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Introductions To Teratology

Gina Keicher

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Before the sideshow, I did not know so many animals were born polycephalic, how a two-headed raccoon composts in formaldehyde, that such a thing as a turtlope exists.

Most the items under the red and yellow tent were old, filthy. An art school chupacabra, painted twine, crumbling foam. Half-armadillo, half-rabbit. “Australian little people.” The world’s largest man on a VHS loop. The Fiji mermaid disintegrated in her display case. Facsimile babies swaddled in dirty pink blankets, built to replicate babies born of addicted mothers cooing, “No one’s gonna love you like this.”

I did not see the Mongolian death worm. I would not have believed it. I would have seen an oversized dryer hose, unless the death worm proved how it got its name. In their jars, the meat-eating spider, frog-eating snake, and six-legged pig were real as long as I did not look too long.

I did not search for mirrors, well-placed lights, a piece of invisible wire. I wanted to think these kinds of things happen. I wanted to believe in the two bucks to see it. How the wolf boy in the long glass box had his arms crossed over his chest, as if prepared for a proper human burial.

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The local planetarium replaced the host with an articulate hyena in a suit. Ever since, customers complain about the presentations. Protracted duration. How the dog moralizes the stars. If this is the most opportune class field trip for first graders.

Parents refuse to sign permission slips since the hyena said, “This is what you can see by starlight. Nothing.” Learn the value of fields, how important it is to stand in the middle of one and see nothing else when examining the sky.

According to the hyena, “While sitting in the dark, you’ll learn the logic of life cycles.” One boy broke his night-light in the hall. His mother cut her foot open on the pieces of blue frosted glass. That’s only one example of what has gone wrong.

No one wants to admit there is a stellar birth for each barn roof wet with ropen light. Death is a transaction negotiated by vacuums of indeterminate space, stars so dense no one forgets their names.

We went to the planetarium. You didn’t appreciate it at all. You thought you had it all figured out better than he did. You laughed at the hyena when he said it has to be dark, that unfortunate, accidental light may be too bad, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a crisis.

Still some nights I find you on the porch, looking at the stars. I can tell you’re timing their deaths with a stopwatch, calculating how long they’ll take to burn out. All so you can make your own planet and live there with a potted plant.     

All rights reserved to Gina Keicher.

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