Reader Warning: Some violent content
The rabbit was screaming. Bloodied pieces of it and tufts of fur were floating over the snow like scrim on water. I was coming from the market and ran to the back of the house where I saw my son hunched over the ground near the shed, and saw the blood on the snow that made a path to him.
“What are you doing?” I cried.
He jerked up, eyes wide in surprise at being caught. Annoyance flashed there too, and something else, something like hunger.
The rabbit continued to scream, and my heart sank as I ran forward. “What have you done? Get away from there.” The little body had been mutilated and I swallowed hard to keep the bile from rising in my gut. My son rose to stand beside me, his hands bloodied, a knife clutched in one. I took it from him, then knelt down, fighting my revulsion, and clutched the sticky and blood matted fur to quickly snap the little animal’s neck.
I set the broken thing down and rose again. My son was panting and had an erection bulging in his pants. I slapped him, leaving a smear of blood on his cheek, then hit him again, harder. “Why would you do such a thing?” I hit him again, striking his soft, fleshy face, my hand stinging with the effort, fear and disgust driving me. “Why? Answer me!”
He cringed away. “It’s just a rabbit!”
“That rabbit was to be our food!” I hit him again, fist closed and beating against his shoulders now as he hunched away from me, his arousal mercifully deflating. “That is not how we treat animals! We kill them for food, not for… not for some… pleasure! What is the matter with you?”
“I don’t know! Nothing! It’s just a rabbit, Mother! You’re hurting me!”
I became aware, suddenly, of his knife gripped in my other hand and some of the rage went out of me, replaced by a sense of guilt and fear at what I might have done if I’d raised my other hand. “Have you done this before?”
He shook his head, whimpering.
“Why? Tell me, why did you do this? What put this in your head?”
“I don’t know,” he shrugged pathetically, his eyes watering.
“Don’t ever do this again. Ever. Do you hear me?” I grabbed his hair and pulled his head to look at me. Staring into his tearful blue eyes I saw the same contempt that had grown so familiar, and a lingering excitement from his activities. I shoved him away from me. He stumbled and fell on his backside at my feet. What had happened to my beautiful, perfect child? “Bury it,” I said.
He continued to lay where he fell, looking up at me.
He mumbled something in a low voice, half whining, and pulled himself to his feet. He went into the shed for the shovel, then grabbed the rabbit roughly by a foot as he passed by again. I heard something tear, and felt nausea rise up in me again. I followed him as he carried shovel and body back toward the treeline. “You don’t have to come with me,” he complained.
“Shut up and do as you’re told,” I said, and felt again the weight of the little knife, knobs on the antler handle digging painfully into my hand from clenching it so hard.
I watched him dig, made him dig deeper when he would stop. I made him dig something much larger than necessary, until the exertion had tired him and I saw the sweat rise on his brow. Then he dropped the corpse into the dirt and began back filling the hole. I wondered if he would pull it up again, and so I stayed until the job was done. Then we returned to the shed, and I went into the house and washed the blood from my hands.
“Can I have my knife?” he asked, coming behind me as I sat at my loom.
“No. Get out of this house.”
“Mother,” his tone was of exasperation and protest.
“Not another word,” I warned him. “Get out of this house.”
He made a sound of frustration, and hit a chair, knocking it over on his way back to the door. “So unfair!” I heard him complain as he passed through the threshold.
I sat at my spinning wheel, but I did no work. My hands trembled. My whole body shook. I felt utter revulsion, and then only numb.
When my children’s father returned, I told him what had become of the rabbit. He waited outside, and when my son returned at last, my girl and I listened to his howls as his father beat him. He came in wailing, and his father after him, looking severe.
“Straight to bed,” he ordered, and my son obeyed, and eventually his sobbing quieted.
My girl was pale, and we were all silent through our meal.