Thursday, September 17, 2009


Thinking it was the dentist’s office, I walked into a taxidermist’s shop. Workers glanced at me, intense stares as if caught doing something wrong, then back to work. I was about to leave when I realized the place smelled of lemons. Intrigued, I asked the closest person—a balding man, thick glasses, decked in clean-room white—about the aroma.

The skins are treated with lemon juice, he said. We use lemon air fresheners to further mask odors.

The shop was one large working area. A Smithsonian exhibit, animals frozen in various poses. Dogs and cats. Turkeys and deer. An attacking bear, a falcon grasping prey. Frozen, dead eyes staring back. Like a cemetery, a place of still nightmares.

Can I help you, sir, the man asked. I mentioned my mistake. He made a standard pain-dentist joke.

This seems like arcane stuff, I said, like alchemy, phrenology. Don’t know anyone who’s employed a taxidermist.

The man was working on a hawk. Fierce talons forever poised for strike.

You’d be surprised, he said. It’s regaining popularity. People want memories, preservations.

I left pondering that, found the dentist. Afterward, the smell of lemons—air freshener, disinfectant, lemonade—returned my thoughts to that shop. A view suspended in liquid, watching that man stuff a dead bird.