It was a strange time for us, made even stranger when my wife brought home the rabbit. She arrived home from work trailing it behind her on a little dog leash. The rabbit was perfectly white with dark eyes. It was small and chubby. Some people might have called it cute.
“What’s that?” I said.
“A rabbit.” She shut the door. The rabbit hopped lazily to the centre of the room and sat down.
“I can see that. But what are you doing with it?”
“I found it at the side of the road, near the Ridley roundabout. I couldn’t just leave it there.”
I looked at the rabbit. The rabbit looked at me.
“Hello,” said the rabbit.
The most surprising thing to me is that I wasn’t surprised when the rabbit spoke.
“Hi,” I said.
“My name’s Mike.” Its little black nose twitched.
I sat down on the sofa and stared.
“Thank you for letting me stay here,” said the rabbit. “I need somewhere to rest up, just to get my shit together. It’s been an exhausting week.”
“I…that’s fine.” I didn’t know what else to say.
The rabbit hopped to the bottom of the stairs, and then hopped up them. “Goodnight,” it called back to us.
When the rabbit was out of sight, I turned to my wife. “What the fuck?”
“I know,” she said, taking off her coat. “Pretty cool, eh?” She’d had her hair cut short the previous week. I didn’t like it. The style made her features seem larger than they really were.
Later that night, went I went up to bed, the rabbit was lying on top of the duvet on my side of the bed. My wife was reading a book, one hand idly stroking the rabbit’s ears.
“Hi,” said the rabbit. “I hope you don’t mind. I get scared when I’m alone.”
I slipped gently into bed; the rabbit adjusted its position to accommodate me but clearly didn’t like doing so.
“Sorry,” I said, unsure of why I was apologising.
I didn’t sleep well that night. I kept waking up to see the rabbit staring at me, its nose twitching, its black eyes unblinking. “Go back to sleep,” it said, one time. “I’ll take care of her,” it said another time. I remember it sitting at one point on my wife’s chest, massaging her breastbone the way cats will do sometimes.
The next morning, after my wife had gone to work, I cornered the rabbit in the kitchen.
“Mike, you and I need to talk.” I felt vaguely absurd.
“What’s wrong?” it said.
“I don’t want you here.”
The rabbit sat up on its rear legs. “Your wife does. She likes me. She loves to stroke my ears.” If a rabbit can smile, then this rabbit did so.
There was something lascivious in the way it said those words; I didn’t like the rabbit’s tone.
“I don’t like your tone,” I said, confirming it to myself.
“Tough shit,” said the rabbit.
“You shouldn’t be here.” I took a step closer to the rabbit. “I don’t want you in my house.”
The rabbit shrugged its small shoulders and turned its handsome head to the side, dismissing me. As if I didn’t matter.
That sealed the deal.
In one smooth move, I bent down and picked up the rabbit; I used my left hand to grip it by the throat and my right hand to twist its head and snap its neck. The sound this made was horrible: a single loud crunch.
The rabbit hung lifeless in my hands. Its dead eyes accused me of things I couldn’t even understand. Its white fur was the purest, most beautiful thing I had ever touched. I wept for a while, and then I calmly skinned the rabbit over the sink. I’d grown up on a farm, so I knew how to do such things. Some memories never leave you; some physical acts become hard-wired in your body, like muscle memory.
The waste went into a carrier bag, which I sealed and put in the black wheelybin outside the front door. The now naked rabbit I wrapped in cellophane and placed on a shelf in the fridge.
After I’d cleaned up the mess, I poured myself a glass of whisky. The good stuff. The bottle a friend had bought me last Christmas. When I’d finished the drink, I got to work in the kitchen.
When my wife came home from the office, I served up the dinner I’d spent the afternoon cooking. Halfway through the meal, she put down her knife and fork and smiled at me. The smile was enigmatic. I wished that I could read it, but I didn’t have the right tools for the job. I bet the rabbit would have understood what it meant.
“This is a tasty rabbit,” she said.
I smiled. My eyes were filled with tears.
©Gary McMahon 2018