BY CARMEN ADAMUCCI
My father calls for us to come outside, hollering into the kitchen through the ripped and taped summer-screen on the storm door. We stand over his cupped palms, peeking past the fingernail grease, where a baby rabbit trembles, snared between his thumbs. I have never before seen an animal caught like this, nose wet, twitching, jaw quivering, spasm like. I remember hearing if you touch a baby rabbit the baby will die. Shunned by its mother. Refused the milk.
Alfie touches the rabbit with his little kid finger, grazing the back of its head, tugging an ear, making it squeak like a chew toy.
“What would you go and do that for?” my father says. “God's sake, you kids.”
“It's going to die anyway,” I say.
“What do you mean?” Alfie says.
“I mean it doesn't have a chance in hell now.”
"Hey,” my father says, “that mouth.”
Alfie hops up and down, groping the air one second, hands dangling limp another. For the first time I think he might actually be retarded.
“Dad, I can't see!”
“Easy there, Lenny.”
“Come on. Hurry before I get back on the tractor. And Alfie, pull his ear again you'll see how it feels. Okay?”
“It really is going to die,” I say. “The mother won't want it because it smells like humans. Probably starve or something.”
“What is it with you?” my father says. “Can't you just enjoy something plain for once?”
He puts the rabbit into his cap and holds the cap closed between his fingers and thumb. “You're one strange bird, I'll tell ya,” he says.
"It's true, though.”
“It is not and stop saying it.”
“Yeah,” Alfie says. “Why do you have to ruin everything?”
When I punch Alfie he buckles, shielding his stomach, crying in the histrionic wail reserved solely for children. And my father reaches for me, probably trying to pull my hair, dropping his cap so that the terrified rabbit gets loose on the concrete floor, crazed, zigzagging, running in circles and doubling back and bumping into walls and boots and plastic and metal toys.
“Look at this fucking thing go,” my father says.
We do, all three of us, we watch the rabbit skitter in its chaotic daze until finally it darts along the wall and disappears behind some tackle boxes and fishing rods.
“Now you can go get it.” My father nudges the small of my back, tries to pass me the cap.
“You made it fall.”
"I'll do it,” Alfie says.
Alfie straightens up and tiptoes to the corner, cap held before him, and he peers through the rods, half bent over, half still crying from when I punched him in the stomach. “There it is,” he says. “Something's wrong with it, though.”
“See what he's talking about,” my father says.
“Move,” I say. “Get out the way.”
When I kick the tackle boxes nothing happens. When I shake the rods nothing happens. We stand there like that, waiting for something to happen that never does. Alfie moves the tackle. I move the rods. The rabbit starts one leg kicking and a dead fly bounces above it because the corner is nothing but cobweb. We wait for the kicking to stop--and that takes forever.
“Now look,” my father says. “What a goddamn shame.”
Carmen Adamucci is a fiction writer from southern New Jersey, where his family has grown peaches for four generations. He teaches at Columbia University.