Ian Midgley: Death of Mr Rabbit shook our happy Care Bear world
There's a dead rabbit in my garden. It is, to paraphrase Monty Python, an ex-Rabbit, it has passed on, it is no more, it has ceased to be, expired, shuffled off this mortal coil, gone to meet his maker, if he wasn't spread across my flower beds he'd be pushing up the daisies.
I think a fox might have got him. The wife, who's not quite Hull's answer to Bill Oddie, said she thinks an eagle dropped him.
I pointed out, we don't get many eagles a-swooping around these parts – and that made me instantly unpopular.
Of course, the kids were the first to see it.
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"Daddy, daddy!" shouted our youngest, Tilly.
"There's a dead rabbit in the garden. He's missing bits."
Poppy, our eldest soon joined in; rushing to the back door window to crane her neck at the remains of the unfortunate animal – like a rubbernecker at a motorway pile-up.
"Eeeuuuurrrgghh, what's that, Daddy?
"Why's it missing bits?"
From that point, the speculation continued apace.
Fuelled by the wife's assertion "an eagle" might have got it – forgetting temporarily that we live in Hull not the Himalayas – the children started coming up with a whole range of ideas of how Mr Rabbit appeared, bereft of life, by our shed.
The eagle might have been giving him a lift home, said Tilly, still innocently unaware of just how cruel nature can be.
He might have tried jumping over our fence and banged his head, suggested Poppy, failing to explain why half his guts were missing.
And then, after they'd got past the initial shock, they were hit by the sadness of the sight – and Mr Rabbit's sudden meeting with mortality.
Mr Rabbit was now officially his name – as I'd refused to let Tilly name him Auriana after her Barbie.
"Daddy, why do things have to die?" starts Tilly.
Oh Lord, I knew this was coming.
"Does everything die? Why did Mr Fox want to eat Mr Rabbit? He could have had some of my chips. I don't like my lasagne."
There followed a sensitive recreation of The Circle Of Life, from The Lion King, with Mr Rabbit taking the role of Mufasa, the ex-lion, and Mr Fox as the dastardly hyenas. I think my rendition of the Elton John song helped.
It's a difficult thing trying to explain nature – and death – to a four- year-old.
They don't quite get why everything can't go on living forever in a shiny, happy Care Bear world where death is only a temporary plot point and one that's easily undoable with a pinch of fairy dust.
And it always ends with the terrible, tearful, question: "Daddy, will you die too?"
How on earth are you supposed to answer that? I just fudge the subject.
In the end, Mr Rabbit disappeared while the kids were out.
I told them he might have got up and run away and not at all ended up in the wheelie bin.
I don't think they quite believed me.
Maybe an eagle came to take him home.