Bibles

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BiblesI’m framed for a crime and the only witness who will speak on my behalf is a rabbit.

“That’s ok,” my wife says. “I speak rabbit.”

But my lawyer says it doesn’t matter, they’ll never let the rabbit testify.

“Why not?” we ask.

The lawyer says, “When somebody testifies, they put their hand on the Bible and swear. But there is no such thing as a bible for rabbits, so the bunny can get away with saying whatever he wants.”

The rabbit and my wife caucus. My wife says, “There is too a bible for rabbits. But it’s enormous; it won’t fit in the courtroom. If the trial is held outside, however, on the soft grass beside the courthouse steps, in the presence of the rabbit bible, which according to this rabbit God is still busy writing, the rabbit will testify.”

So my lawyer and the judge and the prosecutor meet, and though my prosecutor is Death, who took up law after getting sick of playing video games and being dumped by all his girlfriends, the judge agrees with my lawyer, and the trial moves outside.

It is so bright because I’ve been in jail for so long; I am crying.

“If you show remorse,” my lawyer whispers in my ear as he gives me his handkerchief, “the jury will think you are guilty, regardless of what the rabbit says.”

“It’s just allergies,” I say, a little too loudly.

The rabbit rises up in front of the judge, his whiskers trembling. My wife is on her stomach to his right because even for a bunny he’s small and soft-spoken. The judge says, “Bring out the rabbit bible so we may proceed.”

The rabbit presses his paw into the grass, and my wife puts her hand on the grass as well even though she’s still in the process of converting to Rabbitism.

The rabbit testifies, my wife translates. Out on the lawn other rabbits show up eager to share the good news of the rabbit bible to all of us who’ve been skimming it. The part about multiplying is a lot longer than the one in the bible for people.

Death tears into the rabbit. “Isn’t it true all rabbits are liars?” he asks. “Isn’t it true a rabbit will say anything for a couple of carrots?” he asks. “Aren’t you just their pet bunny rabbit?” he asks. The rabbit cowers in terror. Death likes his job too much.

But my lawyer objects and the judge makes Death back off. It doesn’t matter, despite what the rabbit says, he’s just one rabbit. I’m pronounced guilty. Lots of people are that day.

We get exiled to a place where no grass grows. Our lawyer says he’ll appeal, but we have no money.

In our exile we move from house to house, and all the people we meet stare at the rabbit. Every day or so, one or two will visit us. “How long are you going to fatten up that rabbit?” they ask. “Be good neighbors and invite us over when you make your rabbit stew.”

The neighbors say everything here is great, and if you stay long enough you’ll see how green it’s going to be, a rabbit in every pot. They have a church and a bible made out of rabbit skin, their bible lets them do whatever they want.

“You should leave,” I tell the rabbit, but the rabbit looks at my wife.

“We’re a family,” my wife says. She starts quoting me passages from the rabbit bible and though things are terrible they soothe me.

Now and then Death visits us. I wish he’d visit our neighbors instead. Sometimes he apologizes, but mostly he just wants to talk about what the rabbit bible says about him, whether there’s anything he can do, another direction he can go, can the terrible burden be lifted once and for all? Death wants to convert and the rabbit won’t let him. My wife says we must make peace with being small parts in a much larger system, only then there is joy. I wish we didn’t have to suffer so much in order to figure this out. Death gifts us money and carrots, warm clothes, little vials of poison. He is trying to be our friend.

In the dark, which lasts for weeks, my wife, the rabbit and I talk about leaving this exile, sneaking out if we have to, to go north, where the bible stretches out from horizon to horizon. We will live underground there, where truth lives surrounded by rabbits, their fur meadow brown.


Photo used under CC.

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About Author

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Hugh Behm-Steinberg’s prose can be found or forthcoming in Gravel, Sand, Joyland, Grimoire, Spelk and Pank. His short story "Taylor Swift" won the 2015 Barthelme Prize from Gulf Coast. He is a shop steward for the adjunct faculty union at California College of the Arts in San Francisco, where for ten years he edited the journal Eleven Eleven.

1 Comment

  1. Really enjoyed this story. And this–“She starts quoting me passages from the rabbit bible and though things are terrible they soothe me”–this rabbit bible I would like to read

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