Forbes and Fifth

The Last Hunt

Those mornings, when we were younger, I bathed my little brother and felt his bones the way a hunter would feel a dead rabbit’s: the small vertebrae bulging in his back as he squatted in the tub. Naked, he bent under my hand as I roughly scrubbed his brown, rabbit skin. His chin lifted as I pulled his head back, and I cleaned the arch that formed from the mandible to the trunk of his neck with the coarse sponge, the lavender suds falling along the sternum of his torso, tensing with every unowned movement. Submission was ritual; his limbs were not his own. I pulled his arms out to clean them too; I scrubbed out the small cavities of his pits in a scooping motion, their hairlessness emphasizing his prepubescence, his rabbit youth which shuddered in the stark bathroom light as if in the maw of a hound running in the morning dark; the moon, ambivalent to the hunt, waning to darkness towards the horizon while my brother bounds through the shrubbery, the grasses wet from the congealing mist, the damp dirt barely hiding his scent while I blaze after my little brother with my instinct to do violence to him—to feel the sinews of his rabbit body with my teeth and in killing my rabbit brother, confirm myself again as hound and him as rabbit. My brother stands as I scrub his brown stomach with the sponge, but then suddenly he forces his body to be rigid. I feel the tension. The suds fall off, and the lavender scent enters my hound nostrils as I prowl into a flowered clearing in the woods where I see the rabbit, still in the darkness of the oaks, the deep foliage swaying in the wind, but him still, still like death. His black round eyes track my movement. I stalk forward. The sudsy water gurgles in the drain, and I move my paws over his rabbit legs with the sponge, the hunt nearly done, the bath nearly over, but with him still rigid, as if already dead; and I sink my canines into his body, piercing rabbit flesh, crushing rabbit bone, and cleaning out the suds in ritual, in sacrament, in violent brotherhood between predator and prey, but realizing that he no longer tastes like rabbit; his black impenetrable eyes never leaving my own as he falls from my mouth and bleeds on the tiny white flowers of the oak moss. My brother, unbroken. My brother, amorphous and black and beautiful, steps out of his rabbit body and dries himself before exiting the bathroom, leaving me alone, soon to be blinded by the morning sun.

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Volume 9, Fall 2016