The mid-morning sun climbs the crisp Colorado sky. I kick a rock and watch it roll into a cave. “Hey, what’s in here?”
The five of us stop and stare at the dark, rocky entrance. “Cool, let’s go in!” my brother shouts after he walks five steps into the cavernous space.
“What’s that smell?” I ask as I cover my nose to block the pungent aroma of stale sewage.
“I think I can safely say something died in here.” My dad points to the dead cow laying against the back wall.
“Doug,” my mom says while placing her index finger on top of her chin and tapping. “Doug,” she repeats, “don’t you think that skull would look perfect in the cactus planter in the front hallway?”
I look at my mom and wrinkle my nose.
Our house, classic 1920 Pennsylvania, sat at the top of a big hill in Shillington. In the late seventies, Mom and Dad redecorated to accommodate a southwestern theme complete with dream catchers, cowboy paintings, and a built in cacti planter box.
“I guess it would.”
I wrinkle my nose more and turn to face my dad.
“Do you think you could get it? We could clean it up a bit, like a conch shell, right?”
My brother, sister, and I scrutinize my parents’ conversation like an audience watching a tennis match.
“Sure. We could do that.”
“Alright, let’s do it.”
Dad, forty and fit, walks up to the beast and grabs the horns. He tugs and begins to twist. While he does, the body turns with the head. He rotates the skull the opposite direction. Again, the giant body follows. He repositions himself and puts a leg on the shoulder of the skeleton and turns for a third time, tongue out, eyes narrowed, chin down. Nothing.
“Teresa, this is stubborn.”
“Hold on, I’ll help.”
Mom, not one to shy away from a mess of any sort, walks over and lies on top the deceased animal. With some more twisting and tugging, the head snaps from the spine sending my dad backwards to the opposite wall.
“Success!” Mom shouts, stands, and wipes dirt from her jeans.
“Okay, Al, you carry this back for Mom.” Dad hands me the head and smiles.
“No thanks!” I say and give it to my sister.
“Alison, gross.” Again, she pronounces gross in a long, exaggerated manner.
“I’ve got this,” my brother smiles and picks up the head from my sister’s arms. “This is going to make the best ‘What did you do this summer’ essay ever!”