We call Rabbit Rabbit because of his feet. When they meet him, people ask why his name is Rabbit if his teeth are so small, like children’s teeth, and he’s too fat to be good at hopping.
“It’s because I fuck like one,” Rabbit will say if you ask. He’ll grin that broad grin, with no buck teeth at all.
That’s definitely not why we call him Rabbit. None of us have gotten any since we shipped out. Well, maybe a couple when we raid the villages. But that’s different. They’re little kids. “Gookettes,” says Mark Posey. We all roll our eyes and laugh. They’re never around long.
We call Rabbit Rabbit because of his big feet. He’s got the biggest combat boots of all of us – a size 13. And even those are a little tight for him. He’s always having to lace them up over and over.
Once, Rabbit told me he only ate meat. Nothing else. No vegetables, no bread rolls at dinner. Sometimes, when he felt like he deserved it, he cheated and ate eggs with cheese on Saturday mornings. But apart from that, Rabbit told us, he was entirely carnivorous.
“You’ve got to try it,” said Rabbit. “Those fucks in the med tent will call you crazy. But you’ll start looking like a God. I eat one meal a day now, just one meal. I’m not hungry for anything else. I’ve got all the protein I need.”
We laughed. Rabbit looked just like everyone else in the platoon. Not exactly a God. But maybe, if you squinted close enough, he looked heroic under the dim jungle light. There were moments when we all thought we did. Those long, hot days out there in the jungle made for ample imagination. Sometimes, I pretended we were part of an ancient civilization that was lost to time. No other humans ever came in contact with us, so we lived in ignorant, savage bliss, an all-male tribe in the jungle. We lived in fear of an unseen other world, another tribe, the Viet Cong, but we never really saw them. We weren’t entirely sure they existed. For the most part, we were completely alone.
When Rabbit shot himself in the foot, nobody was surprised. He had been talking about how he missed his girlfriend, who none of us believed was real. What kind of girl was named Mercy, anyway? He said he missed his mother’s cooking. We didn’t ask if she only cooked steak for him. We just smiled and hugged him when he got the honorable discharge letter. He was our brother.
We didn’t blame him for doing it. At that point in the war, who could? We’d been out there in the jungle for years. If you squinted in the light, maybe a lifetime. One of our other platoon members, Owl, could see in the dark. But that’s not why we called him Owl.
Kaylie Saidin is currently an English literature student living in New Orleans. She is an editor for the Maroon and an intern editor at the New Orleans Review. Her writing has won the 2018 Dawson Gaillard Award for Fiction and the 2018 Monroe Library Research Competition. You can read more of her at www.kayliesaidin.weebly.com.