When they were young, they took the male and female rabbit out of their separate cages and set them in the bright wet spring grass. The rabbits, young as well, were uneasy. In the circle of three children they sat twitchy and still. It was warm and the sun shone and the parents were indoors watching television.
It was the latest—and best—in a series of experiments involving neighborhood animals and personal pets. Yesterday they had dropped the Garcia’s three-legged cat into their large plastic swimming pool and pushed it back from the edges with a stick until it was mewling like a kitten.
Ricky was the youngest at ten. The stick had been his idea. He grew vocally restless. Gem, twelve, made a sign for him to be patient, but changed her mind. She lifted Furfur Rabbit and dangled him in the air over Sally Rabbit, then dropped him from a near height onto her lower back. He was still for a moment, looking around, nose twitching. At last, success: he began to hump.
The children closed in around the two animals. The movements were small, frantic in a way. Nobody breathed. Kneeling down with care, Gem placed her head on the ground facing the female—facing Sally. The rabbit was tense all over and drawn inwards, her eyes tightly closed. The male was trapped in some primal place. He kept moving a little as the children flipped him over and looked in filmy wonder at the long, pink, shiny tube retreating into down.
They got Sally a nest for her babies but she ignored it. When she gave birth, the kittens fell through the wire floor of the cage and died among the pellets two feet below. The next time she was pregnant, they set the cage on the ground and she bit the kits to death.
One morning Gem came out to change the water bottle and found Sally strangled—she had forced her entire head through the chicken wire.
When they were new, she was bold. Requested things. Things she had never thought to want. Things she had never asked of a lover. She did not think it could last, she had audacity, she had a willing participant. He was young and did it all, just everything, including something she had been refused before. The thing which, in others, had inspired recoil.
Harder, she said. The guttural, animal sound of the word pleased her as she said it and she squealed when the whip hit her. She had once heard that rabbits give a cry like an infant when they are in mortal pain, say when a hawk descends, ensconces ribs in talons. There was a rush of blood to her genitals as she thought of this and she cried out again. She dug her nails into the bed and pretended it was flesh, grabbed her own breasts and dug in, closed her eyes tightly, bit her lip, the taste of pleasure rushing in and mingling with the flavor of blood.
When they were newborn, she looked at them, the two of them, marveled that her womb could have nurtured a litter. They wanted her breasts and she denied them. It was too much conflation. She confused the ache of her nipples with the dog worrying his toy. When she held the babies in her arms they mewled and she set them down again.