By Sam Berman
A normal sized rabbit gave birth to a 100-foot rabbit off Palomino Avenue. The rabbit did not come out that size. It came out little, pink and soft like something out of a magic kit. It was later the rabbit grew ten feet a week for ten weeks and then stopped growing. Naturally, the German shepherds in the neighborhood were concerned. As were the pit bulls, the border collies, and the little dog that belonged to the cop’s girlfriend down the street, Chewy, who had lost a paw when the lady’s boyfriend before the cop backed his motorcycle down their long, turning driveway and ran it over.
Your dog had recently passed so you didn’t mind the rabbit so much.
Your wife and kids felt different.
“It could kill us,” your wife said while she scrolled on her phone.
“So could a killer,” you said, in that dickish way you tended to offer up.
The rabbit, you thought, was cool. Was exciting. And your wife had slept with Jesse Fali, who she knew from doing A Raisin in the Sun at summer stock in the Berkshires, and Jesse wrote scripts for zombie show where the real monsters ended up being the humans all along––so, yes, in a way––in your little-bit-of-a-dickish way, you liked that your wife was scared of the 100-rabbit off Palomino Avenue.
Your daughter though—the one you really understand–you hate that she hated the rabbit. Even though it really wasn’t the sight of the rabbit. No. It was…well, she couldn’t stand the extra noise. She hated extra noise, loud noise, any noise. And that summer was already so loud.
With the wailing of the good and bad summer bugs.
The motorcycles popping off Hudson Street.
And the rabbit: with his deep breaths on those hot, cloudless days. Certainly, even you could admit that his sneezes were unpleasant. All those different types of 100-foot rabbit sneezes: the sneezes like a flood siren; the sneezes like the sudden of a bullwhip; and that sneeze, once, so loud, you feared the earth finally cracked and broke open, and you were too late to save your family from the ground widening below them.
Before the rabbit you had a simple thing going. Once: a bumble bee landed on your daughter’s birthday cake. Always: your foot doctor had elegant handwriting. And from time-to-time: there was lightning you could smell through the screen window. Having once lived as badly as you once lived, you began to take such delight in your new and unspectacular life. Being boring felt so good to you; paying the hundred and twenty-nine dollars a month so that your kids could enjoy Menard’s effortless green grass; all the cable channels you never even clicked on; and DraftKings loaded onto your cellphone so you could bet college football with your brother every Saturday.
In the early mornings–before you left for work and before your wife slept with Jesse Fali– she would kiss your forehead. “Come home rich or don’t come home at all,” she’d say with her soft, sleepy laugh. And you’d always hated that joke so much. You had. Because you never really did feel like quite enough. Or you felt like she felt like she deserved a good deal more than you. And it didn’t help that before the twins were born your wife had left you a letter in the bathroom that either a friend, or a lover, or her sister had insisted she write. The letter explained that you were a good man, but not a man of consequence in the ways that really mattered. And that you could not excite her in ways she really wanted to be excited. And that you could not look at her in the ways she dreamt of being looked at–you could not see her how she needed to be seen.
But then you had the girls
And your wife didn’t leave.
And you two never spoke about the letter.
And so soon later the girls had turned ten: and you were watching them try on different styles of swimsuits in the basement in an attempt to create some type of water scene.
They told you they were making a mermaid movie.
Having just seen a mermaid movie themselves the night prior.
They offered: that mermaid movies were the future of movies, and you needed to watch them make their movie because you’d seen movies and understand how they were supposed to look.
“Watch,” they kept telling you. “Watch us.”
Their beach towels unfurled in separate corners of the basement.
Their big pillows taped with magazine covers like shark fins.
“Ten more minutes,” you’d told them. “Then it’s sleep.”
But the girls didn’t listen. Because no one ever listened; the shoe-worn carpet in the living room was proof of that. You would not un-often curse yourself for not having the big men that came in to refinish the fireplace remove their shoes before working. You’d asked them politely once or twice to remove their boots, and once or twice they had over the course of that week. But then they didn’t. They stopped. You didn’t ask again because you just wanted the men to go. So, there was a track, thinned like the path of well-used hiking trail. The worn nylon carpet proof like a boot against your throat, that you weren’t the kind of man that other men had interest in listening to.
The building was only a half mile away so you and the girls would walk over. It was one of your grand, splendid plans: to teach them something about civil service. About the love of thy neighbor. On the walk you’d ask the girls questions about their friends and their school and their futures. And before long the three of you would be in front of the brick building with the gray sign and the almost-yellow letters that read: Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
Because you understood the magic of an empty interstate: in the winter you’d take your breaks at Southland Oasis, a doughnut shop above the snowy highway. You would drink your coffee with Hari, whose chewed-up work pants made a funny sound as he talked about the president, about NATO forces and kill squads, and then bemoaned the immiseration of the middle class and explained that taxes–property and income–in other countries would be an act of war! A call to arms! The final treason of a failing democracy.
In truth, Hari had been your sponsor during the tough years. And he’d gotten you this job that wasn’t great but was still a job. And you had love for Hari, because even though he primarily only talked to you about his talk-radio insanities, that didn’t change the fact that the night you were in that parking garage off Lawrence, your kit fully loaded, your arm tied off and your main-vein purple and begging for some action, it was Hari you called. Hari. And it was Hari who came down and took you to the diner across from the post office. He told you the government was subsidizing the growth of Hormone imbalanced eggs. Which made you laugh right then so loud that you didn’t even notice he was crushing your kit with his boot under the table.
It was Hari who kept you laughing long enough to keep you alive.
“The end of Babylon,” Hari would say, a semitruck passing underfoot.
“Maybe,” you’d say. “Maybe…But, then what is it we’re doing…working at the toll booths?”
“Not work,” Hari would reply, thinking, blinking, gulping. “We’re in the first wave, buddy.”
When the rabbit first grew tall, the news cameras came. As did the government scientists with their walkie talkies, their calipers, their shiny tranquilizer guns with exacting red dots that glowed on top of their barrels. They did not shoot the rabbit, electing to instead bring in a crane and build the scaffolding right there in the middle of the lawn.
They shined floodlights in the rabbit’s eyes.
They shooed away chimney bats that had snuck in beneath the rabbit’s big ears.
They found and then brought in a stethoscope the size of a dinnerplate and listened to the thrum of his big rabbit heart.
Of course, some people came and prayed.
It only made sense that the rabbit must be God.
At the very least a godsend.
After a year or so, the rabbit no longer seemed to be a cool thing. At first, you liked that the rabbit struck fear in your wife–who’d slept with Jesse Fali, and who needed to be punished–but after a string of panic attacks for which you had to take her to the emergency room at Saint Joseph’s, you were past the retribution phase of her infidelity, now there was only the painful part; the part where maybe-it-was-a-little-bit-your-fault part.
The meaty part.
Everything about the 100-foot rabbit became quite a nuisance: the sight of the rabbit, the thought of the rabbit, the rabbit’s sneezes that rattled the wine glasses. Everything. All of it. You
were over it. He was now just some big dumb thing that kept the girls awake. And–and! Another thing you hadn’t anticipated was how the 100-foot rabbit had invited the hopeful: arriving with their prayer beads and wax candles bearing the image of Saint Guadalupe. You hated how crowded the block had become, all with people all waiting for the rabbit to do something. To reveal some 100-foot rabbit revelation: a mass healing, or a mass punishment. With their wheelchairs leaving tracks across your lawn. And your garbage bin already full of used medical supplies––evidence that the sick that had begun squatting in your alleyway, your bushes––as you struggled to find a resting spot for your empty milk jug amongst the overfilled colostomy bags, needle plungers, and adult diapers side-spun into neat bushels. Up against a single trash bin you saw a prosthetic leg with the sock and sneaker still on the foot. There were faded stickers lining the thigh of the leg, mostly of breweries and alehouses from a town outside of Dallas. Whoever’s leg it was had come a long way; a long to see a rabbit. It went on this way for many more months, almost a year.
But in the end the rabbit did nothing.
No healing. No, he only blinked.
Berkshire Hathaway bought the rabbit, okay.
And no one was allowed to touch or look or speak to the rabbit. There was a sign. Motion lights. Security cameras just in case the high school kids came by with their spray-paint.
Now, even though it’s forbidden to deviate from the planned route, when you and the girls volunteer to walk the blind, you will sometimes walk whatever student you are assigned to that day to the corner opposite the 100-foot rabbit. Young or old, you have the girls take them by the hand as you explain the rabbit’s eyes are black like river stones. Like whirlpools at midnight. And then you tell your student that the rabbit never really moves. You tell him he just stands like an uninterested goliath, the sun and wind and birds taking turns moving over him. You say, “You’re really not missing a single thing with this fucker. Not a thing.” You explain that all he does is just stand, pretty much still unless he’s sneezing, and that all the people that come to watch him do the same thing: they stand, pretty much still behind the wire fence that Berkshire Hathaway has installed and watch him. You offer the insight that, “Maybe the rabbit is more a statue… a totem. Maybe one day he’ll just kill us all.” And then you go on to explain to your student about your wife–and how you still, unfortunately, love her. And how she wakes up crying from the middle of her dreams and tells you that in the dream, which is actually more of a nightmare, that the rabbit has turned on her, on you, on the kind and simple denizens of your town.
Then you ask the blind student––while your daughters practice their somersaults on the lawn behind you––really, what kind of God would ultimately betray us? Not that you believe in God, but if there is one–what the heck? This is how he spends his time? Just asking the questions makes you wonder why you no longer get asked to play harmonica with Victor’s band at The Catbird on Fridays? Did you do something?
Did you bother someone? You tell your student, “Shot glasses had been broken at The Catbird. Pool cues had been spun and snapped and guitar players’ girlfriends had stormed out raging and tearful. It was The Catbird. A rock-n-roll club, man. Antics were part of the job description!”
Your student holds his hands over his eyes and lets out a huffing noise.
You continue: “Really, what had I done?”
“I don’t know man,” says your student. “I wasn’t there.”
“Am I that truly unlovable to this big fucking world?”
You both stand in silence, the sun beating down on your bare necks.
High above the shambling oak trees, the rabbit looms like some wonderous bug from a prehistoric or alien world. He blinks and you can see a quiver between his eyes like the way the daughter you know best sometimes quivers between her eyes before she starts crying. Behind the rabbit there are still no clouds, but two gentle contrails where the Air Force pilots had been just a few minutes before. Your student sighs once more. Once more. Then Your daughters yell, “Look at these,” And then tumble forward into a small clearing, laying on their backs as their dizziness subsides.
“Maybe the rabbit is here for blood,” says your student, wiping sweat from his chin. “To dwell is so pointless. But now I’m hot and I’m tired, man. I just want to get back. Walk me half-way, okay man? I’ll go the rest of the way on my own.”
Sam Berman is a short story writer who lives in Chicago and works at Lake Front Medical with Nancy & Andrew & Reuben. They are terrific coworkers. He has had his work published in Maudlin House, The Masters Review, D.F.L. Lit, Hobart, Illuminations, The Fourth River, Smokelong Quarterly, and recently won Forever Magazine’s Unconventional Love Stories competition. He was selected as runner-up in The Kenyon Review’s 2022 Non-Fiction Competition as well as short listed for the 2022 Halifax Ranch prize and the ILS Fiction Prize. He has forthcoming work in Expat Press, Craft Magazine and Rejection Letters, among others.