From Journal Entry to Flash Essay

[Below is my journal entry from May 8, 2020, after discovering bunnies had eaten all my tulip buds but one. The journal entry was published by Passenger Journal’s Pandemic Diaries on May 12, 2020. I later developed the journal entry into a flash essay called “Tulips Beheaded.”]


Journal Entry May 8

Only two daffodils bloomed, but the tulips showed great hope. Yesterday I counted nine tulip buds that were ready to burst open in red. This morning I walked to the back garden and found one red tulip with its petals fully opened to the sun. It caught my eye with its vibrant red. I looked at the other buds to see how close to blooming they were. Gone. All. Gone. Sheared off by some animal’s guillotine teeth. Probably some overly cute bunny. This has happened in past years, and this year we have lots and lots of bunnies in the neighborhood, so I wasn’t surprised to see my tulips decimated. What’s different is that I wanted to have a good, wailing cry. But I stuffed my tears because if I started, I wondered if I’d stop. 

Tulips Beheaded

Only two daffodils have bloomed, but the tulips show great promise. I count nine tulip buds ready to open and reveal their dressy reds, the color of tunics worn by the Queen’s Guard at Buckingham Palace. My tulips will stand watch in a humble stretch of garden nestled behind my house, allowing them to avoid cold spring winds advancing from Lake Superior. Because of the coronavirus and stay-at-home orders, I await the triumphant return of my tulips with enthusiasm.

The Lone Survivor

The following afternoon I return to my garden. A solitary red tulip, its petals open to the sun, stands at attention. I look toward the other tulip buds to see if they will soon join their companion. Gone. All gone. Only eight headless stems remain, each encircled by pointed leaves that failed to protect them, their buds sheared off by some animal’s guillotine teeth, most likely one of the hordes of rabbits pillaging the neighborhood.

I want to have a wailing cry. But I stuff my tears because decapitated tulips are nothing to cry about during a pandemic that has caused so much havoc. If I start crying, I wonder if I’ll stop.

An image of Elmer Fudd singing, kill the rabbit, kill the rabbit, from the cartoon parody of a tragic opera interrupts my thoughts. Fudd, performing an aria about killing his prey, sings what I feel. I sing with him, kill the rabbit, kill the rabbit. But Fudd is lampooning tragic opera. The parody strikes a chord with me because rabbits will not die by my hand. Tragic opera is about fatal flaws, vengeance, and remorse, and I can do without the remorse.

With kill the rabbit still echoing in my head, my brain retrieves the song “Circle of Life” from my memory bank. The tunes spar in my head. I smile at my dark humor, but the rabbits have won. Spring has been late in coming, and the rabbits are hungry.

I hope they enjoyed their fillet of tulip buds.

Elmer Fudd pops back into my head, singing, kill the COVID, kill the COVID.