A let-go bunny pet comes to me, spiked hair between his ears. He wants a carrot, celery. I only have the ripped lettuce, slathered in mayo, I pull from my sandwich; I toss it down to him, watch him drag it backward a few feet then nibble. He sneezes, and I wonder if he can eat dairy. He can’t eat cabbage, someone told me once. The natural gasses bloat their bellies into balloons, then they die because they can’t fart. That’s probably a fib, especially for this half-wild creature. He’s matted, with burrs on his back. I bet he could outrun or outwit that kind of needless death; I bet he has a rocky burrow with a family just waiting for the scraps of lonely picnickers like me. Even cabbage ground into coleslaw with mayo, if they can get it.
This park, just outside Vegas, is rife with abandoned pets once given as Easter presents. They’d languished in cages in basements until parents took pity and loosed them on the grounds. They don’t know how to forage for themselves, but they fuck like rabbits are wont to do anyway. I often come to the park with my own kids in the spring, before the heat drives us to the pools.
Sometimes I come alone too, like today.
The grass is green here, watered by Lake Mead, which is filled by the Colorado River. I think of the melting snowpack of the Sierras, then step onto the paved path that takes me to a particular historical plaque. The words are under plastic, sealed against the elements. I hunch at the waist to read the story set before me, the story of this land. First owned by a Mormon settler, the park became a divorce ranch in the forties and fifties. Nevada had the loosest residency laws, so folks could come here, fish and swim for six weeks, then file. Husbands and wives could fuck other husbands and wives while they waited. They had dinners and fun dances. It was the desert, but it had a spring. They came here to get refreshed by the simple miracle of water.
I straighten and take myself to the now-rundown stables. I send the kids to horse camp here in the summers. They have to muck out the stalls before they can learn to ride—it’s good for them, these city kids who don’t know dirt and work the way they should. Once my youngest found a scorpion on a steaming pile; she scooped the pile onto her shovel and studied the insect like a scientist. She told me it was tanner than the turds, light like sand and without a green tinge.
“Were you scared?” I asked.
“Just a bitty thing,” she said, but she told me the story as if she’d been on an adventure, as if she’d taken great personal risk to be so close to the monster and not scream, not run away. The gleam in her eye frightened me, made me proud. She stings me still—those eyes, sparkling.
My ex tells me the scorpions aren’t indigenous, that they ride the freight trains up from Arizona. I don’t know whether I believe him, but I can’t be bothered to look it up.
That plaque makes me seek other plaques. One tells me where the pool once interrupted the land—a wide ditch dug and lined with cement; now filled, I can still make out its worn edges. I remember then Hemingway’s pool at the cat house in Key West—the myth of his “last penny” embedded in the pool deck. I’d been there twice—once with my then-husband, then once alone. The first time, I had a baby in my belly—so swollen I could barely climb the stairs to the studio. The second time I was drunk from a pub crawl, hoping no one would notice. I stayed a long time in a bedroom, petting a six-toed cat. The penny, the portraits of the wives, the feline mutants, all there for the second solitary visit, felt like a homecoming. Felt like being alone would be like a new becoming. Hemingway said to stop writing a story where you knew you could start back up again, but I’d stopped my marriage without knowing what came next, except the promise of being alone.
The water tower still stands, more than half a century later. It has two floors and a widow’s walk around its slanted second story. It looks like a tiny lighthouse, but less sturdy. White wood, peeling paint. I push a shoulder against the locked door, thinking it might splinter, might let me hide inside. I think no one can see me trying to break-and-enter but the bunnies, then I hear a child’s wrenching squawk from above. I look up to see a preening peacock, one of the nature park’s other permanent residents. He fans his tail feathers, cocks his head and looks down on me with one oval eye. I wonder what he sees over his bird beak. He ruffles and a feather floats down, its eye like an emissary. I only remember then that people call this place The Peacock Park. I’d always been more engrossed with the forsaken rabbits and their hesitant, half-human ways. The peacocks seem to have their wits about them, their schedules sorted. They are confident. They fly and screech; they do not hop or beg for food or dare to be silent.