I’ve never gone rabbit hunting, but I imagine it would be much like dinner that night. I’d focus all my concentration on the ground beneath me, and make myself so silent that even the breeze forgets I’m there.
We get a bulletin on our front walk informing us that the inn next to Whitefield has purchased the empty field behind us, hoping to build more rooms. After he reads it, my father puts the paper down next to his coffee cup and looks at me. “Want to chase some more bunnies there, one last time, before they develop it?” he asks, his eyes widening.
I shake my head. “Sorry, Dad, but I’d rather just read tonight,” I say as I leave the kitchen. By morning, the bulletin is gone from the table, and we don’t speak of it again.
I’ve agreed to spend just a few days at Whitefield with my parents, in between my academic summer programs and my preparations for college applications. As we pull into the driveway, we look behind us at the field, now fully dug up and occupied by construction equipment. Any rabbits that had stayed there must surely be dead by this point.
After dinner, we go for a walk past the construction site, and Dad tells me about the time he stole a bulldozer from a local construction project while in high school. “I drove it all the way to the beach before getting caught. I guess I just wanted to build something of my own, something that no one else had thought to build.” Dad says he hadn’t wanted to tell me that story until after I finished high school. Hadn’t wanted to give me any ideas.
It wasn’t until I was lying alone in bed that night that I realized that bulldozers aren’t actually good for building anything new, only for tearing things down.
I’m home from college for winter break, and Dad asks me if I want to go to Whitefield for New Year’s Eve. “It will be a nice, quiet New Year’s,” he says, patting me softly on the back. “Just like old times.”
“I don’t think so,” I answer quickly, without any thought. “I’d rather just stay here, build a burrow, and hibernate until spring.”
By the time I graduate college, it’s been several years since I last visited Whitefield. I’m too old to go with my parents, but too broke to go by myself. I wonder if rabbits feel this way when they first leave their mothers’ burrows.
I’m standing in the cemetery beneath a sycamore tree, holding hands with my fiancée Marguerita, just days after our engagement. She’s introducing me to her beloved Nana, with whom she often went to the beach as a child. I shift my feet nervously in the dirt and finger the nip bottle of Nana’s beloved Johnny Walker Black in my pocket.
Marguerita asks for a few minutes alone, and I nod and squeeze her hand gently. I walk aimlessly around the cemetery as I wait. With one finger, I trace the names on several headstones and wonder how many of them have grandchildren who visit them with libations and tears.
As I walk behind one headstone, set slightly apart from the rest of the plot, I see a sole cottontail rabbit scamper off into the trees, its hiding spot now breached. I look at the path it makes through the uncut grass, and I think about chasing after it, seeing where it leads me. Instead, I finger the bottle in my pocket again and walk back to where Marguerita is still sitting, her lips moving imperceptibly with words she wishes she had said earlier.
We toast her Nana before driving away, and I forget to mention the rabbit. A few days later, we decide to go to Whitefield.
So many domestic rabbits have been abandoned in easternLong Islandthat there are now rescue groups devoted to saving them. People apparently think that because there are so many rabbits in the wild, their pets must want to run wild, too.
It’s early evening, and I see a rabbit sitting on the lawn just outside the condo, munching happily on the grass. I wonder if it’s an abandoned pet, if I should try to capture it, take it in and care for it. Then I look back at the condo, at Marguerita reclining on the chaise lounge on the patio, and I skip back, trailing bits of grass from my bare feet behind me, exhaling with relief that I’ll never have to know how surviving in the wild feels.
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