Big Fish

“I thought you said you had competitive pricing.” Man, he wants to argue. Does he think he can get this sailfish stuffed before it rots? It already smells like a cat ate it and threw it back up.

“Fifteen dollars an inch.” It’s a little high, but it’s not crazy. Plus, how does he even know? I doubt he even caught this nasty fish, probably bought it from the boat captain, and the boat captain probably had it from three days ago. “It’s a big fish.” I’ll add that in, maybe that will make him feel better about the price. “You want it done right, don’t you?” I can see his eye twitch—and I’m going to say he don’t care.

“It’ll cost more to stuff it than it did to catch it.” He’s leaning in, getting crazy pig eyes at me.

“But it’ll preserve it forever.” You’d think people would remember this. You think this is easy, what I do? You think you can find this anywhere? “Forever costs money.”

“Forget it, I’ll find somebody on-line. Ever heard of the internet, man?”

The internet? That’s his comeback? Even broke has standards.

I close his cooler with the tip of my shoe. “Man, you go ahead and try.”

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Macabre

His office is terrifying. The first deer’s head is positioned to look out the door, its head turned as if startled, its blank black eyes staring into you. A turkey fans its tail feathers by the end table. The boar with its six-inch tusks seems to peer around the desk, half-hidden by the blue recycle bin. Behind him, a bobcat plays with a bird. Another deer’s head, this trophy waiting to be hung, rests sideways on the couch, as if awaiting the shrink. “My whole world is gone,” he might say. “Also, my body.”

There’s probably more but I can’t take it all in, the incongruity of this dead menagerie in his office. I almost expect to see Snow White, waxen and stiff, posed in a corner, a bird on each finger. What sort of man does this? What is he trying to tell his employees, decorating his office with the animals he’s killed? Is he trying to flaunt his masculinity, his cunning, his wealth? God knows this freak show wasn’t cheap. I don’t linger outside that door, won’t let those dead eyes keep watching me. I even hold my breath when I pass, expecting the smell of decay and formaldehyde to curl out the door in a swirling green vapor, as if it were the laboratory of a mad scientist. The whole thing seems mad to me, creepy, disturbing, the product of an unstable mind. Of course, he is the boss.