|The Transformation Story Archive||Strange Things and other Changes|
The Velveeta Rabbit
There was once a rabbit made entirely out of Velveeta, and in the beginning, he seemed really splendid. He was advertised on television as 'melting better than Cheddar,' and he could be served atop any number of wonderful foods, such as broccoli, mashed potatoes, and ham. He had been carved out of a solid slab of Velveeta cheese, fresh out of its foil wrapper and oblong paper box. On Thanksgiving morning, when he sat wedged in the refrigerator, between the leftover meatloaf and the salad dressing, the effect was appetizing.
There were other things in the refrigerator: nuts and oranges and a bit of very old Kool-Aid, and lettuce and spam, and a few things which no one had been able to identify for several months, but the Rabbit was quite the best of all. For at least forty-five seconds the Boy stared at him hungrily, but then Aunts and Uncles came to dinner, and there was a great chopping and dicing of onions and garlic, and in the ensuing panic that followed as the Boy's sinuses became inflamed, the Velveeta Rabbit was forgotten.
For a long time he lived in the refrigerator or on the kitchen counter, and no one thought very much about him. He was naturally mellow, and being only made of pasteurized processed cheese food, some of the more expensive foods quite snubbed him. The hors d'oeuvres were very superior, and looked down upon everyone else; they were full of fancy foods, such as caviar and little hot dogs rolled up in buns, and they pretended that they were tasty. The filet mignon, who had been carefully sliced from the choicest part of the cow, but had gone a little rancid from sitting in the refrigerator for too long, caught the tone from the other foods and never missed an opportunity of referring to his past life as a partial cow. The Rabbit could not claim to be a partial anything, for he didn't know that cheese was produced by cows, and he thought all cheeses were like himself, and were destined to be cut with a hot knife and served with a bit of ham on a Saltine. Even the tuna casserole, who was made out of various edible items, and should have had broader views, put on airs and pretended it was affiliated with something it called The Chicken of the Sea. Between them all the poor little Rabbit was made to feel himself very insignificant and commonplace, and the only person who was kind to him at all was the Cabernet Sauvignon.
The Cabernet Sauvignon had been in the kitchen longer than any of the others. He was so old that his label was starting to peel and showed the glass underneath, and most of the speckles in his cork had dulled to a uniform gray brown. He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of fancy foods arrive to boast and swagger, and by-and-by be forgotten about and grow strange green fuzz and begin to smell horrible, and he knew that they were only delicacies, and would never be truly enjoyed by anyone. For kitchen magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those foods that are aged and spirited and bubbly like the Cabernet Sauvignon understand all about it.
"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the hot water tap, before Dinah came to tidy the kitchen. "Does it mean costing eighty-three dollars an ounce and tasting nasty?"
"Real isn't how much you cost," said the Cabernet Sauvignon. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child waits to eat you for a long, long time, not just to eat, but to REALLY savor you, then you become Real."
"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.
"Sometimes," said the Cabernet Sauvignon, for he was always well-tempered. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."
"Does it happen all at once, like being popped into the microwave," he asked, "or bit by bit, like being broiled?"
"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Cabernet Sauvignon. "Microwaves NEVER cook anything that tastes real. Good food takes a long time. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your coloring has changed, most of your flavoring has been replaced with herbs and spices, and you have silly little bits of parsley on your head. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be unappetizing, except to people who prefer fast food."
"I suppose you are Real?" said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Cabernet Sauvignon a little transparent. But the Cabernet Sauvignon only smiled.
"The Boy's parents made me Real," he said. "That was a great many years ago, when they still babbled in affectionate puppy love to each other, but once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always."
The Rabbit sighed. He thought it would be a long time before this magic called Real happened to him. He longed to know what it felt like; and yet the idea of growing dry and crusty and congealing on the bottom was rather sad. He wished that he could become it without these uncomfortable things happening to him.
There was a person called Dinah who ruled the kitchen. Sometimes she took no notice of the edibles lying about, and sometimes, for no reason whatever, she went swooping about like a great wind and hustled them away in cupboards. She called this "tidying up," and the foods all hated it, especially the overripe ones. The Rabbit didn't mind it so much, for wherever he was thrown, he rebounded.
One evening, when the Boy was going to bed, he couldn't find the cookies that he always ate with his milk. Dinah was in a hurry, and it was too much trouble to hunt for cookies at bedtime, so she simply looked about her, and seeing that the cupboard door stood open, she made a swoop.
"Here," she said, "take your old Bunny! He'll go well with milk!" And she dragged the rabbit out by one foot, and put him on the Boy's placemat.
That night, and for many nights after, the Velveeta Rabbit sat on the Boy's placemat. At first he was nervous about being eaten, but the Boy couldn't seem to bring himself to eat such an endearing piece of culinary art, and would just stare and run his fingers over the Rabbit's ears as he sipped his milk. Soon the rabbit grew to like it, for the Boy's gentle stroking felt very pleasant, and the Boy would pretend to give him sips of milk, and hop him around the placemat.
And so time went on, and the little Rabbit was very happy-so happy he never noticed how his beautiful Velveeta ears were getting stubbier and stubbier from stroking, and his feet were getting blunt, and there was a rancid smell coming from his chin where the Boy had dribbled milk on him.
Another week came, and the Boy began taking the Rabbit to school in his lunch box. At lunch time he would take the Rabbit out and stare at it, despite the jeers of his friends, who thought that a Boy who played with a bit of artificial cheese must be looney.
And once, when the Boy went back to his house, the Rabbit was left in the cold locker long after dusk, and Dinah had to come and look for him because the Boy couldn't go to sleep without drinking milk and playing with his bunny. He was covered in eraser rubbings and dust, and Dinah grumbled as she covered him in Saran Wrap and put him into the refrigerator.
"You must have your old Bunny!" she said. "Fancy all that fuss for a bit of pasteurized processed cheese food!"
The Boy sat up in bed and stretched out his hands.
"Give me my Bunny!" he said. "You mustn't say that. He's not imitation. He's REAL cheese!"
When the little Rabbit heard that, he was happy, for he knew that what the Cabernet Sauvignon had said was true at last. The kitchen magic had happened to him, and he was a commercial by-product no longer. He was real cheese. The Boy himself had said it.
That night he was almost too happy to sleep, and so much love stirred in his little dairy heart that it almost curdled. And into his orangish skin, that had gone hard and dry, there came a whitish tone, and an aged smell, so that even Dinah noticed it the next morning when she picked him up, and said, "I declare if that old Velveeta hasn't got quite a well-aged scent to it!"
That was a wonderful weekend!
Near the house where they lived was a shopping center, and in the late afternoon the Boy liked to go there to find quarters for the gum machines. One day he took the Velveeta Rabbit with him, and they wandered through the shopping mall, looking at toys and candies and all sorts of other things which spoiled Boys like. One afternoon, as they entered an old wooden shop, the Rabbit saw two strange beings staring at him.
They were cheeses, like himself, but with red wax coatings and tied in lovely string packages. They must have been well made, for they didn't get melty at all, and they were bunched together in round, solid, delicious-smelling wheels. The rabbit stared hard to see where the bits of tin foil had stuck to their skin rather than peeling off properly. But he couldn't see it. They were evidently a new kind of cheese altogether.
They stared at him, and the little Rabbit stared back. And all the time they smelled scrumptious.
"Why don't you get yourself served with a dry dinner wine?" one of them asked.
"I don't feel like it," said the Rabbit, for he didn't want to explain that the general consensus was that cheese previously covered in tin foil was not appropriate for serving with a dry dinner wine.
"Ho!" said the waxy cheese. "It's as tasty as anything." And he indicated a large poster showing a handsome platter of Ementhal Swiss served with Rosemary baguettes and Chardonnay. "I don't believe you can!"
"I can!" said the little Rabbit. "I can be served with anything!" He meant when the little boy ate and stared at him, but of course he didn't want to say so.
"Can you complement a good rye?" asked the waxy cheese.
That was a dreadful question, for the Velveteen Rabbit had no idea what a rye was! The boy only ate Wonder Kids or Roman Meal bread in front of him. He said nothing, hoping that the other cheeses wouldn't notice.
"I don't want to!" he said again.
But the aged cheeses have very sharp flavors, especially the cheddar, and they had never met anyone scented like this before.
"He hasn't got any aging!" one called out. "Fancy a fine cheese without any aging!" And he began to laugh.
"I have!" cried the little Rabbit. "I have got aging! I just have a muted coating!"
"Then prove it," said the fine cheese, and it got up on its end and rolled over toward the Rabbit. Suddenly it stopped and fell over on its side.
"He doesn't smell right!" he exclaimed. "He isn't a real cheese at all! He isn't real!"
"I am Real!" said the little Rabbit. "I am Real! The Boy said so!" And he nearly began to weep oils.
Just then the Boy came back, and picked up the little Rabbit, carrying him out the door.
"Please believe me!" called the little Rabbit. "Oh, do believe me! I know I am Real!"
But the Boy kept on, and the cheeses laughed inside their expensive shop.
"Oh, dear," thought the Rabbit. "Why did they not believe me? The Boy said I was Real."
For a long time that evening, he lay in the refrigerator, watching the Jello set, and thinking about what the cheeses had said.
Days passed, and the little Rabbit grew very old and smelly, but the Boy loved him just as much. He loved him so hard that his fingers permanently squeezed imprints in the Rabbit's shape, and his color began to turn green, and his ears broke off and were gobbled up by the dog. Soon the boy had squeezed him into a ball-like blob, and he scarcely looked like a rabbit any more, except to the Boy. To him he was always scrumptious, and that was all the Rabbit cared about. He didn't mind how he smelled to other people, because the kitchen magic had made him Real, and when you are Real rottenness doesn't matter.
And then the Boy went crazy.
He babbled incoherently, banged his head on walls, and ran up and down the street screaming, "I'm a chicken, I'm a chicken!" It was a long, weary time, for the Boy was too weird to eat properly, and he began devouring bizarre foods, such as marbles and coins and mayonnaise and Spam and Chef Boyardee. The Rabbit found it disconcerting to watch all these alien objects pass down the Boy's gullet, but he sat droopily in the refrigerator, and looked forward to the time when the Boy would be well again, and they would go out to the shopping center like they used to. Presently, the Boy's sanity returned, and the Boy got better. He was able to eat more edible foods, like Cream of Wheat, and peanut butter sandwiches.
One day the psychiatrist came into the house and began collecting items that he felt were a bad influence on the boy. Just then Dinah caught sight of the Rabbit.
"How about his old Bunny?" she asked.
"That?" said the psychiatrist. "Why, that's most likely the very source of the poor boy's problems!-throw it out at once. What? Nonsense! Feed him serious foods, like porridge. He mustn't be allowed to play with his food like that any more!"
And so the little Rabbit was put into a plastic bag with old corn husks and watermelon rinds and a lot of leftovers, and carried out to the end of the garden behind the playset. That was a fine place to make a compost pile, only the gardener was too busy trimming to use fertilizer right now.
That night the Boy had spaghetti, with garlic bread and chocolate pudding for desert. And while the Boy was eating, enjoying every bite, the little Rabbit lay with his head stuck partially into a rotten tomato, and he felt very lonely. He was feeling very hot and fluid, for he had always been used to sleeping in the refrigerator, and by this time his innards were quite green and liquid. Nearby he could see the thicket of bamboo, growing tall and close like a botanical prison. He thought of those long, cool hours on the Boy's placemat-how happy they were-and a great sadness came over him. He seemed to see all those hours pass before him, each more beautiful than the other, the cookie crumbs, the little milk dribbles, the chaotic, painful bouncing across the table. He thought of the Cabernet Sauvignon, so wise and spirited, and all that he had told him. Of what use was it to be loved and lose one's flavor and become Real if it all ended like this? And a wax tear, real wax, trickled down his little discolered Velveeta nose and fell to the ground.
And then a strange thing happened. For where the tear had fallen, a hoof poked out of the ground, a mysterious hoof, not like any of the dog's or cat's paws. It was attached to a leg covered with coarse brown hair, and was itself very hard and black. It was so bizarre that the little Rabbit forgot to cry, and just lay there watching it. And presently the hoof was followed by a huge mooing animal-a cow.
She was quite the loveliest cow in the whole world. Her horns were made of ivory, and there was a solid gold bell round her neck, and her moo was like heavenly music. And she came close to the little Rabbit and licked him up in her her tongue.
"Little Rabbit," she said, "don't you know who I am?"
The Rabbit looked up at her, and it seemed to him that he had seen her nose before, but he couldn't think where.
"I am the kitchen magic Cow," she said. "I take care of all the dairy products that the children have loved. Needless to say, this is the first job I've ever had. But I take them away and turn them Real."
"Wasn't I Real cheese before?" asked the little Rabbit.
"You were Real to the Boy," the Cow said, "and Real Disgusting to everyone else. But now you shall be Real Cheese to everyone."
And she slurped the Rabbit up in her tongue and swallowed him down.
The Rabbit spent many hours being spit up and rechewed, then shivering in strange agony as digestive juices finally managed to break him down, although they weren't happy about it, and told the Cow so with painful indigestion. Later the next morning, the Cow was milked, and the milk was taken and carefully processed into a delightfully tangy cheddar. The cheddar was coated in wax and taken to the cheese shop.
Once there the Rabbit sat quite still and never moved. For when he saw all those fine cheeses sitting about him he suddenly remembered about his peculiar odor, and he didn't want them to see that he contained artificial colors and flavors, as well as BHT to preserve freshness. He might have sat there a long time, too shy to speak, if just then he hadn't noticed a bottle of Chablis; and before he thought what he was doing, he complemented it.
And he found that he actually had flavor! Instead of a spongy consistency he had a waxy covering, red and unyielding, his odor was sharp and appealing, and his flavor was so yummy that his price sticker was well over six dollars! He was a Real Cheese at last, at home with the other cheeses.
Sunday passed, and Monday, and on Tuesday, when the Boy got out of school, he wandered over to the cheese shop. And while he was browsing, he noticed two cheeses sitting on the counter. One of them had an imprint on its wax; it was that of a small, shy, melting rabbit. And something about the odor to that cheese was so familiar that the Boy thought to himself: "Why that looks just like my old Bunny that was lost when I went bonkers!"
But he never knew that it really was his own Bunny, sitting on the counter and staring at the child who had first helped him to be Real.
The Velveeta Rabbit copyright 2000 by Jason The Skunk.
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