Just before Christmas, my husband and I were browsing in an antique shop in Healdsburg, California, when we saw a life-size skeleton hanging out in the corner by some old traffic signs. Of course, my first thought was, “YES, we need a skeleton,” because what mystery writer doesn’t? But then my second thought was, “Whoa, now, slow down a second,” because whether to get a skeleton is not a decision that should be rushed.
My third thought was, “Wait, that’s not a real skeleton, is it?” because I wasn’t sure I was prepared to think about the ethical ramifications of having the remains of an actual deceased person in my living room, and besides, putting hats on him would be way less fun if he were real.
Through the holidays, I kept thinking about the skeleton, whom I’d informally started calling Sid, after the sidekick in Leigh Perry’s Family Skeleton series. I called the antique store to find out whether or not the skeleton was still there, and the guy told me yes, he was still there, but that they hadn’t been feeding him so he was looking pretty gaunt.
I laughed and hung up, relieved to know that not only was Sid still there, but he instilled a sense of merriment in everyone around him. In fact, the salesman clearly had a good-natured rapport with Sid, and it was only a matter of time before someone scooped him up.
So we got in the car and drove.
When we got to the antique store, someone had posed Sid with one foot up on an old gas can, leaning in close as if he were telling the young-uns about life in the good old days. I was pleased to see that he was also wearing a hat, because frankly I had all kinds of costumes planned for him.
We rolled the skeleton up to the counter and shopped a little more, but I didn’t take my eyes off him because I was afraid, I don’t know, that there’d be a midday rush on antique skeletons or something. Then, we completed our purchases, bundled him off into the car, and brought him home. (Look how happy he looks! He’s clearly excited about going to his forever home.)
The cat was immediately curious about the newest member of the family, and right away he began to nibble on Sid’s phalanges. (That’s skeleton-talk for fingers.)
I was once again relieved that Sid was just a skeletal model, not an actual skeleton, because I suspect it would be really hard to maintain his dignity, what with the finger nibbling and all.
Besides, if he were real, would I have felt comfortable having him join us for breakfast?
Would I have been okay with taking him out to enjoy a little afternoon sun in the garden?
I certainly wouldn’t have let a real skeleton stay up past his bedtime reading:
One final thing. As much as I like the name Sid, I feel like he should have his own identity. So now the question is, what would be a good name for a good-natured, non-real skeleton? I’m taking suggestions in the comments below!
Marla Cooper is the author of the Agatha and Lefty Award nominated Terror in Taffeta and the proud owner of a skeleton—although she’s not sure if you can truly own a skeleton or if you have to call him your skeletal companion. Her second novel, Dying on the Vine, will be available April 4.
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