The Rabbit Goes to Drink from Your Throat

by Georgia Bellas

She buried the dead baby bunnies in her garden, scooped them up with a child’s red plastic snow shovel and deposited them gently into shallow depressions scrabbled from the soil with dirt-caked nails. She planted rosemary around the graves, for remembrance.

The dead baby bunnies came back as dandelions to cover the lawn in a revenge of neglect. She plucked the weed-flowers and chained them into wreaths to decorate the fence, the mailbox, the window sills, her throat.

The dandelions tickled her neck, bit gently. Not lions’ teeth but rabbit teeth she told the neighbors’ children. Beware the rabbits. They are tiny lions in disguise.

Πάει ο λαγός να πιει νερό…
The rabbit goes to drink water…

More bunnies died. More children appeared in her yard. She hadn’t known so many lived in the neighborhood. She handed out shovels and they dug in the garden while she poured glasses of βύσσινάδα. The sour cherry drink filled their throats with a nearly unbearable sweetness. They held out the emptied glasses and asked for more, please-παρακαλώ.

They dug and dug. She poured and poured, until the sun lowered and voices called for Manoli, Eleni, Yianni, Fotini, Mariaaaaaaaa…. Ελάτε, παιδιά. Come, children. Time for dinner. Vowels carried on the air, echoing, repeating, pushing through the heavy heat. The children blinked as if waking from sleep, dropped their shovels, rubbed at eyes with sticky fingers, swiped palms across red-stained lips and chins. Thirsty. Tongues fuzzy and thick, like mouthfuls of dead caterpillars.

She sipped retsina after they evaporated back to their homes, scattered sprigs of rosemary over the freshly turned mounds, dropped a handful of the fragrant needles into her drink.

…μέσ’το δικό σου το λαιμό…
…from your throat…

Κουνέλι. Λαγός. Rabbit. Hare. Κουνέλι. Λαγός. Rabbit. Hare. Her lips moved while she slept, half-drowned sounds sticking in her throat. Outside, the night sky strangled the moon. First rosemary branches, then dandelions grew fast and thick over the afternoon’s graves.

Twice as many children crowded the driveway in the morning. She hummed and poured βύσσινάδα as they uprooted the flowers with short vicious tugs, grubby nails splitting the milky green stems, threading together dandelion after dandelion. Occasionally one would press the yellow under another’s chin and rub. A tickle, a graze, then harder. Do you like butter? Do you like butter? They kneaded the golden heads, chanting and laughing.

Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of blossoms chained into submission yet still Taraxacum officinale blanketed the lawn in a thick frosting of color. The children yanked and spliced all afternoon, only pausing to greedily suck down the βύσσινάδα and ask for more, please-παρακαλώ.

A cooling breeze signaled evening’s arrival and with it parental voices descended upon the backyard with simultaneous operatic commands to return home: Mihali, Kiki, Zoe, Panagioti, Anaaaaaaaaa… The children startled as if jerked awake, discarded the limp florets they’d been clutching. The younger ones burst into tears and dogs throughout the neighborhood joined in the howling. She began to sing.

Πάμε για ύπνο, παιδιά μου
Πάμε να αλλάξουμε ζωή
Να δούμε όνειρα από κείνα
που τελειώνουν το πρωί
Ο ο ο ο ο….

The children hushed, eyelids and heads drowsily bobbing alongside the lullaby. The dogs quieted. Her voice trilled the simple refrain over and over, inserting a different child’s name each time as she walked among the bodies, winding the mammoth dandelion chain about their heads and necks. She keened a low, gentle ahhhhhhh long after the last child had fallen asleep.

Hordes of parents shouted in a rising symphony of fear as the moon crossed the sky. They shone flashlights onto porches, in bushes, down driveways. Κυρία, have you seen our children? they cried at the shadowy figure seated by a patio table. She stood and beckoned to them, offered a tray with shot glasses of ouzo as they approached. “You must be thirsty,” she said.

They drank. Our children, they asked again. Have you seen them?

“No children here.” The corners of her mouth lifted as she gestured toward the wriggling softness of furry creatures heaped throughout the garden, struggling to climb and hop over one another. “Only these bunnies.” She rested one hand atop her rounded belly straining against the thin cotton of her dress. “And this one on the way.”

 

Greek translation notes

Πάει ο λαγός να πιει νερό…
The rabbit goes to drink water…

…μέσ’το δικό σου το λαιμό…
…in your throat…

This is from a children’s nursery rhyme, Πάει ο λαγός να πιει νερό μέσ’της ______ το λαιμό (the rabbit goes to drink water from ______’s throat). You say the rhyme slowly while advancing your fingers up the child’s arm or leg or chest and speed up to tickle their throat at the end when you say their name.

Βύσσινάδα
A traditional Greek drink made with sour cherry syrup, especially popular in summer.

Παρακαλώ
Please

Ελάτε, παιδιά
Come, children

Retsina
Traditional Greek wine flavored with pine resin. The taste originally came from the resin used to seal wine vessels.

Κουνέλι
Rabbit

Λαγός
Hare

Πάμε για ύπνο, παιδιά μου
Πάμε να αλλάξουμε ζωή
Να δούμε όνειρα από κείνα
που τελειώνουν το πρωί
Ο ο ο ο ο….

This is a lullaby: Go to sleep, my children (normally you would sing the child’s name in place of “my children”), let’s change life, to see dreams from that, which finish in the morning. Followed by a gentle oh oh oh oh soothing sound.

Κυρία
Lady; A polite form of address

Georgia Bellas is a writer, artist, and filmmaker whose current obsession is theremin. She and Dan Nielsen are the Wisconsin-based duo Sugar Whiskey (https://sugarwhiskey.com/), a post-minimalist art band. You can follow her teddy bear, host of the award-winning weekly Internet radio show “Mr. Bear’s Violet Hour Saloon,” on Twitter @MrBearStumpy.
Artwork by: Georgia Bellas
Artist Statement
Dolls have stories to tell. Objects have secrets to share. Somewhere on the playground of memory and loss what is obvious becomes mysterious, things are both whimsical and creepy, fantasy meets reality. That space is where I make pictures and tell stories.