“Toxic Cinema, #170 – Why Speed Eating and Embalming Don’t Mix”
I have officially been so grossed out by a movie that I couldn’t eat my Kit Kats while watching it. I never thought it would happen. You, my loyal readers, never thought it would happen. I got through “Saw” without blinking. Viewed “The Devil’s Rejects” without cringing once. That scene in “Phantasmagoria”? Barely made me twitch. But I swear on all that is holy that I put the Kit Kats away and went looking for Tums with this Hungarian masterpiece.
Does anything else need to be said about “Taxidermia”? How about: it starts with a dead pig in a bathtub, and ends with something I won’t describe in a snow globe. Be sure not to miss the art gallery featuring some interesting stuffed specimens. The Hungarians are a sick race, folks. Only the truly twisted could have come up with this gem.
Verdict: If you’re on a diet this is the perfect movie for you. Just don’t be surprised if you can’t close your eyes without wanting to hurl for a few months.
My father and I trekked across the parking lot, our feet crunching on gravel. He’d been quiet the whole ride out to the restaurant. I didn’t mind. It hadn’t been the best day ever, what with Glen and the marker and all of that. True, I had a kind-of date tomorrow, but it didn’t make up for almost being an undead Happy Meal.
My father was quiet because of the disaster in his kitchen that had led us here. Apparently he’d been late picking me up because his soup had gone molten and melted his stove. At least I knew where I got my cooking skills from now.
The name of the restaurant, etched onto frosted glass doors, finally forced me break my silence. “You’re taking me to a place called ‘The Antlers’?”
“It has some excellent food. I thought you might enjoy the ambiance.”
“If you say so, Mr. Vegan.”
The inside had forest green walls and lots of scarred, warped wood. And dead deer heads. Lots of deer heads. Oh, and did I mention the deer heads?
My vegan father had taken me to a restaurant filled with animal carcasses.
The hostess led us past a stuffed fox and an elk. Our table was near a stone fireplace with a beaver glaring from the mantle. “Have you eaten here before?” Had he known what he was going to walk into when he pulled into the parking lot?
“Once or twice. Their Santa Barbara salad is excellent.”
I blinked and browsed the menu, biting my tongue so I wouldn’t tell him what I was thinking. Mainly that he’d lost his ever-loving mind. That or had a stroke. He was old enough, right? He had to be pushing forty.
After we ordered, and I’d stopped looking at his face to see if one side was drooping, we stared at our silverware. Or I stared and he played with his. We spent most of our time at his house in separate rooms, doing different things. We didn’t actually talk much. But at the restaurant all there was to do was talk.
Dinner wasn’t going to be awkward at all.
After the waitress had brought our bread basket, he reached into his pocket and pulled out an envelope. “Well. I know it’s not time yet, but your mother will probably have you tied up watching home movies on the actual day. So happy early birthday, Tallulah.”
There were two tickets for a concert inside the envelope. “Mozart? I love him.”
“I remember. We went to Carnegie Hall when you were six. You told me you wanted to learn piano so you could play his songs.” His cheeks turned pink and he took off his glasses. “I was hoping you’d let me take you again, if you’re not too old to be seen in public with me?”
It was so sweet, the way he said it, that I almost forgot he’d been a shit dad up until now. I mean, how could he have remembered one day eleven years ago? Unless he wasn’t a shit. Or unless he had been but was trying to outgrow it. “I’m not too old.” I slipped the tickets back into the envelope and stuck them in my coat.
“It’s in two weeks. I have to go away on business tomorrow, but I’ll be back that day. I’ll pick you up at your mother’s at five thirty?”
What kind of business did an academic have in the middle of a semester? That he had to travel for two weeks? “Where are you going?”
“Wessex. Dorset, specifically. Your Uncle Harold is getting married.”
I was so surprised I had an uncle that I barely registered that a wedding wasn’t business. “I have an Uncle Harold?”
“Yes. He’s what they call a free spirit. We’re not in contact normally.”
If I had an uncle, who else was lurking around in my family tree? “Do I have any other uncles? Or aunts?”
My father grimaced. “One. Gabby. He’s a bit limp wristed, if you know what I mean.”
“He likes guys?” There went any hope of cousins I could text, unless Uncle Harold had knocked up his bride-to-be years ago. “Yes.” My father took his cell phone out of his breast pocket and frowned.
“Hmm?” He stuck his cell back in his pocket and then folded his napkin on his plate. “Sorry. This won’t take a moment. Wait here, please.”
Great. That left me and the angry beaver. I stared at it. It stared back. The waitress stopped by and I asked her to hold our food until my dad got back. Then I watched the ice in my soda melt. Then I texted Scott to see if we were on for movies on Sunday. He replied something rude but funny, and told me he’d bring popcorn.
That left me staring at the beaver again. But the thing was giving me the creeps. So I went in search of the bathrooms. Hopefully by the time I washed up and pretended I could do anything with my hair my father would be back at the table.
Since I didn’t actually have to go, I took my time and checked out the pictures in the hallway that led to a pitch-dark private dining room and the bathrooms. They looked like they had been taken years ago, the people wearing stuff straight out of “The Brady Bunch” or a Cyndi Lauper video. Weird, but so was this restaurant. Judging by the pictures the place hadn’t changed much; same dead animals and same dark walls.
As I examined a party scene, my father’s voice drifted out of a private room I’d assumed was closed.
“No, I told him two. One isn’t going to be enough.” There was a hint of panic in is voice, which on my father sounded a lot like a young girl in pain. I went up to the edge of the door and listened, trying to stay out of sight.
“You wanted it early. We’re not miracle workers,” a deep male voice responded. “It takes time to manufacture.”
“But you don’t understand! Without two doses one of us won’t… they’ll find… oh, Christ. And I’m supposed to fly to Wessex.” It sounded like my father was close to losing it. “He’s doing this on purpose, isn’t he? To teach me a lesson. Fucking vampire!”
The world pulled away from me like a stretched-tight rubber band, distorted in the distance but threatening to snap back with a violent thwack to my head. Vampires. My father had just said vampires.
“Richard, I’m just the delivery guy. If you have an issue with Rorbauch, you need to take it up with him.”
My blood turned to ice. Dean Rorbauch? My dad knew. It explained the steak at the dean’s house. It also confirmed what my grandmother had been trying to tell me. My father was like me. He was talking to vampires and he knew it.
“Oh, shit,” I whispered, but it was more like a prayer than a curse. I raced for the bathroom, ugly flashes of wing-tipped shoes and regurgitated cheesecake following me.