You’ve already met Kelly Barnhill. She’s the Catholic writer whose Jesus poem went over much better with atheists than with some of the religious people who read it. Like that poem, this story is a departure from most of her published work, which is for children.
The Taxidermist is the mayor, and has been for the last fifteen years. We did not vote for him. We’ve never met anyone who has. And yet he has won, term after term. A landslide. We do not offer our congratulations nor do we bring casseroles or homemade bars to his house, nor do we come to his Christmas parties or summer barbeques (we already know what’s in that house. We know.).
This, we are sure, hurts the Taxidermist’s other wife. What wife wouldn’t be wounded by such a snub? She is a sweet, pretty thing. Young. Large eyes. Tight, smooth skin. She grew up four towns over, or so the story goes. Each day she pushes open the large, heavily carved front door and stands on the porch. She brushes a few tendrils of shellacked hair from her face with the backs of her fingers. She adjusts her crisp, white gloves.
She is perfect. Too perfect. Her symmetry jostles the eye. Her body moves without hesitancy, without the irregular rhythm of muscle and bone.
She walks from their house at the center of town, past what used to be the butcher shop and what used to be the hardware store and what used to be the Shoe Emporium and what used to be the offices of our former newspaper until she reaches her husband’s office at the Town Hall. She wears high heels, even in winter, that click coldly against the cracked sidewalk. She doesn’t trip. She doesn’t break stride. She wears a skirt that skims her young thighs and flares slightly at her bending knees. She used to smile at us when she passed, but she doesn’t anymore. We never smiled back. Instead, she keeps her lovely face porcelain-still, her mouth like a rosebud in a bowl of milk. A doll’s mouth.
We want to love her. We wish we could love her. But we can’t. We remember the Taxidermist’s first wife. We remember and remember and remember.