Auricle by Anna Martin
by Hannah Gordon
Clara found the bunny because it’d been wailing. No, screeching. It was a horrible sound, almost like a bird, or like a human baby. She couldn’t decide. It definitely didn’t sound like a rabbit. The cries, sharp and piercing, led her straight to the doomed thing, shrouded in tall Kentucky Blue grass. Her dad hadn’t been home in awhile. He used to mow every Sunday, a can of beer sweating a perfect circle on his pant leg as he drove the mower back and forth in neat rows, the chopped grass blowing away into the wind. The deep, earthy smell of it in the air. Sometimes Clara would dig her hands into a pile of the clippings and bring them to her nose, inhaling deeply. She’d never sneeze. Later, she’d find stray pieces in her yellow hair, or stuck to her legs. Those would leave behind little imprints, she herself molded, if only for a little while, by something as tiny as a blade of grass.
But Dad didn’t come home from work one day. Clara sat and waited in the front room, so sure that any moment she’d see headlights illuminating the long-dark woods surrounding her driveway, so sure she’d hear the telltale click of the lock, and then he’d be there, like he always was, sighing and complaining about what a long day it had been.
Six o’clock faded to seven, and seven soon became eight, and by time it was nine, and he hadn’t called, her mother clicked her tongue and packed leftovers into stained Tupperware, a scowl on her face. That scowl had yet to disappear. Clara knew it’d stay there forever—frozen, like if you cross your eyes for too long.
The bunny was heaving, its tiny body shaking with each attempt to breathe. On its belly—and in its soft pelt and in the uncut grass and everywhere—blood. Clara was surprised how dark the blood was, how the fur sopped it up like a biscuit. Moving as slowly as possible, she touched the dying thing, lightly, saw the teeth marks on its underside. This still-fresh creature rasped and shook beneath her slight fingers, and Clara began to cry because she knew that were she to run for help—for a warm washcloth or thick gauzy bandage—it’d be too late. So she stayed, the grass tickling her legs, and watched as the bunny wheezed its last breath, only hours after its first.
Once back inside, Clara wouldn’t notice, or wouldn’t care, how her legs were flecked with a hundred, tiny indentations from the too-long grass. She wouldn’t say a word to her mother, who sat glassy-eyed on the couch pretending to know the answers to Jeopardy. Only after the contestants responded would she mumble, Aha. I knew it.
Later, in her bed, all traces of blood and grass washed from her body, Clara was still shaking from the whole encounter, the first time she’d witnessed death in her short life. It wasn’t lost on her, either, that nearby in the grass, licking her chops and watching as Clara dug a shallow grave with a trowel, had been her cat, Sweetie. A gorgeous Calico mix of browns and grays and pinks, Clara had loved the cat since it was a tiny kitten, no bigger than the bunny now decomposing in the neglected yard.
She didn’t let Sweetie inside that night. Left her to cry on the back porch. Lying in bed with her window open, Clara could hear the cat calling out to its owner. Good, she thought. Cry.
She’d fall asleep listening to those pathetic mews. Thinking about how the people you love can do unspeakable things. How, unlike a blade of grass stuck to a sweaty leg, the indentations can last a lifetime.
Hannah Gordon is a writer and editor living in Chicago. Her work has appeared in Hypertrophic Literary, Jellyfish Review, WhiskeyPaper, and more. She is the managing editor of CHEAP POP. You can follow her on Twitter at @_hannahnicole.