Sunday, November 30, 2008

Grey rabbit.

The interpreter was about to leave the Nature House, late on a holiday Monday. He always seemed to be the one scheduled to work on long weekends. As he was closing the door he remembered the rabbit. Someone had abandoned a domestic rabbit in the park, and another interpreter had caught it, put it in a cage in the Nature House, and attached a sign: Don’t forget to feed me.

The rabbit was grey. It looked bored. The interpreter opened the door and reached into the cage to add more pellets to the food bowl. The rabbit lunged forward and bit the interpreter’s little finger to the bone. It didn’t hurt at all, but bled like crazy for a few minutes.

The interpreter had not had a tetanus shot in at least a decade, perhaps longer. Perhaps it had not been since he was nine years old, when a nail pierced his shoe at summer camp. He sighed. No clinic was open today, at this time. He took a cab to the hospital, expecting to spend several hours waiting in Emergency because all he had was a rabbit bite--on his pinky.

A middle-aged couple entered the ER ahead of him. The woman seemed in distress. She told a young security guard she had had an operation a few days earlier and now had a high fever and unbearable abdominal pain. Peritonitis, perhaps.

“Please have a seat,” said the security guard. The husband was dinging the bell at the nurse’s station. There was a sign: Please ring the bell ONCE only. Someone will be with you soon.

The husband saw the sign, said "Oops," and sat down.

No one was with them soon. Twenty minutes passed. The woman and her husband asked the interpreter to ding the bell.

"But I came in with you,” said the interpreter. “You dinged it for me too. And you dinged it six or seven times.”

“I dinged it for my wife,” said the husband, indignantly. “You wouldn’t do that for your wife?”

“He probably doesn’t have one,” said the wife.

A woman staggered in who had been attacked by feral cat. She had been kneeling on a foam pad, weeding her garden, when a cat leapt from the hedge and tore at her face and throat. Dried blood trails ran from her brow to her chin, and puncture–swellings dotted her neck. She dinged the bell, once. Then a young man came in. He had sawed through his hand below his index finger. The hand was wrapped in a bloody towel. With the other hand he dinged the bell, once.

No one was with them soon.

They sat there waiting. The lady with the operation and the fever peevishly informed the most recent arrivals that the interpreter had not yet dinged the bell. Still, he didn’t. Having only a rabbit bite on his pinky, the interpreter felt more observer than participant. He bore their anger as they waited together, forever. His pinky throbbed, very weakly.

Finally the triage nurse emerged from a hole and tended to everyone. Because all the interpreter had was a rabbit bite on his pinky, he was seen last, then was sent to another waiting room for another eternity. Evidently this was a room where children were often sent to wait. A non-functioning Etch-a-Sketch was bolted to a table. The interpreter looked at his finger. The rabbit wounds were now all but invisible.

The tetanus shot bled almost as much as the rabbit bite. "Oh, and watch the rabbit for a couple weeks for signs of rabies," said the doctor, "or take it to the SPCA, and they’ll know what to do." Then he told the interpreter that in this province the incidence of rabies in lagomorphs was so low that there was no recommendation for rabies checks when bitten by these animals. “But keep in mind that rabies is universally fatal.”

What did that mean?

The next day the interpreter phoned the SPCA to ask if they would come to pick up the rabbit.

"You understand that if it’s unadoptable we’ll have to put it down," said the voice.

"Um," said the interpreter.

"We’ll put it down," said the voice. "If it’s unadoptable it will be put down. Do you understand?"

"Um, this one bit me,” said the interpreter. “I guess it would be best if it were checked for rabies." Then he played stupid. He knew you check brain tissue for rabies. He had grown up in a province where rabies was common, in elementary school had been taught about rabies numerous times. You kill the animal and send its brain away for testing. You don’t mess around. A mammal bites you, you take its brain.

"We don’t do that,” said the SPCA voice. “They do that in Abbotsford."

"You send the rabbit to Abbotsford."

"We send its head to Abbotsford."

“Oh,” said the interpreter.

“You want us to come and get it?” asked the SPCA voice.

The interpreter heard himself say, “Yes.” He looked at the rabbit. It sat motionless in its cage, as doomed as Dumbo’s momma.


themanicgardener said...

That sounds like a shitty day for the interpreter. Hope tomorrow is better for him and that his co-workers don't shoot him nasty looks for "killing" the rabbit.

Aunt Debbi/kurts mom said...

Had to have a rabies vaccine as a kid. That rabbit had to go.