Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Darwin's beetle

The species with the nickname “Darwin’s Beetle” has an enormous set of jaws, like a pair of prongs, barely held up by this sex legged armored insect. Vladimir would framed twelve dead examples and share them with his closest friends. Once he brought you up to the sixth floor space in his Boston apartment, he bent under the bed and rolled out the collection. He held the case in his hand, the glass reflecting in the arthropod’s blackened slippery shell the visitor’s face. A woman once reacted with delight as if entering an entomology fair. Vladimir explained this was his only animal he needed to study and would scoff at any other bug passing his doorway. She smiled, her lips cracked in the middle but otherwise an attractive red, before sleeping with him on the king size bed (everything was large in this living space, which made it cramped and maze-like). The next morning she was gone. So were five cases of Darwin’s beetle, all male. He punched the walls, bit his arm, cut further into his other arm with broken nails, before taking a daytime nap. From his closet he’d horded more than thirty other beetles. He’d given each a name, an age, and knew who was friends and who would never step on the same branch.

He had a face and smile like a clown without makeup. The whites of his teeth against the clay gums, a Mr. Rogers’ mein, cordial, and spirited. And yet confused almost. A large forehead, the declining chin and thick veiny neck. Long lean and bony arms, he was spotted in school often in an undershirt and shorts. Callused fingernails from the soil he’d dig through. Finely haired calves, handsome legs that his dead wife loved to stroke. Peppered black hair and ape ears and gentle nose. Blue eyes. Nose hairs. Irregular nails. A nervous chortle, and low tolerance to beer and wine. A high school biology teacher. An advocate against climate change, and a critic of natural design. A catholic all his life.

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