by Donna Faulkner née Miller
A squeal pierces the peace at 3am. Somewhere in the house a baby’s cry. Startled, we tumble from our slumber. We have no babies here.
Instinctively we seek out the squeal. Surging adrenaline motivates our dormant limbs, already reluctant to cooperate. My little toe catches the wardrobe corner as I shuffle blindly in the dark.
Boisterous dogs are wide awake. Racing claws abruptly halt, scorching through old carpet. Two tails wagging erect, their noses down sweeping in circles. Teamwork. The cat disturbed marauding now on the room’s perimeter.
Our eyes adjust. At the epicentre of the chaos, a baby rabbit. Sodden fur exaggerates it’s fragile frame.
The cat is noisy, resigned but visibly agitated. She’s lost her rabbit now. Either to the dog’s jaws or to our best intentions. Stalked with one eye then lugged inside a window by a mouth of broken teeth. Her prized prey is a hunting toil wasted.
The rabbit frantically seeks refuge, dashing for a tight spot behind the old fire sitting idle.
A flurry of action. The lounge is quickly secured. Noisy dogs barking from behind our bedroom door. The cat out of sight vocalising its disapproval and the rabbit behind the fireplace just beyond our reach.
The 4am conversation between two middle aged adults. Husband and wife
semi naked and still half asleep.
“I was standing here, did it go past you ?”
“I didn’t see it go past me.”
( A pause, a yawn )
“It must still be behind there.”
We stare at the fireplace waiting for inspiration, while our minds navigate the stupor of our sudden rush to wake.
His fists bangs the fireplace, soot dusting our sleepy faces. Once, twice, a third bang. The dogs bark louder, their claws scratching frantically at that bedroom door.
The rabbit stays hidden.
His arm reaches behind the fireplace. The arm stretches, bending fingers flex feeling blind for damp fur hiding behind cold metal. He grabs at the rabbit. She squirms. He grabs it again, a firmer grip and passes her to me. She sits calmly in my arms as I carry her back outside through the dark and drizzle.
I head toward the silhouette of the veteran tree flanking the gate. Barefooted I make my way to the back paddock. Navigating clumps of long grass, their soggy tentacles grappling my ankles.
I set her down, she sits absolutely still for a moment. Tentatively sniffing at the night air, unsure of her freedom. Then off she goes.
I watch her run, back home to her mum in the warren. I imagine that’s where baby rabbits go.
Her mum will probably scold her for being so careless and nearly getting herself killed, but relieved she’ll hug her baby tightly grateful that she made it home at all. Finally she will warn her to be far more careful next time. But precautions taken following a close call cannot always guarantee protection against the tenacity of a hunting cat. A slew of headless corpses littering our property are a brutal testament to our old cat’s predatory prowess. A missing eye and broken teeth unable to repress her feral nature.
I am grateful that such torture wasn’t that baby rabbits fate, she’s safe, for tonight at least.
He is already back in bed but not quite snoring. The dogs circle and settle. Sensing me, he lifts his arm and I snuggle into his chest. His eyes stay shut but he gasps a little when I warm my cold feet on his legs.
Donna Faulkner née Miller lives in Rangiora, New Zealand with her husband, two dogs, a one eyed cat and three children, teenagers al! A Sagittarius, you’ll likely find her riding a twisting road on the Harley with Mr Faulkner. Donna has had work published in fws: Journal of Literature & Art, Havik: The Las Positas College Journal of Arts and Literature, Tarot Poetry Journal, Songs of Eretz Poetry Review, Written Tales Magazine and Lemon Spouting Journal of Visual Art and Literature. Connect with Donna on Instagram @lady_lilith_poet