Saturday, May 9, 2020

Burying the Rabbit (Pressler)

I had to bury a rabbit in the back yard this afternoon. Some time last night or this morning it had crawled into my shed to die. It looked pretty chewed up. I don't know what had killed it; perhaps it was a dog or a coyote/coywolf (we have those, in this small town in rural Florida), or perhaps it was hit by a car in the back alley, or someone hit it with a lawn mower. It was too big for a cat to have taken it down, and a hawk or eagle (we have those too) would have taken it back to its nest.

I felt relieved in a way to have to do this. It was something I knew how to do. We humans have known how to do this stuff since the Upper Paleolithic, though the procedures have changed a little over the years. I put a mask on, and my rubber gloves, made sure my eyes, hair, and body were covered. (There's more than one reason for those procedures, as you can see.) So I got out my garden spade and my transfer shovel (way more handy than those old stone handaxes used to be) and dug a hole for the rabbit near the back fence. 

I won't say the rabbit went six feet under but the hole was deep enough. I was afraid the body might disintegrate when I slid the transfer shovel under it, but it held together. I could see what old hunters would have called its "umbles" through the big rips on its flanks. Its head nodded loosely; whatever killed it had got at its throat. The bluebottles swarmed off it, buzzing, annoyed they'd been robbed of their food. There were plenty of them.

I let the rabbit down into the hole and covered it with earth, sent it to its long rest. I poured outdoor bleach, full strength, over the place it had lain in the shed. (Thank you, nineteenth-century German chemistry.) The stray cats stalked about, annoyed that the bluebottles were settling on their food, and annoyed that the food had been moved to a different place. (It's usually in the shed.) The stray cats in my neighborhood do pretty well for themselves, as you can see; I'm not the only soft heart who feeds them. 

I came back in, took a shower, got dressed again, and now I'm about to settle down to work. Burying the rabbit has somehow restored my effectiveness. There was a task to be done, an unpleasant one, to be sure, but necessary. I knew how to do it, and I did it. I am standing on the earth again, and the shovels have been put away, clean.

Charlotte Pressler is originally from Cleveland. She is Honors Director at South Florida State College, and teaches English and philosophy. She will retire at the end of July, 2020. Asked what her plans for retirement were, she had to reply that she no longer had plans, just hopes.

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