A short story by Author Steven Burton. Reflections: Sometimes random events make you ponder big questions.
I was visiting my girlfriend Gloria when I heard the squealing tires of a car, followed by a soft thump. Hurriedly I went outside and stood on the front porch looking left and right down the quiet road. Nothing seemed amiss, but then I saw it, a small fuzzy body in the road, obviously dead.
From inside the house my girlfriend hollered out, “What happened?”
“Someone hit a rabbit,” I replied, wincing at the nasally, whiny sound her voice made when she raised it. I didn’t know then but months later, after our breakup, it would occur to me that her voice had been the deal breaker.
“Awww,” she said loudly.
Resisting the urge to roll my eyes, I use this opportunity to light a cigarette. Like me, Gloria smoked, but not in her house. As I sat on the steps, I detected movement from the bushes across the street and watched another bunny emerge, not running but hopping slowly, almost ponderously.
It made its way to the edge of the street where it stopped and seemed to peer at its dead…what? Friend? Husband? Wife?
The bunny stopped about a foot from the edge of the road, two or three feet from the body in the road. Looking on silently, the bunny seemed to settle in to the grass. Sitting and staring at its dead companion.
I watched fascinated. The stillness of the moment had so overtaken me that I almost jumped when Gloria’s hand touched my shoulder.
“What’s going on?” She said. I looked up and peered into the eyes of my girlfriend.
“That rabbit seems to be related to the one that died.” I nodded my head in the direction of what seemed to be the mourning bunny.
“Poor girl,” Gloria said, “Her boyfriend is dead!”
I looked up quizzically. “How do you know the dead one was a male?”
She tossed her long blonde hair as she laughed and patted me lightly on the head. “Silly boy, a girl would never run out into the street. Do you want anything? My show is about to come on.”
I made a ‘humph’ sound and as she turned to walk away I said playfully, “I guess I better never run into the street when it’s time for your show.”
As she walked back into the house, she retorted, “Yep, or you’d be one lonely, dead bunny.”
My laugh caught in my throat as I turned to look at the now-proclaimed female bunny as she stared silently at her fallen companion. A tinge of something like guilt stopped me. It didn’t seem right to make light of this situation. The feeling of remorse caught me off guard. I wondered at that, and as I could hear a car approaching from the distance I thought to myself, “Well, this won’t last much longer anyway. The car will drive by and Miss Bunny will run away.”
Except she didn’t. The car drove past, barely missing her dead companion. But she didn’t move, not one inch.
Fascinated, I kept watch while she hovered near her dead companion. Over an hour must have passed because Gloria appeared back on the porch and proclaimed her show over. Looking across the street at the rabbit she said, “What an interesting stripe your new girlfriend has. She is cute but I bet I can show you some tricks she can’t.”
I smiled. The only reason she watched that stupid show was because she had a crush on some hunky actor whose name in the show was the same as mine in real life. It always made me wonder if there wasn’t some weird Freudian thing in her attraction to me.
I took her hand and followed her inside, where true to her word she taught me a few tricks. Try as I might though, I couldn’t get that bunny out of my head.
I told Gloria I was going outside for a smoke. I went out the side door, stopped by my car and grabbed the binoculars I kept in the trunk for when I go to football games. Sitting down on the porch steps I peered across the street at the bunny, zooming in I could see her eyes staring intently at her dead companion.
How long I stared at her through those binoculars I couldn’t tell. By the time I heard another car coming, my ashtray was almost a quarter full.
I lowered my binoculars and followed the speeding SUV as it barreled down the road and struck the dead rabbit, flattening its small furry body against the pavement.
Pain followed by grief flooded through me as I put the binoculars up to my eyes. The bunny with the stripe was still staring intently at what was left of her dead companion. Her whiskers twitched furiously as if this final indignity had pushed her over the edge.
I put the binoculars down and felt a lump in my throat. Looking at my watch I realized it had been over two hours since Mr. Rabbit had been hit. It occurred to me that mourning the loss of a dead animal on the road was way out of character for me. I have seen hundreds of dead animals on roadsides across the country and it never saddened me before.
I gave Miss Bunny one more look; eyes still on her companion, whiskers twitching, she didn’t move.
Gathering my cigarettes and lighter, I vowed not to look again. I went in the house through the side door and put my binoculars up. We spent that night in bed watching movies and eating popcorn, but my mind kept drifting back to the bunny. I wondered how long she would stay there, silent sentinel for her dead companion. But I resisted the urge to look.
It was after 10 AM when I left the next morning and both bunnies were gone. Periodically during the rest of the week, my mind would drift back to that little bunny now all alone in the world and it filled me with a quiet melancholy.
Gloria called that next Thursday and asked if I planned to come visit over the weekend; before I could answer, she rambled on about her job and all the people she worked with.
Gloria is a world-class rambler, able to cover three or four topics in the same conversation, dropping names of people I have never met like I know all about them. Curiosity got the best of me, and as she paused for a breath, I asked about my bunny friend. There was silence on her end for a moment, until she remembered what I was talking about. “Oh you mean the rabbit with the stripe?” she said.
“Yes,” I replied. “Have you seen her?”
” Well, It’s the damnedest thing….”
An ominous feeling surged through me as she continued. “The neighbors were just talking about her.”
Puzzled, I ask why.
“The bunny rabbit, the one with the stripe, all week she kept darting out into the street, charging moving cars.”
I could barely croak out, “Why is that?”
” I don’t know.” She said dismissively. “Joe seems to think she was trying to attack the cars. It’s only when the cars are moving and…”
Unexpectedly my eyes filled with tears, and I abruptly hung up the phone cutting her off in mid sentence.
While sitting on the couch, I heard the phone ringing in the distance, but I ignored it. Later I would tell Gloria my battery died.
I sat in my living room until day turned to dusk lost in my own jumbled reflections.
In my deliberations I thought of the all injustices the strong committed against the weak. I reflected on people, who like that little bunny, found themselves alone and at the mercy of powers out of their control and confronted by situations they weren’t able to understand.
I tried to rationalize a world full of so much injustice as I sat alone in my darkening home. My musing led me only to despair.
I had lost track of time but sometime in the night I covered my face with my hands and began to sob uncontrollably.
For the first time in years I cried. Not for the world or the people in it and not for myself. I wept that night for one poor little bunny who found herself all alone now in this big world, hurt, frustrated, trying to fight back in a battle she can’t win.