Rabbit or the Wheel

— Reneé Bibby

Outside the Greyhound station, a man stands against the railing. Wearing khakis, a polyester blue tie, and a pressed white shirt, he is leopard-printed dark with sweat. There is a waiting room of cracked blue vinyl seats and a single rattling water fountain, but he stays just beyond the door, bobbing to look behind each person, so that she might see him, and know that he came. So that he might see her, too, and know that she came.

In bobs and bits, the riders disembark the bus, bewildered and stunned by the heat, they are slow to reclaim satchels and duffels. The man thinks he sees her, between the gray and beige shuffle of people—something rises inside him, like a bird lifting straight into the sky—he adjusts his tie, clears his throat, but the flash of pink tracksuit is not her.

The man thumbs the postcard in his pocket, works the soft crease of it folded away, and flips the bent edge back and then forth again, until it finally cedes and tears away a bit of triangle in his hand.

Warmed as lizards, the riders seek relief inside, blasting him with arctic cold of air conditioning with each swivel of the door. Now there’s the hum of idling busses, and a lung-wrenching cough of a trench-coated bus rider, an older man who halts to work liquid through his chest into a spotted handkerchief before shuffling inside the terminal.

Gusted black exhaust disperses to gray, as the crackle of gravel under rubber wheel marks the hours of buses coming and then going again. A hot thermal of air ferries him into the waiting room, and in the murky shade of the inside he takes out the postcard.

A dust flurry rages against the glass of the door, fighting hot on the heels of the bus drivers struggling in, rising into a devilish whirling vortex, until everything, inside and out, is ghosted with a second wavering frame of itself. There is a mounting vibration of friction between dry air and earth—

Hullo Brudder,

I bet you didn’t think I saved your address! (I’m more organized than you think.) I’ll come visit you. It’s not like last time. Things are really good. Scouts Honor. I will come on Saturday’s bus. Don’t leave me long in the heat. You know how I wilt!

Luv, Sis

—so that it seems the only surcease would be for the whole land to light up as one bright spark of blue, ripping the sky open for a cataclysm of rain.

On his drive home the saguaros are sentinels, just flashes of soldiers in the spotlight of his headlights and darkness is a black bear at his window.

There is the wild brief flash of white paws, and then the rabbit goes silently under his wheel. You would not believe how quietly and quickly a creature can be broken. It is this absolute quiet, this seemingly unbroken hum of wheel on road that causes him to slow down, turn the car and go back, get out to witness the bits of fur and strawberry-red viscera spread across a single lane of road.

Right to the edge of the asphalt, the prickly pear fruit swell blood red, freckled white and spiked. Very close, an owl hoots across the canyon another one answers, faint and forlorn, and it seems perhaps that the world wouldn’t have to contain so much heartbreak if they could travel through the dark night and find each other.

The coyote doesn’t break from the underbrush, but she is there, for surely the rabbit fled hard and fast from something. The coyote is willing to out wait him. And here he’s done the hard work for her and there’s nothing left for him except to go, leaving the broken creature to be eaten off the road, until all it will be is bits of bone and fur.

He wants to leave. He has a home, an address to put in the return part of correspondences, he knows the date, he keeps track of time, he owes this universe no debt—he can go, but he is kneeling again in the line of his own headlights. In the black perimeter of night, the blood darkens to cherry red. He doesn’t know anymore if his sister is the rabbit or the wheel. Like beams of a car turning in the distance, he sees in a moment how it could have been, what the rabbit would do if it hadn’t been crushed by something big and unbeatable. How that rabbit would run and run and not look back, not once.

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