I smell it again. Past hemlock, below hilltop, the aroma comes from man’s wooden lodge, drifting on powerful smoke, burning my nose.
My eyes are closed. Behind them, man eats his bloodless rabbit meal: chewing, always chewing; licking fingers clean; sucking every tawny bone bare; he will leave no bloodless meat behind. Before he sleeps tonight, he will bury those bones behind his lodge where I sold my soul.
Even now, I would run there if I could and dig up his bones and feast on marrow for the rest of my short, pathetic life.
It was there that I lost my dignity by giving in to temptation. I chewed many cooked bones behind his lodge, feasting under hemlock, becoming less of a hunter.
When man left his lodge for two summers, his woman replaced him. She did not bury rabbit bones. Instead, she threw them and their bloodless meat into high grass. Although the meat was dry and chewy, it had a rich flavor that was addictive. I became a scavenger, a beggar; I stopped hunting altogether.
If my sons should find any trace of me here, they will never know the follies of a foolish old laggard who spent his last days chasing dead rabbits. my death will erase all evidence of my foolish ways.
Did I cry just now, or was it the hungry wail of my empty stomach?
Rain assaults my eyes like large tears trying to blind me of a past that haunts me. Is this my salvation? Will regret be my pardon?
Is there no limit to my delusion?
Rabbits are near. Listen. Smell them.
The elder rabbit towers above me. He looks down at me with a laughing eye. He mocks my anguish. He sneers at my torment with his taunting round face inching across the sky, pulling the blanket of night and death over me.
I wonder if my bones will make a good meal. Will someone like me, too feeble for the hunt, rob my grave and chew on my marrow to satisfy their hunger?
Maybe man will find my old bones instead. I am sure my teeth would make a fine necklace.
Maybe I will not die.
Maybe this is not sunlight warming me, pulling me to my feet.
Rabbits scamper around me, running through summer grass.
I give chase, the way I did in my youth.