“Rabbit Pause” is a short story by J. R. Nichols. See her published works on her website.
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Dale’s not much of a hearts and flowers type, so it had me wondering what spell had been cast to make him feel so schmoopy.
He’d come creepin’ slow through the kitchen door, a distinct departure from his usual, blustery, dinner-time entry. He had one hand under his jacket, and, for a moment, I thought he must be having heart trouble, again – ’til that big ole hand came out of that jacket, holding a baby rabbit.
“Almost hit it with the tractor,” he said, as if that explained everything.
I was stymied, thinking how If I had a dollar for every rabbit that man had me skin and fry up for him, I’d be retiring on a chaise in finery and lace, instead of puttin’ up preserves on a 90 degree day in August.
Dale didn’t notice I was perplexed, or didn’t care. He disappeared, then came back with an old crate. Dale placed that kit in the crate, then set it in a corner of the room, not far from the wood-stove.
Later, as I got to doin’ the dinner dishes, Tommy came in from Bible Camp, wearing the headdress he’d made there, whoopin’ and hollerin’ about being an “injun”. Particularly absorbed in giving my roaster a good scrub, I paid no mind to his war dance, but I perked up when I realized he’d gone quiet, looking to see what the boy had gotten to doin’. I didn’t think about the rabbit until I saw that Tommy had something small and white in his hands.
“Preacher says you ain’t ‘posed to say that word,” Tommy scolded.
“Preacher says you ain’t posed to touch what ain’t yours, too,” I said, crossing the room in a hurry to retrieve and examine the kit.
“We gonna name it? Or eat it? Or what?” Tommy asked.
“I reckon that’s up to yer Pa,” I told him.
He shrugged as he walked away. “You shouldn’t name it if your gonna eat it.”
I looked down at the creature in my hand, thinking about how I’d sat there during dinner, stupefied, as that heavy-handed man caressed and cuddled that baby rabbit all through the meal, carrying on like he’d never done for any of the 11 children I’d bore for him.
I knew with too much of a squeeze, it’d be all over – the only baby Dale had ever shown any interest in would be buried under the poplar, next to Tommy’s ten infant siblings.
Thinking of the poplar, I looked out the window. Behind the tree, I could see the pink and yellow blaze of sunset on the horizon. My thoughts turned to the artistry of the creator, and to all the many blessings I’d been given.
The kit twitched in my hand. I kissed its soft, warm head.
“Think we’ll name you ‘Grace’” I whispered.