Rabbit Candy God by Catherine Xie

Rabbit Candy God

The god stands at the end of the G-mart confection aisle, his shrine open to wayfarers and believers. “WHITE RABBIT CANDY — 3 BAGS FOR THE PRICE OF TWO” says the sign in front. Yesterday was honeydew droplets, buy one get one free, the glassy pebbles scattered like cheap jade beads. 

On the stand before him are frilly paper cups, smaller than cupcake holders. He has been fussing with them all morning, so they are perfectly aligned. Meticulous rows of open caskets with a milky pit planted in each. You never would have known that the stand was knocked over this morning when he walked in, the gauzy holders fluttering across the floor like dying moths.

He called me during his lunch break to tell me about the desecration. His voice was tinny, which meant he was hiding in the food court bathroom downstairs. 

“Assholes,” I said. “Ask your boss to check the CCTV.” 

I could hear him snuffling, wrinkling his whiskered nose at the piss-stained walls. “I don’t want to bother her too much,” he finally replied. 

His job is nothing short of a miracle. If the grocery store’s boss hadn’t owed Mama’s cousin’s friend’s sister a favor from twenty years ago, no one would have hired a god. And a rabbit god at that — who would want a rabbit god to curdle their shop’s cream and sour the business? The ayis who reign at the pharmacy checkout line, the shushus who lounge in the musty mahjong parlors — they all whisper his name into the sugar-spit air. Tu’er, they pray. Tu’er.

I was the first to call him tu’er when we were young, and even that had been cruel. He had sobbed so hard when Mama slaughtered his first disciple, even though she already told him we were only keeping the rabbit for a week. That night we had rabbit stew, and as I sucked the spiced meat off the bones, I thought it was funny how much kinship he felt. Tu’er. I gurgled. Tu’er tu’er.

After dinner, he stole the lacey bones off my plate. He rinsed them in the sink until all the bloody red peppers had been sloughed off. Then he put them in an old money pouch and brought the relic to school. To the Chinese Learning Center. To the playground by the library. All until one day a group of hard-eyed boys stole his pouch and flung it into a river, letting the rabbit die a second watery death. 

I thought my brother would have gone crying to Mama immediately, but he never did. He just mourned on his own, with the same syrupy tears. Even when Mama plied him with bitter lozenges, the only sweets she ever bought, his mouth stayed shut.

Eventually, I was the one who broke. But when I told Mama she squeezed her eyes so that the 囧 character appeared on her forehead. Usually, she only did this when the rent came, or the weather was hurting her back. But that day none of those things had happened, so I was confused when she muttered something about my brother, about boys, about being soft, about tu’er.

Now everyone calls him tu’er, because he is their patron deity. His name is theirs to curse. Theirs to invoke when their sons melt like marshmallows, when their daughters blush like strawberry licorice as they wrap around other daughters. They suckle him tightly in their mouths until he becomes a piece of milky rabbit candy, running down their throats.

I go and see him after lunch and shuffle up to his lonely shrine. There’s nothing much I can do here but shield him as I take a sample, so he can sneak a piece too. The softening pulp sticks to our gums as we chew, and when we smile at each other it feels like it’s pulling out our teeth. 

Catherine Xie is a bisexual Chinese-American writer. Many of her pieces are food-centered, but she’s not sure if it’s because she likes the imagery or if she’s just always hungry. Her pieces are published or forthcoming at The Incandescent Review and Wrongdoing Magazine, among others. She was born in 2004.

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Next: Oranges by Jules Chung

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Art: KowHhk lamaiw CC4.0

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