Warning: This story is pretty horrific, even for me. I dreamed this one. Take it as you will. Thanks for stopping by. - CC
Toby and I filed out to Amanda’s car one by one to transfer the specialized foods she’d brought along for the trip. Our mutual friend Amanda had insisted on inviting herself to the vacation but traveled separately since she had an enormous amount of luggage. Airplanes gave her headaches, trains took too long and she would never be caught dead on a Greyhound bus, so she drove the distance in her fancy sports car. Amanda stayed in the rented rooms with Isaac, whom she’d just met in the hotel bar that day. Given her social status and that it’d happened before, the surprise guest wasn’t all that surprising.
I grunted under the hot July sun as we worked together to shift colored plastic bags scented with heavy perfumes containing who knew what into the back of his pickup. The matching Coach bags were heavy, laden with more of the things she couldn’t live without, because when Amanda traveled, she thought of everything. When we reached the large cooler, we discovered that the trunk liner beneath it was standing in water. The drive from Laredo must’ve taken at least six hours so we knew that anything that Amanda had brought to supplement her highly-specialized diet was pretty much a goner. I started to open the lid.
“Are you sure you want to do that? One of her snow crabs might pinch your nose off.” Toby smirked from the other side of the trunk. “I’m baking out here. I’m gonna go grab us a couple bottles of water.”
“You might want to call her down to look at her food. It’ll be her choice whether we throw it away.”
Toby nodded and went off as planned. I stared at the lid of the cooler. Some of the food might be good still. I couldn’t heft the container alone so I flipped the slide-lock and opened it instead. Toby had cracked a joke about snow crabs attacking me, but he’d been closer to the truth than he thought. Nestled inside in neat packaging were all sorts of wild and exotic meats with a few unidentifiable vegetables. As we’d assumed, the meat was defrosting. We might’ve been been able to salvage a few choices but Amanda would have to consult with her physician, dietician, and whomever else she contacted to decide whether partially-thawed meats could kill her. I stared into that box for maybe half a minute as I tried to make a decision on how to handle the mistake. Amanda refused to eat standard meals anywhere. She’d find a way to somehow hold us responsible in one of her classic bitch fits. But we hadn’t loaded the car, and certainly not the travel cooler. One of the packages shifted and I blinked. Maybe the sun was getting to me. When it shifted again, I let out a sharp scream and dropped the lid shut.
Had I imagined the movement? Curiosity won over fear. My father hadn’t raised me to be a flimsy-wristed pansy girl. I squared my shoulders and opened the cooler again. No movement. I wrapped my fingers around the suspicious package, wrapped in pale pink waxed paper. It jerked weakly against my hand. I gaped. Oh my god. I pulled the bundle out of the cooler and took it the grassy strip that divided the hotel and the concrete drive of the loading area. The simple butcher’s tape gave up its prize: A whole, not-so-frozen-anymore brown rabbit.
The eating habits of the rich were often disgusting, but this particular entrée had been forced to lie on its belly and was packaged similar to a child’s toy, with a cardboard collar around its body and included cutting board. And somehow, someway, this animal was still alive.
I carefully tore away the cardboard from the wet, closely cropped fur and untwisted the vinyl ties that bound its feet together. It gave a sigh, punctuated with a whistle. How did this thing still live? When I rolled it over, it stretched its front paws and twitched one long ear. I looked up to see Toby walking back to me with Amanda and her gentleman companion in tow.
“Whatcha got there?” Toby called, and I waved him over. The bunny hadn’t opened its eyes yet but its shaved sides rose and fell with rapid breath. Toby halted at my feet wearing the same expression I imagined I’d been wearing five minutes before. He eyed the discarded container, the reanimated rabbit, and then me. “Was that in Amanda’s cooler?”
I nodded slowly and turned the little animal over. Its big hind feet kicked in response but I held them together with one hand to show Toby the neatly-stitched gash I’d found in the bunny’s gut. “You’ve dressed game before. What do you think they might’ve taken out?”
He shook his head. “Could be anything. The liver, intestines…if it was flash-frozen to be baked…” He frowned as I laid the rabbit in his hands and rose to my feet.
I strode back over to Isaac standing with Amanda at the trunk of her car as she fussed over the remains of her dietary choices and bemoaned her digestive demise for the remainder of our getaway. She turned to me as I approached and opened her mouth to speak but didn’t get a word out. I punched her in the face.