The U-haul door shut with a creak; all our worldly possessions were inside. The gaudy peach hand-me-down couch, the scrappy coffee table that had been colored with crayons and lacquered to perfection, the pseudo-water bed with the water weenies that we slung over our shoulders to carry to the truck, and the rabbit hutch.
I said a silent prayer for the hole in the carpet. The one I'd spent hours gluing back together, piece by individual carpet piece. If the repair didn't hold we would lose our security deposit; all the money we had to our name. The money we needed for our move. Mr. Wendall was a costly stray. But how could one say to no to those big rabbit ears and that chocolate chip butt?
The three of us traveled up the I-5; my boyfriend, myself and our strapping mulatto friend, Tom, who'd volunteered to help us move. I don't remember where we put Mr. Wendall. He must've been at my feet. And the bird. Did we still have a bird? Yes. Yes we did. Because our cockatiel didn't die until our honeymoon. So, really, it was the five of us; three humans, a rabbit and a bird; abandoning California and heading for Eugene, Oregon.
I had a degree but no job. My boyfriend had no job and no degree. But he'd been accepted to the University of Oregon; he was 26. A veritable old man off to try his hand at education.
We'd rented a place across from the fairgrounds; in a pepto bismol pink triplex. Our landlord lived in the front unit. He was a runner. Our landlord ran and ran until his toenails turned black and peeled off his feet. I never saw the man in shoes. This barefoot man in the bright pink house also grew roses. He gave me permission to pick them. But only if I agreed to cut the stem just so. I never dared pluck a rose; I was afraid of cutting it wrong. And then the man might come for my toenails. And what would I do then?
The fair came to town the day we moved. Every afternoon thunder storms rolled in; they arrived on cue if they'd checked their watches and consulted their schedules. I stood in the open garage petting the rabbit. The air was ripe with electricity when the storm came and the hair on the back of my neck rose to attention. And the ferris wheel. It kept going. It kept whirling around and around and around; even after being struck. This lightning. Was it a sign? And if so; was it good or bad? I was curious, yes, but not curious enough for a trip to the library (the internet had yet to fall into my pocket). So I called the lightning a sign but did not assign it a polarity. It was what it was.
My boyfriend went to school. And I worked a series of odd jobs. I wrapped candles in a candle factory. I wiped bottoms in a nursing home. And then I was hired as a veterinary assistant. My new boss was an eccentric red-haired woman named Rena. She didn't believe in electricians and wired her own house. She'd been married -- but not for long. She kept baby goats in her car. And she was a one woman veterinary show. If you'd ask me now I'd tell you she had ADHD. But I was young and didn't know about those things back then. Rena hired me on the spot without bothering to ask about my experience (I had none).
My first task was to bathe a 20 pound cat. I was allergic to cats. I'd never owned one and had no idea how to handle the yowling writhing mass in front of me. And yet somehow I survived (as did the cat). And there, in that strip mall in the rain, I was inaugurated into the world that would dominate my life for the next 20 years. The world of veterinary medicine.
Now I am a doctor (a DVM) and I have a clinic of my own. I would love to own goats but my neighbors would complain. I've filled my life with chickens and dogs and cats and, yes, a rabbit. All because I was brave enough to climb into that U-Haul and take a one-way trip. A trip to the rest of my life.