Auntie Kay came home today. I’m wearing my best dress, the yellow one we were keeping for Joe’s big day. At half past two the plastic was ripped into, the plastic to keep it clean, and I was allowed to push my head through. Mammy buttoned me at the back of my neck. It tickled and I squirmed and laughed and the backs of my legs got slapped. There’s no excitement about the house. I can hear the breeze through the apple trees. Auntie Kay came home today with her mouth all twisted to one side. I knew whatever she spat out of that would be something snide. My new bed is hard and it smells and I won’t get any sleep, not a peep. I’ve seen spiders in that room before. Mammy says Auntie Kay may snore. I took two pictures in with me. One of Thumper and one of Bugs Bunny, all the rest are stuck to the walls and would tear if I tried.
They say she was beautiful in her day, like a movie actress, and popular too they say. She had so many friends her birthday parties were the talk of the town and expensive for my Grandparents, poor things. It’s hard to have friends. I can’t roam the fields like they said I could before we came. There are bulls in some of the fields and cars when they do pass by can be very, very fast, and there’s Mad Tom of course. My dress took so long to come. A cake was baked when it did, and photographs were taken and I was let hold it up to my chin and show what it would be like. We’ve been so excited for so long for Joe’s big day. I was told not to bring up the past when Auntie Kay arrived. I’m not sure what that means. I don’t know what I’ve been told, I only know what I remember of what I listened to. I know they say she was pretty. I know they say she can snap. I know they say she sleeps a lot and smells of liquorice.
I have three earliest memories. I don’t know which came first. Of being hugged into your belly. You’re talking to grown-ups and I’m on your lap, my face buried deep into your brown cardigan, my ear is pressed in listening to the deepness of your voice as it echoes about your innards. A growling voice with no word clear at all, mixed up with the squeaks of the wool and the pops of your guts. I remember feeling good that there was fight in you.
Of finding a pack of Auntie Kay’s thick sanitary towels, each one the size of a brick, thin netting about a thick wedge of cotton wool and bringing six of them downstairs, while Father Murray was having his tea, and me asking Mammy if I could have these for my arts and crafts box. I could not. You laughed.
My favourite memory that I like to think of often is of just you and me, in the garden, pulling up weeds and planting carrot seeds. I asked you what happens after you die. I asked you what was going to happen. I’m going to come back as a rabbit, you said.
I remember the black car driving slowly past the farm and all the big machinery and me thinking you should be driving this. You’d be a lot faster. Mammy said, I’ll buy you a pet. Would you like a pet? I said I wanted a rabbit and she said, Okay. I worry though, I do. Auntie Kay has a fondness for rabbit stew.
This morning Mammy was breaking the plastic that keeps all the beer cans together. She was breaking it with her bare hands. I watched it stretch before snapping. Pigeons get tangled up in them if you don’t break all the loops, she said. You’ve got to break all the loops. They can lose a leg, she said. Pigeons must have weak legs, I said and I told her I’d like to help her break the plastic loops but she said I was too young to have anything to do with beer. I don’t know how it all works yet. Maybe some families become pigeons. I don’t care about them. We become rabbits.
Auntie Kay came home today. She said some things that weren’t too nice. You’re rabbit mad you know, she said, then squeezed my arm like in a vice. It’s your Mammy you should have up on a pedestal, she said, not some rabbit you’ve yet to get.
I picked out the hutch this morning at last before Auntie Kay could come home and have her say. It will do, it will. For too long Mammy had said, Just pick one! And I said, It has to be right. On and on the search went through the magazines that Mammy sent away for. There was excitement in looking for the perfect hutch. I wanted your home to be so good you’d never want to leave it you see. There’s no excitement in the house any more. I picked out a hutch this morning, real quick, before Auntie Kay could come home. I thought Mammy would be pleased and relieved and excited. We’ll see, she said.
And now Auntie Kay says rabbits make bad pets and she’s only in through the door. Her mouth is twisted to one side and she’s forever taking pills and her hands shake and she smells of dead flowers. She says rabbits make bad pets and I don’t know if I’m going to get you now Auntie Kay has come home.
Maybe we may have to wait some more. Maybe it will only be when I’m all grown up that I’ll find you as a rabbit. By then Auntie Kay will be long dead but she won’t be a rabbit. She’s too mean to be a rabbit. Maybe she’ll be a carrot and maybe when I’m all grown up I’ll feed Auntie Kay to you! Or maybe I shouldn’t wait at all. I should go out where there are bulls and fast cars and search for you out in the fields. Mad Tom will know where you are, he’ll know. He knows everything. Mammy fears him because of all the things he knows.
Auntie Kay has much to say. It looks like we won’t be going to Joe’s big day. He mightn’t have it now at all you know. It’s a shame, it’s a blow. But rabbits can hop and rabbits can burrow. Already I can feel this power in my legs.
Simon Webster is an Irish writer whose stories have appeared in many journals including Visual Verse, Ellipsis Zine and The Fiction Pool. He is also editor of The Cabinet Of Heed. Some of his shorter work can be found at mrsimonwebster.wordpress.com. You can follow him @MrSimonWebster