As I approach my sixtieth birthday it’s time to commit to paper the extraordinary events I experienced in 1960 when I was ten. I find it hard not to think it was all make-believe; even my own wife and grown-up children think it was a coping mechanism in the face of trauma.
It was a bright Saturday morning in the summer holidays and I was cleaning out the cage of my pet rabbit, Pinky. It’s a job I hated doing with all that hay stinking of piss. My parents explained that if I wanted a pet, to be close to, even to love, then I needed to take responsibility for its care. I loved Pinky even though he always bit me. As I locked the cage I heard Mum screaming.
She was still screaming when I found her standing outside the downstairs’ toilet. Then I saw Dad. He was slumped on the toilet seat with his underpants and trousers around his ankles.
I didn’t know what to do so I buried my face in Mum’s pinnie. She noticed me then. Help me get him out of there, she sobbed. We can’t have strangers seeing him like that.
We got him out. I looked away while Mum pulled up his pants and trousers. We laid him on the hall floor. When I saw the colour of his face I started crying.
Mum whispered, Go and get some fresh air while I phone 999.
I opened Pinky’s cage. As I stroked him I realised he was dead too. I couldn’t understand any of it. I didn’t want to touch him anymore. I sat on the ground and wept.
I can’t remember much of what happened over the next few days; it’s all a blur. Lots of people came in and out and Dad was taken away. John, from next door, buried Pinky in the garden. I tried to hug Mum, but she just sat in an armchair silently staring at nothing, as if I wasn’t there. Maggie, from over the road, brought us hot meals.
To escape the world upstairs I went to the cellars under our house where I had a den in the inner cellar. I opened the door and switched on the light.
I almost passed out. A large pink rabbit was sitting on a stone shelf next to my den. Hiya, James, it said. It’s okay, I won’t hurt you.
Are you real? I asked.
What do you want?
I thought you might need someone to talk to.
Can you come upstairs with me? It’s awful up there.
That’ll be fine. Only you can see me.
He stood up and took my hand and it was a real claw, but soft.
He came to Dad’s funeral and then, over the days, I talked and he listened. I got used to my grief. Then Mum and me talked and slowly we almost got back to our old selves without Dad.
Everyone should have a magic rabbit.
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© Phil Cosker 2021
Phil Cosker has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved; no part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted by any mean, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.