Today’s Writing Prompt: The pipes groaned, then vomited rusty water out into the sink.
Michael C. Fasnaught’s day had started like any other day, except he had decided to call off work to go rabbit hunting.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Jennings, I won’t be able to come to work today. I’m running a terrible fever.” He explained.
He filled a pack with the essentials, grabbed his shotgun and plenty of ammunition. Mike could readily admit he was a lousy shot, but the thrill of the hunt was what kept him coming back for more.
He felt adventurous, so he drove a little farther than he ever had before, dirt roads and deep ruts led him to an unfamiliar part of the forest. He was feeling so fine, he actually shouted when he got out of the Jaguar.
”Hey, bunnies, here I am. Better run for cover!”
He slipped on his vest, loaded his ammo belt with shells, then filled nearly every pocket with extra shells and headed out for the big kill.
He walked for quite a while without spotting any wildlife. The sun penetrated the canopy of leaves and Michael began to sweat. He pulled a bottle of Perrier from his backpack and took a deep swig. He fished in the pack for his lip balm and smeared his lips, then coated his nose well with zinc oxide and hit the trail again.
Twenty paces down the path, he heard something stirring in the underbrush just to his left. Michael froze in his tracks and listened hard to zero in on the sound. Pinpointing the exact spot, he slowly raised his shotgun. Had he remembered to load it? He didn't know. His heart was pounding and his hands were shaking as he zeroed in on the bush just ahead and waited. His breathing was jagged and so loud in his ears that he was sure it would scare off whatever was hiding in that bush.
Just then a rabbit darted out from under the bush, headed straight for him. He kept a bead on the rabbit, squeezed the trigger, saw the rabbit drop and felt stabbing pains in his bare legs. He screamed in horror as he saw blood dripping from dozens of tiny holes in his legs. His shinbones felt like they had been shattered.
Through the searing pain, he thought, “At least it didn’t ruin my new cargo shorts.”
Mike looked at the bloody rabbit - what was left of him, anyway. The front half of the rabbit lay on top of a large scarred flat rock.
“Like a sacrifice to the hunting gods,” he thought.
The back of the rabbit was mostly gone. Despite the pain in his legs, Mike was excited. He had finally bagged a bunny!
He hobbled over to the rabbit and gingerly picked it up by the ears, wondering about things like lice and ear mites. He pulled a monogrammed handkerchief from his pocket and wiped blood from his legs. The pain had been forgotten in the excitement of his success, but it was coming back to him now.
He wondered how he would make it back to the car and then drive himself to the hospital.
“Mike, you are a warrior! A great white hunter! You can do this…you are Superman!” he said out loud, but whimpered like a baby with every step back down the path. Twenty minutes later he realized that he had absolutely no idea where the Jaguar was parked.
He reached for his cell phone and realized he had lost it on the trail somewhere. Still clutching the rabbit (or half-rabbit) by the ears, he tried to get a sense of direction from the position of the sun in the sky.
“Who are you kidding, Mike? You have no idea how to tell direction from the sun."
He walked on, limping badly, tears running down his cheeks. He wondered if he would die out here in the woods. He began to pray;”Now I lay me down to sleep…” No, that’s not right. “God is great, God is good…” No, that’s not it either. “God? Are you there? It’s me, Michael. I’m in a bit of troube - no, I’m in big trouble. I’m lost, I’m shot and I need your help.”
He spent the next hour or so, walking and confessing every bad thing he had ever done, from spitting in his sister’s chocolate milk to cheating on his taxes, the dismembered bunny, swung like a pendulum as he walked.
Finally, he stumbled into a clearing with an old abandoned farmhouse in the middle. The steps creaked loudly and threatened to give way as he hobbled up them. The door was ajar. He was glad he wouldn’t have to use brute force to knock it down.
Once his eyes adjusted to the dimness of the room, he found himself in the kitchen. He went straight for the sink, hoping to clean his wounds and get a drink. (He had finished his Perrier long ago.) There was no faucet or spigots, just an old hand pump.
He tossed his kill into the sink and took hold of the pump handle. It creaked loudly as he pumped. He could hear a faint gurgling deep in the pipes, but it refused to give up any water.
Mike pumped harder.
“I am a warrior. A great hunter. I am superman! And I command you to give me water!’
The pipes groaned, then vomited rusty water out into the sink, covering the rabbit in red sludge.
Mike cursed, then apologized to God.
He removed the slimy half-rabbit from the sink and pumped some more, but try as he might, nothing would come out except dirty, rusty water.
“Well, Mike, old boy,” he said. “You can’t drink that, you can’t wash your wounds with it, and you’re stuck in the woods in an abandoned old house with no cell phone. Now what?”
He searched through the cupboards and drawers of the kitchen, pushing aside old cutlery, shredded paper that had been made into mouse nests, and moth-eaten linens, until finally he found a box of matches.
It had to be done. Mike lit the old curtains that hung at the wall and watched them quickly catch fire. He ran to the living room and set the drapes on fire. Smoke quickly filled the room as he dashed outside.
Suddenly, he remembered his rabbit. He darted back through the door and emerged a minute later, soot covered, but clutching his trophy by the ears. The fur was only a little singed.
He stood at the edge of the clearing and waited. Finally, he heard the whirring of helicopter blades overhead. He ran into the clearing and waved his arms to signal the pilot. The rabbit flopped wildly in his grip.
A short time later fire trucks, police cars and several news vans, complete with satellite dishes on the roofs came roaring down the dirt road on the other side of the house.
Firemen went to work on the house, EMT’s went to work on his legs and a police officer went to work grilling Mike.
“You start this fire?” he asked.
“Yes, officer. It was a matter of life and death. I was hunting," he said, raising the rabbit for the officer to see as the news camera’s zoomed in. "I was wounded. I lost my cell phone and stumbled around the woods for hours. I had to set the fire to attract a rescue team.”
“This your cell phone,” asked the officer.
Mike took it. “Yes, it is, where did you find it?”
“On the hood of a Jaguar at the end of this drive,” he said.
Mike has given up hunting. His legs are healing and he only had to spend a few nights in jail. Now he spends most of his time looking for a new job in order to pay off the huge debt he incurred by setting the fire. It’s rough, but there are a few bright spots.
Each evening he brews himself a soothing cup of chamomile tea, thankful for spigots, faucets and fresh, clear water. He limps to the den and sits before the crackling fire, thinking back on his ordeal. It should be a traumatic memory, and it might be if not for the front half of a scruffy-looking rabbit, mounted and hanging proudly above the mantle.
*No bunnies were harmed during the writing of this story.
(Copyright © 2009 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)