“You know you haven’t fed me,” our pet rabbit explained patiently while standing on his hindpaws and rattling his cage’s mesh so as to make the loudest din he’s able to.
I gave his complaint proper consideration and said, “I did feed you. It was that bunch of lettuce and parsley and mint-scented stuff that I put in your cage just a couple hours ago.”
He tipped his head sideways, so one ear flopped down, and said, “No, no, that would be really great, but I’m sure that it wasn’t me that you fed. You’re thinking of someone else, that’s all there is to it.” And he went back to rattling his cage.
So I leaned down and puffed a bit of air on his exposed belly, which made him jump backward, onto all fours, and look up with an expression of how dismayed he was I violated the sacred trust between rabbit and non-rabbit in this way.
“I’m not telling you your business,” he explained, “it’s just that I’ve got my business, and that includes eating, and I haven’t, and that’s where your business comes into it.”
Here I pointed to his piles of hay. “If you’ve got hay left, then you can’t be hungry. There’s always that to eat.”
“You don’t eat hay,” he said, “and I know you get hungry. You talk about it all the time right before eating.”
“I can’t help it; I couldn’t see myself gulping down hay while you’re starving.”
“And I am starving! Do you realize that as of today I haven’t eaten since … since … ” and he paused to count out on his paws, which is twelve percent more adorable than you imagine it to be. “I haven’t eaten since ever, is how long that’s been.”
“Never in my entire life have I felt the cool slithering taste of crisp lettuce sliding down my throat, or felt the little rough bits on the side of a minty leaf in my mouth. Not even the once have I had anything to eat. And you could change that right this minute!”
“You’re really sure that the food I gave you not half an hour ago wasn’t eaten by you?”
He tossed his forepaws out and flopped forward, landing his head on them, and sighed in a big harrumph that also tossed a quarter-cup of loose fur into the atmosphere. “I haven’t ever eaten, not in my whole life, and my parents never ate in their entire lives either! And not their parents neither!”
“This goes back a while?”
“I come from hundreds of generations of rabbits none of whom ever got anything to eat ever in their lives and all I’m asking for is whatever’s in the forbidden zone where you get food from.”
“I don’t know. Hundreds of generations without eating seems like a remarkable streak for me to break. Who am I to disturb history like that?”
His ears folded back, the classic fighting pose, and he stood up on his hindpaws again, forepaws on the bars, ready to rattle. I took a deep breath and puffed my cheeks out, ready to blow, and he stood down. I wasn’t bluffing.
“I’m sorry,” I told him, “but the fact is, I fed you not twenty minutes ago, and you ate it all quite happily.”
“Didn’t,” he insisted.
“You even thanked me for it.”
“I even put a spring of parsley on your head, and you shook it off and gobbled it up. You said it was the most fun thing since dinner last night.”
He stood up on his hindpaws again, and I thought he was ready to rattle, and took a breath in, but he shook me off. “Look,” he said, “You seem unshakably convinced that you already fed me.”
“Let’s just agree to disagree about whether I’ve been fed.”
I nodded. “Agreed to disagree.”
“Ah-ha!” he said, almost giggling. “Because if we agreed to agree, it has to be with your proposition that I’ve been fed.”
“All right,” I offered, in the uncertain voice I use when somehow ordering take-out over the phone is growing complicated with follow-up questions.
“And since we agree that we do not agree, we can’t agree with your contention that I’ve been fed, and therefore, you concede that I have not been fed.”
In the face of an argument that sound, what could I do? I gave him a pile of baby carrots and scratched his neck until he started licking himself.