“The Rabbit Hole”. By Paul Manning.

Many deep thinking and learned people, scientists, astrophysicists and cosmologists believe in a strange concept which is called “The infinite Universe Probability.” To try to explain this is a very hard thing to do, however I shall try to do that by way of simple illustrations that might just make it clearer, so here we go: Time and space is so unending and so vast that it’s probable that more than one Universe exists, in fact maybe countless trillions do. The chances are that many of them, given time, have replicated each other over and over again like 2 mirrors facing each other. In this way their reflection never ever stops, just as long as the 2 mirrors remain in proximity. Given that this logic may be true then it’s also probable and possible that we, as humans, have countless copies of ourselves out there in the other parallel Universes. Could it be that each one of us are not as unique as we might like to think we are? Taking the theory a step further it is likely then that the same human occurrences have happened over and over again with regularity, at any given time, either in the present, past, or even the future. Conversely however, there is a strange paradox to this, it is this: Due to each individual having the freedom of choice within those many parallel Universes, then of course our doppelgänger or clone will probably be making different choices to the ones we MIGHT make here, or to the ones we HAVE made here, or WILL make, or ARE making. Therefore this will result in trillions of possible differing outcomes and endings for all of the scenarios that WE or They, could possibly bring about. But then again, applying the same rule and odds, it is obvious that exactly the same outcomes have occurred, and indeed will occur again. The chances of diversity are so vast and numerous that all possibilities have indeed come about, and yet again they have not come about. (Work that one out). Depending upon which Universe a particular person exists in and their replicant and the choices each make…then somewhere out there it is possible that a happier “YOU” exists, or could they be a sadder “YOU?” Who knows, because it’s all a “Rabbit hole?”

For example, to enlarge on this theory: Suppose you had not chosen to have that extra piece of toast this morning, or suppose you had forgotten to feed the cat before going out to work, small things yes, but the consequences of them could result in life or death to you or someone else, or could mean happiness or unhappiness for someone or yourself. Had you NOT spent those 5 minutes eating that extra piece of toast, or indeed HAD taken the time to feed that cat then you probably wouldn’t have been around to see that plane fall from the sky and been able to report what you saw as it hit the ground. In not taking those 2 minutes in feeding the cat it prevented you from bumping into your future husband at the super market cash out, who knows? However, in the other parallel universe those choices, (toast and cat) worked out differently for the ones who made them and that is why Edith decided to marry Joe who she met at Tesco’s, you guessed it… she indeed fed the cat! Paul spent the next five years of his life being called to attend at the C.A.A. (Civil Aviation Authority) where they were trying to work out why 550 people died on a jumbo jet while on their way to Spain on holiday. He was the only witness to its crashing, and now has had his life disrupted by it, having to meet all those grieving relatives at those endless crash investigations…. And all this because Paul chose NOT to have that extra slice of toast before he left for work in the morning.

Danny Elliott was no rocket scientist or physicist, but somehow he had the hunch that an alternative Universe existed, he liked the idea of it anyway. He also liked the idea that somewhere out there, there were, (is,) many us’s and ‘we’s’, doing the same, if not different things, allowing for a whole host of cosmic consequences and outcomes. Danny was still at high school and his grades showed great potential for his future, he was eager to learn and was popular and well liked by the other students. He was a modest and quiet kind of guy, little to say, but when he did speak others listened, and usually what he said made sense. Danny was just about ok and liked life well enough, but there was one thing that didn’t go away, as if he was carrying a brick around in his pocket wherever he went. It loaded him down when he had a mind to think of it from time to time. His thoughts were dwelling on it more and more lately… and that was his father, just where had he gone to?

Danny was up late that morning and was in a rush. On his way out he grabbed some apples and a ripe banana so he had something to eat for lunch that day. He got into his old heap, a 1979 V8 Chevvy, pointy, sleek and heavy. He started it up and the huge engine roared into life, he drove out onto the road heading for “Preston High”. He was conscious that he was in a rush, but was persuaded not to speed. In fact he kept to the zone limit as he drove along. He remembered his father who had once said to him, “Son, if you ever get that old heap on the road, you mind to keep to the speed limit, you hear me now son?”

He decided to take a short cut that would avoid the busy intersection, known as “bumper to bumper Boulevard”. He turned right off the main highway and through the leafy glades of upper class “Henry Avenue”, where all the houses were set out on their own grassy plots of land and where the kids got Ice cream, just by asking their Mum’s for it. He passed a sign that read “Drive safely here”, it was a neat sign, well painted, tidy and clean, as if it had just been posted there.

He looked down at his speedometer gauge, he took note that he was doing 31 mph. By the time he had looked up again a snappy little dog was running out, from the left, and right out in front of his car. Danny hit the brakes, but knew that if he didn’t swerve to avoid the pesky hound he was going to hit it square on and flatten it. He pulled the wheel hard over to the left to avoid it. To his astonishment Danny could see that a small boy was chasing the dog and had run out into the road after his pal, by this time it was all just too late.

Just as the heavy car had come to a sliding stop the wing came into contact with the Childs head, It was just a glancing blow against the pointy chrome headlight that was just set at the exact height as the child’s ear, had it not been at this exact height it would have missed the boy completely. Time had stopped for Danny, he froze in fear and in severe shock. His body sank deep into the easy leather of the cars bench seat, as if it would swallow him up and hide him, somehow hoping that all this wasn’t true and that any second he would wake up from his nightmare. He rolled the window down, glancing down at the grassy verge to which his tyre had made a deep rut as it slid to a halt. He was expecting to see the kid get to his feet and go running to his mamma in tears, perhaps holding his hand to a small bruise on his forehead. Danny stayed seated and waited for a few seconds, praying for the child to stir, but he just lay there motionless. Sure, a bruise to the kids head would have been the most Danny could have hoped for because then the kid would still be alive at least… but this wasn’t going to be the case. Tragically the poor kid was as dead as dead could be, at least he didn’t see it coming, it was over in the blink of an eye and thankfully he didn’t suffer.

Nancy propped open the fly screen door at the back of the house and then went to the kitchen to collect the basket of linen that had just come out of the washing machine. She then headed out back taking hold of some pegs that she kept in a big plastic candy jar and then through the screen door to the rear garden to hang the bed sheets out to dry on the line. Bruce, the dog, came lapping round her ankles as she crossed the lawn. He was whining and whimpering over something. Nancy scolded him and with exasperation ordered him to skedaddle out from under her feet, but he continued with his whining and yapping. ‘Look, why don’t you go and play with your best pal?’ referring to her son, Luke… ‘Shoo, just git!’ She took hold of one of the sheets and tossed it over the line, pulled it straight and then pegged it down. She moved on further down the line to hang more of her laundry. Luke’s tricycle was in her way so she nudged it with her sandaled foot, its pedals turned as it ran on down the path bumping into Bruce’s Kennel to a halt. She glanced on over to the tree house, where Luke spent a lot of his time, usually trying to get Bruce to join in with some imaginary game, “happy puppy families”, or the like. Nancy called out to him, ‘Hey, Luke! You want some ice cream? I got your favourite in the freezer, chocolate with crunchy nuts! There was no reply. She called out again only louder, but still no answer from the boy.

The wailing siren of the police car was a deafening and confusing sound to Danny’s ears. The black and white whirred to a droning stop, pulling up by the Chevvy; it was quickly followed by an ambulance. A lazy looking cop got out of his police car and glanced on over at the guy that was slumped over the steering wheel, Danny was in tears and his face was whiter than the bed sheets that were blowing dry just a hundred yards away. A small crowd had gathered, a lady was on her knees near the ground holding Luke’s lifeless body in her arms and caressing his forehead, weeping as she did so.

It’s hard to describe the sheer horror of a certain type of piercing scream, the scream of a mother for her son. A scream so grief stricken, so unforgettable, that it’s best not heard. Nancy came running down the grassy verge and out onto the road and towards her son with a look on her face of desperation and grief. The cop caught her as she fell to her knees by Luke’s side. Hysterically she kept on pleading and screaming as loud as her lungs would allow her… ‘Oh no! Dear God! Oh no, no, please no!’

Officer Davies did what he could to console Nancy, but he could do little. He walked her back to the house past some sheets that were scattered about by the tree house, and then on through the fly screen door which he shut after going in with her. Meanwhile, Danny had been arrested and put in the back seat of the police car, where he was being grilled by two other cops who looked like they wanted to kick the shit out of him. Through his tears he explained as best he could, that there was no way he could have avoided the kid and he wasn’t speeding. That he was so very sorry, and to the very deepest heart of him… Danny really was deeply profoundly sorry.

Mrs Wilson, one of Nancy’s neighbours, had seen the whole sorry thing, how the dog had run out, her version of the accident was crystal clear. She visited the police station later on and was interviewed by Officer Davies. She made it clear in her statement that Danny wasn’t to blame and that it had happened so fast that no one could have prevented it, that it was just one of those things. Six months later the whole investigation came to an end and Danny’s worries were over.

No charges were brought and he tried to carry on as best he could, but Danny wasn’t the type to forget the loss of a young life so easily, his death was another brick in his pocket to carry around to weigh him down even more now. After the inquest Luke was buried, all his best school pals and many of his teachers came to send him off with as much love as they could. Nancy and Brad, Luke’s parents, just couldn’t let go of each other as they watched their son slip into the ground and out of their lives. He had been their only son and they had waited so long for him to come along after trying for 8 years to start a family. Luke was so very special and his parents doted on him. Hiding at the far end of the cemetery was Danny, all alone, weeping and watching from afar. Wishing that all this was just, well NOT SO, and feeling that he could never ever make amends for what he felt he had done.

Nancy and Brad’s lives came to a stop that day they both felt that all their love was bound up together in their son, and now they had no one to give it to, no one except each other. Nancy visited a bereavement counsellor to try to get over her loss, while Brad seemed to deal with his by working at the office more and more, as if to distract his mind from dwelling on his grief. Inevitably their relationship suffered, communication became a problem, and yet without a word both knew how each other felt. Behind all their problems both knew their love was still very much alive in their marriage, but was it strong enough to see them through this dark night? Only time would tell.

A year passed and another summer came around again. All the male students at “Preston High” wore their T-shirts emblazoned with their favourite rock bands, and often fights broke out as to which one was best, Led Zeppelin or ZZ Top? But guys will be guys. The girls wore their skirts short along with tight-fitting blouses and this was the only thing that distracted the boys from their fighting, well sometimes. Danny was never part of the school “In Scene” watching the others strut their stuff, to impress others, was never a part of his character and it amused him to watch them. He had noticed that since the accident that many of his ‘so called friends’ had withdrawn from him. Rumours of ‘kiddie Killer’ and ‘Danny, Darko of death’ were whispered down the school corridors. Yes, kids can be cruel at times and thoughtless, as if Danny didn’t have enough to deal with in his life without that crap?

Since the day of Luke’s death, and out of respect for what happened, Danny had not driven the Chevvy at all, even on that fateful day he had asked Officer Davies to arrange to get it home for him. So, there it stood, in the garage, quiet, silent and mean, with a dust sheet over the roof as if hiding away. Danny’s mother, Marie, complained that it was in the way and that she needed the space, but Danny knew that she had little interest in what he liked in life, and she never did. All she ever did was bad mouth his father and that Dougie was never any good anyway. That she hoped he would never come back to her. Danny remembered the days when he and his father had worked on the car together, and how they really talked with each other. Dad had always been there for him whenever problems arose and instilled a kind of peace in him, and that Danny should realise that life is not always a rose garden, but it brings its thorns too and he ought to prepare for them if he wanted to get through life. They talked about science and the Cosmos, about Astronomy and space and time, both offering their theories to each other and often joking. Both would like to expand each other’s minds as to the mysteries of life, of what was still hidden and yet to be discovered. He remembered his father saying that the whole thing was like a huge warren of tunnels, all interconnected, like some vast “Rabbit hole” but that it made sense if we try to understand it, if we ponder on it long enough.

All that Danny knew was that one night he had heard his parents squabbling and rowing over something and Marie had thrown some dishes at the wall, losing her temper at Dougie. The next thing Danny knew was that by morning his father had disappeared without a trace, when he asked his mother about it, she refused to explain. Danny missed his father deeply and wondered why he wasn’t contacting him or even writing, but Danny was no Judge and there was more to his dad’s story and disappearance, he felt sure about that.

On sunny days Nancy had taken to going for walks on her own to the park. She would bring a sandwich or two and sit on a bench while eating them, watching the kids play ball, always thinking of Little Luke. On this particular day she had been to her local library to pick up a book before going to her usual spot in the park. Walking through the ornate gates she headed down the path and under the trees that stood watch over a circular fountain that had numerous nickels and dimes in it, each coin someone’s wish.

Approaching her usual bench by the playing fields, there sitting at the next bench along, was a young guy with his nose deep in a book. Nancy smiled politely and then quietly took her seat. She reached into her bag taking out the library book and began to read. For some reason or other, unknown to Nancy herself, she had impulsively chosen a book called “Infinite Universes”, not ordinarily a subject that took her interest, but she took the book on a whim. The book was large and full of colourful images of galaxies and far off stars and diagrams with explanations she didn’t understand. For a moment Nancy thoughtfully glanced up at the sky as if it would give her some answers to what she was reading. Then her gaze took her to the guy who was reading his own book, on the next bench. She could just make out the title on its cover: “Rabbit Hole Universe”, written over a repeated image of Planet Earth. ‘Well now, such a coincidence’ Nancy thought to herself… ‘But I guess he knows more than I do on the subject.’

Just then a group of excited kids, dressed in yellow Yankee outfits, were setting out the running bases for a game of Baseball out on the field. Then the tall one, wearing a leather catch glove over his hand, called out: ‘Hey Danny! You wanna be the referee for us?’ Danny looked up from his book and called back: ‘I don’t think so, maybe next time’. Nancy slowly lowered her book down onto her lap and turned away in her seat from the person next to her, with the realisation of just who it was, she felt uncomfortable. Nancy stood to go, but as she did so the large book slid off her lap and onto the ground with a slap. As the Gentleman he was Danny quickly got up to retrieve it for her, its colourful pages were flapping open, he couldn’t help but note their contents. He picked it up and offered it back to the woman and said: “Hey that’s a great book, you should be more careful with the Universe’. He smiled at her as she tentatively took the book from his hand. Their eyes met and they stared for some seconds at each other. It was then, and only then, that Danny recognised who she was as she had recognized him. His voice trembling, he spoke very softly… ‘I’m sorry, ‘I’m so very sorry’. They stood there in silence looking at each other.

Brad was on his break, he poured himself another cup of black coffee that was always on supply in the back room at his office. From the 45th floor he had a great view of the whole city and could see the huge green area of the city’s park in the distance, much of it shrouded in tall trees. Reaching into his breast pocket he took out his wallet where he kept a photo, it was taken some 6 years ago. It was of the three of them together, Luke was the centre of attention, Brad and Nancy smiling and all hugging each other. As he looked at it he wondered how Nancy was getting along right at that moment, he knew she spent a lot of time at the park it gave her space and time to think. He knew she was having a hard time coming to terms with what had happened, with her loss, both were. How does any parent come to terms with having their heart ripped out and then trying to go on with life? The fact is you don’t! All you can do is live with it and struggle on as best you can and just hope that something is going to give you the grace to go forward. Brad was a caring and sensitive man although lately he had isolated himself and his feelings from Nancy. As he looked at the photo he knew that this had to change right away and a pang of conscience came to him for how he’d let Nancy cope on her own. He determined right then and there that things were not right between them, so he had an idea. Finishing his coffee he then went back to his desk, he picked up the phone and dialled: ‘Hi… is that Manfredo’s restaurant?… Ok, Id’ like to book a table for tonight, for two.’ The manager came back with a reply: ‘certainly sir, let me just check the reservations, hold if you will please… yes that’s fine sir, we have a table free at eight.’… ‘Wonderful!’, said Brad, ‘see you then.’ He put the phone down and thought of Nancy while looking at the view across the city, his eyes homed in on a green area there that was shrouded in trees.

One thing that we humans are not very good at, that thing is ‘forgiveness’. To forgive is beautiful it shows humanity, and yet it is so hard to apply. The tendency is to remember our own hurt, to go over and over what some person has done to US. So, we relive it in our minds until it becomes firmly entrenched and cast in stone. No one can force us to forgive another we have to do that from our own free wills and from our hearts. The thing is though no one can expect forgiveness either, we can’t take it for granted, and why should we? Yet to apply it can heal our own souls as much as it can for the one forgiven, and that’s what’s so remarkable about it, if only we can bring ourselves to do it. I guess it would go a long way in healing society, but there are certain things that just can’t possibly be forgiven, each of us have the right to decide whether we will or won’t.

Nancy reached the park gates and was on her way out. Pausing, she thought about the young man she had just left behind, the guy who had brought so much pain into her life. His eyes had been full of something she couldn’t get out of her mind, something she found hard to ignore. A look of someone yearning and in pain deep within themselves, who needed understanding. Nancy turned around and headed back past the fountain and towards the playing fields. Still there, sitting on the park bench, was Danny his elbows on his knees with his head in his hands. Nancy couldn’t help feeling sorry for him as she stood there motionless watching him from behind a tree. Getting up the courage to walk over and speak to him was going to be difficult, but something in her spirit was compelling her on and to go back.

Nancy stood before him, but sensing he wasn’t aware of her presence, his head still buried low in his hands, she spoke: ‘Have you eaten yet Danny, I mean Lunch? Do you mind if I sit? Nancy spoke softly she didn’t want to startle him. He looked up at her his eyes all moist and red as though he had been weeping: ‘You came back, but why? You should hate me.’ Nancy sat down at his side: ‘I don’t hate you, but for a time I thought I did, but no I can’t hate you, what good will that do for either of us?’ She reached into her bag and took out a plastic box, there was a sandwich left over from lunch, she offered it to him: ’Go on eat this and I have an apple for you too’. Danny hadn’t eaten all day, but something was telling him that he couldn’t accept. Maybe it was his conscience, why should she show kindness to him of all people? ‘No, I can’t accept your kindness, why are you doing this? It’s not right.’ She quickly replied: ‘All I know is that if you don’t eat it, well it’s going in the trash-can when I get home, so you might as well eh?’ Danny reached out and took the box, opened it and began to eat, ‘thanks’, he said. She poured some coffee into a cup from a flask and set it by his side. ‘Tell me about that day?’ she asked, ‘I need to know for my own peace of mind, I guess for my own sanity too.’ Danny was nervous, but she had the right to know. He went on to explain how he never drove through ‘Henry Avenue’, where she lived, that it was a one-off and that he had been late that day for school. How the dog had run out in front of him, just at that moment, followed by Luke chasing him. Nancy reacted to that: ‘Yes, Luke loved that dog too much, wherever Bruce went, Luke was sure to follow’ she said regretfully.

Glassy eyed Danny turned to her and said: ‘But I have a confession to make to you, I was going too fast, I was doing 31 MPH, and I shouldn’t have been’. Nancy smiled, ‘You mean you were going just ONE mile over the speed limit? And you think that would have made a difference? How do you know that your speedometer is accurate, I mean few are you know?’ Danny was bowled over by her reaction and her reasonable forgiving attitude: ‘But that one thing could have saved his life, that ONE mile an hour could have made the difference, don’t you see?’ Nancy sipped her coffee, and replied: ‘Danny, how many other factors could we also make mention of that played a part in Luke’s death? Could we go on all day about the fact that Luke loved his pet dog and at that very moment chased him out into the road? Perhaps I should have been watching both of them, but I was too busy. So, it could be that it’s ME to blame and not you?’

Danny couldn’t help thinking that Nancy was some kind of special person. At this moment he knew he had never met anyone like her, that she was kind and forgiving, but at the same time he still had this terrible feeling of guilt. ‘Nancy leaned forward putting her hand on his shoulder: ‘Look Danny, I was gonna walk out of this park, I was going to leave you alone, I didn’t want to know you. But then I had some sort of light go on in my head, so I came back. I want to say this… the accident wasn’t your fault and you have to get on with your life, we can’t bring Luke back, so you have to forgive yourself. You know as I do that shit happens in this sorry world?’

Danny couldn’t hold back his emotions any longer and burst into a flood of tears: ‘I’m so sorry, I don’t know how to make it up to you, how will I ever forgive myself for what I did?’ His sincerity and remorse were plain to see, and Nancy realised that she had to make it better. She answered him firmly: ‘You look here Danny Elliott! I’m going to tell you how you’re going to make it up to me and Luke as well, in fact to us all. You’re going to forgive yourself right now! And you can do that knowing one thing’… she stopped looking into his eyes with their puzzled expression in them. Danny reached into his jacket pocket for a Kleenex to wipe his eyes: ‘And what one thing is that?’ Danny asked. Nancy took him by the shoulders looked him square in the eyes and said: ‘That you know that I forgive you that you ARE forgiven for whatever you think you’ve done.’ They both embraced each other and cried like no two other wonderful human beings have ever cried before. Yes, to truly forgive is a very beautiful thing.

Nancy and Danny spent the next 2 hours talking about their lives. Danny told her how much he missed his father and that he wished he could see him again. That Marie, his Mum, was really making things hard on him. Nancy spoke about Brad and how much he had wanted a son and how long they had waited to have a child, how hard they had tried. Danny even managed to discuss and get across to her his understanding of what he now called his: “Rabbit hole theory”, as his father liked to call it. That perhaps everything that happens has a reason and led to other outcomes, like them talking right now and getting to know each other. She found this enlightening and somehow gave her some solace. It was time to go and Nancy had to get dinner ready in preparation for Brad coming home from the office.

They both walked past the fountain on their way out, Nancy paused and reached into her purse taking out two quarters, giving one to Danny. ‘Come on’ she said, ‘let’s make a wish. They both made their way over, closed their eyes and tossed the coins into the water and then opened them again and watched as the coins sparkled, sinking to the bottom. ‘What did you wish for Danny?’ Nancy asked. ‘I made 2 wishes’, Danny replied. Nancy chuckled, ‘But that’s cheating Danny, one coin, one wish.’ Danny opened his hand to show her that he still had her coin left. ‘I didn’t cheat Nancy, I used two coins of my own and I still have yours here, look! I wished that somehow you could have Luke back’… ‘And what was your other wish?’ She asked. Danny didn’t speak at first, but then sadly said: ‘I wished that my father would come back to me.’  But then to change the mood he said: ‘And by the way I’m keeping the quarter you gave me to remember you by’, he said cheerfully.

They reached the exit gate and in parting Nancy spoke: ‘Danny Elliott, I want you to know that you are a fine boy, that you have something special about you. That you are intelligent and you are going to make something very fine of yourself, that you are a good person with a good heart and soul. You should always remember this and never forget it.’ By this time Danny was full of smiles and felt a sense of release, he was happy. He shook her hand and said: ‘Nancy, if I can call you that? I want to thank you for helping me feel so much better, you are special too. I can’t express in words how I feel. You are some kind of unique Mum to me, if you know what I mean?’ They walked away in opposite directions, and then Nancy turned to wave and then called out: ‘Hey Danny! Do you like ice cream?’ Danny thought for a second and called back: ‘For sure I like ice cream, I mean who doesn’t? But why you ask?’ Nancy smiled to herself: ‘Oh you’ll see, you’ll see, Bye!’

As Danny walked home he had a constant grin on his face, he was feeling better than he had felt for a long, long time. He couldn’t help saying hello to everyone he passed, even to traffic wardens who he normally disparaged. On arriving home, as was his habit, he threw his keys on the bureau that stood in the hallway by the front door. It was an old piece of quality furniture, something his father had picked up from a house sale down the street. It had 3 tiers of small drawers on either side of a central mirror and since dad had modified it there was a row of brass coat hooks and even a place to put your umbrellas too. Danny took off his denim jacket and hung it up, he was about to go into the kitchen when he noticed the corner of an envelope poking out from under one of the small drawers. He opened the drawer to force the envelope back in, but just then he noticed something written on it: “To Danny Elliott”, yes it was addressed to him and he also recognised the hand writing too. Danny opened the envelope, but there was nothing inside, it had been sent by his father and going by the post mark it had been posted some months ago. Danny’s smile now turned into a firm grimace and he felt his heart rate increasing as his anger grew: ‘The rotten cow!’, he blurted out loud…’How the hell could she!’

Marie, Danny’s mother, was in the garage stacking some empty peanut butter jars on the shelves that ran the length of the wall. So that she could reach up she stood on a step-ladder while steadying herself with one hand on the roof of the Chevvy. Just then Danny burst in through the adjoining door that ran from the kitchen, making Marie jump and nearly falling off the ladder. Two peanut butter jars hit the concrete floor as the glass smashed, scattering under the car: ‘Lord! Now look what you made me do son! You frightened the shit out of me! What you wanna do that for?’ Marie climbed on down, holding her chest while catching her breath from her scare. Danny erupted: ‘Where the Hell are they?’ he demanded, ‘Where are what?’ replied Marie sternly. Danny drew closer to her: ‘Don’t play innocent with me mum, you know damn well what I mean, the letters from Dad! What right do you have to do that, to withhold them from me?’

Marie knew full well what he was talking about, but pretended to be ignorant: ‘Look Danny, I got no idea what you’re talking about, so you better be careful with that big mouth of yours.’ Danny reached into his pocket and took out the screwed up envelope. He straightened it out and then pushing it into her face, with both hands holding each edge, he hollered: ‘So, what the hell is this then? Where ARE Dads letters to me? You better tell me Mom, and quick!’ Marie turned on her heels and ran out through the kitchen and then on upstairs, slamming her bedroom door behind her and then locking it. Danny quickly followed, he was not going to let go of the matter. Banging on the door he shouted: ‘Mum give me the letters, they belong to me, so hand them over!’ Marie punched the bed pillow, she was in tears of frustration, they were not tears of sorrow or remorse, but ones of being discovered, of being found out. With bitterness in her voice she called out to him: ‘I don’t have them anymore, I threw them away in the trash can. I’m sorry Danny I truly am’, but she wasn’t, not at all.

Danny stood there trembling with anger and a sense of complete disbelief, of utter injustice that his mother could be so mean, so hateful ,not only to him, but also to his father. They say that love is stronger than hate, that in the end love will win out, I’m not so sure that this is always the case. Because when one’s hate is stronger than their love, then they are destined to a life of obsession unto the grave. In the end hate will have won them over, it will inevitably take its spoils from them … and for Marie the battle to love was indeed lost. Instinctively Danny knew his mother was telling the truth, that she really HAD thrown out the letters, she would not have kept a single one. How sad it is when ones hate is stronger than ones love, even at the cost of hurting one’s own son. Yes, there are those who want their children to hate too, to be just like themselves. It was obvious that Marie was to some degree ill, in some way or another.

Brad was putting on his favourite suit and tie while Nancy was taking a shower. Looking at himself in the mirror he called out to her: ‘You look happier today Nance, hope you don’t mind me saying so, but I noticed you smiling broadly when you came home.’ She was just rinsing the shampoo out of her hair: ‘no, I don’t mind you saying so, but its true I haven’t done much smiling lately, but today was a good day. By the way… its good of you to take me out to dinner tonight, you couldn’t have chosen a better time Brad, thanks so much hunny’. Brad was struggling tying a knot in his tie, he was never very good at it, he caught his own reflection grinning broadly back at him, brought on by Nancy’s words. He went on: ‘We deserve a good night out, and it’s about time we started to live again and had some fun, so I took the chance to book a table at your favourite restaurant.’ Nancy walked into the bedroom with a towel wrapped around her waist she kissed him on the cheek and said: ‘I’m so glad you did.’ Brad eventually managed his tie and then winked at himself in the mirror. Nancy put on her sexiest red dress that she hadn’t worn for quite some time.

Swanky” and “classy” are obvious understatements in describing Manfredo’s restaurant, a place you feel so good to be in and somehow so special because of its style and ambience, like you were the only person there being treated like a king or a queen. After a genuine warm welcome from the manager himself, Manfredo, he went on to show the couple to their table and lit the candle that stood in a circle of roses at the centre of the table: ‘I shall personally see to your needs tonight, I am at your service as your waiter’… he said in that distinctive Milanese accent of his: ‘Madam, Sir, may I present you with the wine list, I would suggest the 1971 St. Es’Steph, Bordeaux. Or perhaps you would prefer Italian vino?’ Brad handed the wine list back to Manfredo without as much as a mere glance at it, and said: ‘I know exactly what we want to drink Manfredo, bring me a bottle… err no, a magnum of Champagne, 1957 Dom Perignon, in a bucket with lots of ice.’

Manfredo responded: ‘certainly sir, a fine choice if I may say so, at once sir’. And with the swagger of a good manager he clicked his fingers at two waiters who jumped into action ready and eager to deliver the nectar of the Gods in a Champagne glass. Discreetly, Nancy leaned over the table and whispered into Brad’s ear: ‘Brad, you do know that stuff is $700 a bottle, don’t you? And you’ve ordered a magnum at that!’ Brad appeared totally unconcerned and unmoved by her remarks: ‘Nance my dear, YOU, we, are worth it, don’t you worry about a single thing. Let’s just enjoy it and relax into our evening together’. Nancy smiled at him as a tear of joy formed in her eye, she used her napkin to remove it, and Brad smiled back. ‘What’s come over you Brad?’ she asked. ‘Oh nothing’ he replied… it’s just that today I realised how lucky I am to have you in my life, and I should have realised it well before’.

Danny was slumped over the couch in the living room trying to make sense of the sounds coming from the TV, but even “The Fonz” was talking garbage to his ears, and that was his favourite TV show too. He was feeling low and after all the happiness he had experienced that day he just couldn’t understand it. ‘Sure, shit happens’ he said to himself, ‘but not like this, because right now it’s raining shit and it aint gonna stop!’ He hit the remote switch, the TV dimmed into silence. He needed air so he went outside and sat under the tree that was at the front of the house. He could hear distant voices coming from the down town streets. The voices of kids arguing with their Dads and Mums or siblings. Voices of drug pushers swearing while plying their trade to whoever walked or drove by. The sounds of dogs barking at passing police cars whose sirens blared into the night while some poor schmuck was being mugged of his last few Dollars.

After an hour it was getting dark and cold and Danny’s denim jacket was still hanging on the bureau, so a short-sleeved shirt wasn’t gonna cut it to keep him warm. He got up to head back inside, but just then he noticed his mother peering at him from the bedroom window with a worried look on her face. Danny stopped and looked up at her, he motioned with a gesture of his hand for her to open the window, and she did so leaning out slightly on the window sill. Danny spoke softly his anger had subsided somewhat: ‘Mum, I know you hate Dad, I think that’s plain to see, but I know it’s not in HIS heart to hate you back, that’s because I know him too well. What you need to know is that I love him, he’s my Father. Whatever passed between you is for you and he to deal with, but for you to do what you did with his letters is hard to forgive. I’ll always love you Mum, but you got to know that I need to love Dad too. You hear me?’ Marie answered: ‘Ok son, I hear you, but it’s going to be hard for me to cope with, and memories linger a long time. I guess I have to work on forgiving your Dad, for your sake at least’. Then she eased the window handle up tight again closing out the cold night air.

Danny went back into the garage to clear up the glass that was on the floor and under the car. He took a broom and started cleaning the mess up, but couldn’t quite reach under the Chevvy. He took hold of the car keys that were hanging from a hook and opened the door with one, and then started her up with another. He reversed the car towards the garage door behind, now he could get at the broken glass beneath. Just as he was getting out he thought he’d put on the car radio, so he reached over and turned the knob and the whole radio lit up green, with that warm contented glow you get in the background. He tuned it in until he got to a familiar sound, Jim Reeves, singing “Make the world go away”. He sang along to the sad song and as he did so he opened the glove box just to see what was there. Amongst the old broken head light bulbs and discarded cigarette packets he found a slip of paper, it was a note from his Father that he had secreted there the day he left, Danny had no idea of its existence until that moment. He opened it up and with great interest he began to read:

“Dear son, I hope you find this, I figured the best place to leave it was in the Chevvy, Mum always hated the car, so she won’t look here. I’m not leaving you son, but I just got to leave your momma. Things don’t always work out the way we want them to, you know that Danny. Like I always said, Life is like a “Rabbit hole” and who knows which way the tunnels will run, depends on the universe we are in and the choices we all make I guess. I promise to write you every week, you can be sure of that son, look out for my letters. We’ll make plans to meet and maybe go to the ball game and then burgers after, eh Son? I’m sorry for leaving I knew it was gonna happen someday. But know this for sure Danny… I love you with all my heart and soul, I will always be here for you, no matter what you are told, you must know that by now. Tell Marie I’m sorry, maybe one day she will forgive me and we can talk, maybe over a coffee and a cigarette, give her my love if you can. Mind how you go now in that car of yours. One day we will head for the beach in the old heap, just you and me. See you soon my boy, all my love to you son, From Dad.”

With tears streaming down his face Danny continued to sing along with the song that was still playing on the radio “Make the world go away get it off of my shoulder say the things you used to say, but make the world go away.” At least Danny had some hope now, maybe HIS world was just about to come right and his world wouldn’t have to go away.

Danny was up early he hadn’t slept to well, he made himself some coffee and brought some up to his mum, along with some toast, she was still fast asleep, a rarity for Marie because of late she was always up first. The phone rang, Danny picked it up, thinking who it could be at this God forsaken hour: ‘Hello, Danny Elliott speaking’ who is that?’ A soft female voice whispered back into his ear: ‘Danny, it’s me, Nancy, sorry for ringing at this early time, but I hoped I’d get you and not your mother, I guess I was right in my hunch’. Danny was pleased to hear from her again and didn’t seem to mind the hour at all: ‘It’s ok Nancy mum is still asleep, good to hear from you’. Just then the paper boy rode past on his bike and threw the “Weekly Gazette” onto the front porch. ‘I was wondering if you’d like to meet up in town for a coffee or something later on, I have something I want to say to you, something good’. Danny agreed and wanted to confide in her anyway about the letters he hadn’t been getting from his dad, and wondered what advice she might give him on the issue. ‘Ok Nancy, see you at 2 pm, I’ll look forward to it, bye’.

Danny opened the front door to retrieve the newspaper, letting in the cold early morning air, it made him shiver. He picked up the paper, quickly closing the door. There on the door mat was a small pile of letters, the early morning postman had made his delivery. Looking through them there was mostly bills and circulars, and then to his delight there was one that had his name on it, he knew it was from his father. Now he realised why his mother had not gotten up so early today, what was the point? She knew the game was up, so, no point in being the first to pick up the mail from the mat today eh? He thought to himself. He went back into the warmth of the living room and sat down on the sofa to read his letter:

“Dear son.

I hope you are ok and doing well. I just heard about what happened to you with the car some time ago, I read about it in the papers and about that poor kid. I aint judging you for that, I know that it wasn’t your fault and it could have happened to anyone. I know that this is not really a welcoming start to my letter to talk about this, but I just wanted you to be sure that you knew I wouldn’t be making judgments over an accident that couldn’t be helped. So, don’t be thinking that I got you condemned, you know me better than that son, I hope this puts your mind at rest. But I guess it’s gonna dwell on your mind, being the sensitive kid that you are. Those “Rabbit holes” can run where ever they like son, remember that, so try to forgive yourself.

I get the impression you aren’t getting my mail because if you had I know for sure you would have written back to me, I’m not even sure if you’ll be reading this one either, I have to trust to luck on that score. I’m praying that you are ok and that you are doing well at school, I hope so son. You know I love you and we are close, so don’t think you won’t be ever seeing me again, you will!

By the way, you’ll have to change the oil soon on the Chevvy, it’s about time. Get the good stuff and make sure you get the right filter: Part no 7401678 filter type, if you know what I mean? Ok son you take care now. See you soon, I promise. Love from Dad”

Danny was relieved that his dad knew about the accident and had wondered what he would think to him. He was worried about the shame of it all but he needn’t have worried it was off his chest now. He read the letter again and again, and after a while he became puzzled at his dad reminding him about the oil change, especially the filter type, as though he wouldn’t know about that himself, he thought it was kind of funny? Danny had a good supply of oil filters already and his dad knew that, because they’d bought a dozen or so of them when they saw them cheap on offer down at the motor mart, enough to keep the car going for years. Danny put it out of his mind and was content that at last he had managed to at least receive one letter before his mother intercepted it. He had one up on her in that.

Just then Marie came down the stairs and into the living room, dressed in a green night-gown. She immediately saw the pile of letters on the coffee table where Danny had left them, all except one that is. She spoke: ‘I guess you got your Pa’s letter this time eh?’ Danny smiled at her: ‘Yep, I sure did, and I’m going to get all the rest he sends from now on, cause I’m going to be first up in future, so you might as well take a good long lie in mom’. Marie sighed, she knew she was beaten and there would be no point in playing a cat and mouse game with her own son: ‘Ok son, you win, I promise I won’t ever take your letters again, you have my word. Danny stood up and walked over to her: ‘I appreciate that Mum, but that don’t excuse what you did, I guess I’m going to have to forgive you’. He gave her a small kiss on the cheek and said: ‘There’s more coffee on the stove if you want it. By the way, I’m going into town later on’.

Nancy was already seated and had a hot chocolate placed before her on the table brought by the waitress. “Drisscolls” was a regular haunt for many people in the town, for those who prized drinking real ground coffee and for sipping fine old brews of China tea. It was the kind of place where old friends would meet and somehow gave them that old world charm comfort, reassuring and homely. A place that also specialised in wonderful arrays of ice creams, with as many toppings that your heart could desire, and kids loved coming there too, obviously so. The perfect place to put anyone at rest and Nancy was sure that it would do the same for Danny. A warm Sun was out and a pleasant change from the miserable cold start of the morning. Danny was again his cheerful self, even after all that he had been through the days before. It was a relief to him that matters were getting settled and so he was in a good frame of mind to be meeting with Nancy.

He walked in and greeted Nancy warmly, taking the seat opposite to her at her invitation. ‘You ok Danny?’ she asked, He replied: ‘I wasn’t so good yesterday, but I got a letter from Dad today, so I guess it’s cheered me up a little, a lot in fact’. Nancy attracted the waitress’s attention: ‘What you having Danny?’ He looked at the deep froth on the hot chocolate that was already on the table: ‘I think that looks good, I’ll have what you’re having’, Nancy ordered the same again. ‘Ok, so what’s this you want to tell me, “something good” so you said on the phone this morning’? The waitress carefully set the drink by Danny’s elbows that were resting on the table. ‘Sure,’ Nancy replied… ‘I’m not sure if I should tell you this, but I don’t want you to worry about what I’m going to tell you right now’. Danny gave a slight look of concern: ‘I thought you said it was something good!’. Nancy sipped her drink wiping some froth from her lips: ‘I assure you Danny, it is good, though at first you might think it’s not, but I can assure you it is’. Danny was beginning to think that this sounded like some kind of conundrum or riddle. ‘Ok, out with it then, I’m curious, just out with it!’

The sun was beaming in through an open window and in turn onto Nancy’s face it lit her countenance up as though she was an angel of light. ‘Ok, but don’t speak till I have finished Danny ok… Brad and I went out for a meal the other night and we talked about what has happened to us, how we have had to pull through this and get on with our lives. He really opened up and we began to understand each other more than we ever have before. Getting to the point, I told him that you and I had met at the park and talked about Luke and how the accident happened.’ Danny wasn’t sure where Nancy was heading with this he was itching to interrupt her. She went on: ‘Anyway at first Brad would have gladly seen you run down by a bus Danny, that was how he felt towards you while he was still in shock and anger at what had happened to our dear son. In time I think he has managed to come to terms with it though and the way the accident occurred. At our meal the other night I was able to convince him of this further and that you had been forgiven by me personally and that you were not to blame, that I thought that you were a decent guy. I thought at first Brad would be fuming that I had spoken with you Danny, that I had even seen you, but I was wrong. Brad is more of a man than I realised. The point is Danny… he wants to meet with you, if you are willing that is.’

Danny couldn’t believe his ears; he would have not believed that this mother before him could have ever been this gracious to him either, until he met her that is. Danny felt his emotions rising and began to think that he didn’t really deserve all this. After all he had inadvertently been partly responsible for taking a child away from two loving parents. ‘I’m not sure Nancy, what if it goes wrong and Brad see’s something bad in me that you don’t see, perhaps he might lose it?’ Nancy smiled wryly: “Danny Elliott you haven’t a bad bone in your body, I knew that after 5 minutes of talking to you in the park, there is nothing bad in you to see, that’s what I think, so stop putting yourself down!’

Danny had quickly come to trust Nancy and was prepared to take a chance and on second thoughts he knew he had little right to deny Brad, after all Luke had been his son and maybe he had things to say to him at their meeting: ‘Ok, I’m not so sure, but I’ll give it a go, but be it upon your head Nancy and not mine. When do we meet anyway?’ Nancy gave a huge grin of relief and then said in reply: When do you meet? Well now I would say in the next 2 seconds because he’s sitting right behind you’. Brad turned around in his chair and gently placed his hand upon Danny’s shoulder: ’I’ve heard all about you Danny, and I’m very pleased to meet you’. He held his hand out for Danny to shake: ‘Danny I don’t want you to worry about a thing, ok? Let’s talk shall we?’

Danny’s father, Dougie, had found a new place to live, be it only in a modest apartment building on the 2nd floor, this was just 20 miles down the road from where he lived before with Danny and Marie. He had also found himself a new job as a mechanic, For 30 years he had worked as an engineer at the same company, but was recently forced to take redundancy due to cut backs in staffing. Hence the step down the ladder to a mechanics job and on less pay, but this was a job he knew well and found easy, but interesting to carry out. He hadn’t worked there too long just 2 months, but had established a good rapport with the owner, Clarence, who knew of his circumstances and how he was missing his son. At the moment Dougie found himself up to his elbows in axle grease, he was under a 1978 Lincoln sedan endeavouring to change the prop shaft and axle housing, which had cracked. Clarence was busy working on the engine of a Lexus LS 400, as the pistons rings had burnt out and needed replacing. He kept interrupting Dougie to ask for advice, because these Japanese cars were a world away from your average American Chrysler or Ford, cars that Clarence knew well like the back of his hand, but Dougie had a broader knowledge of most cars, wherever on the planet they were manufactured.

‘So I need to contact Toyota for these Lexus parts?’ asked Clarence. Dougie wiped the grease from his hands with a rag and replied: ‘Yes, look them up in the book I’m sure there is a dealer somewhere within 50 miles of here, they might deliver too’. Clarence went to his small untidy make shift office to make the call, he then went back to what he was doing. Ten Minutes later the phone rang and instantly Dougie sprang out from under the car he was working on, and raced over to answer it: ‘Yes, Dougie Elliott speaking, who is this?… Oh I see, Toyota calling back?’ Dougie hollered to Clarence to let him know that Toyota was returning his call, Clarence came over and took it, hanging up the receiver after finishing. He then walked back over the oily garage floor to get back to the job in hand, as he did so he paused for a moment: ‘You expecting a phone call Dougie?’ asked Clarence, ‘never seen you move so quickly, like a greyhound out of its trap’. Dougie hesitated before he answered: “err, well no not exactly, just thought that one was for me, err that’s all’. Clarence looked puzzled: ‘Since when have you ever received a call to here Doug? you expecting a call from your new lover then?’ Clarence laughed and went back to working on the Lexus.

Brad and Danny were getting on like a house on fire and this confirmed Nancy’s suspicions that they would, she was thrilled that they were able to communicate so freely. ‘So Danny, we want you to know that Nancy and I want you to get on with your life and put this whole thing behind you, I can’t hold what happened against you and I refuse to do so, and especially not against a pleasant modest guy like you.’ Danny felt deeply humbled by his words and moved by their sentiments: ‘I don’t know what to say to you both, I can’t find the words to say thank you enough for releasing me from those feelings of guilt. How can you be so kind and generous? I guess you must be genuine people and you have really put me to shame’. Brad had ordered some fresh drinks and some donuts; they appeared fresh from the deep fryer, the three of them tucked into them with gusto. ‘So, Danny, we want you to ring us whenever you want, and come to the house whenever you want, you’re family now, that’s right isn’t it Nancy?’ Nancy responded: ‘Sure, you can come for tea as if you were our own son and we can be like your second Ma and Pa, if that’s ok with you Danny’. Danny was licking the sugar from his lips: ‘I would like that very much, but just one thing, I don’t mind having a second dad, but you have to know that no one can ever replace my real dad, as long as you know that’.

Brad realised that they had strayed onto sensitive ground here: ‘That was thoughtless of me Danny, I know that you are close to your father, I take that back, and your right, no one can replace the father you love, no one!’. Danny took from his pocket the letter he got from his father early that morning and passed it to Brad to read and then onto Nancy. On reading it both were moved, Nancy spoke up: ‘Your Father sounds like a really caring and thoughtful man, he obviously loves you greatly. I guess he’s saying that you’re going to be part of his life no matter what. And by the sound of it he’s coming to see you and soon’. Danny put the letter on the table: ‘Yes I get that too, but I don’t know where he is or how to get to him. I just can’t figure out the oil filter business he goes on about. He knows I don’t need any, that I got plenty to keep the car running for fifty years’. Brad took the letter in his hand once again, but this time scrutinized it closely. After a moment or two he said: ‘This aint right Danny, I mean this long part number for the oil Filter? No oil filter has that many numbers. I should know I work in an office that deals with classifications and how manufactures allocate patterns and codes to productions’. Danny quickly grabbed the letter back… ‘Sorry Brad,’ he again noted the invented part number, Brad was right it didn’t make sense.

He then realised what his dad was trying to say because he wrote straight after the part number the words: “if you know what I mean?” At this moment the waitress came over enquiring if they wanted anything else. Danny quickly answered her: ‘Yes, do you have a phone I can use please, its urgent’. The waitress said: Not normally, but I’ll ask the manager for you, just wait a moment’. And in no time at all the waitress had managed to get the phone cable to reach to the front of house putting it on the counter. Enthusiastically Danny rose to his feet and ran over to the counter, followed by Brad and Nancy. Danny took the phone and dialled 7401678; the number rang and continued for some time, but no one answered.

Dougie had washed his hands and face and had eventually succeeded in removing the ingrained grease with a scrubbing-brush and had taken off his dirty overalls and changed into his other cloths. He had said goodnight to Clarence, while he was switching off the garage lights to close up, Dougie said that he would see him early in the morning. Dougie climbed into his car put the key in the ignition and turned it, but it wouldn’t start, it was cold. Eventually the Mustang growled into life, Dougie selected first gear and began to drive away, spluttering and chugging. He had only covered a hundred yards or so when suddenly the engine stalled. ‘Damn Car!’ Dougie remonstrated…’ why are you always like this when you’ve been stood cold all day?’ as if the Mustang could answer him back. He restarted it, Just as the engine was warming up and Dougie was about to drive away again, an out of breath Clarence appeared at his screen. He began to mouth something at him; Dougie wasn’t clear what he was trying to say beyond the noise of the engine. He wound the window down: ‘There’s a phone call for you Dougie’… Clarence shouted at the top of his voice… ‘and by the sound of it it’s not that new lover of yours either.’ Dougie rammed the car onto reverse letting the clutch up and screeching the tyres, a black stream of smoke stormed into the air. He missed crashing through the locked garage doors behind by only a matter of millimetres. ‘This Is Dougie Elliott speaking, is that you Danny?’ “Yes it is, Dad” came the excited reply.

Danny had his father come over to meet with them at “Drisscolls” cafe; he arrived with a beaming smile on his face. Danny ran over to him and embraced him warmly and then introduced him to his friends, Brad and Nancy. They sat there talking as if they had all been good pals for years, laughing and slapping each other on the back. Nancy asked for silence: ‘This calls for a celebration, don’t you think so brad?’ And came back the reply: ‘Sure does Nancy, go for it!’ Nancy once again called for the waitress: “we’d like four Luke special ice creams with all the toppings please and don’t forget the cherry brandy sauce’. Danny looked at his father with tears in his eyes and his father looked back with tears in his. They all embraced each other as good friends and continued to celebrate with ice cream, all downed in honour of Luke a child that was so very special and yet in his death had brought about so much goodness in people. Dougie took from his brief case a bundle of letters all tied up with purple ribbon and handed them over to Danny: ‘I kept copies son and I knew I would have to, just so you would know how much I love you. And just so you know that the “rabbit hole” can appear wherever it chooses and that maybe out there in the big huge universe people exactly like us are making the right choices, but then again maybe not. For who knows that down the Rabbit Hole maybe another Luke or the same Luke is happy and playing in his tree house with his pet dog?

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7 thoughts on ““The Rabbit Hole”. By Paul Manning.

  1. A very touching and beautiful story Paul. You were nearly right about the tears I had to fight them at times. You have a gift my friend.

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