Last week I went to my friendly local taxidermy shop to see if they had any more old bug boxes. Since she was six weeks old, I’ve been taking a portrait of my daughter every six months. At first all I had to do was shake a rattle and make reassuring noises. Then we moved on to outright bribery, lollipops being the payola of choice. Now, I’ve become a sort of meditational guide (there are still lollipops involved), talking her out of the giggles, exhorting her to concentrate, encouraging her to relax. The first box is almost full, hence the trip to one of my favorite places in Berlin.

The Berliner Präparationswerkstatt is a tiny store front crammed full with the prepared remains of a variety of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles. They had a shark head sitting around once. Always lots of antlers. Sometimes they’re works in-progress, as in the half-sewn-up pig I see when I walk in. The smell of formaldehyde brings up bad memories of being pelted with frog eggs in an out of control 7th grade biology class.

They do have two nice boxes for me, dusty and full of broken bits of legs and wings. After a woman in a black leather jacket comes in (I’m here for the fox, she says), I get to talking with the owner. I ask him if he ever finds the whole thing with the animals disturbing. No, it’s science, it’s fascinating, he tells me. The only thing that really gives him the creeps is when people bring in their Fluffy or Buddy to have it stuffed and mounted for display in the living room. One of the nicknames I call my daughter is Bug.

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