Okay, dear readers, I’m going to have to do something that I have never done before. I am going to have to publish a trigger warning so, for those of a sensitive disposition, here goes.
This post includes details that may be traumatic to animal lovers. I’m going to put the ‘read more’ line here so it’s up to you now…
When I tell you the details of my earliest memory, you will probably wonder how I didn’t grow up to be a serial killer. Seriously. I even thought about substituting it for another that I can remember from early on. That too was a dud – so I decided to go with the regrettable truth. Sophie’s Voice is not about the sugar coating.
I grew up in the country. I was born in London but my parents fancied a taste of the good life as they had both grown up growing vegetables and pickling things. Lovely. An urban baby uprooted for a better life in a rural idyll by hopeful, idealistic parents. What more could anyone ask for?
Ah yes, a roof that didn’t leak; a car that didn’t break down on the way to…anywhere, really; heating that worked; neighbours who spoke in a discernible language; a nearby town where it was possible to buy cheese – instead of a tractor.
In order to improve our quality of life, my father bought a dog. A springer spaniel to be exact. A gun dog – so he could go pheasant shooting and extend his social circle. Anyway, we got Tilly. She was beautiful – but also crazy. Bona fide canine insane. Not great around children either. That was okay, though – I stuck like glue to my father at that age so I was always with the only person who could control her.
Then, one day, my father bought me a rabbit. I can’t remember what she was called but she was tiny and white and furry. My father bought a hutch for the rabbit and built a run with old bits of wood and chicken wire. We fed and watered bunnikins together and all was well.
During the sunny, hazy, summer days of 1977, I spent all my days hovering around the rabbit run watching my pet grow. The rabbit was still diminutive as an adult. Watching progress was compulsive viewing.
Then, one morning, I had breakfast with Dad as normal and went to get dressed while he got the rabbit out of the hutch and into the run. I stopped on the landing on the way to my room so I could watch him from the window.
The hutch was moved, the run put in place and Bunny was released into the – relative – wild. I gazed at the scene as if I couldn’t find the energy to move. Dad went to get Tilly too then. My eyes swept leftwards so that I could see the new development. Tilly appeared in a state of relative sanity and, when I looked over to the rabbit run again, it was empty.
I was perturbed but intrigued too. I looked around and saw that bunny had escaped. She had learned to dig and come up on the other side of the fence.
She hopped around happily. The bid for freedom was half hearted and she lingered where she felt comfortable, right by her run.
My father saw the scene too – but his reaction was different. He went for Tilly’s collar as she surged away from him. He was too late. Tilly ran to the rabbit, picked her up in her mouth and bit.
The rest is a mess of blood and head shaking and – perfectly natural – canine savagery.
I’m not sure that my parents ever realised that I had witnessed the demise of bunnikins. As a vignette it appeals to the writer in me. It is almost the perfect example – seen through a window by a powerless voyeur, a scene which arouses contrasting emotional reactions and ends in death.
It’s Chekhov for infants. It’s surprising that I’m not a rural spinster harbouring lustful yearnings for my neighbour’s daughter while practising the piano in a state of ever escalating turbulence now.
Or – as previously suggested – a serial killer, I suppose. I’ll leave you with a suitably unsettling piece of artwork so you can all question the possible likelihood of that eventuality.
Have a lovely Sunday, everybody. And sleep soundly tonight.