The Bunny Murder

I can clearly remember the moment I turned into a murderer.

I was eleven years old and the bunny was named Mouse, after her size. She was no more than a week old when we found her, with eyes yet to see the world. She fit in the palm of my hand.

We had the family dog, Taffy, to thank for our woodland pet. She would've eaten Mouse had we not intervened. I'd been walking Taffy in our backyard on a spring day too cold for the ten-plus minutes it took her to pee. Our backyard was a full apple orchard, complete with twenty trees and rotted fruit on the ground, and we wound our way through the branches and up around the garden. Taffy followed her nose at every root and fruit core, stopping to sniff two seconds while I pulled at her neck. It was when she stopped for about the fortieth time that I noticed her head in a hole with strange peeping sounds coming from its depths. I tried to pull her away and she came up with something small and furry and alive clinging to her jaws. I ran screaming back to the house and left Taffy to eat whatever she had just found.

When I came back to the scene with my dad in tow, we found Mouse's brothers and sisters had perished. Mouse was the only bunny left. Dad told us that since Taffy's scent was all over the nest, the mother would not come back for her babies.

My sister picked up Mouse with a mitten, cradling her like something out of the oven, to bring her inside. We set about to be substitute mothers. We kept her in a shoebox lined with an old dress-up boa, where she spent all hours asleep in the pink fluff.

After bringing her in from the cold, my sister and I hopped all around the house, flooded with excitement. We called Mom at work and asked her to bring home four packs of carrots. We were rescuing this bunny and we were going to raise her up all by ourselves. Soon she would follow us around like Wilbur from Charlotte's Web, like those dogs from Homeward Bound, thinking we were her mother.

All Mouse did was lay in her box and emit high-pitched squeals that made me want to cry. The poor baby could barely open her eyes. I dropped strands of milk into her mouth every ten minutes so she would get strong.

Meals with a baby bunny were a process. I remember sitting for countless hours in the kitchen with an eyedropper, trying to aim for her mouth while she squirmed. By the time I got a few drops into her stomach, the milk was cold and I'd have to reheat it all over again. I felt like I had a newborn. I had to test the temperature on my wrist and Mouse would tremble under my fingers.

I became a school celebrity after I brought Mouse to my elementary class on the premises of “real-life science.” No one had ever seen a bunny so small. My teacher let me keep her on the windowsill next to our plants in close reach of my desk. During a lesson, she squealed so loudly that I was asked to take her to the hallway.

After school one day, I went up to the guest bedroom to feed Mouse. I closed the door so the dog wouldn't get in and sat Mouse's box on the bed. She was a week old, sleeping on her tummy with the tiny sides of her body pulsing in and out with breath. When I took her in my hands, her eyes slit open a quarter inch, tiny bottomless dipping pools so dark the pupils were invisible. I liked to think she knew I was the one who fed her and cleaned the poop from her box, that she was grateful. This was a lot of work for a 5th grader.

I took the dropper and watched a white line of milk rise in the tube. Mouse was quiet and still, even though I always expected she was going to talk to me. I cupped her body and held her upright so I could better fit the tip of the dropper into her mouth. I could see her teeth as I stuck the tube in. I began feeding but soon noticed the milk was matted into her fur and clinging to her whiskers.

“Come on, Mouse,” I said. “Drink!”

I squirted more in, sure she was just extra hungry; she was squirming so much. The milk began to squeeze out her nostrils. I wiped her face, unsure if I should stop feeding her.

I held her in my hand for a long time after she stopped moving. The contents of the dropper were all over the floor, her fur completely drenched. She grew cold and that's when I realized I might have done something wrong.

I encountered death for the first time, there on the bed with my rabbit. I felt death sit very cold and small across my palms. I thought maybe starring at her would bring her back. I tried blowing air into her mouth like I'd seen on TV. I shook her, smoothed out her fur, stuck my finger in her mouth, but nothing I did worked. I decided I had failed her in the most important way possible and heaven no longer had a place for me. Surely I would rot in bunny hell, my torture to swim around in a pond of cold milk for the rest of eternity.

The night Mouse died we made crepes with Nutella and bananas, my favorite; my mom thought it would make me feel better. I sat numbly in my chair in the kitchen, in disbelief that I had performed an act so cruel with my own two hands. We would never get to see her hop for the first time or be able to feed her solid carrots in the little cage I imagined we'd keep in the garage. My parents told me her death wasn’t my fault; that she was too young to survive without her mother but I still felt awful.

We buried Mouse in the garden under a rock, in her cardboard box with the boa. As I lifted a heavy shovel to the tip of her grave, I imagined her back in the ground, returned to the place where she had begun. For one of the first times in my life, I learned what it was to say a final goodbye, at least until the next spring of rabbit holes.

About the Author

Kate Stoltzfus

Kate Stoltzfus is a third-year English/writing and Journalism double major at Goshen College. Her work has appeared in Goshen College's Red Cents and Broadside. She has interned at Beacon Press in Boston and will work this summer for The Sun newspaper in Kendallville, IN as part of the Indiana Press Association's Pulliam internship program. She still drinks tea at her keyboard even after a damaging spill.