Fall 2008, Volume 5

Fiction by Jack Harris

Do Rabbits Have Blue Eyes?

It was one of those small villages that sits on the border of England’s most westerly counties. You know the sort—no tangible past, the vagaries of planning decisions resulting in complete disharmony, two lousy pubs, an overpriced and poorly stocked general store and at least four bullies.

He could have been one of those boys those bullies, but they are often surprisingly articulate and quick-witted. That neither attribute had been granted him didn’t go unnoticed by his teachers, friends or family. His eyes were slate blue; the sort worn by Ukrainians, innocent, of course, but only too eager and willing to serve the new Reich in the early nineteen-forties as they killed their way East.

The rabbit had been for Rachel’s twelfth birthday. An overweight lop the dealer wanted rid before it ate and shit away too much of his profit. Her character had yet to show any significance; she’d had limited opportunity of expression and lately she’d failed even to try. Her mother had given her little except massive resentment and a white rabbit with keen, quick eyes.

Morning was screaming passivity by the time Rachel took her usual stroll on the path she’d taken now for the past three months; the day had darkened before it had really begun. The density of cloud seemingly peculiar to England. Why look at it twice? It was not for turning. These skies never seemed prepared to do the beauty and color around any justice.

He’d worked most of the morning with a predictability that would impress a paleontologist. Home as usual, with not enough imagination to do anything more than a bunch of jobs on the house that he alone felt important. What was he thinking about when he relined the woodshed? Was it thinking? Almost certainly it lacked any profundity and at best would mirror the parochialism of his life – money, shelter, peace, health. And lust.

Rachel passed that day even more oblivious to his greeting than usual. Her response, not deliberately, was tantamount to negligence. Nothing novel to him but always deeply wounding. Her shape was more recognizable now. Legs thickening and an inch or two on her hip; a stronger face, movements less childlike, more candid. Growth. She always passed at the same pace with a self-imposed lack of presence he remembered attempting to perfect himself.

At her age he’d been enormously unimpressive to females. Maybe one or two seeing his eyes thought of it, momentarily, then quickly overcame their interest. He liked them though; their skirts, blouses and cardigans fresh with female smell. Is there a point at which the inchoate man reaches a compromise with himself; by recognizing his limitations knowing he was no blank tape? He’d had friends of sorts, Bill Doidge, John Bratchley, Colin Taylor; they still were, of sorts. Three or so intervening decades hadn’t changed their habits. The established order remained in stasis. What was this place?

Rachel liked squirrels, wanted to cuddle them, wanted to take them to sleep with her: never been close enough to then to see their vicious little teeth and claws which could rip into face and flesh with an adapted efficiency but without any accompanying moral quality. Christ what are twelve year-olds for?

He decided to save a little effort and money by barrowing the refuse of his garden work, illegally, to fortify the adjacent, worn river bank. He had a house, well, a traditional bungalow, nothing original, neatly maintained. As well as a house he had a wife. She was rumored to go with men. At least that was what Bill, John and Colin said when he wasn’t there. He’d just transported several lots of sods and compacted weeds to the edge of the water and sculpted it in. An aesthetic form of fly tipping. A reasonable eye for the land he had—in fact it was all he really saw.

Then the cry. It wasn’t piercing. More gentle, plaintive. Inviting not demanding. He moved rapidly or at least a degree up on his normal pace and then a second more scared cry. All he’d heard of her voice was a minor ‘hello’ or ‘morning’? But it was her. Partway up the bank by now soaked, frightened and pleased to see him or anyone who could help. Realizing she’d walked at the very edge of the bank he’d crudely manufactured minutes previously and hence was more than indirectly responsible for her submergence, he moved fast, took her arms but there was negligible purchase and she so thin. So he dug himself deeper into the bank with his feet and took her waist. She was now in no danger so the emotion he felt could not be considered evil; his erotic, fleeting reverie nowhere near punishable. Covered in slime and mud, cold, wet and shaking. And yet. He tightened around her and pulled her with unequivocal ease straight onto her feet and released her immediately.

A reciprocal apology decreased the tension and after insisting at first on going directly home, despite his offer of getting her cleaned up and borrowing some clothes from his own daughter who’d been her age a few years earlier, she relented upon realizing that her mother, away with a man she’d just met at the pub, would probably beat several shades of shit from her verbally when confronted by a totally bedraggled specimen of a daughter. Her mother had some notion of a conscience but generally felt pleasantly absolved after the briefest of consultations with it. Going home like that would be a bad idea and yet at the same time she sensed something in him. Something oddly new to her. An expectation. He wanted her in his house now. The decision she took, so far as 12 year-olds make ‘decisions’, was completely in accord with all those she’d taken so far in her fragile life. A learned mannerism more than a decision; the sort that Russian psychologists characterized at the start of the 20th century.

She left an hour later. Her step more solid, deliberate. She was different; something lost? Something gained? Something noticeable–even her mother subliminally recorded it a little later as she gave her the predictable earful.

Where’d those clothes come from?

Why so close to the river edge?

Who was he?

Oh! I’ll go round and thank him.

Why not?

Alright I’ll wash the clothes and take them back later.

Where’s yours?

You left them there?

All she wanted was for her mother to hold her.

Shall I go and fetch them?

How do you know he’s out?

Please hold me, mam.

No, of course, go out. I’ll be fine.

Soon she was alone with the rabbit. He was different too; more male, more vulgar and he looked at her stock rigid and stared. No movement of the eyes; just the habitual almost autonomic nasal twitching that probably stops only when they’ve been dead a few minutes. His eyes were fucking blue too–men’s eyes, male eyes on her, at her, piercing, penetrating, puncturing.

Knife—no. Scissors—where? Calmly she took him; she knew how to do this—yet hurt right through knowing what she was about to do. She couldn’t if she was to exist, let those eyes stare any longer at her. If there was any way to stop and let him exist she would have liked that but her sensibilities had been shattered; she couldn’t think through this. Young, disturbed; all she knew was those eyes must be stopped from knowing her.

BIO:  Gave up a promising career in biology to take up the pen. Minor publications only at present but seriously struggling with a novel dealing with the death of a young man in the 1960s.
Hobbies: Reading, teaching, traveling and drinking.
Wives and children: Yes.
Favourite Authors: Henry Miller, Philip Roth and Thomas Hardy.
Favourite Poets: Bob Dylan, Dylan Thomas.
Favourite Food: Curry and chips.
Boyhood Friends: Shakin' Stevens and Howard Marks.
Best Moments: Getting a letter from William Burroughs; smoking methamphetamine.
Worse Moments: Turning 60; meeting the Duke of Edinburgh.