The Easter following the chicks’ episode, I bought a rabbit. One rabbit on the ground should be easier to handle than four chickens in the air. Like chickens, they were soft and cuddly, but unlike chickens, they could be trained to leave the cage, sit in your lap, eat from your and return to a simple call like ‘isisp, isisp’. And, for sure they do not fly.
Grandpa built a hutch for my rabbit in the back yard. After school, I fed him, held him, pet him, and let him roam. A loyal friend, he recognized me as soon as I rounded the corner and he thumped the floor of his den. He was kind, patient and calm, not as jumpy as I sometimes could be.
One day, I did not hear his welcoming thump. I walked to the hutch and looked in. he was lying at the bottom, motionless. “Isisp, isisp.” Nothing. I banged the side. Nothing. I unhitched the latch and opened the cage. Nothing. I reached in with a heavy arm and pushed him with three fingers. Nothing. I looked around. It was quiet. The trees were still. I looked up at the windows. They were closed. It was quiet. No one was home. I closed the cage. I looked at my rabbit. Nothing. He lay dead.
Just then, Grandpa rounded the corner, saw me at the cage, walked over, looked in and put his hand on my shoulder. I stiffened. My back teeth were clenched tight. My jaw muscles were bulging. I took two quick breaths and wiped my nose with the sleeve of my shirt. “These things happen, Edward.” He paused. I looked up at him. “You know what we can do! We can bury him right here in our yard! He will always be near.”
I watched my grandfather dig the hole, lift the rabbit while cradling his head, and place him on the dirt at the bottom of the hole. He made him comfortable, laid an old sheet over him, and shoveled in the dirt, leaving a little mound. He finished by nailing two pieces of wood together for a cross. Finally grandpa turned and put both hands on my shoulders. I convulsed with uncontrollable sobbing. He wrapped his arms around me and held me close. I could smell the dirt and sweat. “Let’s go upstairs. Maybe grandma has something good to eat.” I looked over my shoulder as I walked to the rear door. Each day thereafter, I paused at the cross.
Some weeks later, I met a friend who had a finger-like furry thing attached to a chain and clasped around his belt loop. It looked familiar. “What’s that?”
“A rabbit foot.”
“A real rabbit foot?”
“Where did you get it?”
“My mother bought it for me. She said it brings good luck.” How lucky! I had an idea. I rushed home from school to dig up my rabbit, cut off his foot, put a chain through it, and wear it. I started to dig. Just as I reached the sheet covering the rabbit, Grandpa entered the yard.
“What are you doing?”
“Getting my rabbit’s foot.”
Once again, he put both hands on my shoulders and looked into my eyes. He shoveled the dirt back. “Once a pet dies, you must bury him and leave him there forever. You must never disturb him because now he is with God.” I looked up at Grandpa. “I will get you a rabbit foot. Let’s go upstairs. Maybe Grandma has something good to eat.”
Summer passed. Leaves, then snow, fell on my rabbit’s grave. Spring came and there were flowers.