Kimberly Parish Davis
Short Story // Do You Know the Bunny Hop?
Elbert heard her coming, tiny high-heeled shoes clipped along the pavement like a metronome. She approached his hot-dog stand and said, “Blue moon, gesturing out loud,” her voice rising at the end to make it a question.
He replied, “I had a pure-breed Schnauzer but now he only has three legs,” and handed her a sweating bottle
This wasn’t the first time they’d played the word salad game. No telling what she meant to say, Elbert thought. She handed him a dollar and a quarter. As Mrs. Greenblatt turned away, he looked toward the next woman in line who was trying not to let on that she’d been listening, but puzzled amusement was plain on her face.
Elbert mouthed, “We’re friends.”
It was the same every day. Lois Greenblatt appeared like clockwork, a carefully coiffed, tissue-skinned creature barely tall enough to see above the top of his cart.
Water-bottle in hand, Mrs. G., leaned down to the ancient coin-operated stand that held The Chronicle and read the headline. She gasped and brought a delicate hand up to her mouth. “Scented olive groves!” she muttered, shaking her head. Then straightening, she turned and walked away.
When she’d clicked back into the building, Elbert read the headline, “Robot Kills Gunman.” He guessed it was the picture that had given her the meaning. Damage to her brain meant that words, spoken or written, no longer related to meaning for her. It must be hell, he thought, not to be able to say what you wanted.
* * *
Six weeks earlier, a small bespectacled man had walked up as Elbert was shutting down for the day. “My mother has a condition known as Aphasia. Thank you for playing along earlier.”
“Hmmm?” Elbert had looked up from the refrigerated compartment of the cart.
“My mother, the lady who came up speaking nonsense earlier?”
“Oh, yeah. Man, I’m sorry I barked at her like that. I didn’t know she was . . . you know.”
“No, no,” the small man said. “She isn’t crazy. It’s a stroke, you see? She can’t say the words she means to say. I just wanted to thank you for being polite and letting her work through it. Some people aren’t as patient with her, but she still likes to get out—gives her a feeling of independence.”
Elbert remembered she’d asked if he knew how to do the bunny hop, and he’d said, “Why, yes ma’am.” He stuck his left foot out, then his right foot out, then hop, hop, hopped around in a tight little circle behind his wagon. His sense of fun was what brought the regulars back.
Mrs. G.’s brow had furrowed and she’d said, “Nobel prize?”
Elbert tried a couple of times to get the woman to place her order. “Ma’am, I can’t just be bunny hopping all day. Do you want something or not?” She hadn’t understood him. “Did you want a dog?” He spoke louder, raised his eyebrows and waved a bun around in the air between them.
“Blue b-b-butter girl.” Mrs. G. gave him a puzzled look as if he were the one speaking gibberish. She shook her head and frowned. Taking a deep breath, she pointed toward the water cooler.
When he handed her a water bottle, she smiled and paid him. He’d felt like a jerk all day for raising his voice to her, but she came back the next day and asked for “a slender cellist’s chair” and he took in the faint whiff of moth balls around her, saw her bird-bright eyes. Elbert got used to seeing Mrs. Greenblatt, and when she missed a day, he wondered if she was okay. Occasionally the son scuttled by and waved, but he never stopped.
* * *
It had been Elbert who called the paramedics the Friday the skateboarding youth knocked Mrs. Greenblatt over and broke her hip. Elbert dialed 911 on his way to her, moaning on the sidewalk. He eased her head and shoulders off the hot pavement and sat down beside her. He hummed softly and held her at an angle that seemed to ease her pain while they waited for the ambulance. The son had ridden to the hospital with his mother. He hadn’t thought to send word about her condition, and Elbert didn’t see either of the Greenblatts at all the following week.
Finally, two weeks after the incident, Mr. Greenblatt came to the hot dog stand and offered Elbert a crisp hundred-dollar bill.
Elbert sucked his teeth and shook his head. “Naw, man, keep your money. Anybody would do the same.”
“No, I don’t think they would. You have no idea how much your little exchanges meant to her. She always enjoyed coming down to get her bottle of water from you.”
“You say that like she won’t be back.”
“It doesn’t look good. She’s out of her mind since the surgery. Completely incommunicado. Doesn’t know any of us, and honestly, I don’t know how we’d know if she did.”
Out of his cap and apron and wearing Sunday shoes, Elbert carried a small tropical plant he picked up at Walmart. He had to fight not to turn away from the pitiful sack of bones in the bed. But then she smiled, and he leaned
Her voice was almost inaudible, but he clearly heard her say, “Do you know the bunny hop?”
Kimberly Parish Davis has an MFA from SHSU in Huntsville, Texas. She’s an editor as well as a cross-genre writer who has published in a handful of literary journals, including The Helix, and FLAR.
Most recently one of her stories was a runner up in the Jerry Jazz Man short fiction competition
The short story, ‘Do You Know the Bunny Hop?’, was written with the idea of illuminating the value of a small act of kindness.