there’s something about rabbits

I meet Vicky over the woods. I hear her before I see her, singing along to a backing track.
‘I’m trying to get the words down,’ she says, tugging out the ear buds. ‘Concert’s next week.’
She pulls an eek face.
We fall in together, the dogs running on ahead.
Somehow, in the way these conversations go, we get to talking about rabbits.
‘Someone put a dead rabbit on the footbridge.’
‘Why would they do that?’
She shrugs.
‘I dunno. Some kinda cursey magic thing? Or a dog dropped it? Strange it was so carefully laid out on its side like that, though. I threw it in the bushes. At least it was some kind of burial.’
‘I was walking the Ridgeway this one time, and suddenly out of nowhere a big black rabbit leaped out of the bracken – stopped – looked at me – then leapt into the bracken the other side. It was so weird. It was just like it raised its eyebrows and pointed at me.’
‘A black rabbit?’
‘I know! Maybe it was an escaped pet. If it was, it’d come a long way. There weren’t any houses for miles. Anyway, a couple of seconds later a weasel leapt out of the bracken from the exact same spot – stopped – pulled the same what the hell are YOU doing here? expression – then carried on after the rabbit.’
‘If you’d stayed there longer you’d probably have seen a shit load of other animals. Goat. Tiger. Elephant…’
‘Maybe it was a genetic thing. Or maybe it was just filthy.’
We walk in silence for a bit, thinking about rabbits.
‘There’s a strange guy who lives near the pub,’ says Vicky after a while. ‘Half poacher, half crazy. We were sitting there having a drink. He comes wandering past with a big canvas bag on his shoulder, stops, puts the bag on the ground, dives in with both hands, pulls out a dead rabbit, and stands there looking at us. I didn’t know whether he wanted us to make an offer or clap. But then he moved his hands, and he was holding it in such a way that the head was in his right hand and the body in his left. Like some kind of fucked up magician. Then he put the two bits in the planter, picked up his bag again and carried on. The landlord didn’t seem that bothered, though. He came over with a carrier bag, used it as a glove to pick the rabbit up, tied it up, threw it in the bin. Like this was something that happened every week.’
‘There’s definitely something about rabbits…’
‘Totally.’
‘I went to this patient once. He had two long eared house rabbits. Lops I think they’re called. Anyway, he was sitting in his chair with a rabbit on each shoulder, watching Pulp Fiction. Tarantino’s a favourite he said. But anything with swords or guns they’re pretty much okay with. He told me how well trained they were. Yeah. It’s perfect. Every night we watch a film together, share a pizza, then they climb down, take my socks off, and we all go to bed.
‘Ew!’ says Vicky. ‘I can’t unhear that.’

rabbitman

In a cottage in a wood
A little old man at the window stood
Saw a rabbit running by
Knocking at the door.
‘Help me, help me, help me,’ he said
‘Before the hunter shoots me dead!’
‘Little rabbit come inside,
Happy we shall be.’

Sounds like an elevator pitch for a horror movie. Especially when you do the actions:

  1. In a cottage in a wood
    Describe the outline of the cottage with your two index fingers. A simple design, just a square, really. But isn’t it too simple? The kind of simple you struggle to understand in retrospect, after the horror’s passed, just a scrap of blue & white POLICE LINE DO NOT CROSS left round a tree. How did we miss it? For God’s sake – it was there all along, people. In plain sight.
  2. A little old man at the window stood.
    Lower your arms and hunch over a little, old man style. Isolated. In your own world. Waiting.
  3. Saw a rabbit running by / Knocking at the door.
    Raise your hands in front of you like two little paws, in a bounding motion, then segue immediately into a knocking mime. You’re a rabbit, goddamit. Running. Running in a nightmare. From some unspeakable thing.
  4. ‘Help me, help me, help me,’ he said
    Stretch your hands up into the air and then back down again three times. Is this the rabbit crying for help? Or the old man mimicking its terror? You decide.
  5. ‘Before the hunter shoots me dead!’
    Mime a shotgun, blasting away three times in a controlled spread-pattern.
  6. ‘Little rabbit come inside’
    Extend one index finger and indicate for the rabbit to approach. This is where you start to think: Keep on running, little rabbit! For God’s sake! Keep running!
  7. ‘Happy we shall be.’
    Nod & smile & slowly stroke your left hand with your right. It’s no good. The rabbit goes inside. Stands looking around the interior – the whole thing rabbit-themed. Cutlery, teapot, tablecloth. There’s an oil painting on the wall of an old woman dressed as a rabbit. The old man goes out back to ‘pop the kettle on’. Comes back wearing a rabbit head with crooked yellow teeth and maglites for eyes. Cut to the hunter. He’s actually a special forces cop. Out of breath, puffing into his shoulder mic. Sorry. I lost him. Repeat. I lost the target. He swears. It starts to rain. He takes his cap off, tips his head back. Closes his eyes to feel the cooling wetness on his face. Suddenly a bunch of crows launch themselves out of a nearby tree, making a terrifying noise. The cop wipes his face with the back of his shirt sleeve, puts his cap back on, levers a shell into the chamber. Moves on.

That’s the version I was taught, anyway.

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