#

Morning light bore down on my face, rousing me. I wrapped an arm around Ylli slipping my hand into his shirt. His fair hair had been streaked with grey for years but it never thinned or receded. I loved the contrasts between us when my dark tresses fell across his skin. I wrapped my legs around Ylli’s supine body, and kissed his tepid cheek. He remained stone-still.

“Ylli,” I cooed, but he didn’t stir.

I sat up, staring at his serene expression. As I shook his shoulder the flesh of his face quivered. Then I punched him in the chest hard enough wind a man. But nothing.

#

Back when I was an apprentice, I stood in Ylli’s workshop marveling at a hawk’s skin waiting to be mounted. He rested a palm on my young back and guided me to another corner where a fluffy bunny rested on a workbench.

Ylli reached for a rack of tools. “This knife is good for small projects – rabbits, birds, reptiles.” He made an incision above the rabbit’s tail, then gave me the handle warmed by his touch.

“Remember, always cut from the inside out, not the outside in.” He wrapped his hand around mine and together we pulled the blade through the length of the carcass. I watched the control and ease of his motion in awe.

Each day Ylli imparted a new secret. Then one day I saw him look at me the way I looked at him.

“Look at this musculature,” he said, as I lathered epoxy on a mare we were ready mount. “I can teach you everything I know, darling, but I could never learn your talent.”

I’d been a student of sculpture at the best university, but without him, my creativity would never have bloomed. We married and moved to the forest, where we lived together with nature.

#

I lay crying on his chest for hours. The grandfather clock resounded from downstairs to signal noon. If I wanted to keep Ylli with me, there was still time. I went into the workshop, grabbed the caliber, measuring tape and my notebook. Back in bed, Ylli’s hands were becoming blue and his back was darkening.

I raised Ylli’s heavy arm and placed it on my shoulder, stretching the tape measure from shoulder to wrist. With the measurements done, I hauled Ylli in a trolley and took him to the workshop. His arms sagged over my shoulders in a cold embrace as I set him on the tabletop. Then I took a combination blade, feeling the resistance of the skin as I dragged it around his middle – a new feeling of hide I’d never cut before. I made the second slit along his spine.  Slowly, I pulled the skin from the flesh.

Human skin is much thicker than more animals and it is also much more fragile. I left it to soak in a mixture of alum, water and salt, which would allow me several weeks to formulate a preservative. There was no way of knowing how to keep the colour of the skin, this time, no road kill to experiment on.

#

That first day I worked for 20 hours. No food, no rest. I had to. Intestines are the first to decay. Bacteria in the bowels survive after death to produce chemical reactions that could lead to either of two processes – mummification, or distention that ultimately explodes. It was critical to eviscerate before I could freeze his parts. I wrapped Ylli’s quartered and salted flesh in plastic, and placed him in the industrial-sized freezer. His innards I took out into the sunshine. By the red maple, I found a spade and the energy to dig a plot for the parts we no longer needed.

I awoke disoriented and then the memories came crashing back. I didn’t focus on them, merely deciding to pick up where I’d left off. Ylli was no longer there to slip between my thighs in the mornings. I missed him deeply. I thought that my memory of him was the next best thing to having him, and that if I could only create a fantasy vivid enough, I’d be content. Dreams of his body were bittersweet, they stung and yet they addicted. I would have done anything to have him back.

            I started with his left side. With Ylli’s foot and shin beside me, I sawed a piece of urethane foam down to size. Then I filed it to match the contours of his muscles. It would take several weeks to work on the form, and his skin would be pickled by the time I was complete.

#

One day I woke up knowing a single piece of Ylli remained to be built, and then I could begin putting him together. As I shuffled down the stairs, some coffee slopped out of my mug, dampening the top of my bed sock. When I reached the workshop my eyes were drawn to the freezer at the back of the room – the door was protruding, left ajar. I abandoned the mug on the bench and walked towards the freezer, praying it hadn’t been open too long, that its contents weren’t spoilt. The door might have been open for a week or more and I’d been in another corner, tanning skin with a formaldehyde potion, too busy to notice. The plastic bag which contained Ylli’s head was murky red and yellow, and when I picked it up, a trail of fowl liquid dribbled to the floor.

I cried, harder than the day he left me. My tears dried out and I found myself sprawled in a corner, bruised by broken antlers and covered in saw dust knocked off a counter. On the wall above me, my gaze snagged a photograph of Ylli with a lyrebird. I knew his face. I knew it so well I could almost feel his soft cheeks under my fingers when I closed my eyes. I knew the shape of his lips from a thousand kisses and his forehead from the nights I clutched it to my chest. The following day I took Ylli’s head to the red maple, and retrieved the shovel I’d left there weeks before. I could build the form of his head without this redundant matter that was no longer my husband. And I would prove I was the artist worthy of his love.

#

When I retrieved his skin for mounting, I saw that it was several shades darker than I recalled. Nevermind, a few summers earlier we’d spent a week at the coast and Ylli had tanned generously.

The mannequin I’d created was my best physical effort, the peak and limit of my skills. Before bringing out my needles, I arranged the skin on the form, checking the muscles of the body and the face. They were perfect, but they didn’t look like Ylli’s. I knew that stitching it up would do nothing to fix the strange angles of his face or the irredeemable slant of his chin. But I did it anyway.

The weather warmed rapidly with the onset of spring. I completed my last stitch and stood before my creation.

I took the taxidermy Ylli out to the maple tree.

Instructor Response

#

Morning light bore [? the right word? It means make a hole with little variance. Accurate word choice is important, and don’t think the most accurate word is “unwriterly” or an inaccurate word poetic or lyrical (with exceptions).]   down on my face, rousing me. I wrapped an arm around Ylli slipping my hand into his shirt. His fair hair had been streaked with grey for years but it never thinned or receded. I loved the contrasts between us when my dark tresses fell across his skin. I wrapped my legs around Ylli’s supine body, and kissed his tepid cheek. He remained stone-still.

“Ylli,” I cooed, but he didn’t stir.

I sat up, staring at his serene expression. As I shook his shoulder the flesh of his face quivered. Then I punched him in the chest hard enough to wind a man. But nothing. [Good opening. Consider a little more clarity in the sense that what’s on the page is more obscure than mysterious. Why not say if he’s dead or not? To let the reader know might heighten interest. Also, learn to write easily accepted images. I wrapped my legs around Ylli’s supine body is a little hard to imagine. If it’s important, let the reader see it without a struggle or risk of misunderstanding.]

#

Back when I was an apprentice, I stood in Ylli’s workshop marveling at a hawk’s skin waiting to be mounted. He rested a palm on my young back and guided me to another corner where a fluffy bunny rested on a workbench.

Ylli reached for a rack of tools. “This knife is good for small projects – rabbits, birds, reptiles.” He made an incision above the rabbit’s tail, then gave me the handle warmed by his touch.

“Remember, always cut from the inside out, not the outside in.” He wrapped his hand around mine and together we pulled the blade through the length of the carcass. I watched the control and ease of his motion in awe. Good. Interesting writing.

Each day Ylli imparted a new secret. Then one day I saw him look at me the way I looked at him.

“Look at this musculature,” he said, as I lathered epoxy on a mare we were ready mount. “I can teach you everything I know, darling, but I could never learn your talent.”

I’d been a student of sculpture at the best university, but without him, my creativity would never have bloomed. We married and moved to the forest, where we lived together with nature. Great.

#

[Need a transition here. The time change is unclear. Transitions are important for clarity and flow; you can learn more here.] I lay crying on his chest for hours. The grandfather clock resounded from downstairs to signal noon. If I wanted to keep Ylli with me, there was still time. I went into the workshop, grabbed the caliber, measuring tape and my notebook. Back in bed, Ylli’s hands were becoming blue and his back was darkening.

I raised Ylli’s heavy arm and placed it on my shoulder, stretching the tape measure from shoulder to wrist. With the measurements done, I hauled Ylli in a trolley and took him to the workshop. His arms sagged over my shoulders in a cold embrace as I set him on the tabletop. Then I took a combination blade, feeling the resistance of the skin as I dragged it around his middle – a new feeling of hide I’d never cut before. I made the second slit along his spine.  Slowly, I pulled the skin from the flesh.  :)

Human skin is much thicker than more animals and it is also much more fragile. I left it to soak in a mixture of alum, water and salt, which would allow me several weeks to formulate a preservative. There was no way of knowing how to keep the colour of the skin, this time, no road kill to experiment on.

#

That first day I worked for 20 hours. No food, no rest. I had to. Intestines are the first to decay. Bacteria in the bowels survive after death to produce chemical reactions that could lead to either of two processes – mummification, or distention that ultimately explodes. It was critical to eviscerate before I could freeze his parts. I wrapped Ylli’s quartered and salted flesh in plastic, and placed him in the industrial-sized freezer. His innards I took out into the sunshine. By the red maple, I found a spade and the energy to dig a plot for the parts we no longer needed.

I awoke disoriented and then the memories came crashing back. I didn’t focus on them, merely deciding to pick up where I’d left off. Ylli was no longer there to slip between my thighs in the mornings. I missed him deeply. I thought that my memory of him was the next best thing to having him, and that if I could only create a fantasy vivid enough, I’d be content. Dreams of his body were bittersweet, they stung and yet they addicted. I would have done anything to have him back. Yes. Very good. You’ve instilled story momentum and curiosity about what’s going to happen.

I started with his left side. With Ylli’s foot and shin beside me, I sawed a piece of urethane foam down to size. Then I filed it to match the contours of his muscles. It would take several weeks to work on the form, and his skin would be pickled by the time I was complete. I like this idea of taxidermy to try to capture or continue the affection of the dead. And will it work? Of course not. But I’m interested to see why.

#

One day I woke up knowing a single piece of Ylli remained to be built, and then I could begin putting him together. As I shuffled down the stairs, some coffee slopped out of my mug, dampening the top of my bed sock. When I reached the workshop my eyes were drawn to the freezer at the back of the room – the door was protruding, left ajar. I abandoned the mug on the bench and walked towards the freezer, praying it hadn’t been open too long, that its contents weren’t spoilt. The door might have been open for a week or more and I’d been in another corner, tanning skin with a formaldehyde potion, too busy to notice. The plastic bag which contained Ylli’s head was murky red and yellow, and when I picked it up, a trail of fowl liquid dribbled to the floor. This is well written. Succinct. Concrete. Momentum. Good job.

I cried, harder than the day he left me. My tears dried out and I found myself sprawled in a corner, bruised by broken antlers and covered in saw dust knocked off a counter. On the wall above me, my gaze snagged a photograph of Ylli with a lyrebird. I knew his face. I knew it so well I could almost feel his soft cheeks under my fingers when I closed my eyes. I knew the shape of his lips from a thousand kisses and his forehead from the nights I clutched it to my chest. The following day I took Ylli’s head to the red maple, and retrieved the shovel I’d left there weeks before. I could build the form of his head without this redundant matter that was no longer my husband. And I would prove I was the artist worthy of his love.

#

When I retrieved his skin for mounting, I saw that it was several shades darker than I recalled. Nevermind, a few summers earlier we’d spent a week at the coast and Ylli had tanned generously.

The mannequin I’d created was my best physical effort, the peak and limit of my skills. Before bringing out my needles, I arranged the skin on the form, checking the muscles of the body and the face. They were perfect, but they didn’t look like Ylli’s. I knew that stitching it up would do nothing to fix the strange angles of his face or the irredeemable slant of his chin. But I did it anyway.

The weather warmed rapidly with the onset of spring. I completed my last stitch and stood before my creation.

I took the taxidermy Ylli out to the maple tree.

 

Great story and well presented. An excellent performance. And I gain a thoughtful moral. Something about how impossible it is for us to re-create a love lost and to wonder why we always try even though we know it’s impossible.

Thanks for doing the assignment.

WHC

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