The black rabbit showed up in their back yard the same week that the family of Gambel’s Quail started their tentative outings from the back gate to the lavender bush and from there to the safety of the wall on the west side. The Quail’s plumage, bobbing upright on their heads, like an ornate legionnaire’s plume or that of a Swiss Guard, gave them a slightly pompous look. Gambel’s Quail spend most of their time foraging on the dry ground leaving them especially vulnerable to cats, coyotes and raptors. They are amongst the first to call out early in the morning, taking the census no doubt. Despite the meagre hand dealt to them, they did not confine themselves to the wings of the desert theatre but boldly march across the backyard, with one of the parents watching the scene from a high vantage point. If challenged, the covey would explode into a flurry of feathers disappearing to the nearest wall or tree, parents screaming instructions to the young birds. The flightless offspring would be left on the ground to fend for themselves, usually taking shelter behind a shrub. The Quail parents had already sized up the cat and made it clear to the cat that no baby Quail would be on the cat menu. The first time she saw the black rabbit was on a hot July day as it languished, stretched out on the grass as if exhausted. She had spent two weeks in Ireland and the grass had grown long and stringy. The black rabbit looked straight at her and did not move until she stepped out of the shade, then slowly it lopped to the cover of the lavender bush. It was much larger than the Desert Cottontails that normally owned the back yard. Someone’s escaped or unwanted pet. Won’t last long here she thought. She did not want to give it a name as her intuition told her a domestic pet could not handle the blistering July heat outdoors in Phoenix, which must be unsufferable in that thick black coat. She thought about trying to trap it and bring it to the shelter. However, part of her wanted the black rabbit to experience living cage free, sleeping when it wanted with no humans to prod or "play" with it. The cat puffed up when he saw it and he moved slowly, as if he had forgotten that he was the predator. Not a cat wedded to action; no doubt he thought chasing the large black bunny would not be in alignment with his dignity in this heat. The black rabbit would appear most evenings when she got back from work. Occasionally nibbling the grass near the roses, but more often just sitting and staring ahead. It had been a good month, and no one had answered the flyers she put up around the neighborhood. By now the Quail family was down to five offspring. She tried putting carrots out for the black rabbit, but she found the carrots days later shriveled to half their size, in the same spot, frazzled by the heat. Someone told her that rabbits actually eat the green tops, not the carrots. She dutifully went to Whole foods and bought some organic carrots with fluffy green tops. She laid them out by the lavender bush. The next morning, she saw the usually gregarious Quail parents tip toe, with an aura of melancholy, by the window with their two remaining fledglings and there, in the center of the patio were the carrots neatly laid out, green parts intact. How did they get there? She looked at the cat. The usual inscrutable stare, and then back again at the spot where the black rabbit had been sitting. Fine she thought, no more goodies for you. Still, that night she filled the blue plastic bowl with water as she had done every day since he appeared and left two more carrots. That August the monsoon rains arrived with a violence, driving rain hammering the metal shed out back and flashes of lighting streaking through the dusty air. She felt uncomfortable that night, unable to sleep, kept hearing the lightening scream. By the time she woke it was all bright blue and glistening outside. The air was humid and for the first time in months she could smell the earth. After desert rain, the soil speaks louder than the garden plants. She felt tired but went to look for the black rabbit. She let her eyes scan the back yard, from lavender bush to roses and back to the wall. No sign. She walked over to the metal shed and stopped in her tracks. The black rabbit had the habit of taking refuge under the shed and now, near the door, was the unmistakable signs of something large having dug a hole with deep claw marks. Something had clawed its way under the shed. She felt sure that a coyote had smelled the black rabbit and dug its way under to drag him out. She felt a wave of despair when she thought of the screams and banging noises last night. She could have saved it. She went back inside. Her opinion of herself sank to a new low. She had let the black rabbit down. The Quail parents, now bereft of any offspring, moved as if in a trance across to the lavender bush. A loud banging on the door interrupted her thoughts. Oh God, her neighbor. Never one to assign any neighborhood incident to an isolated event, always seeing it as a symptom of something sinister, proof of some deep disorder, fresh evidence of neighborhood decay. She was breathless (her normal state) as she told her she had to come see this. She dutifully trudged along behind her neighbor, already practicing the platitudes in her head. In her front yard, just outside the gate to the back yard, lay a full grown very dead coyote. The beautiful golden fleece was matted with the rain and where its eyes should have been, were two carrots. The cat stared blankly in the distance as the two Quail disappeared over the wall.