An eccentric, one-eyed taxidermist hummed a song while pulling the innards out of the forty-five pound carcass. He cleaned the skin with a salt solution and tanned the hide with oil. The old man molded the form with straw, string and clay as he had done a hundred times before.
The brown coyote was killed with a bow and arrow a few days before far from its usual habitat in the mountains north of town. Newlyweds found it in the shed the day they moved into the old Rathbone house on the hill outside of town. A house long on folklore and short on facts. The young Scottish master’s name was Stewart meaning “animal steward.” He expressed to the old taxidermist that finding the coyote was believed to be an omen. It would be a guard inside his new home on the hill to ward off evil doers. The townsfolk thought the house to be haunted.
The taxidermist’s wife interrupted his work with a call for dinner. His patient was iced, and the trimmings were jarred in formaldehyde. The following day he finished the final stuffing and stitches. Another work of art. So real to the human eye it might bite the one who gazed too long.
The young homeowners on the hill were astonished how alive the coyote appeared. They gave it a place of honor between the master’s cozy chair and the hearth. On Halloween night, the lady tired of scary stories and retreated to the chambers. Master fell asleep in his chair as usual but woke up to a loud, slow beating sound nearby.
He sent word to the taxidermist that the sound seemed to come from the mounted animal. It was driving him mad!
The taxidermist ran downstairs to his workshop and dumped the jar of organs. One by one he counted and named them. Exhaustion collapsed his legs as he fell to his bench. He forgot to remove the coyote’s heart! His sweaty brow arched and a devilish grin formed on his lips as he turned out the light. He would tell the customer that the beating sound could not possibly be from the mount because it was dead…or maybe not!
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