“Johnny, Johnny, Johnny. I don’t have to tell you, you’re a little behind on delivery and I can only keep my bosses quiet about it for so long”, said Rita Braithwaite.
John who despised being called Johnny, looked at Rita and considered his response carefully. “I’ve given you a new book every 13 months for the last 14 years. You’re just going to have to be patient on this one.”
Rita gave him that fake look that says, We’re both on the same side here, and said, “It’s not me Johnny; my hands are tied, here. If I don’t show them something soon, they’re going to kick in some of your penalty clauses, and there really isn’t anything I can do to help you once that happens”.
John knew that Rita only had one side to be on, but he had to trust someone. He had tried talking to his wife, to friends; he’d even tried psychoanalysis. Everyone thought he had lost it. And why not? How could anyone spend his life known as the writer of the creepiest horror stories in American Literature and not be a little...odd? John assumed that Rita would at least recognize her own self interest and maybe be of some help. Finally, he decided to take the dive.
“Rita, I’m having a big problem with the next book.”
“They can’t all be your best Johnny. Let’s just get it done and out there and we’ll move on to the next project.”
“You don’t understand”, he pleaded, “I’ve been working on this thing for months and I’m still on the first chapter. It just isn’t any good. Here, look.”
Rita took a disappointingly thin sheaf of papers and began to scan the pages. “Hmm, broad daylight…yeah, scare them when they should be off their guards. The noise from behind the wall in the laundry room…I see where you’re going here. Good. Good.” Rita went on, continuing to make approving noises and then fell silent. “Uh, Johnny. There’s a big stuffed Easter Bunny behind the wall? It’s like a killer zombie bunny with really sharp teeth, right?”
“No, Rita…just a big stuffed Easter Bunny.”
“I’m not sure America is going to buy a bunch of books about a fluffy bunny. Is it a mind reading bunny who extorts money?”
“Nuh, Uh. Just a big fluffy pink bunny. It’s really very sweet and cuddley.”
“I don’t get it, Johnny. Maybe you’d better explain it to me.”
John took another deep breath and spilled the whole story. “I’ve written this chapter, I don’t know how many times already. He’s broken down that wall and found evil dead ancestors, angry murder victims, the gates of Hell, giant Hell-hounds, ghosts of his own victims…you name it; I’ve written it.”
“Well, those all sound great Johnny. Why don’t you just keep going with one of them?”
“Every time I write it, it really happens to me. I go to bed at 11:00 O’clock and I wake up down in the laundry room in the middle of the night. Every time, I’ve broken through the wall in my sleep and I really find whatever I’ve just finished writing. I can’t eat. I can’t sleep. I had to take a cab here ‘cause I don’t even feel safe driving in this condition.”
“So, the other stuff scared you and you changed them all into a fluffy bunny?”
“Well, yeah”, John said, “But even that hasn’t helped. Even the bunny creeps the shit out of me now. He's so damned insistent all the time. And all the other stuff is just on the tip of my mind. One fluffy Easter Bunny just can’t erase all those other images from my mind”
“How about if you write that…a first person account of a horror writer who’s finally scared himself too much?”
“I’ve tried that angle too. I just don’t know how to make it work.” He rubbed his stubbled chin and continued, “I’ve had a best seller about a slave cemetery haunting the ancestors of their owners. I’ve gotten America to buy into the concept of a telephone that sucks people into another dimension. I had millions of people lining up to fork over $29.95 to scare the piss out of themselves reading about an evil possessed toddler. But I can’t think of any way to get people enough into my own fucked-up head to scare them with a cuddly 4’ tall stuffed bunny.”
Rita considered a moment. “I can see where that might be a problem. Maybe we could do the whole thing as a tie-in with one of those caffeine drinks; ya’know, get ‘em all really sleep deprived first?”
John gave her a sardonic look.
She held up her hands, “O.K., I’m just brainstorming here. There’s got to be an answer, though.”
“Well, I’ve been agonizing over it for months now. If you can come up with an angle, I’ll be happy to try it. I’m at the end of my rope, here.”
Rita said, “Look. You go home and I’ll think about this some. I’ll give you a call and maybe we can come up with something together. In the meantime, go home and try to distract yourself with something else. You’re not doing either of us any good in this condition. You look like shit.”
John left Rita’s office and climbed into the taxi he’d had wait for him. The ride home was short and uneventful. He entered his house and dropped his keys in the bowl on the side table. Without bothering to announce his presence, he went immediately down the basement stairs to the laundry room. There was a large hole and a pick-axe to the left of the dryer with a glow like a blast furnace coming out of it. Standing with its back braced against the hole, apparently all that held back…whatever…was a 4’ tall pink stuffed Easter Bunny. “John, I sure as hell hope you figured something out ‘cause I can’t hold this shit back much longer”, cried the bunny.
“I’m on it”, John said. “I’m sure Rita will come up with something soon.”
“Well she’d better. You dreamed me and the rest of this shit all up. None of this is my fault.”
“Well, it’s not my fault either”, John whined. “I was just doing my job. I’m supposed to come up with stuff like this.”
“Yeah, John, you just keep telling yourself that. But it’s only a few weeks before I have to start hiding Easter Eggs and looking adorable. When the time come, I’m outta here, and you’re on your own pal.”
“Fine! I’ll just write Santa tonight. He’s had a few weeks off and nobody’s expecting him again for months!”
“Good for you, John”, said the Easter Bunny. “Just make sure you write the fattest one you can think of. This hole’s getting bigger every day.”