Run, Wabbit, Run

“Gee, I hope it didn’t hurt too much when I killed you, Mister Wabbit.” 

The voice ripples through the empty apartment; filling the space as an alarm would, each following silence feeling like it rings. There are few other sounds to compete. The sound of a clock with a decaying battery: more like a tut… tut… than a tick, tick. The slightest rubbing sound as the curtains inch against the wall. The window is cracked open a thumb’s length.

“I hope you can hewp me mister game warden,” the television says, and the shadows on the walls move like swimmers.

In the kitchen are bare countertops with no crumbs or dirty dishes. On the fridge, nothing of personal note. A newspaper clipping fixed with yellowing tape advertises a sale on sofas. A printed notice warns of preventative maintenance, scheduled for December 9th, 2063.

And in the next room, a portion of a sofa can be seen. Not the same sofa in the advertisement, mind you, but a comfortable and weathered one. No one is sitting on the sofa. There are no cups on the table. Only the items which would have proven most cumbersome to move have been allowed to stay. Important items; still, like the lamp with the hand-painted shade, but in a rush even these must be sacrificed.

The television with its garish colors is a forgotten detail. It has been playing old cartoons for a number of days. The cartoon imagines and re-imagines a caricature of a chase: the stumpy old hunter with the little legs, and the quick-witted rabbit who outsmarts him. And in this moment; we see that the rabbit has not been killed at all- it is bounding away from the useless instrument which is the old man’s musket.

Retreating from the living room brings one towards the doorway. There are no shoes lined up on the mat, although a hint of muddy bootprints remains; hastily scrubbed.

It’s funny, the preparation which a man can put into his own departure.

Knowing that you were to die; why wipe the countertops? Why clear the dishes from the TV room, wash them, and place them back onto shelves? Knowing that no one in particular will care to inherit it, why pack the silver bowl into papers and carry it away? And why, during a quick but thorough exit, would the television have been left on? 

These details fall upon an array of curious eyes, which peer from a spot just past the doorframe, swiveling about but never daring to venture inside. No one has thought to find the remote and silence the parade of re-runs. Perhaps they can’t be blamed for being a little afraid, considering the circumstances of his death.

The thought is enough to make the blood run cold, although no one could ever admit it. All it takes is three nominations, and then the laborious process can begin.

There are reviews, and letters, and juries. There is an entire period of observation which is broadcast to the parties involved. There are random checks and independent verifications, and finally, many forms which require many notarized signatures. Perhaps they make the process so drawn out because they hope the applicants will lose heart. But it’s been rare to start this without finishing.

Most commonly it happens to abusive fathers. When he has three children or more, it’s easy. The siblings weigh the pros and cons as a united front: debating the morality, the costliness, the logistics. And should they decide to nominate their father for death, they have each other to lean on during the process. One feels bad for the girls who nominate their rapists. There have been cases where a disgruntled roommate had to be found, or a bitter ex lover, or the cop who originally booked him. To sign these papers in the company of strangers must be burdensome.

And at the end of the day, it’s not their immortal souls which the applicants are concerned with. It’s not murder, after all. There are no electrical chairs or needles full of slow-acting compounds. There could never be a firing squad, no, the law is not meant to be regressive. Once the deceased is notified, they have twelve hours to pack, and arrive at the government to be handled.

It’s commonly believed that while death is the name it’s been given, the result is more of a relocation. It is known, quantitatively, that the deceased’s absence will be better for everyone.   Children can begin to forget the guilt and shame involved in ignoring their long-condemned parents, and victims can live without the fear of meeting their abusers around every corner. It’s been guessed that the government owns an island in the far east that’s been remodeled for this purpose. Of course, the mechanics are not the public’s business. But why else would the deceased be allowed to bring along their belongings? Regardless, the process is thorough. There are no tricks or illusions, no way to evade the result. No one has ever been reported to be seen again, after.

Soon this man’s assets will be liquified and donated to the charity of the applicants’ choice. But knowing nothing about him, it is fun to peer into his doorway, trying to pick apart the reason why he was not wanted. There are more than one set of eyes. Word has spread and the neighbors have been offering coffee. It’s a bit tasteless- one of them tried to charge.

The people at the doorway look at his sofa, his refrigerator, his hand-painted lampshade. They try not to find anything to which they relate. They watch the rabbit running, and think of cartoons with disdain.

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Two Strings

B: “We’d have to drill holes through the ceiling.”

A: “Well, that does it then.”

B: “Don’t be like that.”

A: “No, holes in the ceiling!

B: “Darling. Imagine.”

A: “I do imagine. A bit of sawdust, an easy patch-job. Unless you’d rather fly to Mexico. Their ceilings must already have the holes.”

B: “Nonsense. You think they walk around all day skipping over holes? They drill them, once the woman is pregnant.”

A: “What’s wrong with two little holes?”

B: “Imagine, if your toe slips inside!”

A: “A broken toe! Think of my vagina.”

B: “It won’t be broken, darling.”

A: “You ask the doctor, then. She said it may be torn all the way to my asshole.”

B: “I don’t know what you want me to say.”

A: “I want a little empathy.”

B: “This goes beyond empathy. It’s not about empathy. It’s about revenge.”

A: “I think it’s a beautiful custom. And the men in Mexico never think of it as punitive.”

B: “Of course they don’t. I wouldn’t say a bad word about anyone if I had my balls in a noose!”

A: “That’s ridiculous. It’s voluntary. They agree, and then they place their balls in the noose.”

B: “My brother thinks you’re crazy. He thinks I should leave you.”

A: “Ah, yes. The endlessly wise Mitchell. Leave your wife at nine months pregnant over a ceremonial practice.”

B: “I almost cried when I described it to him. I couldn’t get the words out. I felt ashamed, Astrid.”

A: “Let me hear what you told him.”

B: “What?”

A: “I want to hear how you put it to him. You didn’t even give it a chance, did you?”

B: “It’s quite straightforward, isn’t it? You want to rip my balls off every time you have a contraction.”

A: “I knew it.”

B: “What?”

A: “If that’s what you said to him, of course he hates it.”

B: “What’s to love, where’s the—”

A: “—if you only took care when you told people, explained the history. Women and men have been choosing this custom since before the Aztecs built their golden temples, when births were natural and the sky was clean and all around the couple were trees and…”

B: “We can have a natural birth. Darling, let’s have a natural birth. We can plop you right down in a meadow and make sure there’s lots of soft ferns and, I don’t know, let’s cut the umbilical cord with an arrowhead.”

A: “Don’t patronize me.”

B: “I’m sorry. Baby, I didn’t mean that. But let’s… let’s have that natural birth you want. Whatever you want. Did you think about water?”

A: “Yes, and have my baby’s first sensation be drowning.”

B: “Our baby.”

A: “I know. But that’s the whole point. The Huichol people use this as a way to acknowledge and honor paternal responsibility. It’s stopped infidelity, it’s reduced teenage pregnancy—”

B: “You don’t trust me.”

A: “Why would you say that?”

B: “You said it first. It’s about infidelity, is it?”

A: “No, don’t get defensive. I hate it when you—”

B: “I’m not. I’m not defensive. I’m scared for us. Do you think I’ll leave you?”

A: “Of course not.”

B: “Okay.”

A: “But you might.”

B: “Baby?”

A: “Once we have our kid. I mean, we don’t know what will happen.”

B: “Yes I do.”

A: “We can’t know.”

B: “I do. We’re going to be parents. We’re going to love each other. That’s it.”

A: “And what if… we don’t?”

B: “Don’t… have our kid?”

A: “Don’t love each other.”

B: “Do you—”

A: “Of course I love you. I’m not saying that. I just mean that everything will be different. Our lives will be upside down and we’ll be tired all the time, and we’ll fight, and we won’t have sex again. All of my friends have been telling me. And my mother, she’s like a direct dial line to my dismal future. When she had my sister, her vagina actually ripped—”

B: “Don’t tell me that. Astrid. You need to stop.”

A: “I- I mean, it’s true, we’d be fooling ourselves if we thought—”

B: “Darling. Wait. You’re spiraling. You need to stop letting them get to you.”

A: “It’s not all in my head, if that’s what you think.”

B: “That’s not what I’m saying. I just know that you’re so afraid, when you don’t need to be. You can’t think about those things. This is going to be the most wonderful—”

A: “Well it’s not happening to you, is it? It’s not happening to your body.” Her hands were on her chest. There was plaintive silence.

B: “Astrid.”

A: “I can’t recover from this. I will never be the same.”

B: “I know.”

A: “But you… you could walk away.”

B: “I couldn’t.”

A: “You wouldn’t. Because I know you. Because you’re a good man. But you could. And if you wanted to, you could start a new life, as if none of it had ever happened. You wouldn’t have the scars. Your penis would work just as well. You wouldn’t risk the depression or the psychosis…”

B: “That’s very rare. Darling. That’s not gonna happen to you.”

A: “Alright.”

B: “You’re right. It’s not fair. You’re right.”

A: “I’m just… afraid.”

B: “Come here.”

They whispered.

B: “You know that pulling on my balls isn’t going to make me stay with our family. It won’t be the thing that makes me a father. That’s… that’s going to be me. And trust.”

A: “I trust you. I trust you, but I can still have fear, can’t I?”

B: “Yes.”

A: “I love you.”

B: “Would the… would the ceremony make you feel better?”

A: “I’m not sure. I just like it.”

B: “We’ll do it. Then we’ll both be afraid together.”

A: “But I know that’s awful. I don’t want to make you feel pain, when you don’t have to.”

B: “You have to.”

A: “Yes, I do.”

B: “So we’ll do it together.”

A: “What if I… ruin you?”

B: “I don’t know. You won’t, will you?”

A: “I hope not. I don’t know exactly what’s safe.”

B: “Oh, god.”

A: “I mean, we’ll find out! I promise, we’ll be careful about it.”

B: “What have I done?”

A: “If only you knew, that day you kissed me…”

B: “I think it would still be worth it.”

A: “Do you mean it? We’re really doing this?”

B: “I mean it. Don’t let me change my mind.”

A: “Trust me, I won’t.”

B: “How kind of you.”

A: “My love. I can’t believe this is happening.”

B: “We need to stop talking about it, before I think it all through.”

A: “No, not that.”

B: “What then?”

A: “The kid.”

B: “The kid.”

A: “Ours.”

They looked at each other in contented disbelief. They laced their fingers together.