And when he took a drag on the pipe, the smoke drifted from the long rabbits’ ears that drooped over top of his head, covering the golden moons of his eyes. Like coins, I think, coins that you put on the eyes of the dead to pay Charon to take them over to the other side.
“The fuk u on abt” said the rabbit god, legs crossed on the air, cheek propped up on one long, furry hand.
“It’s complicated, is all. There’s so much I’ve done, so many things that I’ve changed around me.”
“Ur gonna die” he said, leaning back. “Gonna die and ur gonna be worms in the ground and that will be the end. Less youre shit ofc. Might get eaten”
“There’s more to it than that.” I sat down, feeling the frosted grass crunch under me as I laid back. “You know, it’s like-” I stared up at the swirling clouds, grey on grey on grey writhing and squirming. “It’s like how a butterfly flaps its wings, right, and that little breeze moves the air just the right way that it cascades and keeps going across the world until it’s a hurricane.”
“Hate those little bitches they taste like shit” he said. He reached out towards the sky and moved a finger like a furred chicken breast, too lumpy and loose as it flopped back and forth. The clouds moved along with his finger like half-formed Jell-O stirred with a spoon, reluctantly scooped by the motion of his finger. “Weak too like look at this haha” His laugh was fictional – rough paper scraping against itself.
The sky purpled and gnashed at the earth below. I could feel the wind picking up, too, creeping and twisting down the driveway, slipping and curving around the side of the house into my postage-stamp backyard, snapping and rattling the tarps wrapping the rabbits’ hutch. They rattled around their enclosures, honking and scratching and thumping their back feet in distress.
“But there’s more to it than that,” I complained. “There’s, you know, there’s layers and depth to the whole thing, it isn’t literally about butterflies.”
“Thats wat u think. Its always abt butterflies” The rabbit god leaned back and kicked his feet forward in a vicious arc, hurling himself upright. “Fuckin stupid asshole you are”
“No, I- where are you going?”
The rabbit god moved past me, brushing me aside without a thought. He must have been an old, old rabbit – the arms underneath his loose robe were like the old guandao the Buddhists used, blades hidden behind loose-flowing silk. He twitched an ear at the door in the back of my house and it crumpled inwards like paper in a fist, with a racking, cracking sound like a scream. “Nice house”
“Thanks, I just bought it. It was pretty expensive for the area, like, two hundred thousand. I like it a lot, though.” I followed him up the steps to the kitchen where he tore open the freezer’s door, flinging it across the kitchen with a clatter of shattering dishes. It made a new sound, one sharper than before.
“You eat rabbit right”
“Yes, I eat rabbit. That’s why they’re out there – I breed them, raise them, butcher them myself.”
The rabbit god seized a frozen lump of meat from the freezer, turned it in his hand. “This rabbit”
“Yes,” I said.
He flipped the bag in the air with a jerk of his hand. “Was it a good rabbit” he asked. “Was it happy, was it a strong rabbit” He spun in a blur and whipped the bag through the door of the kitchen. I heard a tinkle and a shattering crash as it hit the television and exploded. The exploded bag would have gone through the television and turned into a massive iris of white and red and pink and yellow splattered against the wall I painted the week before this happened.
“He was, I don’t know, he was a rabbit. He hopped around a lot, he was pretty perky. But I don’t think rabbits are good or bad, they just are.”
The rabbit god flung another frozen package, this one just a bunch of sausages, and they went through the window. “Wild. y u make em”
“Why do I raise rabbits?” I leaned back as another Zip-Lock nearly hit my head.
“U a fuckin idiot. Yeah y u make em” He stabbed his hand into the back of the freezer and hauled out a frozen pizza in a flurry of ice cubes and frozen vegetables. He shredded the plastic off of the pizza, tossing it aside with a look that makes me think that he wanted it to explode against the wall too.
“Well, it’s a long story, I don’t know if we have time.”
The rabbit god opened his mouth with the sound of whispering corn, impossibly wide and narrow like a snake’s mouth with two harsh-curving teeth rubbing against each other like fingers crossing and uncrossing. His jaw came crashing down and sliced a vicious V out of the pizza. “Nothing but time”
“All right, then,” I said. “So it was a while ago. I was, oh, fifteen, sixteen. It was summer at the time, the sort of summer where you go outside and you feel like you’re stepping into an oven, where it feels like even the clouds are too afraid to be out. I felt like it was the end of the world at first, when I saw him – my father, lying in the ditch.”
“Your dad like you? Stupid”
I said nothing.
The rabbit god didn’t flinch in the face of my disapproval. He leaped up onto my counter and bared his writhing mandibles in a leer. “You gonna keep going”
“Fine. Fine. He was dead, all right? I saw him in the gully below the railroad tracks, he must have tripped and fallen. The place behind the trailer park, that place where it dropped off down the hill, it’s where everyone threw their trash. I was down there -”
“Y u down there boi” The rabbit god leaped up and perched on the black-clawed burners of my stove, turning on the gas flames with a click-click and a whoosh, and the flames leaped up around his feet. “U know y u were down there”
“U live w me now” he said as the blue flames rippled through his blood vessels, illuminating the bones, the nerves, all that he was, scribbled out beneath the ice-white fur. “What were u doin down there boi”
“I was looking for the microfilm. It was down there below the MacArthurs’ trailer. He always threw them out the back window, those old seventies porn where you couldn’t see anything because of how hairy everyone was.”
He nodded, his mouth opening into a wide leer.
“And-I found them down there and I kept going back because there were always more. It was this old place, full of those trees that fell after the storm that smelled like mildew, you know how it’s got that mushroomy smell, the sound when the trees would give way, those old stumps twisting and mushing together. I would go out there and it was such a drop-off from the trailer park that the only way I could find it was that old Tickle Me Elmo.”
“Tell me abt that”
The rabbit god watched me with blank coin eyes.
“Well, it was um, it was an old Tickle Me Elmo that got left out after someone threw it out. I don’t really remember who it was who had it but the kids from the neighborhood down the way would come to that area and they’d throw shit around, break bottles, and they’d found it one time and they crucified it. I came out there and it was pulled around the tree with those big plastic eyes staring up at the sky and its mouth hanging open with a broken wine-bottle driven through it into the tree. I remember I heard them at night, way late usually, and they would go down into that big broken area with the shattered concrete like a flower in the earth, collect a bunch of wood, bring it to the concrete, light it up. I swear the police were out there every night but they were never there.”
“Were they ever there”
“Of course they were there. They were the scumbags from down the way, who lived in those McMansions in the woods.”
“Ur afraid, boi. U feared the things that werent facts. Nothin that wasnt real”
“I knew they were there. It’s not relevant. They were instrumental. You know? Means to the end of finding my father bloated and dead.”
“I was down there to find the microfilm. I went out there looking for it and I found him. My mother told me that she’d had a fight with him about something, about the garden and the lettuce.”
“The rabbits ate the lettuce”
“Yeah, they’d come through and eaten them all in the night. He was so angry about it, and I guess he’d just gone out to the rim of the forest to set a trap or something. He was still holding some rope, that white nylon rope.”
“He was hangin”
“Yes, but not from the rope. The storm had ripped the top half off of a big old oak tree, left nothing but a shattered crown of spikes. He’d fallen off the edge and hurtled down to fall onto the tree’s top and stuck there with a massive shard of wood through his stomach. He was hanging there like a shrike’s victim on a blackthorn tree. The tree had ripped him open and his intestines were bubbling out of his body and-” I broke off. The rabbit god had fully ignited. The flames rippled across his body and all around him, creeping up the walls and licking at the ceiling.
“So why rabbits, boi? Whats the answer?”
“I was transfixed. I used to wake up at night, remember his guts coming out, soaked with sweat, weeping. And during the day I always saw the rabbits. I guess they’d associated the house with the lettuce and so they thought that there’d be more and they always looked angry that there wasn’t any more. It was normal, though.”
“U were afraid of em”
“Why would I be afraid? They didn’t kill him.They didn’t push him off.”
“They died tho didnt they”
“Yeah, they all died that winter. The foxes got to them I think. I saw a few of them in the woods at night.”
“It was when they came back”
“Yeah. I saw them the next spring in a nest. The mother had left for the spring and they were there in a nest and they were naked and squirming and alive and I killed them.”
“U wanted to affect them didnt you”
“And the next day they were back. There were more I guess, or another family had come in, or something like that. But there were more in there, and they were alive again and I was so angry and I wanted to throw myself off the cliff but i didnt”
“And then you took them in and then you raised them and then you killed them and ate them and scooped out their guts and made them make more and raised them and killed them and ate them”
The house was swallowed in flame, crackling and licking across the walls, bubbling and peeling the new paint, eating its way through the walls, and the house crumbled around us and we walked out to the backyard.
Malcolm MacDougall is a writer and a poet who draws on his experience as a queer man growing up in Catholic Midwestern culture. He has been published in Fools Magazine. In his spare time, MacDougall raises rabbits for meat, embroiders, and works as a professional marketer.