A while back I was reading a collection of contemporary Mexican short stories, and one particularly struck my fancy. In fact, I laughed out loud because it reminded me of something weirdly humorous that my dad used to say to tease my mom. Hardly anyone has the wide-ranging sense of humor that he has, so it was particularly delightful to find a common joke between him and a modern Mexican author, and a female to boot.
The short story, Los conservadores, by Ana Garcia Bergua tells the tale of a woman whose husband dies and whose nephew, a taxidermist, offers to preserve the body of his late uncle so that it will not decompose in the mausoleum, but will remain relatively intact for the widow to observe on her visits to her husband’s tomb. The aunt is enchanted and much comforted by the idea, but makes what the nephew thinks a strange request of him: rather than place the embalmed body in the mausoleum, he is to position the late uncle’s preserved corpse in his easy chair in her sewing room in front of the TV, so it will seem as if he never died. (The husband was never much of talker anyway.) The nephew reluctantly complies, and the consoled widow is happy for a while tending to her silent and slowly shrinking late husband. The story goes from the ridiculous to the sublime when the nephew’s fiancee, the daughter of a mortician, falls in love with the hapless corpse, the indignant widow feels scorned and finally banishes the philandering mummy to the cemetery after all.
So, here’s the joke: Dad would remark from time to time that if my mom died before he did, he was going to “send her to Jonas Brothers to get her stuffed” so he could keep her around–you know, as a tribute to what a “trophy” wife she had always been, etc. Dad attributes this line to someone else, who would apply it to any woman that he thought a particularly exemplary specimen of womanhood. For most of his adult life, Dad was an avid hunter and took many hunting trips to the western U.S. and Canada for elk, antelope, moose, bear, bighorn sheep, and mule deer. His house is decorated with quite a “dead zoo” of heads, skins, birds, fish, antlers and skulls–none human. The renowned Jonas Brothers taxidermy studio that he referred to was in Seattle, but there were other studios in Denver and New York as well. In fact, in downtown Denver there is still a tall brick building emblazoned with the Jonas Brothers logo on the side. You can read more about Jonas Brothers at http://jonasbrotherstaxidermy.com/content/history/ in case any of you are inspired to have any of your trophies, human or otherwise, mounted for posterity.