Saturday 24 June 2023

'When the curator is a wolf in disguise' by Joyce Bingham

When it rains, a circus of tourists will arrive at the museum. I raise my eyes and purse my lips into a raspberry sigh. They’ll bring in castles of sand, sticky fingers of chocolate ice-cream, white smears of suncream.

I ready the gift shop, pens, erasers and notebooks, all embossed with the museum logo. Woody pencil sharpenings and pungent wax crayons mingle with cleaner notes of local crafted lavender bags. I shuffle postcards of petrified shards of dinosaur bones ensuring equal fading in the sun.

They sail in, pushchairs awash, rippling umbrellas and plastic see-through ponchos drowning the entrance, their clamour echoing through the main exhibit hall.

My senses heighten, muscles poised to seize prey between my slavering jaws.

The howl of a baby, persistent squeak of miniature designer trainers, football shirts rippling with static and snot pulled back up dirt-crusted noses.

Prowling aisles, I prop ‘Do not touch’ signs with a flick of my paw and lick brown smudges off glass. I edge downwind towards the curling finger, said to have been torn by a wolf from a witch’s hand.

Boys dare each other to touch the exhibit of withered flesh, the nail a yellowing horn, an end of grey bone, three phalanges still articulated, beckoning the unwary.

A growl rumbles in my throat, I watch through the display case of a doll’s house. They smudge the fragile glass, prodding it with their filthy digits. Their flabby meat, marinaded in ketchup, burgers and chips, is not deserving of my hunt. My hackles fall, my jaw relaxing into a benign smile.

I take their candy-sticky money, place lollipops and postcards into paper bags. In their haste to leave the museum’s stillness for amusement arcades, they each miss my gleaming amber eyes and hunter’s breath so close to their throat.

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