A woman is married to a bucket of rain water. Introduced by mutual friends, she was taken by her suitor’s courtesy, a quality she had found lacking in the men she had dated previously, and if her appreciation fell short of passion, how long can anyone be expected to sustain such excesses of emotion? She feels a deep commitment to her husband, and yet is unfulfilled romantically.
Settling is the word that comes to mind. Is she, then, responsible for her own unhappiness? Perhaps no more so than the rest of us, for is life not a series of compromises, the consequences of these bargains obscured without the illuminating perspective of hindsight?
The restless wife decides to take a lover. There is guilt, yes, but the woman justifies the affair, explaining to herself that as a bucket of rainwater, her husband will never be able to satisfy her either emotionally or physically. Their relationship is, she is forced to concede, one sided, a servitude, albeit one that she has willingly entered into.
Perhaps the husband, wishing his wife happiness and painfully aware of his own limitations, would encourage his partner to seek pleasure outside of the confines of their marriage. The wife longs for her husband’s blessing, but is nevertheless, reluctant to seek it, for she has no desire to hurt him.
The woman meets her lover at an upscale restaurant in a neighborhood on the other side of the city where she and her husband have few acquaintances. It is obvious to all but the woman that the lover is a large rabbit dressed in a man’s suit. The wait staff and fellow diners, staring furtively, pity the woman, though she remains oblivious to her lover’s duplicitousness, enraptured as she is by his boyish charm. She likes that her lover requires little from her, is content to gaze at her from across the table with his deep, black eyes, engages her in idle, flirtatious conversation.
Will he take the woman to bed this same evening? Will he disrobe, risking exposure when she gazes upon his nude body covered from the tip of his erect ears to the pads of his giant feet in a soft pelt? If she has not seen him for the rabbit he is here in the restaurant, perhaps she will fail to notice once their bodies are close together in nearly absent light. He has ended past affairs before intercourse could occur for fear of his lovers’ reactions. Little more than a startled gasp from the woman would send him scurrying like the hunted game that he is. Thus he exists in a state of perpetual anticipation, and it is this same anticipation, the pursuit as opposed to the conquest, to which, he concedes, he has become attached.
Though he is fully aware that his paramour is betraying her own impotent husband, the rabbit lover has failed to mention that he is also married in a way. He and his wife, who is also a rabbit, have not celebrated formal nuptials, but do live together as buck and doe and have raised as partners more offspring than either could count, a significant portion of whom they have both sadly survived.
The thrill associated with nights moonlighting as a human have long since worn thin. He carries on with the routine out of habit, has no taste for the cuts of meat he is expected to ingest as a man, and furthermore loathes navigating the city’s heavy and increasingly aggressive traffic. A mounting tedium, threatening towards panic, forces him to ponder how much longer he will sustain this alternate persona.
During the day, the rabbit couple lives as average cottontails in the genus Sylvilagus, the kind of ordinary brown bunnies one often sees darting across one’s lawn or poking around in the garden nibbling cabbage. The rabbit wife does not concern herself with her husband’s nocturnal activities, for she has far more pressing concerns to contend with: preserving her own life, as well as that of her kits, from predators.
In truth, her life has been an endless nightmare, for it seems her babies die at rates that most people would find unbearable, and each death more violent than the last: countless numbers carried off in the maws of cats and the talons of owls, hawks, and other raptors. Worse still are the black racers. For every serpent she’s battered to death with her powerful back legs, there have been those that slithered up unawares, swallowed her babies whole. Her dreams, for she does dream, are plagued by visions of her kits struggling with futility, their terror and agony as they are engulfed alive. And then there are the slavering slack-jawed coyotes, who haunt the parks and cemeteries largely unnoticed by the residents of this suburban landscape. They will gleefully decimate her entire nest leaving behind a scattered ruin of bloody limbs and entrails as she sprints away able to save only her own skin.
There are other terrors as well, more difficult to conceive: automobiles, neither hungry nor malicious, merely indifferent as they blunder heavily down the paved streets, flattening her young against the black asphalt; lawnmowers that thrash her nest and spray her brood, a red mist, among the tall grass; mean-spirited youths with air rifles and buck knives that strip the babies of their fur and flesh after popping a pellet through their brains. Even if one is lucky enough to find an overgrown and abandoned lot on the edge of town, there is always the possibility that one will return from the endless search for sustenance only to find one’s home raised and bulldozed in the rapidly spreading sprawl that has lately inflicted our once pristine countryside.
Teege Braune is a writer, ESOL instructor, and the fiction editor for Burrow Press’ online journal Fantastic Floridas. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in various publications including Word For/Word, Bridge Eight Literary Magazine, decomP, Pithead Chapel, and Weirdbook Magazine. He hails from Indiana and currently lives in Orlando, Florida with his partner and two cats.
Artwork: Laura Makabresku