The White Line

Donna did not always live in the big green mental hospital on the white plains. When she was a girl her home was under the Montana sky, which is often said to be the widest, bluest of all the skies in America. Her home looked like this:


Donna lived inside with her mother, her father, her sister and her brother. Things stayed that way for a long time. Many times the sun went up and the house got bright; Donna and her sister and her brother went to school, then out to play. When the sun went down the sky got dark and the stars went bright and they all stayed inside: Donna, her mother, her sister, and her brother.

Donna's father went out a lot. One day he didn't come back. "We're moving," Donna's mother told them. "We're going to Wyoming. You're all going to like it there."

She was wrong. Donna didn't like Wyoming. The sun went down and up but it wasn't the same. The shadows were too sharp. The air was too flat. "I don't like it here," Donna told her mother. "Be quiet, Donna – Richie and I are trying to talk." Richie was her boyfriend. Donna's mother knew Richie from when she was in high school, and now they all lived together in Wyoming where the shadows were sharp and the days dragged by like a dead dog across the desert. "I miss Daddy," Donna said.

Donna's father missed her, too. He wrote her letters that said I miss you darling… I hope you can come visit me soon in Montana. But Donna never visited him. "I don't want that good-for-nothing trying to break up this family," Richie told Donna's mother. "I don't need him
feeding Donna any lies about me." Donna's mother didn't say anything, so she agreed, and Donna never got the letters.

What she got were rabbits.

The first rabbit came in July. The sun was hot like an egg on the flat sky. He came in a box with small holes on the side. "Oh Mommy!" Donna said. She hugged the rabbit against her chest. "Can I keep him?" Donna's mother was tired and sweaty. "Okay," she said, "but you have to feed him, or else he will die. I'm not taking care of any rabbits. I already have enough mouths to feed." Donna was happy and she took the rabbit and showed him to her brother and sister.

The rabbit looked like this:

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Richie came home when it was dark. "What's for dinner?" he said. "What's that rabbit?"

"It's my rabbit," Donna told him. "Daddy sent him." Richie's face went red.

"What did I tell you? Trying to break up the family!" He called for Donna's mother. "What were you thinking, letting that good-for-nothing try and buy Donna's love with a filthy rabbit?"

"He's not filthy," Donna said.

"Get over here," Richie said.


As the weeks went by the rabbits kept coming. First he sent them once a month, then twice. In October he sent her a whole family, for her birthday.

"Ha ha," Richie said. "That good-for-nothing is good for something after all. He is keeping our family well-fed."


By her next birthday, the rabbits stopped coming. Donna stood in the hot sun and looked at the sky. It looked like this:


In school she asked her teacher, "Do rabbits go to heaven when they die?"

"I don't know, Donna," she said. "What do you think?" Donna thought.

"I think they go to rabbit heaven," she said. The teacher smiled.

"Why, that makes perfect sense."


Donna draws a picture. Outside the window the grounds are green and wind runs pas the trees, through the fence, and up into the sky. Donna takes a white crayon and draws a line on the paper. The doctors want to know: What are you drawing Donna? Are you feeling well today?

Yes I am feeling well.

Are you drawing a picture?

Yes I am drawing a white line on white paper.

What are you making?

I am making a picture of rabbit heaven.

The doctors take note.


When Donna turned sixteen she found a way back to Montana. Donna's father was so happy he could barely speak.

"Darling!" he said.

He invited her in.

He had a new wife now. She seemed friendly and far-away. It didn't matter to Donna; even if she missed her mother and wished she could see her, she was happy to be home. She loved her father, even though he came into her room at night, and soon he bought her enough rabbits that they had to build a special room in the house just to keep them. Later, when she had to go away to live on the white plains, he kept them healthy and happy in their special room, and made sure that Donna got pictures every week so she knew everything was going to be alright:

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