I found the rabbit on the far side of the footbridge. A young rabbit it was, about the size of a half-grown kitten. I caught some little movement out the corner of my eye, I suppose. It was already dying when I found it.
It was lying on its side in the short grass. My first thought was that it had been struck by a car or a bicycle and knocked into the grass. There was no blood or any marks anywhere on its body. When I hunkered down I thought it was already dead. Then I realized its paws were moving. The front and back right paws. Lethargically threading air, as if the rabbit were running in a nightmare. The paws were wet from the dewy grass. Just that, just the paws. It must have come out of a burrow only moments before. Its eyes were open. Almond shaped. Liquid and sloe-black. I thought about putting it in my rucksack. Taking out the things I’d bought earlier – a carton of milk, a bottle of YR sauce, a tub of butter – putting them in the pockets of my jacket.
Making a kind of bed in the rucksack then with leaves and grass. I thought about carrying the rabbit home to my daughter. Nursing it back to health, the two of us. I wondered would it get on with her guinea pigs? This wild thing. Would they fight?
I slipped a palm under the cooling, pliant body and lifted the rabbit off the ground. Dew was soaking into the fur on its side as well. Blood, I thought before I realized what it was. The neck flopped about loosely. I slid my left hand under its head, my fingers curling around the delicate jawbone. I noticed grass juice in its mouth. On the lower gum. At the base of the tiny, clamped teeth.
I’d carried it for maybe twenty feet before I realized it had died. I was standing under a canopy of ancient trees. It was darker here. Dense, tangled woods wound away on either side of me, the trees on my right soothing the noise of traffic out on the motorway.
I laid the rabbit on a bank of ivy. I pulled some leaves and twigs over it. I tried to shut its eyes but they wouldn’t close.