Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Life with Fred & Lucy, Episode 8: Rabbit Stew


My father was a practical joker. He had honed his sense of humor after developing osteomyelitis from an injury to his leg; amputation was mentioned. They told my father he would never walk; he proved them wrong. But, it was at that Atlantic City hospital that my father, a boy of five, developed his sense of game. He was always playing jokes on the medical staff and after his stay of two years at the hospital; they were glad to see him go. Fred's gift of gags became legend amongst friends and family. Sometimes he pissed off people with his tricks. This story is about one of those times.                             
My cousins Jerry, Anthony, Michael and Joe all worked in my father’s store alongside Jane and I. Uncle Jerry was married to my father’s youngest sister, Helen. One day, the boys came to work and they were very upset; they were about 12 years old same as us.
                         Photo of Aunt Helen, my cousins and my sister Jane 
“What’s up?” asked Fred all four boys.
“My dad got rid of our rabbit,” Jerry explained. It seems the little girl next door had stuck her finger in the rabbit’s mouth. The rabbit being a rabbit probably thought it was a carrot.                                                         
“So where’s the rabbit, now?” my father asked. He was upset for his nephews.
“He dumped our rabbit in New Jersey,” all four boys said simultaneously. Back then, Franklinville New Jersey seemed as far away as California to us kids.
“He’s nuts?” my father snapped, and the plan was hatched.
Luckily, for this trick to work, my father had the luncheon meat delivery man bringing in an order and my father put him to work. My father had the man call Uncle Jerry. The conversation went something like this: 
Delivery Man: “This is the health department and we had a complaint that a child was bitten by a rabbit?”
Uncle Jerry: “Yes…?”
Delivery Man: “We need to examine the animal in case of rabies. You need to bring the animal in now.”
Uncle Jerry: “I don’t know where the rabbit is. I dumped it somewhere near Franklinville. How the hell am I supposed to find that *&%#$%$ rabbit?”
                                          Mom with Aunt Helen.                                           

Delivery Man: “That’s not my problem, but the rabbit needs to be at the Health Department by this afternoon or you will be arrested.”
Uncle Jerry: “What?*&*^%$#&^%$*&^”
The Delivery Man hung up and the game was on. Later that day, we learned from
boys that Uncle Jerry was going crazy trying to get a ride to Jersey to find the rabbit. He was ready to call out sick from his job just to find this rabbit. Uncle Jack, who drove Uncle Jerry that morning to dump the rabbit, was now at work and unable to do the rescue mission. When Aunt Helen, who knew her brother like a book, began to suspect that Fred might be behind this ruckus; she begged him to stop her husband from going bat shit crazy.
Fred called up Uncle Jerry. “Hey Jerry, what are you doing?”
Uncle Jerry: “I don’t have time to talk. I’m having *&%#$*& problems.”
Fred: “Sorry to hear that. So…what are you having for dinner?”
Uncle Jerry: “What are you nuts? What do you care what I’m having for dinner. I got *&%$*@# problems. I can’t talk, now.”
Fred: “I heard you were having rabbit stew.”   Zingo! In one swoop, my father let Uncle Jerry know that he was a victim of one of Freddy boy’s jokes.
Uncle Jerry didn’t talk to my father for months, but my cousins loved my father for getting even for the loss of their rabbit and to this day, when the family is all together, we always talk about the rabbit joke.
Next week’s story will be about one of my mother’s famous cooking disasters; the cake that ate Porter Street.

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