Museum Mishap Monday

So while at Norwescon this weekend Jennifer Brozek managed to convince me to blog more and work on my short fiction muscles by posting flash fiction based around my real life work in museums. There are a lot of ways for history to kill you in a museum and so I’m launching “Museum Mishap Monday” where I will kill myself in fiction through a real life museum hazard. I’ve previously come up with a Gashlycrumb Tinies homage to museum hazards so I know I can write at least 26 of these.

The Room With A Moose

The air conditioner kicked on and disturbed fur on the mounted moose head that dominated Minerva’s office. It was a very old mount shot by a 49er while seeking his fortune in Alaska and then passed down among family members until the head and its fifteen foot antler spread was brought to the museum. Officially the donor “wanted to share it with others” but unofficially his wife was just sick and tired of it taking up half a room in their house. Minerva couldn’t blame the wife. The damn moose was HUGE and its large unblinking eyes were disturbing, especially when they caught the streetlights through the window when she turned off the overhead lights for the night.

Older taxidermy such as this had been prepared via an arsenic soap concoction smeared on the inside of the skin to preserve it and ward off pests. Over time chemicals precipitated out and became a white powder on the surface of the skin and coating the hairs.  A fine white powder that drifted down invisibly from the fur fluttering in the artificial breeze.

Minerva got a phone call from the front desk about a man wanting to discuss a possible donation. She set down her half-sandwich and open cup of tea next to the computer and headed downstairs mumbling, “What’s in the box?” in a panicked Brad Pitt impression. Arsenic dust settled on the sandwich and dissolved into the surface tension of the tea. It wasn’t the first time, nor the last that the tasteless dust settled onto Minerva’s food. It’d been years and now the headaches were getting more frequent. The confusion was harder to chalk up to just lack of sleep or monthly hormones.

The air conditioner turned off before Minerva returned through the narrow door carrying a jar of sand collected from Iwo Jima. She finished filling out the temporary custody paperwork, returned to her desk, and ate the sandwich half in three bites.

The taxidermied expression on the moose above her head remained exactly the same.