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  • She had an odd charm for a taxidermist. Clearly she lived in the penumbra, that area not totally dark or perfectly bright. Her domicile had fallen between sanity and obsessiveness. There was not a lot of hand washing nor did she inhabit a world void of germs. She simply discouraged that which was false.

    “False” is not the perfect word but it’ll do. When she saw the character of a person in the thing; it would have more of a chance. Sometimes she would refer to this essential material as voice. At other times this essence was hand, or vision. It was mandatory for the item in question to shun imitation. Every iota need succeed the trial of genuine.

    Surprisingly, plastic seemed to be OK as long as she deemed it original. Robo cross-stitching sold at fake up-country general stores was a pet peeve. She resented any attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of the blind. The notion people see with their brains more than their eyes dominated most conversations.

    It was with this zeal she plied the skills of her trade. She could take a dead animal and infuse it with a motionless moment of life. It was why local hunters didn’t like her. She could freeze a deer head into a moment of panic. She could infuse the doe eyes with departing thoughts…

    the suckles of her fawn,
    the taste of the underbrush between molars,
    the proximal knowledge of doom.

    Hunter wives would demand the trophy to be hung in the garage, out of the house, and beyond the constant reminder – we have killed a creature in the act of loving life for our food.
  • Twin oaks shaded the cottage from the summer sun forming a canopy at the apex of the horseshoe drive. The sign by the country road read “Anne’s Life-like Taxidermy”

    A bell tinkled in the back room as the front door opened. But as the door closed, the aroma… a bouquet of smells filled the hushed room. The air contained rosy overtones of Champaign, lingering pencil dust, and a bit of cat pee offset by melted beeswax.

    Attentive taxidermy was perched on the shelves and furniture. A possum hung by its tail from a rafter. A raccoon held a nibbled peach. A red tailed hawk watched with hungry eyes. Ocelots were posed as if at play. A robin dangled a worm over a nest of chicks. All these animals were frozen in rapt attention staring at the woman stock still at the enamel table. She was holding a mouse like the mother of Achilles. Between the forefinger nail and thumbnail she held the creature by the left rear ankle. It was dripping with hot beeswax. She was as motionless as the taxidermy waiting for a last drip to drop from the rodent to the pot of hot beeswax below.

    Above her hung a mobile of Barn Swallows riding the updraft of the crock-pot full of wax. They flew in circles about her head.

    He thought of a cartoon head bonking. The concussion illustrated with birds flying in circles and chirping madly.

    An arrow found his heart.
  • Harvey was clutching two dead prairie dogs wrapped in the news from last Monday. He had murdered them for science and it saddened him.

    For half a decade he had studied love struck prairie dogs. (You understand, they are monogamous and like many animals… swans and humans… mate for life.) As such Harvey set about to compare single dogs to those who had coupled. He took blood samples, graphed protein patterns from hair, and saliva for DNA. In year five he discovered the couples had a love enzyme soaking their brains. The single prairie dogs of the group had none of this enzyme in their brains. Harvey was blinded by the science. Unfortunately, dissection was the method for his breakthrough. Over the years he had dissected the unloved and the loved by the hundreds.

    One day, he synthesized the enzyme and injected in a pair of unloved prairie dogs. He then put them together and in a matter of minutes he could tell. He had proved the fluid to be a love drug and just at the point of this discovery thoughts flooded his mind. He wondered about the estranged people, and divorce lawyers, and the church, and the spinster Martha who never wed. He thought about the lonely and the loved. Up through this flood of brain flux came a single realization. Feelings are real. When you are in love there is nothing you can do. Then grief overtook for he realized what he had done.

    It was the last of the experimental prairie dogs he had under his arm. Upon recommendation of the Museum of Natural History in Cleveland, Ohio he had sought the skills of Anne the Taxidermist.

    He just felt so guilty. He couldn't leave the thought behind. He had made them love each other… and then... snuffed.

    ...strangely he thought taxidermy would ease his mind.
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