Living with Humans, a story by Stephanie Ewing
There are no dogs in this warren, no biting autumn wind. I found a wire box filled with sweet dried grass far more delicious than the half-dead dandelions I scrounged outside. I think it will be better here.
I live with three humans now. Though they don’t wield rolled-up newspapers like the ones who put me outside, these humans are very loud.
Like any sensible rabbit, once I arrived, I set a perimeter and peed in the corners for good measure. After all, clear communication of boundaries is key to effective human management. Unfortunately, like every human I’ve ever met, the subtleties of scent-based communication seem lost on these ones, too.
The big human with long head-fur turned its attention to me, making chirpy, cooing noises (humans have noises for everything). But the cooing turned to angry yelling when, not looking, it stepped right in one of my puddles. It shouted at the smaller one, who, in turn, shrieked when it saw the poop. Humans must not defecate.
The gray-headed one with spotted paws made a low, woofing sound and curled the corner of its lips upwards. I froze, thinking maybe this human was part dog. I hate dogs. But then, it reached down its paw and scratched the spot behind my ears I can never reach. All was forgiven.
The smallest human is insufferable. It thumps around the house with white strings dangling from its ears. It screeches along to noise that emanates from the ear-strings. Worse still, it insists on picking me up and squeezing me. Sometimes, I can even smell the meat it ate on its breath. My days are numbered, I fear.
I’ve discovered the spotted-paw human is the most tolerable. This one’s quiet, and it moves slowly. It smells dry and powdery, like bird feathers.
Like a sensible rabbit, it sleeps during the bright midday, resting on the sofa where I can nap too, if the ottoman is nearby. Unlike the other two, this human doesn’t like the lights and noise that stream from the box on the wall.
We sit in sunny silence, broken only when the human’s breath catches in its chest, launching it into a barking fit. When it’s quiet again and the human’s warmth soaks through my fur, I feel calm.
So much noise, I wonder if the humans actually communicate with each other.
Perhaps not: The human with long fur and the small human fight constantly, most often after the small one brings home a smelly, welted-face, short-haired human that quite clearly wants to mate.
After they feud, inevitably, the small human stomps off, wailing while its face turns red, shiny and wet. Long-Fur brings its paws to its face—maybe it needs a good face wash after such unpleasantness.
Spotted-Paw sneaks off to sit on the sofa and wait out the squall. Maybe gray-headed humans are smarter than the others.
Regardless, I’ve decided I need a better hiding space than the one in the wire box where I sleep at night. Beneath the sofa, there is a treasure trove of wood and fabric begging to be made into some high-quality nesting material. Plus, nobody would bother me there with their yelling or stomping. Too small for humans, just right for rabbits.
The humans know nothing and will get themselves killed one of these days!
As it does every few days, Long-Fur took Spotted-Paw out of the warren this morning. By the time they returned, I was tucked into my cozy hiding spot, drifting in and out of day-sleep.
Above me, the sofa creaked with Spotted-Paw’s weight. I heard a metallic clank: Long-Fur wheeled over what looked to be a tall, metal stump, before making more noises and leaving again.
I left my hiding spot, which is still secret, and hopped up from ottoman to sofa. But something was wrong. Spotted-Paw was tangled in a thin, clear snake that was crawling up its nose! I growled and thumped at the snake; Spotted-Paw did nothing but curl up its lips and pat the sofa next to it.
I had to save Spotted-Paw. I lunged at the snake and my teeth bit down hard on the rubbery fiend—it was surprisingly hollow.
The snake hissed where I punctured it and Spotted-Paw’s eyes grew wide. It scrambled for a lever on the metal stump and grunted. I prepared for another attack, but Spotted-Paw swept me off the sofa and began barking. Clearly, my help was unwanted.
I retreated to my hiding place, rubbing my chin and scent over everything along the way. If the snake must stay, it should know I’ll fight for Spotted-Paw and my new warren.
It’s been some time since I’ve seen Spotted-Paw or napped by it on the sofa.
Many nights ago, while I tried to sleep in my big wire box, Spotted-Paw barked harder than ever before; I thought maybe it was turning into a dog after all.
It must have woken up the other humans. All the lights in the warren sprang on, and when the barking wouldn’t stop, Long-Fur yelled into a tiny, flat box it pulled from a bag.
Soon, blue and red lights danced through the windows and humans with heavy black boots rushed in with bags and a table on wheels. They smelled of sweat and adrenaline and made a great deal of noise until the barking stopped.
When they finally left, no longer in any rush, I couldn’t see what they wheeled out.
I worried, though. Although Spotted-Paw had become inseparable from that awful snake, it remained in the hall, attached to the metal stump.
The small human walked into my room, as Long-Fur closed the door behind the visitors. For once, even though the little one’s face was red and shiny with water, it didn’t screech; Long-Fur didn’t yell. Long-Fur opened its arms and the small human snuggled close. For the first time, I think I understood them.
Copyright © 2016 by Stephanie Ewing
Rabbit close-up image is public domain.