The fingertips of Bobby Levin’s right hand were throbbing and buzzing — pretty darn close to the feeling one often gets on his tongue when he licks the posts of a nine-volt battery. He knew, however, that the feeling would eventually go away because it always did. It often dissipated by the next morning. He didn’t have to touch it, but he did. It was just a little thing. Dad called it a June bug. Bobby thought it was a funny name.
June bug, June bug
found it smashed behind a jug.
June bug, June bug
found it smashed behind a jug.
“Throw it away before your mom sees it, little guy,” Robert Levin told his boy.
“I’m not little. I’m five now, ‘member?”
Dad nodded. “And hurry up. Mom’s putting the enchiladas on the table already.”
“Yeah, alright,” he sighed. “Do I gotta throw it away? Cause that’s mean.”
“So, take it outside and wash your hands when you come back in. Got it?”
“Got it, Dad!” A high-five was in order. Bobby loved his dad. He was the coolest dad he ever had! That’s what he’d tell his friends when he started kindergarten the next month.
He knew that June bugs were supposed to have six legs, but this one had only five. Its head was squashed — Dad said he really didn’t mean to step on it. But that was okay because Bobby knew what he had to do. There was a little bit of that white stuff coming out of the side, he always thought it looked like the white stuff in those donuts that mom likes to eat with a cup of coffee.
“I’m back! My hands are clean, and I want some chee-lalas, Mom.” Juana Levin smiled, then rolled her eyes.
“What do you say, little man?” Robert softly poked his son’s shoulder.
“K. Where is the creature you found? Is it in the trash?”
“Well, what happened to it?”
Bobby’s eyes concentrated on his chee-lalas balancing on his fork. “I fixed it.”
“Hurry up, darn slowpoke!” Bobby’s cousin turned around and yelled. He almost tripped on a big stone.
“I’m gonna tell your dad you keep cussing, Tommy,” Bobby said, zipping up his jeans. “I told you I had to pee.”
“Yeah, I told you to pee at home, dumbo.”
Tommy needed a stick, so he broke one off a mesquite tree (it already looked dead anyway) and walked back to the stone. Behind the stone was a small forest of Arizona cottontop grass. Nestled between the stone and the grass was a small rabbit. It was a baby, given the size. It was a little bit longer than Tommy’s ten-year-old hand. It was light grey with a black spot above its left eye. Its fur looked clean and soft, but its skin was wavy and wrinkled and reminded him of the bear rug that his class got to touch the year his teacher took her students to the Desert Taxidermy Museum and Education Center up in Oatman. He poked at its belly. The little body felt firm under the rubbery branch.
“It probably has little worms in it.”
Bobby felt uneasy and thought that he should tell Tommy to knock it off. The little rabbit never poked him with a stick, did he?
“Shut up, dumbo.” Tommy stuck the branch into the hole in the rabbit’s side and flipped it over. There were hundreds of shiny, white little maggots tunneling in and out, eating, and growing and being anxious thinking about becoming a fly and living a short life like their parents.
“That’s enough! That’s not nice!” But he wasn’t done. Tommy gave the rabbit a good, firm kick to the backside and yelled, “Gooooooaaaaal!”
The rabbit landed on its head and then flopped down on its side. The team of maggots was gone, mostly, and the last two continued to squirm around in the little rabbit’s belly as if nothing had happened.
Bobby ran to Tommy and pushed him into the mesquite tree from which he had gotten the branch. Tommy landed hands first. They had plowed through the branches and into the top of the trunk. Trickles of blood painted the tree in the spirit of abstract expressionism. Bobby swung his right leg back and released it into Tommy’s behind. Tommy scrambled to pick himself up out of the mesquite tree.
“Bobby!” he screamed. “Bobby, Bobby, Bobby, Bobby! You little brat!” He walked back to his Uncle Robert’s house, looking down at his hands. They throbbed with pain and blood rained on his tennis shoes. He hoped that Bobby would get bitten by a rattler. That would teach him. Frickin’ little dumbo.
But Bobby did not even see a snake that day. He had no reason to follow his cousin home. He would only get the third degree from Mom and then Dad would say to leave Bobby alone and then Mom and Dad would argue about it. They always did that. But right now, he did not care to start a domestic dispute between his parents. He knelt in front of the baby rabbit, his knees underneath him. The memory crept into the forefront of his mind of his preschool teacher who always told him and the other kids to sit
“Indian-style”, but this way always felt better. He used the stick that Tommy had left behind to remove the two last little white worms from the baby’s belly.
“There. Does it hurt?” Bobby laughed. He knew the rabbit could not feel anything yet. The rabbit did not respond but only looked back with a faded left eye. The cornea was flat and hazy, and the pupil was bigger than it should have been. Bobby did not know why that happened, but he had learned that when an animal (or even a human, if you asked Tommy) died, the middle thingy got bigger. Tommy called it die-leeted or something like that.
Bobby carefully placed his left hand on the rabbit. “I fixed the June bug. I think I can fix you too.” He stared into the rabbit’s eye. “It’s okay. My Grandma said I had the gift. I fixed some bugs and a mouse but that’s about it. Look. I will show you. Grandma said it has power in it. His little hand reached into his pocket, and he drew a dime-sized coin imprinted with a pumamaqui plant.
“See? It’s a puma maki from a country called Eka-Dor. She said it looks like a puma hand. I don’t ‘member. Grandma said I couldn’t lose it.” Bobby laughed at himself. The rabbit can’t see it yet. He thought he heard Tommy call him dumbo again. “Grandma said I couldn’t tell anybody. Especially not my mom.”
He placed the fingers of his left hand back on the rabbit. The fingertips crowed the rabbit’s tiny head. His fingers buzzed with electricity. Bobby’s lips pursed with tension. The bumpy skin on the rabbit’s side plumped up like a balloon. Its legs straightened out. Its eye became wet and shiny with life and its eyelids blinked. The rabbit shook a little like a leaf in the wind and then the buzzing in Bobby’s fingers stopped.
“See? I told you,” he giggled.
The rabbit looked up at him as he sat up. It shook its head and rubbed its eyes with its front paws. Bobby was surprised that it didn’t run away. He stood up and the rabbit hopped toward him and looked up at him. Bobby felt what seemed like a smile coming from the rabbit.
“I’m happy too. Come on. Let’s go home.”
“Look, Dad!” He burst through the front door, letting the screen door slam and bounce. “Look it!”
“What’s up, little man?”
“I got a rabbit.”
“Where did you get it?”
“In the desert. I fixed it.”
Dad laughed. His son had such an imagination. “Okay, guy. Go on and play with your rabbit, but it needs to go back outside later, okay?
“Come on, Dad. Do I have to? I must take care of it.”
“I’ll think about it,” his dad said with a smirk.
Juanita stood in the hallway listening to their conversation. Her face scowled in thought.
“Honey, did he say he fixed it?”
“Yeah. He’s a silly kid.”
“He said he fixed the bug, too.”
“Uh, yeah. He’s just being silly. He always says he fixes things.”
Juanita turned to the sofa table and picked up the die-cast frame with her mother’s photo.
“Yeah, I miss her too. She was awesome,” he said diplomatically.
“My mom used to say that.”
“That she fixed things. Animals, specifically.”
“Well, she used to work at the animal hospital, right?”
“No, no. I never told you this before, Robert.”
Robert looked at her curiously. “Told me what?”
“My mom claimed she had healing powers.”
Robert stood up and held his wife by the shoulders. “Honey?”
“Your mom…was…a veterinarian. She helped animals get better. It was her job.”
Juanita pulled gently away from her husband. “When I was a little girl, I saw my father die.”
“Uh, your dad passed away last year from natural causes. Remember?”
“No, see, when I was little, my dad was working on the roof. He slipped and fell off. His head hit a rock.”
“You never told me that.”
“He had a gash on his left temple. His eyes were still open, looking up into the clouds. I tried to wake him up, but he just wouldn’t.” A tear crawled down her cheek. Her bottom lip quivered.
“I’m so sorry, sweetie.” He hugged her gently, patting her on the back. “It’s okay.”
“She made me go inside. I jumped on the kitchen counter and watched from the window.”
“What did you see?”
“She had a coin in one hand – that special coin she brought from Ecuador that she said one of the natives gave her – and with the other hand she touched my dad’s head.”
“Then I fell off the counter,” Juanita chuckled.
Robert found relief in seeing his wife smile.
“Then she came back in with my dad. She wiped his head with a moist towel, but the gash wasn’t there anymore. My dad kept saying, ‘What happened? What happened?’”
“Did your mom say anything?”
“Yeah. She said for me not to worry.” Juanita wiped her tears. “She said she fixed him.”
“Like what Bobby says?” His face was painted with confusion. “Like Bobby?”
“I never believed her. We never talked about that day after that.”
Tommy burst through the door. “Uncle Robert! Bobby kicked me and I fell into a mesquite bush.”
Juanita rushed over. “Look at your hands, Tommy. I’ll get the first aid kit.”
Bobby strutted into the living room holding the rabbit. Tommy stared at the rabbit as his aunt cleaned his hands and strapped on some bandages.
“Hey!” Tommy said with furrowed eyebrows. That looks like the rabbit we saw in the desert.”
Uncle Robert looked and petted the rabbit on the head. “Does it?”
“Yeah,” said Tommy. “It has a black spot above its left eye, too.”
Bobby’s eyes glared at Tommy and his bottom lip protruded as he told him, “You better not kick it again. I fixed it and now my fingers hurt, and it’s your fault!”
Juanita and Robert glanced at each other and then shifted to Bobby.
“What? It’s okay now ‘cause I fixed it.” Bobby smiled.