Right Before His Eyes

It’s my husband’s birthday today. November 3rd. Our family— minus the Florida part, unfortunately—  is gathering at his favorite restaurant, Il Piccolino, in West Hollywood, for the celebration. Tomorrow, he will board a train at Union Station in VSOEinstationdowntown LA, and head to New York City— a trip that will take three days. He is a very happy man.

It’s a simple train. Nothing fancy at all. Just the necessities really, and he will have his magazines, newspapers, books, and his music (always LauraPausini). He has loved trains his entire life, and he’s been on many trips around the world. Canada, India, and Australia, to name a few. But his favorite train trip, I think, was on the 734923_319646971470521_1252637956_nOrient Express, which started in London and ended in Venice two days later. A short trip, yes, but one that took his and my breath away. (So much so, in fact, that he conceived of and filmed Romance on the Orient Express, inspired by it. It starred Cheryl Ladd, Julian Sands and John Gielgud.)

The Venice Simplon-Orient Express is the world’s most authentic, timeless train. Its 1920s Art Deco cars each glisten with luxury and come at a price of $3,120 a person. But, thank God, this includes the best of champagne, drinks and meals. The day Frank and I boarded the gleaming train that departed from London Victoria station on platform 2, the weather was crisp lonvenmand clear. We had seen so many photographs and read so many articles about the Orient Express, that the prospect of having a very unique experience was swelling large in our souls. We held our breaths as we were helped up the stairs of our first-of-two trains, the one that would take us to the English coast. Our seats on this train were royal-blue velvet, headrests covered in linen towels. We had hardly gotten adjusted to our splendid surroundings and were flying through Kent, when we were invited into the dining room for a lovely brunch on the way to the White Cliffs of Dover and the English Channel.

Once in France, (after, I must say, a horrendous trip on a ferry, not recommended after a meal) we boarded an exquisite royal-blue train at the Gare de l’Est in Paris. Assisted by uniformed and white-gloved attendants, we were shown to our Lalique Beynac-Upper-Villageglass- and wood-paneled room, where a rose-colored velvet couch, chairs, draperies to match, and a vase of blossoms welcomed us into its luxurious arms. As we traveled through overwhelming, picturesque stretches of France, we rested a bit, and then washed up in our small, but well-appointed salle de bain. After a visit from our butler to ask if we needed anything and to remind us that dinner was soon to be served, Frank donned his black tie and dinner jacket and I, my black lace floor-length dress. Soon, we were rocking and rolling—gracefully of course—down the carpeted corridors into the bar car.

NOT the actual Lady in Red...
NOT the actual Lady in Red…

In its wall-chandelier-splendor, it was one of the most magnificent rooms I was ever to behold, complete with a pianist playing music from years ago. Sipping champagne served to us in gleaming cut-glass crystal glasses, we reservedly chatted with other guests nearby. There was a duchess and duke; another couple, royalty from Scandinavia they suggested; and a Lady in Red— that’s what we call her even today. And there were three eighty-some-year-old gentleman train enthusiasts from Texas, who had ridden on every train in the world. After another glass of Dom Perignon, we all timidly brought out our cameras and took pictures for each other. After that we became old friends. Some time later, in a lavishly decorated dining room, we were served a feast, each of the four courses exhibiting culinary skill of great proportions, summoned up in a minuscule galley kitchen.

29E681E100000578-0-image-a-27_1435328416088That night we hardly slept at all, not wanting to miss a thing. Raising the blinds every so often to reveal towns and villages, mountains and lakes and fields of growing things, all lit by dazzling stars and the moon, we finally just left it up and stared out, spellbound.

italy-29634609-1366363719-ImageGalleryLightboxBreakfast, with two of the three men from Texas, found us weaving along contours of stone castles and church towers, finally reaching Vorarlberg, which divided Tyrol by the six-mile Arlberg Road Tunnel. Lunch (with the duchess and duke) was served as the train draped down from a highpoint on the border with Italy, and through clusters of villages abundant with orchards and vineyards. Afternoon tea, (the lady in red was nowhere to be seen, and a lovely gray-haired couple from Jaipur, India asked to join us) was offered, as the train passed by the last major city we would see, Padua,the oldest city in northern Italy, and where my favorite saint, St. Anthony was born.

Venice Grand Canal from Hotel Ca' Sagredo

When the train arrived in Venice we walked out of Santa Lucia terminal, and suddenly found ourselves on the exquisite banks of the Grand Canal. Our feet on solid, firm, motionless ground once again, the past two days seemed dreamlike, pretend, and 10930864_10205521118498060_4253128777442041264_nunreal… until the lady in red whisked by us, trailed by a man with a cart of suitcases, and disappeared out of sight.

As I said, it is my husband’s birthday today. He has traveled many places in this world, by ship, by car and by plane. Sometimes he travels with me and sometimes he travels alone. But his very favorite way to get from one place to another is by train. It’s that sense of being somewhere one minute and somewhere else a moment later that excites him. Seeing it all laid out right before his eyes. He likes to slow down and reflect now and then. And glimpse the view unhurriedly as it goes by.

Jupo the Spider Monkey, Part III

Part I

Part II

As Jupo grew, so did her personality. She went from being a loving little angelic tangle of shy, brown fur in my arms into a two-year-old with the pluckiness and strength of Godzilla. All arms, legs and tail now, she swung her way through our old farmhouse. From chandeliers to bookshelves, from standing lamps to picture frames on the wall that fell and shattered to the floor, she dangled, swung and swerved to her heart’s content. That is, until I’d finally manage to capture her again with a bribe of fruit.

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She ran loose about the farm the summer of her second year, and established a blockade around the house—no one was allowed in or out without enticing her with treats. Deliverymen who came carrying milk, bread, vegetables and fruit, trembled in their boots as they got out of their trucks, looked around, and then ran for our shed door. Cleverly though, Jupo learned to conceal herself in the drainpipe above the door by laying flat as a pancake when she heard a vehicle come up our long gravel drive. Hidden from sight when deliveries were made, all she had to do was reach down with her long spidery arm, grab a loaf of bread, a bottle of milk, a peach, a cucumber, or her favorite, a banana or two, speedily seize what was to her liking, and then scuttle across the rooftop before anyone knew.

My father had always had wild animals as pets when he was growing up. His father was a captain in the Navy and during the many years he spent on active service, he and my grandmother, Pretty Polly Perkins, were often away. “I lived with my grandparents on Philadelphia’s Main IMG_5073Line on a huge estate called The Hedges,” my father, Daniel P. Mannix, IV, writes in his book All Creatures Great and Small (published by McGraw-Hill). “I didn’t have many playmates as the other estates around were mainly inhabited by regal dowagers and grim old gentlemen who lived in seclusion among their horses, formal gardens and shooting preserves. We had only one car, a venerable Pierce Arrow which no one could drive except the chauffeur and which was only produced on formal occasions such as going to church or IMG_5074an occasional wedding. To employ this stately vehicle for such frivolous purposes as driving a boy to a friend’s house was virtually unthinkable.  Nor did the boy particularly want to be driven. By the time I was fourteen I was six feet two inches tall and gangling; a wretched athlete, and a nonconformist. From the end of school in June until September I seldom saw another youngster my own age.”

My father began collecting wild animals from an early age and kept them at the very far end of his grandparent’s estate. His summer days were IMG_5071filled with the pleasure and joy of collecting animals that he found on the property or that people gave him. He started out simply with a pair of rabbits. Then he found a nest of baby skunks whose mother had been killed by a neighbor’s dog.  After that, he acquired a tiny porcupine, a crow that rode around on his shoulder, a great horned owl, a raccoon, an opossum family, several falcons and snakes, one of them being a rattle snake whose venom her learned to extract by reading a book in his grandfather’s vast library. He also had a six-foot alligator called Daisy, who swam in the pool at The Hedges twice a day. So it was no surprise to my father or my mother when my dear little monkey, Jupo, began to behave like King Kong.

“You can’t leave her alone anymore,” my parents both told me in no uncertain terms. “She’s your responsibility. Either she’s in her enclosure or she’s with you. And no more letting her run free outside, unless you are watching her closely.”  Sadly, I agreed.

There was still a problem, however. Although Jupo might be in my arms one second, the next she would jump out. If, for instance, I was passing though our kitchen, she might hurl herself onto the kitchen counter where a set of small ramekin bowls of custard was settling. And more often Jupo-inIceBoxthan not, she would stick her head into each one, and race away, her face covered in pudding, causing our housekeeper, Anna, to wave her hands in frustration. In an attempt to control her, my father took me to our local pet store one fine day, where I found a snazzy miniature red-plaid collar and matching leash. Now, when Jupo attempted to bolt, I could very gently pull her back. The first few days she hated her new collar and she whined and complained bitterly and tried to take it off.  But by the end of the week she became accustomed to it. And I do believe that in fact she began to like it because it made her feel safe.  No one likes to be totally out of control. Not even a rambunctious two-year-old monkey.

Jupo loved me dearly. She would sit in my lap when I was doing my homework and make a chattering noise when she thought it was time for me to pay attention to her. She rode around on my arm, her tail wrapped securely around my waist when I did my chorus morning and night. When my friends came over my parents suggested I put her in her enclosure just in case one of them has a cold and might pass it on to her.  Truth be told, though, as time passed, Jupo became very possessive and protective of me. One day, when my younger brother and I were wrestling outside, in between raking leaves, Jupo came down from one of the trees she was in, and, afraid he was hurting me, she took a bite out of his hand, requiring seven stitches.

Julie VonZerneck_Page_09Soon after that, my parents began talking about the fact that animals need a mate. I was sixteen by then and I had a boyfriend, so I understood. Jupo did not like him at all. She barked at him all the time, and once threw excrement at him.  My boyfriend got the hint and never went near Jupo again.

In my father’s book, All Creatures Great and Small, he describes what happened soon after the incident with my brother. “After the stitches, Jupo went to live at the zoo—the first animal I have ever consigned to a life behind bars. Julie visits her there once a week with a present of fruit. Jupo now has a husband, a male spider monkey called Butch, even bigger and tougher than she.”

It broke my heart when the enclosure in my room was disassembled and a chest of drawers took its place. I couldn’t sleep for weeks because I missed the soft sound of Jupo’s snoring at night. I also longed for the way she would reach out her little hand and search around in the dark until I took a hold of it in mine.


“I love you, little baby,” I would say.  And she would make a gentle cooing sound back. That was how we’d both fall asleep at night.


Jupo the Spider Monkey, Part II

When my baby monkey, Jupo, jumped out of my arms and onto the branches of the 80-foot tree, my heart stood still. She had never left my side before, except to go into her enclosure some nights, or when I went to school during the day. She had never been out in the wild aloneInfants rely, the encyclopedia said, completely on their mothers until they are twelve months old. Jupo was barely nine months. This was far too soon for her to be leaving me.

I watched in horror as she agilely made her way from the outside branches towards the center of the tree. Then, without any hesitation, she began to climb up the thick trunk. Seconds later, she was at the top. I let out a blood-curdling scream, and within minutes both my parents came running.


Spider monkeys, my encyclopedia told me, have prehensile tails that serve as a fifth hand. When a spider monkey walks, even a baby one, its arms are so long they practically drag on the ground. Their hands are long and narrow, too, and they have no opposable thumbs. They are highly agile, and, when they reach a certain age, can easily jump from tree to tree.

“Call the fire department,” my parents both screamed when they reached my side and saw what the situation was. “Call them immediately!”

“Jupo is on the highest branch and it’s too light to hold her safely,” my father added, as he began to climb up after her.

“Oh no,” my mother cried. “Dear baby Jupo. I don’t want her to fall.”

While my parents both watched Jupo, who was now tilting back and forth on the top of the tree, I ran into the house and called the fire department.

“Hello,” I said, trying to keep calm. “We have an emergency. Please come right away.”

“What is it?” the fireman who answered asked. “And tell me where you live.”

“Sunny Hill Farm,” I answered. “It’s my baby monkey. She is stuck at the top of a tree.”

There was a brief silence, and then the phone went dead.

I had to call back several times before anyone at the firehouse would take me seriously. But when they finally did, they came running. Three fire engines came, in fact, with sirens blaring and lights flashing. Since none of them had ever seen a monkey except at a zoo, and especially a monkey stuck in a tree, all the firemen at the firehouse had decided to come along for the occasion.  It was the two youngest ones, trainees probably, who were sent to climb to the top. The others climbed up too, but separated themselves so they were each five feet apart.

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According to the encyclopedia, when a spider monkey sees a human approaching, it barks loudly, much like a dog. It climbs to the end of the branch it is on and shakes it vigorously to scare away the possible threat. It shakes the branches with its feet, hands, or a combination of the two, while hanging from its tail.

When Jupo saw the two men climbing up after her, and all the others behind them, she was so terrified that she let out a piercing howl. Then she began to bark. Leaning out to the edge of the branch she was on, just above one of the firemen’s head, she began to shake it fiercely, while still hanging on to the narrow trunk with her tail. I was so afraid that she was going to let go and fall, I had to close my eyes and bury my head in my mother’s arms. But before she let go, the top of the tree was hastily clipped off. Clinging tightly to her branch, she was carefully handed down from fireman to fireman, until she was finally safe in my arms again.

The following morning, my mother, Jupo, and I went out into the orchard, picked dozens of apples, and made half a dozen pies, which we delivered to the fire station just in time for lunch.


Jupo’s first time out in public was when my mother and I took her to the Acme supermarket. I had her all wrapped up in a soft pink baby blanket, which had a triangle flap at one end that I used to cover her face. Pushing the shopping cart with one hand, I held her very carefully with the other. It was on aisle three, I remember, just as my mother was asking if I thought we needed more pickles for the hamburgers we were going to grill that night, when a sweet little old lady came over with a big smile on her face.

“Oh my,” she said sweetly. “Would you mind if I saw her face?”

My mother was a few feet away reading labels on the pickle jars. Smiling, I answered, the sweet old lady, “Certainly.” And as I did, I proudly lifted the triangle flap aside so she could get a good look.

Spider monkeys have coarse hair and it ranges in color from ruddy gold to brown and black; their hands and feet are usually black. Their heads are small, their nostrils very far apart, and they have hairless faces. Mostly, their eyes are blue. With her twinkling blue eyes, the same color as mine, Jupo stuck her head out from the blanket and smiled happily.

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My mother had moved back in time to catch the dear old lady, who was on the verge of fainting. “Oh dear,” the lady mumbled, her face as white as a ghost. When she was steady on her feet again she looked at my mother and me.

“Oh dear me,” she said, shaking her head. “I am so, so sorry.” Then, putting her quaking hand over her mouth, she all but ran away.

To be continued…


Jupo the Spider Monkey, Part I

Jupo, the baby spider monkey given to me on Christmas Day the year I was twelve, popped out of the wooden crate she was in, just like she was a jack-in-the-box. I screamed. I screamed so loudly that she got scared and jumped back in, covering her tiny head. It took me fifteen minutes of whispering soft, sweet words for her to show her face again. And after that, she never left my side.

Our family had a set of encyclopedias, and my parents suggested I use it to find out about my new pet. Spider monkeys, I read, come from the tropical forests of Central and South 181238-baby-spider-monkey-aaawww-1America, and from southern Mexico and Brazil, as well. Their disproportionately long limbs and long prehensile tails gave rise to their name. They are social animals, and live in bands of up to 35 individuals, but will split up to forage during the day.

As far back as I can remember, I had always wanted a monkey. It didn’t matter what kind. My parents had all sorts of wild animals—a cheetah, an American bald eagle, two coatimundi, several ocelots, pythons, hawks, Guinea fowl, peacocks, a baby fox, a coyote, some bats, a tarantula, a pair of kinkajous, and an otter. We also had domestic animals, like horses, sheep, rabbits, chickens, ducks, geese, and a little Cairn terrier named Wriggles. But we didn’t have a monkey.  And then, suddenly, that Christmas, we did. And she was mine. All mine.

We lived out in the country in an old stone farm house which was in the center of twenty five acres of manicured lawns, eighty-foot trees, rolling green pastures, an apple orchard, a pond, and a great big, old wooden barn. My brother and I had full run of the place. Since Jupo was with me all the time, that meant she had the run of the place, too.

Spider monkeys primarily eat fruits, the encyclopedia said, but will occasionally consume leaves, flowers, and insects. They are diurnal, so spend 6a010535647bf3970b0134853c556e970cthe night sleeping in carefully selected trees. I knew I could give Jupo fruit and leaves, but I wasn’t certain about the insects. So I called the Philadelphia zoo for help. They gave me a list of things that would be healthy for her to eat, like mixed-together egg, corn flour and meal bugs. I had a floor-to-ceiling enclosure for Jupo in a corner of my room. There was a sturdy tree branch inside for her to climb on, and a blanket for her to wrap up in. But at night, she mostly slept with me.

I don’t know what season Jupo and I enjoyed the most back then. At the end of one season, I was always anxious for the next to begin. Her first summer, however, was the most unforgettable one. I remember taking her out one June day when she was just eight months old, spreading a red plaid blanket on the lawn, and sitting there with her in my arms so she could look around. But her small body trembled so hard I finally took her back into the house.

A mother spider monkey, I read, carries her baby around her belly for the first year. I carried Jupo across my front—her arms, legs Spider_monkey_mommy_babyand tail would wrap around me and she’d hold on tight. Spider monkey mothers are very protective, and they put their young on their imagesbacks when teaching them to navigate from tree to tree. After Jupo’s first few days outside, she stopped shaking. Soon, I moved her from the front of me, onto my shoulder. One day, I went over to one of our Ginkgo trees and stood right next to a branch. Spider monkey mothers sometimes pull branches closer together so the baby can climb for the first time, feeling more secure. So I did that, making a nice little shelf with two branches that she could sit upon safely.

That’s when, out of the blue, Jupo suddenly detached herself from my shoulder and, without even a glance in my direction, jumped onto the branch. In the time it took me to open my mouth and let out a gasp, she had climbed to the top of the 80-foot tree.


To be continued…


The Best One

The day I met Patty—the first time we came face to face—we just stared at one another with nothing to say.  It was our first day on the soap opera, The Best of Everything, produced by James Lipton (who now does those incredible interviews on Inside the Actors Studio). The Best of Everything, originally a best-selling novel by Rona Jaffe, was the story of four girls who move to New York City and work for a fashion magazine like Vogue. It was to be a splashy and splendid soap opera, and we were to have costumes and sets that were impressive and elegant. Jimmy, that’s what we called Mr. Lipton back then, had persuaded ABC to give him everything he wanted.

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I played a character named April, who was an innocent country girl. Patty played Linda, who was the same age, but more savvy and sophisticated. In the script, we became best friends immediately.  But in real life, we met in our shared dressing room at 7 am every morning, five days a week, and hardly said a word to each other.  I was thrilled to be working with Patty, and very open to conversation. But she was stiff and remote and very aloof.  We have nothing in common, I thought to myself. And besides, why would Patty McCormack want to talk to me? She had a Tony Award for her stage performance in The Bad Seed, which she received when she was just eight years old. Not only that, but she had a star on Hollywood Boulevard and an Academy Award nomination. Yes, I felt ecstatic to have won the part of April over hundreds of others vying for the roll, but really, I was just an actress with a quarter of her experience, and that, I figured sadly, in her eyes, did not make me ‘friend material’.

BestofEverythingclip1-editedIn our street clothes, our hair askew, Patty and I, and the others in the cast, went about the business of blocking and rehearsing our scenes under the glare of the hot lights, as three cameras followed us around.  In between, throughout the day, as we all checked in and out of hair, make-up, and the costume room, we miraculously transformed, slowly but surely, into the characters we played. By the time we were ready to tape the show eight hours later, we were line-perfect, chic, and ready to be invited into millions of homes all over the United States.  But even though the rest of the cast and I were friendly, the most said between Patty and myself wasn’t spoken until the end of the day.

“See you tomorrow,” she would barely utter as she darted out of our dressing room.

“Yes,” I would say to the back of her head as she disappeared around the corner. “See you tomorrow.”

Then, one day, totally without warning, Patty sat me down one early morning and whispered to me behind our closed dressing room door. “I’m pregnant,” she told me, grinning, and her face aglow.  She had never smiled at me before, and I thought to myself how very beautiful she really was. “You are the first person to know. Besides my husband, of course,” she continued. “That’s why I’ve been feeling so sick all this time. That and the fact that I always get so nervous when I start new things, made it doubly hard for me these last few weeks. But,” she laughed, “I think I hid it pretty well. “

Filled with happiness for her and relief for me, I stood, reached over and gave her a hug.  And unexpectedly, she just melted into my arms.

And then, just like that, we became best friends.

The Best of Everything caught on, and it felt like all of America was watching us. We were so proud when the fan mail began pouring in and our ratings flew sky-high. Pictures of our entire cast were filling magazines and newspapers everywhere.  Seldom could any of us walk more than a New York City block without being recognized and asked for our autographs.

Patty was able to conceal her growing pregnancy under beautiful costumes, and by carrying stacks of files and sitting behind desks. And the funny thing was, my character, April, became pregnant and was all set to marry the father of her baby, Dexter Key, the head of the fashion magazine, when suddenly the cast and crew were gathered together and told that The Best of Everything was going off the air. “Why?” we all asked totally dumbfounded. We were told that the cancellation was due to a dispute between the producer and the network.

Of course, we were all dazed and appalled. Our fans were devastated, too. But there was nothing any of us could do. The last scene in The Best of Everything included the entire cast gathered in a gorgeous cathedral. April, in an exquisite wedding gown, a slight bulge in her stomach, accompanied by her best friend, Linda— a bulge in her stomach, too, except this one real, and hidden by a bouquet of wildflowers— walk down the aisle, side by side, and then… off into oblivion.

Patty and I both moved from New York City to LA several months later, after her baby was born. She named her daughter Danielle. I, too, had a daughter named Danielle. And we each had a son. Many set friendships don’t last. Fortunately, ours did. When we weren’t visiting one another in our various homes, we talked on the phone for hours. One way or another, we connected every day.  Why we stayed friends, we never really knew. It was just the way it was, and we were too busy raising our children and pursuing our careers to question it.

We both continued acting, but were never in the same show again. I was there when her son got his first real guitar for his fifth birthday, and she was there when my husband produced his first movie for television and sat with us at the screening party. When my family and I opened Portrait of a Bookstore in 1986, Patty was there for days helping to unpack hundreds of boxes of books into all the new shelves. When her Danielle got married, I stood by her side while she cried and cried.

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It’s now been many years since we first met, and we still pretty much live in each other’s pockets, we are so close. For forty-some years we have shared the tragedies, raptures, and small day-to-day pleasures concerning our children, their spouses, and their children. (We have four grandchildren each; she, four grandsons, and me, four granddaughters, all eight of them brilliant and dear.)

There isn’t one thing that happens that the other does not know about. We are confidantes, sisters, and intimate friends.  All judgment is suspended between us. It’s always been that way. No matter what one of us is going through, the other is there.  We can’t not be friends, we say occasionally, laughing. Who else would remember that fleeting incident that happened ten, twenty, thirty, forty years ago, and associate it with something that happens today?

I have a handful of other close friends whom I cherish, and so does she. Yet, it is to each other that we turn in times of worry or times of delight. It takes a long time to grow a friend, but even longer to grow the best one in your life.


The Rabbit Feeder

I have had several professions in my years here on earth. But my very first job was that of a rabbit feeder. My parents had lots of them. They were not pets. They were food for the many wild animals we had on our farm, animals about whom you can read here.


My job in the mornings, before I got dressed to go to school, was to go out into the fenced-in area behind the barn, where the rabbits were housed, and give them water and food. This was not an easy job, because there were eight pens, three to four rabbits in each. The pens were painted dark green. One half of the pen was open to the air and the sun, and the other half had a roof and sides, so New Imagerabbitthey had a place to sleep and keep dry and warm. I would trudge out to the rabbit garden— that’s what we called it— at six o’clock every morning. Dressed in my nightclothes and boots, my hair still in tangles from sleep, I would give them a tomato can each of fresh pellets, a handful of alfalfa, and fill up their water dishes to the top. In our kitchen we kept a rabbit pail that we threw all the leftover greens into. I would take that out also, telling them that it was their desert. I would talk to each one of them as I fed them. I told them about victorian-easter-farm-girl-rabbits-thumb-572x350the weather forecast for the day, and whom it was I was planning to play with at school during recess. I jabbered away about anything that came to mind. The job took twenty minutes and I don’t think I ever stopped talking.

Some of the rabbits were white, some brown, and some were grey. I tried not to have favorites, as that wouldn’t be fair. I gave them all equal love and affection, and each got scratched behind the ear, because I never knew who would still be there when I returned home from school in the afternoon.

When it rained, I wore a trench coat with a hood that I pulled up over my head. When it snowed, I added gloves and a scarf. Sometimes when it was very cold and their water froze, I had to crack the top of it off with a hammer. Every so often they had babies and I got to 35028-The_Pet_Rabbittake them out, when they were old enough and had grown fur, and hold them under my chin and kiss their warm pink baby ears. Sometimes, in the summer, when I had lots of time, I made a run for them out of wire on the side lawn, where the grass was green and deep. I would stretch it out in a large wide circle and then, one by one, I would take them out and let them run and play and nibble. I would lie back on the lawn myself, with my hands behind my head, and look up at the sky above and think about my life and what I wanted to be.

When rabbits went missing from their cages, and they always did, day after day, I never questioned it. It never occurred to me, then, that it should be otherwise. It never hurt me then. It never troubled me, because it was part of life on a farm that was also a zoo. I was eight when I had this job, and I was paid a quarter a week for my work.