Friday, April 28, 2017

I am, like, so Vishnu

I killed a rabbit.

I was driving home in my murdermobile when I came onto Highway 280. Note that it was a highway. I was traveling at about 50 mph when a rabbit leaped in front of my car. I don't know why. He was just beginning a relatively long journey across four lanes of roaring traffic when I hit him. One can surmise he wanted badly to die. But I might be looking for a way out from under all the... blood on my hands.

Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.

Did I have time to put on brakes? I guess I could have slammed them, and if I did it quickly enough then the braking would have commenced meaninglessly just after my smearing of the small animal beneath my car. Could I have swerved? Only if I wanted to hit him better. The actual thought I had in the half second after the rabbit appeared in front of my car and the point of my bringing quick and ragged death to him was "Just don't panic, make sure the wheels don't hit him, and if he lies low..." I think I was on the lie low part when I felt the undercarriage of the car grab him by the ears, or back, or head, hideously hurl him to the ground, and bounce him bloodily between the car and the highway before leaving his pulped and ruined corpse behind me.

It's amazing how much one can feel from the seat of a car. Though I suppose it's nothing like what one can feel from the underside of a car.

I don't actually know how guilty to feel. Something turns in my stomach as I write. But do you want to know what's in my stomach as I write? Some ground up cow. How did that get there?

Grape, in my small but clear headed audience, raises his hand.

"Do you remember...?"

Oh, of course I remember Grape. That was always part of this story. You see, I was an accessory to a rabbit murder once before, many decades ago. Grape and I were driving home from a backpacking trip. Grape was driving. The sun was setting in the long California desert. A jackrabbit rushed the road. Grape did what he could, but, "kerpluckt", the wheel smushed the poor wee hopper. A stunned silence fell on we tired nature lovers. Grape was devastated. I felt probably exactly the same way as I do now at my own inadvertent rabbit murder, 30 years and the lifetimes of billions of rabbits later. We did not say much for awhile. That he could not avoid this accident was but little succor when we mused on it. We stopped for gas.

We went into the gas station. A devastated Grape said to the station clerk "I feel terrible. I just ran over a rabbit."

"Aw, man." The clerk replied "There's so many rabbits around here we go out shooting them for fun."

Well, I'll have you know there are quite a few rabbits around here in the spring too. Not that I was running that one over for fun.

I've eaten rabbit a couple times. Both of them were at very fancy restaurants. At no point was I wracked with guilt. It didn't occur to me to feel guilt. Though, considering it now, why not. Go ahead and feel a little guilt, all the storied chefs and rabbit ranchers and rabbit butchers in the world cannot strain out the fact that those rabbits deaths go on my account. Yes, somewhere there is a great heavenly (or hellish) list of all the animals we killed or caused to die.  Oh what a list. And to make one feel worse about it when one looks at the list the list doesn't say, like, "Mosquitoes: 18,265" No indeed. Each one is personally listed, with a name, like "Lucretia, Mosquito, 2 days old. She just had kids. She was happy."

How do they know she was happy? They know everything.

Speaking of driving deaths. Once I was driving home with my friend Matthew, across the Dakotas. We were beset by plagues on our way home. First were locusts. We had to use windshield wipers. They coated the front of the car. But that was nothing. The rains came, and then the frogs. Ah god, the frogs. For some reason they poured out onto the highway in countless thousands. "Thumpity, thumpitithumpitithump tump tump tum, pup pup pup." To drive was to kill them in the hundreds, maybe more. We pulled over. Look at all the frogs! Look at all the dead frogs we ran over. Should we just sit here forever by the side of the road? No. We drove on. If we drove slow we killed them slower for a long time. If we drove fast we killed them all at once, for miles and miles of murder. Hundreds of frogs. Thousands of frogs. All with names and written with blood on our souls.

So what is a mere rabbit to all those frogs?

Alas, plenty.


  1. Grape remembers that well. To add one more detail, Grape recalls looking at his rear view mirror and seeing the rabbit twitching, or perhaps that we the shaking of Grape's eyes. And then feeling bad, this sinking feeling, this death-y feeling. And that comment by the gas station guy.

    Alas, Grape last year was driving on the 33 just getting to the highway part. He was going around 50 when a deer decided it would be a good idea to try to leap over Grape's car from the hedges along the highway. The deep must have been spooked. In a surreal moment, Grape saw the deer flash across his sight line. A frozen moment. One split second that seemed like a painting drawn and stuck in time. And then -- thunk -- Grape's car shaking, almost spinning out, and then continuing. Grape looked in his side mirror to see the deep all crooked but still managing to make it across the highway.

    Grape's hope that day was that the deer died quickly. The remains of the deer on Grape's broken and bloodied headlight and dented hood suggested a quick death would be best.
    It was a very disconcerting moment. There was nothing to be done.

    That reminds me of a poem you and your readers might know.

    Traveling through the Dark


    Traveling through the dark I found a deer
    dead on the edge of the Wilson River road.
    It is usually best to roll them into the canyon:
    that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead.

    By glow of the tail-light I stumbled back of the car
    and stood by the heap, a doe, a recent killing;
    she had stiffened already, almost cold.
    I dragged her off; she was large in the belly.

    My fingers touching her side brought me the reason—
    her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting,
    alive, still, never to be born.
    Beside that mountain road I hesitated.

    The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights;
    under the hood purred the steady engine.
    I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red;
    around our group I could hear the wilderness listen.

    I thought hard for us all—my only swerving—,
    then pushed her over the edge into the river.

    1. Thank you for the poem. I find a small touch (in myself) of curious righteousness in finding roadkill, a version of "I am not the one to die" now writ "I am not the one with the blood on my hands" and so reading that sad and pretty poem I also thought that in the context of events we are sharing here, he gets to be a little pure, but us? No, we are stained. So of the three of us you and I write of one thing, William another.

      Once, when I lived in Penngrove, some friend of (barely) friends came to visit, and they were true forages, young people entirely capable of living off the land. One major source of food for them was fresh roadkill when they could find it. I remember searching for roadkill along the Sonoma County roads with them but being unable to find anything fresh enough that day. Perhaps there is the solution. If I had only pulled off and collected that rabbit, stewed it with spring onions and herbs collected at the side of the road, and shared it with a few hobos, I could do honor in the midst of our careless savagery.


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