Rabbit’s Foot

by Hannah Hoare

Kate had always been fascinated by her grandfather’s rabbit’s foot. He would tease her with it, but would never let her touch it. It was funny at first, a game between the two of them, but she got tired of it eventually, and then cross. And she began to resent him. So when he lost it, and was turning the house upside down searching for it, wild-eyed and frantic, she was secretly pleased. And when she found it, in the garden among the tomato plants, she didn’t run and give it to him but slipped it into her pocket and kept it for herself.

A day later, her grandfather was dead.

She’d kept the rabbit’s foot always, never admitting to anyone what she’d done. She knew she’d killed him. Maybe not directly, but losing the foot did it for him. His luck ran out. And hers began.

Honestly, the foot itself was a big disappointment. The fur was stiff and bristly, not soft and silky as she’d imagined. The claws were stained and grubby, like her grandfather’s fingernails, and it smelled musty. But there was no doubt in her mind that it had powers.

On the day of her grandfather’s funeral she’d found a ten-pound note in the street. Her mother bought Premium Bonds with it in Kate’s name. A month later she got a letter saying she’d won fifty thousand pounds. Her mother wept and said that was her grandfather looking down on her from heaven, and she should pray for his soul. But Kate took the rabbit’s foot out from its hiding place under the bed, and the hairs on the back of her neck stood on end.

From that moment on she carried the rabbit’s foot with her, though she showed it to no one. Wrapped in a silk handkerchief it was always tucked in her pocket, where she could feel it. At night she slept with it under her pillow.

She led a charmed life. She grew tall and her teeth were straight and white. While her classmates grappled with train-track braces and acne, Kate got modelling jobs, doing weekend photoshoots for catalogues and playing smiling girls in TV adverts. A-grades came easily to her. She won medals for swimming. It was almost too good to be true.

And then there was the fire. Four teenagers burned to death that day, and one walked out without so much as a singed hair. Girl with a Guardian Angel the papers called her. Well, that was one way of explaining it. That night, she’d unwrapped the frayed hankie and gazed at the foot. It didn’t look any different from the day she’d found it in the garden. Which was odd really given it had been kicking about in her pocket for eight years. Not even a loose claw.

When she went up to Cambridge to study medicine, she had a stern word with herself about the rabbit’s foot. She was a scientist now, for goodness’ sake. If anyone knew how strongly she believed in this raggedy old talisman, she’d be laughed out of the lab. But she didn’t have the nerve to throw it away.

That was thirty-five years ago. She’d stopped keeping the foot squashed in her jeans pocket but had had a pouch made for it, and now kept it slotted alongside her glasses case in her handbag. Not a day had gone by without the rabbit’s foot being in her possession.

Until today.

She is leaving the lab at the hospital and scoops up her bag as usual. She touches her hand to the pouch in the inside pocket, a gesture so familiar it is unconscious. Her fingertips brush velvet. She stops. Something’s wrong. The pouch is empty. Swinging the bag round she holds it open towards the window, trying to see into the bottom. The foot must be there. Keys, lipstick, glasses, gum. No foot. Sweat begins to trickle inside her shirt. A memory flashes into her mind: an old man, frantic with panic.

She upends the bag, clattering the contents onto the bench. No foot. Pockets, drawers, her locker. No foot. Her hands are shaking. She checks her bag again, feeling the lining for holes and anything that might have slipped inside. Nothing. Surely she had it this morning? She squeezes her eyes shut and presses her temples with her forefingers. Yes, she distinctly remembers touching the rabbit’s foot as she left the house. Did she though? She does it so often she could be conjuring a memory from yesterday. No, it must be at home. She snatches up the spilled contents of her bag and runs for the stairs.


From a third-floor window, the boy watches the woman run across the forecourt. Her hair is coming loose and flying out behind her. She barges into a man pushing a wheelchair. The man’s face looks angry and his lips move but the boy can’t hear any sound through the double-glazing. The woman turns but doesn’t stop. She keeps running backwards, zigzagging because she can’t see where she’s going. The man raises his arm. The woman bounces off the bus’s big windscreen and hangs in midair for a second. Then she crumples to the ground and the bus hits her again, its tyre rolling right over her head.

“We’ve got some test results Mrs. Clarke, and it’s good news.”

The boy forgets about the bus and wheels his drip over to the bed to listen to the doctor and his mother. In his pyjama pocket, his fingers stroke the brittle hair of a rabbit’s foot.

Hannah Hoare is a writer with a yen for cold places, who is at her happiest when looking down from a hilltop. Her world revolves around her addictions to gin and tea, and her pathological dislikes of Brussels sprouts and goats’ cheese. She lives in Bristol, UK.
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