Rabbit Mother

Rabbit Mother

A Chapter by TLK

The corridor was cold because it had been dug into the earth. The corridor was dark because the only light came from the front room. The corridor was silent because he was holding his breath.

The boy rubbed his hands together, and thought about the business of normal life. He often eavesdropped on such details. It sounded so fantastical that people could be so interested in each other. He wondered. He wondered whether such companionship even existed. Maybe behind all the smiles, and all the curtains closed tightly to keep the cold out and herd the warmth in, maybe it was always like this. For everybody.

His thoughts occupied him. Helped him to leave it to the last minute. The more closely he timed his exit the less that Mother could say to him. His hands, nervous, rubbed each other. His mind, dull, counted motes of darkness.

Propelled by an animal's sense of time, felt through the nose and the paws, he started. The magi-cicada, waiting for seventeen years, then unburying itself for summer. Although he moved swiftly and low to the ground, he was still caught in the light from the room, pinned to the wall. This was its use: scrutiny.

"Going to school?" she asked, alert in her green armchair, less than an arm's length from the doorway. High-backed, throne-like, the arms existing merely to push up the shoulders in condemnation. To be sat in purely to be uncomfortable and demanding.

He did not turn his head to look, he did not need to. Every morning he heard her scrape the chair across the floor. She would always be there.

"You know what will happen if you disappoint me." And, he knew, by her side was the stuffed toy. The Rabbit Mother looked on, disapproving.

And the boy knew the price of earning disapproval.

 

 

The door pushed him out into a world too bright, with streets too big, and other people too noisy. He sometimes longed for the emptiness of his bedroom. At least there he could be left with his own thoughts which -- no matter how terrifying -- never actually threatened him. They were just the echoes of past threats.

Outside, where the sun spread itself freely, he could be appraised more fully. He was delicately balanced on the cusp of thinness and hunger, to the point where concerned adults would want to make sure that he ate. And eat he would, with no particular enjoyment but still without refusal. So they would stop worrying about it.

He was also perched on the edge of that gawky agelessness that precedes the true onset of puberty. Was he growing? Was he changing? There was something imperceptible, something like a green shoot that was just about to pop from the earth.

 

 

Each step to school was the echo of the last, stretching back forever.

 

 

He arrived with a single simple wish. It was: "Let me have my usual teacher." This was what carried him through the glass doors of the school, into the wooden clatter of coat pegs and pink anonymity of other students’ faces.

Usual was good. Usual meant the impenetrability of open secrets. Everyone who had known him for long enough unconsciously became used to him. His clothes, big so that he could grow into them. His weak smile, barely perceivable at the top of his slight but gangly body.

His silences.

At first, he would stand out. So, he relied on the repetition of his inertness to hide him. To achieve this, he made sure that any problems that involved him would disappear before an adult noticed. He would methodically efface them, buff them out: slipping into the toilets to wipe away the blood, sewing his own buttons back on, replacing his stolen pencil case through shoplifting.

The corridor was an artery, squeezing its lifeblood along. His feet were not moving by themselves while Mrs King loomed large in his simple wish. Kindly looking down upon her charges, she would spare special worry for him. But -- beautifully!, quietly! -- she had stopped asking him questions, stopped talking to other adults, stopped pestering and cajoling and calling Mother to ask questions. She had become fat and stupid with pregnancy and worried more and more each day about her own baby. How he loved her swollenness and her waddling. How he loved the dreamy moments she spent looking out of the window. How he loved---

There was something here that was not the same. Where there should have been a woman eager to sit down in worksheet-filling silence, there was a man reveling in the noise.

The door -- creaking on its hinges -- was dependable, the same. The students, too, they were the same: some sitting and staring at those still standing, those standing clowning for those still sitting. And the windows were the same blank eyes that they always were, gazing out at the barrenness of tarmac which he himself called a playground without ever having played there.

 

This new man introduced himself as the boy carefully chose his place. Not too far back -- that was asking to be noticed. Not at the front -- you would be expected to take part in learning. Three rows back, on the side away from the windows. It was a blind spot. And as the new man gave his name and required theirs for the register, the boy let his fear come out as hate. It spooled downwards into the deep pit of his stomach to sound out the echoes below. He hated Mrs. King for being stupid and fat and pregnant. His hate had all the roundness of a hollow bell. He rang with it, he sang with it, this small sallow boy lived this hate for a brief bright moment.

Automatically, he responded to his name. He composed himself. He brought himself back to the task in hand.

 

The lesson ended, which meant little to the boy except that another would begin shortly.

"Robert," said the new teacher, asking a question without using the inflection of a question mark.

The boy looked up at him with all the easy brightness he could muster. Not too stupid to be remedial, not too keen to be pushed. Dim memories of a fairy tale -- the porridge just right.

The new teacher drew him aside, using his own adult body as a screen for privacy. The other students filed out without even noticing. Now all that looked on was the Rabbit Mother, sniffing for signs of weakness and treachery.

The boy had enough cunning to quickly check the whiteboard, to re-learn the new teacher's name. He imagined saying it in a friendly, informal way. Then in a concerned, collaborative way: Mr. Bisp, I didn’t mean to worry you. I am truly sorry. It was always good to look eager, to look normal, to refuse any hint of recalcitrance. But he decided to drop the ‘truly’, it seemed dishonest.

"Robert," the teacher repeated, his young lips looking plump and impish even with the weight of solemnity upon them. "What do you think Mrs. King told me about you?"

The boy studied the adult's face carefully. It was not worn through like a threadbare carpet, it did not give off all the usual signs of a tireless meddler. Yet it was still the face of someone in authority who would be obliged to interfere.

"I'm not very good at making friends," the boy said. Then he looked down as if he was ashamed.

"Yes, Robert. Mrs. King talked to you about this before, didn't she? She is still worried that you are too quiet and too isolated."

The teacher paused, perhaps expecting the boy to need that last word defined. Instead he replied: "I don't mind being on my own." And then he smiled, or at least acted one.

"Well, sometimes it's good for us to have time to ourselves. But, equally, it's good for us to be with other people. Who do you have in your life?"

The boy tested at the edge between truth and lie with all the care of a tongue-tip feeling out a wobbling tooth. "I spend a lot of time with my Mother. She needs looking after. She's not able to work and I'm the only person she has."

He gauged the welling of alarm in the teacher's eyes.

"Yes, but, as well as me, she has a sister that comes over from Australia twice a year. And I play with my cousins." The boy's face was ready to burst with all the invented details that he could supply to make this facts seem as mundane as possible. He could have babbled on about this for hours, extemporising and improvising, adding names and addresses and pictures from postcards. But his tongue was sly and silent and held it all back. It knew that lies are to be added to carefully, or not at all.

The teacher blinked heavily, suddenly tired. "I'm not trying to say that you have nobody. But, day-to-day, you see your mum, and you come to school. I'm sure you and your mum have an excellent relationship, but you don't have a meaningful relationship with anybody here. That's a worry."

Then the teacher reached out with his sausage fingers and held the boy's shoulder. There was moistness on his hand. Steam pricked at the boy's skin. He fought the urge to squirm from it and run, shouting; run, freely.

A hand on his shoulder and the clumsy imposition of personal interest. This should be the end of it, for now: this is what the boy wished more dearly than anything. All of him focused on wanting this one thing, as if the universe could be bent into a new shape with the power of thought; a protective bubble forged around him by the mental imposition of absolute stillness. But the boy understood that the hand on his shoulder meant something.

Here it came, a message humming along the newly-established telephone line: "I'm going to be frank, Robert. Mrs. King was worried that you were being bullied, but you were too proud to tell anybody. I'm not going to take charge of this class during her health problems and maternity leave and let this continue until she returns. We both owe it to her to sort this out now."

Please just let this solution be more talking, thought the boy, endless talking between you and me that will lead to nodding and agreeing and nothing happening.

"So I'm going to call home later tonight and talk to your mother and make sure that we all work together to make you feel supported."

The bubble burst. His thoughts scattered. They were empty shadows that had no effect on the world.

 

 

The walk home was the same as ever. Yet, this time, his feet were more reluctant than usual.

 

 

Shivering with the desire to meditate on his problem, he barely remembered to unlock, open, and close the porch and front doors with a quiet efficiency. He looked in, briefly, and yes: she was drowsing in front of the gas fire, spread out on the floor. The stuffed toy rabbit glared from the green chair. The Rabbit Mother never sleeps, he thought.

Foregoing dinner, he crept upstairs. He wanted to rescue some semblance of enjoyment from the day, he craved entertainment. So, in the darkness of his almost empty room, he pressed his thumbs against his eyes as lightly as he could. Sometimes he did this just by squeezing his eyes shut, to judge the minute differences in pressure.

Colours and shapes popped out. He had something to look at. He could almost see other worlds dancing in front of him, other possibilities---

The boy remembered the time that Mother had been ill and had needed him to help to carry the shopping. He had breathed the air of another life and seen the sights of other people. Stopping in front of a display of television he stared, open-mouthed, dumb-founded. She pulled at him and whispered tersely -- unwilling to draw attention by shouting -- and this was the magical moment that he tried to relive.

 

On his own.

In the dark.

 

She had said to him: Child. You know what the Rabbit Mother will think.

 

His name was called, and it was her voice, and what woke him up was not so much the noise but the fact that her voice was saying it.

"Robert?" called Mother, again, and he groggily responded. He found his way downstairs, still in his clothes and his shoes. On the way, there was a brief imagined scene -- the teacher asking about 'Robert', Mother taking a long moment to connect that name with a face.

The boy reached the foot of the stairs. He saw that they were both exactly where he had cast them -- standing awkwardly between the front door and the living room, caught in the corridor. The teacher wanting to push past and sit down, Mother pinned down and unwilling to give ground.

The boy wavered at her side and broke the stalemate. Wordlessly, she pulled him into the living room and sat him on the sofa, firmly pushed to the back. Even his long legs left feet dangling above the floor. She sat next to him, covering his many sins with her own righteousness, pulled forward to anticipate rapt attention. The stuffed rabbit was on her lap.

He enjoyed the feeling of sitting down on the cushions, of sinking into them; still too sleepy to worry about this meeting.

"Please, Mr. Bisp, take the chair."

The teacher regarded the chair with some skepticism. It had been dragged from its sentry station at the door way to the corner of the room. It looked impotent there. Blind.

"So, Mr. Bisp, what is the problem?"

Mr. Bisp sat. His arms would not drape easily over those of the chair, so he had to meekly lay them in his lap. He looked at her, sized her up. Then he started to speak.

"I'm sorry to be the person telling you this, since I've only just met Robert today." His eyes focused behind her body, at where the boy was sitting tight against the cushions, as if this still gave him an immense knowledge. "But your son is extremely lonely in school. He has made no friends, and there are strong suggestions that he is being bullied and not asking for help. This means he is underachieving in his school work."

Mother clutched the toy rabbit. It was turned slightly towards the boy, shining eyes appraising him.

Sometimes she moved her hand to squeeze his leg. The teacher couldn't see her hand, as it was hidden by her body, leaning forward in interest. The teacher couldn't see the knuckles turn white as she squeezed.

 

 

 

 

"You have disappointed me, child. I do not need you, remember. I do not have to share my food with you." She banged and clattered a sink full of empty and unwashed pans. She splashed their filth on the floor. She kicked out at a sack of potatoes and some fell, tumbling and rolling, rotten with sprouting. They smelled musty, they smelled of the earth. She reached into a drawer and jumbled the unsorted implements.

 

He smelled the earth, again, the ripeness of fertility. It brought him back. Back to the first memories, back to the beginning of life. The boy remembered the time that there had been a rabbit in the hutch. He looked through the kitchen window, where he could see the hutch now; see it from the present -- as empty and useless as anything else to do with this house. The rabbit was the Rabbit Mother. It was eating something. Something pink and fleshy and hairless. Mother, crouching next to him, held him close, forced him to watch. Threatened his face with her long fingernails.

"Do you know why the Rabbit Mother is eating her child?" She waited a moment, as if he was able to answer in the depths of his terror. "It is because the child has disappointed her. It is because she does not need it. It is because she does not want to share her food."

She said this over and over, well into the twilight. His head was tight against her body and his knees screamed with the squatting. Her whispers only barely carried over the scratchings made by the paper as the rabbit Mother moved. He found it difficult to breathe around the rough grasp she had on his chin. He did not cry. The rabbit Mother was cleaning herself, now, cleaning the blood from her paws. It didn't matter how dark it became, he could still see it.

He did not cry because it had never helped before, and he was fast at learning about futility.

 

The boy clenched his fists. He smelled the earth and knew that he was living in the burrow still. But every school day he left it, and made his own way, and fought his own battles. He realised that he was too old, now; too old for his mother to stroke his face as she clutched it. Tall enough, now, that his eyes were misaligned with hers. He saw the wrinkles on her brow. He saw that there was a future reflected there, on that cracked white screen.

 

She bore down upon him with a knife, but her steps were skittish. One stockinged foot slid in the remnants of some ancient meal. He was too confident of her own fear in the face of murder to imagine she would use it. She bore down on him with her mouth, but he was confident that she found him too disgusting -- pallid, slug-like, traitorous -- to eat his flesh.

 

The boy clenched his fists. He felt his heart burst with the joy of fighting.


Not to run any more. This was his simple wish.




© 2013 TLK



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Featured Review

First off thank you for making the font size big enough for these old eyes to see.

In the beginning I thought it was a story about the trials and tribulations of a kid being bullied in school. My interest started to wane, but it was so well written that it kept my interest to see where you were going. When the mother, (I hate her by the way), came into play, things got interesting. I will admit to getting a little lost with the flashbacks or flash forwards, I don't remember. It may have more to do with my attention span than anything else. I think you can pull this into a Steven King length novel. A serial killer is born.

I like the repeated use of "the boy". It seems more sinister. We know his name is Robert.

Forgive me but I don't understand the brevity through spare writing theme.

Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

TLK

4 Years Ago

Thank you! I'm always surprised that people can read through this on the scree.
This comment has been deleted by the poster.
Clayton Bardwell

4 Years Ago

I am slowly acquiring an ability, however I would rather take it down off the shelf and hold it in m.. read more



Reviews

This is such an interesting piece of writing, and I think it's very individual. Love the concept, the detail and the description that has gone into this. Really nice :)

Posted 4 Years Ago


Interesting how we associate rabbits with terror...they seem such timid creatures far from "Fiver" in Richard Adams' Watership Down. My personal feeling is that there are a good many places which need to be tightened in the story and an edit might help sort those out. The thing about great writing is learning to pack as much into the sentences as one can while avoiding redundancy and pedantry. The writing here is plain enough and the metaphor well presented but phrases like "the ripeness of fertility" do seem redundant...it's like Ronald Reagan saying, "What would America be without this great land of ours?" I think it has potential as a great story. You've nailed the idea down. Now do as Thoreau suggested and, "Simplify, simplify."

Posted 4 Years Ago


This was...wow...what a read! This will probably sound so strange but it had elements of Natural Born Killers and American Beauty. I think the best stories are those that manage to take the reader away, some place else, to a place where they are no longer thinking about the ironing! This took me away. The boy clenched his fists and his heart burst with the joy of fighting...I can only wish that my writing will carry that sort of loaded depth. It was a torturous and painful read but in a good way. A really good way!

Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

TLK

4 Years Ago

Heh: I'm glad I tortured and pained you. (That doesn't sound as friendly as I hoped).
I like this story. It's very emotional.
And don't identify the boy's name, the intensity of the story is heightened by this mystery. I like the way the story flows and the way that the words capture the reader's attention though they are not sophisticated and complex.
I usually don't read stories in Writerscafe but yours is an exception
Good work :)

Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

I really love this story. There were so many moments which I thought were truly brilliant. Your ability to capture physical movements as a manifestation of internal struggles is wonderful. The gut-wrenching tension you create is genius.

Don't identify the boy, you've already created a solid picture of him.

Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

TLK

4 Years Ago

Thank you for letting your guts be wrenched by my tension. I appreciate it.
The first paragraph doesn't really flow very well. I would rewrite them. But the rest of the story is beautifully written!

Posted 4 Years Ago


TLK

4 Years Ago

Thank you for your honest review -- I plan to rewrite this (but when?!) and I will definitely alter .. read more
Lily Marie Tate

4 Years Ago

Haha yeah I read through the other reviews after I submitted my review.
I do not usually read many stories on the WC, but you had me riveted from the beginning. Wanting to absorb more, I went back for a second read. Feeling an ease in the flow, even with the heartrending "whispered messages" along the way. You have woven a poignant story with characters using brilliant metaphors. Thoroughly enjoyed this. Thank you for sharing!

Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

TLK

4 Years Ago

Thank you for taking your time to read it twice. I can barely believe that my words are compelling e.. read more
*** Hey Jude***

4 Years Ago

A pleasure, and more than compelling! Genuine, and felt from the heart ~ :-)
flash

4 Years Ago

The first paragraph could be a little sharper. You assume your audience for the rest of the piece, p.. read more
I've taken my time to go through this and at the end of that I find it evocative, strong and ultimately achieving your aim of a drip drip drip horror. Beautifully written in a sytle and language that suits it precisely.

Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

TLK

4 Years Ago

Thank you hugely for taking your time, Ken -- I plan to do the same with your work (which has been r.. read more
TLK

4 Years Ago

recommended, even.
Taut. Suspenseful. Visual language---a master craftsman at work on a short canvas. Every detail important and style fresh and vivid. Stimulating read!

Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

TLK

4 Years Ago

Heh, you're too kind!

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Shelved in 3 Libraries
Added on September 23, 2012
Last Updated on May 4, 2013
Tags: burrow, unburying, emergence


Author

TLK
TLK

Birmingham, West Midlands, United Kingdom



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