“I have a stick.”
I nodded to our pet rabbit. “Stick-wise, that is indeed a thing you have.” The phrasing seemed to confuse him; he shook his front half out and set down the chew stick again.
“It’s my stick and I have it,” he said, “And I can do anything I want with it.”
“I know. For instance, you can chew it.” This stopped him in the middle of chewing on it, so, that’s how I knew this conversation was going to go. “Or not, if you don’t want to,” and that should have him completely flummoxed.
“You know why you don’t have a stick?” My thought was that I could in some sense be said to have every stick on the property, including as a subset the sticks that our rabbit has. But is that the same conceptual theory of having that he was working with at the moment, and if it’s not, is it compatible enough for us to have a meaningful conversation? This is the kind of thing that goes through my mind whenever, say, the waitress asks which kind of bread I’d like for my toast, which is why I’m always running about four minutes behind the conversation. Here, for example, our rabbit answered, “Because I have it!”
“I know you have the stick. I gave you the stick.”
“As well you might!”
“In fact, I gave you all those sticks,” pointing at a partially-tied-together bunch of chew sticks, most of which were scattered around his front paw, and a couple of which were rolling out of his pen, and one of which he was taking turns holding in his mouth and putting down to lecture me about.
He nodded and said, “I chewed the twine off them!”
“And we were glad to see you do that. It proved to us that you’re not a fascist.” And here I have to point out that while I exaggerate certain aspects of my conversations with our pet rabbit for dramatic effect, the “not a fascist” joke is one that my love and I actually did observe while watching him chew the bundle of sticks loose, which shows you what kinds of jokes we have flying around the house.
He scrunched forward, looking kind of like a sack full of rabbit flowing forward under the tides, pushing his front paws onto the sticks, which was adorable. It struck me he’s been doing a lot of adorable stuff lately, more so than usual.
“This is about the mouse, isn’t it?”
He jerked his head up and back. “You think?”
“Are you worried we kept that mouse in here?”
“Why were you keeping a mouse right on top of my cage?”
“He wouldn’t fit underneath you.” The mouse we had found wandering around the dining room, at the height of winter, and we caught him and put him in a cage because we weren’t so cold-hearted as to release him to the wild while it was still too cold for molecular motion out there.
“Male mice can’t help how they smell,” I said. “Biology dictates that they use an atrocious body wash so that female mice know they’re engaged in important male activities.”
He barked, somehow, which might just be his way of snorting. “He made that wheel squeak all the time.”
“You can’t blame the mouse for following his biological imperatives of running on a wheel, smelling bad, and hoisting things.”
He flopped over on his side, which is again, adorable, and said, “Mice follow too many gender-normative stereotypes.” I allowed that. But I reminded him, we let the mouse go several weeks ago, and he hasn’t been back. “And I’m better than a mouse.”
I had a hunch. “Are you worried we were going to get a mouse to replace you?”
“No mouse could replace me! Not ten mice mousing together could replace me!”
“I’d guess not. We’d never think of replacing you.”
He rolled up onto all fours and cried, “Ah-ha!” So I gulped. “If you never thought of it then how come you just asked if I thought you were thinking of it?”
There might be no way out of this. “Well. We once got to talking about what would be the worst thing that could possibly happen” — he frowned a little less, which is how rabbits smile — “and we agreed the sudden and irrevocable failure of the electromagnetic force would be the worst. But having to replace you with anything would be one of the four or five worst things.” He actually came in third, but, I didn’t want to swell his head too much after comparing favorably to the complete dissolution of the laws of physics.
He looked satisfied, and announced, “I have a stick,” and picked his chew stick up again.