“The Rabbits” a short story
When our mom got terminally sick I was the one who moved home to take care of her. Our dad was out of the picture and I was 35, single, no children, so it looked like I was going to be the lucky one. My older brother and sister both had one percenter corporate Sheriff of Nottingham jobs that they wouldn’t leave. And my job was willing to give me as much time off as I wanted. I’d been a full time cashier at a health food grocery store for many years, since I gotten out of high school, and they said they could put me on an extended leave and I could come back whenever.
I wasn’t any more nuts about our mother than my siblings were but I didn’t think she deserved to go to some nazi nursing home facility either. So I guess you could say, even if I didn’t love the ole bag exactly, I still was going to give her her medicine and change her diapers, brush her hair, and put her gross orange lipstick on that she still insisted on wearing.
Since she had the gastronomy feeding tube I figured at least I didn’t have to cook. I just got these cans down from the shelf that looked like perverted baby formula and poured them into a plastic IV bag which was attached to Mags’s feeding tube (which went directly into her stomach). But then I did some reading up on the ingredients of the tube feed and it’s terrible- all milk based and high fructose corn syrup and poisonous. So I researched what was safe to feed her and started cooking things for her. Everything had to be boiled until it was super soft and then ran through a blender, or one of those stainless steel food mills. You can liquefy anything if you cook it long enough- whole vegetables, fruits, meats etc.
One time I had a dark thought about some boiling batteries for Mags and then I felt guilty. Obviously I would never feed Mags battery acid, though that’s practically what she breastfed us. Once I got the hang of it and some recipes online, I was able to cook and liquefy organic proteins and fruits and grains and whatever would be good for her. The smell of real food permeated the house. It was so much healthier than those cans of toxic syrup. She wasn’t conscious most of the time but I figured she’d know the difference on some psychic level.
After I fed her and washed her plucked turkey body, I’d take a shower and then a long walk. I paid a day nurse to come in for three hours a day to watch Mags while I went on my walk. It used up a lot of my savings but I needed to get the fuck out of that house as you might imagine. Mags had had two massive strokes that left her in a mostly comatose state but sometimes she woke up and asked where she was and then asked for a cigarette and sometimes a candybar. When she asked for the candybar it made me want to cry. Which then made me want to punch her lights out. She always had treated her body like a truck stop but whatever. Frankly, I wasn’t sure why she was sticking around. But Mags seemed to be waiting for something.
It made me happy one time when I came back from a walk and the day nurse said she’d asked where I was. I went over to her bedside with the haunted Halloween hospital bed and tubes and plastic tent and said hello to her, but she was already asleep again. I regarded her. Mags somewhat resembled E.T. the ExtraTerrestrial in there (remember towards the end when he’d fallen into the creek and was all sick and skinny and grey?) Except he was definitely cuter than she was.
I met the neighborhood kid about two months into my stay. He was seventeenish I’d say and after school cleaned people’s pools in this part of town (I saw all the pool cleaning accoutrement in the bed of his truck). This had never been a wealthy neighborhood but in the last ten years it had really gentrified. Ours was the last humble ranch with a firetrap shake shingle roof and weeds in the backyard instead of a pool. The young guy didn’t speak to me at first, instead he kept slowing his battered little pickup every time he drove by me.
Then he started pulling over and saying hello. He was one of those very extroverted verbally ebullient type of male teenagers, the kind that you know will get a ton of pussy if they aren’t already because they have that preternatural confidence that is so alluring to everybody. He looked tall too, about six foot two or a little more. He had beautiful dark brown skin and thick hair shaped into a short afro. He always wore a sleeveless muscle shirt with jogger style cotton pants and sneakers and no socks.
His voice was already very masculine and low. He sounded like a man not a boy. First he wanted to just let me know that I was the prettiest woman he’d ever seen in the neighborhood. I laughed at that one because I was also like the only one under 65. A lot of people had lost their homes here and pretty much the only ones who didn’t were rich or old people who had bought in the early sixties and owned outright. He said “And you have beautiful hair”. I do have nice hair, it’s my best feature. It’s long and shiny and black. I’m the only one in the family besides Mags who has the black Irish hair but also blue eyes. Mags was really pretty back in the day.
I thanked him for his compliment and told him he was very sweet, especially considering I was old enough to have babysat him. Then I tried to signal I wanted to get back to my walk by putting my earbuds back in but he beckoned me again. “I’m James” he said. “My friends call me Jaimie.” “It’s nice to meet you Jaimie” I said. “What’s your name?” he asked. His truck was still inching along the road next to me. “It’s Sophie” I said. “I mean it’s Sophia but everyone calls me Sophie” I smiled at him. “Nice to meet you Sophie” he said. And then he started to say something else but a car came up behind him. “I’ll see you around Sophie” he said. I nodded at him and smiled. He drove off. I felt kinda good. It was flattering to be complimented by a young cute guy.
He was really nice. I do make an effort to be a nice person as well but sometimes it feels like work. I mean for me it is literally work because you have to be nice when you work the check out line. It really makes a difference to people when you ask them how their day is going and if they found everything they were looking for. For some of these people it’s the only time someone pays any attention to them. I can always tell which ones they are too. Probably because I was afraid I was going to end up like them. Just another lonely person eating dinner by themselves and talking to the tv.
Jaimie began pulling over for a chat almost every afternoon. He told me all about his life. That his father was a retired engineer and his mom was an acupuncturist. He said he was really into meditation, that he got into it last summer. He’d just gradated high school and was starting college in the fall and was thinking he was probably gonna major in Political Science. “You sound real smart and talented” I told him. “Yeah my mom says so too” he said and smiled. He kept on talking. He had no brothers and sisters. He lost his virginity when he was fourteen. I’m good in bed he told me. Ya wanna make out?
I laughed. “Nah my mom’s shitting the bed back at the house” I told him. “For real?” he asked. I felt a little guilty about being flippant about Mags. I wondered if my inner adolescent had just tried to impress this kid. Terrible. He looked worried like I’d momentarily upset him. Then his face lit up again. “Come on why don’t you drive around with me and tell me about it?” he said. He was very crafty. I actually got in the pickup with him a few days later. And I did tell him about Mags and her strokes and how I’d moved back in to take care of her. “Wow that sounds rough Sophie”. He said he was sorry. I said it was ok. He said I was a good daughter. I said that was nice of him to say. He invited me to hang out with him by the pool he had to clean and I said that seemed unprofessional but he said the owners were on vacation for another three weeks and it was no problem. So I spent some time over there at these strangers’ house with this young guy.
I liked watching Jaimie sweep the pool. He had lovely long lanky muscles and I could smell him across the water when the wind blew right. Fresh healthy male B.O. and some goofy cologne from a department store. “So how come you aren’t married yet?” he asked. “You’re really pretty. You’re cool. You haven’t met the right guy? I bet I could be the right guy for you.”
I laughed. I have to get back soon I would say. Then he’d drive me home. One time we drove past a rabbit that had just been hit by a car. It was dead and not all the way off the street. “Slow down” I said, “I want to get him off the road.” I was about to pick it up when Jaimie said “Wait.” He knelt down and touched the rabbit. “You know the heart chakra is a microcosm of the macrocosm?” he said. “Huh?” I said. He said “Your heart chakra, you know, one of the energy centers right here?” He pointed to my chest and his finger grazed my boob. “Well it’s a porthole” he said. “It’s a microcosm of the macrocosm. This little energy center inside you also contains the whole universe and souls can walk right through it into the light.” He explained to me that when people die and see the light, they are going into another dimension, into whatever realm they’re supposed to go to next. I told him I’d heard of near death experiences and the Light and all that shit before.
He said “Yeah but see, some people don’t always know what to do once they’re dead. That’s why some ghosts hang around. They are just people without bodies and they don’t know how to get outta here. So what you can do is tell them they can exit right through you, into the light.” “Huh” I said. “Come on let’s get this guy off the road.” I usually buried roadkill. It seemed respectful, one’s little corpse deserved some privacy.
“I’ll do it” he said. He grabbed some rubber gloves from the back of his truck. He had them in there for when he had to handle some of the pool chemicals he said. He was very gentle and I watched him touch the rabbit and tell him he could go to the light right through his heart chakra. “In case his soul is still here” said Jaimie. He shut his eyes for a second and then he said “Okay.” Then he picked the bunny up and we buried him under a bush. “That was very sweet” I told Jaimie.
He grinned at me. We got back in the truck and he started telling me about how one of his friends got suspended. He also made me smell his neck because he just purchased a new cologne and when I leaned over and did smell his neck he almost swerved off the road. Jaimie really cheered me up. Mags hadn’t been awake for a couple weeks now. She’d begun to retain more water too, getting swollen. The nurse explained to me her kidneys were starting to shut down. I felt bad but I hated being in the house. I lived for my walks and held my breath for when Jaimie would drive by.
One afternoon I was hanging out with him at that house (the one where they were on vacation). He was almost done with his work, I’d been over there with him for upwards of 45 minutes. “I got to get back Jaimie” I said and got out of the deck chair it was my custom to laze around in. He said “Okay wait a second.” He quickly dropped a few more chlorine cakes into the plastic duck and washed his hands in the pool. “I just want to show you this one thing” he said. “It’s their cabana.”
He led me over to a tan and green striped gazebo looking structure near the pool under some trees. I felt a little funny going into their private property but I’d already been over to their house several times and figured what the hell. We walked across the green lawn together. There was a massage table in there, a mini fridge, and a wicker couch with cushions with some bathing suits on it. “It’s nice in here isn’t it?” he said hopefully.
I said it sure is. Then he asked “What’s the sexiest dream you’ve ever had?” I decided to answer him earnestly. “In my sexiest dream, which I had when I was your age,” I said, “I am pushing my friend’s father in a gondola around in those Venice Canals” I said. “I had this bowl full of fruit and I was like hand-feeding him grapes and apricots and stuff as we drifted down the waterway. Then we had sex.” “Who was this guy?” he asked, “Was this back when you were in high school?” I said yeah. “Well did you have sex with him for real?” he asked. “Of course not he was married” I said. “SO you had the hots for him” he said. “I did” I said. “Humph” said Charlie. “Well do you wanna hear my sexiest dream” he asked. He sat down on the couch and took a water bottle out of the fridge. He handed me one too. “Sure” I said. I was still standing.
“It’s about you” he said. “It is?” I said. “Yeah” he said. “Don’t you want to hear about it?” I took a swig of water and closed my eyes. “You are standing in a dark room or a maybe it’s a cave or something” he said. “You’re naked” he said, pausing for dramatic effect. I laughed at that point but he ignored me and went on. “Then all you do is turn your arm, you know, so I can see the inner side of your wrist and your open palm. You just hold out your long pretty arm to me and I come over to you and I don’t know how to describe it.” He stopped talking abruptly and looked up at me. I got the feeling he had rehearsed all this but I was immensely flattered. Then he sorta laughed and looked down at his sneakers.
I walked over to the couch and got on top of him and kissed him. Then he started to try to tell me the rest of the dream but I stuck my tongue in his mouth and he pretty soon forgot what he was saying. I could feel him get hard and he wasn’t nervous anymore. His hands were uncontrollably all over me. I love it when men do that. When they just lose their minds getting all passionate and surging muscles and sexual energy pounding out of them into you. And then you’re in this sexual energy bubble sharing it together.
I was on top. He ran his hands up my shoulders and cupped the back of my head with his hands entwining his fingers in my hair. His mouth was sweet with peppermint gum. He yanked my tank top and bra up and put my nipples in his mouth. I was rocking my hips all over him and he started moaning. His fingers frantically unbuttoned my jeans and I got him out of his pants. His fingers slid inside me and I rocked against his fingers to our heavy breaths. We were on the couch for a little while and then I eased away and knelt down and started to blow him. He was so gorgeous and young and the tip tasted salty sweet. That’s when he freaked out and threw me on the grass beside the couch, I laughed and he made a husky keening sound in his throat. His eyes looked wild and older.
He was prepared with a couple condoms in his pocket and we had sex in that cabana. I was shocked a seventeen year old could be so good. I guess it’s the friggin internet. No, he was just a plain completely special human being. Afterwards we lay there for a while in the afterglow. I was replaying the soft ragged sound he made in his throat. It was so sweet. I hadn’t had sex in two years. My last lover was a coworker at the grocery store. We’d dated for a couple months before amicably deciding to just be work buddies again. It had been pretty perfunctory. I felt gratitude and wonderful feelings for Jaimie. I gave him a kiss on the cheek and started to pull my pants back on.
“You know we could make it work” he said. “I could drive out and see you from State on the weekends.” (He was talking about the college he’d just been accepted to, which was about three hours away). I rehooked my bra and bent down and gave him another kiss on the cheek. “You’re really beautiful Jaimie” I said. “Thank you” he said. “So what do you think” he said. I laughed. “Hey can I get a picture of us together” he said. I said sure. I sat back down on the couch with him. He got his phone and held it out so both of us would fit in the frame. “I can text you one” he said. “Ok” I said. I gave him my number. Then he drove me home. He seemed a little pensive. “Am I going to see you again” he asked. “You’re going to have a wonderful time in school” I said. I gave him a quick kiss and he turned it into another deep long one. His pupils were all dilated and he had another hard on. I got out of the truck really fast and made it into the house just as the nurse was impatiently calling my cell again.
That night I sat next to Mags. I asked how her she was doing in there. And then I even told her about me sleeping with Jaimie. She wasn’t awake or anything but I thought she might get a kick out of it. I never would have talked to her about my sex life when she was her abrasive controlling live self. But here she was and here I was. I was nervous but I even told her what Jaimie told me about the afterlife. I told her when she is ready, she can leave. And she can do it right through me if she wants. And I felt like a fool telling her this but why not.
I gave her a kiss on the forehead and turned the lights down. I took a quick shower and got into my pajamas and brought my blankets out on the couch next to her. I drank a giant bottle of water and I fell asleep instantly.
And Mags did leave, a little later that night. I woke up to check on her and I was about to go back to sleep but then I felt this tingling in my chest. And I heard air rush out of her throat, it was a funny noise she hadn’t made before. I jumped up turned on the main light in the room and put my head on her heart and listened for it and I couldn’t hear anything and then I grabbed my phone and was about to call 911 but then I just- paused- and I let myself look at her peaceful lined face. I held her hand for a while and knew she was gone.
I was very busy for the next few days making the funeral arrangements, getting the medical equipment out and closing up the house etc. When I finally had time for a walk I went in the morning. It was cooler then and there was still dew drops on the grass sparkling in the sunshine. I saw a baby rabbit on one of the lawns and he darted into the bushes and then peeked out at me. He was just old enough to be on his own, a little bigger than a fuzzy softball.
He was very cute, big smart eyes and a soft grey tiny body with a white tail. I kept walking and his smart baby eyes looked at me with wise intelligence and then he ran through the grass a ways in front of me and then looked back over his shoulder at me like he was playing a game. “You are very cute” I told him and he sat on the lawn and accepted the compliment and watched me as I was walking. I remember at that exact moment my heart felt like flying.
Copyright © 2013 by Kim Campion
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