THERE IS A HARE IN MY KITCHEN
By Barbara Siedle
The neighbour arrived at the front door beaming. He had the hare firmly by the hind legs and held it aloft for me to admire. The hare’s eyes were glazed. I managed to mumble “Thanks very much Dimitri” before shutting the door in his face. But he ambled away good naturedly.
The old knot in my stomach tightened as I turned away. I saw the dead boy’s eyes again in my mind. Glazed like the hare. It was my Billy who had shot the boy. He had shot the boy when he meant to shoot the rabbit.
“He walked in front of me Ma” Billy had said
“I had the rabbit in my sights”
Koos lived next door. He was Billy’s best friend. He was always at our house. Koos was like my other son.
It was me. I was the one who had to go next door to tell Koos’ parents. Jan Willem was away as usual, off on one of his diamond business trips. If he wasn’t away on the diamond business, it was the hunting trips. My, he had so many guns in the house. I always told him, he should lock those guns away; but no, we might need them in an emergency. He was the one who taught Billy to shoot. I told him Billy was too young. Didn’t he know a ten year old shouldn’t be in charge of a gun. But no, Jan Willem said, “A boy must be a man someday. So he must learn to be a man. He must learn how to shoot”
All very well for him to say. He wasn’t there that night that the boys went out to Boucher’s Kop to shoot rabbits. He wasn’t there when Billy came back with blood all over him saying,
“Come quick Ma. Koos is shot. He is bleeding”
I ran. I ran as fast as my legs would carry me and Billy ran too. We ran down the road and through the farm gate and up that dirt track to Boucher’s Kop. Koos was just lying there. His eyes were glazed like the hare. I could see he was dead straight away. By the light of that moon I could see he was dead. They took him away in an ambulance, and I had to tell his parents. They never spoke to me again of course, or my Billy. They never spoke to either of us. It was hard on Billy. He was always at their house too. My heart used to weep for Billy. I would see him looking at Koos’ bedroom window and I could see his heart was breaking.
I used to cook rabbit all the time in those days. Whenever the boys brought back a rabbit, I would make a stew, like a bredie with lots of tomatoes. Jan Willem said it was the best rabbit stew he ever ate. Every time he said that.
“Elna” he would say, “this is the best rabbit stew I ever ate.”
But I have never cooked a rabbit stew since that day.
I am alone now. Jan Willem has passed on and I am older. Now I have a hare in my kitchen. What am I going to do. It was very kind of Dimitri of course, to bring this hare for me. He doesn’t know about Billy and Koos and the rabbits. But I don’t think I can cook this hare. I can’t give it to anyone. Dimitri would hear of it and be insulted. Poor Dimitri, he is a good neighbour.
Even when Freddy started coming round to the house, Billy never stopped thinking about Koos. Freddy was new in town maybe that is why his parents let him play with my son. Freddy and Billy were in the bedroom that day, when those skollies broke into my car. Billy told Freddy he mustn’t worry because there was a gun next to his father’s bed. I told Jan Willem after Koos was shot,
“Jan Willem, now will you put those guns away”
But Jan Willem said, “OK Ma, but I’ll just keep the one next to the bed.”
“What’s the use of having a gun if you can’t use it when you need it?” Jan Willem said.
And what did I say? I said, “Jan Willem, you must know what you are doing.”
But you see what happened. That Freddy he went straight to Jan Willem’s bed and he got the gun to scare the skollies. And my Billy ran up to him to stop him, and then there was a shot, and I came running upstairs, and there was my Billy lying on the floor. And Freddy was standing there with the gun still in his hand and a shocked expression on his face. It happened all over again. I couldn’t believe it. Only this time it was my Billy who was lying dead. I thought I was going mad and it was all a dream. But it wasn’t, it was real.
So you see why I can’t cook that hare. But maybe I will. Maybe I should cook it. I will cook it for Billy and for Koos and for poor Freddy who suffered just like my Billy. Maybe God will be merciful and punish Freddy too like my Billy, or maybe Freddy will live a long life with his suffering. I don’t know because I never saw Freddy again either.
Now, I think that I will cook that hare. I will cook it for those boys and I will invite Dimitri to come and eat it with me. Maybe he will say like Jan Willem used to say
“Elna, this is the best rabbit stew I ever ate.”
by Barbara Siedle 2012