The child pitches his spade-point into the sack of cement powder, and
again, splitting the thick paper in two directions. The powder is fine like
volcanic ash and quieter than the sand, which scrapes against the spade
when he mixes them on the barn floor, two scoops sand to one cement.
He piles up a mountain, digs the crater and pours water from a hose. This
mixture he loads into a red wheelbarrow, a toy now rusted by the elements.
Balancing the spade across the handles, he lets the weight pull him
downhill towards the kitchen-garden where the rabbits live.
He finds four holes, the first behind the oak that has a tree-house up top and halved
fire-logs nailed into the trunk for foot-holds. The hole undermines a root;
it opens wide like a banquet room then slopes down and turns a corner.
Standing between wheelbarrow and tree, the child fills the banquet room and
smoothes the cement with the back of his spade. He then pushes the
wheelbarrow carefully between the vegetable beds and parks it beside the
bramble bushes, where another hole hides. The child rests his ear on the
ground to listen for sounds of alarm below.
All four holes are filled. The child patrols the kitchen-garden, driving
his wheelbarrow like a cement truck past the rows of beans, the
potato-plants, the unsuccessful zucchini. He finds no more holes but half
the cement is left over. On the way uphill to the barn, he tugs the
wheelbarrow backwards and pretends to be a tractor.
The remaining cement he spreads evenly on a plywood board. Using the spade
like a pen, he carves four long-eared rabbits into the cement tablet. Names
will not fit and the cement is too soft to receive them anyway so the
rabbits go nameless. He scores lines between the rabbit pictures so that
the tablet will break correctly when it dries. Then the child is called to
supper; his mother has killed a white hen; his father pays him a dollar for
his cement-work. The next day he intends to cut the plaque neatly in four
and place the rabbit pictures in the earth beside each hole so they will
not be forgotten.
In the morning, the child carefully transports the plaques in his
wheelbarrow only to find two new holes in the kitchen-garden, one near the
brambles beside his cement, the other in middle of the zucchini bed. He
shows the holes to his father, who puts a large dose of poison inside them.
His father says that settles it, no zucchini this year.
The child climbs up the oak to the tree-house and watches the two holes all
morning. His mother brings him chicken sandwiches and playing cards on a
tray. Then, mid-afternoon, having seen nothing, he climbs down and leaves
the kitchen-garden, disgusted. His father pays him another dollar.
During the night it rains hard and the child wakes to remember that he has left
his wheelbarrow outside. In the morning he finds it fallen over, glazed
with water. Two sodden mice have washed up in the potato patch and the
child’s mother says they maybe shouldn’t eat the potatoes this year either.
There is a new rabbit-hole beneath the oak tree.
When Tom Howell says he's going to leave. You know it's a lie.