Toward the End Zone,
Rabbit Head in Hand

Randall Brown

Ever since his mother decided to fuck the next-door neighbor, he hasn’t seen much of his father. Until now. An offer has been made, a rabbit and pheasant hunt.

He stands alone at the end of the cornfield, eyes to the sky, wondering how he will know the difference between the ring-necked male and the hen, waiting for his father to emerge through the corn. He places imaginary bets on the row he will materialize out of.

He points the gun at the crows, blackbirds, wren flying by. Pow! Pow! Or is it bang, bang?

He hears the crack of the corn stalks, sees them fall down a football field away. There used to be a time, his father told him, when dozens of pheasant flew out the sides, down the rows. Could hear them running ahead. They’re mostly dead now.

He hears a rustle at his feet, looks down, a rabbit—near-frozen, as if dropped by a kid running through the fields to a farmhouse somewhere beyond the trees.

They’re both caught, he and the rabbit—the rabbit’s paws stuck to the ground; his finger on the trigger. The pink nose of the rabbit, the only thing that moves.

Now his finger moves. The recoil lifts the barrel up, and the head of the rabbit blows away. The body crumples, legs kick for a few seconds. He lowers the gun.

He looks past the corpse of the rabbit to the corner of the field, to his father.

“My God,” his father says. He walks up to him, his trembling son. “Oh, son. I’m so sorry.” His father has wet eyes. “What have I done?” his father asks.

That question hangs there in the car ride home. All through his childhood, that is what they will ask, whenever they see him, even later, when he is grown: “What have we done to him?” Fucked him up. Abandoned him. How much they would give to have had this other son.

Never again does his father take him hunting. In his dreams the headless rabbit bounds after him, chases him through rows and rows of the corn. He runs, the head tucked under his arm, to some imaginary goal line, some place where he stops running and the emptiness of the field is replaced by cheers, echoing even into the waking hours.

He wakes from such dreams gripping his pillow. It’s dark. His mother isn’t home and his father isn’t there and his legs move, running still, toward that place he might have reached, if only.

“Fate is the power of the world to make you into what it wants; it exerts its force through parents, genetics, setting, chance, and the like. I like to think of my life as a battle to become something other than what the world has—and continues to—force upon me. I think this story has something to do with that. Or it’s about a rabbit doll that freaked me out as a kid.”

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