted hallway into a grass-carpeted study full of books and computer crystals.
Dr. Mindstein turned out to be a kindly, near-sighted, old rabbit dressed in eyeglasses, bunny slippers, a baggy old sweater, and baggy old pants. You would never in this world have guessed that he was the world's smartest rabbit.
"May I take your coats?" he asked.
"Thank you," said Mrs. Rabbit," but we aren't wearing any coats."
"Well bless my soul," said Dr. Mindstein, "so you aren't. I noticed when you came in that it looks like it's day-time out there. I've been working on an exciting new field tensorone that would support a raisin-pudding model of the universeand I haven't been paying much attention to world affairs. But you probably didn't come to see me about raisin-puddings."
"I like raisin pudding," said Taylor.
"Oh," said Dr. Mindstein. "Well, in that case, I'll ask Mrs. Mindstein if she has any more. You see, it was her wonderful recipe for raisin pudding that inspired my new lumpy-pudding model of the universe."
"Dr. Mindstein what we came to see you about is how Little Ben and Taylor here," she gestured at the boys, "can find the Easter Bunny so they can get an Easter basket for their little new sister, Emily Ruth."
"How old are you, Taylor?" said Dr. Mindstein.
"I'm this many," said Taylor, , holding up three fingers.
"I don't think these boys are elves," said Dr. Mindstein. Then Dr. Mindstein asked Ben and Taylor many questions about their house and their toys and their cars and airplanes and TV and lots of other things. Finally, he said,
"This is a banner day for science. What seems to have happened has been previously foreseen only in science fiction. I believe Ben and Taylor have come here through a gateway from another world. You'll notice that they lack the pointed ears and the epicanthic fold of homo elfinus. And they're much larger than your average, everyday, three year old elf as well. There's only one way such a thing could happen, and that would be to pass from one parallel universe to another. The earth, you see, is spinning on its axis and whirling around the sun, which in turn is revolving around the galactic center, which is in motion relative to other galaxies. Then there's the matter of differences in gravitational, electric and magnetic vector potentials and atmospheric pressures and angular momenta. The only way that a stationary gateway could connect two whirling, gyrating worlds as they describe elaborate trajectories in space-time would be if the two worlds have identical positions, momenta, and field strengths, and differ only in local structural details."
"Oh my goodness!" said Mrs. Rabbitt. "I just love to hear such big words. So Okinawa really isn't any place on Earth," said Mrs. Rabbitt.
"Not on this Earth," said Dr. Mindstein. "Ben and Taylor really deserve medals for bringing this phenomenon to the attention of the scientific community. I'll suggest that at the next cosmology conference."
Dr. Mindstein sounded just like Dad and Mother.
"It really seems a lot more understandable now that you've explained it all," said Mrs. Rabbitt. "Now that we know what's happening, how can we help Ben and Taylor find the Easter Bunny?"
"Well, now, that's a problem," said Dr. Mindstein. "That I don't know. But there's one hare-brained idea you might try. As you know, the Easter Bunny is said to live at Rainbow's End. He's such a mysterious figure, it's hard to know how much is fact and how much is legend. But legend has it that he visits other worlds about this time of year and takes them candy.. chocolate eggs, chocolate bunnies, colored baskets and jelly beans off our jelly bean bushes. I've never talked with him in person, but if you like, I'll request that he see you. He might be willing to do it. And he just might be able to help."
"Oh, would you?" said Mrs. Rabbitt. "I'd be very grateful."
"Certainly," said Dr. Mindstein. "It's the least I can do for Ben and Taylor, whose presence among us promises to do so much for cosmology. Let me call him on the horn."
He picked up a horn with a wire attached to its sharp end and held it to his ear, while he spoke into another horn.
"This is Dr. Alfred Mindstein. I'd like to speak with the Easter Bunny, please," he said.
After a moment, he said, "Good afternoon, Easter Bunny This is Dr. Alfred Mindstein with the Institute for Intense Study. I have two young boys here who are trying to find you. and who claim to be Little Ben Metzger and Taylor Metzger from Okinawa, andyou do?"
Dr. Mindstein began smiling at Ben and shaking his head 'yes'. Then Dr. Mindstein turned from the phone and asked, "Ben and Taylor, is your mother's name Susan?"
Ben and Taylor both nodded yes.
"Yes, they say it's 'Susan', said Dr. Mindstein. "They both have freckles, huh? It's a small set of barely-infinite universes, isn't it? Right. I'll send them right over."
There was a long pause.
"Is that so?" he said. "Oh my! Plastic eggs? They even hang them on trees? Well, that's too bad. What is this world coming to? No, it's certainly not like the good, old days."
There was a momentary pause. Then Dr. Mindstein said, "It's been good talking with you, too, Mr. Easter Bunny. Thanks. Hope we get a chance to meet sometime. Goodbye."
Then Dr. Mindstein hung up the phone and said,
"The Easter Bunny remembers you, Ben and Taylor. He said he visited your house in Quantico a few weeks agowhatever that means. He said to hop on over to his hutch, and one way or another, he'll see to it that you get back home. But he's all upset over the way they're commercializing Easter."
"My goodness, boys," said Mrs. Rabbitt, after they had all eaten a dish of Mrs. Mindstein's delicious raisin pudding and had gotten outside, "Dr. Mindstein knows all the answers. It pays to ask the experts, I always say. But the only way to get to Rainbow's End is by air. We'll go over to the rocport and hop a roc."
They hopped down the street from Dr. Mindstein's house, and hopped and hopped and hopped and hopped toward the biggest tree Ben or Taylor had ever seen, until both boys got so tired of hopping, they began to walk instead. Finally, They reached the bottom of the tree. There was a sign on the trunk of the tree in the shape of a big arrow that pointed up into the tree. As they approached the sign, it spoke to them, and said, "Welcome to Roc City. See Seven States". Up in the tree, Ben and Taylor could see some very big birds landing and taking off. They looked as big as Big Bird in Sesame Street. There was a little office building shaped like a shoe at the base of the tree, where Mrs. Rabbitt went inside.
Mrs. Rabbitt came right back out just as a huge bird landed in front of her with a great beating of mighty wings and a strong breeze that ruffled her fur.
The huge bird said "Good afternoon, ma'am. I'm Alfred J. Prufroc. Where do you and your"he looked curiously at Ben and Taylor"associates want to go?"
"We want to see the Easter Bunny," said Mrs. Rabbitt.
"The Easter Bunny only sees the people he wants to see," said the roc, haughtily, "and then only by appointment."
"We have an appointment," said Mrs. Rabbitt. "Dr. Mindstein asked me to give you this note."
"The Dr. Mindstein?" said the roc. "Then that's a horse of a different color. A bird of another feather. A flower from some other bower. A bee from a faraway tree. A"
"Alfred," said a voice from up in the tree, "that'll do."
"Yes, dear," said Alfred.
There was another beating of mighty wings, and two slightly-smaller birds landed beside Alfred J. Prufroc.
"This is my wife, Phyllis," said Alfred, gesturing toward the bird beside him. "She'll carry Robert Rupert. And this is my daughter, Susan, who'll carry Mr. Taylor Metzger-Elf, and my son, Jim, who'll carry Mr. Ben Metzger-Elf. It won't cost you anything. The Easter Bunny always gives us a coin from the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Now if you'll all get aboard, we'll be on our way. Can't keep the Easter Bunny waiting, y'know."
"My mommy's name is Susan," said Taylor.
"Is that right?" said Susan. "I'll bet she's happy to have a little elf like you for a son."
Mrs. Rabbitt helped Taylor get onto a big cushion on top of Susan Prufroc. Taylor lay flat on his stomach and put his arms around Susan's neck. Her feathers were so soft and slippery. Tentacles hanging down from the pillow wrapped around Taylor so that he couldn't fall off. Then Ben climbed on Jim's back. After Mrs. Rabbitt and Robert Rupert were safe on Alfred and Mrs. Prufroc, Alfred said, "Is everybody ready?"
Mrs. Rabbitt said, "Ben and Taylor and Robert Rupert, are you ready?"
Ben and Taylor said, "Yes, ma'am," and Robert Rupert said, "Yes, Mom." The rocs took off with a tremendous flapping of their powerful wings. Dust and dirt flew up in a cloud around them but they quickly rose above it, and leaped into the air.
"Taylor, I'll be out of breath so I won't be talking with you, but don't be afraid. You can't fall," said Susan.
Taylor kept his eyes squinted shut. He could feel Susan's great, strong wing muscles and the beat of her mighty wings. He could feel the wind blowing around him as they flew through the air at twenty-five miles an hour. He could hear Susan breathing hard as they flew higher and faster. It was frightening at first. But he could feel the tentacles holding him tightly to the pillow, and after a minute, he began to feel more comfortable.
"Are youall rightTaylor?" asked Susan.
"Yes," said Taylor, "I'm all right." She sounded like a mommy. She even had the same name as Mommy. She wouldn't let anything bad happen to him. He peeked a look at the ground. Down below were the tops of the big, green trees. They looked so small and far away that they didn't look real and it wasn't really scary. He put his head down along the side of Susan's neck so he could see underneath her wings and looked back at Hopkinsville. He could see the train station and lots of houses and a big clock tower and a playground with a slide that went around and around and around down to the ground and a bandstand where the rabbits could play their guitars on Sunday afternoons. He looked at Ben on Jim's back. Ben was looking all around. Then he looked ahead. Way up ahead was a huge building and there was something in front of it that flashed all the colors in a box of crayons. Could it be Rainbow's End where the Easter Bunny lives?
As they got closer, he saw that the 'something' that kept glittering in different colors was a house made of crystal and gold that shimmered under the sun in all the colors of the rainbow. The three rocs began to glide down toward the clearing and eventually, came gently to rest alongside the house of many colors. The tentacles let go of Taylor and he slid off Susan's back.
"Man, that was cool!" said Ben. "Just like Superman!"
"Yeah!" said Taylor. "That was cool!"
Behind the house was an enormous warehouse, and standing in front of its big open doors was a tall, dark, handsome rabbit who could only be the Easter Bunny. He was holding a paint brush in his right paw, and an Easter egg in his left paw. His paws and his apron were stained with every color of dye in the rainbow. Everything. everywhere was stained with every color of dye in the rainbow And there were chocolate Easter baskets, Easter eggs, multi-colored candy rabbits, yellow marshmallow chickens, jelly beans and orange, lemon, lime and raspberry drops everywhere, too. It was a yummy place.
"Good afternoon," said the Easter Bunny. "Sorry I can't shake paws with you but as you can see, I'm a little tinted."
"My, what a beautiful house you have here," said Mrs. Rabbitt.
"I'm glad you like it," said the Easter Bunny, smiling. "I bought it from a troll for a song. 'Silver Threads and Golden Needles'. was the name of the song I gave him for it. Would you like me to sing it for you?"
"Oh, that's very good of you," said Mrs. Rabbitt, "but we don't want to encroach upon your time that way."
"I am awfully busy," said the Easter Bunny. "Mrs.. Easter Bunny and I are kept hopping trying to stay ahead of the Japanese. They're flooding the world with cheap, imitation Easter imports: plastic rabbits, plastic eggs, and plastic grass. Their plastic rabbits have gotten so cheap, people are even hanging them on trees! And the Chinese and the Koreans are right behind them turning out chocolate rabbits and chocolate eggs. Tasty stuff, too! Where will it all end?"
"Oh, poor Mr. Easter Bunny," said Mrs. Rabbitt. "How un-Arborian! I had no idea such a thing was going on."
"Well, it's good of you to be concerned," said the Easter Bunny. "But to return to the subject of Ben, Taylor, Emily Ruth and the missing Easter basket, I am terribly embarrassed. This blunder has caused Mrs. Easter Bunny and I to completely rework our methods of telling when a new baby has been born. From now on, our computer lists will be kept up to the minute. And you may be sure that we won't miss Emily Ruth next Easter. As a special gesture to you for coming all this way to straighten out this tragic mistake, I'm giving you each an Easter basket of your own, in addition to an Easter basket to take back to Emily Ruth. I'm also giving each of you a chocolate statue of myself. And when you go, you may each take with you as many gold coins as you can carry in your pockets from the pot of gold here at the end of the rainbow."
And he pointed to a big pot full of gold coins which sat at the corner of his warehouse door.
"As for getting you home to Okinawa, I have my own way of getting to various places in your world. That's how I get into houses in order to leave Easter eggs on Easter Sunday. But first, I'd like you to try going back to the place in the forest where Robert Rupert found Ben and Taylor and see if you can't find a hole that's a gateway to Okinawa. The hole out of which they crawled should be there somewheremaybe in the base of a tree. Then if you can't find the gateway, call me on the horn and I'll arrange for them to go back home using my route."
"Oh, thank you, Mr. Easter Bunny," said Mrs. Rupert Rabbitt. "We'll try that."
"Good," said the Easter Bunny.
Ben, Taylor, and Robert Rupert each picked up two handfuls of gold coins from the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and put them in their pockets. Mrs. Rabbitt put hers in her purse. The Prufrocs each picked out a gold coin which they put in pockets in the riding pillows on their backs. Then Robert Rupert Rabbitt and Mrs. Rupert Rabbitt and Ben and Taylor all got back on their pillows on the Prufrocs, and they took off again into the sunset.
"Good-bye, Easter Bunny," said Ben.
"Good-bye, Mr. Easter Bunny," said Taylor.
"Good-bye, Ben and Taylor," said the Easter Bunny. "See you next Easter!"
On the way back, Taylor wasn't afraid, at all. No sir! He was a regular wiggle-worm on the return flight, looking back toward the Easter Bunny's workshop, forward toward the Hopkinsville clock tower, east toward Elf-Land, and west toward The River of No Return. They soon arrived at Roc City again where they said goodbye to the Prufrocs.
"If you ever get back to Roc City, Ben and Taylor, please come and see us," said Alfred.
"And feel free to bring a friend," said Susan.
Mrs. Rabbitt and Robert Rupert and Ban and Taylor hopped back to the train station just as a train came chugging into the station. They jumped on the train and rode back to the town with the clock tower and the playground and the slide that went around and around and around as it went on down to the ground. There, they got into the Rabbitts' car.
"Ben and Taylor, I'm afraid you won't get to meet Robert Rupert's father, Robert Rupert Rabbitt, Senior, today if the Easter Bunny is right about finding a hole in a tree," said Mrs. Rabbitt. "Dr. Rabbitt works at the Rabbit Town Bio-engineering Experimant Station and he won't be home until suppertime. He's the rabbit who developed the particular kind of road-plant that we're riding on right now. This dark green surface we're on is wood with a layer of chlorophyll at the top. We grow our own roads locally, thanks to Dr. Rabbitt. He and Robert Rupert, Junior, come from a distinguished line of prolific rabbits. Robert Rupert Rabbitt, Senior's, father's brother is a partner in the law firm of Hammer, Chisel, Rabbitt, & Tenon. And before she retired, Robert Rupert Rabbitt, Senior's, father's brother's wife was a medical doctor specializing in furmatology. And I myself am a niece of the famous comedian, Jack Bunny."
"Mother, can we stop at Orange Springs now?" said Robert Rupert.
"I guess so," said Mrs. Rabbitt. "for a few minutes."
When they got to the sign that looked like a big orange, they pulled into a little parking area and got out of the car. Robert Rupert ran over to a tree and picked a big, cup-shaped flower off it. Then he ran over to the place where orange juice was coming out of the ground, filled his cup, and started to drink the orange juice.
"You can do it, too, boys," said Mrs. Rabbitt.
Ben ran to the tree, picked a flower, and filled it with orange juice. It tasted so good! He was thirsty and he drank another cup. By now, Robert Rupert was over at some bushes, picking something off them and eating them.
"C'mon!" he yelled at Ben and Taylor. "These are jelly bean bushes. Boy, are they good!"
Ben ran over to the bushes, picked a great, big, red bean, and tasted it. On the outside was a sugary coating and the inside was what tasted like raspberry jelly. And next to the raspberry jelly bean bush he found a lemon jelly bean bush and next to that was a lime jelly bean bush, a grape jelly bean bush, a strawberry jelly bean bush, a black-cherry jelly bean bush, and an orange jelly bean bush. Yum! Yum, yum, yum!
"Hey, Taylor!" shouted Ben. "You know what?"
"What?" said Taylor.
"These bushes are the same as the bushes in our backyard. The ones we crawled through to get here. That means we got jelly bean bushes growing in our back yard. Yay!" said Ben.
"Yay!" said Taylor.
"Well, boys, it's time to go now," said Mrs. Rabbitt.
Ben and Taylor stuffed as many jelly beans as they could in their pockets. Then they got back in the car, the hands closed around them, and they drove back to the Rabbitts' house. By now, it was late afternoon. Mrs. Rabbitt walked with them to the place in the Giants' Arbor near the Grandfather Tree where Robert Rupert had first seen Ben and Taylor.
"This is the place," he said. "Oh, and look! There's an opening at the bottom of that tree! The Easter Bunny was right. That must be where Ben and Taylor came from."
"Well, Ben and Taylor, I guess it's time to say goodbye," said Mrs. Rabbitt. She hugged them both goodbye. She was so soft and fluffy, and she smelled good, too. "But you can come back and see us tomorrow. Now that you know where we live and we know how to get to Okinawa, we can see each other whenever we want to."
"Mother! Mother!" said Robert Rupert. "Let me crawl through first and make sure it's all right before Ben and Taylor go through. I'll turn around and come right back. Let me make sure it's O.K."
"Well.. will you turn around and come right back the minute you get to Ben and Taylor's back yard? I don't want you to take any chances," said Mrs. Rabbitt.
"Yes," said Robert Rupert. He was already down crawling into the hole. A few seconds went by.
Mrs. Rabbitt leaned down by the hole.
"Robert, are you all right?" she called into the hole.
"Yes, Mom, I'm O.K.," They heard his muffled voice. "I'm in their back yard. It's neato over here! But I'm coming back."
A few seconds later, Robert Rupert squirmed out of the hole.
"Neato!" he said. "Neato, neato, neato! I was in Ben and Taylor's back yard. It was warm and sunny. There was a big lady elf there. That must be your mother. I saw her but I don't think she saw me."
Now it was Ben and Taylor's turn to crawl into the hole.
"Goodbye, Mrs. Rabbitt," they said. "Goodbye, Robert Ruper' See you tomorrow.
"Goodbye, boys," said Robert and Mrs. Rabbitt. "Be careful," said Mrs. Rabbitt.
Ben and Taylor crawled out of the bush into their backyard. It felt good to be home. And there was Mother. Now she was looking right at them.
"Boys, where have you been?" she said. "I've been looking all over for you. You've been gone all afternoon."
"We went to see the Easter Bunny," said Ben. "He lives in Arboria, only nobody there but Dr. Mindstein knows how to find him. And Mrs. Rabbitt and Robert Rupert Rabbitt and Dr. Weisenheimer and Dr. Mindstein helped us. And we went to Orange Springs and got jelly beans and rode the train and flew on a roc and went to Rainbow's End. And then we found the hole in the tree and came home. Taylor!Taylor!we forgot to bring our Easter baskets. And Emily's basket. And the chocolate statues of the Easter Bunny. Mrs. Rabbitt still has 'em!"
"You boys have a vivid imagination," said Mommy. "Did you go to somebody's house?" She seemed cross.
"No, mommy," said Taylor. "'Cept Mrs. Rabbitt's." He pulled out two jelly beans.
"Where did you get those big jelly beans, Taylor?" she said.
"I got them in 'Boria, mommy," said Taylor, "off the jelly-bean bush."
"Taylor, there aren't any jelly-bean bushes," she said. "They don't exist."
"Yes, there are! Yes, there are," said Taylor.
Ben wasn't saying anything until he saw what happened to Taylor.
"Where are they?" she said.
"Through those bushes over" said Taylor. But the bushes were gone. He couldn't believe his eyes. The bushes weren't there any more.
"Well, you'd better come inside now," said Mommy. "Grandpa and Grandma Seitz are coming and we need to get ready for them."
Ben and Taylor kept looking and looking and looking behind them for the bushes, as Mother pulled them into the kitchen. Mother didn't believe them. Mother thought they'd imagined the whole thing. How could they show her if they couldn't find the bushes? And then .. and then Ben felt the golden coins from Rainbow's End that were weighing down his pockets.. the golden coins which bore in front the likenesses of Oberon and Titania, and on their backs, the Fairy Circle, cincturing the Fairy Toadstool Rampant.. the golden coins that couldn't come from any place on Earth. And these he laid upon her kitchen table.