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Short Stories - Mounted

by William Doonan

Ned’s hands shook as he glued the beak onto the stuffed bat. “Damn,” he shouted, throwing his tweezers onto the ground, realizing he had glued the beak onto the bat’s stomach by mistake. “Damn post-apocalyptic world!”

Oriole shivered, her ragged poncho no match for the evening chill. If only her sisters had left Muncie before the troubles. If Robin and Grackle were here, surely one of them would know how to start a fire.

Hugging her arms to her chest, Oriole stepped gingerly around the piles of brand-new disposable lighters that littered the road like gemstones, shimmering in the sunset.

Up ahead, she saw something flicker in an abandoned donut shop. It could be a campfire. She approached carefully. “It could be another gang of surfers,” she warned herself, remembering her last encounter.

Ned was gluing the last tail feather when he heard the door chime. He turned away from the peacock as the girl entered. She was the first human he’d seen since…since the troubles began. “Damn Buffet Rule,” he gurgled, staring at her.

She was gorgeous. Mid-twenties, maybe five foot two, mixed Scottish and Mexican heritage, judging by her poncho and the pan of haggis she carried. Oriole came forward and knelt by the fire. She rubbed her hands together

Ned carried the peacock to the display case, and set it next the owls and ducks and penguins, the product of his labor these long years. Then he approached her. He extended a hand but she cringed, spotting a distinctive feather that clung to his sleeve.

“Is that spotted owl?”

Ned beamed. “Do you do taxidermy too?”

Oriole shrieked as her eyes darted around the room. “You…you kill them.”

“Well, yes,” he said. “Otherwise they fuss when you try to stuff them.”

She shook her head sadly.

“What’s wrong?”

“I’m an ornithologist.”

“I’m not currently in need of eye care.” Ned eyed her lustfully.

“Not ophthalmology,” Oriole said, “ornithology – I study birds, I love birds. I come from a long line of bird lovers. I could never love a man who, who, who…”

“Shh.” Ned put a finger on her lips. “You sound like that owl I strangled last week. Look, we might have our differences, but we can make it. At least we’ll have each other. We can forget about the zombies for awhile?”

Oriole pulled back. “There are zombies?”

“Probably not,” Ned said. Then he kissed her. “I mean, I haven’t seen any but you never know.”

“This is so wrong,” she said, kissing him back hungrily. “I could never love a man like you.”

“We’ll make it work,” he said, gingery removing her poncho and setting her haggis aside.

“Tell me how this is going to end.” She tore at his clothes, spilling the contents of his pockets. Ear pins, wing screws, and spools of tail wire tangled with beak nuts of assorted sizes. “Tell me how this is going to end.”

Ned took her in his arms, remembering the title of his story.

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first published in Novel spaces in April 2012

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