Back to Archive   "Inertia" by Alicia Gifford


Around four in the afternoon, right after Oprah, Grace shuffles out in bathrobe and slippers with a sack of garbage to the trashcan at the curb. She no longer brings the can back into the garage from the street so she doesn’t have to drag it back and forth every week, fuck the neighbors. On her way to the curb she hears a stirring in the stiff, fallen leaves from the sycamore, Jesus what a mess that tree makes, clogging up the rain gutter until finally, last winter, loaded with rainwater the whole thing came down so that now when it rains there's a curtain of water sliding off the garage roof, not that she cares but Christ, has it really been a year?

So there's this rustling in the leaves and she goes over and kicks around with her toe and uncovers a little bunny rabbit, gray and white, something awful in its eyes and panting. It's bloodied up around its haunches, raw and meaty with some kind of pale organ-thing bubbling out from near the belly like a cat or a coyote got to it without finishing it off.

She’s horrified, looking at it, when here comes the mailman chugging up to the cul-de-sac in his jeep and fuck if she’s going to stand there in her bathrobe, slippers and bed-head and smile at him, much less let him hand her the mail. It's been days since she’s showered and what was she thinking when she bought a white terry cloth robe, the way it stains and shows the chili? She shuffle-dashes back into the house, thinking she could use a nap, thinking that one of these days she’s going to get her act together and drag her ass out of this drain she’s circling, maybe get on some anti-depressants—something—but that means going to a doctor, which means finding a doctor, way too much wrapped around all that. Besides, she’s not sure she’s depressed, it's not like she sits around weeping; self-pity is the least of it. No, it’s more a complete failure to act. She understands it's a problem but the very problem itself renders her helpless to do anything about it. And she functions: she deposits the alimony check; she has electricity, gas, phone, water, cable, a reliable car that's properly insured. She plugs into the outside world via TV and her computer, a nifty wireless jobby she can use right in bed but everything else crumbles around her like a Roman ruin that she’ll deal with tomorrow.

She starts for the bedroom planning to surf the net a little and then drift off until Seinfeld comes on but that bunny hops into her head, those moist, suffering eyes imploring her in a way that transcends the difference in genus and species; an appeal as clear as high definition TV.

It's a rodent, she tells herself. For Christ's sake.

It occurs to her she should get the mail, there's several days worth in the box and the mailman must’ve had a hard time wedging today's batch in, so she sorties once again and can see the hump of the bunny's body amongst the brown leaves, and it jerks a little, its heart still pumping hot rabbit blood to nourish the awful pain. Suffer ye, little bunny for thou art prey in the grand scheme of the food chain and it's your karma, little cotton-tail, to quiver in agony, don't lay your destiny on me; it's my karma to be ineffective.

A cold wind picks up and swirls the leaves, brittle as glass as they scrape against the concrete driveway, whirling around the creature, blanketing it again in a foliar shroud to shelter it on its way to the Great Warren in the Sky. She takes the armful of mail into the house and dumps it on the pile on the table, disturbing a cloud of dust that churns in the sun's last horizontal beam. She wants to take a nap, a long, snoozy, inertial nap but pink eyes haunt her, galvanize her, and so, another sortie, this one to the garage to hoist from its tether of spider webs a sharp-edged spade, pointed at its tip to penetrate compacted earth; enough so that with a merciful, triumphant thrust, she severs the rodent's spine, its lopped off, long-eared head rolls and spews its gore like John the Baptist. She uses the bloody spade to dig a small grave into the moist earth and buries the rodent’s head and body, laying a sprig of privet on the fresh-turned earth.

She eyes the dangling rain gutter as she drags the trashcan into the garage.