Ten-year-old Rabbit has finally made his way out of the wilderness and has been taken in by Sarah and MacKenzie Cole, while they decide what to do about him. (They have very different ideas on that score.) It’s his first morning at what he has nicknamed Angel House, and everything is new and wondrous to him.
Is It Like Lightnin’, Then?
EARLY SUNDAY MORNING
APRIL 28, 2013
DAY 1 AT ANGEL HOUSE
“IS IT LIKE lightnin’, then? This here ‘lectricity stuff?” Rabbit was staring at the overhead fixture again, still trying to grasp the concept of being able to flip a switch and have light flood the room. Of everything that had caught his attention—and almost everything in the house had—that was the one thing he kept coming back to. And hot water on tap, of course.
Mac sat at the end of the island, sipping coffee and trying not to get pulled into the conversation, but I knew he was listening as I tried again to explain.
“I don’t know exactly how it all works, but I’m pretty good at knowing how to put it to use. The electricity is harnessed and then sent out through wires and into our house. And then we can use it to make things light up, or heat up, or cool down. If you do it right, it’s wonderful, but you have to be careful with electrical things, so you don’t accidentally get shocked.”
“You mean like it’d get away from you if you wasn’t careful? I seen what lightnin’ can do when it hits trees an’ such. It’s a powerful thing, an’ it can kill, too. Seen a deer what was struck by lightnin’ once. Burnt him pretty bad, but we ate us some venison for days after.”
He sat thinking a moment, then shook his head in wonder. “Bein’ able to control lightnin’…imagine that.”
He slipped off his stool and went back to the refrigerator again, opening the door and peering inside. “This here? This is a good thing. We never had no way to keep fresh stuff cool in the summer. An’ this is because you can make lightnin’ work for you, too?”
“Well, sort of. That’s a good explanation for now.”
He closed the door and studied me. “You’re meanin’ until I can understand about how it really works, right?”
“I mean until I can find a way to explain it better. I’m so used to having it, I don’t think about how it works. I just know it does, and I know what I’m supposed to do to use it right.”
“Have you had it all your life, then?”
“Yes. People have been using it for a long time, long before I was born. I’ve never lived without electricity in my house.”
With a bewildered shake of his head, he climbed back up on his stool, and continued eating his second bowl of cereal, thinking about who knows which thing he’d seen so far. I believed everything he’d told us was true. He‘d been raised completely cut off from civilization. I had no idea how we were going to teach him all the things he needed to know to survive in his new world, but I was determined to give him the best start I could manage.
If there was one thing this little boy was more interested in than the wonders of electricity and running water, it was my husband. He could barely keep his eyes off Mac, sneaking peeks every time he thought he could get away with it. It was time to find out why.
Last night, he had been so overwhelmed with the experience of being inside “Angel House,” we hadn’t spent much time asking him more about his life before reaching Wake-Robin Ridge. I thought maybe we’d sprinkle our questions in among other topics, so he wouldn’t feel like he was being interrogated. He was pretty talkative, if you approached it right.
“Rabbit, when you saw Mac yesterday, you said something about your gran, and about Mac having hair like a crow, is that right?”
He glanced at Mac, who was studying his own breakfast as though he’d never seen eggs and toast before, then he looked back at me and nodded.
“Can you tell me what you meant?”
His voice was sad and soft when he talked about his gran. I could tell he missed her very much. “My gran told me I had to find him. She said she seen me with a man with eyes like winter skies an’ hair like a crow’s wing. She said it was important for me to find him, because that’s where I belonged.”
Mac stopped eating, fork midway to his mouth, and eyes still glued to his plate.
“What do you mean, she saw him? Where would she have seen you with him?”
Rabbit’s face was solemn, indigo eyes round and serious. “My gran…she had dreams sometimes. Seein’ Dreams, she called ‘em. I never did have no dreams that came true, an’ my grampa said he never did, neither. But my gran did. She dreamed ‘bout the weather gettin’ cold when there wasn’t no reason to think it was gonna. An’ where to find ripe blackberries, when we thought they was all gone for the year. An’ ‘bout stuff that was gonna happen to Grampa when he went to get supplies. They always come true, her Seein’ Dreams.”
“And your gran dreamed about you with Mac?”
Rabbit aimed those adoring eyes at Mac, but Mac stuck to his pretense of eating his breakfast, as though he couldn’t hear this little boy telling his remarkable tale.
Turning back to me, Rabbit continued. “She was dyin’, you see. She was tellin’ me stuff I needed to know so’s I’d be okay by myself. She couldn’t hardly talk, her breathin’ was so bad, an’ Grampa hadn’t come back with medicine for her cough.”
His eyes filled with tears, and he was silent for a minute, but I stayed where I was, and let him tell me at his own pace. With a little shuddery gulp, he tried again. “My grampa, he’d never left us alone at night. No matter what, he was always back before dark. Only this time, he didn’t come all day, nor all night. And Gran and I, we knew somethin’ bad had happened. Maybe if he had gotten back to us, the medicine would have helped. I been thinkin’ ‘bout that for a long time. But she were bad sick. Never seen her coughin’ so much before.”
His voice dropped to a faint whisper. “There was blood.”
He stared down at the countertop, swinging his foot back and forth as he gathered his thoughts. “Gran, she held my hand real tight, an’ she told me what I had to do. She said I had to find my new people. I didn’t never know I’d have to do somethin’ like that someday. Grampa, he never would take me where there was other folks, ‘cause he said people was bad. He said they lied, an’ cheated, an’ couldn’t be trusted, an’ we was better off by ourselves. But my gran told me that some people was like what he said, an’ some people wasn’t. She said there was Good People in the world, too, an’ I had to leave the mountain an’ find them. An’ then she told me she seen me with a man with eyes like winter skies an’ hair like a crow’s wing, an’ that was where I belonged. The last thing she said to me was to find that man.”
He paused and looked straight at Mac, a profound longing shining from his eyes. “I promised her. An’ I found him.” His voice was so soft, I could barely hear him.
From the way Mac’s mouth tightened, though, I knew that he had heard, loud and clear. Without a word, he pushed his stool back from the island, put his plate in the sink, and walked out the back door.
Rabbit looked at me with a sad little smile. “He don’t like me much yet. But Gran weren’t never wrong. I can wait.”
I came around the island and enfolded him into a hug. His breath hitched as he slid his arms around my waist and hugged me back. My heart ached for him.