Wednesday, December 7, 2011
“Never Once Loved Death”—A short story written in exquisite corpse style by Kelly Norman and Cameron Hostetter
Four rabbits had died during the night. They had crawled into an open space between two small buildings, seeking warmth by folding their small bodies around one another, huddled in the dark. We found them that way in the morning, their grey fur matted with frost, their tiny eyes open, milky and lifeless. At first we stared back at them, imagining them for a moment more as they were when they were alive and happy, and then slowly the truth of it settled in and we went looking for a shovel.
The hard ground, nearly frozen solid, resisted the dull blade. It was in sharp contrast to how fragile and delicate life seemed at that instant. We took turns shoveling their tiny graves to fight the cold, and took swigs of whiskey in between goes to warm the rest of the way up. Unintentionally drunk, we patted the earth down in solid little mounds and held an impromptu funeral. No one suggested it, but it seemed like the best thing to do. I wasn’t the one who spoke first:
“Sorry for the bad day, little bunny buddies who only loved smelling the air and cuddling in pairs and never once loved death I don’t think.” Tears were wiped away before they could run down and form icicles on our noses.
“What should we do now?”
“Let’s go for a drive. Come on.” I held my hand out expectantly waiting for his.
We clambered into the big cab of the rusting old pickup truck. The paint had been worn away by decades of harsh winters, and what was left after a few attempts at new paint jobs was a color and patina that resembled atrophied flesh. We blew breath into our hands and watched it fog and disappear. I used to do this and pretend I was smoking cigarettes when I was younger.
He started the truck, which lurched and groaned as he put it in gear, but our minds were still fixed more on the bunnies we had just buried than on the road or where we were going. After a few miles he stopped the truck and leaned forward heavily on the steering wheel.
“I didn’t realize this would be so tough,” he started, not looking up. His patchy beard was white in parts, not from age but from toil and hard luck.
“Those rabbits were the only food we had left.”