Chase: a very short story

It was Josh’s idea. He spotted the rabbit first. We were playing chase in the trails and trees above Fairmont Park.

“We can’t hurt it,” I insisted, challenging his authority. “I won’t let you hurt it.”

Josh deftly avoided the challenge with swift and fierce agreement. His eyes betrayed his annoyance. “Don’t be stupid. I want to catch it. I have a cage at home.”

The other boys acquiesced to our apparently easy agreement. They are shadows in my memory of it.

We hunted the rabbit for two days. We flushed it out, over and over again, until it was tired enough to be trapped underneath the cardboard box that we flung at it, over and over again. We hooted and hollered, when we captured it. All of us.

I held the box. I could almost feel the rabbit’s heartbeat, racing and throbbing through the thin cardboard. I held the box, as we walked down Fairmont, back to the other side of the tracks marked by the Queensway.

I was also the first to see the rabbit’s corpse.

I lived across the street from Josh, his backyard, and the cage in which we had left the rabbit with a bit of lettuce and a carrot. I went to see it first thing in the morning, before anyone else.

It had strangled itself, it seemed, trying to fit through a gap between the wires of the cage. Even in its hard and cold death, its eyes were wild and terrified. Maybe, it hadn’t strangled itself. Maybe, its panicking heart had simply burst.

It was Josh’s idea, but I was an accomplice. We all were.

The memory washes away, grey and blue. The indifferent and yellowing fluorescent light, which I had barely noticed before, now feels strangely oppressive. Indistinct and vacuous voices drift across cubicles into my little windowless burrow in the warren of the office. The sound of the HVAC system, normally unnoticed, is omnipresent, steady, soothing.

Coffee cup? Check. Water cup? Check. Mouse, keyboard, monitor? Check. It’s all here. Me too. Up high in a modernist tower thrusting out of Tunney’s Pasture, a short walk from the backyard where the rabbit died and from the trails and trees where we trapped it.

I should stand, leave, and never return. Get out. Run. Flee.

My heart races. In glimpses, through the wavering curtain of reality, I do it. Freedom is close at hand. Panicking adrenaline peaks. Then, it ebbs. All of it. The rush of possibility, the hope of the chase, and the partial vision of freedom. It all washes away, leaving no mark.

My fingers move automatically across the keyboard. I sip my coffee. I sip my water. I wait. I wait for the wild freedom and unending escape of another memory. Once more, the chase is on.