The notice came at two in the afternoon, on a paper smelling of lavender, old socks, and a hint of person who never bathed for lack of time. It was written in blue ink on a piece of standard stock paper and read as following:
Resident Bunny Smokes must adhere to the procedures as soon as she can. She has been elected to be the next Moon Hostess. Failure to comply will result in execution at dawn by means of
c.) inhalation of chalk
d.) boring river walk
e.) long lecture talk
f.) finger and toenail lock
Thank you for complying instead of dying,
But Resident Bunny Smokes was nowhere to be found.
She had hopped aboard the next train headed to Chicago along with her steadfast companion and longtime partner in crime, June July. Together they were known as Bunny and June. They were a fiercely loyal pair and anyone who dared come between them, even Ruler Jimmy, would get a taste of their own bitter grape medicine.
She wasn't there to get her letter, but she knew it had been coming for a while. She fastened the gun in her belt and leaned out the train's door, feeling the wild western winds play in her hair. They smelled like hay and tumbleweeds and cow manure and she loved it. June July, who had always been a city boy, held his nose and covered his mouth with his jacket.
He liked to complain, see.
"Why do we have to ride through these endless fields?"
He didn't like the fields, see.
"I have to go to the bathroom."
He didn't go before they hit the road, see.
Bunny pulled herself back into the rolling train cart and glared and June July with all the anger of a chocolate deprived girl during shark week. "We left," she jabbed at his chest with every word, "Because I don't feel like taking a trip to the moon anytime soon."
"I know, but I'm tired of always running."
"Are you tired of me, punk? Cause I thought we were friends. Ride or die, you said."
"I know! But all we ever do is ride. We ride trains, buses, cars, in the trunks of cars, on the roofs of cars, on ski jets, in airplanes, boats. All we ever do is ride."
Bunny Smokes did not approve of insubordination. She pushed June July up against an apple crate and dug her elbows into his chest. If it wasn't supposed to be threatening, it would have been kind of fun. "June July."
"What do you want to do? You want me to go to the moon? You want me to be a Moon Hostess with the rest of those chicks up there? Serving candlelit dinners to a bunch of kooks with cash? Nah, I don't think I will."
"I'd go with you. You know I would." June July said. The train jolted and they both skidded across the floor; apples flying everywhere.
"Would you, really?"
"Yes." June July cleared his raspy, tumbleweed affected throat and began to sing duskily. "I'll be the one if you want me to."
Bunny joined in, her voice almost an octave lower than June July's. "Anywhere, I would've followed you."
And together, "Say something, I'm giving up on you."
Bunny jumped away at the last line, uncomfortable by the raw emotion in her voice. "Darn it. You know I hate that song."
June July shrugged. He leaned against the wall like all the cool kids do. All he needed was some skinny hipster pants and round framed wire glasses; a long red flannel button up shirt to wear over an army green t-shirt and a cup of steaming Starbucks. Then he would be the coolest cool kid to ever lean upon a wall. The wall should have been grateful. The wall should've been crying. But June July was no high school hipster.
He was one of the world's most wanted criminals, and he only drank coffee from MacDonald's.
"Bunny, you know I'd never leave you. I just want to stop. To slow down. Settle down."
"I'm not marrying you, thudmuffin."
Bunny ate an apple and thought about why she was running. She guessed part of it was that she had always been a runner, someone who longed to feel that western wind whipping her around, to feel the cool of the night air as she slept under the stars. That was part of it, sure, but the other thing was the whole stupid Moon Hostess program. It had started in 1876, right after the rockets had been set off to the moon. Some rich guy thought it would be cute to recruit people to go serve other rich guys and their spouses while they were on intergalactic tours. You got recruited, went to the moon, served a few years there and if you were good you got to come home.
But Bunny didn't want to go.
She was not going to go.
And she thought June July understood how important to her it was that they keep going and trying to live a life worth living. A life for themselves that wasn't defined by other people's money and their own lack of it.
So why was he complaining now? If he loved her like he said he did, why did he want her to stop? She glanced over at him leaning against the wall like a loser and scowled. Ride or die, sure. Since when had he been so dang cocky? Bunny sat down on the floor of the train and put her hands behind her back, leaning on her fingers till they strained.
He looked at her underneath his thick eyelashes and nodded, "Yes, Benny."
"Where did your spirit of adventure go?" She stood up and stepped closer to him despite her better judgement.
“It didn’t go anywhere. It just lost its novelty.”
“You mean I lost my novelty?”
“Nah, you’re timeless.”
He grinned. “There’s what I love. That’s what I miss when we have to constantly be moving and changing names, faces, addresses, relationships. One day you're my sister, the next day I’m your husband. One day we’re cousins, the next day you’ve had three of my children. I never know who I am to you really.” He bowed his head and looked up at her again, still possessing those dark lashes that drove Bunny hopping mad. “Until you look at me like you’re looking right now and you tell me to shut up.”
She stepped closer. The burrs of her boots brushed against the leather of his boots and the shock was electric blue all the way to her fingertips. “Shut. Up.”
“You love me.”
“I can’t stand you.”
“You can. You don’t have to. You don’t need to. But you do.”
Bunny picked up another apple and chomped down on it hard, the whites of her flat teeth flashing in the open train door moonlight. “You want to know what I think of you?”
“I think you’re scared of me.”
“I sure am. Very scared. So scared, in fact, that every part of my body is quaking. Hands, feet, nose, eyes. Other parts of my body. Yeah. I’m scared. Ah.”
He was scared, but it was better to play it off as though he wasn’t. Just like dogs smell fear, Bunny smelled lies. She poked her finger into his chest.
The train came to an abrupt halt and two Ruler Jimmy guards stepped onto the cart. This had happened before. There had been moments when Bunny and June were cornered, caught like mice in a cat bin, but they always knew what to do then.
They always ran together.
Now, though, there was a pause in the air.
June July wanted to stop running.
Bunny knew she never could.
The guards stepped forward, crashing through apple crates and splattering fresh apple sauce everywhere. “Come with us.”
June July said, “Never.”
Bunny said, “Okay.”
They looked at each other wildly and laughed like deranged politicians. Bunny grabbed June July by the collar and the barreled past the guards, leaping off the train and onto the soft, damp grass of Chicago.