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The Rabbit God
Jeremy Young
Because of his natural interest in women and his courtship with his mother, following the disappearance of his father, Paul had developed a keen understanding of the female mind.

Having been a man since the age of seven, Paul knew all the signs of rejection. But the sign that he found hardest was the pulled back kiss. That moment when, on some pretence, usually of his not shaving close enough, the woman (in this case Charlotte) would create a scene to keep him safely at arms length; and firmly in his place. The pulled back kiss was only part of the process. For, Charlotte had murmured the ultimate insult in the gamut of space creation: she had called him boring.

This was unfair for two reasons. Firstly, there was the material evidence: he had delayed a deadline to see her, expended petrol money, was paying for the curry and she had done most of the talking. He pushed the last lump of chicken madras into the pile of rice and felt his small hopes die. Of course, the second reason the insult stung was linked to this death of hope. Paul had long ago learned that in his life, it was always hope that fled first from Pandora’s box. Yet, this was not the argument that he would use later.

Alone in his bed his mind ran over that snippet of conversation. Charlotte, one eye obscured by the neck of the Cobra bottle, made the remark casually but with calculated impact. She had been telling him about the doings of a person unknown to him. Of how they had left their car in a multi-story car park and then could not remember on which floor they had parked. The tale was backed by smiles and small hoots of mocking laughter. Paul had listened and tried to understand but the story had no drive, nor interest nor anything much beyond the exposure of an acquaintance in an effort to make the teller seem important.

This behaviour was something that annoyed him in Charlotte. She found validation in her own actions through the misfortunes of others. Paul was particularly annoyed at this tendency because she was clearly a very talented and intelligent person. And, in his opinion, boring as it was, such methods of self-deception were the actions of a weak person: like his father.
For a month, he and Charlotte had lived in each other’s pocket. There was not a film they had not seen at the local cinema. It all made a very pleasant change for him because ordinarily he spent his evenings in the pub and his days at work. Weekends were spent reading the ‘what’s on’ column before heating a microwave meal and watching sport on TV.

There was something amazingly wonderful about being alone. Secure that he could walk from the bathroom to the kitchen and stand at the window watching the traffic without comment on his spreading waistline. Or, on low days, he could buy four cans of stupidly strong lager, drink them one after another and wake up to the Open University, safe in the knowledge that his godlike ability to survive punishment was as strong as ever.

Amy had been a nice girl; his mother would have liked her. She had not changed things too much, by her moving in. In the year and half, before restless feet urged her to wander back to the far side of the globe, Paul considered them to be happy enough. They had the normal conversations of couples, in the right sequence and time scale. First, they talked about marriage. This conversation was perhaps the most prolonged and because it was left unresolved, they talked about children: how many, names, hair colour.

Her departure at New Year was as sudden as her arrival in high summer. They had gone for a walk in the park, with the imaginary dog. Paul held the dog on an invisible lead, whilst Amy pushed the phantom pram containing the unseen offspring of their union. Without warning, Amy slammed on the brakes and in an earnest voice informed him that she was going back to New Zealand. To emphasis her unhappiness, she re-enforced the message with the information that she found him controlling. The cynical part of his brain accused her of reading too many self help books. Indeed, this charge was laid before her. But that same brain cell, also generated another thought: more cynical and truer for being so. In fact, so happy was he at the news that he let the imaginary dog slip the lead and rejoiced to see it run off. The pram with mewling infant was dispatched into the boating lake, followed closely by the snaking invisible lead.

He did not help with the packing, as this would have broken the image of heartbreak currently showing to the world. Amy sensed his hysterical relief and resorted to outbreaks of tears and accusations of false dealings. His reply was short and to the point; it was she leaving him and her attempts to twist the blame was only adding to his distress.

Paul was certain of only one thing in life. However, that incident was now clouded by time into a small memory from his thirteenth year that chided him whenever things went well. The certainty was that he was not capable of feeling love. That he was not worthy of such a state because of his upbringing. Ordinarily this did not bother him in the slightest. Amy had only mildly provoked these feelings in him. Her love was always too limited in the extent to which she was prepared to submit to his needs.

Yet, Charlotte’s words had brought back this memory into sharp relief. He psychologically removed the Cobra bottle to get a clear look at her eyes as he re-ran the incident for the hundredth time. He found himself locked in an internal dialogue with the memory, as he sought reasons for her dismissal of him.

After the curry, he was awarded the slightest of kisses. The insult of being called boring had made him reluctant to ask for more. The peck and pull back only served to establish the new facts that he was no longer desirable in her eyes. When contrasting this moment, with the boring comment, against the sentiments of the previous few weeks he was rather confused to discover he was back at square one and flailing like an adolescent.

He pushed the receive button for the forty second time and still there was nothing. Charlotte’s last message was one of such sweetness and warmth that it only added to the coldness of her no longer speaking. A brief check through the sent items did not reveal any clues to her sudden change of heart. He had shown nothing but courtesy and perfect manners in his dealings with her.
At last, he could stop himself no longer. He drained the last of the lager, before opening another and the Drafts box. The email had grown and evolved over the month. At first, it was a straight, ‘thank you and goodbye.’ But as they had grown closer, he found justification and reasoning had crept into the sugaring of the parting.

Opening the message, he read the text twice, before taking hold of his mouse and prepared to send. The tone of the message was rather detached. He wanted a clean break: he did not want to break up at all, but if fate had decided matters then who was he to stand against such higher forces. If this were to be done, then the email need be high minded, honourable and proof of his suffering: after all hope had already fled and only the sins of the world remained.
Amy had contacted him twice since returning home. Once to tell him that she had met a man and then two months later to say that she was married and pregnant. Paul thought the chap fertile but a fool. Because of his natural interest in women and his courtship with his mother, following the disappearance of his father, Paul had developed a keen understanding of the female mind.
Amy’s heavy-handed attempt at misusing the contraceptive pill was noted immediately and countered. If she had just stopped taking it, or adopted the strategy of hiding them, then maybe he would not have counted the days of missed medication. He knew well the reason for her half-hearted birth control. She did not want a family with him, because she did not believe him to be the right man. She was seeking to cut him out of her life but did not have the power to escape him. When he realised this Paul did the sensible thing, acknowledged the facts and maintained her in just enough comfort to stay but enough hostility to remove him from the damage of emotional ties.
Her response to this was typically female. But, because he no longer cared for her, he could easily not return phone calls, and it didn’t matter to him that he bought white sliced bread instead of granary, nor did he care that she ranted and raged at him. Because the truth was, he was doing her a favour in keeping her childless. Amy was in no way ready to have a child. And clearly, she had no real intention to do so. If she had, then she would have used her feminine powers to make the dream a reality.

Mind, when he was making allowances for her, during the period of being half in love but heading for the door, Paul would often ascribe this to her natural fairylike tendencies. For all the tough exterior, Amy was a very insecure person. With this insecurity went panic attacks and resulting loss of memory. She described these times as being like walking in fog. Paul saw this as a lame thinking and another example of her clichéd mind. Rather like his mother.

Charlotte was different. Though she and Amy, were both women, the similarity was as between a flea and a moth. Where Amy had been emotionally weak from homesickness and the rowing, Charlotte was the picture of strength. Not once did they have raised voices. It was Paul that did the ringing and the paying: in contrast to life with Amy, which was a constant round of negotiation in an effort to maintain half shares.
He met Charlotte at a business awards dinner. Paul had been summoned by the head of department to attend. The place was filled with men in polo shirts and suits. Only the speaker wore a tie. He sat at the back of hall as one after another a stream of gas fitters, boilermakers and associated trades went up to the small dais to collect the Perspex trophies. After a brief interview with Plumbing World, he made his excuses and left.

As he was crossing the lobby and heading for the exit, Charlotte came up to him and started talking. She worked for a competitor and he had seen her often at trade shows and the like, but had never paid her much attention. An exchange of business cards followed. Then, seemingly over night, he was seeing her at every spare moment: and making spare moments from commitments.
The conversation with Charlotte ran slightly oddly. Within a week, the subject of children grew out of a conversation about wallpaper. And the topic came up a number of times. In fact, she brought up the subject with surprising frequency. Even once during a passionate love making session when she dared him to remove the condom on the pretence that he had come once and the chance of his being able to ejaculate was highly unlikely for the next half an hour.
At the time, Paul thought this very sophisticated. Despite women, having more contact with their bodies, it had always surprised him the barriers they created in order to keep mind and body separate. Besides, the intensity of the kiss with which she backed her request temporarily disarmed him to the inherent dangers of the situation.

Amy’s terminations had taken more a toll on his emotions than he was prepared to admit. Of course, he had not been there. Blood was women’s work. Whilst she did the decent thing, he had waited in the pub. It would be no use them both being there, ran the argument, because that would only alert everyone to the crime being committed.

In the overwhelming excitement of great sex and the constant references to children, Paul had neglected to notice any mention of marriage. This had been the constant cry with Amy. But, the assumption with Charlotte was that the commitment was in place from the start. The logic ran thus: she wants me, I want her, and we will be together: simple, direct and implicit between them both.
So, when he slid from the condom and re-inserted himself, Paul was not thinking of the whisky chaser while Amy lay sobbing. Nor was he considering marriage. The sole thought on his mind was replying to the warm lips attempting to swamp him with affection and a rather crude thought about not wearing slippers in bed. Besides what was the chance of Charlotte dropping like a hanky every month? There could only be one Amy.

For some reason he did not send the revised email. It got as far as the outbox before being dragged back. They had not spoken for three days. It was not he, who had broken their bond by insulting her. It was not he, pulling away. He was heading toward her, just as she had said she wanted. Therefore, it was down to her to make the first move. Which partly explains Paul’s reluctance to send the email. Because by his doing so, he would in fact be making the first step. And, being a rejection might easily be misconstrued as the chance not to make the second.
In the story of the young bull and the old bull, the two are stood at the top of a field watching all the cows come into season. The young bull says to the old bull, "Gosh, look at all those cows down there. If we run down we can have sex with one of them." But the old bull has wisdom and stamina and replies calmly, "If we walk down we can fuck ‘em all."

This story had stayed with Paul. He liked the simple metaphor and the reality of the sentiment. At work, he did not rush and he had certainly found it easy enough to get Amy to move at his slow pace. Though she had taken a great deal of breaking in.
For him to send that email, at that time, from a moment of weakness: would have been all the reason Charlotte needed to reject him out of hand, without even the possibility that once she had come through her monthly cycle, they would resume where they had left off.
So, instead he opened Explorer and searched the web for the possibility that Charlotte might be pregnant. According to most medical opinion, the chances were very slim. He had only moved it about a bit and not actually produced the necessary fluids in sufficient amount. But they did offer caution that the possibility still existed. A mental image of his sperm offered chance for inspection. They were all in working order, no doubt about that, and they were well trained, even giving fishy salutes as a sign of their obedience to their master’s request for suicide.
One site did catch his attention. It was not a medical site as such but a hormone company in Ohio. It advertised a product called DynoMax, which if used in the correct dosage produced unseasonably long possibilities to the bull. On closer inspection, he noticed that the page had not been mis-catagorised. A links page directed onto sites for menopausal women and women unable to conceive.

Three paragraphs of promotional material were enough to bring revelation to Paul. According to the Institute of Animal Husbandry in Wyoming, cows in season give off a massive phenomenal charge that makes any susceptible male instantly attracted to the opportunities suggested. The perfume is sweet to the taste.
Disconnecting, he pulled Outlook Express from the tool bar and re-opened the draft message. One sentence leapt at him. It was in the list of reasons he was missing her and there at number four was her smell. The night of the curry she smelt awful.

Feeling pleased with himself and emboldened by drink, he called her. A feeling of glee bubbled around him as the phone rang. His drunken thoughts revolved around the belief that he had discovered the reason for their breaking up, And what’s more, it was fate because the only reason he liked her was because he was broody for the missing children and now that she stank it was clear to him that they were never meant to be together. Thankfully, Charlotte was out. He let five seconds of tape pass before deciding to say nothing and hang up.

1471 produced the required result. Charlotte had not meant to be rude at the restaurant. And, she had been really missing him. But then came the awful truth. She was seeing someone else. Instantly Paul crumbled. For a few seconds there was dead silence before she asked him if he minded. Which was as daft as Paul’s reply because rather than express the anger he felt, he made some very modern psycobabbling reply about how it was her life, no commitments, and his only wanting to support her.

Another period of silence followed, before from behind a cough, Charlotte began to tell the story of how she had been forced into working as a prostitute at seventeen by her first husband. Paul listened in increasing horror at the tale of brutality and neglect. His anger increasing at this person called Dennis. Dennis was older than she and had swept her off her feet. But soon things turned bad when he forced her into making pornographic videos, which led to sleeping with his friends before finally hitting rock bottom and the streets.

The other man was someone that she had met through a dating agency. It was in no way as serious as what she felt for Paul. In fact, she had only gone out with him a couple of times. He was an insurance broker with a big firm, big house, ex-wife and money. She did not like him really. When they were together it felt like being with a punter. Whereas when she was with Paul, she felt wanted and protected. The insurance man was too distant from her, unwilling to commit.

This was not exactly what he wanted to hear. The idea of sharing a woman was to him tantamount to homosexuality or incest. But, she had hooked him and this was her phone call, that he had pre-empted and she was willing to come round and try again. And, she did not find him boring.
Paul now found himself in a very particular position. His instinctive reaction following the curry house incident was to push her completely from himself: a coping strategy that worked well. If things were not as planned, then simply return to the place were the plan began and start again.
Yet, the missing month had not space to fit amongst the current ephemera of doubts. So, he mentally copied both files onto separate memory cards and filed them away. Inserting memory card one, labelled – I like Charlotte because: he set about the process of picking up cans and throwing out the Kebab papers.

The changed circumstances brought out great maternal feelings within him. They had met at his flat before, but then all that mattered was a vacuumed carpet in the bedroom and a change of the sheets. Now, he seemed to be letting her into his life. She had added as a footnote to the story, that she had not told anyone the truth but that she felt she could trust him.
He set about not just tidying but also actual cleaning. Even going so far as to begin throwing things away. And, the more he got involved in the process, the more benefit he derived. Though still drunk, and slightly smarting from the fact that he had not actually told her about his theory, Paul found himself in the midst of a decision. And, the decision was that he would ask Charlotte to move in with him.

Opening a draw in the kitchen, he found a long discarded pack of photographs. He recognised the back garden, Amy had been drawn to taking pictures from the kitchen window for some reason. Paul flicked through these without much interest: until he came across a tiny printout of the second baby. Amy had stolen it from machine at the hospital, against his express order. The second child had been detected later than the others. It had caused the most problems. She had grown attached to it by the time he returned from the sales trip. She threatened to leave him unless he stopped pressurising her but he soon put a stop to that. A sympathetic doctor was not hard to find.
Amy was clearly stupid. They had discussed the timing and danger of children and she had gone against his wishes and their agreement. And, to emphasise this folly, creating a child was proof of her mental instability.
But the – I like Charlotte because: chip in his head cut through the negative feelings. He slid the printout back with the photos and dropped them all into the waste bin. There must be no evidence left.

But, the exchange of chips was not so straightforward anymore. For one thing, the thought occurred to him that the baby Amy was carrying might indeed be his. As the evening wore into night and he made ready for bed, the doubts and feelings of rejection mingled with the feelings of the previous happy month: creating a true assessment of his current thinking.
And, it did not help that he was again through to her answer machine, when all he wanted was a bit of phone sex and the chance of having his ego massaged. He lay in bed with the phone pressed to his ear, wondering why she would not pick up. Eventually after three attempts and three messages: the casual, the humorous and the threatening: he decided to give it a rest and get some sleep.

Charlotte had already confessed, after all, to liking him the best. But then, if that was the case, why was she seeing someone else? And, where was she tonight?

Again, 1471 came to the rescue. She had been in the bath, or the toilet, or otherwise engaged. It was great to hear from him. What had he been doing? Paul brightened at the attention. He gave a rambling account of his cleaning activities and in a fit of bravado happened to mention the picture of the baby. Charlotte prickled slightly and again fell quiet. Paul asked a couple of times what was wrong before she demanded to know the story of the child and what had happened to the first.
Now the truth was that he neither knew nor cared. Amy had explained about the various children but he did not want to hear. He had picked up on one thing. That during the fourth and final procedure, she thought they might have damaged her internally. And the doctor said it probably was not a good idea for her to have children because of the risk.

And so, the blame was firmly laid on no one’s shoulders. Charlotte listened in wracked interest at the tale of woe. Of how he rushed Amy to the hospital each time, staying with Amy throughout to help her through and of how Amy had died in a car crash. But then he felt guilty and corrected the part about the car crash because it seemed too far-fetched. He concluded his tale with an epithet on the nature of life and the cruel tricks of fate.

Secure that he had won back her affections, Paul moved onto stage two. On enquiring about her living conditions, he soon discovered a number of flies in the ointment. She was currently renting, by her own admission and without too much prompting, a dingy flat, at exorbitant rent, because her last boyfriend had sold her house from underneath her and left her homeless. Another name was added to Dennis’s on his hit list of men that shamed his sex. This was Simon, who after three years of committed living together, ran off with a man to some Greek Island for a re-make of Shirley Valentine, the musical.

It was too soon to make the suggestion but he did wave the flag a little to see if there was any interest generated. They had been to her flat on a number of occasions and Paul instantly saw that cards played in the right order would not make it the slightest wrench on her part to up sticks to his pleasantly appointed dwelling. Of course, he would have to see off the insurance man. And that meant only one thing.

His mother taught him the plan. When his father could take no more of it, Paul had stepped into the breach. He got the full extent of her suffering and learned valuable lessons into the ways of the female mind. She constantly repeated the mantra that if only she had tried harder to control his father, he would never have left.

To Paul’s seven-year-old mind, this seemed only sensible. He did after all keep pet mice. But it did not seem unreasonable, that if he reversed the lesson his mother had been at such pains to teach him; he might ensure her protection. And so, he learned the tricks of control. His mother was only too willing to teach: for she needed an outlet for her frustrations.

There was a slight amount of bullying, particularly in secondary school but Paul managed to cope with it. And, one or two eyebrows were raised at the strange behaviour that was suspected behind closed doors. But in general, no one suspected and neither of them was willing to tell. That was the key to success, secrecy and remaining as a unit of two.

Only when she pitched up in the hospital did things change. He came home from school to find a note, asking him to go to his aunties round the corner and to wait for her there. He sat in the corner of the sitting room, eavesdropping the whisperings from the kitchen. Women’s voice, low and conspiratorial, whispering the truth: that it was all for the best, the only thing to do.
His mother arrived back late that night, looking drained. Paul tried his best to comfort her but it was already too late. His hand was turned aside. His concern dismissed as out of place and unwanted. Hope fled once more, but the relationship went on.

Alone in his bed that night Paul ran through the failures in his plan. The firewall of defences had kept everything so secretive and enclosed there were no flaws. They spent so much time together discussing their doubts that there was no longer any problem.

Now older and more understanding of the situation Paul would blithely admit to himself that it was all down to sibling rivalry. That his methods of control were sound in planning but even the best-made plan cannot be expected to cope with such unexpected outcomes. The thought that he would be father to his own brother was difficult to even understand at first. But, given time he rather grew to like the idea. And, given time, he pulled her back into line.

And so, it came to pass that as the autumn finally collapsing into the dead night of winter Charlotte made the leap. During a rainstorm in November, they loaded the last of the boxes into the car and made the journey across town. She looked and smelt wonderful to Paul. The move was inevitable. She had been practically living with him since the end of July, and only maintained her dreary rented flat as a means of escape. But, somehow, she felt that now was the time to cut her losses and jump.

In truth, it was the desired outcome for both of them. She had the money to buy a place and had delayed in the hope that he would accept her past and make a go of things.
Charlotte felt so comfortable with Paul. He was kind and considerate: he made meals; he cleaned. Yes, he did have occasional flare up of temper but he always apologised for slapping her in the kindest way.

And Paul too, felt happy. He now had a reason to get up, other than making money. And she was sweet and kind and seemed to love him with an unconditional love that he had missed for so long.

Then one day it happened. Charlotte was away on a sales drive to push a new plumbing fixative to the south coast market. Paul was in his office running through some spreadsheets. He knew she was going to call because it was her time but something in the air made his nose twitch and started panic bells ringing in his head. When the number flashed up on the caller display function, dead on time, he answered the call with some trepidation.

Charlotte was in an excited mood. She was coming home early because she had some brilliant news to tell. He asked her to tell him: realising the way in which the conversation need go.
It took a little over ten minutes to contact the required people and book.
Charlotte required further schooling.

© Jeremy Young June 2002


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