We’ve been dealing with a lot of death in the rabbitat this year, and Isaac went down this morning.  His belly was large and hard, and Quan debated taking him to Brunswick for an autopsy with a vet, but we decided that this mass was so obvious that surely we could see what it was for ourselves.

I took my gloves and scalpel and set poor Isaac – cold and wet from last night’s rain – on some newspaper.  Quan left me with him, but was soon back to see –  an incurably curious cat.  I put on my dissector’s objectivity and pierced his skin around the navel, splitting it up and down the midline.  His muscles look healthy underneath.  We went through the muscles in into the peritoneum, and this huge tumor the size of a grapefruit – really – red and white, rolled out of his belly.  At first I though it was stomach, then intestine, but further examination proved it to be in the omentum, hanging from the lower edge of the stomach and transverse colon.  The entire digestive system was there – liver, stomach, small intestine, large intestine – intact but shriveled, as so much physiological power must have been going into building this tumor for months or even years.

I was whupped up side of the head, as my father had died of just such a tumor – mesothelioma in the omentum and peritoneum – just five years ago.  Here is was again, under my hand.  Every little mouse in the field, in the miles of woods behind out house, needed to construct a body just as complicated as mine, with all these complex organs, just to live out their feeding and mating in the woods.

I cut into the tumor.  The skin was thick, a centimeter or more, made of many layers of meat, like fascial bacon.  Inside was the strangest white thick ooze, like liquid corn starch or unset plaster.  It should have been pus, but had a different smell.  There was a full cup of this yucch, inside the thickrind grapefruit.
“Pasturella!”, said Quan, relieved, recognizing it from her books.  All rabbits carry this, some succumb.  No one in Quan’s well-fed paradise has done so before, but now it has found us, maybe we should expect more.  It will yield to a regime of penicillin, but we can’t do that for 100 rabbits.

I’ve seen cancers in cadavers, but this was so new, and was nearly as large as the animal it came from – Isaac looked small and defenseless beside it. “We all live so close to that line and so far from satisfaction” – Joni Mitchell.


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