She had no idea why it hadn’t happened. The hare was used to seeing her world change from green, brown and white to purely white, for snow to fall and for her to merge with the snow, to be hidden by it and camouflaged from her enemies. As usual, her coat had shifted already. It was why she was called the Varying hare, and also the Snowshoe hare, because her back feet were big and flat enough for her to hop and walk on snow and not sink into it. And it was why she was considered cute by humans, though she had no concept of “cute,” had never been cooed at or cuddled by children or anyone else.
Since her world had not changed and she had turned white, the hare stood out against the twiggy brown background, as if a popping tabloid flashbulb had isolated and exposed her (though she had no sense of that, either). Soon she was being studied by a marten, a predator in the weasel family who had discovered her in these, the last unnatural moments of her natural life.
Miles away, in the city, “Varying Hair” wasn’t the name of the container Elias held yet it could have been, maybe should have been. He could hardly hold it because he was wearing rubber gloves, as usual neurotically overrating a product’s toxic properties, believing the warning on the package, only placed there to forestall side effects that could engender litigation.
Elias wasn’t naïve but a pleasantly surface person, which was why he now began to apply the dark color to the graying clusters at his temples, to “spot treat,” as the process was called to differentiate it from a straight-up dye job. Elias dreaded the poisonous effects of that, as well as the pathetic possibility of one day running in the rain with the tragic-comic color dripping down his face, like that old dude chasing the teenager in “Death in Venice.”
Elias was only pursuing longevity in his career, which was writing animated TV for kids. He feared aging out of this youth-obsessed occupation, since he’d just turned fifty and his gray hairs like his bad cholesterol had begun to increase. Today he had a Zoom meeting to pitch a revision of his once-popular show, now fading in appeal, to “freshen up” its premise as he had just done his appearance.
The show starred a cartoon rabbit named Bob Hop, a jokey reference to a comedian (Hope) forgotten even by Elias’ parents. Bob was always pursued by benign predator Martin the marten, who was always foiled in his attempts to kill and eat him. Elias was so committed to saving the show that he had not only hidden the evidence of his aging but updated his Zoom background. He wished to camouflage the sight of his dusty, book-strewn den, which might expose him as long ago having left adolescence and about to enter obsolescence. This was, as he saw it, a primal struggle to survive.
An hour later, Elias had survived. His hair, idea, and background pleased his employers, who ordered more episodes of his revised show. Now it would be set in a place that reflected Elias’ new Zoom location: outer space. Bob and his nutty nemesis would hilariously chase and evade each other through the stars.
Meanwhile, in nature, the marten attacked the hare, who had been revealed and made helpless by the slowness of shifting seasons. The marten was linked to his prey by his own feet, the soles of which were furred for a snowshoe effect. Soon his life would be threatened, too, by logging, for he depended on trees for food and shelter.
After the marten left and the sun set, the half-consumed hare looked up at the sky. At least she blinked in that direction, her sight starting to stop. There she saw neither cartoons nor the constellation of a creature like herself, fleeing Orion’s dogs. The old star was in the midst of contracting and disappearing, as was the animal, not a hair a hare, not dyeing dying.