The Rabbit Died


No, this isn’t about a pregnancy test (that old expression is obsolete, anyway). We gathered on the other side of our creek-that’s-only-a-creek-when-it’s-good-and-rainy. Boards in the bridge that was an old, wooden pallet had splintered in two with Mark’s weight as he crossed before us.
“Step on the 2 x 4 support in the middle,” he instructed.
Kathie stepped to one side as if deliberately on cue to do the opposite. I gave her the benefit of my doubts and chalked it up to slow response time, although her alert mind has no problems when it comes to video games.
I cautiously heeded his advice, placing my right foot gingerly on the first set of nails in the row of junctions where wood crossed wood. It held. I stepped across with short, mincy steps, my nerves on edge, remembering what it’s like to have a broken ankle.
On the other side, we waded through scrubby outgrowth, past our largest pin oak toward a sturdy little tree of like variety, a volunteer that was doing well for itself, thriving on our back-forty (only an extra acre) beside a stone pile.
Mark laid a bundle he’d carried into a freshly dug hole. The outer shell was a purple plastic grocery bag that said “Happy Easter” above a picture of a rabbit, and, inside the bag (so appropriate for this purpose) was a real rabbit. Just minutes before, in our bathroom, I had wrapped the lifeless form of our pet, Norbette, in an old T-shirt – clean, yet spotted with pink stains of mildew that wouldn’t wash out.
In a teary state, I reflected on how the mildew pink put a feminine touch to the dressing, but also represented a sort of head start on the decay to come. As I held her cold little frame, I marveled one last time at the magnificent softness of her tail and especially the fur right behind her ears. Hers were storybook bunny ears – short, gray fur surrounding what truly looked (from a short distance) like pink satin.
We’d kept her only a couple months. The man who gave her to us at the Rogers Flea Market (perhaps, pawned her off on us) said she was old. We had no way of knowing much about her. Some derivative of what I understand is a Dutch variety, she had a white saddle between a variegated gray, masked face and hind quarters. Her round, brown eyes had a fringe of longer fur, like lashes you’d draw in to make a girl bunny. She was beautiful.
Taking her home, we talked about names for her when somehow the name Norbert came up (a dragon in one of the Harry Potter stories). Before I could take everything in, Mark had turned it into a feminine – Norbette, and, although I protested for a few days, I found myself calling her that for lack of another name.
We really didn’t have the right spot planned for her cage. It was shuffled from one girl’s bedroom to the other. Sometimes, after I’d cleaned the cage, it stayed for a while in the bathroom – a prime spot for the morning sun. On mild days, she’d been out on the deck for fresh air.
When I let her loose inside to stretch her legs (we kept an eye on her), she’d rubbed noses with our cat . He was never quite sure what she was about. She’d gotten the better of him more than once, chasing him down our hall to a retreat under the closest furniture.
I suspected for a few weeks that she couldn’t see anymore, at least not much, but when she stopped grabbing up the offerings of fresh produce that were customarily welcomed with such vigor, I sensed that she wouldn’t be with us much longer.
Mark noticed her being shuffled about and commented, “That rabbit seems to turn up in every room. There’s only one other place I might like to see her and that’s in a frying pan!” He was joking. Now, she had ultimately escaped the frying pan. As we three stood around the little grave, Mark asked, “Should we say something?”
We closed our eyes while I prayed, “Thank you God for giving us creatures like this to take care of that give us such pleasure.” That’s all I could get out before I choked from emotion, but I went on thinking, “They really know so much more about things than we do.”


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