Getting Stuffed in the Valley
Damian has two deer heads. They roll around a little in the boot, but he makes the drive down to the only taxidermist still working. Bryce comes to the door after several knocks. He has a stubby in his right hand, his granddaughter in his left, and a roll your own expiring at the side of his mouth.
“I don’t want this work anymore.”
“You could have told me before I drove down.”
“Alright, but I dunno when I can fit those in, give me a bell in a month.”
Weeks later, Damian is at the pickup spot, at the rear of the McDonald’s car park, on the bypass between the two towns. He waits through a burger, French fries, three cokes, and a make your own cappuccino. After that, he drives over to Bryce’s, knocks, phones, and goes home.
Two days pass before Bryce answers.
“Didn’t you see the news, the stolen Fairmont up in flames at the Raleigh Street servo? Yeah that one, the heads were in the boot. You owe me six hundred bucks.”
“Not without the heads I don’t.”
“I did a real good job, I’ve got responsibilities, I don’t need this sort of thing.”
“I’m not paying for missing heads.”
On the wall behind the cutting chair is Damian’s first kill. A maximum point antler spread. The full brisket hangs out over the waiting couch. There aren’t appointments, it’s an old-style barber shop where you walk in, take a seat, and wait. Every new customer makes the same joke about the talking moose head scene with Manuel and the Colonel in Fawlty Towers.
“Just the normal, off the ears, off the collar, shorter all over.”
“You owe me two heads.”
“I told you to stop at that one, you’d never do any better. It took the six of us to lift it into the ute.”
“You took a year to cure and dress it. You want the razor to clean up your neck?”
Bryce pays the seventeen-dollar standard unemployed, pensioner rate discount. He has only a fifty, offers to buy a coffee to break it for the cash register. Damian takes the coffee, gives Bryce his change. The U2 video is playing over and over again. A fire inspector walks in, wanting the key for the side lane to check the hose closet. The next in line moves to the chair.
“I’m driving my girl’s car since those jerks took the Ford.”
“Yeah see ya next time, yours or mine, I’ll come down to the valley at some point.”
“I’ve still got Emily to watch after school, and I picked up a new cooler for work. You know that stag is worth thousands, right?”
“You still owe me two heads.”
The new guy asks for something other than Sunday Bloody Sunday.