I never should have fed the ragged little bunny that I saw shivering a couple of months back, slinking in a corner of our garden shed. He was so frail and weak, I could have put him out of his misery with a shovel and without a second thought.
I didn’t do that. Instead, I dug unto the chicken food and put a bowl down. “Here you go boy, have some food,” I said, placing the bowl on the hard ground and walking out, into the snowy field, making my way to the chicken coop. It was the dead of winter and the ladies had lost some of their passion for egg laying. That didn’t bother me, I don’t much like eggs. There were two eggs and I made sure their water had not froze and then I made my way back to the house.
The next day the rangy rabbit was nestled in the same corner, looking at me apprehensively, but I saw a routine developing. I filled his little bowl, looked at him and said, “you’re looking much better today.”
There were three eggs and the water was not frozen. That was my winter morning ritual for another ten days. Then, after more than a week of feeding the cornered rabbit and making sure the chickens had food and water, that special morning, the morning that I will always remember as the time I looked at my life and thought I had peace, a sense of place and people around who I loved deeply and they seemed to love me. I made my way to the shed, it had snowed the night before and I was wearing uncomfortable snow boots. I slid into the shed on a thin sheet of ice, frozen under the new snow, and the rabbit was laying on his side in the corner, relaxing on the cold gravel. I said, “good morning handsome, let me get your breakfast.”
“Any way you could change things up, say add some lettuce or kale?” He said.
I don’t do nearly the same drugs I did when a talking rabbit would have made sense. I had a cup of coffee and a yogurt for breakfast, nothing unusual. I stood still there for a few seconds. I looked at the wall, then at the window, the snow had left lovely little drifts in the edges. I smiled, then remembered the vocal request from the rabbit.
“I’m sorry,” I began, “did you say something?”
“Yes, well, it was a request, and really, I don’t want to be rude. I mean, seriously, I was dying and you were like a god to me. You fed and nourished me, and believe me, I will find a way to pay you back.”
“Yeah, I’ve heard that before,” I said, slightly cynically.
“Seriously, you’d be surprised the skills I have.”
“I’m shocked you speak.”
“I was not sure when to speak up, so to speak,” the rabbit said.
“Oh, I’m cool with you talking and I can bring you some sort of salad mix. Anything else?”
“The chickens think you’re a moron.”
“Honestly?” I asked, bewildered, because my interactions with the chickens had always been respectful.
“Yeah, they pegged you months ago, when you fell in the mud.”
“They saw that?”
“Apparently, yeah, and they started to notice how you would spill their food, and sometimes drop the water and have to go back and refill it. Things like that gives a chicken ideas.”
“Chickens have ideas?”
“No,” the rabbit began, thinking about the chickens, his face brightened,“now that I think about it, they may be projecting a little bit, because between you and me, those birds are complete idiots.”
“I think so too. I mean, who poops and then just walks right into it?”
“I know, right? I’m all about the pellets.”
I left that day, with the promise to bring more leafy vegetables. Over the past couple of months the rabbit and I have really began to get to know one another. He’s actually a complicated rabbit, his family lives at a local college and they are all, well, elitist. He has a half brother named Rafael, which is rare in rabbit life, most don’t have names, a fact I found annoying.
One morning I asked the rabbit if he had a name and he explained how the vast majority of rabbits just call one another rabbit. I was fine with calling him rabbit, until he told me about his half brother Rafael, which made me long for a fun name I could refer to him as. I offered up Stew.
“Stew,” he asked, incredulously.
“It’s a fine name really.”
“How long did you think it would take me to figure out “Rabbit Stew”?”
I actually had not thought of that. I poured out some organic kale and fresh South American carrots into his dish and left the shed, ashamed.