I am an accumulator of oddities. Or, rather, my grandfather was. When he was killed by one, or two, or a few thousand cigarettes too many, I inherited three simple things from him, left to me by his will.

First: $5,000.

Second: an antique record player.

Third: a dead elk from the shoulders forward.

I'd always been disgusted by people trying to preserve the cadavers of animals. They were dead! There was no use pretending that they were still alive. I tried to dump the thing on my sister, but she refused to take it.

"It's gorgeous!" she'd exclaimed."So well preserved!" I remember how her glossy black locks had shone nearly as bright as her sky-blue eyes and she'd insisted I'd keep it due to sentimental reasons.

After a while, I came to admire the massive creature that rested upon my wall. Eventually, I even became interested in the unique art of taxidermy. I used some of my extra $5,000 to buy myself some nice pieces. A full-body raccoon mount, a wet specimen of a baby beaver, small things like that.

Eventually, however, I grew to become dissatisfied with purchasing my pretties. I wanted to clean and stitch my own. A pellet gun, a crow, and a shoebox full of borax later, I'd done it. I'd made my own pretty! This set me off. I stopped my car for roadkill, went hunting and discarded every bit of my dead pretty that couldn't be made into something even prettier, and took every opportunity I could to hone my skills.

Some of my favorite pretties are kept in my own workroom. I have an antelope from eastern Oregon, a marten from northwestern Canada, and a caribou and grizzly bear from Alaska. Many other pretties line the walls of the only room I ever spend time in.

I step back, satisfied, and study my newest pretty, and I grin. It's my favorite yet! I'm not positive as to exactly what type of animal it is, though. All I know is that it was trying to get into my house, but I shot it. It was in defense of my property. What if they tried to steal my pretties? I couldn't let that happen!

"It's gorgeous," I murmur, running my fingers through its long, glossy, black fur. Its glassy, sky-like eyes stare blankly past my shoulders.

"So well preserved!"