On a stormy dark night, we drove home in silence.
It didn’t matter at all to either one of us who won the Super Bowl. What mattered was something completely different from football. In fact it mattered so much that I can’t tell you what it was here. You’ve all figured out by now that my short stories are more than stories – they are a reflection of my life and the people in it.
That’s why I can’t talk about what mattered here.
Not outright, at least. I will try to disguise what matters from here on in:
We were worried about the rabbit we left alone in the backyard, caged up in a hutch. We hadn’t expected such cold weather today and while we were at the Super Bowl Party, it had gotten colder. In fact, the weather was icy and the rain threatened to turn into hail and the rabbit was so young and so unprotected.
Neither one of us could relax.
“I wish you let me bring the rabbit with us,” I told my husband, Fred.
“Why do you say this once we’ve left home? You could have told me before we left. Now if we turn back we’ll be late. We’ll show up late for a Super Bowl Party holding a rabbit. Is that what you want?”
I crossed my arms and refused to answer.
“Judith, do I turn around or do I keep going?”
Fred was good at acting like I had made the choice, not him. I was pretty sure that he didn’t want to take the rabbit with us to the party, even if it might rain and she was a baby. So he fed her and locked her in the hutch as I rushed out into the car (so we wouldn't be late).
My heart was breaking. The rabbit was only one of four animals we had and were leaving behind. The dogs (resilient little schnitzels) were used to us abandoning them, but the cat, Simone, (too sensitive for her own good) and our rabbit, Olivia (too young and tender to be left all alone) were always with me in my heart, no matter where we went.
Five hours after we left our house, the Super Bowl was over and we were driving home.
The road going there was long and there was a lot of traffic on Mulholland Drive. I was sick to death, thinking that we’d find the rabbit dead or at least shivering and wet.
Guilt consumed me.
We drove up to the yard and parked the car in the garage. I got out and carried the tray that held hot-wings earlier. Fred carried the rest – chips, an empty guacamole bowl and three books that our friends had lent to us.
We walked into the house and closed the garage door.
I looked out the kitchen window at the hutch, just as I heard Fred sit down in his chair and sigh. It was the sigh he usually had after a tough day, and I knew he didn’t want to get up.
“I guess I’ll go check on Olivia,” I said, looking fearfully at the hutch.
“Want me to go with you?” Fred asked, perfunctorily.
I didn’t answer, but walked out the back door in the cold drizzle and carefully through the slippery grass. As I approached the hutch, a terrible feeling of dread settled in my stomach. What if she was dead or sick? I resolved to bring her inside with me no matter what.
I looked inside the wooden hutch, its grate covered with droplets of water. The rabbit was nowhere to be seen and my heart dropped. I opened the door and felt the familiar shuffling of Olivia making herself known.
“Hey, sweetheart,” I whispered. I looked into the hutch and saw the reflection of her eyes, a pink nose twitching. Was she wet? I reached in to get her, to cradle her in my arms. As I put my right hand in the hutch, I felt her damp fur and began to scoop her out of the corner.
Right then, I felt a terrible bite on my index finger, as if spiked pliers clamped down suddenly.
“Ouch!” I pulled my hand back and bashed my elbow on some exposed grate. It hurt even worse than the bite. As I removed my arm, my eyes clouding over with painful tears, Olivia came out slowly toward the opening.
“Oh, yeah, now you come!” I said, wounded.
But Olivia wasn’t coming toward me, she was moving past me. She jumped out of the open door and onto a wet pile of leaves near my ankle.
“Damn it!” I cried, turning to grab her. I was much too slow. Olivia moved like she had been plotting her escape for weeks. She jumped past the leaves, over the roots of the ash tree and through a crack in the fence. The crack led to our front yard and I bolted for the gate, in the dark, so I could catch her.
Instead of reaching the gate, I tripped on the fence post we had been meaning to replace and fell on my shoulder against the cement walkway. I was pretty sure I broke it, and I screamed. The next sounds I heard were rain, my breathing and then… more rain.
I waited for Fred, but realized he was probably inside watching the post-game wrap up or maybe even off to bed. I couldn’t move, I was in so much pain. On top of that, my rabbit had run away from home after biting me.
As I lay on the ground, I thought of the things Fred would say. “Did you really need to check on that rabbit? After all, you did see she was fine. Why did you have to hold her? You probably scared her!”
I hated when he was right and he was going to be right about this. I knew I felt guilty and responded to my guilt and checked on the rabbit and she bit me. If I wasn’t out here lying on the ground in pain with a broken shoulder I would have walked into the house and blamed Fred for everything: for not caring about our bunny, for going to the Super Bowl Party without her. For making me feel like an irresponsible fool when I was the one who went outside to check on her and then allowed her to escape.
Just when I was ready to get up, Fred opened the side gate and let in our two schnitzel dogs, Mary and Lara. The rushed to me and licked me in the face as I was lying there.
“What are you doing lying there? What happened?” Fred asked me. I looked up at him and wonder how he can be so insensitive. I stop thinking this when I see him holding Olivia, a trembling little ball of fur, in his hands.
“You got her!” I said, thankfully.
“She must have gotten out, I thought I locked her cage, but I guess I didn’t. Are you okay?”
I was rejuvenated and stood up, knowing my shoulder wasn’t broken at all. It was a little bruised, but not broken.
“I actually let her escape,” I confessed. I kissed Fred and stroked Olivia’s fur. We put her back in the hutch and as I felt inside, I could tell that it was warm and dry enough for her to be there.
So that was our evening. As I walked back into my kitchen I found Simone on the ledge, waiting for me. She is too sensitive for her own good and sometimes I think that she times my absence with a stopwatch.
She misses me when I’m gone and I miss her. Mary and Lara seem to be fine with each other.