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Thursday, July 23, 2015

[From the Archives] First Kill

Watch out:  In this post I confess murder.

Today I spent a lovely afternoon at the pool with a friend, and she was chatting about the rabbits that have invaded her yard and her attempts to avoid committing bunny-cide with her lawn mower.  It reminded me of this:

Years ago I took a creative non-fiction writing class.  One of our assignments was to write on the topic "First Kill."  

Here was mine.

First Kill

            When I was little, there was a tree in my neighbor’s back yard.  Right by the trunk, there was a nest of bunnies.  The four mouse-size bodies were cozily nestled together in the cool darkness of their underground home.
            I can’t remember how I discovered this buried treasure, but once I did, I was in love.  Have you ever cupped a tiny, wild rabbit in your hands?  The soft baby nails of his feet scratch your palm.  His heart beats fast against your hand.  His shaking subsides as his fear dies.  Run a finger along his fur – it’s so soft you wouldn’t know you were touching anything if you couldn’t feel the ridges of his little ribs as he breathes inoutinout in out in out in   out   in     out… and finally he’s calm and content.
            I would traipse over several times a day to open the gate of the neighbor’s fence and peer into the nest under their tree.  The mother rabbit never seemed to be around.  Our neighbor had trapped a young rabbit that week and set it free in the countryside.  He assured me that it was too young to be the mother, but I was unconvinced.  (I still am.)  In any case, Mama Rabbit’s absence gave me free rein to befriend her children, and I had no qualms about touching them and holding them and generally ignoring all the good advice that children are given about not messing with wild animals and keeping your hands off their babies.
            That day, I took strips of paper towel and Kleenex and shredded them finely.  I put them in a coffee can, carefully lining the bottom with inches of fluff.   I tested the bed with my finger.  It was as soft as a cloud of cotton candy.
            Off I went, through the gate and to the tree.  I peeked inside the nest to see the four brown-gray bunnies cuddled inside their small home.  I reached in and took one.  Carefully I cupped him as I walked back to my garage where his new bunny-bed awaited him.  Gingerly I laid him in the can.  Breathlessly I watched over him until I saw that he was quiet, maybe even asleep.
            Later, I decided it was time to get him back to his brothers and sisters.  He struggled as I grasped his body to take him out of the coffee can.  His baby nails scratched at the air and his tiny back arched and he wriggled around and somehow… he fell.
            NO.  His body seemed even smaller lying on the concrete driveway.  I panicked and scooped him up, running him back to his nest in a desperate hope that he was still alive.  Certainly he wasn’t moving, but I convinced myself he was still breathing.  I barely even looked as I placed him back with his family and ran away.
            The next day, I gathered up my courage to visit the nest one more time.  I looked in.  He was still there, his brown-gray body nestled against the three other bunnies in the hole.  His black, bead-like eyes were open.  A fly landed on his eye and stalked across his face. 

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