Last Thursday Our Rabbit Came Back from the Dead
Last Thursday our rabbit came back from the dead. Before I get to the details, though, let me tell you about last Wednesday.
Todd and I each received a text from our neighbor, Leah. “Call me, please,” read the massage.
We called. It seemed there had been an incident. Something, presumably a dog or fox, had gotten into the rabbits’ hutch. Leah found the body of Clover, our grey rabbit, laying on the ground. Clover had been decapitated. The head was no where to be seen. Our white rabbit, Cottontail, was missing.
“Carrie doesn’t need to see this,” Leah said. “Can you come clean it up before she gets home from school, or do you want me to try and see what I can do?”
Todd said he would come home, and he did. He left work. Went home. He wrapped the remains of Clover in a towel, then combed our yard and the yards of our neighbors for her head, lest the children happen upon it during play. He walked around for two hours looking for Cottontail. Maybe she is under the shed. Beneath a bush. Cowering behind a planter. Maybe she is still alive.
“Cottontail is dead,” I said. There was no doubt in my mind. A dog had come, had broken into the hutch, had snapped the rabbits’ necks out of instinct, and had carried Cottontail’s body away. This dog, in my mind, was alone. It had but one mouth; no means by which to carry off the second large rabbit. It chose Cottontail, which was the plumper of the two. I was sure.
A bit about our daughter and the rabbits: she takes such good care of these creatures. It is the first thing she thinks of in the morning and when she gets home from school. She fills their water. Their food dish. She plays with them and brushes their fur. She walks along side them as they hop about the yard. We have had the rabbits nearly a year, and her dedication to their care has never wavered.
I had rabbits as a child, and I was a horrible rabbit owner. The worst. There was a good two week period in the beginning when I played with them, when I stuffed them, fighting, into cabbage patch dresses and pushed them around in strollers. I bored of my rabbits quickly, though, and they became little more than another chore for my mother. Carrie isn’t like that at all. She treasured her rabbits and was very attentive to their needs. I knew she’d be crushed.
I drove to the field where my daughter and her cross country team had had practice. Carrie, sweating, walked away from her teammates at the sight of my car. She threw open the door, tossed her heavy backpack into the other seat, and took a pull from her water bottle.
“How was practice?” I asked.
“Hot,” she answered.
As soon as our car was out of sight from her teammates, I pulled off into a parking spot and put the vehicle into park.
“Carrie, I need to talk to you about something,” I said.
“What did I do?” she asked.
“No, honey, it isn’t you. It isn’t anything like that. Carrie, something got into the rabbit hutch today, and I’m afraid the bunnies are gone.”
The features of her face configured themselves in a fashion I had never seen, and she cried in a way with which I was not familiar – what I presume will be her grown-up, I-just-got-my-heart-broken cry. I provided honest if guarded answers to her questions. Cottontail had been carried off. She was no where to be found. Clover was wrapped in a towel and we would bury her as soon as we got home. That was Wednesday.
Thursday Leah called. Again. About the rabbit. About Cottontail. She’d found her!
Leah had been out for a walk. Her dog began barking. Wouldn’t stop. Leah, as directed by her chihuahua, looked beneath a neighbor’s car, and there was Cottontail! She was shaken up, and she had a greasy streak of black across the back of her fur, but she was very much alive.
“I wish Carrie had a cell phone,” Todd said; the first time he’d ever said such a thing. “I want to tell her! I can’t wait to tell her!”
“It’s like, if you had told me two days ago that I’d be happy, that one of the rabbits could die but that I’d still be so happy to have the other one, I don’t think I would have believed you,” Carrie said. “It is like, how can you be happy after one of them is dead? But I thought both of them got killed. And I’m still real sad, but I never thought I would see either one of them again, and so I’m so happy to have Cottontail.”
There should be a word for that feeling. That emotion in which grief and joy are marbled together. And the joy is only recognizable as such by the contrast it creates against the dark backdrop of sadness. There should be a word for that feeling.