My brother, Kalfi, was in the hospital recuperating from his latest descent into the Black Hole, a.k.a. depression, and with our father dead and our mother gone, I was alone in the house for the first extended period in my sixteen years. It was a windy night, and the copper weather vane in the shape of a whale was clanging on the rooftop, and the house was creaking like an old wooden ship, which was in fact what it had been originally designed to resemble. I was alone and felt lost, so I wandered up and down the stairs from room to room aimlessly hoping for something to take my mind off missing Kalfi. There was a knock on the door, and a man in denim overalls was holding a large dead rabbit by the ears.
“Figgered I’d give yer dad a lil’ somethin’,” he said and lowered the animal to the front porch. I didn’t bother to tell him that my father had been dead for months, or that our father was a strict vegetarian when he was alive.
“Thank you kindly,” I said, picking up the dead rabbit as he had held it, by the ears.
“Yer wanna me cut off the head?” he asked. Without waiting for my reply, he produced a large serrated hunting knife from a leather holster under his arm, and sliced off the lifeless head with one clean motion. The body fell to the porch, and he grabbed the head from my hand and deposited it into his coat pocket, still bleeding. “Most folks dun like the brains.” It was then that I recognized him, Darri Hudolfsson, Doug Darrisson’s father, the closest thing we had to a town drunk, but he was a nice guy.
“Say hi to Doug,” I yelled out into the snowstorm, and he waved a bloody glove as he walked away.
Pontius Pilot the Peacock yelled, “Help! Help!” into the night, and I for once agreed with him. I was also a vegetarian and had no idea what to do with a dead headless rabbit. Our grandmother had always taken care of such matters, before she died.
One thing Taft had taught me in Buddha Academy, as my brother and I called our meditation class, is that one should not refuse a gift of food, no matter what it is. In fact, the Buddha had once eaten the fingers of a leper that had fallen into his bowl of rice. Compared that that, this headless rabbit didn’t seem like much to bear.
Our mother had once met Julia Child on a transatlantic cruise, and we had an old autographed copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking in the kitchen, even though vegetarians couldn’t eat most of the dishes described: “Bonjour et bon appetit! JC”. The only thing our mother could “cook” was a Tanqueray martini.
I don’t now remember whether I couldn’t find a rabbit recipe, or whether I didn’t like the sound of the ones I found, but I decided instead to follow the instructions for boeuf Bourguignon replacing the beef with rabbit. I had no idea how to skin and clean an animal, and it was a complete mess by the time it made it into the pot. My grandmother’s white apron was stained crimson brown, and the kitchen counter was sticky with little pools of half-dried blood. I was a pretty good cook, even as a teenager, and it was delicious. But I threw it up a few minutes after dinner, over and over. I felt bad for the rabbit, who had died in vain and ended up in a stream of vomit on the dining room floor. I did manage to eat the liver and keep it down later, spread over some toasted baguette, and it was not too bad. It was the first time I had ever eaten an animal, unless you count eggs. I felt disgusted with myself.
It was late at night, but after cleaning up my vomit, I sparked up the little yellow Beetle and drove it down to the hospital where Kalfi was held. I couldn’t bear being away from him. I fell asleep on the sofa in the waiting room nearest his room, and he woke me up the next morning.
“Hey Prince Tarfi!” he said, waving me through the lobby as if nothing were amiss.
“Hey,” I said. “So you’re out.” I followed him out to the little yellow Beetle and drove him home as we played 20 Questions.
“Can you make me an apple pie? I’m in the mood for apple pie. With cheddar cheese,” he said.
“I will make you whatever you want,” I said. “Whatever you want.”