Carnival Rabbits

He remembered the day he told his older brother that he was the reason their pet bunny had died. He threw it into the cage and he threw it in there hard. It didn’t matter that carnival rabbits spook easy and die out of nowhere all the time because it was alive before he grabbed that ball of fluff, stroked its nervous skull, and sent it diving deep into metal it was dead. Before it died it let out a noise that gave him a curious swelling in his stomach.

It would be years until his older brother looked at him again. The next time would be at his older brother’s wedding. And he did good, except for getting too drunk and almost starting a fight, but that was to be expected. It didn’t matter that everyone thought it was weird that he left his baby mama in the car with his kids. It didn’t matter because everyone accepted him, drunk, disheveled, and without ego. It didn’t matter that he and all his brother’s friends were doing coke while his older brother chose not to partake and to only have a beer here and there, or that his friend’s forced him to have the bachelor’s party the night before the wedding. It didn’t matter that their mother wanted to come, too, and be one of the guys, even though his older brother said no. She didn’t end up coming, but she was late to the wedding and so was he and his family. He and his older brother were family again, too. He was happy for his older brother. He had always wanted a wedding like that, but he was never so lucky.

His older brother had a good job and since he was so unlucky, he didn’t work much, even as his older brother offered to help him get one with his company. He’d save that handout for an emergency, he told his older brother. The government assistance is doing a good job helping them get by.

His older brother helped him with his taxes again, apologizing that it wasn’t as much as last time. These things happen, his older brother said. He was grateful to have any money at all. He’d been saving for a car since last year, although all of the earlier refund got spent on partying and food, plus he didn’t know how to drive. His baby mama did. It didn’t matter.

A year later and his kids were being taken away. A neighbor had ratted them out for negligence. He told them he was just running an errand and his baby mama nodded off just because she works graveyard shift now. He told his older brother this before asking if he would take them until things were straightened out. He told him that this particular neighbor had it out for them. It didn’t matter that his older brother and his wife just had a baby of their own, or that they had gifts from Disney World waiting for the whole family, or that they’re obviously sympathetic, or that they thought long and hard for days, even calculating the costs to ensure everyone would survive and be happy on top of it. It didn’t matter that this was the third time CPS took their kids. That didn’t matter. What mattered is that his kids are in foster care because his older brother said no.

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