By Dan Brook

Bob technically lived alone, but that was not at all how he felt about it. Besides Bob’s two pet rabbits, whom he called Donald and Watson, Bob had a thriving garden in his backyard in Sequim — which rhymes with Swim — a little blue hole of sunny Mediterranean microclimate in Washington state. In addition to various veggies, he tended a variety of plants specifically for the birds and the bees, whom he felt were the more deserving inhabitants of the Earth. 

Bob had some human friends, which wasn’t difficult in this small town overflowing with friendly people. He enjoyed them for who they were, but his full heart was never fully in it and they usually sensed that. Even when he was with people, his mind would wander off to his garden, where his best friends were. Bob would often tell the story of how Watson once found a little mastodon bone in the backyard and he felt like all the birds and the bees were so proud that day, a story that became only interesting to him. 

It was seven years ago that a certain synchronicity occurred. Bob was visiting a friend in her backyard one morning, where they were chatting about her egg-laying chickens, something Brenda took so much pride in. Brenda just loved Sassy, Moxie, Cheeky, Spunky, Feisty, and Gertrude, spoiling them with treats and affection. Enjoying the friendly chickens, but tired of the human interaction, Bob excused himself and went to get lunch at Blondie’s. 

Biting into the buttermilk fried chicken, he didn’t taste the food he normally loved, but instead tasted the life and death of Brenda’s chickens. He spit it out, couldn’t believe he hadn’t made the connection before, and promised himself “never again”. In retrospect, he thought it the best decision he had ever made. 

Aligned with vegan philosophy, Bob now believed that he should minimize harm in the world, while also maximizing goodness. Eating a plant-based diet was one major way for him, caring for his rescue rabbits was another way, tending his garden yet another. He also donated to several vegan organizations, subscribed to many vegan magazines — more than he could comfortably read — posted at least one vegan message a day on Facebook, and attended a monthly event. Each monthly vigil or protest had a theme, so the small group of regulars might find themselves at a slaughterhouse, a fast food establishment, or a bank, for example. Some of these events were in Seattle, so Bob would drive the two hours to get there, usually listening to an animal-themed podcast, such as Hope for the Animals. 

Of all these — and Bob was proud of all of them — he received the most joy from his garden, when, according to the rest of the world, he was alone. But Bob knew better. He and his rabbits would venture out and while Donald and Watson would hop, sniff, and nibble, Bob would prune and commune with the wildlife. He never named his wild animal visitors, but he was intimate enough with them that he would pet some of the bees that enjoyed, or at least tolerated, such affection. 

Learning to code about a decade ago, Bob had no trouble getting freelance gig jobs for about half-time work. No jerky bosses, no stuffy office, no insufferable colleagues, no boring meetings, no long commute, yet enough money and plenty of time to do what he loved. That suited him just fine. But he was hatching a scheme. 

What if he could do even more for animals and the planet, he wondered to himself. And he further wondered why he never thought of this before. Could he possibly use his coding skills to hack into what he casually called McDeath, Murder King, Cruelty Fried Chicken, and Taco Hell? 

Consumed by this idea, he got to work on his computer, delving deep into code and losing track of time, falling asleep when he was too exhausted to continue. As he kept up this frantic pace day after day, he didn’t notice his lonely rabbits, the weeds growing in his garden, fewer birds and bees visiting. As he felt weaker in body, he actually felt stronger in mind and spirit, determined to digitally bring down Big Meat once and for all.  

Looking back from his minimum-security prison cell, where they served bland vegan meals upon request, he deemed his attempt worthwhile and was content, even though nothing had changed, except for him and his grim habitat. Bob’s cellmate didn’t agree, always longing for the fried chicken and freedom he couldn’t have. Even more than his rabbits, though, the only things Bob really missed were the smell of lavender and petting the bees in his backyard. 

Dan Brook teaches in the Department of Sociology and Interdisciplinary Social Sciences at San Jose State University, from where he organizes the Hands on Thailand program. His most recent books are Harboring Happiness: 101 Ways To Be Happy (Beacon, 2021), Sweet Nothings (Hekate, 2020), about the nature of haiku and the concept of nothing, and Eating the Earth: The Truth About What We Eat (Smashwords, 2020). 

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