I read a passage from Watership Down, the author of which our departed was named for, and my husband, also named Richard, read a page of prose he had prepared. Then there was nothing more to say. A wind swayed the branch of the tree above, causing a small brown bird to leave us. The bell of a bicycle was heard from the street some meters away. I saw that the top button on my coat had become loose.
Earlier that day, the Richard who is still among the living dug a small grave some distance from the house, where it is very still and quiet. I watched him pile earth on top of earth from the window in the dark parlor, where it was safe. I held Richard Adams in my arms. His body was cold and heavy. His fur felt soft in my hands.
Then it was time.
After the burial, we walked in silence to the house, where the stillness was even louder than at the grave. Richard went into his studio to view the finished work. I prepared dinner, and afterward we fed our beastly bellies with the flesh of an unknown animal. We drank the wine which we had bought from the little store.."a very good vintage, Madame"...We didn't speak of Richard Adams.
That night, I dreamt of running through the thick grasses of an unknown land. The sun beat down upon my back and I searched frantically, until at last I came into the coolness of underground. Weaving and scratching my way through the tunnel, I came upon a light, and passed through. This brought me above ground again, and into the heaviness of a human girl, whose body was now my own. I wasn't able to make use of the legs nor the tongue, so I crawled in silence until I reached the safety of a new tunnel, where inside, I passed back into my own rabbit flesh once more.
I didn't tell Richard about my dream. We ate bread and raspberry jam for breakfast, and drank coffee with cream. We did not speak of death or of life, or of sacrifices made. We looked at the painting in the room where Richard Adams had been a life, still. It is a beautiful painting, and it tells the truth. Many months, years later, it tells this truth, while I, simple in my parlor, speak of dinner and tea and loose buttons. I read books and hang laundry to dry, and worry over spilled wine.
But, sometimes, just before sleep, or while stirring a pot by the kitchen window, or when alone by the fire in our dark parlor; sometimes, then, I can think only of a small patch of earth in the garden, and the gentle, spiritless body buried beneath.