The Velveeta rabbit part 2

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.