Violet’s father shoots grackles in the backyard to keep them from taking over the garden. Violet likes to collect the bodies. She sent for a small colony of flesh-eating beetles to clean the bones. Graveyard beetles, she calls them, and she keeps them in the bottom drawer of a dresser in the basement. When the bird skeletons are lily-white she mounts them on folded cardboard. She’s memorized the names of all the bones in a bird’s body. Summer afternoons she likes to draw in the coloring book of North American Birds she won at the Science Fair. There’s a key at the side of each page with recommended colors for realistic-looking birds. But she likes to fill in the blank spaces with bone structure or organs. The bones are neatly labeled and the organs are colored the way she saw them when she watched the beetles cleaning. If she feels like coloring, she has some blood saved in small bottles. It turns into a perfect color that she can use for the reddish-brown parts, like the rufous throat and chin of the cliff swallow, or the rusty breast of the marsh wren. In a small gold box that was her mother’s, she saves all of the eyes.
Jeanie Tomasko is the author of two books of poetry, Sharp as Want (Little Eagle Press) and Tricks of Light (Parallel Press.) She lives in Wisconsin where all kinds of creepy things happen.