GCSPrank Is Here

For people who spend the day saying and writing things that others accept, while thinking things that are infinitely more interesting.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Animal Moment #1

Spring Break, 1981. I decided to skip trips to anyplace interesting and stayed in my dorm to read, play wargames and watch TV. If I bottled that stuff it would outsell Valium 4-to-1.

It was the week when the sun first went long, when night didn't leap on your head 90 minutes before a decent dinner hour. I wanted to stretch my legs and buy some apple juice at Mr. Quik. The sun had set and I moved across a very quiet campus, thinking deep thoughts, or at least pretending to.

For years I've been startling people by walking up to them and standing at their side before they notice me. Scares the crap out of my mom. I guess I lack the "presence" needed to register on people's radar, aura or whatever pseudosense it is that notices another human being close by. Alternate theories: (A) I am not human. (B) I walk very quietly. Okay, B.

Between the Cafeteria and Infirmary was a block-long promenade of grass lined by trees along both sides. It separated two large parking lots and bordered the main back street of the campus. As I walked into it, I saw a bulky shadow on the ground ahead. I slowed my pace and peered closely. It was a rabbit, a fairly large one, eating something leafy. Its head was pointed away from me, so I walked softly towards it, expecting it to bolt at any moment.

Three steps, four, six, eight... I was less than ten feet from the deer-brown rabbit, still eating quietly. Two steps, then a third and then one more. I was three feet from the rabbit. I watched it eat, nose and cheeks twitching madly. There was no other sound aside from my heartbeat.

I leaned forward and said "Boo." The rabbit bolted away from me in frantic bounding, burst from between the trees onto the back road and was crushed by a pickup truck. I saw it bounce twice and lie still.

Not ten seconds had passed since I'd said "Boo." In horror, I ran to the rabbit. It was breathing fast and shallow, eyes glazed, a foreleg twitching. The back legs were pointing towards me. The forelegs weren't.

I almost threw up. Before I could think, I was running back the way I came, running without control to the campus police station. Before I burst in, I stopped and surprised myself by wiping tears from my eyes and cheeks. I told the guards on duty there was an injured animal near the Infirmary. I raced out, back to the rabbit.

Three squad cars appeared. I didn't even think about a wisecrack. All I could do was stand at the edge of the promenade and stare at the rabbit, both of us struggling for breath. Five campus cops stepped out and surrounded the rabbit. The dialogue would have shredded a screen hack's soul:

"Looks like a rabbit."
"That's a rabbit."
"There are some rabbits around here."
"Looks hurt."
"It ain't running."
"Back's broke."
"And the legs, too."
"I don't see no blood."
"Blood's there on the tar."
"It's gonna die or we have to kill it."
"Gotta kill it."

They all looked at me. I looked back. "That's why I called you guys." I was relieved my voice didn't break. "I can't kill it with my cap."

The fattest guard nodded like I'd quoted Scripture. I'm fuzzy on the Old Testament so maybe I did. He pulled out his nightstick, a smooth baton over two feet long, hitched his belt and slacks underneath a basketball belly, stared at the rabbit for a few seconds, then whacked it hard atop the skull. I flinched at the meaty thunk.

Another stare, from all six of us. The rabbit was dead. Fat cop picked it up by the ears and said "You want it?" He wasn't talking to anybody in particular, but I noticed we all said no quite distinctly.

Like one unit, the five guards turned and got back in their vehicles, the rabbit dumped in the trunk of his killer's squad car.

Correction: his executioner's squad car. I was the killer. That's not melodrama or guilt-tripping, it's simply a fact. I didn't mean to do it, but I caused it.

I wondered for several weeks if I'd been a coward by asking the campus cops to do what I didn't have the nerve to do. I decided a coward would have run away and left the animal to suffer a lingering death. That's what I told myself. I pretended to believe it.


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