The Hunting Museum
A museum each day is my goal. I’ve been to Paris enough times to skip the big sites. Today’s destination is the Musee de la Chasse et Nature. There are few visitors on this quiet Sunday, and one guard stalks a young family, chastising the children when they pet the stuffed porcupine. The guard with the thick eyeglasses follows me, switching on videos while gesturing effusively with a smattering of English, “Boom! POW! Ouch!” I nod, as if I understand.
There’s no air conditioning, and I feel seriously hot and retire to the toilette to mop my face. Re-entering the exhibit I feel heat again, and ascending the staircase it intensifies. Strangely, I feel like I’m picking up some sort of energy from the animals. It’s as if I’m hearing a party in the next room, but when I enter the Trophy Room it is empty and mounted heads of gazelles, stags, and boar gaze down on me. A black bear with menacing teeth and claws regards me through glass eyes. This probably gives everybody the willies.
I must have fainted. The nice guard pats my hand and yammers away in French. I tell him I’m fine, and realize I’m speaking French. I slip away, mortified, to an exhibit I saw earlier-- fantasy creatures made of taxidermy and feathers. One is a boar with a duck grafted onto its back and pheasant wings for ears…that sort of thing. Another installation is a small walk-in closet. The ceiling features owl heads fashioned from colorful feathers, and yellow glass eyes stare down at me. I close the curtain and the lighting becomes dramatic. The ceiling begins to revolve. Cool. The ceiling spins, and the feathers blur. Really, this is a tad claustrophobic. I yank the curtain but behind it is another wall. The ceiling slows, and I’m thinking, ready to go. Right now. There is a door now; carved oak with bronze hardware. The hinges creak. Back home someone would have filed a lawsuit by now. The door finally gives.
The closet must open into another exhibit. Impressive. This one is a banquet with massive platters of meat, goblets, trenchers, and fruit spilling from epergnes. The pheasants still have feet and heads. It looks so real. I’m hot again, and the smell is so realistically gamey it is getting to me. I search for an exit. No way would this pass code at home. I’m getting a bit irritated. That noise again. I follow the sounds of music and laughter. In the corridor the candles in the chandeliers are dripping wax onto the stone floor. So realistic.
My friendly guard stands at the head of the stairs. He has all of his teeth, and looks younger. The burgundy guard blazer is gone and he wears leggings and a floppy velvet hat. He speaks French and I understand when he beckons. When I reach my hand out, my sleeve is damask. I take his hand and follow him down the corridor.
by Liza Nash Taylor
Liza Nash Taylor recently explored Paris's Musee de Chasse et Nature, and just had to write a story about it.
She has a BA in Fine Arts from Mary Baldwin College. Her short story "Scrapbook" is in the current edition of Microchondria II, the literary magazine of the Harvard Bookstore. Her essay, "Bad Dog," recently appeared in Bluestem Magazine. She was recently accepted to an MFA program and will begin studies in January, 2016. Taylor is from Virginia.
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