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Chapter Nine – Mr. Hoppity

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The next morning I waited at the front doors of the school for Gabe so he could come in right away. I wanted him close by in case I needed him for anything.  He seemed to be good at getting me out of jams, however, he also seemed to be able to get me into a few.

After morning Social Studies current events, Mrs. Mitchell announced that it was time to clean the rabbit cage. She pointed her finger at me and said, “Trevor has volunteered to be the first person to clean the cage.  So Trevor let’s get to it.”

Everyone gathered around the cage at the back of the room as I carefully took the rabbit out.  I wanted to hold it for a while but Mrs. Mitchell reached out her hands. The girls all “cooed and awed”, and everyone wanted to pet it.  Gabe sat at my feet watching, his nose in that smelling position again.  As I passed the rabbit over to her, Gabe moved closer and sniffed.

The rabbit twitched and started to squirm in my hands.

Gabe moved directly beneath the rabbit.

The rabbit went crazy. He could see Gabe! Before I could get a tight grip on him he jumped onto the top of the bookshelf.  That was all Gabe needed, the chase was on.

Gabe lept up onto his hind legs, his front paws landing on the bookcase, sending all of our class paperbacks crashing to the floor.  The rabbit, seeing Gabe’s gaping, drooling mouth, scurried from the top of the bookshelf down onto the art table.  Two potted plants toppled over and blasted onto the floor.

Mrs. Mitchell yelled for everyone to sit down and remain calm, but no one listened. The kids all howled with laughter as they watched the rabbit hop through the open paint dishes set up for art class. Paw-shaped prints dotted the table as the frightened rabbit ran from Gabe.

“No Gabe, sit Gabe, sit.  Come here fella!”

I tried frantically to stop him, but he ignored me.  Cathy, who was also racing around trying to catch her poor rabbit, kept telling me “his name is not Gabe, its Mr. Hoppity!”

We chased him around the room as he hopped from desk to desk, barely hanging on as he slid across each top and skidded to the edge. Gabe followed waiting for him to hit the floor. When the rabbit made a final jump onto Mrs. Mitchell’s desk Gabe saw no reason why he shouldn’t be there too.  Soon the teacher’s desk looked like a mini tornado was buzzing over it.  Gabe’s large paws sent assignments and record sheets spinning off in all directions.  Pencils and pens became flying weapons and a big pot of glue sailed through the air and landed on the floor beside the desk with a plop.

Mr. Hoppitity, who had grown quite tired, saw Mrs. Mitchell and decided she was a much safer place to be. He flipped off the desk and into her arms.  Startled, she fell back into her chair with the rabbit clinging nervously to her sweater.  Gabe sat beside them panting with a big toothy grin.

Seeing the game was over he casually walked over to my desk and lay underneath panting.

“Well now,” puffed Mrs. Mitchell, “maybe a rabbit is more than we can handle.”

With shaking hands, she walked back to the cage and put the rabbit inside, closing the door with a click.  She stood at her desk and adjusted her sweater, which had twisted around her shoulders.

“Everyone sit down please.”

She took a step forward from her desk and raised her hand to say something else. She didn’t see the puddle of glue. glue Her right foot landed dead center in the white slippery mess. When she took her next step forward Mrs. Mitchell didn’t loose her footing, but she did loose her shoe.

She wobbled, and balanced herself with one shoe on and one shoe off.  When she picked up her shoe glue dripped off in a stringy glob. A few kids giggled.  She stood that way for a long time. Only when the period bell rang and the music teacher stuck her head in, did Mrs. Mitchell seem to come back to life.

“Oh my goodness, what happened?” said the music teacher, looking around at the messy room.

“Don’t ask” replied Mrs. Mitchell. “Class, please follow Miss Silverstone out for music.”

As we walked out the door I felt sorry for Mrs. Mitchell, sitting at her desk wiping her shoe with a paper towel and muttering to herself.   I wondered what Gabe was going to think about music.

* * *

The rest of the day was very quiet, except for one time, in the afternoon, when Leslie got caught passing me a note.  She threw it across to my desktop but it bounced onto the floor.  Mrs. Mitchell’s x-ray vision must have kicked in because she was on my case right away.

“What is that Trevor, on the floor beside you, is that a note?”  She moved over to my desk.  “Let me see it.”paper

Reaching down toward the note, it disappeared.  At least I’m sure that’s what it looked like to everyone else.  What I saw was different.

Gabe lunged forward, snatched the note between his teeth and munched it down.

“Uh, there’s nothing Mrs. Mitchell.” I replied looking at Leslie and shrugging my shoulders.

Mrs. Mitchell stared at the floor and rubbed her eyes, “but… what happened… I’m sure I…”

I shrugged.

Mrs. Mitchell stayed as far away from my desk as possible for the rest of the day.

bookshelvI felt a little guilty for all the trouble Gabe and I had caused so I offered to put the novels back onto the bookshelf.

Mrs. Mitchell nodded and said. “yes, thank you, that would be nice.”

I had to walk home because I missed the bus, but I didn’t mind because Gabe kept me company. I took my library book on angels out of my knapsack, and read out loud to Gabe as we walked.

“It says that Gabriel means, God is my strength, and that the Angel Gabriel was known as God’s messenger of mercy and promise.  He was the angel that informed Mary she would give birth, and he also protected Moses when he was afloat in the basket on the River Nile, like the way you protected me from drowning.”

Gabe tilted his head.

After supper I went up to my room and looked at my dog book.  Gabe climbed up on the bed with me and put his head on my lap.  It showed all the different breeds of dogs and I searched to find one like Gabe.  The closest I came was a dog called the Australian Shepherd.

They were both medium height, with a flat broad nose like a St. Bernard.  Both had a white flowing mane of fur on their chest, and short pointy ears, but the Shepherd had a cropped tail.  Gabe had a huge furry one.

aussieAustralian Shepherds came in many colors, brown, gray, red, and the ones that looked like Gabe were black and white. The picture that looked most like Gabe was the black dog with a white stripe that ran down the middle of his face, starting at his nose and running up past his eyebrows.  He even had the two little brown spots above each eye like Gabe.  These dogs were sheep herding dogs, very smart and loyal.  Then I read something interesting.

“Gabe, listen to this” I said to him and his ears shot right up like he understood.

“These dogs are extremely protective, placing themselves between children and dangerous situations.  There is one story about how a young girl was saved from a rattlesnake by her dog.  The snake had bitten her on the leg, and the dog lunged at the snake and tore it off. The dog got bit six times on the top of the head.  The child was taken to the hospital where they said that if she had been five minutes later she would have died.  The dog was okay too because it got bit on the bony part of his head where the poison couldn’t travel.

“Gabe are you a hero?  Is that why you’re with me?” I rubbed the fir above his nose and he stared at me.

But as I thought about it I felt a little scared.  If Gabe was sent to save me, his job was done and he probably had to go soon.   Or maybe that was the start of it.  Maybe Gabe had more saving to do.  Was it for me, or was it for someone else.