5.23.2008

The Collector

The Collector

Matt Neufeld


Everyone collects something. Some people collect stamps, others gather antique furniture, and others amass hundreds of those hideous Anne Geddes pictures. You know, the ones where they have babies dressed up as fruit or animals. My friend Steve collects insects. Big ones, little ones, purple, green, hairy, slimy – you name it, he’s got them all. He travels all over the world to find these things. You might say he’s a closet entomologist.

I first met Steve at a party hosted by my friend Mary. Mary is one of those people who has friends in every corner of the city, no matter where you look, so there were dozens of people I didn’t know milling about her place. Big place with a pool, six bedrooms, palm trees that were lit by artistically hidden spotlights when it got dark. You know, real swanky place. Mary liked her things to be first-class, and her friends at the party were no exception. She had doctors and lawyers, musicians and poets, and even some obscure city officials. People with big jobs, and egos to match. All really interesting people, really. I loved coming to Mary’s parties. But I digress.

The first thing I noticed about Steve was his hair. He had normal reddish-brown hair like lots of other guys, but the thing that stuck out was this shock of pure white right in the middle of his forehead. It was fascinating. He must have caught me staring, because he came up to me and introduced himself. Steve pointed to the top of his head, and made a crack about buying the wrong conditioner by mistake. We both laughed, and Steve said something about the pigmentation in his head being miscoded or something like that.

I asked Steve about his job, and he said that his job was to take pictures.

“Pictures of what?” I asked.

“Bugs.”

Turns out Steve was actually a photographer for National Geographic. His job was to travel all over the world taking pictures of rare insects for posterity. He had photographed everything from the mighty Ornithoptera euphorion to the rare Orthetrum cancellatum. Steve had pictures of himself covered in fire ants from head to toe, ones of him eating termites, and ones where he was holding a cockroach the size of his forearm. It was fascinating, I must admit. Steve’s claim to fame was his photographing this rare weevil that only lives in a six-square-kilometer area in the depths of the Peruvian jungle. I think he won an award for it in Annual Entomologist or some fancy journal like that.

The other interesting thing about Steve is that if you look really hard, and maybe squint a little bit, he looks a bit like a beetle. He had these glasses that were round and a little tinted, and a round head and body to match, so you could kind of imagine the shape. That night, he even had a sweater draped around his shoulders so it looked like he had two extra arms! You should have seen it – he was the perfect specimen.

The party didn’t last that long – all these important people had people to see, places to be, important things to do, so around nine o’clock, Steve and I found ourselves to be the last people at the party. I had been hanging out with Steve for most of the evening, and we seemed to get along well, so I invited him over to my place for beers and photos. I’m a bit of an amateur photographer as well – nothing really fancy, but I did have a picture of this dog published once. The dog wasn’t anything special, but there were about four of them that looked almost exactly the same. I submitted it to the Friar – our local “coffee news” paper. They published it with the caption…well, it’s not important. What is important is the fact that I had a photo published as well, and I figured that maybe Steve could give me some pointers.

We arrived at my place around ten (I had to say my goodbyes to Mary), and I pulled out my photos. Steve had a few of his along as well, so we started comparing. I grabbed us some beers from the kitchen (Coors Lite – not my favourite, but I figured I should save the good stuff for later), poured them into glasses, and started talking about photos with Steve. He showed me some pictures of his collections. Bugs behind glass, every one on a pin, neatly labelled with common name, Latin name, and date and place of collection. From the look of it, Steve was quite the collector as well. All his bugs were dead, though. I asked him why there weren’t any live ones.

Steve pondered for a minute. “Because,” he said, “they are more interesting when they are dead. You can see them from all sides. Plus you don’t have to feed them anymore.”

“Hmm.” I mused. “That makes sense.”

We sat in silence for a while, pondering.

We talked for a bit about families – Steve’s brother lived a few counties over, he didn’t have a girlfriend but he did have a dog, and he thought Mary was cute. I agreed on that.

After more interesting conversation, Steve decided that he should head home soon. I poured one last beer for him, this one out of my special stock (Guinness, the ones I use when I have special company).

“To collecting.”

“Cheers.”

I excused myself for a minute. Nature was calling, and I had to think about what Steve had said. And about the bugs. I’ve never liked bugs. Too small for me. What use is something that you can step on?

I came back to the living room.

“Steve?”

I heard a thump, and I saw motion in the corner of the room. There was Steve, foaming at the mouth, crawling towards the door. I looked him straight in the eye.

“Cheers.”


Now Steve is sitting behind glass in my basement. I even labelled it and everything. Steven MacAllister, Homo Sapiens. May 16, 2008. My place. I thought he would fit best near the front beside Mary. It only made sense. I may try to see if I can get his brother next. Maybe his dog, too. After all, everyone collects something.

4 comments:

Sarah said...

creeeeepeeeeeee.

The Burdman said...

It's funny because I was expecting it to lead to sodomy, and I was waaaaaaaaaay wrong.

ty said...

I didn't know you wrote stories...good stories. but I agree, thats creepy. Nice.

Keira said...

Okay, I didn't realize this was a fictional story at first . . . until the guy started foaming at the mouth. Okay, maybe just when you pinned him behind glass. HA! Good job.