Updated: May 10, 2020
‘Will daddy be okay?’ 5 year old Charlie asked.
‘He’ll have to stay in hospital for a couple of days, but he’ll be fine. How did this happen,
sweetheart?’ the nurse asked.
‘It started when the rabbit fell from the sky,’ Charlie explained.
‘From the sky?’ The nurse swabbed the bite mark on the man’s leg. ‘But it wasn’t a rabbit
that bit your daddy.’
‘Nope. It was just nature. Daddy explained the whole thing to me…’
First day in Southern California. First day in the United States, in fact. It hadn’t been easy
relocating from the UK at his company’s request, but they’d managed. They hadn’t been able to visit the house before leasing it, but the website photos had been enough to get the children excited. Palm trees, a fire-pit, BBQ, even an outdoor TV, but the crowning glory had been the pool. They’d arrived at the property, deposited their suitcases inside and formed an appreciative semi-circle around one edge of the glinting blue beauty. Jet-lag forgotten, 11 hour flight slipping away, the need to find a supermarket and make beds not yet urgent. Then the rabbit had fallen.
No one was looking skywards at the time. What they saw was a shadow growing in size,
followed by the realisation that something was coming. When they tilted their heads up, they saw ahuge bird looming above the rabbit who was uselessly kicking its little legs, eyes wide as it hit the water.
‘Daddy?’ Charlie said. ‘Can you save it?’
‘It’ll contaminate the pool water,’ Mum responded, pulling Charlie away from the edge.
‘There’s no net,’ Dad said. ‘Maybe it’s in the garage. Ellie, go and look.’
‘Gross, I’m not going in the garage,’ 15 year old Ellie moaned.
‘The rabbit’s dying!’ Charlie screeched.
Justin, 12 and afraid of almost nothing, cannon-balled gleefully into the water.
‘Get out!’ his mother shouted. ‘Don’t you touch that animal.’
Justin grabbed the rabbit by the scruff of its neck and began backstroking to the edge.
‘He’s got it!’ Charlie jumped up and down as Justin deposited the sodden, shivering creature
at the pool’s edge. Dad stepped forward and prodded it with his boot.
‘It’s half drowned,’ he said. ‘The kindest thing is to put it out of its misery.’
‘What does that mean?’ Charlie asked.
‘It means we should go inside while daddy takes care of it,’ Mum said. ‘Come on. We’ll find
Justin a towel.’
‘Will you make it better? Can we keep it as a pet?’ Charlie ignored his mother and grabbed
his father’s hand.
‘He’s going to kill it,’ Ellie said.
Charlie stared at her.
‘No,’ he whispered. ‘Daddy, say you won’t. It’s still breathing. We haven’t even tried…’
‘It’s just a rabbit, Charlie. He won’t know anything about it, and it’s kinder to get this over
with quickly,’ dad said.
‘We could get a box and wrap him up and give him food and he can stay in my room…’
Charlie’s eyes filled with tears.
His dad squatted down.
‘Charlie, listen. We’re tired and we have a lot more to do. We can’t look after a rabbit now.
This is how life works. It’s not always easy to understand, but that’s nature for you. Animals
sometimes behave in ways we can’t control. There’s nothing to get upset about.’
Charlie pressed a small hand against his mouth. Dad walked to the edge of the garden and picked up a large rock.
‘Please don’t,’ Charlie tried one more time.
‘Like I said son, it’s nature. Ellie, give your brother a hug so he doesn’t see anything.’
Ellie huffed but moved closer to her little brother as Justin climbed out of the pool to get a
better look at the action. Dad raised the rock high above his head and steadied himself. The eagle flew in to grab the rabbit as dad brought his hand down. Its talons, outstretched to
grab the prey, met the rock instead. Furious, it lashed out, needle-sharp beak jabbing into fingers. Dropping the rock and pushing the eagle away with his free hand, dad wheeled around to protect his face. Mum reappeared from the house, clutching a towel.
‘What the…kids, get inside now!’ she yelled.
‘Stay back!’ dad shouted.
The crow that had been watching from the fence saw his chance and swept in, moving
skilfully between them to land on the rabbit. It flapped its wings hard but the rabbit was too heavy. The eagle screeched and dived in to protect its prize. Dad stepped away to let them fight it out and stumbled over the rock, tripping sideways into the palm tree at the edge of the pool. The leaf that fell from the palm tree was 5 metres long and heavier than it looked. It hit Justin in the face as Mum attempted an intercept. The nest of spiders that came with it broke on her head.
‘Oh my God, are those black widows?’ Ellie screamed.
Justin dived back into the pool. Dad rushed forward, hitting wildly at his wife’s hair, just as
the eagle won the fight with the crow and took to the air with the rabbit. Ellie flailed away from the flapping wings, arms circling, tipping dad into the long grass at the edge of the garden. The rattle snake who’d been sleeping peacefully, woke with barely a second to give his customary noisy warning, and struck hard, once, before slithering away.
Mum ran to fetch a neighbour as Ellie called an ambulance and Justin searched the house for a first aid kit. Charlie remained in the garden with his father, looking around in wonder at the extraordinary new world they’d entered.
‘It’s all right dad.’ He patted his father on the arm with a sweet smile. ‘It’s like you told me.
It’s just nature. Animals sometimes behave in ways we can’t control. There’s nothing to get upset about.’