Picture Book: "Snout"

    This is the first presentation of a new collaborative series between the winsome ne’er-do-wells on the Writing team and the woefully ocular photographers. The explanation is simple: the photographer provides the photo, the writer spins the story.

    Snout looked so sweet in life. Photo by John Meguerian / North by Northwestern

    Sam had not always wanted to be a taxidermist. When he was in the 6th grade he told his parents he was going to be a sailor, an idea that persisted for an unusually long time considering that Sam didn’t really know what it entailed. Still, it had seemed vaguely appealing. He imagined himself engaged in an elaborately choreographed song and dance number on a poop-deck somewhere in the South Pacific, his fastidiously shined shoes gleaming in the plain ocean sun. And naturally, there would be plenty of time for skipping rocks and going swimming.

    Unfortunately, Sam learned that he was prone to bouts of seasickness which became so extreme that he couldn’t watch a Long John Silver’s commercial without throwing up. Instead of sailing, he bounced around from job to job before accidentally discovering taxidermy. It was a tragic fate of sorts. His mother’s beloved Beagle, Snout, had died of mysterious circumstances. She blamed the death on an autistic boy in their neighborhood, but it was later found out that Snout was fond of eating Christmas tree ornaments, especially those with trace amounts of mercury in them. Sam’s mother was distraught; the holidays can be hard enough. Sam went to his mother’s house to console the poor woman, who was inconsolable. As Sam lingered in the semi-afternoon darkness of the home, standing over the cold, dead body of his childhood pet, he was suddenly struck with an idea for the ultimate festive gift.

    But how does one go about cleaning out the blood and organs of a cherished family pet to prepare it for public display? Certainly there were books on the topic, but considering the realities of decomposition, time was a factor. Sam acted accordingly. Making a long, clean cut along Snout’s belly, Sam pulled back the layers of hair and skin that previously kept the dog warm and protected. He made an exploratory grab into the pink and red mass spilling out of the incision. It felt slightly warm but, other than that, not at all what he would’ve expected of innards. Everything was tough and flexible, like small, silicon-filled balloons scattered in a bucket of blood and broken rubber bands. Sam groped for the heart near the bottom of Snout’s front legs, removing a lung or two in the process. Pulling it out, Sam realized that it looked a little like the Stormtrooper helmet he’d owned as a child, minus the coronary vessels.

    When Sam unveiled his amateur yet frighteningly professional creation on Christmas morning, there was a lot of crying. And screaming. And asking Sam to please go to therapy because the only people with taxidermy as a hobby were also fond of watching Unsolved Mysteries and burying people in their backyards. But Sam knew it wasn’t like that. Somewhere between extracting Snout’s colon and stuffing her with cotton, Sam had discovered an innate skill and a lifelong passion. Sam had his whole life ahead of him, and there would be a lot more scooping, skinning, tanning and mounting.

    But Snout, well, she would always be his first.


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