Amanda Cleary Eastep
I held the wild baby rabbit in my cupped hands.
My family had been caring for a fluffle of about ten of them for the past week, squeezing evaporated milk into tiny mouths with an eye dropper. It was spring, and my father had run over the nest with the lawnmower, killing a few of them instantly. The grass was ankle high in the front yard of our house that sat in the middle of what was otherwise five acres of field corn.
My father had watched the nest for days and didn’t see the mother return. Still heartbroken over the event and not realizing then that the mother was probably caring for the remaining babies early in the morning, he decided we needed to rescue them. But how to care for wild baby rabbits?
He called a few farmers who probably tried not to laugh at the former city boy, and one told him to drown the babies in a bucket of water. The town vet suggested PET milk, every two hours. We listened to the latter.
Although the rabbits were furred, their eyes weren’t yet open when my father lifted them out of the nest and set them one by one in an old wooden crate lined with newspaper and old towels and brought them into the house where we began the feedings.
Within days, eyes opened. Tongues as tiny and pink as a baby’s fingernail flicked greedily at the drops of milk. And little spasms of springiness sent them in unpredictable directions.
Oddly, that experience is fresh in my mind as I wait for news on a manuscript submission.
Of all the baby rabbits, my favorite had already developed a distinctive white scruff that ran from the base of one ear, beneath the mouth, to the base of the other ear. Snowbeard would sit quietly in my left hand, cupped against my chest, as I petted the space between the silly excuse for ears. The tip of my child finger fit inside the divot of the skull. I could raise the ball of fur right to my face. We could share warmth and breath. The heartbeat trilled against my cheek.
It wouldn’t be long before he and the others grew too wild to hold.
But for now, I could sit on the couch watching Saturday morning cartoons and set Snowbeard on my left shoulder. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched as comically small paws groomed the face even small hands could easily crush. Slide, lick, smooth. Slide, lick, smooth.
Remember this moment. This may never come again.
I hold the book I’m writing in cupped hands too.
The opportunity to nurture it seemed to spring out of nowhere–unless you count decades of dreaming and reading and writing. But this particular story, uncovered like hidden life in long grass, surprised me.
And I’ve fed it. Touched it’s fragile bones with one finger. Loved it.
Now I’ve gingerly placed it into someone else’s hands. What if they don’t love it like I do? What if they drop it?
What if it realizes it is wild and isn’t content in my hands?
What if it flees in a blur of gray and white?