The Fox
 
Dan stood over his bloody gutting and skinning table. A bucket sat on the ground next to his feet full of dead rabbits. Each rabbit had been carefully taken from its hutch in the rabbit barn and been killed in a humane way, the back of their skulls had been cracked. None had suffered. Next to the bucket of dead rabbits was a bucket of guts and heads.

“Thanks for keeping me company, Vicki.” Dan said cutting the dead rabbit’s head off.

Vicki shuddered, “No problem.”

Dan said laughing, “No really, its good to have someone to talk to so I’m not focused on the smell,” he flipped the body upside down so the blood could drain, “or how gross this all is.” Dan frowned as he looked at the blood on the table.

Vicki bounced her leg nervously. Her chair shook with her tension, “I actually had something to talk to you about.”

Dan glanced over to Vicki while his knife slit the rabbit from throat to anus, “Oh?”

“Yeah.” Vicki watched the knife her boyfriend was using to gut the rabbit, “Yeah, I wanted to talk with you about us.”

Dan froze, “What about us?”

“About…” Vicki glanced down at her hands, “About my indiscretion.”

Dan snarled, “You mean how you cheated on me?”

Vicki continued to stare at her hands, “Yeah, that.”

His arm jerked tensely as he set his knife down on the table. “Are you sure you want to talk about that here? Is this really the place?” Dan pushed two severed rabbits’ heads into the gutbucket. “You know how I feel about my backyard. It’s my place. We don’t talk about stuff like this in the backyard.”

Vicki stopped bouncing her leg and leaned forward aggressively, “It’s never the time to talk. You never can find time to talk about us. I want to talk about this, and at least here you can’t run away from the conversation.”

Dan frowned and picked the knife up again, “There is nothing to talk about.”

Vicki’s eyes followed Dan’s knife as he skinned the animal, “How can you say that? Aren’t you angry?” A light flashed in Vicki’s eyes.

Dan didn’t look at her; when she got that look in her eyes he felt like a quivering rabbit.

Vicki pressed, “Do I really mean so little to you that you aren’t even upset about what happened?”

Dan didn’t answer as he picked up the skin and put it on a rack.

Vicki shrieked, “Say something!”

Dan picked up another rabbit and slammed the cleaver into its neck. Viciously he severed the head from the body.

Vicki stared at him wide eyed as Dan angrily cut up the bunny.

Dan stopped cutting and set the knife down with exaggerated care. “Of course I’m angry,” he said. Vicki opened her mouth to speak, but Dan cut her off, “No, I don’t want to hear why you did it and I don’t want to know how it happened, I just want to forget about the whole damn thing and move on.”

Vicki frowned, a confused look on her face, then she said, “We can’t do that, we need to talk about this.” Vicki shot him a look. Her look made him feel like he was stupid not to realize they needed to talk.

“Why?” Dan growled resuming his butchering of the rabbit.

Vicki whispered, “I need to know that you forgive me.”

“Fine,” Dan snapped, “I forgive you, end of discussion.” In one movement Dan pulled the skin off the rabbit and put it on the rack next to the other skins.

“No, it’s not!” Vicki snapped back. “We need to talk through this.”

Dan reached into the bucket of dead animals, next to the bucket of heads, and pulled out a rabbit, “If you’re so set on talking about this, why don’t you tell me his name?” Dan watched her flinch and slammed his knife into the bunny. “Or do you just want to watch me squirm?”

Vicki shook her head, “I know you too well.” She paused then whispered, “You’ll do something stupid.”

Dan brutally ripped the rabbit’s guts from its body and said, “What’s wrong with that? Sometimes the right thing to do is the stupid thing.”

Vicki stamped her foot, “Don’t change the subject!”

Dan grinned at her childish act. He remembered how everything had been before she had cheated on him. They used to be able to talk about everything; they had shared their fears and their aspirations. Unfortunately the moment was quickly over. “Look, Vicki” Dan said and ran his bloody hand through his hair, “Yeah, I’m hurt. I thought you loved me more than that, but I figure if I ignore or forget what happened then we can move on. We can forget about all that...”

“But that isn’t how life works, Dan.” Vicki moved around the table and reached out to touch Dan’s shoulder, but he flinched away. “You don’t look at me the same anymore.”

While she spoke he used his cleaver to push all the guts into the bucket with the heads.

“How can I?” he mumbled to the table.

“And that’s why we need to talk this through,” he cringed against her words, when she used that tone he knew it was a done deal. Something he had said had lost the whole argument.

Dan looked at her with drained eyes. “Don’t treat me like I’m some rabbit that you can play with before you kill me. Just let it go. Let’s pretend it never happened, I don’t want to think about it.”

She said firmly, “I’m not some kind of animal! I don’t want to torture you; I just want to work things out. I want to be like we were before everything.” Then she looked up at him pleadingly, “Please, for me, can we talk?”

When Vicki looked at him with those eyes, it was all he could do to not roll over like a dog. “Fine,” he said. Then he slid his knife down the rabbit’s middle, gently tugging the skin from the body as he went, “But can we wait till I finish with this? I need to finish these before they spoil.”

Vicki nodded, “Okay.” She reached out a hand and gently stroked one of the rabbit’s skins, “Sometimes I’m so shocked that things so soft and wonderful as these furs came come from such pathetic animals.”

Dan tensed at her comment, but his eyes followed her hand, “Strange things can be found in simple creatures.”

Vicki’s eyes stared at the fur with a fascinated look on her face and breathed the word, “Maybe.”

While her hands roamed the rabbit’s fur, Dan watched sadly knowing that her hands weren’t his anymore.

“How long will it take you to finish with these?“ Her hands continued to be entranced by the softness of the fur.

“An hour, maybe a bit longer.” Dan picked up one more of the bunnies in the pile and cut its head off, “Do you mind if we talk at your house? I’ll finish up here, clean up and then swing over.”

Vicki looked at him suspiciously, “Why not here? This isn’t about the backyard being your happy place or something, is it?”

“No, this is about me not wanting to have this conversation covered in gore. Unless you want to talk while I’m up to my elbows in blood?” He smiled a weary, joking grin as he began to gut the bunny.

“Aright, I’ll see you in a hour.” Vicki kissed his cheek before walking out of the backyard.

Dan heard her car door slam and the engine rev to life. Dan set his hands on the bloody table and stared at the entrails for a long time while he made up his mind; “This cannot stand, I can’t just be another bone in her yard.” Dan nodded to himself as if that settled everything. “I’m not going to be added to her collection.”

He hurried through the skinning and gutting of the animals. When he was done he went inside and cleaned up. Once he had finished his shower, Dan put on some of his better clothes. He always felt like a better man when he wasn’t dressed in rags. When he finished dressing, he went out into the backyard to where his rabbit hutches were.

Reaching into one of the hutches he pulled out his favorite stud bunny. Holding the trembling rabbit, Dan stroked the soft fur behind the little creature’s ears, “I’ve been living my life wrong, Peter.”

The rabbit twitched its nose anxiously.

“You see, Peter, I’ve been living like a rabbit myself, letting my fear of loneliness drive me into the maw of a fox who only wanted me as a snack before dinner.” Dan smoothed the bunny’s fur, calming the rabbit, before putting it back into its home.

The rabbit began to settle itself into its home.

“I didn’t realize how much of a prey species I was until she came into my safe place. My hutch, my yard.” Dan looked around the yard and then back to the contented rabbit.

“I guess I’m learning that you’re either someone’s prey or someone’s predator.” Dan took a deep breath. “You know what kind of animal hunts a fox.” Dan grinned and walked out of his yard.