On a top shelf, and on a wall, above the giant watch clocks and mixed media seascapes, were the worst specimens of taxidermy I have ever seen in my entire life. Just to remind you: I am a gun nut, I live in a state where there are a truckload of hunters, and I have done some time in medical and natural history museums. I have seen my fair share of taxidermy. Some of it awesome. Some of it less so. These monstrosities blew my mind. I have never in my life ever seen taxidermy so horribly rendered. I had to restrain myself from snapping pictures, because the store owner was giving me a glare that strongly suggested he knew I was about to burst into horrified giggles at any moment. So let me tell you what I saw.
Picture a wall in front of you. On that wall are little wooden plaques, of the sort that might have heads mounted on them in another place, but most of the mounts are birds. Clumsy, awkward, misshapen birds, with wings cocked in odd directions and spines that bend the wrong way. They have not accepted their lot. They look very grim and unhappy about it. It does not help that they are missing feathers. Lots of feathers. In important places. They look threadbare.
Next to the birds, there is a squirrel on fake tree branches that some unskilled but hopeful artist has attached to the wooden plaque. It is a small squirrel, and it is awkwardly whipsawed to its left above the waist in an unsustainable and very unanatomical posture that the viewer can only theorize is meant to suggest vigorous treetop action. The posture does not, in fact, suggest this. It rather suggests a squirrel that has just been shot during the middle of its annual prostate exam. As a whole, the piece brings to mind those Victorian dioramas of squirrels and mice in boxing matches or the like, if one had been executed by a singularly inept taxidermist who had, in fact, never so much as seen a squirrel.
Now we come to the pieces de la resistance.
The wall with the unfortunate birds and even less fortunate squirrel is perpendicular to the front window of the shop. In that front window is a huge arrangement of shelves stacked high with various repulsive wares. At the top, the very top, there are, in a row, some five or six pygmy goats or some similar creature. They are black with small horns and small bodies and short legs, and they look utterly horrifying. Compared to the artistry the goats exhibit, the birds are beautifully and glitteringly arrayed; compared to the bulging, twisted filling below the goats' skins, the squirrel is positively well-formed. All of the goats are chewing plugs of hay, which would perhaps be evocative of life if their heads were not horrifyingly malformed, exhibiting bulges and, more frighteningly, caverous indentations in places where such things are not supposed to be.
They look utterly horrifying. It's especially so if you're passingly acquainted with taxidermists' methods, because the head of each one is misshapen in a different and more alarming way. One has seemingly no muzzle. Another has a muzzle, with a dent in it that makes one wonder if the piece was hit by a bowling ball after production. One's face is flattened in a way that looks, if you glance fleetingly, disturbingly human. I have seen a lot of disturbing things in my life, but I don't know if I've ever seen anything as gruesomely wrong, as quietly alarming, as downright Lovecraftian as these things. They are, thankfully, kept way up on the top shelf. This tells me something. It tells me that a shop that proudly stocks 3d lenticular posters of wolves and dioramas of violent squirrel death has something among its wares that it realizes people might not want to look too closely at.
The goats are all turned away from the street, so that their faces are not visible to passersby glancing through the shop window. I can only imagine that this small mercy must have been the result of no small number of accidents, and probably citations from police.
I did not buy anything. Though I was tempted by the wolf lenticular.
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