Life Begins Here

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There were suddenly bunnies everywhere in the neighborhood.
A nightmare, seeing as how Bobby had been hassling us for a pet, and now—

Bunnies in the yard!

Bunnies in the driveway!

One of them, a baby, broke its neck running into our glass back door.

Bobby gave it CPR—I wanted to stop him but Marta said how he’s four years old now, it’s time he learns that all that is beautiful and innocent in the world will run head-on into the glass back door of its own mortality and lie twitching on some foreign strip of artificial grass, unable to pass peacefully because a four-year-old is trying to save its life, whether it likes it or not.

“But honey—” I said.

“No buts.”

But I couldn’t watch.  I pulled Bobby away and Marta gave me this withering look.  She studied my face, guessing my next move.

“Leave it,” she said.

“It’ll rot.”

“You’ve ruined one lesson.  He may at least learn that you’re born from the gutter and return to the gutter and the most you can hope for is going quickly into the end with one definitive snap, as opposed to, say, being disemboweled by a raccoon and watching as it munches down on the spindly red length of your small intestine.”

I clapped my hands around Bobby’s ears.

“Your mother has had a hard life,” I said.

“He can’t hear you,” Marta said.  “You’ve covered his ears, fuckface.”

I uncovered Bobby’s ears.  “Your mother has had a hard—” I started, but Bobby interrupted me with

“Shut up and eat my pussy already, fuckface!” then ran crying into the house.
I threw an accusing look at Marta. “I told you.  At this age they’re like little parrots.”

“I had a parrot.  He learned a lot faster,” Marta said, and left me outside alone.

The bunny had stopped twitching.

I scooped it up and buried it near this fake rubber twig of a birch we have out back, couldn’t find a rock or anything so I used a Coke bottle as the grave marker.  Beneath the Coke logo, emblazoned in big red letters on the side of the can: Life Begins Here.

I couldn’t do justice to the ephemeral passing of baby bunnies with fragile neck bones in a language I actually understood, so I prayed in Latin to start, then sort of improvised from there: “In nomine patri, et filii, et spiritus sancti, baruch atah adonai eloheinu challah shalom lhaim, voy al baño, aaaaameenn.”

“That was beautiful,” a voice said.

I turned to see my neighbor, John, crossing over from his yard to mine.

I shrugged like it was no big deal, everyone’s praying in multiple languages these days.

“Really, Samuel.  I didn’t do nearly so good a job myself.  Not nearly so good of one.”

That’s how I learned that everyone in the neighborhood was burying bunnies with broken necks, what with our houses identical, the bunnies breaking neck after neck upon the sliding glass doors leading out onto our respective neat squares of artificial lawn with accompanying rubber birches.

We had a town hall in the Robertson’s living room, all the concerned parents in the neighborhood. Everyone went to the supermarket beforehand and bought stuff that we could pretend we’d made. I bought some POWERBARS:  Power Through The Day, and then at the Robertson’s everyone pretended we hadn’t just seen each other at the supermarket; it was quite pleasant, orange soda and chips, somebody even brought some rubber carrots and celery as a joke. We all had a good laugh at that—what were we, rabbits or something?  Susan Flanagan complimented my POWERBARS; it was all very pleasant until we got down to the bunny business.

“Look here everyone,” my neighbor John said.  “There’s about to be a lot more dead little bunnies and unhappy little children.”

This was because our lawns were fake. Even the worms kids dug up from the manufactured earth were actually just chocolate flavored gummi worms. Nobody knew how exactly the bunnies were subsisting or where they were from—Sandra Meekle suggested they might be an invasive species from another development, possibly Chelsea Ridge?—but sooner or later they’d all starve to death and our children would never recover.  Who knows what kind of psychological problems they might have then?  They might even become vegetarians. They might not want POWERBARS, anymore.

“I don’t see why you’re all so goddamn concerned,” Marta said.

I tried to shush her but she dug her six-inch heel into my foot and then I was suddenly very excited to hear whatever she had to say.

“A drone strike just killed thirty-two newborn babies in the maternity ward of a hospital in Islamabad. Our children should be aware of the world they live in.”

I nodded encouragingly; the pressure of Marta’s heel lessened slightly.

Needless to say, Marta and I were overruled.

The neighborhood elected to hire NORTHEAST WILDLIFE DISPOSAL SOLUTIONS, who brought in teams of men in camouflage that lured the bunnies into a randomly designated processing area (our lawn) with real carrots and celery, the bunnies, hundreds of them, chowing down with little bulging jowls.

I went inside.

I was watching funny animal clips on Animal Planet—some cows listening to a Jazz band perform a cover of Ella Fitzgerald’s Something’s Gotta Give—when I realized Marta and Bobby weren’t in the house.

“Honey!” I called.  “Bobby?”

I ran out back and sure enough, she was making him watch, her hands on his shoulders, pointing him at the ongoing disposal process.

A tap against my sneaker. The Coke can had rolled to rest at my feet.

Life Begins Here, it reminded me.

Afterward, Bobby was sullen.

Even Marta had doubts:  “Maybe we should’ve waited a year.”

Until, over a dinner of lab-grown steaks, he turned to us and said, “Don’t even want a pet no more.”

 

Photo By: Dean Wissing

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About Author

Emil recently received an MFA in Writing from Columbia University. His debut novel, The Paradox of Vertical Flight, was published by Greenwillow Books in September 2013. It has also been translated into Spanish and German.

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