A mentally challenged youngster adopts a baby rabbit.
| *Cold, hungry, cold, hungry, fear, hungry.* A half-grown rabbit huddled under a bush. Somehow, it had become lost from its mother and siblings. Cold and hungry, it squeezed out of its shelter, hunger triumphing over cold and fear. Finding a few blades of dead grass extending from a layer of snow, it frantically dug down, finding more, frozen but still juicy under the white covering.
Suddenly, it was lifted high in the air, human fingers gripping it tightly across its back and under its tummy. Although it struggled, unmindful of the distance to the ground, it couldn't get loose. The little bunny instinctively went to a secondary defense, that of playing dead, although a frantic heartbeat belied the attempt.
A warmth across its face caused it to open its eyes enough to see a sheer plain of hairless skin pressed against it. The sight caused its bowels and bladder to release, the rabbit not even noticing the moisture spurting between itself and human fingers.
"Hello, little bunny rabbit," a voice thundered across its face. "We're friends, little bunny. I always wanted a bunny rabbit for my own."
*Fear, fear, fear, fear*
Feeling a dimly sensed "thud, thud, thud, thud thud thud thud" along with a series of jerks as the human ran, the fingers released a bit. The rabbit struggled briefly in a last try for freedom. Fingers again clasped tightly, as the human hurried. A cold breeze crossed the bunny's face, even as warmth seeped into its fur from the fingers.
The rabbit heard heavy breathing, its tiny brain unable to comprehend. *Danger, fear, danger, danger, fear.* In mind-numbing fear, it was carried, bouncing and jerking.
The motion stopped as strange noises erupted. Although it opened its eyes, it could see nothing but finger and light, everything jerking around as the human hand moved. It tried to bite the finger but couldn't get a grip, its incisors slipping over shiny evil-smelling skin.
Suddenly it was dropped, only inches, into a large empty space. It had never seen cardboard before, and the inside of a box confused the fearful rabbit. The former warmth was replaced by not cold, but not so warm inside the container.
Odors changed, to the smell of damp cardboard as well as the lingering odor of something sweet -- it being a former candy container. That smell was good, but not enough to allay its fear of the unknown. The bunny tried to void its bowels again but nothing came out, although it squeezed as much as it could. *Fear, fear, fear.* It found a corner and huddled, trying to wish itself invisible with nowhere to hide.
A few minutes later, eyes closed in self-defense to combat its fear, the rabbit felt several dull thuds. A quick squint showed unknown substances in the box with it. Eyes closed again, only to feel a strong object forcing its way between box and rabbit, forcing it outward, tiny claws sliding across the box.
The rabbit opened its eyes to see its face pushed against the strange substances.
*Fear, fear, food, hungry, food, fear, hungry.* The objects, one a strange orange color, another some sort of unknown flat grass, did smell good. Again, hunger conquered fear.
It nibbled on each, finding the grass -- lettuce -- tasty. Very tasty since it was born after cold weather had set in and never eaten fresh shrubbery. Its new teeth managed to nibble on the carrot, finding it harder to chew, but very good. *Food, eat, eat, food, eat,* went through its mind, fear being banished -- at least for the moment.
"Daddy. Daddy, guess what I found," Jeremy ran into the house from the shed where he'd stored the rabbit. He'd always wanted a pet, though his father was dead set against the idea.
"Pets take up space and money," was his father's stated philosophy, "and attention you should be giving to your chores. They chew things, make noise, and get in the way. Most of all, they take money to feed. The last thing we need is some mutt or cat shitting on the floor."
Finding his father had gone to work at the gas station, Jeremy dug in their mostly-empty ice-box for something to feed his new pet. The boy found lettuce and a few carrots in the crisper at the top of the box, on the shelf farthest from the ice itself. He carried them out to the shed to give to his new pet.
Regrettably he had to finish his chores, in this case cleaning the house. Since his father typically worked twelve to fifteen hour shifts, the boy was left with the housework.
Although he would have liked to go to school, it wasn't an option. His father didn't want to pay the money, and told Jeremy he was needed at home. Also, with a low IQ, the authorities considered him too dumb for a normal school.
They lived on a small farm at the edge of town. Jeremy was responsible for house and garden where they grew much of their vegetables.
The year was 1929, during the Great Depression. It was a worldwide economic failing, with money and jobs hard to come by. Employers could easily find replacements, thus making many demands on workers.
Jeremy had never known his mother. She'd left them for a traveling salesman when he was only a toddler. Apparently, from what his father said, "she was a bitch and a whore that didn't want to be saddled with an idiotic son. Not anymore than I do, but I'm stuck with you."
As the child pumped water with a hand-pump in the back yard, he thought about what his father would say when he saw the rabbit.
Maybe he wouldn't mind, Jeremy thought, since it was free and small and didn't eat much and could eat old stuff they didn't want anyway and didn't make any noise and he could teach it not to poop on the floor and wasn't big enough to chew much and wasn't a cat and wasn't a dog and wouldn't get in the way -- at least much.
Before Jeremy mopped the kitchen floor, he went out to see his bunny again. First, he put on his daddy's old coat, the one with the fur collar. It was too small for Jeremy, but his father didn't want to buy a new one for him when the old one would do. Especially the way he was growing, already bigger than his daddy.
The bunny had finished eating, with carrot and lettuce scattered over the bottom of the box. It was backed into a corner, huddled down low.
Maybe its cold? Jeremy thought. He hadn't thought about that before. It was cold in the shack.
Bringing the box in to sit on the kitchen table where it was warm, Jeremy went down to the basement to put more coal in the furnace. It was supposed to snow and get colder, his father had said, and he didn't want the house to get cold.
Jeremy reached his hand in and gently stroked the rabbit's fur, feeling it crunch up tighter in the corner. He pushed lettuce and carrot scraps together, closer to the bunny, and went on to mop the kitchen.
*Cold, fear, cold, fear, not hungry.* The rabbit huddled in one corner of the cold drafty box.
It heard the human come back, letting in a cold breeze as he entered. The box was lifted and the bunny sensed motion. Then, the box was set down with a slight thump, bouncing the rabbit slightly. It heard scraping sounds, smelling the food come closer. Opening its eyes it saw, then felt, the hand smoothing its fur. At the same time, warmth drifted into the box. *Warmer, fear, warm, fear.* Then came other strange sounds as Jeremy mopped the floor.
Jeremy did his chores. He cleaned the living room, kept the coal furnace stoked, made himself a snack of sliced ham and fed the bunny several times. Not being able to tell time, although almost nineteen years old, he knew it was getting late when he heard and saw, through the window, children coming home from school.
Sometimes Jeremy wished he could go outside and play with them, but his father wouldn't let him.
"You're too big and dumb to play with those kids. With your temper, you'd hurt someone. Then I'd have to pay the price. No. You stay away from them, you hear me?"
But Jeremy would still like to play, especially with the girls. He'd see them running and laughing as they passed his house. He stayed out of sight, though, not liking the way they pointed and screamed when they saw him.
Briefly, he wished his daddy had left the big radio in the corner on. Jeremy knew how to make the sound go up and down, but not how to change stations. All those knobs confused him. One only made it squeal and make a lot of noise. And the shortwave ones talked in all sorts of languages he didn't know. Sometimes he wondered if his daddy knew all that stuff.
After the kids stopped going past, it began getting dark.
At least the bunny didn't seem as frightened of him, the boy thought. It had begun walking around in the box. The bunny would still run away when he reached in, but it left its eyes open and didn't run fast like before. When he picked it up to pet it, it didn't try to bite anymore either, just lay there like that stray cat used to do. It didn't purr though. He liked the purr, like a little motor. Maybe it would purr later, when it got to know him?
Later, Jeremy, knowing his father would be home soon, took the bunny down to the basement. It would be warm down there and didn't make any noise.
He knew he had to tell his father, but couldn't figure out how or when. He was afraid to do it when his Daddy came home from work. Often, when his father got back, he'd stopped at "Samson's Bar" and would be feeling mean. Sometimes he would even hit Jeremy with his belt if the house was dirty or he found weeds in the garden.
Jeremy usually took a nap when his father came home, until Daddy felt better and wasn't so tired. Maybe someday he could work at the gas station? Jeremy thought. That would be nice. Sometimes his father would bring something different home to eat. One time he even brought some of that Chinese stuff. It tasted funny.
Jeremy liked to cook. Sometimes his father let him help make bread and rolls. He liked that, the squishing of dough between his fingers and making it with flour and water, trying not to splash the white stuff around. His father didn't want Jeremy to use knives, though. Not since he cut himself by grabbing the wrong end a couple of times and squeezing too tight so he cut himself. He was older now, and knew better.
"You leave them things alone, you hear? I can't afford ten dollars for a doctor every time you cut yourself."
Jeremy never understood why, though. He never cut himself with a hoe, and it was sharp too. Maybe it was because a hoe was longer?
Jeremy made sure he did everything right that day, though. He was still trying to think how to tell his daddy about the bunny -- when his father came home.
Father must have stopped at the bar, Jeremy figured, since he looked angry and stumbled around the house, making sure the chores were done right. He had a couple of packages with him, one a paper bag with a whiskey bottle sticking out of the top.
Jeremy was a little scared as his daddy felt along the top of the ice-box. He was glad he had thought to clean it. He knew his daddy was looking for an excuse to hit him.
"Okay, kid. You can take your nap now."
Briefly forgetting the rabbit, Jeremy went upstairs to his room. It was colder up there, but he didn't mind. He had a thick heavy comforter to keep him warm. Sliding under the covers with all but his shoes on, Jeremy took his pants off under there, sleeping with them alongside him. He would put them on the same way when he woke. Not so cold that way, he thought.
*Warm, not hungry, safe, nice, warm, not hungry, sleepy.* The rabbit slept in his box. Jeremy had found a soft clean rag down there on his daddy's work bench. It smelled of paint, but was still soft and warm. They both slept in peace.
"Kid, get your butt down here. I have supper ready."
The sound came up the stairs, waking Jeremy. He put his pants and shirt back on and, somewhat unwillingly sliding out of the warmth of the bed, put his shoes on, yawned, and went downstairs for supper.
"Everything okay today?" his father asked, sitting at the table with a glass of whiskey next to him.
At least he didn't sound drunk, Jeremy thought.
They ate strange-tasting meat, boiled potatoes, green beans and cornbread for supper. Jeremy was hungry and even had second helpings.
"I was down in the basement to check the furnace." His father laughed and took a long drink as they finished eating. "I'll bet you can't guess what we're having for supper?"
Jeremy was scared, feeling an old but familiar anger building up inside him. Not his new pet bunny? he thought. No! Not his new pet bunny?
His father laughed, taking another deep drink out of a glass of whiskey.
"Rabbit," he said. "Funny cause a what...."
Jeremy lost it, an intense taking over. There was a boning knife on the table, one that his father had used to carve the meat.
Reaching across the table to grab his daddy by the shirtfront with one hand, Jeremy picked up the knife with the other. Making sure he had the right end, he cut his father's throat and slammed the blade into the man's chest.
Daddy thrashed around, even managed to pull away and stand up, blood spraying between his fingers as he tried to staunch the wounds, eyes wide with disbelief.
Jeremy sat, bloody knife still in hand, watching his father give up and die - falling to the floor. Shaking in new fear, Jeremy sat in shock, all that sudden anger flowing out like his father's blood.
He dropped the knife, slumping down in his chair -- in wonder at what he had done.
Standing on shaky legs, he backed out of the room. Holding on to an equally shaky railing, the boy forced himself down to the basement. He looked in the box.
*Warm, nice, safe, warm, safe, not hungry, good.* The rabbit looked up at Jeremy.