For Charlie

I wrote this for my creative writing class on a whim. I like it, though.

Thereís a lot to be said for the ferocity of wolves. I saw one, once. Hunting a wild rabbit. The poor rabbit never even had a chance. I think weíre all like that sometimes. I didnít always think this way. I used to believe all that feel-good bullshit about equality, humanity, and the good of society, once.

My family and I were just minding our business, content with our little slice of middle class suburbia, until our whole world got blown to bits by some drunk who plowed his ford pick-up through an entire section of steel median before slamming our eco-friendly sedan into a concrete wall. That lucky son of a bitch was killed on impact. My son, Sean, bled to death in the backseat before the ambulance arrived. My wife, Ashley died of a brain hemorrhage on her way to the hospital. I was damn near pulverized from the knees down, but nothing too life threatening.

My daughter Charlie was completely unharmed. I couldnít believe it. She was screaming so damn loud in the car, I thought for sure she was dying. But when they brought her into my hospital room, she only had a few small scratches on her head. The doctors called it a miracle. I unfortunately had stopped believing in miracles right around the time I realized my son would never play little league baseball again, but I was still glad to see her. I picked her up, even though it hurt me like hell, and I tried not to break down in the face of those confused blue eyes.

I guess what I mean to say is that, weíre all just wolves and rabbits. That drunk driver was one big bad wolf motherfucker, and blowing houses down is for amateurs. That bastard blew our whole damn world down. Then I was left standing in the aftermath, holding my three year old daughter, and looking as frightened and destroyed as any rabbit whoís ever been dragged into the wolf den could ever be.

I lost my wife, and I lost my son. I thought that things couldnít get any worse. I was ready to sue, get my settlement, and move on. Little did I know, a real shitstorm was brewing on the horizon, and I had only just felt the wind of it. Our friend, the wolf had been driving without insurance. There was no one to sue. My own insurance company did what they could, which amounted to pretty much jack shit in the long run. My wife and I both had life insurance, but we hadnít been pessimistic enough, or I suppose, realistic enough to take out policies on the kids. I had to go into my 401k to bury Sean. Then I had to go into it again for medical bills so many times, that I just had Uncle Sam take his goddamn taxes out and give me a check for the rest. I probably wonít live to retirement age anyway.

I took what was left of all our savings, sold our home, and moved with Charlie into a small townhouse in another state. It was unbearable at first, but it got a little better over time. Things were looking up for this rabbit family. Then another wolf decided to sniff around outside our burrow. I guess he mustíve liked what he smelled, because I lost my nice new job before I even realized I was being hunted.

Iíve been unemployed for almost two years now. Itís not that I havenít been trying, itís just that there really isnít much I can do. My lower legs were practically turned to juice. Iíve got more steel beams in my legs than the golden gate bridge. I canít bear to stand for more than half an hour at a time. On sunny days I still need constant medication, expensive and strong. I spend the rainy days in agony in my bed, biting onto my pillows to keep from screaming. I tried to work from home a couple of times, but even sitting up in my computer chair can get pretty painful after a while. Even so, I stuck with it, until it became pretty obvious that the business wasnít going to last, and I gave it up.

Sometimes I fantasize about taking all of my medications at once. Mr. Rabbit Goes to Hell. But then I remember her.

Charlie is five now. Sheís healthy, energetic and so damn smart, itís almost scary. She really keeps me on my toes. Opinionated, strong-willed, fierce and beautiful. All the mysteries of the universe are in those bright blue eyes. Her hair is so gold, the goddamn sun has to concede defeat. I canít believe she came from my genes. Sheíll be starting kindergarten in the fall and Iím going to miss her like crazy in the daytime.

But most importantly, Charlie is not a rabbit anymore. Maybe she never even was to begin with. Charlie is a wolf. Sheís tough, and I know now that even if I had died along with her mother, she wouldíve been alright. But I didnít die, and now Iím responsible for taking care of this wolf cub. And who the hell ever heard of a rabbit raising a wolf cub?

I could give her up for adoption, I guess. Maybe check myself into a homeless shelter, and spend the rest of my life waiting for the staff to give me carrots, pet me, and tell me everything is going to be just fine. Let Charlie grow up with parents that arenít struggling to make ends meet.

But Iím selfish. Sheís all Iíve got left, and if I want to take care of her, I will just have to become a wolf too.

So, I got rid of all that bullshit about right and wrong. It was easier than I thought it would be. I had been brought up well, raised right. But life is a sterner teacher than most, and it taught me that even the most carefully constructed house can fall to shit under the right conditions. Or the wrong conditions, really. When the wolf is at your door, it doesnít matter how well-built your house is. Itíll collapse like a deck of cards.

I hunt my own rabbits now. My hunting grounds are ATMs, apartment hallways, parking lots, and bar bathrooms. I usually hunt at night, but if things are especially desperate, Iíll do it in the daytime. I take their wallets, their jewelry, and their designer purses. Iím very careful. I never let them see my face. I thought I was so damn good, but it turns out I was only lucky. Until today.

Now Iím faced with a dilemma. The eyes of the rabbit standing at the ATM are looking back at me, and I see myself in them, scared and uncertain. Suddenly I donít look so much like a wolf anymore. Iím the rabbit again, and in a few seconds, this person will scream for help, and my chances of getting away unseen will be zero. Iíll end up in prison, Iíll lose Charlie, and my life will be a living hell until I get the chance to commit suicide in my cell. I donít know what to do.

Thankfully, the wolf takes over. Well prepared for a situation such as this, it pulls my unregistered .45 out of my coat and levels it at the rabbit. We both freeze, but Iím reluctant to pull the trigger. I have never killed another human being in my life. This is more than petty thievery, this is cold-blooded murder. Once I start down this path, there is no turning back. I donít know if Iíll be able to live with myself.

The alternative is that I can serve my imprisonment like a good little rabbit, and I donít think I can live with that either.

I see myself reflected in their eyes one more time, and in that split second before the wolf takes over for good, I see a scared little rabbit man holding his daughter in the wake of a terrible tragedy, never knowing that she would become a wolf cub in need of his protection. This poor bastard never even had a chance.

One thing is for certain. I will hate myself after I do this, but she will have enough love for both of us.

I wish that I had died in that crash.

I think of her. I take a deep breath and pull the trigger.

For Charlie.

<--- Back to Writings