Daddy is a man of tight seams and tanned skin. He can do just about anything. He used to trap coyotes and then cut their heads off. For each head, the county gave him twenty-five cents. In the front seat of the Charger was his jar of money. In the trunk was the bucket of heads. By summer’s end, he remembers making about twenty bucks.
A few years later he was sent to Vietnam but he doesn’t tell me any of those stories, only the one about the tiger. Waiting in a manhole, a tiger dragged him out one-legged. He shot and shot and shot her between the eyes. When it was over he remembers feeling her soft chuffing sound on his leg and her eyes had a widened sheen of sympathy.
When he returned home, he wouldn’t play hide-and-seek with me any more. He said he was tired of surprises, which made birthdays sucky.
He pretty much just works now at the taxidermist manufacturer in the artificial eyes department. He likes the mammal eyes. Testicles & noses and jaws & tongues don’t interest him too much.
Sometimes he brings home a grocery store plastic bag filled with defective eyes. The dalls’ pupils are too narrow; the albino eyes are too white; the fallow deers’ eyes are too tigerish; the elks’ eyes are too toady. Sometimes I organize them by color into little glass jars. Other times I swap out my dolls’ eyes for animal eyes. They become beautiful little monsters.
Most days though, before he comes home from work, I brew him some black coffee, pour him a mug, and walk it out the back door and down the hill to his metal shed. I do this special thing where I pour a little honey into his coffee and stir it up real good. I leave it on his workbench scattered with eye tools, like the shapers and the eye socket elongaters. He’s trying to become a taxidermist for real. He says believability is in the eyes.
Later in the evening when I get ready for bed, he comes into my bedroom to tell me, “Peaches, another great cup of coffee.” He doesn’t know my secret. He asks but I don’t tell. I love it that a secret can hold on so tight in the rear corner of my mouth.