A mother and her son paused before the polar bear diorama. Inside, a cub huddled against its mother. A seal carcass lay before them, blood on the snow. The boy stood close. None of it was real, the mother said, a statement neither truth nor lie. The scene radiated its eerie beauty, and in the glass, her son’s reflection. Perhaps taxidermy was an art form, but so was opera, and she didn’t care for that either.
They passed the mountain lions. The zebras. The hyenas. Light spilled from each scene, checkerboard splashes in the dim hallway. The mother sat on a bench in the hallway’s center. Her boy toured the room. He was curious but not overwhelmed. He paused before the grazing impala. The mother wondered how the impala had died, whether it had been shot or poisoned—its hide harvested for this incomplete resurrection. Her son studied the leopard latched onto a wildebeest’s humped shoulder. His mother watched him, a shadow drifting through a frozen sea.